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Lepers

by Keyan Bowes

Vijay averts his eyes as he hurries past the group of lepers clustered round a small trash fire on the sidewalk. Mumbai still has some, with horrifying gargoyle faces and missing toes. The uneven cobbled sidewalks are lined with the cocoon-like figures of sleeping street dwellers. Before him rises the gothic bulk of Victoria Terminus, its ominous carvings peering into the dark through hundreds of eyes. The air smells of feces, night-scented flowers, the sea, and a rotting rat.

The Saturday night party at the Press Club had gone past midnight, and then two of his old friends had wanted to sit and talk. Now it’s after 2 a.m. The last train has left and so, therefore, have the taxis. He hopes he won’t have to walk all the way home to Cuffe Parade.

Bhai?” says a voice. “Brother?”

A man steps from the shadows. His nose is gone, and a hole gapes in one cheek. Vijay walks on quickly, suppressing pity and disgust. Leprosy, a plague as old as the Bible. In the wealthy, it’s Han…

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