Robert Hirschfield finds that in Calcutta, “the pavement speaks to you.”

Image: aayushgoel

THE WOMAN on Sudder Street in her yellow sari, with her little baby, with her hand outstretched, is tiny.

But she is many women.

She is waiting for me when I sneak out of Flury’s with my chocolate brownie.

Her voice rubs against my feet at night when I return home from visiting Bharat and Vinita, at Earthcare Books.

In Calcutta, the pavement speaks to you.

Where her body ends, a space begins that I leap through. Or try to. Inside the space is the border I packed without knowing it.

For a rupee or two, she will help me set it up. It is a lazy border. Completely without a philosophy. Pragmatic as toothpaste.

Actually, she falls away so easily. “No,” you say. And she is gone.

It’s dismaying. Why do I always say “No?” Even when I give her rupees, it’s always after first saying “No.”

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