Particulate Matter

In which I report on my visit to India this past winter. Many thanks to the editors of Granta magazine.

A Bihari man working as a driver in Delhi told me a strange story. His name was Deepak. When his mother complained of chronic stomach pains, Deepak brought her from the village for treatment in a hospital in Delhi. The doctors told him that his mother would require surgery; there was a problem in her uterus. After the operation, which incurred a considerable expense, the lady returned to the village. Her health problems, the pain in her stomach, continued. Deepak brought his mother back to Delhi. This time he took her to another doctor who decided to do tests and run some scans. This doctor found that during the previous surgery the mother’s uterus hadn’t been touched at all. Instead, she was now missing a kidney. Deepak and his father went to the first hospital to complain, but were shooed away. Deepak’s parents then returned to the village, and two years later his mother died.

We were driving through Gurugram at that time, passing the high-rise offices that house the likes of Google, Deloitte, Oracle, Microsoft. I didn’t know whether Deepak was talking of this shiny new India when he told me that the poor were scared of cities like Delhi. They will die if they come here. I wanted to tell Deepak that people like him kept the city running, but it would have sounded hollow, and I remained silent.

More here.