You’re telling a joke to your new friend, Sudha, when suddenly you are down
on the pavement. From here, Delhi feels like an enchanted world, blinking and swirling
and beeping around you. Horns. Voices. Music. Swish, swish, colorful saris. Down
here you are a non-combatant. For the first time in three months, you realize you’re
“Oh, dear, are you hurt?” cries Sudha, extending her hand. The glass
bangles tinkle, like cool water trickling down her arm.
“Sorry. Yes. A little,” you mutter, rising tentatively. The right foot
is fine. The left clearly sprained. Please god not broken.
“Can you make it to Chitra’s place? We’re almost there.”
Sudha is kind and practical. One minute of lying on the pavement is OK, but more
time would be pressing our luck on this hectic crossroad of commerce and transport.
“Thanks, I’m fine.” So American, you think: Can do.
Nope, can’t do everything, you realize, hobbling alongside her, trying to
summon up the punch line from before the fall.
Inside the small apartment, fragrant with dinner spices, Chitra offers ice for your
foot, vodka for your nerves. Then she serves delicious dhal and raita
and brinjal and sag paneer. Soon you are laughing. You have forgotten
the foot. Almost. As for your poise, you released that years ago. Poise and pride
don’t travel well.
Together the three of you gossip hilariously about certain mutual colleagues at
the Center. You eat more than you imagined possible. The evening is that
Next morning, they each phone, within five minutes of one another. “We are
going to the doctor.”
Ah, you thought you’d carried it off last night, wincing only when you ducked
into the taxi.
The three of you sit on beige plastic chairs beneath languid ceiling fans in a
storefront chemist’s shop.
Also waiting are an elderly gray-skinned woman, two thin men who look as if they
share the same headache and a pregnant teenager. Passersby carry shopping and laundry
and long garlands of sunny marigolds. Each patient spends about five minutes with
Meanwhile, Chitra and Sudha chat about taking you to India Gate when you are well,
to a dance performance at Treveni Kala Sangam. Each of them apologizes for Delhi’s
“No,” you declare. “This could have happened in Paris or New York.
I’m just a klutz.”
“A klutz?” puzzles Sudha.
The doctor appears in a beige cotton coat. He nods directly to you. “Please,
You’re grateful for his good English because your Hindi is still about as
clumsy as your walking.
Sitting across from the perspiring middle-aged man in his closet-sized office, you
watch a gecko climbing over a two-year-old wall calendar bearing an attractive picture
of throbbing blue Krishna. The trash container is an old cardboard box.
Dr. Kapur invites you to sit on the examining table, on the same sheet used by the
previous graying, sore, aching, pregnant patients today and for who knows how many
weeks before. You think about the HMO clinic in Dayton—colorful mobiles hanging
from the ceilings, the racks of news magazines, the diverting aquarium. Where would
Dr. Kapur put an aquarium?
With exquisite tenderness, he examines your foot, clearly familiar with the universal
order of cartilage, bones, tendons. You would trust this quiet man with brain surgery.
Well, maybe in a different building.
“Nothing broken,” he almost smiles and scrawls a prescription.
“Anti-inflammatory cream,” he advises. “And an Ace bandage.”
In Dayton, they would have insisted on an X-ray. You’d be driving all over
the city with one good foot. Waiting for hours. Filling out insurance forms. His
consultation costs $1.15. The prescribed cream is ten cents.
As you leave, Chitra and Sudha are relieved, but still solicitous.
You wish you could recall the punch line to yesterday’s joke; that would reassure
them that now you really are OK.
The plastic chairs are claimed by new patient patients.
Monday, you limp around work in your bright pink Ace bandage. Alarmed, people ask
They apologize for the shocking state of New Delhi sidewalks.
Colleagues—even the ones you were catty about the other night—squabble
over who will carry your briefcase down the long dark corridors and up the flights
of broken stairs.
You think back to the shiny, convenient offices at home, where safe, efficient elevators
open to brightly lit hallways. And you wonder if you have to go back.
—From Miner’s collection of short fiction,
(Michigan State University Press, 2004)
Is the author of fourteen books, including the new novel, Traveling with Spirits
(Livingston Press, 2012). Her writing has appeared in The Village Voice, Salmagundi,
Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Gettysburg Review, Southwest
Review, and many other journals. Her work has been translated into Turkish,
Danish, German, Swedish, Dutch, French, and Spanish.
A professor and artist-in-residence at Stanford University, Miner has won awards
and fellowships from The Rockefeller Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and the
Jerome Foundation, among others. She’s had Fulbrights in India, Tunisia, and