May 3, 2010
Torn kites hover against backdrops of blue and cloud. Boys with ragged hair run back and forth on rooftops, arms flailing as they manipulate invisible strings. Crows scream and float around like pieces of black paper above the Ganga Mahal, a crumbling white palace that looks over the Ganges river.
Lower down, some defunct plants have long since strangled some defunct wires, both curling up the painted brick buildings into windows that are just square holes in walls. Pigeons live out their dramas on the palace balcony’s overhanging ledges, rusted metal with edges like lace. Dark cloth chewed through by bugs.
Lower still, at the top of the stairs, bicycles wait for their owners to return. A young cow wears a plastic bag as a muzzle, having forgotten to take it off after eating the scraps inside.
Dried dog shit is spattered on the way down the stairs. Some of it has been there since the last rain, and will wait for the next one to be washed away. One near-black man in near-white clothes weaves his way down the stairs. Each of his hands is filled with one baby goat: whitish yellow goat twins. New and soft goat legs dangle uselessly by the man’s sides. Sweepers sweep the dust to the edges of the stairs, the wind sweeps it back.
At the bottom, girls like wild animals in party dresses chase one another around, candle baskets abandoned. Cross-legged men sit in their stalls, selling things like neem sticks, plastic water containers and candles and coconut for puja. Wasps feast on rotting flowers and fruit.
Water buffalo navigate their way around wooden boats to wade into the river, becoming only black hump shapes in brown water. In May, the water is low and crawls slowly. On the other side of the river, there’s only dust and dried-up plants.