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A Piece of My Mind
August 27, 2003

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Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(8):998-1000. doi:10.1001/jama.290.8.998

February 2002, Calcutta

Through dusty streets and crowded lanes, I wield my way, with but a crumpled piece of paper for a guide. There are no street signs here, only bare, rusted poles to serve reminder of a time when the imposing brick houses of sahibs lined paved streets that bore the names of India's famous sons. The bricks have fallen. In their place sit thatched huts, vinyl tents, and the odd enclosure, its wall smoothed with mud.

Squinting in the haze-filtered sunlight, I unfold the piece of paper. "Turn right at the mosque, left at the blind beggar's spot, then right at the pink tent where the pregnant woman sits. Look to your left—it's the house with the red flag." In wonderment at the conviction of these seemingly dubious directions, I find myself before the pink tent in question. To my relief, the pregnant woman indeed peeps out of the flapping tent of vinyl, her gravid abdomen easily pushing aside the flimsy entrance to her abode. I smile at her distractedly and position myself to locate my ultimate destination. I gaze into the distance for a long while, only to be met by a jagged horizon of decrepit lodgings interrupted by grime-stained high-rises.