Queen of the Night

I first visited Nargis-begum on a dirty, muggy day during the endless monsoon of Delhi. The rain in Delhi is different from the rain in London, I found; there is less cold and more conviviality involved; less drizzle and more odour—so much more odour. The city invariably and inexplicably comes to a standstill but its occupants are accepting of it in the idiosyncratic Indian way of acceptance that arises more from a sense of ennui than of harmony. Children made miniature gondolas out of litter and set them to float along the narrow canals of water that had, for the time being, replaced the narrow lanes of the neighbourhood I mistakenly categorised as a basti—or a slum—in my head. The word “leptospirosis” chimed in my head like a West End chorus.

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