One day in late July, Sunil found a fellow scavenger lying in the mud where Annawadi’s rut-road met the airport thoroughfare. Sunil knew the old man a little; he worked hard and slept outside the Marol fish market, half a mile away. Now the man’s leg was mashed and bloody, and he was calling out to passersby for help. Sunil figured he’d been hit by a car. Some drivers weren’t overly concerned about avoiding the trash-pickers who scoured the roadside.
Sunil was too scared to go to the police station and ask for an ambulance, especially after what was rumored to have happened to Abdul. Instead he ran toward the battleground of the Cargo Road dumpsters, hoping an adult would brave the police station. Thousands of people passed this way every morning.
Two hours later, when Rahul left Annawadi for school, the injured man was crying for water. “This one is even drunker than your father,” one of Rahul’s friends teased him. “Drunker than your father,” Rahul retorted unimaginatively as they turned onto Airport Road. Rahul wasn’t afraid of the police; he’d run to them for help when his neighbor dumped boiling lentils on Danush, his sickly baby. The man on the road was just a scavenger, though, and Rahul had to catch a bus to class.
When Zehrunisa Husain passed an hour later, the scavenger was screaming in pain. She thought his leg looked like hell, but she was bringing food and medicine to her husband, who also looked like hell far across the city in the Arthur Road Jail.
Mr. Kamble passed a little later, milky-eyed and aching, on his tour of businesses and charities, still seeking contributions for his heart valve. He had once been a pavement dweller like the injured man. Now Mr. Kamble saw nothing but his own bottomless grief, because he knew miracles were possible in the new India and that he couldn’t have one.
When Rahul and his brother returned from school in the early afternoon, the injured scavenger lay still, moaning faintly. At 2:30 p.m., a Shiv Sena man made a call to a friend in the Sahar Police Station about a corpse that was disturbing small children. At 4 p.m., constables enlisted other scavengers to load the body into a police van, so that the constables wouldn’t catch the diseases that trash-pickers were known to carry.
Unidentified body, the Sahar Police decided without looking for the scavenger’s family. Died of tuberculosis, the Cooper Hospital morgue pathologist concluded without an autopsy. Thokale, the police officer handling the case, wanted to move fast, for he had business with B.M. Patil Medical College in Bijapur. Its anatomy department required twenty-five unclaimed cadavers for dissection, and this one rounded out the order.
—Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012)