Forty years ago.
A crowd had gathered. Mostly nosey neighbours, watching in silence. A few mumbling to each other in tones expressing dismay. No one knew exactly how to react. It must have been early morning when it was noticed.
Who was the first one to locate it was a mystery, no less mysterious than the identity of the man whose foot, amputated at the ankle, lay discarded in the middle of the street. The right foot. Thick coagulated blood covering the wound and a bit of white protruding from the middle. Fibula? But for the foot, it could have been a small saucer smeared with layers of strawberry jam, topped by vanilla ice-cream. No one eats ice-cream that way, from an inclined saucer. Not that anyone wished to find out how it tasted.
Possibly a man, as opposed to a woman, by the size of the foot. No footwear. But for the strawberry part, it was not a blood smeared foot. As though neatly sawn off by a surgeon. Clean enough. Sunburnt skin. Possibly the man was not as dark as the sunburnt foot. Idle speculation.
The courtyard of the three storied mansion was separated from the street by a boundary wall. On it lay the man. A rope loosely tying his hands together. Loosely. No sign of force. Small man, long hair. He was wearing a disheveled dhoti and a white kurta. He lay on his back staring straight at the sky. Except that his eyes were still. He was quite dead. No sign of blood at all in this case.
It was not his ankle that lay on the street beyond the boundary wall. Couldn’t have been, or else he would need to be a three legged creature. Both his feet were intact. Not tied together. Uncovered. No slippers or any other footwear in the vicinity. Like the foot, less than fifteen yards away. Besides, he was a fair skinned person, colours did not match. The crowd watched and wondered. Whispering to each other. Did he jump from the balcony? Was he pushed from behind?
No one knew if the man, whose severed foot lay on the other side of the boundary, was dead too. No one even knew who the man without the right foot was. Some knew the man in the courtyard. Vaguely.
The police arrived and before anyone could be questioned, the inquisitive crowd dispersed. Few wished to be involved. Bengali middle class. It lives in mystery novels in the security of second hand bookstores.
The body with the feet and the foot without the body were carried away.
People spoke to one another in hushed tones whenever they passed that way. Not for too long.
Forty years later.