Religion: Sisters in Saris

In Calcutta's filthy, fly-infested streets it is often hard to tell the living from the dead. Thousands of the area's 4,500,000 people, hungry and unemployed, huddle day and night in dank back alleys or sprawl on the sidewalks splotched red with betel spittle. The dead sometimes lie where they are for days before police vans cart them off to the burning ghats. The dying, picked up and carried from hospital to crowded hospital, used to be dumped back on the streets; there was simply no room for a hopeless case.

Last week a slim,...

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