A wart is a wishful cancer, benign, often persistent and caused by a virus, they say. Mine carried me around by the right knuckle for ten years defying every treatment and wish, until I went to India.
A thin guide led me down a cobblestone street jammed with shanties in a Bombay shipyard to a closed blue door.
“This is the doctor,” he hollered, and the door magically opened. A teenager in soiled rags slipped out clutching an antique leather medical case. He cracked it with a squeak to reveal a neat arrangement of scalpels, suction cups, hoses and medicine vials. He turned all attention to the knuckle of a gathering circle of shipyard ragamuffins and inquisitive neighbors, as kids crawled out windows, and a cow peeked out a front door. He was so professional and the case so worn that I forgot his youth and dirty rags.
“This is what wart roots look like,” the doctor announced, shaking a vial of gray slivers that resembled half-inch flukes. The crowd gasped, and so I resisted asserting that everyone in the West knows warts have no roots. Nor did I argue as he set the fee at a buck a root.
He snatched a scalpel, demonstrated its keen edge on a dirty shirt, and took my finger in a steady hand. The wart lopped off onto the street without ceremony or anesthesia. Spurting blood threw the circle of watchers back, but only for a moment. “Now for the roots!” he drew them in. A quick hand movement produced a suction thimble that fell atop the red wound. In-and-out it squeezed the liquid up… he held high the cup.
‘’Roots!’ he shouted, and poured a thimbleful of blood and gook onto a cobble. “Count them: One, two, three, four…and five!” They wiggled like tiny worms in soup.
The scamp extended his other hand, as I haggled the fee down to $3.00, that he swiped.
“Jungle powder!” he declared, and sprinkled black powder from a vial onto the wound, pressing it in with his forefinger. “Go in peace,’ he said, lifting it. ‘The wart is gone.”
The crowd removed, the cow pulled in its head, the doctor closed the case, and the wart never returned.