Walking Krisha Home from School
I walk home with Krisha from our preschool in rural India. She does not hold my hand because her 3 year old feet are more sure on the rocks than mine.
It is noon – the hottest part of another hot day. I pull my Dupatta over my head for shade and am glad for the loose Kameez and Salwar all women wear.
It is May, and the driest part of the year. Everywhere is brown and waiting. The ground is cut into steppes ready to plant rice, but now there is only dust. How much rain will the July monsoons bring to flood these fields for rice?
The path is a series of rocks steps and streets and trails. Dust rises with ever car and scooter and step. The teacher aid at preschool cannot believe that I have access to a ride from CCS but choose to walk. When I thought about that, it made a great deal of sense she was amazed. Along the main road there are buses. Only the men ride on buses. The motorcycles honk at every curve in the road. Only men wear motorcycle helmets. Women ride seated sideways on the back holding a child in one arm and the Dupatta in the other. On the tip of my tongue to the teacher was that walking was “good exercise,” but I realized how even more amazing the concept of “needing to exercise” would sound.
Krisha is quiet, not the chatterbox I know from school. We pass a cow in the middle of the road, oblivious to the traffic and completely safe from it. I point it out to Krisha, but she has seen cows before.
Each person we meet makes eye contact, even with the white stranger in the traditional garb guiding a familiar child home. Namste ji. We fold hands and bow. Nameste ji. No exceptions and nothing more.
We turn on the quieter lane with deep ruts left from wetter times, now filled with rocks and dust. Here a woman does her laundry in the trickle of a stream.
Krisha is intent now only on our journey. We round the corner where the women of one house gather water every day from the leak in the pipe across the road. Every day we see grandmas and girls and little girls filling buckets and pails and pans and cups. It is the only water source, that leaking pipe. They look up to see us pass.
We pass a family temple housing a god decorated with plastic flowers. Krisha and I stop and greet it. Namaste ji.
Down and down our path slopes. Past the chickens that peck each other so much their necks are bare of feathers. Past the garage store where the one armed man sells snacks. Namste ji.
Suddenly a flash of color in the endless brown and gray makes Krisha squeal and run. Intense flowing pink and sequin studded yellow lighten the surroundings and make the dust and heat fade. Mama is waiting at the gate.
Krisha runs crying mamamamama. She stops at her mother’s side and seizes the end of her Dupatta, rubbing it on her face. Mama and I exchange Namaste ji. Mama leads Krisha inside.
I continue on my way in the dust and heat.
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