i am still loath to take out my camera, because i feel already like such an outsider, and a camera cements one as such. plus, having my own picture taken makes me painfully aware of how awkward and uncomfortable it can be. true, having one’s picture taken is a huge compliment to many (my students being prime examples… ‘no, no didi, no!’ they cried, while scrambling to get right in front and pose with their biggest smile…), but still…
if i HAD taken out my camera today, these are the photos i would have taken during my commute, and sent to you:

a statuesque woman on the train platform, draped in a sari that was once lustrous and now merely green, its beading crumbled or missing altogether. her child, bare from the waist down, with a small red bindi, sits on her hip. a rope in her left hand, tied to a goat, small and once-white, with a full udder and sparkling eyes. its back and head are covered in bright pink dye powder from durga puja, its face nestled into the folds of her dress between her knees.

a man in the station, young and handsome and rakish, wearing a faded rust-coloured t-shirt that said, in bold letters, ‘World’s Coolest Grandma.’

a tiny naked boy, holding on to the bars of the train window, watching the greenery and water buffalo go by, as his mother sleeps.

the beautiful nepali family, with a small girl whose eyes are blackened to her cheekbones with kohl, as many children’s are, to keep away the evil eye. she breast-feeds at her lovely mother, who smiles at me as i hold my hand to shield the little one’s eyes from the setting sun. their wrists, all four of them, are covered in bangles that catch that same sunlight and glitter.

the stunning contrast of bright turmeric-yellow vomit against the dust blue steel of the train, as a woman leans her draped head out the window and silently retches as the train pulls away from the station in forbesganj, heading north to the border.

so there you have it: pictures from bihar. imagine them with as many bright colours as possible, and to all people add the glow of perspiration, and to all backdrops add cows and goats and a wallah of your choice.

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