The children, my companions in the village, stop speaking and squabbling; they also listen carefully. We have been chosen to see grace in its purest form. As I leave the sanctuary of the music man, a shepherd woman, eight months pregnant, comes to me.
She shows me her silver jewellery and bright pink fabric with pride; she makes the numerous white bracelets that cover her arms tinkle. She points at my arms, my ears, and my neck, and she laughs. To her I appear fully naked. She wants to show me her elder child, a three-year old boy in a turquoise suit wearing beautiful ornaments, but the toddler bursts into tears. It is either the first time he has seen a white woman, or the awakening from a delightful afternoon nap that makes him cry.
We depart with laughs and a friendly namaskar. A dozen of children surrounds me. One named Gopal, with a cute face and a salmon-pink shirt, repeats ‘One photo! One photo!’ I hide the heavy camera in my handbag and exclaim: ‘nehi camera, nehi’. Then, I have an idea. If photos are a game for them, why not find something that amuses me too. My arms mimic to my young companion the movements of a runner. Gopal stares at me, confused. As I start to sprint, he pauses for a minute, then understands and sprints after me. I pull ahead of him and prance as I reach the finishing line.
We continue wandering in the village and I do not hear another word about the camera. But now and then, children exchange a knowing glance. Staring at me, they mimic the arms of a runner, ready to thrust at any time to follow me. Adults do not see this innocent game. I expect to take control of my body again. Racing the children and sweating profusely, I feel free. Small but cheerful victories are those won over the little ones.