Sunday, December 30, 2007

Children of India

The children of India that we encountered were very happy, friendly, and curious. One got the feeling that the children in India were everyone's children. We were in the same train compartment with a young couple and their 8 month old son. The other ladies in our compartment took turns holding the baby, patting him, talking and singing to him, walking with him to another car, trying to make him fall asleep. This made me think at first that they were all from the same family, but they had just met on this train trip. Another child of 10 was learning classic Indian singing in school. When her mother found out I was a musician, she had the girl sing a few songs for me. The other riders on in our train car became quiet and we all listened intently. She sang quite well. Indian music requires a very flexible voice because of the fast melismas. All the Indian children I heard sing had this flexibility in their voice, including this boy on yet another train journey. He sang to himself all morning as he looked out the train window.
At the Ajanta Caves I had found some monk cells that fascinated me. There were no statues or carvings inside, but a simple stone bed carved into the rock. The opening to the cell was very narrow as was the cell itself. I went into one of them, sat quietly, and tried to imagine what it was like to sleep and meditate there daily. Just then, a large group of Indian children came and began photographing the outside of the cell. I could see them taking turns, posing next to the narrow opening and speaking in an animated tone. Everyone had their flash on because it was dark inside the caves. There were a few other empty cells along this wall, but somehow they wanted to photograph this particular cell. Out of courtesy I thought I would go out and let them inside to see this particular cell which I had chosen randomly. Once I was outside, they became even more animated, and started posing next to me, one at a time. It was not the meditation cell they were photographing, but the Asian tourist. I persuaded them to take one big group photo, rather than so many individual photos which seemed a waste with film photography. They seemed happy with this suggestion. They wanted to know if I spoke Hindi. Alas, I did not. They seemed to regret not able to communicate more because they did not speak much English either, but they thanked me for the photos before continuing with their sight seeing.
I didn't see too many digital cameras on my trip this time other than the one I was using, which belonged to Cielo. She graciously let me use her camera for the trip because she does not enjoy taking photos. It also has a video function and a large LCD screen. Some of the children that I photographed were fascinated with seeing themselves on the LCD screen. The quiet child in the blue shawl gave me a huge smile when she saw herself in this picture. I wish I had taken a picture of that smile. Probably by my next trip to India, everyone there will have a digital camera.
The tiny child in front of the stupa was wearing eye liner. I think it's an Indian custom for very young children, as I had seen another young child on the bus with it. But I do not know the reason for this custom.

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