I don’t know her name. But today I met a woman who captivated me with her childlike cheerfulness.
Walking towards my in-law’s house I noticed a flower beside the jack-fruit tree which stands tall just beyond the gate. Click click.
She was trying to get my sister-in-law interested in her baskets, muram (winnow) and brooms made from coconut leaves, when she saw me walk over, camera in hand.
“Will you take a picture of me??” she asked giving me a broad smile so childlike in its innocence.
“Of course!” I replied, “But, I won’t be able to give it to you.” I felt sorry about that. Mine was not a Polaroid camera, just a digital one.
“That’s okay.” She said. I couldn’t help but smile on hearing that. It did not matter to her that she couldn’t get a copy of the photograph. She merely wanted herself to be photographed. How sweet.
“A white man and his woman once took a picture of me,” she told us beaming with pride.
“Ahhh… is that so??”
“They made me stand with my my baskets and winnows on my head. And they gave me silver coin afterwards.” A bigger smile.
“I can take your picture, but sadly I don’t have silver coin to give you!” I told her with a mischievous smile. She grinned in reply going into details of the silver coin the sayippu and madamma had given her.
“Okay here we go!” I said Click click.
“Do you want to see yourself??” I asked her.
“Oh yes” she said innocent pleasure lighting up her face.
On seeing her digital self she exclaimed,
She realized she hadn’t removed the cloth on her head. I noticed her disappointment and asked her,
“Do you want me to take another one??”
Another smile and a vigorous nod in the affirmative was what I got in reply. Click click.
“Okay. Take a look”
“Now what??” I asked.
“The cloth is still on my head though I removed it” She looked a little confused and disappointed.
“There is no cloth over your head in the picture” I told her wondering what she was talking about. Hmmm… her eye-sight mustn’t be all that good, I thought.
“Then why is my head white??!” she queried innocently, forehead all wrinkled in perplexity.
“That’s the sunlight reflecting off your gray hair” I said smiling.
“Ohhh is that so??” She was relieved and smiled in childlike happiness.
In her thrill at being photographed she was absentminded about collecting her money from sis in law who having bought a basket from her was waiting to pay her. She then laughed heartily at herself, took the money and put it away securely into a small purse. Putting her wares back on her head she got ready to leave. Click click.
She turned around and saw me focusing my camera on her and gave me her widest grin. Click click.
I came to know later on about her grandson who is ill. She contributes her mite by selling her wares. I am amazed at her resilience; her ability to smile and take innocent delight in the small pleasures like being photographed when what life has dealt her is one blow after another.
Your smile is a beacon dear lady and I hope it lights many a dark life. I bow to you.