The Brahmin (Continue)
It is a long half-hour bus ride from her house to school; unruly teenagers stomp down the aisles, shouting and joking about, while they crowd into the narrow vinyl-covered seats. She sits in the front, next to the window, grateful for the fresh air blowing in through the cracks, and waits out the ride in patience.
One day, out of sheer boredom, she notices the bus driver looking at her in his big mirror. She smiles to herself; her hand unconsciously rises to smooth down her shining black hair. When she looks up again at the mirror, his eyes are already backing on the road.
The pattern repeats itself throughout the entire first semester. She'd pay the exact amount of her fare, so as not to have to wait for change and would take her regular seat by the same window. Her eyes would turn surreptitiously towards the mirror, crinkling with joy upon meeting the eyes of the bus driver.
At night, she would lie in bed at her parents' house and in her mind; tell the driver everything that happened to her during the day. Sometimes, she'd get mixed up and mistakenly tell him things she had already mentioned. She noticed that he found that amusing. Well, he barely listened to her anyway. He'd just look at her beautiful face and sigh.
When the second semester drew to a close, after careful planning and innumerable rehearsals, she summoned all of her courage and approached him, said hello and asked him what his name was. The bus driver smiled and said that after he drops off all the students, he was going to the nearest gas station to fill the tank with gas.
She remained the last passenger on the bus and then moved to the back, far away from her regular seat. She felt a sudden rise of panic and kept her eyes downcast, lest the driver take notice.
At the gas station, they stood under the weeping fig tree, and she saw his deep brown eyes and light chocolate skin up close for the first time. She tried, without much success, to smile nonchalantly, and he smiled back at her warmly. He warned her that she had better keep her distance from him. "You are a Brahmin, the highest, most elite caste in India, and I am from one of the lowest. You have a large carpentry shop, fields, farmhands and a two-story house. The run-down shack that I call home is not even owned by my family."
The gas attendant motioned to the driver that the tank was full. The two made their way back to the bus slowly. She didn't say a word.
The next few days were full of uncertainty and turmoil. She didn't dare look up at the big mirror to search out the bus driver's eyes. His genuine sincerity and honest approach left her stomach churning in confusion.
She had no one to confide in and was left to discussing all her options with herself, mapping out each possible decision from every angle. In desperation, she found her way to the bus driver's home and sought out his mother's advice. The mother greeted her with open arms. She served strong tea and cookies and, like her son, recommended that the girl keep her distance. "I am overjoyed to have you nearby. You are a lovely person and I love you myself, but no one will ever permit the two of you to wed."
They secretly set a wedding date. They invited only one best friend and the bus driver's mother. They decided not to take any chances and agreed not to meet again until the day of the wedding.
On the day after the wedding, she did not attend classes at school. She went to the bus driver's home. The bus driver's mother went to visit the grandmother and left the newlyweds home alone. It was only natural that they ended up in bed. They had never even properly kissed before and yet it felt so pure to be lying together in bed, tentatively feeling their way up and down the other's naked body. His masculine scent was exactly as she had imagined.
That night, the driver's mother returned from her visit, and the girl went back to her own home. They decided they would not meet again until the official papers arrived announcing their marriage. It took three long months for the papers to arrive. They snatched the envelope from the postman's hand and raced over to her parents' house.
Her parents, brothers, and sisters screamed and shouted and furiously set out to confront the bus driver and his mother. An attempt at violence was thwarted and the parents of the bride took one last look at their daughter and drove away.
20 kilometers separated between the two houses. 20 kilometers and an ocean of hostility.
One year later, upon the birth of their firstborn, she cried in uncontrollable grief. She knew that her parents sensed the birth of their first grandchild but they never came, never send their best wishes or congratulations. She never felt their arms wrapped around her in a loving hug.
She would talk to them in her mind at night, before falling asleep. In her mind, they would listen to her and answer back, their eyes gleaming with tears. She felt her father's health dwindle as a result his yearning for his daughter. She wasn't angry with them; she wasn't angry with the holy men either. It was their job to guard their traditions. But she was enraged with the behavior of the politicians who used religion to prevent changes that might affect their rule.
Now, she is in the final month of her second pregnancy. Her firstborn son gently caresses her round stomach and lays his ear down to listen to the movements of his soon-to-be-born baby sister.
Her husband no longer drives a bus. He has a new and shiny delivery truck.
Every day, when she wakes up, her eyes automatically look out the window, in the direction of her parents' house. She knows that only 20 kilometers separate the two homes, but it feels as if a large fissure has ruptured the earth, and despite her fervent prayers, she knows that the fissure will continue to deepen and grow, pushing the homes farther and arther away.
To the Proposal to Publication of book in the format of the book:
"The People of India"
To the Photographs from the book: "The people of India"
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