On my way to school

Marta Allegue Souto - India


May 17, 2018

I blow one more
time on my sugary ginger chai before I leave to school, as if trying to avoid
getting my tongue burnt was going to prove how strong I was feeling that
morning. I say a quick goodbye to Neha, my host mum, and I close the door.

After the
first stretch of stairs, I greet one of the maids from my building. She replies
with a toothless smile. Her grey hair neatly tied back in a braid
contrasts with the colors of her sari that play, iridescent, with the wind. She
pulls a green metallic trash cart and carries a broom made of dry palm leaves.

After
crossing the patio of my society, I see that the watchmen are already playing
with Rudra, my one-year old neighbor. He is wearing kajal around his eyes, a very
deep-rooted custom in his family. This traditional black makeup is supposed to
protect him from the sun and the evil eye.

It is 6.45,
I have exactly enough time to make it on time for school. I turn left into the
main street. The atmosphere has a tint of pink and orange. The fog of the
early-morning and the haze soften the colors. It smells of incense.

A man
dressed in white wearing a humble Gandhi cap (as a symbol of his support for the
anticorruption movement) pushes his cart filled with big green coconuts. Later
on, he will cut the coconuts skillfully with his machete to sell coconut water.

Some schoolboys
overtake me in their tiny bikes, they must be 8 years old.
They are all familiar to me. I greet them euphorically and they
shout back ‘Didi, Didi’ and ‘Good morning Marta didi’.

I can
already see my school. A multitude of Kothrud Wolves (our school football team)
are training. It’s 7am. Students quickly gather with their respective classes to
go to the day’s school meeting.

It’s time
for the 30-degree weather. It’s 12.30. The classes are over. We stand up and sing
together, like we do every day, the national song: Vande Mataram. Outside, the
atmosphere is muggy. Rickshaws wait on the students and the stipulated three
seats become six or seven. I watch how entire families (parents, kids and
babies) pile on a single motorbike. In my hesitant Hindi I speak with the
parents of some of my students. I can already hear the sounds of the vibrant
city of Pune. In about 15 minutes I will be back home.

Marta Allegue Souto