Who is watching this marvelous play?
In the village streets of Tiruvannamalai much of daily life happens on the streets – in the dirt or paved road, frequently in front of the entrance to the house. Cooking, washing clothes and pots, combing and braiding a child’s hair, putting a mark of sacred ash on the forehead, sweeping out the dirt from inside the house, sometimes washing bodies. Today on my walk through the downtown village streets, I turned a corner and saw a woman placing small chunks of charcoal into an ironing box. Underneath the bits of black coal a few burned a fiery orange, sending smoke adrift into the air.
It was the first time I saw one of these wrist-breakers with its top open. I’ve often marveled at the contraption that looks like it came from medieval times. But they sure make good sense with all the power cuts!
The “charcoal woman” squatted in the sandy dirt and piece-by-piece filled the box to the brim. My magic lens caught her by surprise.
When I showed her the picture she giggled and for a few moments we laughed together. I didn’t know if she was delighted or embarrassed but then she ran over to tell a woman friend, gesturing like an excited monkey. I doubted if anyone in her familiar circle appreciated and noticed her humble work – a small woman in the middle of the street, putting precious charcoal in an antiquated ironing tool to earn a few rupees. Likely afterward to lift the heavy box and spend long hours ironing.
It’s like this in the meeting of hearts –
– spaciousness, beauty, silence… laughter.
I waved, walked on then turned back around to witness her radiant smile. Perhaps today at least, the iron box would be feather-light in her hands.