Jasodha posing for the camera (courtesy: Anita Bhagat)
"Madamji look! 'My..Papa...likes...green..chillies.'"
She has read that book at least ten times, but it's still her favorite. "My Garden" it's called.
She pores over each word, inspecting it meticulously and joining the syllables with relative ease. Sometimes, she remembers the sentence and rushes through it with ease. "'One day, two days, three days'. Madamji look!" I smile in acknowledgement.
She cooks. She cleans. She farms. She scoops up cow shit and carries it to the farm. And now, she can read. If she lived in a city, a place with opportunity, she might have been a giddy ninth-grader. If her family had money, she might have spent her allowance on a new phone rather than a new dupatta. Like 90% of the females in the Kheda she has gorgeous features and an envious figure. She might have become a model, if she lived in a place with opportunity, if her family had money. If.
In six days, we'll leave the Kheda. And then what? Will I ever see her again? Maybe we'll write letters to each other. Maybe I'll come back in a few years to find she's gone to her husband, to her sasural. It's easy for me to imagine a different life for her, a life where she could fully utilize her potential. There's so much I want for her, but her future is already decided. And I have to accept that.