Imagine, if you can, 95 brown skinned Indian girls wearing saris, sarwaals, dresses, skirts in every color of the rainbow. Long flowing skirts, bright orange dupattas (scarves), sparkling mirrored ornamentation and embroidery, greens the color of limes, fuschias like bouganvillea blossoms, reds, blues and sunbright yellows.
And then imagine a deserted long beach with gently crashing waves - a wide, flat beach with thousands of bright red crabs. The sands seems to be alive and moving with waves of crabs all scurrying in the same direction.
And then picture those girls walking down a narrow dirt track toward the beach. Two by two or three by three, holding hands, talking, laughing. When they reach the beach, the crabs disappear, popping into holes all across the beach, clearing the sand for the children.
And then the girls reach the shore and if they are not barefooted already, they step out of sandals and flip flops and walk tentatively at first toward the waves lapping the sand. And then they get more excited and skip or run toward the water. And then the excitement takes over and they jump and splash, in their saris and sarwaals and skirts, throwing themselves down in the water and letting it wash over them. They jump the waves. They grab our arms and say, "Sister, sister, sister, happy!"
And one very precious little girl reaches for my arms and I hold her under her arms. Every time a wave comes she smiles and squeals with a trilling, rolling rrrrrrr, "Rrrrrrrrrready!!!!" And I help her jump the waves. Her gold bordered skirt billows out as she comes down in the water and she laughs with delight every single time and says, "SUPER!"
And all around us are girls in their bright colors splashing and laughing and jumping. The warden women with their small sticks make sure no one goes too deep and we all smile and get soaked in our clothes.
And then, Babu in his white linen with his patrician bearing, calls a few of the girls and they begin to walk down the beach and then most of us join them for a stroll toward the abandoned fishing boats. One girl and then another comes up and puts her arm around our waists or grasps our hands and we walk together, talking if her English is good enough, or just smiling and saying happy or super, if she is young and doesn't know much English.
And then imagine, down the beach a ways, 84 brown skinned boys from 4-16 in every imaginable type of dress and un-dress, from jeans and long sleeves to a string with a key, running, jumping into the waves, turning cartwheels, splashing, cavorting in the water, playing as boys do with abandon.
And when we are all done, some of the grown-ups and two of the children get in the car and the rest, children and grown-ups, climb in the lorries for the trip home. The dark clouds that threatened as we walked along the shore open, lighting flashes, and the rain pours. The children and others in the lorries are washed by the rainstorm and we, in the car, drive home looking through rain drops at small villages with tin and thatched roof houses, past paddy fields lined with tall, tall palms, plowed and ready for planting, through the town where people huddle under the cover of tiny open shops.
And then we are home.
And that is what we did in the evening yesterday.