Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Woman in the Sand

The translator told me that her name was Naina.

As I smiled at her, I realized that her name was quite fitting because her eyes pierced right through me as I quickly lowered my gaze.

Perhaps something inside of me did not want to see the pain.

She couldn’t have been more than thirty, but there were lines etched into her deep caramel skin, and I knew that each one told a story. Age had snatched her youth away quickly, and grief seemed to have settled into the creases that were mostly around the corners of her eyes. A few of them gave rise to a furrowed brow; there was an intent look about her.

She was carrying a large pot above her head, and I wondered why she was out here by herself. Perhaps she was lost as well.

I asked her, in broken Hindi, if she had family.

Her eyes pierced through me once again, but this time I held my gaze. I wanted to see the depths of her pain, to understand the ache that I couldn’t possibly ever know, to feel real empathy for just a moment.

She said something incomprehensible, but I was more focused on the sound of her voice; it was soft and breath-like.

The translator looked confused, and then told me that her family was in the sands.

I looked around, at the hills of sand that coated the earth for miles. There was no one in sight.

She smiled slightly, and the lines around her eyes deepened. They were all saying something that I could not hear but desperately wanted to. She grabbed at the earth, lifting grains of sand into the air and releasing them as they were caught by the wind and blew around her body, which was wrapped in a dark red shawl.

I wondered who they were and how they had died. I wondered how she had found the strength to move on alone.

There were so many questions that I wanted to ask her, but her presence had made me numb. I didn’t know this woman, and yet something inside of me shattered.

The translator asked the woman something and she pointed towards one of the ridges in the sand.

“Let’s move,” said one of the cameramen, and the crew began to walk away. I followed.

When I turned back, the woman who had given us directions was just a spec in the desert, another grain lost in the sand dunes, blurred by the heat in the air, drowned out by the voices of the wind. I closed my eyes and prayed that she would find her way home. 

(The images in the post are self-portraits. I recently began experimenting with photography as another form of art; I would love feedback!)

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