Thirty-six hours from door to door and I finally arrived in the village on the last day of hot season. After emptying my suitcases, I pulled on an old petticoat and my river blouse, wrapped a towel around my waist, draped another over my shoulders, grabbed my soap and headed to the river.
Every summer I return to India where we raised our family and our younger daughter lives still. Our house overlooks a sacred river; sacred because many temples are built along its banks, and holy sages have plunged in its waters.The tarred road outside our gate dead ends, dropping off into the slow moving brown waters- a rare place where timelessness exists. The river gives no clue as to the date or even the century.
In the early gray light of morning, women bring their children and their laundry down to the river. While the children play, their mothers soap the clothes, then beat them on large flat rocks that have been dragged up to the water’s edge. After the clothes are rinsed, wrung out and draped over bushes to dry, the children are gathered, scrubbed down and let loose to rinse off. Years ago I learned to bathe while fully dressed- a skill required in heavily populated rural India.
That first morning the sun was high. The children had been dried, dressed and sent to school, so I had the river to myself- along with the cicadas, kingfishers and the strange little fish with the scratchy lips. On the opposite bank, I could make out the steep pitched red tiled roofs of the houses.
I then plunged to wash off the dust from the outside world.