Today, while school was in session, piles of gravel and dirt were dumped on the mud road outside. The intention is for the government to work on improving it tomorrow. By the time school was released, the school bus couldn’t get through, so we had to walk to the bus stop. I hiked up my sari with one hand, grabbed my bag with the other and tromped with the children through the mountains of rain-soaked dirt. My feet were covered in mud when we got to the village, and we were late. The public bus had already gone. The next one would not come for two hours.
The alternative was to take an auto—the equivalent of two benches on three wheels with a windshield for the driver and a tarp for a roof. So thirteen of us piled in—four teachers, two Indian women, and six children clinging to the sides. I sat facing backwards on a plank sandwiched between the driver and passenger bench. One arm clutched my belongings. The other clung to a metal bar overhead, my head tucked into the crook of my arm to avoid bashing it against the ceiling as we traveled jerkily along. I couldn’t see anything of where we were going with the exception of the pavement rushing by, but I could smell the things we passed. Fetid water, roasting corn, herds of buffalo. The rain blew in and pelted against the exposed parts of my back. With every dip in the pocked road, the metal frame of the vehicle dug into my side.
The teachers looked at me and said, “For you, this is an experience, yah? You will have to remember this day.”
Once we reached a more traveled highway closer to the city, we switched from auto to bus. Then, as I separated from the teachers, it was back to auto for the last leg. I had been two and a half hours since leaving the school.
I will remember. It is everything about India that I love. Ebb and flow. Graceful jolting. The improvisational rhythm of life. We’ll all get there… eventually.