I have no idea how long she’s been there, nor how she came to be there and I know even little of why she’s there, sitting on a platform by the road, surprising travelers as they round the bend on their way elsewhere.
The red of her blouse accentuates the sky blue of her sari, and on cheerful days she might as well have stripped a length off the blue skies overhead before wrapping herself with it. The silver border, exposed to elements over time, has lost some of its shine but it is more than made up by her smile, no less enigmatic and mysterious than the narrow Goan village roads that hide serendipity around unexpected corners.
She looks over an old well and beyond to the road. Behind her a temple to Ravalnath or Bhootnath sits in quiet reflection, of shade and contemplation of an occasional pilgrim making his way to the temple. The deep stambh, a mandatory sight outside entrances to Goan temples, stands in the shade of a tree. A scooter is parked at the entrance to a house adjacent to the temple. A mud path leads to the gate. Blocks of laterite stones are neatly arranged to one corner.
An elderly man is busy working his axe on a coconut tree, splicing the trunk into neat strips, likely for use in fashioning fences or maybe to shore up enclosures in the backyard. It takes skill to splice lengths off a coconut tree. A steady twack-twack-twack interrupts the afternoon. In time it will begin to sound like a part of it. On the back roads nothing is orphaned.
A bicycle is parked by the side of the mud road. The woodcutter probably rode it to the small clearing where he is now working his axe. It’s likely he is doing it for a fee and that the coconut tree belongs to someone in the vicinity of the temple.
The well is old. Three-fourths of the opening is covered by a metal mesh. A rope hangs from the wooden wheel. By the looks of it the well is not very deep. Wells in Goa are usually not deep.
I turn to look at her. She’s tucked her hair into a bun, flowers adorning it. Jasmine probably, I tell myself. Anything else would not befit her posture. It’s easy to imagine the fragrance if you’ve ridden village roads in Goa and stopped by elderly women selling flowers at street corners, often on their feet and holding out flowers wrapped in leaves. While they wait on passing customers stopping by to buy the flowers they lend fragrance to the roads.
The dignity of her pose reminds me of singers of yore, on stage and singing. And of dancers as well while they awaited their turn on the stage. However it is not a pose I would expect to see if she were to be singing religious hymns. She would be sitting cross legged then, eyes closed, her hands seemingly in offering but actually moving to the pitch of the song.
Whatever the case maybe, she seems at home in the village. And travellers, at home with her presence on their journeys elsewhere.