Everyone climbed into our host’s vehicle for our drive to Madurai. We passed endless fields of rice, the laid back feel of South India a refreshing change. Beautiful women clothed in colorful saris bent over row after row after row of tiny rice plants. At one point my husband turned to the driver and asked if he would stop. The driver nodded, and we pulled to the side of the road. Kevin jumped out and immediately set up his camera horizontal to the line of women planting.
The woman looked up, saw Kevin and us and began to laugh and talk among themselves. “What are they saying?” I asked. “They want to know what he’s doing,” our host laughed.
A man approached us. He seemed to be in charge. He spoke with our host in Tamil. I watched the women laughing as they continued planting: talking to each other, looking up at the camera and smiling between dropping little blades of green into the dirt. The openness of everyone surprised and comforted me.
Earlier, we had stopped at a fruit vendor and picked out some delicious ripe fruit for our car ride. Our host went and grabbed a few bunches of bananas. She gave them to the headman and, smiling, he handed them over. Two women carried the bananas down the line. The woman stopped working to eat them. A man with a herd of goats passed us by. And then another man on a bike stopped to see what was happening, and we gave him a banana, too.
Kevin finished his filming, and we all waved goodbye, and this moment for some reason touched me more than many others on our journey. Maybe it was the simple goodness and happiness the women exhibited, maybe it was their graciousness in letting us film them, maybe it was the kindness of their boss in letting them all take a well deserved break. But I was glad I had photographs, so I could forever remember this moment in South India’s rice fields.