We had some free time in the town of Jaisalmer after we returned from our camel trek in the desert, so we decided to take a walk through town. We were tired of tourist sites so we walked through parts of the town we hadn't been through before. Most of the residential streets in the town were dirt or sand and were spackled with poop and rubbish. As we walked we caught a glimpse down a beautiful side street made with pinkish sandstone and similarly colored houses lining it. It appeared immaculately clean, so we decided to walk down it.
It was about 4pm and apparently school was out, because there were gaggles of children on every doorstep. As we'd walk by they'd all gleefully smile and yell, "Hello! Hello! What is your name!" in high pitched voices. In fact many Indian children shout this when they see us, and it must be one of the first things they learn in English in school. Another common one is "Do you have a school pen?" which seems to be the preferred gift. If you ever plan to go to India, bring lots of pens!
At one doorstep a pair of slightly older girls were painting each other's hands and forearms with henna. They smiled and said hello, and the younger one asked if we would take their picture. Marisa snapped a few. Then they asked Marisa if she wanted henna on her hands. That's the second time she's been made that offer, and has also been offered to be dressed with liptstick, tikkas, etc. - they want to make Marisa pretty Indian style.
At this point a small crowd (10?) of smaller children had gathered around us, as they'd followed us coming down the street. They all started crying, "photo! photo!" Marisa said, "Do you all want to be in the photo too?" They cried, "Yes!" Marisa began trying to corral them all into the photo. This was difficult because some of the younger ones didn't understand that they wouldn't be in the picture if they stood behind someone else. As to the ones that wanted to be in front, they thought the closer they stood to Marisa the better, and then everyone rushed towards Marisa, which also made it hard to fit everyone in the frame.
We snapped a couple pictures and turned the camera to show them on the display. With Marisa moderating, they passed it around, some of the little ones happily astonished at seeing themselves in the display. With wonder, one of them pointed with a chubby little hand at himself in the image.
One of the bigger boys introduced himself as Praveen and asked if we could send the pictures to them. We said we'd try, so he took our pen and paper and wrote down their address. Praveen was about the size of a first grader though he looked like he was maybe in third grade. His English was excellent, and he was not shy. He seemed related to one of the girls who was doing the henna. When Marisa asked her direct questions, she shly looked away and Praveen spoke for her, even though she was at least 6 years older than Praveen.
As we walked away another gaggle of children asked to have their picture taken. Uh oh. We could see more kids down the road. We took a few more pictures, and turned the corner.
When we arrived at the next street, a new type of invitation greeted us - a mixed age group of boys playing cricket wanted to knew if we wanted to join in. It was fantastic to feel this welcome after spending all day in the touristy areas where the only people that want to talk to you are people that want your money.