I didn’t know her name. She was small, with the still round baby face of a small child. She was beautiful, with a faded t shirt of Dora the Explorer and faded crocs. Her sister, who probably was nine years old held her hand. They went from person to person “Mangoes, mangoes, we sell mangoes…”
It was hot and sticky day by the beach , and the sand was glittering black with bits of diamond specks. I had the colors and pad in my hand and asked her to stop , for a moment. I sketched her. She had copper skin, and rotten teeth.
Was she happy?
Her eyes were round, and shining.
I asked how old she was.
She put up four fingers.
I smiled at her and kept sketching. She kept looking downward to sneak a peek.
She left, and I didn’t know her name.
All around the world, these anonymous faces of children, working long hours in the sun.
Are they happy?
Are they better off than those over stimulated four year olds , or those four year olds who are alone in the world? She seemed happy, but she did not know any other life.
Like the gypsy Romanian girls before her in Madrid ( the story of which you can find here) for once, I opened my eyes to these anonymous faces which etch our lives everyday. The junior youth that I animate in the classroom every week , their mothers sell mangoes and fruit in the marketplace every day so they can go to school . They work long hours, and one parent told me how in the monsoon their feet would get wet and they didn’t have a home for a long time. They told me how expensive the school fees were, and how happy they were we were helping out. It was touching really.
And I think , those girls could have easily had a life where they didn’t go to school. They travel a long time to get on that bus and get there and be in that school room. They could have had the fate as that girl who sells mangoes.
What would she become? Would she get a chance to study? Would she become a child mother like so many before her? Would she be happy?