I saw these two girls twice while visiting Semmandakuppam.
The older one walks with a gypsy sway, enchanting in its wild, unstudied grace. When she smiles, her clear green eyes are glowing, infinite. The toddler on her hip, probably older than she looks and not necessarily her sister, is an equally haunting extension of her.
She is fourteen, but looks at once childlike and eternal. She has Eden in her eyes.
But then again, perhaps we diminish the sublime when we try to harness with speech the unspeakable.
On the side of the dirt road, about a hundred feet from where I met them, there is an isolated oleander bush with purple blooms, seemingly misplaced among sprawling sugarcane crops.
Crushing these blooms and mixing the sap into milk is a common, native method of female infanticide.
This is who lives in the midst of poverty, obscurity, and filth. A life, a heart, a soul. When I look at these pictures, I see not only what I remember about the village, but a reminder of the dynamic, unearthly contrast of joy and pain in India.
Just a few steps away from the oleander.