Among its bountiful natural resources, India enjoys a surplus of roving bands of boys. Its tricky territory for a traveler, as one never knows whether they're happening upon a delightful exchange, a mob scene, or both. Often the topic of money comes up: how they need more of it for what-have-you, and how you can (and should) help them accomplish their goal. This requires a level of supernatural discernment: I’ve laughed feeling like I had the words FREE ICE CREAM scrawled on my forehead, and I’ve also felt myself spiral towards something uncomfortably close to a mugging. Often an easy smile and a silly repartee will massage the situation. Sometimes, a vanishing act is in order.
To complicate matters, nearly every person you meet will ask you your first and last name, and which hotel you are staying at. If you give a wish-washy response, you will be called to task and asked again until you give a satisfactory answer. Thankfully I’ve found almost all of my interactions to be wonderfully warm and peppered with curiousity. I do harbor a tiny amount of paranoia when it comes to strangers' motives (thank you, New York), but I had more than one local warn me to be very cautious with the information I share. Rooms are easily broken into, and photographers carry a handsome loot.
It was afternoon, and hot. On the road ascending from Ashtamudi Lake I heard the unavoidable yelps of a group of boys. Six or seven of different ages were laughing and yelling and telling me to watch out: they were harvesting mangoes. In a tree thirty-or-so feet above the ground a teenage boy jounced the limbs, pummeling the pavement below with fruit. A youngster of the gang rambled over with a sack to inform me that they had the intention to sell and that I was going to be their first customer. Fortunately the elder of the group swatted him away and very kindly offered me an unblemished specimen. In that stilted, pantomimed english that has become a lingua franca borne of necessity, I asked if I could document their process. They revealed their stash and then, when they found me more of a silly curiosity than a Big-Spending American, put on an impromptu variety show in the middle of the street for my camera. A simple pleasure that made my day.