The Mary Diana Samuel Trust, founded in 2007. Thiruvallur, India.
There are so many questions to ask them, Maria, Sandra, Karen, Donna, Daisy, Ruby and the rest. What was it like to have to leave home? What was it like to be wandering the streets? What does it mean to chose an education over having a childhood with your parents? Or food over family? Are you sad? Do you miss your family?
Instead, one asks the five-year-old what is her favorite color, food, activity, Bible verse. They all smile. There is giggling in the back of the room. So many sisters in one space. They fill in every available gap - knees touching, arms stretched across the others. It is a sea of fidgeting, adjusting, fixing the hair, necklace, fasteners on the closest girl.
The older ones are responsible for the younger ones. They spend hours each day as guides through bath time, meals, bed, and prayer. With only a single couple running the orphanage, there are few hands to care for the 37 charges. And so it is delegated in as many ways.
In the morning and evenings of this summer vacation, there is Bible study. Verses memorized from John, Samuel, 1 Corinthians - the love chapter. Songs with dances to accompany them echo through the corridors. It's strange, but Jesus seems to really have saved them from a worser fate in India. If only because of some Christian's faith in Tennessee, it has provided the funding that will send these children to college. It is Christianity that has given them dreams of a future, as a doctor, nurse, engineer or perhaps even a flight attendant.
Morning at the Taj Mahal is pretty miserable: blistering heat, no breeze, hundreds of tourists everywhere. I find them fairly uninspiring for the most part. It's actually hard to fill an entire day in Agra once you've seen the monuments. I ended up walking in circles through the town and the garden connecting the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.
As soon as I reached the fort, the skies tore open into a torrential downpour. Wind, rain and sand blew in circles through the monuments and their entryways. It rescued my day and my mood. Stuck with Indian families in the rain, moments happening all around me, there was no way to keep my fingers from the shutter then.