But we soon came across these two little girls. We tried to say hello to them but realised they only spoke Kannada - a language we don't know a word of. But they seemed to be saying something to us.
"Payn? Payn?!", they said to us, excitedly.
We were a bit puzzled at first, but soon realised what they wanted. The older girl made a scribbling gesture in the air.
"Pen?" she said again.
For these children, a pen was the most exciting thing on earth. They probably realised how privileged they are to be able to go to school in rural India, and they seemed to know that it' is that privilege that is going to give them a better life one day. School was exciting, a pen was fun! And these strange tourists carried pens! Of course, I only assumed all this for we couldn't talk to them given the language barrier; I only fervently hoped that this is the way they saw it. As for us, were just overjoyed that they were asking us for a pen - that all they wanted from us was a pen, if we had one on us. They were not interested in my camera, or in the other contents of my large bag...they probably didn't bother to take in the way we were dressed, or our shoes, or my sunglasses. All they wanted was a pen!
We wondered what to do. I didn't have a pen on me just then. We wondered if we could buy some from a village shop and give it to them but there wasn't a shop in sight. And as we wondered, the girls slipped away quietly, possibly disappointed. Then my better half rummaged through his hip bag and fished out two pens - one, a simple Biro and another, a pen branded with his company's name. We excitedly walked back, found the girls again. Their smiles turned to whoops of joy as we handed them a pen each! They went running inside their homes to show off the pens to their parents. The older one squealed with happiness when she saw hers was a branded pen. Such unbridled joy! In their hearts and ours. All I wanted in return were pictures. They posed, shy at first, happy giggles bursting out from time to time.
We never found out the names of these girls. But they sure made our day.