In the Agra train station, a little boy — no older than seven or eight — approaches us; he holds a plastic shopping bag in one hand and a sick baby in the other. The baby has matted hair, a dirty bare bottom, and her eyes are glued shut with dried pus. The boy holds out his bag. “Shampoo,” he begs, “soap.”
I had taken the travel-sized shampoos from our hotels, so I dig through my purse to give them to him. My friend Sholeh takes a photograph of the two children in the slant of morning light, the juxtaposition of the beautiful making the scene seem all the more tragic. I hand over the shampoo, and the boy scurries it into his bag. A flock of children sees the exchange and surrounds us. Each one dirtier and sadder than the next. They beg for school pens, soap, shampoo, one rupee. They don’t seem to notice each other, their eyes set on the two foreign women. The poor and the tourists — the familiar sights of India.