We spent as much time as we could on our roof. There was a big rock right on the edge of the cliff and after the rains, it was covered with little daisies. The girls spent hours playing with flowers and stones.
Song for Zoë Ray:
You’ve seen so much, made so many friends
Hellos and goodbyes never seem to end
So many colours, languages too
They don’t seem to make any difference to you
Different faces, different smiles
We’ve been a long way, walked a lot of miles
The roads been hard
But we’ve pulled through
I’ve really enjoyed my life with you
You play in the sand
Mix flowers and mud
The stories are told at the edge of the cud
So much in common, you laugh and you cry
Swing on the trees as the days go by
I’ve left a part of myself in you
And the love we have is a life that’s shared
You live your life like it won’t end.
The roof was a good place to be de-liced. Lice were a constant problem for us. I told the girls it was a good problem to have. It meant we were getting close to people. We agreed it was better to be close to people and get what they had than to stay away from them and stay clean. The only available lice shampoo didn’t work at all. Dettol seemed to work best but we couldn’t use it too often. So we sat in the sun and scratched through each other’s hair and picked out the nits one by one, like monkeys. The sun was lovely and I loved having my hair fiddled with. We took it in turns. Sarita taught the girls how to spot them and they became experts.
Mussoorie was known for its monkey problem. The grey, lanky, black-faced langurs were careful to keep their distance and didn’t bother anyone. The brown recess monkeys were a different story. They were aggressive, didn’t listen to women and were known to attack people carrying bags of fruit or vegetables. Close friends of ours got tired of monkeys eating their flowers. They put light poison in some chapattis and scattered them around the garden to chase them away. It was one of the unsolved mysteries of Mussoorie. Why were there crows falling from the sky?
A young boy, Raju, came around with a dirty fabric bag to scratch through our rubbish on the roof. Every day he shouted out to us to let us know he was there. He was a sweet boy. We would give him chai and something to eat. We couldn’t communicate very much but he knew we liked him. He lived with his family near the Landour Community Hospital. They were garbage pickers and their houses were plastic tents. Raju took us to meet his family. They had absolutely nothing. We took them some crayons and paper and enjoyed watching grown women and their kids drawing their first ever pictures. Raju, somewhere along the line put his faith in Jesus. His parents were fine with it until other members started coming with him. One day we heard that Raju’s bag got stuck under a reversing truck and he was killed instantly. We were devastated. His family said it was because he had changed gods. That was his punishment. It was all so sad. It took us a long time to get over that loss of life.
The roof was a place of friendship, fellowship and fun. It was flat. There was no hierarchy up there. We were family. All humans. All in need of love. That was where we found it.