There is this school bus that shrieks to a halt in front of our apartment every morning. You could hear it groan as it approaches, as the driver gently steps on the brakes. Some days I would be outside when it arrives, watering my plants or putting out clothes to dry or consuming Vitamin-D from my east-facing balcony with my cup of tea. I see the faces at the window, of sleepy, dreamy or bored children, having who knows what kind of thoughts about school and what lies ahead. There is this girl I see – she wears glasses with a black frame. She is probably in high school. I noticed her because I caught her watching me, many times. Sometimes she doesn’t. I don’t know if she actually sees me, or if that is a blank, half-asleep morning stare. Her chin is raised when she looks this side, suggesting that she actually sees what she is looking at.

Children are the mirrors into our past. When we look at them, we see our own past staring back at us.

When I see that girl, I remember a window through which, one day every week, we used to observe a man washing clothes and putting them out to dry in the clothes line. We called him Uthaman – because he seemed like the ideal husband. Yes, a man who helps with the laundry was well within our definition of ‘ideal’. That was not the pre-WW II era, of course, but those were still the days when men and chores were considered strangers. A husband helping with kitchen, washing, etc. was a rare enough sight (or, concept) for us to drool over.

I wonder what this girl in the shrieking school bus would be thinking, if at all she is conscious of the woman with the steaming cup of tea, leaning on her balcony rails, squinting against the sun, watching the hustle and bustle of morning school time. Does the girl think about what I am doing, and does she wonder about herself? Does she see me as a mirror into her own future? Does the sight excite her or cause her dread? Does she wish that her difficult school days would be over so that she can also lounge in some balcony and sip hot tea? Or does she fear that her days ahead consist of washing and drying clothes and hanging them out to dry, and watering plants and keeping the house?

Does she wonder, at all?