I didn’t have to ask her her name. I knew where to look for it.
Pinki comes from Bara district, in Rajasthan, where getting a girl’s name tattooed on her arm is a very common practice. Often, she also bears the name of her husband, or father. Pinki chose to get her brother’s name inked in, alongside her own.
She’s just answered the standard 8th exam; fought hard to stay in school. She’s the only one in her village to have done so. Right now, she is working with Sankalp, to help organise the rural youth.
"So, what next?" I ask her.
She shrugs. "The senior high school is 10 kilometres away from my village. I don’t have a bicycle…. I guess I’ll walk. But I don’t know… even my brother hasn’t studied this far."
Later, Pinki reaches out to stroke the denim on my knees.
"We don’t wear jean-pant in my village." She looks very unhappy.
I bite back a smile. "Really? Why is that?"
"What sort of talk?"
"They’ll say - ‘Oh look, look… so-and-so’s daughter is dressed like a man'."
[We laugh, but I'm wondering - "Dressed like a man? How long, since I thought of ‘jean-pant’ as man’s clothing? Did I ever?"]
Aloud, I say, "Does it matter - that you cannot wear jeans? I’m allowed to, but I don’t like them much… What difference does it make?"
Pinki looks away. "But you can…"
So, I say, "Then, let people talk. Slowly, they'll get used to it."
She looks at me strangely, slowly. Neither of us bring up the subject again. And I'm still wondering what's going on in her head. And what will happen, as a result.
[I've promised myself that next time I see Pinki, and if we’re in Delhi, I’ll see that she gets a chance to taste the forbidden denim.]