In maths, Geeta sits in front of me, long black plait—
and Helen’s, blue ribbon on her frizzled braid—
not very tidy even if Hall Matron is strict.
I am busy and you always muss up your hair—
what would your mothers say—
biting your nails and not sitting straight.
We did sit straight, but slumped when Hall Matron passed us;
and with the others I think her stern,
her gloomy apron and starched dress.
But it wasn’t so—I knew at holidays
when the others boarded the train
towards Delhi, and Hall Matron, Miss Naraman,
a Christian lady from Kerala,
took me to Land Cottage, her private bungalow
behind the Headmaster’s quarters, to mind me.
Maya, my mother is old and gone.
Your mother is not here.
All god’s children take shelter on the earth,
even in the mountains, where it is quiet
at Christmas. When Jesus was born,
it was very quiet, like this.