How to Wear an Indian Village
Kuzhali Manickavel

Park the car next to a vendor selling tender coconuts. Ask how the crop has been while you weigh each coconut in your hand. Do not smile when you hear the water splashing inside like a secret waterfall. Wear sunglasses.

When they ask where you're from, say you are from Chennai. Say it with a drawl, like it is an American word. Do not say you are from Madras. If you are a man, have two tender coconuts even though they will make you feel thirsty once you get back in the car. If you are a woman, drink half a coconut and give the rest to the man.

Waylay children with bicycles. Grab the handlebars and insist you will only take the cycle down the road and back. Ride with one village child attached to your back and one seated on the handlebars. Make sure someone takes pictures of you. Show your teeth when you smile.

Promise the children that you will send copies of every photograph that was taken. Write their addresses down in English. Make them promise to wait for your letter everyday. Make them say 'Yes, we promise' in unison.

Do not stay more than 22 minutes. As the car pulls away, wave once and quickly roll up the window.

Two weeks later, you will find abandoned slips of addresses under the car mats. Stuff these into an old cigarette carton and toss it into one of the rabbit-shaped garbage cans in the nearest park.

Keep the pictures.

Kuzhali Manickavel's debut collection of stories, Insects are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings, came out last year.

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Photo detail on main page courtesy of twocentsworth.

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