"Karin! Karin?" she pronounced it several times as if very interesting to her.
I took a picture of the sleeping pilgrims and showed it to her in the lens.
"Too dark," I said.
"Yes..." she nodded.
"You go to school?"
She grinned, with a pretty smile, cracked teeth, and said: "Yes, yes."
"Yes?" I said. "What time?"
"Seven!" she said, delighted.
I showed her my pictures of the cow.
"Not so good, no?"
She took my camera and--within seconds--figured out what had taken me an hour in J@R Cameras: the way to stop the picture, to rewind, to pop the flash.
"Come," I said. And we walked together to the pooja ceremony, where a man was throwing fire.
"I take?" she said, carrying my camera.
She stood very concentrated, steadied the camera and took a picture of the pilgrims in the water.
"Now the man with the fire," I said.
She began taking a series of pictures, each time rewinding to check her work. Sometimes she rewound too much and came to pictures taken the day before."That you!" she said with a giggle. "And that's you!" I said--at another one, which I had taken of her.
We skipped down together to the water, and---she, my expert photographer--dared to come close to the pilgrim women washing the pots with clay and floating vases of flowers in the water and chanting mantras--and photographed them all--dressing, leaning, praying.
"Now I take you!" she said--making me move to the left.
"Stand," she added, when I kneeled.
I taught her to put more in the frame--not to cut off half-bodies--and she proudly showed me her next picture:
"See-- seven women!" she pointed, counting with her finger on the frame.
It was now about six am. I began to long for a coffee, maybe to go back to bed in my nice green veiled room, or order breakfast with room service in bed, but first I decided to meet the girl's parents.
"Will you take me to father?"Her face fell. "Me father no have."
Holding hands, we skipped along the ramparts of the Ganges, and around a road and onto a concrete platform, until we came to an enclosure on bricks--like a small open box--before the river.
Three naked children crouched on the concrete floor before it, one drinking from an old dirty plastic plate.
My little friend Punja kneeled with a smile and took a picture of her siblings.
They ran to grab the camera with their hands.
"Back," I said--instinctually protecting my camera.
Then I looked closely. The little brother drinking from the plastic plate was really a little girl. Her genital area was covered with big fat black flies. The stomach was extended with malnutrition.
"Where's your mother?" I said.
Punja looked embarrassed, and shook her hand to the left. "That way. Gone."
"So who is taking care of these babies? YOU?"
She nodded--pressing down the skirt of her dirty dress.
Then she pointed at them, and at me.
"You buy boy?"
"Take them away?" I asked, staring into her steady adult eyes. There was something urgent in them.
She nodded. "Money, buy." She pointed at her little brother and little sister.
I left before I burst into tears.