Aisha, she of the pink cheeked, butter-eyed expression with two scarf tails closed around her face like ship sails.
Aisha, of the oversized plastic chappals that are her ‘walking shoes’, up and down the mountain, through mud and sunshine. Aisha, who smiles cautiously through big glassy eyes, head bowed, middle pathed, brown plait-tailed end swinging behind her.
Aisha of the long, halted, stammering, finger-wringing, pencil-biting questions about volcanos and storms and lions in South Africa.
Aisha, the oversized sunglass-preener leaving a patter of her finger prints along our view of sunny skies.
Aisha with the gaze, I can never forget, nor ever explain well enough.
Aisha, who I once tried to hug who wouldn’t let me hug her, who said hugging was her problem, that it was ‘a problem in her head.’
Aisha, who complained once a little about a ‘pain’ in her ears, until it was discovered that she had pushed newspaper into her ear.
Aisha who knows she won’t have every right answer like the other two girls, but who tries so hard and sits with her homework, pencil stuck in her mouth. (Even after school, especially after school when she can ask teachers for their opinions on possible answers.)
Aisha, who argues with Perwez. Who scribbles in his science book when he’s trying to catch up with the notes on the board. Aisha, who insists Shanawaz must lose his star because, after corrections his mark is now the same as hers. Aisha who believes justice must be meted out: promises must be kept, stars must be deserved, pencils must be returned and, the starless must know their place in the world. Aisha, with her big green jacket and big green eyes. Aisha, who insists his star needs to be removed now. Aisha who whispers her complaints with urgency and concern. Aisha, with skin like bruised peaches and a hurt, hopeful expression.
Aisha who coverts my silver metal sharpener, who always asks to borrow it, who returns it carefully into its gold case and watches carefully through her green glazed eyes for those who don’t. Who writes me letters saying ‘be happy’ and ‘your eyes are the same as mine’ and ‘I’ll write you back.’
Aisha, the lovely, the annoying, the sweet, the gentle, with her oversized plastic chappals climbing up the mountain.