Four: Nepal

The women of Pathan are washing their laundry.

Dip, smear with soap, scrub, dip, swish, knead. Dip, smear, scrub, dip, swish, knead. Then a muscular wring and reach behind, to a growing mound. And ahead, to an eroding knoll. Dip, smear, scrub. Barefoot, squatting in bright salwar kameez above tin tubs. Dip, swish, knead. Working quietly, breaking rhythm only to borrow a neighbor’s clay-colored soap ball, or tender a lean limb of conversation. Dip, smear, scrub. The washing place is a sunken stone courtyard adjacent to a temple. Centuries of gentling by water and feet have worn its rocks smooth. Dip, swish, knead. A stream gushes from the side of the temple into a trough in the square, giving way instantly to extravagant suds, iridescent ...

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