At the end of a dusty day, we turned from the smooth comfort of good pavement and paused beneath a lone shade tree in the Gadna village of India.
The sound of strangers stirred the Banjaras to leave their boiling curry pots and stolen treasures for they could smell the clean scent of fresh prey, and we were it.
“Keep a tight grip on your cameras,” the guide said. “Don’t wander off alone.”
The ragged children crept to the edge and waited for the mothers with their rustling streams of bright silk and clanging bracelets. As news of the Americans drifted around the thatched zupadas, the men lifted from their naps and tucked away their country-made liquor.
Within minutes, the welcome party swarmed with Bollywood smiles and clumsy intentions, bumping change loose from purses and slipping tiny fingers into pockets.
“Let’s go,” the guide said. “Hurry.”
The Banjaras weren’t eager for the party to end so they scrambled to capture some memory of the visit. A hair clip. A hat. Almost a shoe.
“You can’t go,” the guide told the boy clinging to the side of our car. “You have to stay home."
(More of the gypsy camp encounter featured on www.brightjourneys.com)