“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
An early morning bus from Udaipur to Gogunda made up for a good start. Gogunda is a small town and a major hub for surrounding villages in Udaipur. It is well connected via buses and auto-rickshaws. A sturdy Maharana Pratap statue stands at the roundabout on the way to bus stop. From there, I headed towards Rawlia Kala. During the journey, I encountered lovely landscapes and tall trees. Ahead of Rawlia Kala village, I decided to walk the remaining path.
– I don’t drink Tea, thank you.
– No, please don’t take stress.
– Hold on! I’ll get you a cup of milk.
I wish I could express here what, if offered, would please me in this scenic village but let’s move ahead. I’ve never had a habit of drinking tea but after reaching Udaipur, it has been available everywhere in abundance. A welcoming sound of ‘Padharo’ from faraway, broke the silence as I crossed paths with a villager. He assured me that I now have a friend to refer to if being caught invading private spaces. Mind the mild humour! After walking past all the curious faces, finally, someone stepped up to answer a few unasked questions.
We talked about their lifestyle over a cup of hot buffalo milk and tea, served by the Sarpanch (president of the Panchayat), a female. A Lohar (blacksmith), as he called himself, later joined by his electrician friend, spoke about how his kids don’t leave the mobile phones when asked to feed the cattle. I couldn’t stop relating this to myself when I pick up on my friends, stuck to their screens. As I moved ahead, the terrain was getting richer with shiny rocks and mesmerizing Aravalli hills, only to be looked upon by the bright sun.
Here comes another tea, this time it’s the school principal who has been working here, in the secondary school for more than 6 years. A knowledgeable man who gave me a lot of valuable information about the village with a cup of chai (tea). That ended with serious denials and a polite goodbye. He sent two of his students to help me reach the next village, Sagdi ka Gurha.
Listening to the stories of panthers from them, and passing by green farms, we reached a tiny set of houses with shared walls. The population was not more than 60. On the porch of one of the houses, sat an old woman who told me about her son, Bansi, who has been working in Mumbai throughout his life.
Bansi, a 50-year-old, appeared with warm welcoming words and yet another chai offering. He was as adamant in offering it as I was for not accepting it. Growling stomach gave in and for hunger, I exchanged tea with food. He immediately agreed on it as we entered his new house. As we talked more, I got to know that he had left his village to find work after his dad passed away when he was just 11 years old.
He started in Mumbai by moiling at railway stations, doing all kinds of work. His diligence and competence can be seen when he describes how he opened a pan shop there and is running it till date. All the money he earned in these years, was used to marry off his sisters, sustaining his family and later, buying more land for his son. He even owns a house in Mumbai, which is a big deal for the majority of the people in our country. A hardworking, humble, proactive, generous and a long list of adjectives can be used to describe how motivating he appeared to me.
If we talk about mindsets, I could see that his experience in both rural and urban areas must have been tremendous. But is it a question of a person’s mindset or the situations he’s been tested in? He has exposure to both the areas which makes him what he is today. His reasoning made sense to me and I found him more open-minded than most of the people I’ve met anywhere. It is incredible how he re-assured my belief to stick to my roots and values despite many distractions of the world. Never did I think that meeting a stranger in a Rajasthani village will make me reflect on the aspects of life I’ve had faith upon.