On a bright sunny morning after comfortably getting myself a twenty-minute-long shower, which easily included the usage of five to six products and then applying a couple of skin care products on, I started my walk towards Salchinthanpally (read as my village). I was heading here to do some Participatory Rural Appraisal activities with the villagers, as a part of my work assignment here in Agastya as an India Fellow.
As I walk into the village through the main road with fresh tomato fields on one side and millets on the other, I felt the transition already. I felt like I’m entering a different world, a world where everything is natural and real. In one of these tomato farms I see Janu and her friend Sangeetha welcoming me with a wide and ear to ear smile, shouting “Happy Sunday Miss!”
Never in twenty one years of my life, have I ever gotten a chance to stay in a village for a period longer ten days. All the world view I have of villages is from typical movies and from the television adaption of Malgudi Days (if you don’t know what Malgudi Days is you should definitely Google it right away and trust me on this it can be a great web series to binge watch over this weekend).
Coming back, I walked past the primary school and the ground to reach Ralamma’s house as I see her shouting my name and asking me to come over for a cup of coffee (she knows that I don’t drink tea).
The first person to invite me over to their house for a meal, the first one to understand my Telugu and also the first to realize that I’m not very different from the people there in the village was Ralamma. We both get along really well. She’s a thirty-five-year-old woman with a sense of humor better than anyone I’ve ever met in this village, her charming personality and ever gleaming face is what draws me towards this semi built white house every other day.
As I move further ahead I see Hari with a neem twig in his mouth wishing me “Good Morning Miss!” with all the natural goodness spraying out (laughs). I also see Venkanna taking a leisure bath on the pavement with his mother’s help. Something I couldn’t help but notice is that she was using a stone on his body. When asked Ralamma about this she laughed saying, “What is so surprising about it, Supriya?” which further fueled my inquisitiveness. I insisted her on telling me more about this – bathing with a rock ritual. She simply smiled and said that it is something that they use as a scrubber to make sure that no dirt remains on the skin after a bath. Which I understood for sure but my supplementary question which definitely seemed foolish to her was if it won’t leave rashes on the skin or even worse, cause bleeding bruises? She again laughed and said, “No, that’s what we’ve been doing since forever”. To me, that definitely was a convincing answer, since I see them all having glowing skin (obviously without rashes and bruises).
While I am lost in the thoughts of what might happen if I started using the neem twig to brush my teeth and a stone to scrub my body on a daily basis, I see Ralamma and another neighbor calling all the kids in the playground to serve some hot and fresh Parmannam (authentic sweet dish prepared with dal, rice and jaggery) on some even fresher and just-plucked-out-from-branches leaves, it put a wide smile on my face.
I thought to myself how dependent and connected these people are to nature and the products from it, unlike me who in the fear of not finding the right shampoo keeps carrying a huge bottle everywhere. It’s amazing to see how they don’t take their bodies as the center of everything; especially how the external looks hardly matter to them and peer pressure isn’t even a thing!
With these thoughts lurking in my head I moved on to fulfill the purpose of my visit to the village’s bus stop where a lot of men gather every now and then to sip-on some hot chai …