I have stayed in a village for four years. Or have I really?
It largely consisted of living inside a campus with basic amenities. I focused only on completing my college education. It was a simulation to experience rural life with its stereotypical shortcomings of water, electricity and infrastructure while at the same time, offering the luxury of munching on a burger at the café off the highway. Several businesses were set up to cater to the students’ lifestyles. Never had I ever considered embracing the rustic ways of locals.
Villages are not an uncharted territory for me. Growing up, I have been to several villages in Maharashtra, though, I don’t remember being enthusiastic for any of these visits. My parents used to leave me with no choice and I had to accompany them begrudgingly. I carried my food and water everywhere I went. With lifestyles that were a world apart, I never thought I could converse with these people.
Today, I visited Thoor, a village 9 km outside Udaipur along SH 27, accompanying two colleagues and a purpose: to soak in the simplicity and landscape. Our only rules for the day were to ask no questions and to carry no cell phones. Thoor is located about 6 km from Badgaon along SH 27. At first glance, I thought it is moderately developed. Right off the highway, I noticed a few grocery stores, chai-wallahs and a tailor’s shop.
The cement road on the left, leading inside the village is lined with hand painted walls with pictures and messages about conserving water, washing hands with soap and understanding the water cycle. The text at the bottom right of the wall instantly caught my eye. It read “From Getty Images”. I am unsure whether it was the painter’s attention to detail to replicate an image or a genuine interest to accredit the source of the content. I imagined the same image in an urban setup. The first instinct might have been to get rid of the watermark. In my mind, this was a portrayal of humility.
With no specific objective for the day, we wandered around the place as we pleased – from visiting a local school to following herdsmen with their cattle to the hillside and spotting a lonesome hand pump. I learned from one of my colleagues, Uttara, that it is called chapakal in Hindi, and was pleasantly surprised to fetch water from it with only one stroke of the lever.
We followed the road ahead to locate a few farmlands where men and women were tilling the soil. We asked if we could join them in the field to de-weed their maize crops, to which they told us that upturning the soil facilitated the trickling down of rain water. We were eager to lend a hand. So were farmers, to host us.
After learning to differentiate between tiny maize saplings and weeds, we took it in turns and passed the hoe around. The workers cheered us with encouraging words.
“Aap to bahut jaldi seekh gaye!” (You learnt so quickly)
It reminded me of gardening with my father when I was in school except today the hoe weighed and measured a lot more than a household gardening tool. We introduced ourselves and got to know their names. One of the men even shared his story saying that he was not only a farmer but also a driver. He wore many hats throughout the year to support his family. On mentioning that we’re residing in Badgaon part of Udaipur, he insisted that we should contact him in case we needed a driver. I smiled, thinking to myself whether this is the part where he shares his visiting card. To my surprise, he did!
He had procured several equally sized rectangular pieces of paper with his name and number on it. His aspirations had a lot of hope. I safely kept his make-do visiting card in my wallet, thanked everybody on the field and left with a warm heart for their hospitality.
Would I willingly visit a village now? Yes, absolutely!
But, perhaps riding atop a bus like they do here because sitting inside is too mainstream.