My jaw dropped when our wallets were confiscated by our co-ordinator. We were told to survive on a paltry sum of Rs. 40! We had to find a village and return back using this nominal sum! My mind raced with thoughts and a slight sense of panic crept in. Finally, a friend suggested we go down to a nearby village.
We walked into a village, Bedla, the superior quality and size of buildings dissuaded us from believing it was a village but as we proceeded further the houses were visibly dilapidated. After an eventful day there, I struck up a conversation with Pannalal, the ex-sarpanch of Chota Bedla, who now runs a convenience store. He came across as really kind and after an interesting discussion bade us farewell with a few chocolates. I kept the wrapper as a souvenir of my first village visit in Udaipur.
Fast-forward to the next day, we had to map-out the entire village. Five of us who had visited Bedla the previous day decided to go there again. Brimming with confidence, we put our sun-glasses on and strutted our way across. To an onlooker, we might have come across a group of young strapping people out to achieve their ambitions. Suddenly, we saw Pannalal, the one who bestowed our chocolate-wrapper-souvenir, approaching us on his rattling bike. Our faces beamed as we were out to meet him first up. My friend even bowed down to touch his feet, when he burst out, ”Last evening after you left, my calculator and Rs. 400 are missing, I know you guys stole it!” Absolutely dumbstruck, words formed in my mind but just didn’t morph into words. As we were stuttering around, the only female companion among us stepped out and took him apart. Taken aback by her conviction, he retreated and shot back, “Don’t visit my village ever again!”
It took us a while to come out of this episode, but we gathered around and visited another village – Chikalwas. There we met a 70 year old man called Daulatram, who greeted us in crisp English! He was hunched over his crops wearing only a loin-cloth and had such a lean frame that could make a 21 year old city lad envious. We were surprised to learn that we had a Masters in Biology, in a couple of minutes he drew up the entire city map, focusing on the specifics. He was very warm throughout his interaction and kindly inquired about our lunch. Touched by his warmth and generosity, we headed back and on our way I saw his cell-phone lying near the field. A thought flashed in my mind, will he accuse us of trying to steal his phone? But his kind demeanour indicated no such thing.
How can two people be so different just a few miles apart? Was Pannalal just paranoid about strangers? Was he trying to con us? The contradiction between the two was vast. Did this two-face exist only in rural India?
Next morning while looking into the mirror, I think I saw a two-face stir in there.
(Names have been changed. For the uninitiated, Harvey Dent is a character in the Batman series)