An extract I wrote while I was holidaying in Rajasthan, India. Attempting to be an ethical travel writer, I carried my laptop with me and (I won’t lie) used it only twice. I managed to write a few stories and posts but just didn’t get around posting them. This one is one of them.
What you are about to read is a humorous, astounding, and weird experience that Tijana and I had. An experience that each one of us should have, at least once in our lives, only to see the varieties of people that exist in this world.
This is a story about me getting an ultimate village experience.
Dated: January 25, 2009
I knew the minute our 7-seater car parked in front of the red-colour stoned resort, that for the next four days I will be pampered like a princess. The beautiful 35-acre land posed with a crazy variety of flora to soothe my mum’s horticulturist mind. Our room overlooks the dry and dusted Aravali hills where you’d find it stressful to find a patch of green. Almost impossible, I tell you.
This is the charm of the state which embraces India’s only desert, The Thar. Every patch of land is covered in naked trees and cactuses. But the resort, where we were booked for four-nights, was lavishly green. It surely kept the birds of this region happy.
Amidst the dusty ranges, a small village of merely 45 houses peeped through at us. With inquisitive minds, Tijana and I decided to go on a bush-walking excursion. We put our trekking gear on (read – jeans, runners and backpack), sling the camera around our neck and left the resort. We started following the grimy walking path and the traits of cow dung, every 10 meters, was assuring that we were going the right way. Gradually the multi-coloured houses of village started looking bigger and brighter. We had finally reached our destination, except we’d covered only 500 meters from the hotel.
Now let me give you a good piece of advice. If you are brown, like me, and are taking your awesome white friend, like Tijana, on a tour around your own country, like India, then be ready for a very ignorant tour. You would become absolutely invisible for the rest of the crowd. Trust me, even if I was naked and was walking with Tijana, I would still not be spared a glance. Everyone would be completely bedazzled by Tijana’s charm, beauty, intelligence, height (ahem, not going there). Not that I’m jealous or anything.
And I say this because the same happened when we got to the village. We saw four kids running from every direction and yelling out “Hello” and something else, in their language, to each other. It was only five minutes later when the two of us were surrounded by four young kids, whispering to each other in their ear, scanning us head-to-toe and giggling away to their joy. Both of us didn’t know what exactly to say or do. I started conversing with them in Hindi (India’s mother tongue), but they weren’t even replying to that.
We decided to speak to two ladies who were glaring at us from a distance and ask them for an unofficial permit to take photos of their village. On having a quick chat with them, I translated for Tijana, the ladies wanted money in reciprocation of the photos that we took. Slightly taken aback and disturbed at the level of greed and corruption, both of us decided to take a stroll through the village on our own. But to our surprise, we had the kids running after us. So we ignored them and proceeded past more cow dung cakes and their lovely aromatic stink.
I noticed how there were no cemented roads, no power cords hanging from houses, no noisy vehicles honking at us. The path was all muddy and sunken into the floor by the regular stomping by human feet. Every house had a banana tree outside the house and a basil plan in their rooftop. And every family living in that village owned a few buffaloes and cows, which helped them with their daily dairy needs.
We reached an area where two colourful women were pumping water out of a pump. They were loaded with antique and intricate silver jewellery and multi-coloured attire that well suited the houses they lived in. After ten minutes of convincing and arguing, Tijana and I found myself clicking away every new face that came in front of us. We had imagined that we would be greeted and welcomed into a village that doesn’t quite get visitors. But the story spun around and took a whole new turn.
We were mobbed by kids, bulls and a lot of dust.
Slowly and gradually as we moved on from one location to the other, four kids grew to five, then seven, then ten and within seven minutes of our visit – we had an entourage of about fifteen kids. The further we walked into the village, the more attention we drew to ourselves. There were kids coming out of the brown houses, standing on the meagre strength of mud and straw, and frantically waving at us with big smiles on their faces. Some kids ran out of the shower as we saw evidences of dripping shampoo from their hair.
To start with, we thought it was cute and extremely inviting. But as we started clicking photos, we became moving objects of harassment. The entire gang of kids would congregate us, the minute they would see the camera in our hands. And as we became more accustomed to them, the touchier and physical they started to get with us. While some clogged Tijana by pulling her scarf, others played with my bangles and whipped my arse. And all of them touched and poked the buttons and screen of our cameras. It got so bad that I had to teach Tijana the Hindi translations for “Don’t Touch!” Though I can’t say it worked.
We started to feel more welcome into the village, but it wasn’t long enough when we heard all of them screaming, “Rupee, rupee – give us Rupee”. Utterly disgusted and annoyed, we decided to walk back to the resort. It was rather sad that we left with a mind-set of getting an authentic village experience and we were taking back the memories of six-year-olds yelling for money.
As we walked back to the place of the spot where we stared from, a pretty girl standing near the water pump asked me where our husbands were. With amazement in my voice, I said, “We’re not married. I’m just 20 and Tijana is 22”. On hearing that, her facial expressed changed as if she’d seen a ghost. An expression of shock would be an understatement. It looked like she thought that we’d done some sort of a crime and we must be put behind the bars. She confessed that she was seventeen and had been married for three years. I told her that we are both are in university – doing further studies. To that, she almost fainted. She burst out laughing saying, “You guys study a lot. What’s the need?”
That sentence of hers, which was said in Hindi, made me a little sick in the stomach. The future of an educated and smart India, that everyone in the bigger cities dream of, can never be met if people with such mentalities still persist around us. And sadly, there is a full-fledged majority of these kind. There needs to be some sort of a national-brain-washing- movement, which would flush out the orthodox mentality of most Indians. So far, it’s just a dream.
After my disheartened chat with the young lady, Tijana and I started to make our way out of the village until we saw a massive herd of bulls blocking all our possible exit paths. It felt like even they were screaming “Rupee, mooooo, Rupeeee, moooooo”. It felt like they were sent by all the village kids and ladies. Like kidnapping. Villages don’t have terrorists – they have BULLS. I had mental images of me tied with a rope to a chair and being fed full-cream cow milk. EEEEEEEkkkkkkkkk. Nightmare!
What we did was, we called one of the gang members – village kids – and asked him to shoo the bulls away for us. The minute they did – Tijana and I sprinted our way back. It was a weird and strange experience. But I won’t say that I regretted it. And the only thing that makes me not regret it, is the smile on the girls face in the photo below. Don’t ask me why!
I hope, one day, you get an ultimate village experience, like I did. Ok maybe a little bit better. But just a little.