BODHINEWMEDIA

PANKAJ SETH • SOPHIE HAWKINS

 
 

Dec 1 in Khajuraho


We rented bicycles today to ride to a Shiva temple ruin that was outside a small village not far from town. We got directions from locals and headed along a path until we came to a small irrigation stream that we had to cross and what looked like the end of the path along some farm land. There were some farmers putting up barbed wire fencing and a young teenage boy standing by who helped carry my bike across the water and then showed us the way to the ruins which were right near his house. Like a lot of people that I've met in India, he was very friendly, chatting to Pankaj in Hindi, and kindly offering to show us his family farm. We were welcomed by his parents and met his three sisters. I took some pictures which they were delighted to see played back on the camera screen.


The husband gave us a tour of the farm where they grow wheat, rice, chickpeas, urad dal, eggplant and fruits like papita (papaya) and guava. We were invited to have lunch which was wonderful as I was very curious about the inside of the house. I have seen many village farm houses like this as we passed through towns on the train or in a taxi and was hoping to have an opportunity to be inside one. This one was made of cement with a beaten earth floor in one room and a couple of steps up to another room, painted green, that was the bedroom and storage. This had a cement floor and it was quite cool inside. There are small windows with bars on these houses to allow air flow but not much light in, as most of the year it is very hot. There was very little decoration except for some small symbols drawn on one of the walls. The mother and her daughters provided the decoration with jewellery and beautiful saris.


We sat on mats on the floor as were served homemade roti (flatbread) and rasam (vegetables cooked in a spicy broth) along with sweet pickled chilli peppers. The food is cooked on a clay stove and oven that uses cow patties (dried cow dung) for fuel. This may sound unapppealing but it actually smells very sweet as it burns and gives the food a wonderful taste. Cow pattties are also a sustainable energy source that is clean burning.  Along with providing milk that people drink and to make a cheese called paneer, the cow also helps plow the fields. So one can see why cows are held in such high esteem in the culture.


They couple asked about Canada and Panakj told them about our health care and social services system (which they don't have here yet although there are activists working towards implementing a social safety net). They couple were renting the farm and are building a house for themselves closer to town. Like other farmers we talked to, they pay high rent, make enough food to feed themselves and sell the rest at market to make money for other things like clothes and school supplies for the children. It seems to be a peaceful way of life that requires hard work to provide savings for the future.


We were very grateful for the hospitality that was showed to us and were well fortified by the home cooking to film at the ruins (of course accompanied by many village children). We left a small gift for the children as a thank you. In India, you may start out with an idea of how the day is going to go and be pleasantly surprised by all the twists and turns that happens.  ------  Sophie