A week ago we drove four hours out of the city to stay at a place by a lake in the middle of the Sahyadris. We wanted to spend a day in the middle of nothing, driving and walking along village roads and fields, and possibly walk uphill for a bit. To do that we drove along the highway, looking for the turn that would take us towards a couple of smaller hill forts. At this unremarked turnoff a village had grown larger than its neighbours. In the evening we saw commerce at full swing. The “Gent’s Parlour” was busy, one man getting a shave, while another waited. The door advertised a long menu of services: cut, shave, massage were expected, but mask, bleach, scrub, and facial were not, and chandan left me guessing. Would that be a sandalwood facial?
In the morning The Family had found a bakery in the village setting out fresh baked biscuits, and picked up an assortment. It had lasted us through the day. At the end of the day we stopped at a large and popular stall for a tea. I’d missed these roadside eateries during the last couple of years. The tea was made with care and ginger, and lubricated the end of the pack of biscuits. It’s making gave me enough time to walk about a bit and take a few photos. I was lucky with the time. It was the golden hour, when the most ordinary of sights take on an extraordinary glow.
It had been an overcast day, which constantly promised rain. As soon as we got out I realized that I had forgotten to pack rain gear. “In the middle of monsoon!” The Family shook her head. Fortunately it did not rain. But many of my photos had a gloomy and rainy look about them. Like this of a hut, next to paddy fields, standing between trees. The setting had the look of numerous idyllic paintings of the Indian countryside: fields, a hut, with its own small kitchen garden where the woman stood, only the man and his oxen in the field were missing. A zoom gave me a good view of the hut. Its sturdy front door was shut, but the coloured cloth decorating the front wall gave it a cheerful look. A blue tarp covered an opening higher in the roof for the monsoon; I guess in summer it is removed to let air into the house.
It was pretty late in the day when we passed this village school. Earlier, The Family had chatted with girls walking home from school and some boys had stopped to look at me taking macros of flowers. Not every village has a school. We’d seen children in uniforms and with a backpack walking fairly long distances to school. The school was closed now. A man walked around checking that the windows were properly shut. I was surprised that after all these years Indira Gandhi still shared wall space with a colourful grid with the alphabet. So many people live and work in the unremarked villages that we saw, doing all the things that people do anywhere in the world. Their lives are quite as busy as ours. We talked about them briefly, in passing. Just so, some of them must have talked about us, briefly, before their conversation went on to something of more interest to them.