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Rural India

An insight into the Rajasthani village life

India is noisy, polluted, overcrowded with lots of traffic, unbearable poor and too many men are around.

If you travel from an Indian city to another Indian city, India can make a bad impression. But India’s charms lie much less in India’s overcrowded cities than in its rural regions. India is actually a single large village with many fields, small settlements and beautiful scenery.

If you leave the Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Co, it suddenly becomes quite and peaceful. You can see women in colorful robes working in the fields, men with white turbans with their goat herds and children with braided braids and in neat uniforms walking to school on the side of the road.

In the countryside, the world still seems fine. Sure, life here is characterized by hard physical work. The everyday life revolves around the pacification of basic needs. The dry soils must be farmed, the cows milked and fed, fire wood and cow dung collected, clothing sewn and food cooked.

But it’s not a stressful life. The daily tasks are quietly carried out together within the family network. The tasks are fairly distributed and there is also time for a tea and a chat in between.

While the children go to school during the day, the men are mostly in the fields and the women take care of the upcoming work at home.

The day starts early in the morning at 5 am. Because at these early morning hours the temperatures are still pleasant and the cow wants to be milked. After a bath, a small puja (holy ceremony) is performed in the in-house temple and a rich breakfast consisting of millet  and vegetables or lentils is taken. Eorking on the field is hard. Often the fields are a good walk away and  some family members stay in their fields for a few days at a time. Here, too, they have a small hut to sleep and cook.

Most of the time, women stay at home with their children. But here, too, there is plenty to do. The laundry must be washed by hand, the house must be kept clean and the house garden must be maintained. The Indian woman is not alone in with her work. The children help in the house and in the garden wherever they can.  While the boys pick up water or harvest vegetables, the girls help with cooking and washing laundry. Even the grandmother doesn’t want to sit around and does the work that she is still able to do. Everyone works hand in hand, no one argues or feels exploited.

The holy cow also belongs to the family and is a bit labor intensive. Twice a day she is milked at regular times, her stable has to be cleaned and food is procured. At the same time, however, it also creates an enormous benefit for the Indian joined family. Cow flats serve as fuel and are stored in the garden or on the roof,  cows plough the fields and the manure serves as fertilizer. The milk is not only used for the popular chai, but it is made yoghurt, buttermilk, butter and ghee (clarified butter) out of it. All are important ingredients in the Rajasthan cuisine, as there are rather few vegetables in Rajasthan due to the water shortage.

Instead, the dishes are cooked from lentils, wild dried berries and plants, cereals and even dairy products.

Many of the wild foods grow on thorny shrubs and have to be picked individually. Then they are dried and can be prepared as a dish at any time during the year.

Interestingly, Rajasthan is home to many cucumber varieties, pumpkins and melons, which require more water. At harvest time, the dishes consist of the same vegetables every day – after all, they come from their own fields. The rest of the harvest is sold at the market.

The Rajasthan families are only too happy to have guests with them and you will always be cordially invited home for a tea and something to eat. Like this you can experience the normal Indian life quite authentically. In Rajasthan, people still live together in the so called joined family. The married woman moves to the husband’s family and so not only  several generations live in the house, but also all the brothers with their children and their children.

In general, the Indians love festivals and often find a reason to celebrate. Be it a wedding in the neighboring house, an Indian holiday or a big mela (fair). Then the most beautiful robes are pulled out of the barriers or partially re-sewn. Here even the smallest girl can handle a sewing machine skillfully! While the women wear traditional colorful long skirts with blouses and a veil, the men prefer white with an orange or red turban.

At the festivals they dance, sing and eat. However, this is still very traditional, with men on the one side and women on the other. At meals, several people sit around a plate, the waiter serves a variety of dishes and one of the “eaters” mixes everything nicely into a porridge and then everyone eats together with their right hand from a plate – a gesture of friendship and belonging.

Whenever I come to the village of Panchla Siddh in eastern Rajasthan, I am warmly welcomed. People are always happy about my visit, show me enthusiastically their little houses and enjoy it, when I milk their cow, help with the chapati making (baking bread) or flatten cow poop.

They feed me with their home-grown and valuable fruits and sometimes I bring fabrics along, that they sew for me into beautiful robes.

We tlk in a mix of English and Hindi, but actually one doesn’t need a language at all. But one question is asked again and again: “What, you are 27 years old and am still not married? Why ?” But they seem to accept the answer that I am now still unbound in order to be able to live my life freely, but they can’t imagine an unmarried life for themselves.

For me, their little houses are still as interesting as they were at the beginning and I often run curiously from one room to another. The kitchen is often separate. There is a fireplace where the food is prepared and the soil makes a pleasant surface, because it is renewed twice a year fresh from cow dung and sand.

The other rooms are paved around the open courtyard. The rooms are almost empty and tidy with just a few photos and a few closets. The beds stand against the wall during the day to make space, only in the evening they are set up and everyone sleeps somewhere. There are no fixed rooms, at most for the nely married couple.