After exploring Mahabaleshwar for 2 days, we found ourselves saturated with the place and decided to return. The long weekend had invited a lot of crowd in the hills and we were so impregnated with the act of travelling that even though we had 2 more days before getting back to the routine, we decided to call it a quit and spend rest of the time at home. But is it so easy to convince the mad heart who has already tasted freedom? One often arrives at a point on the road where he has to choose the course that defines his journey and that is the beauty of travelling! On our way back, our silence conveyed that we were unhappy with the decision. My friend casually suggested that we visit his village which was not too far from Mahabaleshwar. Being raised in a metropolitan city, I’ve only had few opportunities to experience rural life that made me immediately second his idea.
As we took a detour from the main highway, the vehicles were replaced by the refreshing greens and contours of the hills slicing the horizon. I took deep breaths deliberately, filling the lungs with fresh air, enjoying the momentary freedom and soaking the beauty of the countryside. On the way, my curious eyes spotted a group of people burning crops on firewood. “This is called Hurda party”, my friend replied looking at my inquisitiveness. After toiling hard in the field, the farmers celebrate the good harvest of Jowar by roasting its seed and eating it with garlic/groundnut chutney or sometimes along with jaggery. Later, I learned that this simple dish of farmers is now loved by the urban people so much that it has begun to find its way in restaurants. Also, events are held up at various farms near Pune to celebrate the Hurda party. The discussion invariably gave rise to my fantasy of living a slow-paced life, unlike the cities. As usual, I found beauty in every aspect of simple living while my friend pointed out the hardships involved in living such a life. He told me how once they had to face a huge loss when vegetable rates had slashed in the market owing to seasonal produce which resulted in more supply than the actual demand. The traders bought the vegetables from the farmers by paying peanuts that did not even meet the cost of labor involved for production. As a result, many farmers decided to not sell the product and left it to decay. He also told me that his village was a drought-stricken area which depends majorly on the ground waters and artificial lakes. Although the government provides subsidies to farmers to build wells/lakes, there are poor farmers who are still not able to avail the facilities and have to face a lot of adversities. It left me thinking for a moment but how could a dreamer weave his dream with logic? The endless green farms and fresh air blowing on my face easily deviated me from the topic. Soon, the concrete roads turned into the dusty lane and few farmers were heading way back home. We had finally made it to the village and as soon as we reached the front gates of my friend’s home I was uninvitingly welcomed by the barks of the dog. Before I go and try to play with him I’m warned that unlike the dogs of the cities, he can’t be easily tamed and loved. The human-animal companionship is mostly based on give and take relationship here unlike in the cities where people adopt an animal for status/pleasure and are well trained. It was a street dog who resided in the courtyard of the house and was fed well. In return, he guarded the farms and the house. Now, a little cautious of the dog, I entered the house and was warmly welcomed by his family members. I noticed that the courtyard was a mess owing to the renovation work that was going on to convert the old traditional house into a big concrete one. At one end of the courtyard was a temporary hut where the family lived. My friend took me into the house to keep my belongings. It was a small room already filled with the household stuff, waiting to be shifted to the new house and could barely accommodate the family of 5. They were little hesitant if I would be able to adjust but I assured them that I was very comfortable and had no problem at all. With time, their guilt was also absolved as I got familiarized with the conditions. After freshening up and having refreshments, I was given the tour of the new house showing all the rooms and corners in its concrete form. We headed to the roof which was still under construction. It provided the whole view of the village with a temple in the center and farms on its periphery stretching up to the base of the hills in the far distant. The sun painted the sky orange in contrast to the green farms, replicating the image of the Indian flag. While my friend and his uncle got busy in monitoring the construction work, I got lost again, immersed in peace and the beauty of the countryside.
Dinner was served at around 8 and tough it was a simple food served with bhakri, dal and vegetable, I remember eating it more than the usual. My stomach always has enough space for home cooked delicacies and most of the time it doesn’t even make me regret overeating. Rather, I feel happy and satisfied. Since there wasn’t enough space for me and my friend to sleep in the makeshift hut; we took our bedrolls and slept in the village temple that night.
The next morning, after having breakfast, since my friend got busy doing the household chores, I set out alone for a walk around the village. There were old men sitting under the tree, children playing cricket in the temple courtyard while few passersby stared at me smiling and inquiring about my whereabouts. Walking further towards the farm, I could identify few crops like jowar, grams, onion and tomato which is grown here in abundance. I aimlessly hopped from one farm to other watching farmers going about their day, sat by the well watching children diving and bathing in the well and after feeling tired wondering, found a place under a tree and irresistibly got lulled to sleep by the cool breeze. Later, my friend along with his granny took me around their own farm. Granny plucked the gram crop for me and was delighted to see me feasting on it and enjoying the village life. Upon returning home, we were served scrumptious puranpoli for the lunch post which I retired to bed again. It was all about taking a rest and going with the pace of slow village life.
Read:Living the moment!
We prepared for the ride back home in the evening. The family kept persisting that I should visit them again after the renovation and apologized for all the troubles I had to face. But, how could I explain to them the childhood fantasy of mine whenever I saw the farms and mud houses from the window seat of the train and to have actually experienced all of it here. I was indeed living my fantasy without even going through the harsh reality of living a simple life. A sense of gratitude filled my heart not only because of the experience but also for my own conditioned life that I often took for granted. I hope my smile expressed at least a little bit of what I felt inside as I bade farewell to them heartily. Spending some leisure time in an obscured village made me realize the kind of vacation that I was actually yearning for. The insatiable hunger for exploring new places can sometimes blind you with the delusion of having fun. Sometimes all we need is to slow down and really enjoy the vacation in true sense. I got lucky with this opportunity and was glad to be able to recognize it. It’s not always foolish to listen to the impractical heart after all. It can take you to places you have already visited a thousand times before even actually having arrived there!