My Uttar Pradesh Village Experience

I was overjoyed when my friend Ajay invited me to his village in Uttar Pradesh. We left Delhi in the evening and traveled all night by train to the Gorakhpur railway station. There we boarded a very crowded bus and after that we took a cab to his village. The village was close to Kushinagar, a major Buddhist site, which I’ll write about later. This post is about the long journey to Ajay’s home and the stay I had with his family.
First, the train journey. We had sleeping berths but it was impossible for me to sleep. Not only was it not private, but there were strangers in the same area so I felt uncomfortable closing my eyes. I sat up all night while Ajay and his younger brother slept. I guess you could say I was the sentry, since I had heard all kinds of stories about robberies aboard overnight trains. There were no problems of course, but my extreme awareness of everything bordered on paranoia. The police, patrolling the train throughout the night, with rifles slung over their shoulders, only exacerbated my fears.
When we reached Gorakhpur we stepped out into a crowded station. People were under blankets, sleeping everywhere. The station looked like a homeless shelter and I’m not so sure it wasn’t. We still had a bus and cab ride ahead of us. I felt like we were a long way from Delhi and modern civilization.
The cab driver that met us was from Ajay’s village and he was very nice. From that point on the trip became wonderful! We arrived at my friend’s family home. It was the nicest home in the farming village. Many children met us and seemed timid to approach me. They had never seen a westerner in their village.
Ajay’s family was so warm and hospitable to me. His family consisted of his younger brother, two younger sisters, an infant niece, and his mom and dad. Their home was nicely painted in pinks and greens. It had a big porch along the front and another building on the right side. The house was surrounded by farm lands, where they grew sugarcane, mustard greens and vegetables during the winters and wheat, paddy, and maize in the summer months. The fields were beautiful, covered in masses of yellow mustard flowers.
It was time to cut the sugarcane. The fields were full of women in bright saris cutting and stacking and carrying sugarcane on their heads. The pythons were forced out of the fields by the harvesting and wound up being the village children’s playthings.
This village still had no electricity, so the cooking was done over a fire.
Ajay’s sisters prepared the spices for our meals every day by crushing and grinding them with a stone. Getting the spices just right is what any Indian cook will tell you is the most important part of the cooking. The meals we ate there consisted of home grown vegetables and roti. Roti is flat bread, cooked on a flat griddle or tava. My duty was to keep the saag stirred as it cooked over the fire. Saag is a delicious mustard green dish. We had some great meals while I was there. All of the vegetables were taken fresh from the garden.
The days were sunny and we spent them in the fields, taking walks, talking to the village children. One day we took an excursion to Kushinagar.
That will be another story.
I approached the buffalo and he began dancing. I thought he liked me, but found out he wanted nothing to do with me. I tried milking the buffalo with barely any success, but watched as Ajay’s dad easily produced a big bucket of milk.
I chewed freshly cut sugar cane for the first time.
I watched the women of the village as they made fuel bricks, for heating and cooking, from buffalo dung and straw.
We took our baths outside as well, in a 3 sided concrete enclosure. I quickly got over my shyness, since this was the only way to keep clean. The infant had no diapers and was kept wrapped in blankets which were washed and cleaned daily. Houseflies swarmed around the child, but no one seemed bothered by this. Children have probably been raised diaperless for years and years in this village.
My favorite time was after dinner when the village became dark. I really felt like I was in a place that had been passed over by time. You can’t imagine how it feels to be so far away from any town and to be in total darkness. Heavy fog envelops the northern part of India in January. We would sit and talk around a bonfire. You could smell the fires in the air. Some of the villagers would surprise us as they emerged from the fog and approached us. When the fire died out we would go inside and hook a car battery to the TV to watch videos.
During our conversations they told me about a group of young thugs that had tried to gain entry into their home during the night, just two weeks earlier. For this reason we were sleeping behind locked iron gates and Ajay’s father slept with his rifle. After hearing that story I became distressed when the 3-legged dog barked all night. I was certain that robbers had heard there was a foreigner in town and were close by.
I thought about how far we were from any police station. How long would it take for a policeman to respond? My fears were just fears and the visit proved to be safe and filled with fun. I have to say this was the most memorable thing I have done in India. I was lucky enough to be able to experience the daily life of a villager in a remote village. A few months after my visit there the power company finally brought electricity to the village. I am happy I experienced it before that occurred.

Village Man on CartLoading CartVillage Cows Feeding

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