You can all forget what I said about things not having changed much in Bundi District. We just came back from another overnight stay at a small village where another unexpected surprise awaited us. On the surface everything remains the same, but only on the surface.
Last evening we visited the home of the lovely woman who became our friend almost 2 years ago and there we saw it – the flickering light of a TV set was shining from inside her stone and mud house, there was a DVD player too and the night’s flick was a B grade film based on a story from the legend of Ramayana. After seeing a computer in a similar village just a couple of days ago perhaps it should not have shocked me at all, but there wasn’t even electricity here the last time we came.
– Are you the only ones to have a TV in the village? We asked. – No, there are four, wait five families as of today. Answered our friend’s youngest daughter.
As we came in and sat down the neighbors began to appear, some came to see us again, others to glance at the aliens from another world for the first time. This time the buzz and the excitement wasn’t quite the same as before though, there weren’t as many curious faces around, no endless questions. Perhaps it was the winter cold, perhaps the novelty factor had worn off, or it could be that our presence was simply not enough to get people away from the few TV sets around the village.
It was a strange scene as we sat by the kitchen fire, Tanya and our friend’s eldest daughter cooked, some neighbors watched them, others were glued to the TV and the more energetic of the children played outside with what they thought to be balloons, but seemed to us like condoms. It was confirmed that they were indeed condoms, brought by some genius teacher to a bunch of seven and nine year olds under the premise that they would be used for sex-education. In reality in conservative rural Rajasthan to talk about sex is somewhat taboo and to tell children what condoms are really used for is not a task any villager wants to take on. Looks like population control will have to wait here.
The cooking and eating dragged into very late evening and going to sleep presented a bit of an adventure. The combination of a shortage of beds and the incredible Indian hospitality caused the following: A couple of families were woken up, children screamed as they were taken off their beds and bundled with their siblings and our friend gave away her only big bed to me and Tanya.
I felt like the biggest ass in the world, realizing that we had caused so much commotion (and children’s tears). I didn’t even care about having a bed, but our hosts were concerned that rats, which frequented the school because of the bags of grain that were stored there would disturb our sleep.
Still, I felt bad, but when I asked Hardik to thank the people that had accommodated us he said that they would be insulted, saying, “ You already know. “In India Guest is God” – a phrase which I have heard many times, but have never stopped to be amazed at just how much it means to the Indian people.
In the morning we woke up to the familiar sounds of domestic animals, the creaking of the water pump and the new, horrendous phenomenon – religious music blaring out of our friend’s home stereo.
Our photo shoots around the area proved that the place is as photogenic as before, Kym was slightly overwhelmed by the opportunities that she was presented with virtually everywhere she looked, but as great as everything was, I felt little sad. I was reminded again; things will not stay this way for very long.
We spent the rest of the day riding around the surrounding villages, visiting homes, getting to know our ‘photographic subjects’. At first glance everything was still the same, but a second look proved otherwise. A few less turbaned elders, a few more rings of the mobile phone in an area where one had to go to the top of a building in a specific spot just to get network coverage.
By the time I’ll post this I will be in Jodhpur – the blue city and a street photographer’s paradise. I’m actually writing this post on the train to Jodhpur, of all places. Turns out some sections of the train have power sockets. Well, I guess development aint all bad.
Images: Top - Kym - the young lady who is participating in our private workshop photographing the rural Rajasthani life. Bottom - Floating condoms/baloons and some entertainment technology in our friend's stone and mud home.