Its been a week since we’ve been here, right in the middle of the country, in the city of Bhopal. In just seven days I have become rather fond of it, its spaciousness, the pace of everyday activity and sometimes even when languidness wraps its tail around its prickly hot afternoons and we just yawn at the almost surreal surroundings our window provides us with.
Its strange how suddenly the weight of issues we are bogged with in our city lives is suddenly removed with the sight of ruins, shrub and plateau which is essentially the landscape of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The location of our office provides us with much adventure. It is about a kilomtre and a half from the main road and a winding, pebbly dirt road leads us to our destination. A group of slum houses spill on its sides so we can always expect a dozen cheerful faces of children busy playing with “kanchas” waving at us, sometimes running to us to shake our hands.
Little girls shyly giggle from the inside of their homes at my two foreign team-mates. When beckoned by the same they run inside while the little boys just grin and run along with us for a while. Dirty faces, naked feet and the liveliest spirits, their days just pass by in the heat of afternoon cricket matches and twilight games.
Shop vendors also crane their necks from their dilapidated structures to catch a glimpse of my company. Their amused glances are met by greetings and warm smiles, which are then reciprocated.
There is also a temple on our way out which Marissa and I once visited. Luckily for her, there was a pre-marriage prayer ceremony going on, so it provided her with the perfect “cultural” experience. I got the first taste of my job as the translator and interpreter and I realised that I have some tough times ahead! So I had to give her the history of all the Gods and Goddesses that blessed us from their pedestals or adorned the temple walls.
Marissa, one of the interns, gets in step at a local wedding celebration
Marissa is the ideal traveller and willing to completely dissolve herself in the culture of the place she is visiting. So we prayed and bowed in the temples and the pandit painted vermilion tikas quite artistically on our foreheads. Then began the dancing which was heralded by the village “dholki” wala.
We were fortunate to witness some brilliant footwork by the women folk as they danced to the beats of the dholki. After some requests Marissa joined in (always such a sport!) while I decided to shy away (which, by the way, is the only option my dancing skills leave me with).
The locals were fascinated and very pleased as she tried to imitate the dance moves and fit in. Bright colors of the saris wrapped around the women, flashes of all their jewellery and finery, vermilion tikas resplendent on everyone’s foreheads and the marigold garlands hanging from the groom’s neck…the colours just rioted in front of my eyes…a scene to remember.The week has been full of a lot of activity including our small visits to the supermarket, Seth’s jogs around the lakes the city has been blessed with (he has actually bought a brand new bicycle in order to explore the city further…travellers I tell u!), Sameer’s promises to show us around the city (considering the fact that he has lived here for a substantial part of his life, we are expecting a many more adventures!) and last but not the least heated, animated discussions about what needs to be done in our field trip to Sehore.
We have settled down rather nicely and Kishen Lal (our caretaker), an old guard who has adopted us as his grandchildren and the ever so cooperative and warm people of the Samarthan office have become extended family.
It will take me some time to get accustomed to my new environs…I’m not quite the traveller I’m afraid…but this whole new world grows on me in its narcotic ways…the way things are unfolding, it will be difficult not to expect a lot from this internship in the coming days…