Some six months ago i.e. in October’ 2012 I, along with my best companion arrive in Barmer. Barmer, that lies in Rajasthan is considered one of the most backward districts in India.
We travel in a car from Jodhpur. As we pass along the Barmer road, there goes a woman with ghoonghat (cover) on her face and tightly held in between her lips while her head, effortlessly, balances the water pot placed over it. I am not surprised, as I know that I am travelling to the rural part of Rajasthan.
The area is dry and barren, but the driver informs that the government has set up forestation across the region. Next moment, we see a beautiful peacock with its long rich feathers touching the ground. It crosses our way and rushes into the deserts, spread over miles on the both sides of the road. And then, we enter Jasoi Military Station, nice and green. After a warm welcome by our army friend, we plan our next day. Our friend, the only person we know in Barmer as of now, helps to arrange vehicle for tomorrow.
Following morning, we get into the car and a very young driver is driving us to our next destination, Jaisalmer. On way, he picks up his friend for company. In no time, we all started talking like friends.
Driver Khema and his friend Babu Ram, are two young boys born and brought up in village and possess modern outlook and vision. It’s astonishing how these young men discuss on urban vs. rural lifestyle and ideology. Khema Ram, who is 17, is married with one kid, who is a girl child. He says that his father had fixed their wedding when they were kids. Babu adds, that this goes as tradition in their village and the major parts in Barmer and how he wish it could change.
There are huge wind mills set up on Barmer- Jaisalmer highway. We are amazed because we have never seen it from so close. Unrealized, we arrive Jaisalmer and journey seems to be shorter with these guys around. In Jaisalmer, we visit palace, fort and enjoy the camel ride in Thar deserts together. The bonding grows, and Babu and Khema invite us to visit their village and home, next day. So, the plan for tomorrow is set and agenda clear. The agenda is to show to village people the gap between their outlook and modern realities.
It’s morning and we’re waiting for Khema and Babu to receive us from our station. We all have small bites of paratha as breakfast before we leave for Khema’s village. The village is quite far from the army station. As we enter the village, I observe a woman walking by without ghoonghat. As I point out, Babu Ram replies that the daughters in the village can move without it while it is compulsory for daughter-in-laws to keep it, as per the generally acceptable norms.
We enter Khema’s house and we meet his father, who is serving post man in another village where Babu lives. His mother, granny and wife are all dressed in Rajasthani traditional attire, ghaghra-choli. The lovely baby girl, comes in, who is Khema’s daughter. As we enjoy the tea offered by Khema’s mother, Babu starts the urban vs rural discussion. Khema’s dad is educated man and among the very few in his village as he mentions only two percent of the population is educated. Khema and his wife are living in the city as his wife is undergoing nursing training in the city hospital. We are offered Rajasthani special thali with Bajra Roti (Bajra is a kind of cereal grown locally)and lots of ghee in main course. We feel amazed. Babu is tensed because we are running late from our schedule and we have to reach Babu’s village.
The public transport does not reach out to villages here, neither the connectivity is good. We leave for Babu’s village which is on the other side of the city. Khema’s mother accompanies us with a kid who needs the medical attention immediately. Since there is no transport system, the villagers walk miles to fulfill their basic needs.
Babu’s house is well-designed with ethnic, eco-friendly look. We meet his mother, his two sisters, a sister-in-law who all are wearing ghoonghat. His brother is trader and keeps travelling to other parts of country. In no time, we are surrounded by a lot of kids from adjacent families, who look at us with astonishment. The youngest and sweetest of them, I remember, is called ‘Nimbu’ (Nimbu is the Hindi word for lemon). The family offers us a dish made of pure curd and Bajra known as ‘Raab’ in local language. We express our thanks through Babu to all, since there is language difference. We click lots of pics with everyone. Babu’s mother is too shy and we have to convince her for one click without the ghoonghat.
Finally, with difficulty, we say bye and return to our guest house at military station, Jasoi.
It’s been six months, and the memories are fresh and alive. Khema is now the father of one more baby girl. Babu and Khema call us often, and we hope to meet them again.