disclosure: this trip was organized by grassoutes, and they happily offered to sponsor my weekend if i was ready to blog it. the opinions and experiences are solely mine though. also, special thanks to verena for letting me use some of her lovely photos :)
i've always loved the village lifestyle. my first brush with it was at tushar's village in goa, which was still semi-linked to civilization...and besides, that was still goa, with all its trappings of madness ;)
the village i went to two weeks ago, on the other hand, was a different world altogether.
first of all, i arrived without any transportation of my own (2 trains and then one of a villager's jeep). was hoping for rain, but unfortunately there wasn't as much of it as i hoped.
but that weekend, what i hoped and what i found were two completely different things. and i mean it in a good way.
from the welcome (i think it's called a "tikka"), and the caps, with the villagers drumming at the entrance of the school compound, i just knew it.
the goal of the weekend trip was to live as much like the villagers did, while keeping it fun and engaging... and i must say, we did achieve it for the most part.
from the sweet black tea (black, because the villagers don't milk their cows, and sweet, because that's all they have for energy before they head to the fields in the morning), to the home cooked lunch (we were "adopted" by Sulochana Gangaram Kondar and family, and all our meals were at their house) - this was about as close an experience as we could get.
after our lunch, we went to our home for the weekend for a short round of introduction while a few of us rested our backs on the mattresses. our "home" was the beautifully decorated 5th standard classroom, covered from floor to ceiling with posters and tidbits of knowledge hung from lines across the room!
the view from our room: picture perfect!
late in the afternoon, we then set off for a meandering walk-turned-fruit-gathering-turned-trek that took us through the fields, a bit of jungle, and then a short climb to a plateau.
ps: bite marks are only cos i wanted to make sure the fruits were as delicious as they looked!
and then came the plateau. i haven't been to a place as windy since...never! the view of the plains from all sides (in fact, they weren't plains, but plateaus in their own right - we were far, far, far above sea level!). it was just breathtakingly beautiful.
on our way down, we got to see a rare sight: one of our guides caught a crab while it was in the process if hatching hundreds of babies! a lovely sight indeed.
back at the village after a quick (and far easier) climb down, we settled in with a cup or three of chai and biscuits, and waited for the sunset and the fireflies.
the fireflies (which sadly, neither my phone nor the best of cameras people had brought along could capture), were breathtaking. i had seen such a brilliant display only once before, in matheran, but this time, since we were surrounded by such lush greenery and no artificial lighting, it was even more breathtaking.
after dinner, five of us went for a long walk (about an hour long, in fact! time just flew and the atmosphere was energizing!), where we saw even more fireflies. we walked without any lights whatsoever, our only guide being the fireflies, and the light of the (clouded) moon reflecting off the wet road. it just got us high on life and nature.
after a good night's sleep, we had a simple breakfast, and then set about interacting with the villagers.
the village jeep, packed with over 20 people, about to head off to the nearest village (rajouri), 20+ km away, which has the nearest market/secondary school/medical clinic/state transport etc.
a rock altar in the middle of the village - we thought it was carved, but it turned out it was a naturally formed rock that was found in the stream!
among the things i tried my hand at were: chopping wood, grinding flour, and *GET THIS* ploughing a field! yesh, it's actually much easier than it seems. i haven't perfected my sounds, but i can control the bullocks, even!!!
finally, we all settled in for a scrumptious lunch (3 families cooked, so there were almost as many dishes as there were people!) a rustic, but delectable treat. best part being, everything we had consumed this weekend (barring the tea, i guess) was 100% organic food, all grown by the villagers!
and finally, the time came to bid farewell. but not for long, because i will soon be back! next time, it'll be with a tent and my bike, and it'll be a whole new way of experiencing this paradise!
in conclusion, this was a trip of a lifetime. i have fallen in love with the experience, and am hoping to go on a lot more such weekends, with the help of grassroutes.
ps: grassroutes organises such trips all year around. just contact them and they'll be happy to help!