Wali is a very small village 10 kms from Kurabad in Girwa tehsil of Udaipur. The approx distance from Udaipur is 36 kms. Jagat, Adinda, Lalpura and Gudli are the nearby villages. I visited this village in the winters of 1991.
While our English was class going on, we were informed about an Italian lady who had come to Udaipur from the Anthropological Department and was visiting Udaipur office to plan a village trip for which purpose she sought assistance of some female who could go to the village with her and communicate with the villagers in the local language and translate everything for her in English. Basically she needed an interpreter with good communication skills. The request was brushed away by almost every girl of our class but the teacher noticed a glint in my eye. Though I had my apprehensions, I was too excited to earn in a unique way.
With all the denials at first, I was permitted to go with a big list of do’s and dont’s by my family. The growing November cold did not deter me from taking this trip. The thought of living in a village for a week and earning by mere conversation and conversion sounded perfect for my young senses.
Packing my baggage was never as thrilling as this time. Staying away from home without parents and relatives was more than anything I could ask for. I don’t remember the dates but it was too cold when we left early morning for the village. Iliana Martoglio, that was her name, from Italy was a middle aged woman. She greeted me with a wonderful smile and she seemed to be a perfect mother figure which made me feel very comfortable being a female myself.
We reached Wali as early as 8 o’clock, when back home in the winters I would actually have been in bed talking with my sister about the comforts of blanket. This arrival early morning in the village gave me a wonderful experience. We did not have anyone to greet us there. We had to find our own way. Not knowing what to do and where to go, Iliana asked if I wanted to have tea. Well, I should have done that as a matter of respect and courtesy. I nodded and offered to look for a tea stall while she stayed there with the bags at the bus stand. Though there were no buses, we had also arrived by a jeep running as taxi, the village still had a place which looked like a bus stand.
On going just a little further, I saw a small thadi or a stall like place where tea was being made and I also saw some biscuit packs. The moment I approached the thadi, the stench made me move away and something alerted my senses. Dismissing the idea of having tea there, I approached an old man sitting on a stone bench. On seeing a city girl, the old man jumped from the bench and asked if he could help me in some way and the only thing I needed was tea. The man, hearing my entire story, told us that we could stay with him and his house was a kilometre inside the village in a corner and that his big family was also there. It seemed convincing and we agreed to stay with him. Though he was hesitant in taking any money from us, my friend refused to stay without paying them. Her intention was to pay in cash or kind for their goodness. All settled, we got on the tractor and boom boom …the tractor ran on the kachcha road jumping on the bumps.
The beauty of the village is still fresh in my mind. Each one of us should make a trip to the village at least once and stay there for a few days in the same way as they do. Those days there were no mobiles either. The serene village atmosphere can soothe anybody’s mind and body in no time.
I had never thought of being in a village before. Obviously the biggest need of nature call always comes first to mind. On reaching the house of the old man, we were thrilled to find a mud house , not like the other mud houses that we see in movies. This was a huge yet traditional mud house with 15 members. The kitchen called as ‘rasoi’ or ‘रसोड़ा’ in local language had an immovable earthen choolha on which a huge vessel had been kept and I could smell the combination of smoke and boiling tea. This indeed was very welcome on a chilled winter morning. There was a provision for bathing in the house but none for other purposes. Well, we had to carry bottles of water and also a ‘लोटा’ of water to ease ourselves in the jungle. The only thing I never ever imagined was littering in open. But this was a common sight in villages.
All done somehow, we took bath in the room made in the house with our head touching the roof which reminded us that we were supposed to sit while bathing. Phew…all this was definitely a pain but taught me a lot. After having tea and roti as breakfast which was served by the eldest daughter in law (everyone had given us a warm welcome by bowing in front of us in the typical traditional rajpooti style of ‘khammaghani’), we left for a round in the village. Since, sun was beginning to spread its heat , we even saw ladies taking bath in the open by covering the bushes with their saree locally referred to as ‘ओढ़नी’, and using it as a shelter. These ladies obliged by posing for pictures after covering themselves with another piece of cloth. As we went ahead further, my friend stopped a few villagers as she had a few queries related to her subject of survey for which I interpreted. Once her work was done here, we went uphill to click pictures of the goats and cows moving around. She even made me sit with a goat kid and clicked my snaps.
This schedule continued for the week, wherein we even questioned the people of the house we were staying in and came to know that most of the smaller villages near that area had people who followed very strict rules as in olden times about casteism. The eating habits of the people were very simple. They ate what they grew…maize, green veggies, brinjal, okra and plenty of milk and buttermilk was part of their diet. Apart from this, they also ate non-veg food. The local hen referred to as desi murga was relished by the locals.
We had plenty of tractor rides, truck rides, bullock cart rides and also had fun running behind the goats and kids. Every morning we used to decide to sleep early just as the villagers do since there wasn’t much of electricity, but we ended up staying up late talking to the 15 members listening to their different experiences.
At the end of our 6th day, the farewell came with heavy hearts. Since we had gelled well with the family, bidding goodbye was a difficult task. We could see tears in the eyes of ladies and their children clinging to them were picturesque enough, my friend took a lot of pictures of them.
Though I have never had the chance to go back there, the memories are still fresh and I have no clue where my friend is now.