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Project FUEL, Deepak Ramola, English Blog

Originating in the Greek language, the delta triangle is a symbol of change with a little gap on one side representing an openness to whatever may come our way. And to think about it, we all need a little bit of this mantra to expose us to the beauty of life. Being a selectively social person, life has been quite challenging in a new city. Thanks to my terrific socializing skills (yes, sarcasm), I was comfortable with not knowing half of my classmates as that never came in the way of finishing my assignments. But you see kids (very Ted Mosby, I know), you can’t just build a wall around you and lay in there peacefully. Let your Rapunzel to peep out of the high tower window, allow the world to make you feel differently, for better or for worse. Sure it’s scary, but hey, ‘if you are not scared, then you are not taking a chance, and if you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing?’

Nudged by academic requirements, last month I had to visit a small village called Maloni Panwar in Dholpur, Rajasthan. This was the dreaded graded assignment which I was hellishly panicky about, not just because it involved a claustrophobic lunatic like me to travel in sleeper class train for over 40 hours straight, but more because it involved me going in a group with nine strangers (classmates, basically). My judgy little brain had already casted the Protego Maxima spell to summon an invisible protective boundary around me. All thanks to headphones, books and sudoku, the train journey to Rajasthan seemed only semi painful with the others trying to know each other.

Kids, take it from me (I’m sure by now you’ve figured out my nature), unless you take down your defences in life, a lot will remain unexplored. Be a little open to change, let the light pass through the crack.

Growing up in an urban space, the idea of eight days of village stay gave an empty stomach. Making a checklist of all that should be required, including bottled water, we set out to our respective villages with a head full of contemplations and anticipations.

Maloni Panwar was nothing like the village landscapes we draw as kids or grow up imagining. The village had very few kaccha houses and most houses had toilets attached (well, Swacch Bharat has a hell lot of loopholes ofcourse) but what surprised us most was the sight of TVs and Air coolers.

It was a brick made house, where two classmates and I were accommodated, in the middle of Bajra farm lands, with 4-5 buffaloes tied outside the house, a hand pump next to the cowshed and a very tiny structure outside the house which seemed to be the washroom. It only took us half a day to figure out that that was not indeed a washroom, infact, this house has no toilet. There struck the first lightning on us city dwellers.

The first night was full of anxiety and fear of contaminated water, diseases, smell of cow dung in the air and stray animals.

Kids, have faith in magic, for we are all born with it. It resides within us, in our behaviour, our kindness and our ability to give out love to all around us. I was bound to step out of my invisible shield.

I lived eight days with the beautiful family of Parmars, the Rajputs of Rajasthan. A strange connection formed, especially with the six girls in the household who not only let me in on their stories but made me feel like poverty is not the end of the world, as long as you got will and company. Sure, they were poor, but the determination to get somewhere in life, work all day and study under a low Watt bulb was inspiring.

Life starts early in a village, and if you can manage to wake up at dawn to catch the first glimpse of sun ray piercing through the open sky with the dazzling view of dancing peacocks around, you’ll know what infinity feels like. We abandoned our bottled water and packaged food, giving in to their ways of living (I kid you not, the Swades feeling was strong when we hopped in at the back of a truck to travel through the village roads, taking in the fresh country side air).

We, city dwellers hardly appreciate the things we can afford, complaining and sulking about what we can’t get our hands on. Come live in a village, and you’ll get a crash course on how to be happy with whatever you’ve got, learn how to squish out the last unit of joy from a single material and savour it for long.

Madhu Parmar could be a poor farmer (contrary to popular belief, women can be farmers too), but not once did it stop her from treating us like her own children, seeing to our needs, shooing away our fear with love and making sure I go to bed happy after 5 spoons of finger-licking home made ghee smudged on my chapatti.

Well, despite the paranoia of living with snakes (which according to them would not ‘eat’ us, only sleep under our beds), the fear of having to go to the loo in the middle of the night with hundred horror stories being told the night before, and of course, the absence of electricity 90% of the time, after sitting down everyday under the breath-taking starry night sky and being all ears to their aspirations, dreams, school stories and family drama, after putting mehendi on my hands for the first time just to see those faces light up in joy, I can vouch for it when I say that I haven’t had as strong a sense of belonging in Bangalore yet as I had there in those eight days. Being a social cripple with little known ways to be expressive, I had a pit in the stomach when Madhu cried on my shoulder on the last day. Maybe someday down the line, I’ll visit their house again, and let them shower their ‘Gudia’ (as they would call me) with all the love they can give.

The days in Maloni Panwar will always be etched in my heart for not only did I return with a bag full of memories, stories, lessons and experiences, but I returned with a couple of friends I never thought I’d voluntarily speak to, let alone talk to all night, keeping my earphones aside (big sacrifice, I tell you).

So kids, break down the wall around you one brick at a time, see the muggles turn into wizards and witches to show you the beauty that life is- indulge in a little less worrying and a lot more loving. And always take your chances, take that leap of faith!



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