After 2 years, I returned to visit my Indian friend (Kuldeep) and his family in Khajuraho village. Now, he’s 26 years old with 2 baby girls; meanwhile, I’m 28, single, and traveling through Asia. Major life responsibility differences!
To be transparent, I was rather nervous about visiting Kuldeep in the village, as I’d been out of the “Indian village mindset” for 2 years… and I had loads of fear-mongering from family & friends looming in my consciousness about the “dangers” of visiting the villages by myself, etc.
These reservations quickly subsided after my first night back in the green bedroom at Kuldeep’s family home (it’s the same color as my childhood bedroom!)… I overjoyed to be fully immersed in Indian local culture once again.
Most of the foreigners Kuldeep has met in his village have promised to come back to visit again, but these were all empty promises… so it meant the world to Kuldeep that I actually returned to Khajuraho. Our friendship took major leaps when Kuldeep spotted me at the Khajuraho airport that day.
Kuldeep quit smoking marijuana entirely, so he’s more reasonable, more loving to his family, more respectful over my needs, and most importantly, he’s simply much calmer. This made my visit much smoother than the last one 🙂
From day 1, Kuldeep and I were already vagaventuring to the impoverished Melowar village to do some good karma.
Prior to departing for this trip, I shipped a large box of used children’s clothing to Khajuraho, which my generous cousins and my dear friend, Jen Larkin, helped me gather for the village kids #villagekidsneeds.
The box was in safekeeping at Kuldeep’s home until I arrived… and on my first day back, we drove to Melowar village to deliver this box of goodies.
The first family we stopped at remembered me instantly, the kids were shy, yet full of excitement. The children’s clothing were covered in holes and dirt stains. The clothing sizes were perfect for the wide range of ages of the village kids.
Funny moments from distributing the clothes:
– The girls trying on the crop tops with side ties were completely confused… the crop tops looked like oversized shirts with holes in them. #WesternFashion
– When we neared the end of distributing, there were only girls clothing left in the box, yet we only had boys standing in front of us. The boys happily wore all of the girls leggings and tight t-shirts haha!
I promised my little cousins that I would send them photos of the village kids wearing their clothes they donated… so here they are!
The blood in my veins was pumping, as I was filled with energy from this giving with no expectations of anything in return.
Paneer party for the village kids
Eager for more fun times in Melowar village, we returned to the village to cook paneer curry (Indian cottage cheese) the following evening. The village kids have only eaten paneer once or twice in their lives on very special occasions. They didn’t even know how to cook paneer, so Kuldeep was the solo cook for the evening (what a sweet kind man!), while I taught the children to read English. It was fun trying to teach English to children who don’t speak the same language, as it takes strategizing!
Soon after, we went off for a village recess… the boys and I climbed up massive boulders for a view of the village. When I got to the top, I was pounding with high energy, and I started HOWLING loudly at the children down below, and the kids cheered and raved 😀 What astounding levels of energy!
The village girls helped us prepare the chapati to eat the paneer. It’s impressive how these girls really know how to do the physical work around the farm. Rosalin, a 10-year old girl, was milking her family’s buffalo that evening while her parents were still out farming. This little girl was milking 2 teets at a time, even Kuldeep’s jaw dropped! What a difference compared to the city girls in Khajuraho who only play and study, similar to children in the West.
We fed paneer to the whole family of almost 15 people across 5 related families! It felt wonderful inside to make so many kids feel special, receive attention, feel cared for, experience something new, and enjoy life a little differently.
On a regular basis, the village families eat minimal vegetables. Their diet is primarily comprised of buffalo milk and chapati (like pita bread). For most of their meals, they eat the chapati torn up into small pieces dunked into a bowl of buffalo milk, plus sugar for sweetness. I mean damnnn, these villagers are so remote from urban life, they’ve never heard of the most basic Western foods, such as pizza and spaghetti.
I had this staple meal for breakfast in the village, and it basically tastes like a bowl of cereal. It’s definitely filling, but the nutrition is lacking. I was saddened to learn they eat this for every meal.
$456 contributed by fam & friends!
The unfortunate reality is that children are often rejected from the village school if they don’t have the required school supplies & uniforms. So, many struggling village parents must default to the alternative… they have their children work in the fields or help with household responsibilities, rather than sending them to school :,(
When I visited Khajuraho 2 years ago, Kuldeep and I gathered underprivileged village children in Melowar, gifted them school supplies (pencils, study materials, blackboard slates, chalk, and more), and I was adopted as their English teacher 👨🏼🏫. Being granted the opportunity to have this experience in the vIllage was a blessing for me. I shared a post about this experience prior to my trip to Khajuraho this time, and I received several messages from friends & family asking to contribute to the village kids the next time I head that way…. So I created a Facebook donation page, in case anyone else had similar sentiments.
To those who joined the effort, I promised:
– All contributions will be spent on the village kids (through school supplies, food, medications, or clothing, etc.),
– I’ll inform them exactly where each dollar of their contribution went, and
– I’ll send pictures 📸 of the children and families they’ve impacted.
My heart warmed by the contributions donated by family and friends… a whopping $456!
I was honored and humbled that friends & family could trust me with their contributions, and had the interest in being a part of my experience in India. I will always remember each one of you as a big part of my trip.
With the $456, we were able to donate:
School supplies and backpacks: We bought high quality backpacks and notebooks (tough quality so they will last), pencils, sharpeners, large erasers, blackboard slates, chalk, ABC learning pamphlets, colored pens for the village kids. Backpacks protect the kids’ notebooks and school supplies, giving the supplies a longer life!
We visited 5 village homes, gifted new school supplies to 38 children, replaced the 25 old bags with new backpacks, and we encouraged the children to gift their old bags to other village kids who don’t have any. The Kids were happy with whatever backpacks they were gifted… even the boys who got bright pink backpacks! In the West, if you gave a pink backpack to a 9 year-old boy, he’d probably have a hissy fit and refuse to go to school. #villagekidsappreciation
Kuldeep had a great idea to request all the children show us their old backpacks. This way, we can see which children go to school and determine which children have good condition backpacks vs bad condition backpacks. Checking the condition of the school bags turned out to be a smart move, since our final village family had 10 children who didn’t have any backpacks! Rather, they’ve been using vegetable bags to hold their books. If we replaced all the good condition bags, we wouldn’t have had any left for these children using vegetable bags.
Wool sweaters: The inspiration to purchase the sweaters originated from the time Kuldeep & I cooked paneer for the village families, and I noticed that every single child was coughing heavily. I asked why the children were so sick, and the mother replied that it’s due to the cold winter weather and the kids are eating too much cold foods, such as sugar cane. Contributing to the children’s health so they can then have the mind to study well was near to my heart.
We bought 30 100% wool sweaters. Wool sweaters are easy to clean and warm. The sweaters would only be used for 3 months out of the year, so they will last the children for several years. Therefore, we bought the children sizes a bit larger than their fitted size, and the wool is a stretchy material, so it will last them for a number of years. Also, the sweaters we bought are uniform code, so they can be worn by the children in school as well!
Funny side note: When i was shopping around Khajuraho for the sweaters, I almost accidentally bought them from a man who apparently steals their clothing from laundry lines in Delhi!
My experiences in Melowar village imprinted my soul with the heart-warming feelings cultivated from giving to these impoverished families.
Cultural insight: It was interesting how the village kids held back their smiles from me when we gifted the school supplies & sweaters… they didn’t even utter a single word, neither did their parents. The kids simply accepted their gifts and turned their faces away.
Despite this absence of verbal expressions and physical gestures, I could feel how meaningful it was for these children to receive special attention from someone outside their village & know that they are cared for by others.