Highlights from daily living in Khajuraho with Kuldeep’s family:
Disclaimer for family: I love experiencing the raw, natural village life in its entirety. However, I always put my health and safety first. Although certain village life practices may appear unhygienic, they’re surprisingly clean!… If you think about it, 150 years ago, the whole world lived this way.
– Kuldeep’s wife cooked all my favorite Indian dishes for me (pumpkin masala, okra masala, loki masala, bhagan masala). Hot damn, she cooks deliciously! His wife even packed a to-go baggy of top fave pumpkin curry for my overnight train to Delhi.
– Cooking on Kuldeep’s farm every night under the stars. During my stay in Khajuraho it was black night (i.e., there was no moon out), so the stars were extremely bright.
– At the farm, the guys cooking didn’t use soap to wash the veggies or even their hands before cooking. To top it off, sometimes they would even mash all veggies with their bare hands before cooking them. I had to constantly remind myself: It’s only vegetables, and EVERYTHING IS COOKED IN BOILING HOT OIL… 500 degrees celsius (932 degrees fahrenheit) is enough heat to kill any bacteria. Never got sick, knock on wood.
– Showering at Kuldeep’s farm using water from the well. I had to fetch my water from the well using a bucket if I wanted to shower at the farm. Believe it or not, I often asked Kuldeep to drop me at the farm to take my shower… I enjoyed basking in the heat of the sun and taking a shower out in nature.
– If I didn’t shower at the farm, I took a bucket shower in my boxers at the “hand water-pump” in the middle of the village streets… with the cows strolling by, the neighbors waiting in line, and views of a 1,000 year-old temple. You can’t get a more exciting shower than this! At least, I didn’t have to shower fully clothed, like the women are required to!
– Stooping on the front door steps to brush my teeth in the mornings. The kids loved to stare at me and giggle as I brushed my teeth before they head off for school.
– Eating egg curry for dinner: Since eggs are non-vegetarian, Kuldeep asked me to brush my teeth outside of his home when I returned from dinner that evening! Like I said, his family is religiously non-vegetarian.
– Playing the djembe. I started learning to play the djembe (African drum) in Khajuraho. I have a deep love for music (and a newfound love for chanting), yet I’ve never done anything musical in my life. It’s never to late to start! The vibrations of the drums are mesmerizing!
Other highlights from the time in Khajuraho:
– Spontaneously bumping into Mahese Baba at a corner store, even after the locals repeatedly said that they haven’t seen him in Khajuraho for ages!
On my last India trip (2016), Mahese invited me to live among the Baba Ji’s in Omkareshwar. (I shared my experiences with these powerful Baba Ji’s in a previous post) LINK. In Omkareshwar, we held a ceremony with 3 powerful Baba Ji’s in honor of my brother, David… Mahese said these Baba Ji’s remembered me & asked about me recently! What, what?!?! I miss those Baba Ji’s gravely!
It was meant to be that Mahese and I would reconnect. What a blessing.
– Cooking an American pasta dish for Kuldeep’s family. I cooked vegetable tomato sauce from scratch, squeezing the tomatoes all by hand… and it was absolutely delicitable!
Buying the groceries for this meal was a memorable experience on its own. I never recognized that there are no grocery stores (i.e., not even small ones) in Khajuraho until this day. There are only vegetable stands along the streets, and little corner stores for necessities, such as cooking oil, toilet paper, soap, etc. To buy imported pasta (i.e., good quality pasta, rather than local Indian pasta), we had to drive out 15 minutes to the only corner store in Khajuraho that sells it. I’m very grateful for our grocery stores in the West, but recognize how insanely excessive they are with hundreds of brands and variations for the same product.
– Joining Kuldeep’s family for their first time ever going to restaurant for his daughter’s birthday. Kuldeep’s wife and children have never been to a restaurant before. They haven’t even ever left the villages. His wife has only been to her home village, other villages for weddings, and that’s about it. Same with his children. Meanwhile, Kuldeep goes to Indian restaurants in Khajuraho regularly #equalrights #myass.
As Kuldeep’s family is religiously vegetarian, the restaurant was pure vegetarian restaurant (i.e., no options for meat, fish, or eggs on the menu) in a basement with no windows. His wife wasn’t willing to eat a restaurant where meat is cooked in the same kitchen.
It was fascinating to see how Kuldeep’s wife, children, and relatives were excited about Pari’s b-day party at the restaurant. Coming from urban life in the West where eating in restaurants has become commonplace, we plan grandiose parties for our children… entertainers, activities, balloons, costumes, gift bags, and desserts on desserts on desserts. In the West, our expectations for a party have reached new levels, whereas in Khajuraho, simply eating at a restaurant is considered a luxurious birthday party. A few cultural insights: It was mind-boggling to learn how Indian girls are often viewed as a financial burden their parents, and are forced to leave their family and childhood home when they are only teenagers. As part of their arranged marriage, they are sent to live a new life with their husband and an entirely new group of people they don’t know. If these Indian women are lucky, the village they get sent to isn’t more than 15 kilometers away from their home village.
– Kuldeep’s $400 electric water-pump on his farm got stolen :’( . It was planting season in Khajuraho at the time, so it was vital for Kuldeep to replace the pump, in order to water his crops. “Helping” Kuldeep and his brother install the new water-pump in the well was a sweaty, but educational experience… these Indian farmers work their booties off! Plus, once we got the pump installed, I got to take an awesome shower 😀 PHOTOOOO
– Buffalo shopping with Kuldeep. To thank Kuldeep for hosting me in Khajuraho and spending the time to join me in the remote villages for the good karma, I offered to help him purchase a buffalo for his family! Next day, we were off to shop for buffalos in the villages. We roamed around Melowar asking villagers if they were interested in selling their buffalos. It was fascinating to learn about the criteria for buying buffalos (i.e., want a buffalo that recently gave birth so that it’ll be producing milk, that hasn’t had more than 1-2 babies already, that hasn’t been injured, etc.).
When Kuldeep found a buffalo that met all of his criteria, we went to the villager’s home in the evening to milk the buffalo and to verify how many liters of milk she gives. We were only at the villager’s home for 10 minutes, during which time I managed to make 3 children in a row start bawling their eyes out. I couldn’t help but laugh.
I was glad for the opportunity to help Kuldeep buy a buffalo, because for 4-5 months of the year, Kuldeep doesn’t have any work (i.e., during the summer months it’s not farming season and it’s too hot for tourists to visit); yet, he still needs to money to buy vegetables for his family each week, pay for electricity, etc. The buffalo will act as an additional source of income year-round, as he can sell the milk every day.
I soon found out that Kuldeep didn’t have enough funds to cover the remaining balance to pay the buffalo. Where did he source the funds from? He rode his motorbike around the village, asking friends to lend him money. Within an hour, he had borrowed enough $$ to buy the buffalo. Apparently, it’s very common for people in Khajuraho to lend money to one another with interest.
– Visiting the infamous Kama Sutra temples of Khajuraho. As I’d already been to the Kama Sutra temples during my last visit to Khajuraho (2016), I wasn’t planning to visit them again. However, I went ahead to visit them anyways…. and I’m glad I did. The energy of those temples consumed me. I could feel the energy of the prayers of devotees for 1,000 years, and the dedication put into sculpting each of sculptures the temples were composed of. The detail on the sculptures is astounding! From the curvatures of the body to the piercings, from the intricate outfits to the hairlines on the heads, from the body gestures & postures to the jewelry. Wowza.
My insights: As I roamed around, it dawned on me that these temples were built 1,000 years ago when electricity did not exist. Although Ben Franklin’s kite experiment was in 1752, electricity was truly discovered in 1879 by Thomas Edison. That’s only 140 years ago! Before 150 years ago (my great great great grandparents), there was no electricity, meaning there was no automation of any tasks, there was no mass production of goods… everything was made by hand! You couldn’t just go buy packaged dish soap or laundry detergent from the market back then! Electricity must have been THE MOST advancing invention of all time.