I quickly became obsessed with being in nature, so Kuldeep and I continuously ventured out to the village. One night, we packed a tuktuk with food, blankets, & my djembe drum, and headed for the village. We planned to cook under natural fire & sleep in the farm fields under the shining stars.
We roasted our veggies directly on the fire to make bhagan bharta (a fire-roasted eggplant mash) for dinner. Our fire was made using dried cow dunk mixed with hay, not with wood! Yes, that’s right, we put all the veggies directly on cow dunk fire, even the chapati was made by lying it on the cow dunk fire. Can’t forget the fresh, local buffalo butter we got from the neighboring farm family, which we used to cook to the veggies in!
To quel the worries of family: The veggies are only placed on the cow dunk once it is already burning. Cow dunk burns at over 500 degrees celsius (over 932 degrees fahrenheit), which is high enough to kill any E.coli.
Once we began cooking up a storm, I pulled out the djembe. The reverberating sounds of my djembe must have reached the neighboring farms in the village, because within 30 minutes, we already had 4 village men joining our little gathering. Next thing you know, there were 8 village men sitting around our little fire debating about politics with Kuldeep, while I attempted to djembe.
As it got later in the night, the temperature dropped to 50 degrees. My feet were frozen cold, and I was wearing 4 layers of long-sleeved clothing, wool socks, and Gortex shoes… Meanwhile, village men were barefoot and wore minimal clothes, and they didn’t look the slightest bit cold!
It was fascinating to learn that the village men sleep on their farms every night (i.e., they sleep outdoors, not at their homes) in the cold weather, even during rainy season. As they need to protect their buffalos and crops from being stolen, they spend most of the night on the lookout, so they only sleep 3-4 hours a night!
We only brought enough veggies to feed 3-4 people, but Kuldeep’s generous soul couldn’t allow these villagers to leave without eating. They rarely have the opportunity to eat these veggie dishes, as their diet is only comprised of chapati (like pita bread) and milk.
By adding more water to the pot, and having the villagers bring additional chapati flour, we were able to feed all 11 of us with this food!!
It was touching to see how 4 village men took over the chapati-making process, and then served the dinner to everyone with huge smiles on their faces… Only once everyone was full and satisfied (in India, you keep getting refills until you’re full), did these 4 men sit down to make more chapati for themselves, and then eat together.
Before the villagers returned to their farms at 1:30am, Kuldeep & I said we’d like to throw a paneer party for the villagers (many have only eaten paneer once or twice in their lives), and they can bring along their local instruments and singing voices to make it a real party!
And so, the paneer party commenced 2 days later…
We threw a party for the village men!
En route to the village, Kuldeep and I saw 2 Swedes carrying a guitar and flute, and Kuldeep invited them to come with us. I felt relieved to finally have some Westerners around. It had been 6 days since I had spoken to a white person!
This was one of the most unique, raw, and immersive experiences I created while in India. There were 30 village men at Bala’s farm in Melowar. 10 villagers were cooking with Kuldeep… Meanwhile, the other 20 were sitting around a massive fire with me & the Swedes. We all simply stared across the fire into each other’s eyes, made music on our instruments, laughed together, and communicated with nothing but eye contact and hand gestures.
Highlights from the paneer party:
– The villagers put on a kirtan: A kirtan is a group singing of Hindu devotional songs using instruments. The villagers started a kirtan with their local songs using drums & other local instruments. They were chanting in a rhythmic tone with all their energy. It was completely mesmerizing! They were putting all their heart into it… I couldn’t help but get up and start dancing on my feet. It felt so good, I didn’t care if I was the only one dancing in that circle.
I had so much energy riled up in me by the end of each song that I started HOWLINGGG as soon as they finished each song… I wanted to share my enthusiasm & energy with them as a way to thank them for the beautiful music. I enjoy giving these men something to laugh at haha
– When our Swedish friend brought his guitar to the fire circle. This was the first time these men had ever seen a guitar! It was amusing to see one villager attempt to hold guitar in position, let alone play it! He had no idea what to do with it, but he sang with a huge smile on his face.
– When the Swedes made a pot of black instant coffee. They offered some to the villagers, who were all interested to taste it. The first man who tried it spat it out instantly and moaned from disgust! After that, most of the villagers weren’t willing to try it anymore. They’re used to their chai full of milk and sugar.
– Jacking off hand motion: At the end of the villager’s Bhajan, the main drummer looked at me and started doing an aggressive jacking off movement with his hands lol… I couldn’t tell if he was just having a laugh, or if it was a “fuck you, I’m hungry! You made us play for so long” haha.
After the music, the villagers feasted. The cooking crew were so sweet to continue making chapati, and to happily serve the other 20 villagers until their stomachs were full. They served me non-stop… and thank god, as I was starving! The cooking crew made over 270 chapatis that night, which means we ate at least 8 chapatis each lol.
When we were finally ready to hit the sack, Bala (the owner of this farm, and my protector) set up my cot with 2 mats, and covered me with 4 heavy blankets. Yeaaa, they spoil me… Bala even tucked me in!
The stars were so unbelievably bright, and there was no moon this night. I didn’t close my eyes for at least 30 minutes! Even if I tried to sleep, I couldn’t: My body was filled with unforgettable levels of energy from the connections developed with village people from vastly different cultures using only facial and hand gestures.
I woke up to Bala’s family sitting around a little fire near my cot, waiting for my lazy ass to wake up 🙂 . Bala walked over with a fresh neem tree branch… he knows how much I enjoy brushing my teeth using a natural neem branch. Meanwhile, his wife went to milk the buffalo to make me a chai (milk tea) using the fresh buffalo milk! They’re so sweet & caring <3.
Luckily, I was there when Bala’s wife poured the chai through the “strainer” into my cup…. she was using a freaking cloth that was on the dirt ground as the “strainer”! Oh hell no! That’s seriously disgusting…. that milky cloth was sitting on the dirt, and it definitely had remnants of the milk from chai made in previous days.
I accepted the chai with a smile 😀 . I can’t believe I even took a tiny sip. I had to get rid of this chai! So I pretended as though I got a phone call, walked off, and poured that chai into the ground once I was out of their sight. That was just fracking unsanitary!
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