There are several other reasons, and I will talk of them all, but we need to start with the important things, don’t we?
The people we met in the course of interviews turned our assumptions about the uncouth badlands topsy-turvy. People gave up their seats for us, didn’t let us get lost, and threw themselves whole heartedly into our research and gave us tips and additional information. If they saw we were unsettled by anything, they immediately reassured us. Each of us was invited to a respondents home for a meal atleast once.This is remarkable anywhere, but more so here, where the living is so incredibly tough. The struggle-filled lives that everyone led matter-of-factly caused me to weep at times.
- There was young Tulsi, exactly the same age as my niece. She had never been to school and now helped her brother run his chai stall. Soon, she would probably be married off. A bit of the child in her still shone through when she spoke of playing in the river.
- There was the choodiyan seller with his sadhu friend. In that bustling pilgrim town, these two misfits, one a muslim and the other an exiled sadhu had found each othere.
- Basant’s owner, posing with Basant in the picture. A one-armed tangawallah who was ecstatic when we paid him a bit more than the agreed price. Basant himself was the healthiest and most well-fed living being we had seen in that entire poverty-stricken area. His love for his master is very clear in the way he has turned his head to nuzzle him.
- The Prasad-seller who was dreading Holi. She had no money to buy clothes for her family, she said. Every day she prayed to Ganga, “ kaise bhi karake dhak do inhe. Somehow, cover their bodies.” But she gifted a pedha apiece to three weary surveyors.