A night in the village
My cousin and his wife dropped by this evening. They were on their way to village. The cousin’s wife would stay at her father’s place tonight; she’ll prepare everything for tomorrow’s cooking. Yes, tomorrow is the day of loya jirga; a grand village council (meeting). I haven’t been there since ages. I was still a kid when I last set my feet in the dusty allies of the village. For a moment a thought crossed my mind to accompany her. No, I won’t die by staying there for a night – a place that terribly lacks facilities. And then my imagination kicked off. What follows afterwards is purely a work of imagination based on my old memories and experiences.
A night in the village
I was all ready to leave, waiting for them to pick me up. As I heard the honking I went through my stuff. Damn! I am going there for a night and part of a day yet looking at my bag seems I am going to stay at least for three days. But there is no harm in taking extra things; away from home I might need something.
So I once again checked the things making sure I am not forgetting anything.
ü Drafting pad
ü Cell phone
I wanted to take camera as well but cell phone’s camera would be enough. God forbid if someone stole the bag I wouldn’t lose both of them at least.
I carried my bag and we left. The journey though short was bumpy. Damn! There were kids everywhere half naked, dark…filthy. They jump into canal and a while later emerge from the other side. They climb up on all fours and jump again. What an activity! I loathe this road… more than anything else in the world. I fear drowning to death. I don’t know how to swim. It tops my list of must-learn things in future.
I was engulfed in my thoughts and didn’t realize we were almost there. My cousin honked and entered an alley… the car crawled for sometime in the narrow alley and then stopped in front of bhabi’s paternal home. My cousin dropped us and left. He would come back tomorrow to attend the meeting. We stepped out of the car; a couple of passing by men stared at us. Man! I hate this thing. I adjusted my duppatta and tried to hide my lips – painted with light pinkish lipstick.
We went inside the house. My memory had been failing. Everything had been changed so much. That’s true places change its shape in every ten years. We were greeted by a number of women. They were startled to see me and some of them exclaimed that I have grown up. I in fact did. Time doesn’t pass it flies! We sat down on one of the string beds in the yard; one of the women took away my bag and dumped it into the room (That’s what I saw).
I felt a bit uneasy parting from my belongings. My hand bag was all I had. That had my cell phone and wallet plus a small writing pad and a pen. I tend to sneeze a lot. I could smell the smoke in the air; I sneezed, again and then again. (Allergy you know!)
They offered me tea that I politely refused. It’s been more than 2 years since I tasted it. Coffee is something none of them would have heard of. So they brought sherbet for me. The red one! From the taste I made out it was Rooh Afza.
The night was spreading its wings but a few reluctant chickens refused to retire. One fat chicken came and pecked on my toe. I dragged my feet back instantly that scared her and with a hoarse croak it jumped up a feet shedding it’s lose feathers. A kid got hold of it and locked it up. The time seemed to be moving slowly. At home there is so much to do but here the chattering of young and old women were boring me to death. I yawned unintentionally; someone noticed and remarked she must be tired. One of them got up; lit the tandoor and soon the whole environment was sounding with the sound of dhab dhab and the fragrance of freshly baked bread.
The dinner was very simple yet delicious. Home-made tandoori bread, vegetables, salad yogurt and lassi. I ate as much as I could. They kept asking me to have some more. I politely declined thanking for their hospitality. Then came the renowned remark that all the villagers say disappointingly, “You city people don’t eat properly see how weak you look!”
In the night men slept outside in the yard while a nice and neat bed was arranged for me inside the room. I had to share the room with bhabi and her sister in law. The light kept playing hide and seek throughout the night. I tried to sleep… I needed to write something. The thoughts in the form of words and sentences started pouring. I couldn’t write on the drafting pad so thought to save it on the notepad of the cell phone.
I didn’t know when and how I went to sleep. The sleep was serene and dreamless. They woke me up at 7:00. It was quite late per village standards. I had a glass of milk in the breakfast; that’s all I need.
The meeting had already been started. I wanted to hear what was going on but the culture and tradition doesn’t permit the participation of women. I wrote down my thoughts that were raining on my mind last night. I felt so sleepy. One of the disadvantages of being guest is that you can’t do anything of your own will. So I had to stay up.
We (women) had lunch when the men were done. It was almost 12:30 in noon. I was yawning, I felt trapped and I had started to bore. I was counting minutes for our return. I didn’t have to wait for too long. The grand meeting of the family elders was over and people had started returning to their homes. Father came inside; his face lit something inside me. I figured the decision was in our favor.
We left shortly after and guess what when I was leaving an aunt handed me a shopper. I could see neatly chopped chicken inside. It was a gift, a tradition for I had visited them after a long time. Later on I came to know it was the same chicken that had pecked on my toe. It was an unforgettable experience indeed.
(Painting by Ranadip Das)