By Monika Terfloth – Part 9 of 10 of the Mother in-law in Nepal and India series.
Hello Everyone, today we are again in Delhi.
We left Agra a few days ago to begin the drive through the Rajasthan countryside with our trusty driver Sovran at the wheel. “The monsoon have not been good this year” he says pointing at the dry landscape. “Many of the fields will not be planted”. The last of the millet crop is being taken off, and only a few dried squash vines remain. Water is scarce. Men herd sheep and goats further to graze and women work in the fields gleaning the last of a meager crop.
Toiling in the heat, saris fluttering in the wind, the women are like tall and slender field flowers in saris of saffron, violet, rose, lavender, marigold and lime. The brilliant colors make the women easy to see even at a distance. They stoop again and again with such grace as though the breezes had bent them down. As the day’s heat builds they gather together in the shade of an acacia tree. The acacia is still green and is a valuable source of shade, feed for the animals and for firewood. The lower branches are cut and left on the ground as feed. Later the dry branches are bundled and carried home by the women for the cooking fire. Piled high on their heads as they walk along the roadsides. Women are gathering dung patties too. The patties are collected from the fields and roadsides and laid out to dry. Since cows wander freely everywhere there seems to be an abundance of patties. Once dry, the patties are stacked in a beehive shape about four feet high. The final patties are put on when fresh and plastered smooth to make an outer layer which also dries and sheds moisture to keep the inner patties dry. Some of the dung heaps have very decorative designs carved into this outer layer. When needed, a hole is cut in the side of the crust and the patties are taken, a few at a time, as fuel for the fire.
We have been doing our best to try to conserve water here as well and had packed our water bottles from home and so far had been able to use them, refilling with tap water and disinfecting with chlorine or iodine tablets and having the expected, but not horrible, resulting taste. However since arriving in Agra, we have tried adding iced tea mix to cover the taste of what we likened to used laundry water (not the rinse cycle either). Finally, despite our best intentions, we resorted to pre-filled water bottles. What a pleasure to taste pure clean water again. As Islam diplomatically pointed out on our first day here, visitors to India are not only known for our ‘sensitive stomachs’ but also for our ‘sensitive palates’ and our ‘sensitive skin’.
Water is truly the master. We have come to realize this with such clarity, here in a part of the world where simple, clean water is a luxury. A few days of drinking iced-tea, iodine-flavoured laundry water was all it took.
Good night for now.