Welcome to Bihar!

It was only 5.30 a.m. when we reached Baba’s village, but in spite of the morning hours the day had already begun for its inhabitants. A few kids spotted us as we went down the slope and ran excitedly back to their homes to announce our arrival. The houses in the village were all simple constructions built of raw bricks and the earth paths through the village were damp and muddy from the rains.

Welcome to Bihar

Welcome to Bihar

We reached Baba’s family house where we were received by his brother’s wife, a large group of small children and a few other family members. The floor was plastered with a mix of clay and cow dung. The dying grandfather was sleeping on a charpoy next to the small entrance door that led to a narrow patio.

I was surprised when I saw him; he did not look at all like a 103 year old man. He still had a lot of hair and his body looked pretty strong for that age. Pagli and I expected to witness a heartbreaking scene coming up, when the grandfather and the “lost” grandson he had been calling for on his death-bed would reunite; but nothing like that happened. The family gently shook him awake explaining with excitement

“Your grandson has come! You remember? You called him!”

He slightly opened his eyes and roughly exclaimed

“This is not my grandson! Go away!”

Well, last time Baba visited the village he still had dreadlocks and his long beard. I guess the grandfather didn’t recognize him at first.

We were invited into the house. On the left side of the entrance was the cooking corner, where the women would prepare food and chai on a fire pit on the floor, which was surrounded by a clay construction to protect the fire from wind and to support the pots. Just next to that was a little space to do the dishes and a narrow gutter for the dirty water ran through the patio.

Family house

Family house

We were led to a small room in the backside of the house and sat down on a bed trying to smile as much as our fatigue would allow. Slowly more and more people came to stare at us. Nobody there had ever seen a white person before, most of them probably not even on T.V., as there was only one in the entire village. As we sat there it was starting to get hot. More and more people came in to have a look at us westerners and soon we were surrounded by a large group that stood so close to us that we barely could breathe. They were laughing and chatting in loud voices, pointing at us from time to time. I felt uncomfortable and wondered if they were talking about how dirty we looked; after that trip I definitively was filthy and smelly, which did not contribute much to my comfort in this situation. That time I did not speak a word of Hindi and Baba who was our translator had gone to meet the men in the village. Time passed by and I was really glad that Pagli was sitting next to me; she was the only person I could talk to and sharing the first impressions with another westerner helped to release the accumulated tension. I thought

‘Well, it’s the fist day. Tomorrow everybody will have seen us and then they will stop staring and leave us alone’.

Baba’s oldest niece brought us chai. Her mother is one of the most amazing women I have ever seen. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that Baba’s sister in law was a mother of five daughters and one son, the smallest girl being only six months old. She was extremely pretty, small and slender but at the same time transmitted a lot of strength. She looked like a seventeen year old goddess! How was that possible?

The amazing sister in law

Suddenly a toddler came up to us; it was Baba’s nephew. He squatted and took a big shit on the floor right in front of us.

WELCOME TO BIHAR!

I was expecting somebody to ask us if we would like to take a shower or to rest after such a long trip, but nothing like that happened.

Rule number two in India:

Never expect anything!

Rule number one:

Make your patience grow!

I already had passed into a state of trance from the exhaustion and started to get angry with Baba, who had left us alone in this situation. Shower could wait, but I worried that I might faint sooner or later if I wouldn’t get a rest soon.

Entrance

Entrance

When he finally showed up, I begged him to find me a place where to sleep. They brought me to a small room where I lied down on a bed and started to doze off. There is not such a thing as privacy in an Indian family. I wonder if this word even exists in any Indian language and if there is actually any purpose of having a room door. There was a murmur and from the corner of my eyes I saw about a dozen of whispering kids sitting on the floor observing attentively how I was sleeping. It really made me feel like an animal in the zoo, but I decided to surrender to the situation and ignore the surrounding world. So I turned around and eventually fell asleep.

5 thoughts on “Welcome to Bihar!

  1. Pingback: How to answer the call of nature in a bihari village | himalayacakes

  2. Pingback: India: Sometimes tough …and sometimes touching, beautiful and overwhelming | himalayacakes

  3. Pingback: Bye-Bye Bihar! | himalayacakes

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