through the villages

our last day in jodhpur, we took a “village safari”. i was definitely a bit apprehensive about it since these things tend to either a) be just a fake show just for tourists and you dont really get to see actual village life, or b) you do go to an actual village and there are so many other tourists that you are actually damaging the villager’s way of life. luckily, this tour ended up being neither of those… instead it was incredibly interesting and we really did get to witness how pople lived outside of cities in india.

actually, one of the best things about the tour was our guide. he knew absolutely everything we might want to know, actually lived his whole life in a tiny village so he knew what he was talking about, and made the tour so much fun. if anyone out there is in jodhpur and wants to go on a village safari, you should definitely contact Gazu from Marwar Eco Cultural tours (across from haveli guest house).

as we started our tour, our guide said a little prayer before he started the car… i really hoped that this was just standard protocol and not a reflection on his driving skills. as we drove along, Gazu pointed out wildlife along the road such as antelope and peacocks while he taught us stuff about india. he taught us about the 4 different kinds of cows that you find in rajasthan, and also answerd the questions i had about the caste system.

so it turns out that the caste system is actually still widely used here. besides the 4 main categories of caste that i mentioned before, there are hundreds of other castes and they usually represent your job. i.e.: potter, weaver, etc. or, to be more precise, they represent your father’s job. if your father is of the weaver caste, then you are of the weaver caste… even if you get a job as an engineer or whatever, your caste is still weaver. this may not affect people as much in the big cities, but in the villages especially, 9 times out of ten your job will be whatever your caste is. and then, you can only marry someone who is either in your own caste or in your mother’s caste. you can not marry outside your caste!!

anyways, i’m getting a bit off-topic here. we were off to see some Bishnoi villages. the bishnoi are people who have to abide by 29 strict rules, some of which dont allow them to kill any animals, chop down any trees, and others. our guide showed us this spot where the people had dug a huge crater, but left two small islands so as not to damage the two trees growing here.

our progress was slowed a bit when a huge heard of water buffalo wouldn’t get out of the road, and we had to drive slowly behind them. eventually, we got to the first village… if you could call it that. a lot of people who live out here have a plot of land, and so the houses of each family are actually very far apart. we walked around this family’s house and learned some crazy stuff: they make their own flour so each day someone has to spend 2 whole hours grinding millet (we tried it for 1 minute, and it was tiring!), they have to walk many many kilometers to get any water, their marriages are all arranged (as are most marriages in india).. actually, our guide had gotten married at 15!! we saw where they stored their food, how they slept, and tended their livestock.

in the next village, after a woman served us some really delicious chai (w/ goat’s milk just squeezed minutes before), we saw a little girl playing w/ a baby lamb. this thing was really small and the girl hung it from her arms like a limp ragdoll. caryn even got to pick up and hold a baby goat!!

in the next village, we got a demonstration on how to tie a turban, and i took a dorky photo wearing it! we also, randomly enough, learned about opium. out here in the villages, opium is used by lots of people for its medicinal qualities. it’s used to treat headaches, stomache ache, keep people awake on long drives etc etc. they dont use the opium to get high, and it’s actually illegal to buy it or sell it, but it’ just a part of people’s lives. also, opium is often used to show people hospitality, and guests are offered a drink of water that has some diluted opium in it. we got to see the process for this and in the end, all of us on the tour got to try a handful of this opium water. caryn said that my eyes looked a bit glassy afterwards, but other than that, we didnt feel any other affects.

the opium was followed by a *delicious* home cooked meal. the food was sooo good, and we felt priveledged to try some authentic home-cooking. oh yeah, i just remembered… we were sitting there at one point and the guide asked us how old we thought this old lady was who was sitting in the shade. no one could guess. turns out, the lady’s oldest son is *80* years old… and she’s… 103!!! unbelievable!!

afterwards, there were two more stops on the tour. one stop at a village where people make rugs, and then another stop at a potter’s village. after checking out some examples of his work, we got to see how he made these pots. it was so crazy. he had a huge potters wheel… but it’s powered completely by hand! he just cranks this thing w/ a stick, till it’s spinning fast, and then he starts sculpting. this guy was sooooo good at it!! he made it look ridiculously easy, and was only half paying attention to what he was doing when he cranked out 3 pots!! they then asked for volunteers… and we all got to watch caryn make a pot! dude, she is a total natural at it!! her pot was maybe a tiny bit crooked, but excellent anyways!

hrm… that’s all i can remember (as i type this as fast as i can before the net place closes), but there was sooo much more that we learned on the trip!!


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