Women, the real power in village labor

Hauling brush

I title this blog facetiously. Women in rural India — like much of the world where paternalistic orders still apply — share an unfair burden of the drudgery and muscle-rending, joint-stressing, fatigue-inducing labor that is day-to-day existence.

Not that men don’t work hard as well, but it would be difficult to say that division of work doesn’t shift more physical work to women while men are more likely to occupy positions of authority and thereby relative ease. Such is reality in a society where modern, Western ideas of equality are still working there way down from on high.

Above, women in Rajasthan carry brush and fire kindling through rocky scrub, which for much of the year is blisteringly hot.

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Pull ‘er over for a quick prayer

A roadside shrine on the “highway” from Kesroli back to Delhi.

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Sundown on Kesroli

Rajasthani peace

We were treated to fantastic views for sunset from the rooftop terrace during our visit to a small fort hotel in Kesroli, Rajasthan earlier this year. For someone who lives and works in the hustle and bustle of the megapolis that is the Delhi region, this respite was priceless.

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Bougainvillea in bloom

Spring (or Indian summer) has arrived and my favorite flowering plant — bougainvillea — continues to blossom more with each passing week. The above comes from early blooms on one of the balconies of our hotel room during a visit to the Rajasthani countryside in February.

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Misty morning sunrise

Early

Dew and low fog hang over fields of mustard and channa in Rajasthan at sunrise.

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Rural village drive-by

Gaon ke log

Several weeks ago, we took a weekend out of town to stay at a fort hotel in Rajasthan. Along the way, we passed fields of sarson (mustard) and atta (wheat) and channa (chickpea). The five hour trip took us over back country roads through rural India.

Domestic scenes and courtyards like the one above (nothing spectacular — the taxi didn’t stop) were common.

It’s really beautiful out there. Simple and and poor and beautiful.

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Sabji hei!

A little young for this job

A sabji (vegetable) wallah from Jodhpur’s old city. Much of the fresh produce in India is still sold from open-air stalls and carts. Shiny, air-conditioned supermarkets are still a relatively new phenomenon and usually only found in big cities.

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Phoolwallahs of jodhpur

Garland

Early in the morning, the scent of flowers mixes with the reek of cow dung in Jodhpur’s old market lanes. Meet the phoolwallah, the flower salesman, stringing together garland of flower petals.

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How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

Cardamom

I admit I’m not much on Indian sweets. The occasional gulab jamun is about all I can stand.

But this bit of heaven in Jodhpur — which I’ve never seen anywhere else in the country (maybe not looking enough) — was fantastic. A combination of soft and crunchy with a hint of cardamom. Some of them come covered in icing or butter or cheese-like substance.

The old market bylanes are filled with these cakewallahs.

See below for a better understanding of how it’s made. I don’t really know a whole lot else, as my Hindi failed that morning. All I could really gather was “elaichi” — Hindi for cardamom — before the guy simply broke me off a piece to try.

I wish I had bought so much more.

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Grab the bull by the horns

Creepy

Or not, as I’m pretty much cattle-phobic. Still.

I’m better than I was, but yes, I’m not getting closer than I need to.

This was a bit of a challenge in Jodhpur (above), which I can say — without any exaggeration — smells like it has the most cows-per-capita of Indian city/town/village/hamlet I’ve visited. Seriously, that place is cow-patty central.

It’s really a wonderful place — with all the heart and chaos and color of India — just a little bovine-ridden.

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