I have been in Patna for the past four days. Today is the first day that I decided, out of sheer exhaustion, not to write notes. What people don’t tell you about learning a skill is how much you stick to the discipline, out of sheer habit. And when you don’t do something you have been trained to do, the habit rubs against you like coconut coir. So, this is me soothing the tiny scratches of my own indefatigable guilt.
Two days ago, I went to a village flanked by a railway line and yellow flowers. The mornings in Patna are dusty, very noisy, hot and bright. You travel 45 minutes, and you reach the foggy lands of the village. Your car turns into a flattened mud road, and it seems as though ghost trees emerge from the fog. My first view of the village was the darkness of four brother trees huddled towards the entrance of the village, against the background of exposed brick houses. The yellow flowered fields of mustard fields stretch on either side to the edge of the fog that envelopes our path. We pass a woman with a bright pink sari – a contrasting dot in the landscaping of grey and yellow. We arrive at the narrow streets of the village, dung cakes drying patiently on all the walls of the houses. Gourd creepers hang by the trees, and a man patiently squats on the side of a road, as another takes a knife to his face and scrapes off the stubble of the night. We stop by a house, and three girls are playing hopscotch in the courtyard. The smooth slate skips over the line and a girl wearing a tattered skirt emphatically points to a gross violation, and triumphantly sets to throw her favored stone, vigorously rubbed against her thigh, perhaps for luck, perhaps by habit. Young boys mill around the window of our car, broken teeth and hearty smiles. I open the door, and step into the heart-land of rural India.