Dazillion medical camps later ,as a student ,I decided not to be part of any more such non-productive camps.This was decades back and I am no student anymore so when a senile and overzealous social worker friend ( all of that and more in one person) emotionally blackmailed me ,I did the same to a bunch of other people (read-hobbs-the hubby,six interns from my clinic,three staff members and of course Cookie and Muffin as tag-essentials!) and we were off to a very remote village in rural interiors of Maharashtra.
Having spent 24 premarital years hopping from one city to another with dad in a transferable job, small towns and rural scenes are not alien to me but nothing prepared me for what lay in wait this time.We were received at the nondescript station by a proud,self declared, matric- fail ,'taempuwala'.After we loaded our physical selves into and all over it, our tempo looked like this:
tempo-courtesy google images
We were piled and arranged like sardines in the vehicle in such a way that the younger bodies fanned out of the sides of the tempo and this arrangement gave the young blood ,ample opportunity to outstretch their arms in air like Shahrukh Khan!
courtesy google images
I am not sure and I don't want to know why they seated me where they did ,inside the tempo.Thinking I was privileged,I had short lived tears of gratitude before I disappeared beneath a pile of smelly backpacks.They even arranged the bags to leave enough air pockets for me to breathe.Breathing and moi are related at strictly subconscious level and any consciousness in that regard leaves me breathless and I have advertised this fact far and wide for my own safety.Next 30 minutes,I braved the olfactory onslaught of the worst kind.Air reeking of perspiration,BO,deo, garlicky pav -bhaji and vada-pao from dinner the night before and what have you...The twenty somethings held on to each other's halves inside the tempo while the other halves continued with the bollywood tamasha.I recalled the old Fevicol ad :
Two German doctors in the group looked like ghosts at the end of the journey and had to be brought back to the living world .It was just a tin shed and four brick walls in the name of school and it was the only one for miles together.The camp was productive and I am not saying that because I was part of it.It was just a question of ready resources at that stage and manpower of course, and both we had in abundance.The lack of basic facilities was no laughing matter but in this case ,for city youngsters out in the wild for the first time, it was both,-unbelievable and unbelievably funny.While they jotted down notes for each facility or lack of it,they also exchanged hilarious experiences regarding the same.The enthusiasm was infectious and energy levels,an all time high.
Giggles (German import, giggly girl in short)as she was aptly called,suddenly could not be found and a frantic search ensued.Evening was weary and night fast approaching.Giggles was found stupefied behind the bushes where she had gone to ease her overburdened bladders.She was rendered speechless and stunned by a kid-snake crawling away a few feet across.Cannon ( another German so named ,as she was always clicking with her namesake camera) slapped her out of that state and all was well .
Giggles could be seen helping around as we assembled bedding necessities for sleep time, viz.mattresses, old sarees as bedspreads and searched for elevations of any kind on the walls and around, to tie the mosquito -net- strings ,(naada to be precise, borrowed from village belles :D) .When the nets were tied together in sequence and then the whole thing hauled together to be tied to the hooks,nails,chair handles and window grills,the actual purpose of it all suddenly dawned on the two They were absolutely 'in character',Giggles broke into peels of giggles and Cannon went berserk clicking.
Cannon clicked everything in sight from all possible angles, poverty excluded ,team yougistaan made sure of that .On our way back,Muffin , my son and Cannon were spotted with their object of interest in a gutter just outside the railway platform.It was a pig in all its guttered glory .
courtesy google images
Tiny Muffin refused to believe his mother when she said that ,what he thought of as a new animal species, was actually a pig.Now this pig was no Babe ,he was as Indian in character as they come..half -and-half. like an order of Pizza ie gutter side black and other side grey/brown /whatever..The beautiful image in his mind of a pig called Babe was shattered !
I consoled him and reminded him of another fact of life he had learnt not so long ago..that milk actually is given by cows ,so what if it comes in clean tetra packs to our homes.He still has to come to terms with that but he thinks aaji's and naani's habit of getting up and pottering about the house at 4 am is cool.