As it happens, I misinterpreted this week’s photo challenge. Let’s set things right. Would you like a cup of tea?
Just before our last safari in Sariska, we decided to eat lunch at a dhaba. There was a row of small houses with thatched roofs along either side of the road running along the perimeter of the Wildlife Reserve. Two or three large aluminium vessels kept along a short wall were the only indication that they were eateries. Seeing the number of safari Gypsies* parked around them, we skipped the first few.
We got off the car and walked towards an empty house. Outside the porch was an open shed with a thatched roof supported by logs. Beneath the shed were a few plastic tables and chairs and charpoy. A man appeared from behind the porch and we enquired if food was available. It wouldn’t take long to prepare, he said.
We settled around one of the cots and made ourselves at home. A little while later, our host laid out the platter on the table next to us. Hot dal and sabzi with pickle; thick rotis, freshly baked in a tandoor, served with a generous amount of ghee; and on our request, curd from his own house right behind the restaurant.
Though simple, the food was delicious. He asked us if we needed another serving. When we said we were full, he asked if we would like to have some tea. Of course we did! As we waited for the tea, we pulled out our cameras.
A little while later, our host announced that the tea was ready. We noticed two little girls and their mother sitting beside the porch, near the entrance of the house — our host’s family. We sat near them on a makeshift bench made with a stone slab and sipped on the cardamom-flavoured tea. The elder daughter opened up easily and seemed to enjoy our attention. She told us her name and that she had just returned from her school. The younger one remained close to her mother. We learnt that they were farmers, and that they had finished harvesting their crop of corn. They said they didn’t sell the corn. Instead, they made flour to prepare rotis. A little later, we heard a baby’s cry. Our hostess left to attend to her youngest child inside the house.
We told our host that we had got a glimpse of a tiger earlier that day. He confirmed that there indeed was one nearby last night. In a very matter-of-fact way, he said it was most likely out hunting for prey, and that he had heard the call of a deer near his house. We wondered how it would be to live there. Growing a crop with whatever little income came from feeding a few highway passersby and stray wildlife enthusiasts, to live in a secluded part of the state without a proper address and wild tigers for neighbours.
We thanked our hosts for their hospitality and paid the very modest bill. Our hostess returned as we prepared to leave, and presented us some farm fresh corn to take home. And no, she clarified, they weren’t selling it.
* Gypsy – a four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle
dhaba – a roadside food stall
charpoy – wooden cot
dal – split lentils
sabzi – a vegetable cooked in gravy
roti – Indian flat bread
tandoor – clay oven that uses fire (from wood or charcoal) for heat
ghee – clarified butter
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “(Extra)ordinary.”