Meena’s kitchen, the only room so far on the second floor, is very basic.
There are no countertops or tables for food prep. She has a two-burner propane stovetop, but it’s hard to get a replacement propane tank to the house so she cooks over a wood fire most of the time. The black pot over the fire is for heating water for bathing and washing dishes.
There are no cabinets, just shelves. Priya has added her artistic touch to the papers lining the shelves.
Meena cooks everything from scratch. No canned or frozen food. She has no freezer. Canned food isn’t readily available in this area. Even if it was, it would be too expensive. Here she separates hulls from chickpeas.
Rolling the dough for paranthas.
A parantha is similar in appearance to a stuffed tortilla. The minced cauliflower with herbs and spices is added on top of the first layer of dough as a filling. A second layer of dough is rolled to cover the filling, and the edges are pinched to seal it inside. Then it is put on the tawa, an Indian griddle, for cooking.
Meena flips over the parantha on the tawa without a spatula.
Meena gets the fire going again by blowing on the embers through a bamboo tube.
Meena’s food processor.
There’s no sink in Meena’s kitchen, just a corner of the room with a drainhole. No plumbing, either. They carry in water from the tank just outside.
Bhanwar Kala is not a primitive village nor a traditional one. There are no houses made of mud or straw roofs. As you’ve seen, the houses are rather modern in construction style.
The men and boys mostly wear western style clothing, although you’ll see some wearing the kurta pajama.
On the other hand, the women and girls almost always wear the traditional salwar kameez. I was surprised to see Priya “dress up” in jeans and a T-shirt the day we went shopping in Sarkaghat.
There is no “downtown” or central area in Bhanwar Kala. There are no shops, other than one government sponsored shop that sells food staples like large bags of rice, lentils, and produce. Bhanwar is merely a collection of houses on the hillsides. There are clusters of houses very close together, then large open spaces, then another cluster. There are perhaps 200 houses in the village. Despite its small size, it does have its own municipal government.
The roads don’t go very close to very many of the Bhanwar village houses. Most of them have long, narrow, cemented paths from the house to the road. The path from the road to Prem’s house is 100 meters, he said. I think it’s more like twice that. It’s very steep in some places and winds past terraced fields used for planting crops.
The nearest town is Dharampur, which is two kilometers away. Dharampur does have a central business district with shops. There is also a hospital. Most of the Bhanwar dwellers don’t have vehicles, so if they need to go to Dharampur, they either wait for the bus or walk.
The kids of Bhanwar Kala village were delightful! There was none of the aggressive begging I had encountered in Rajasthan. These children were polite, well behaved and excited to see a visitor. I loved them all!
Within minutes of laying eyes on me from the nearby houses, they appeared on Prem’s rooftop where I had just finished breakfast. They were all smiles, curious about the foreign visitor.
They snapped into formation as soon as I took out the camera. Aren’t they adorable?
So many photogenic faces!
The next door neighbor/relatives were so friendly, always calling out to me whenever they saw me at Prem’s. I dropped by for a visit, and the kids immediately turned on the music and wanted me to dance with them.
Then it was time for pictures!
Abishek, Neha and Archna.
I started to remember the names of the kids who came around the most.
Nabu, Neha, Priya and Archna.
These young ladies are fantastic dancers!
Sankesh and little brother Abishek.
Sankesh turned out to be quite a fabulous dancer! Check out my Bhanwar Dance Party video featuring Sankesh. Ladies, hang on to your hearts! He’s only 15!
Could these guys be any cuter?
Ladies love guys who can dance, as Sankesh will find out one day. Sankesh will always be my special dancing friend.
Indians are generally friendly and curious about foreigners, and the people I met at Bhanwar Kala village were no exception. Everyone was excited to see me with a camera and eager to have their pictures taken. I’ll be sending copies to them soon.
This is Panjicoot, who lives next door. Prem first said he was his uncle, then he said he was his cousin. Okay, he’s a close relative. Panjicoot’s house is right behind Prem’s, and the first floor is on the same level as Prem’s roof because of the hill, so he saw me having breakfast with Prem on the roof the first day I arrived. Soon he came over and played his drum for me.
One of the neighbors on the other side. She came over to greet me several times during my stay.
Panjicoot and his sister.
No matter what they were doing or wearing, everyone was happy to get their pictures taken.
One of Prem’s many nephews and his new bride.
One of Prem’s many nieces.
Prem’s eldest brother and his sister-in-law.
Prem’s mother with her eldest and youngest sons.
I don’t remember who the last few ladies were. I only remember they wanted their picture taken, and I was delighted to oblige. Wish I could be there when the package with all the photos arrives in the village!