Through the project discovery work, my host organization took the Bundelkhand region in Madhya Pradesh into half a dozen villages – some tribal, one of which was ravaged by dacoits historically and another where there is still one landline connection on a terrace. When it rings somebody has to rush through to receive the call. Accidently, the road to that village had broken up in the middle due to heavy rainfall last week. So we waited there until a motorbike showed up, where we asked him to drop us at the place and he graciously agreed to go in the opposite direction of his journey. We tripled to the village, and as for the safety of an AIF Fellow, I had the privilege of being the meat in this impromptu sandwich. Our return journey was on the mudguard of a tractor. My first tractor ride.
Instead of having a story form, this blog will consist of small packets of insights; some have already started blaming shrinkflation for this.
As an Architect, it is my imperative duty to begin by discussing this. I will put these into three divisions- Homes, Historical Sites, and Circuit House. The village settlements were Indian traditional closely packed communities lived, resembling Italian village architecture. It was smooth with curved plains and edges. As the region faces high-temperature summers and very high rainfalls, it had darker interiors with sloping roofs. Concrete seemed to have started making its way into the villages.
Historical sites, this was a surprise actually. The region has ancient, 9th Century, and very humongous temples and auxiliary buildings. I had never come across them throughout my education, architecture or otherwise. The sites are known as pilgrimages in the extended region and are maintained as such. It was perplexing that places like this, and there would be many, are just not on any lists.
Circuit House is where I was put up for a few days. It’s one of the quirky British-Raj Indianism English that carries on, like Hill Stations or District Magistrates. So these are Colonial, now, government guest houses where officials and commoners like me may find a space to stay, with a few calls, of course. Such accommodations exist throughout the country and some of them are very well maintained. This place had a bell to call a server and that’s how they would offer tea at the common space in the morning, where a couple of other bureaucrats with unfortunate postings would also be reading their morning paper, very British I tell you. It took every cell in my body to not turn to one of them and go, oh very droll Minister!
I will now take a tangent and give a prompt to the fans of the old BBC political documentary – “Who is Round and why does he object?” or “A well cross-section of the nation!”.
Returning back to Circuit House, a little googling led to the answer – Why circuit houses are called circuit houses? Well, there used to be something called circuit courts where judges traveled to various regions to hear cases, rather than them coming to a district court or so. These were called circuit courts because judges traveled in circuits, evidently. The place they stayed at came to be known as, wait for it, a Circuit House.
The village food, unlike their architecture, had no Italian, or Portuguese resemblance. The only way I can describe the food would be more homely than my home food itself. This was the first time in my life that I could not, at most places, buy food. Most villages did not have a dhaba or a tea stall. The only place one could get food was at someone’s home. The community there just wasn’t trying to be hospitable to me, they in fact were. They were all very grounded. Maybe it was because their homes didn’t have hard flooring. They were just sleeping nearer to earth than I was in my room on the second floor.