In the Godwad region of south-west Rajasthan, there is a village whose name I can’t remember. A new camp has been set up in the area. It has become a nice place with large tents with comfortable beds and showers and toilets. People from the village are employed to clean, tend the plants, welcome guests etc. There is Suki, for example. She makes the beds and keeps the grounds clean. And if there are days when there are few guests, she can also work at home. Then she welcomes the guests into her home, cooks, dresses and dances with them. We also had the pleasure of doing this.
Suki has an incredibly charming personality, seeks contact without words (she has never learnt English), usually beams and so it is easy to spend more time with her than planned. Of course, it’s a little easier with an interpreter guide. I’ll start at the back – that’s where she showed us her photos. This is the wedding photo. She is now 35 years old, has 2 daughters and 2 sons and a husband who is a tuktuk driver (and who took me to the railway at the end). She belongs to the Raika ethnic group, i.e. the traditional cattle herders. However, they no longer have much livestock, but enjoy a monetary income.
I also photographed this photo in her collection because it’s a children’s wedding. But I’ve forgotten who and when. Her daughter is getting married soon and she has already reached a “decent age”.
First we were dressed (by the way, the turban master is also a camp employee and also accompanied us). All you need is a skirt and a large scarf. Everything is carefully draped so that you look appropriate. Afterwards we also danced a little, but I didn’t take any photos.
Then we cooked. Again, I didn’t take many photos as I was so busy cooking. There are these crispy papads (or papadam). In many areas of Rajasthan (e.g. also in Bikaner), these are often cooked into a curry. It’s not my favourite dish, but it’s quick and tastes OK.
The corn chapatis – makeri roti – take longer. The dough is quite tricky, it has to be wet enough so that the edges don’t tear, but it also has to be dry enough so that you can bake it nicely on the fire. You only ever use small twigs, they burn quickly and you have good control over how long it should be hot.
Papads were also roasted and a yoghurt mixture made. The tasty meal is ready! The icing on the cake: Ghee and jaggery crumbs on the makeri roti.
Then Suki showed us her jewellery. There was a lot. She put on lots of pieces and posed for us.
And at the end we were able to look at lots of photos – see above.
For me, Suki is a great example of someone who, on the one hand, fits into her life but, on the other, makes the best of it with good humour and alert charm. That’s infectious.
The day after next, I was alone in the tent accommodation and Suki came round. We listened to some Rajasthani music on my laptop and communicated a bit without words. That was nice too.