This must be the biggest mistake of my life, she thought.
Walking on the hot sand, with slippers now hackneyed, a pounding headache, parched throat, she carried on relentlessly as she assembled the stack of papers, took them in her hand and walked towards the next house.
Villages are supposed to be the places where nature unleashes its beauty, where there is greenery all around, friendly people, huge farms, moderately cool weather; how her notions were destroyed.
She now admitted feeling foolish by going against her parent’s wishes. She recalled her father’s words, “Villages are not what you see on TV. Is peak summer the time to do such things? It would be better if you would learn some extra course instead of wasting time at NGOs. You won’t be able to adjust since you have been spoilt by the luxuries of ACs and coolers.”
She was determined to prove her parents wrong; after all it was a matter of 5 days and the fact that she thought she wasn’t too pampered to miss the cool of the AC. But Oh! What she would do just to feel the cool air of the AC, just for once!
One more house to go, she reminded herself and then lunch, finally at a hotel where there would atleast be a fan!
As she walked up to the old lady sitting outside the cottage, she went through the questionnaire, it was basic stuff, almost like a census, just to take note of what areas needed development and the views of the villagers regarding the problems that they faced in day to day life.
She was accompanied by a guy from the NGO and a guy from the village who knew the roads well enough. Since they didn’t want to hurt the villager’s sentiments if any, she dressed up in a salwar-kameez, which was now turning out to be her second bad decision since it got drenched in her sweat.
She finished questioning the lady as quick as she could and waited for the guy to finish questioning the women of the other house hold. The sight of the jeep that was their means of transportation for the day almost brought tears of joy in her eyes.
Since they were new to the village and the villagers were inquisitive, she found a little crowd mostly comprised of children and their mothers following them around, waiting for their turn to show their homes to them.
Just as she was about to board the jeep, a woman called out for her and waved her hand frantically in the air signaling her to come visit her place too, she smiled and tried to brush it off but this particular lady was very insistent, she came over, pulled her along and requested her to come over to her place. Since there was a little crowd of villagers, she accepted but was burning with rage from within.
How ungrateful are these people? First, we come all the way leaving behind our families to take note of their problems and just when we want to take rest for a while, they think it’s their moral obligation to pull us around and make us do our work, don’t we know what is to be done, it’s not that I’m running away, I will come back to note your problems too!, she thought, but all in vain, neither could she stomp off nor could she shout so she decided to go with it and be done for once and for all.
The lady invited her inside her home; she then asked her to hand over her dupatta and gave her a fan, to fan away her sweat. Now she was genuinely surprised by the lady’s gesture. The lady whispered something in her kid’s ears and sent him off. She sat there for a while, letting the breeze of the fan comfort her and glanced at the surroundings. The house was far from being modest, it had just an old trunk, a few pots and a mattress at the corner of the room.
The kid returned home with 2 bottles of water, the lady offered both of them to her. Her heart now choked with guilt, she immediately took a gulp of the water, and it was cold! For the first time in the entire day she felt her insides soothe, she thanked the lady and got up to leave. Just as she was about to leave the lady stopped her, she took the bottle of water and placed it on her arm, her arms which were charred due to the sun felt like they had been given a new lease of life. The lady gave her an assuring smile and told her to do this when she felt the heat got uncontrollable. She thanked the lady with all her heart and left.
While she walked out, she thought of how people unknown to us help in times of dire need and sometimes it is the little things in life that spell pure luxury.