Nature Care Village & Holi Festival

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Throughout the months we were in India, 'mine' and 'personal, private space' were things we experienced as almost non-existent: Beds and bedrooms were communal spaces, countless selfless acts of kindness towards strangers, an all-round sharing of food… You could be on a bus, train or auto-rickshaw that magnificently redefined the definition of 'full' - people pummelling their aunties and their suitcases into any last inch of air-space - definitely no chance of getting a seat/perch... But within a few seconds and shuffles, a slither of space appears with a hand tapping it and a head nodding in its direction.

Some things we learned the 'hard' way. At Nature Care Village, Angus and I were sat outside our room watching the birds, when Angus went inside to do a poo. The bathroom was immediately to the right, as you went in through the door, partitioned off by a thin room-dividing type wall that had a good metre gap between it and the ceiling. A few minutes after he'd disappeared, a 'VIP' appeared from nowhere, being given a tour. Straight into our room they went, without warning or knock or comment to me as they passed. I thought, 'Should I say he's in there taking a shit!?', I could picture Angus settling down, all relaxed, to suddenly hear strange voices in the room the other side of the bamboo door, and thinking, 'Should I tell them I'm in here taking a shit?'. Instead he decided he'd left it too late to say anything and just to 'keep quiet', hoping one wouldn't plop and that the bathroom wasn't going to be included in the tour.

We met a 'VIP' with a bag of fruit and a bottle of Smirnoff who couldn't look either of us in the eye. He introduced himself as from a 'high-caste' family, ensuring we understood exactly what he meant by 'high'. He caused huge upset of ambience when he called Khayam the 'servant' and left him out of the drinking party. We declined 'VIP's offer to get into his car at midnight, with him in full cricket-gear + bat, to drive into the jungle and find a leopard. Wealth and power, more often than not, coming hand in hand with being a general arse-hole, even in India. 

Introducing myself as 'Holly', 'What, like the festival?!'...
So when Holi Festival arrived, it was all, 'Spending Holi with Holly!!!' from Raju and Khayam.
'Happy Holi Happy Holly!!!'

Nature Care Village

10:30am Raju said, 'Please come', and we followed him across the fields to the elephant look-out building. We passed a mound of guts on a white sack, surrounded by feathers. In the middle of a ploughed field, music was coming from a car with all its doors open and a group of very colourful men were sitting around a big low plastic table. Plates of black grapes and orange segments, bottled whisky and bottled water. We were greeted with hugs and smudges of coloured powder to our faces. 'HAPPY HOLI !!!' People got out of their chairs to offer them to Angus and I, even though we insisted they didn't. I was the only female at the party, and despite the welcome and friendliness from everyone, my presence was obviously a cause for some quiet confusion.

Nature Care Village

Smoke billowed from the downstairs room of the elephant look-out. Chairs slowly sunk into the ploughed earth. A big silver cauldron with steaming contents emerged and a small round table was put in front of us followed by a plate of thick, brown pork curry, two glasses of (continuously topped up) whisky and water, and a plate of fruit. 

Nature Care Village

People had turned to look at something and at one corner of the field a jeep filled with policemen drove in. I thought, 'shit' (public drinking of any kind is unofficially/officially not allowed), and looked for somewhere to hide the alcohol, re-living weekends camping in fields when the police would arrive, confiscate the booze and end the party. But everyone jumped up to shake police-man hands and wish them 'HAPPY HOLI !!!'. Seats were vacated for the cheerful policemen who joined the party, pulling hankies from their pockets to carefully wipe any coloured powder from their uniforms. More policemen with guns arrived on motorbikes. They enjoyed the pork curry (it was delicious) and drunk the whisky. After about half an hour they started getting up to leave. One was persuaded back by the party organiser who was holding up a glass of whisky, 'One more drink!!!'. The policeman swung himself off the bike, jogged over, downed the drink, wiped his mouth with his hanky and resumed his exit. They left as Holi-colour free as when they arrived.

Nature Care Village

Nature Care Village

Nature Care Village

Nature Care Village

12. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

Picking the grass for weeds one afternoon there was a crash and I looked up to see a monkey leaping from a hole in the wall near the roof of the kitchen, mouth and fists full of potato. The monkey burglar gave me a sharp look that said, 'Don't you fucking come near my loot'. I flapped my arms and shouted something about monkeys and kitchens but Khayam was way ahead of me, chasing the monkey across the lawn. Khayam came back around the corner, laughing, slapping his palm to his forehead, pointing his two fingers to his eyes and then to where the monkey had appeared from... Yes, right, I will watch for another monkey burglar but I swear it went in more silently than it came out… We got the giggles all afternoon picturing the monkey in our kitchen, alone, doors shut, lifting pan lids and looking around for something to eat, picking at the leftovers like a teenager on a midnight binge.

15. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

Our last morning at Nature Care Village, Angus and I returned from a morning walk to a relieved looking Raju who told us that a few hours earlier his brother came out of his house to what he thought was a mountain outside his front door but was actually a bull elephant. He'd had to wake half the village up so they could make a lot of noise and slowly deter the elephant back away from the houses. I gave Angus a look... We'd just got back from roaming perhaps slightly too far into the warned-not-to-go-into edges of the jungle.

6. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

2. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

Shortly after a conversation on our last night about how we'd not seen any bigscaryspiders or bugs throughout our whole trip, that big bugger appeared between Angus's feet (cue most hilarious scream I'd ever heard him do), shortly followed by ANOTHER ONE, shortly followed by what looked like a great big oil slick up the walls and ceiling but was actually an entire colony of ants, hundreds of thousands of them, carrying their eggs, and MOVING IN. This created an almighty scene: panic at rapid inward-movement of a FUCKING NEVER-ENDING colony of ants, combined with, evict colony BUT DON'T KILL THEM! It all ended with Khayam shining his torch down from his balcony thinking there were elephants but instead illuminating a shouting crazy armed with a broom, sweeping in the dark, and totally inappropriately under-dressed.

Nature Care Village

We walked over to the the family home to say goodbye. Our balance at picking our way along the narrow irrigation channels had improved by the end of our weeks at Nature Care Village, but not quite as confident as the village kids who ran, jumped, danced and cycled along it. The aroma of fresh dill still floated thick above the fields despite most of it now having been harvested, reminding us of home and fish dinners. The sugar cane was alive with activity, sunbirds dove and swooped in a shimmer of black, every now and then a rainbow-coloured bea-eater shot up out of the thickness to make a catch. An elephant sized area of bent, crushed cane was the evidence of last night's visitor.

Everyone and everything seemed, with an overwhelming sense of peaceful vitality, to glow in its own, separate colour spectrum.

3. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

Nature Care Village

Nature Care Village

We passed the open door of grandfather Swaren Singh's room. He was in his usual afternoon spot, lying on the bed, head resting on the top edge of the low, wooden headboard. We greeted him with 'namaste's and walked into the yard.

Nature Care Village

A sharp, croaky, loud, and surprisingly English, 'Hello!…. Come…. Here….!!!!', from Swaren Singh. Back to his room. He lightly tapped the edge of his bed with a hand. We sat there next to him. He was without his turban and his long white hair was coiled into a silky smooth bun above his forehead. He gave us a wide smile and said nothing, looking each of us in the eye, one after the other. Tanned face, grooves and creases, and the kindest of sunshine-eyes, that swum with a world of stories.

13. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

4. angusfulton / nature care village / india 2015

Thank you India. <3



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