It all happened because of the small girl. She was at the hand pump, washing her face. We were visiting the museum at Sirpur. And that is when I met the real nomads!
There were a lot of people camping in its grounds. I started kidding around with the children, soon they wanted a photo. That was the ice breaker, the kids started talking to me and the adults followed suit.
Suddenly the man sitting in the middle announced to me in Hindi, “we are from a place near Nasik and we are coming from Jagganath Puri and we would go to Shirdi in Maharashtra.” That caught my attention like anything, for the ground was full of children and women. There was an elderly couple and their belongings were scattered all over the place. Fire was lit in at least two places. It was soon obvious to me that they were spending the night in the open.
They told me that when they are on the road, they put all their belongings in the jugad (motorized cart) they have. Children also travel in the same cart. Elderly might take a bus for a while but generally they walk all through the way! Now that sounded like traveling in true nomadic style and suddenly I felt like such loser!
They ask for a camping ground once they reach a new place. Then they go around the town asking for bhiksha (food, probably money too) and that is how they are supposed to fund their travel!
They are actually farmers in their village in Maharashtra, so they are not without means. They take such a religious journey once in every 5-6 years and for that duration they live like nomads.
The ladies offered me tea and allowed me to take selfies with them! One of the bloggers, Gaurav, tried to talk to the ladies and he got no reply! Next day, he had a chat with men and I am waiting to read his account.
It was one of those occasions when I didn’t even have a candy with me to offer to the kids. It did not feel appropriate to offer them money for tea or for kids. I felt very bad that I had nothing to give them in return for their hospitality!
Late at night at the Hiuen Tsang Resort I woke up at night in my room. I was finding it cold and I put on another sweater before I curled up tightly in the blanket. I thought of those small faces, sleeping out in the open. Then I drifted back to sleep again.