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  • Giles Sibbald

Unknown pleasures.




"And we don't understand that life only starts at the edge of the unknown. That's where life starts."

- Chef José Andrés





Women at the weekly market in Chanera


Curious villagers with inquisitive eyes, going about their daily business. What few tourists they'd seen weren’t from the west.


What brought us here?


The road started to fizzle out to a throughway much more suited to off-roaders, motorbikes, foot, anything but the suburban taxi carrying two suburbanites towards their home for the next three weeks. The car had never looked more out of place, its chassis grumbling and grouching - or was that the driver? - hoping that the next corner could offer some respite.


Then. A clearing, dipping down and gazing over an expanse of perennial trees and parched fields. Smiles, shouts and hands aloft - come, come, welcome. The warmest Maharashtran hospitality.


From Bhushan. Our trusted friend.


From Pushpa, his mother. Our inspiration.


Google and Blessy. Our playful, grumpy (not necessarily mutually exclusive or in that order) food enthusiasts who happen to be born as German Shepherds.


Bhushan’s dad, Ramesh, and brother Kalpesh and his wife and their young daughter. Then there's DJ, Bundu and many others.


Our family for the next three weeks and beyond.



Oh my, this place of natural beauty in the Maharashtra countryside. This PLACE!


I wasn’t sure what our time here was going to be about. But I did know it wouldn’t be about “doing things”.


Pushpa and Bhushan would come every morning and evening and prepare the most perfect food I’ve ever eaten.


I can’t begin to tell you how good it was.


Made with soul, with laughter, with individuality, with love.


And a mug or two of masala chai.


And a packet or ten of Good Day biscuits.


Dammit, they rock.


Everything rocked.


We’d watch the day dawn and listen to the charisma of the birds going about their business, follow the most vivid butterflies weave their way around the flowers whilst swerving the camouflage of the praying mantis. Watch elephant leaves fall from elephant trees, thwacking and blocking pathways, listen to the banana tree leaves rustle in the purest gentle breeze, read, sit and talk, admire the dogs do their perfect downdog, laugh with the dogs at my own downdog, as Google played protectively with his bricks and Blessy tried to wrestle them from him (she never succeeded, the poor love), take them for walks and watch in horror as they chased cows and hens across the fields.


And watch in laughter as buffalo gave them the middle finger and chased them back.


.....and the hens gave them the slip.


Talk knowledgeably about the deep grunts of wild boar from the undergrowth near where we would eat. Eat humble pie when we found out that they were actually buffalo about a mile away.


I’m not going to give up the day job.


Watch the sun set.


When we did “do something”, Bhushan and DJ took us into the village then out to the coast and the huge expanse of Revdanda fort and beach.


These guys know EVERYBODY! Kabbadi players, cricketers, village leaders, temple dignatories, business owners, village elders, market traders, teachers.


The community.


A stop off for some snacks…pav vada with chilli/coriander chutney sauce, tomato/coriander/onion pani puri, both as explosive and as beautiful as a Ramones opening chord, scoffed with minimum delicacy, maximum speed.


Spectacular.


A stop off to queue up with the cows at the local grocery store for some sweet snacks (India is the world's largest producer and consumer of sugar....the natural sugar cane drink is 😮😮😻)


Spectacular.


22 January. The inauguration of the vast Ram Mandir temple in the holy city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, a site believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of Rama, a principal Hindu deity. A national holiday. 24 hour television. 24 hour celebrations. A sacred and reverential day to some, controversial and political to others.


Nevertheless, celebrations in Chanera where Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians live side by side.


Celebrations we were honoured to be invited to, to participate in: visiting the local temples, meeting local dignatories, the history of the village and an invitation into Bhushan’s family home to eat, to accept beautiful and thoughtful gifts and to receive the bindi on the third eye chakra.


Bhushan and his family and friends. And me.

The sun started to drift behind the trees.


Intense UV replaced by intense techno. Now, I don’t mind me a bit of techno (industrial, please - check out Vara Sky....she's immense), but by 9am, I wouldn’t have objected if The DJ had called it a day. I think it was being broadcast to the entire area through speakers with some slightly iffy wiring with distortion on warp. The DJ (not DJ....The DJ) seemed to be having fun though….


If I came into these few weeks not knowing what to expect, I left feeling that going into the unknown is beautiful, that exploration of the unknown is a necessary part of life, it’s how we keep our eyes open, how we keep our mind open.


Our time in India already has opened my eyes and mind to seeing life from different perspectives.


A farmers’ cart

The depth of connection made with the people (and hey, let's hear it for our new dog and cow friends) of Chanera, especially Bhushan, Pushpa and their family, was something that will never leave me.


This is what life is about.


The sun started to rise from behind the slopes of the valley.



A new day rising…..


Saskia on Revdanda beach




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