It was almost 6 in the morning. Thanks to the rooster crowing outside my small room, I already hit the hypnopompic state, and started to toss and roll on the bed. Waking up to a rooster’s call wasn’t anything beyond a childhood fantasy until I visited Burat village. And what I really liked about the “rooster alarm”- it doesn’t have a snooze button! Bereft of any choice, I forced myself out of the bed. Burat is a tiny village near M.Rampur block in Kalahandi district of Odisha. It is also home to Mahashakti Foundation’s head office. The neighbouring villages of M.Rampur form a prominent borrower base of Energy loans provided by Milaap and Mahashakti Foundation (MSF) to purchase solar lanterns and improved low-smoke cook stoves. After spending the previous day meeting various borrowers, I retired for the night in the guest room at MSF’s office, already occupied by one of its employees, Swayam. Swayam is a pharmacist at Niramaya Medical Store, which is an initiative of MSF to provide generic drugs to the poor. Joining us was Suryakanth, the chauffeur at MSF.After waking up to the “rooster alarm”, I walked out of the room into the lawn to break the sleep inertia. The MSF’s office has a well maintained lawn outside its office. As a Fellow at Milaap, I work out of MSF’s Bolangir office, which is on the first floor of a building. So, such an opportunity to appreciate the cool morning breeze while basking in a lawn is a pure luxury for me. Along with Swayam and Suryakanth, I went out for a leisure morning walk to experience the rewards of a typical countryside. And yes, I hit the first one the moment I stepped out of the office premises. I got to meet an unexpected companion. It was a kid, a goat’s “kid”. A couple of them were playing around. I couldn’t resist but to lay hands on one of them. Unlike pups, kids would just run away when we near them. A few minutes of chase and finally, I could get to hold one.Playing with one of those cute "kids"After playing with those velvety progenies for some time, we ambled further. It was certainly a visual delight to see the placid green fields at the crack of dawn. But, what made it a special morning was a glimpse of this forgotten old friend, the sparrow. I remember seeing it for the last time more than a decade ago when one such bird constructed a nest on a ventilator of my house. Thanks to the ever-changing lifestyle of our urban class, what really followed was a gradual wipe-out of this bird species, at least in the urban areas of late. If not for the moral fibre of village folks, especially those quite far from urban civilisations, to co-exist with nature in peace, this bird would have been restricted to mere images in India by now. As we walked further along the road, we entered into woods close by. It’s a small forest but with presence of wild elephants, sloth bears, jackals and a few other animals. After reaching an old bridge, we decided to chill out there for some time and turn back.That old bridge, our pit stop during the morning walkAs we reached the MSF’s office, there was a woman in her mid 40s already waiting for us. She is Sukanti Maa, one of the care takers of MSF’s office and came there to interact with me. She stays very close to the office and saw me when I was playing with those kids. It was an amusing situation; while I’m busy exploring the facets of a distant countryside and life out here, she came to me to know about how it is to live in a city. Initially, she was nervous to talk to me; probably she considered me to be a city slicker. But she was at ease as we took the weight off our feet at the entrance of MSF’s office and started to converse in a mix of Hindi and Odiya languages about our daily chores, with Swayam and Suryakanth occasionally helping with translation. She is a well-known lady in the village and very outspoken; it didn't take much time to break the ice between us.A brief chat with Sukanti MaaA few minutes into our conversation, she was curious to know about the food I eat. When I named a few veggies and pulses, purposely in English, she was in awe. But when I translated them into Hindi, with a little amusement, she said “that’s what even I eat every day”. I knew of her reaction beforehand as I was sure she mistook me for that sophisticated Y-generation urban dude who would habitually munch on fast food at a pizzeria. We then talked about my association with Mahashakti Foundation (MSF), my role as a fellow at Milaap and how Milaap, in association with MSF, is helping such rural communities as her own village, Burat.It was 8 am when we ended our conversation. And, it was the time to relish a cuppa as well. As I looked at my watch while sipping tea, my heart turned heavy. It was time for me to get ready and leave Burat. It was not the kind of place, a far-flung one with prolonged black outs, I ever expected to visit. But those few hours I spent in the morning here, gave me a much needed break from the monotonous life and a vivid picture of how rural folks start their day. Probably, it’s too short a time frame to conclude, but I’m confident that life, though not so refined and not bequeathed with materialistic comforts, is more than just pleasant here.
Have Itchy Feet But Little Money? Try The Indian Countryside.