A perfect world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tall rose bushes grow in every house. Walls are painted with most brilliant colors. A well is overgrown with wild grass.
The Delhi Walla is in Puraini, a village about a hundred miles from Delhi. This is the heart of the sugarcane country in western Uttar Pradesh. The foothills of the Himalayas are somewhere very close. But the village has folded itself into its own world.
The place is as unreal as a morning dream. Old houses are built as if they have been effortlessly weaved out from arched niches and carved doorways. Painted brick walls have metamorphosed to more interesting shades. In the courtyard of one such home, a blue kerosene lamp hangs precariously beside a rust-colored kitchen door, while a timid dog hungrily eyes at the used dinner plates piled up under a hand pump. The dog is too thin, must be a stray.
On a lane outside, another stray is snoozing beside a wall that is decked up with the afternoon shadow of a leafy tree.
Close by, a woman is chatting to a man.
The well around the corner is too dark to indicate the extent of its depth. A man is lying beside it. He is wearing a cap. The winter sunshine is falling softly on his grateful face.
In front of the well: a bullock cart laden with sugarcanes slowly goes past a Maruti Suzuki. On an adjacent lane: a group of sari-clad women appears. They are talking fast but in low voices. The women turn into another lane and are no longer seen. But their talking sounds can still be heard.
One of the passageways fades into a mud track that leads to a sugarcane field.
Everything is so quiet and still in Puraini.
Surely, this village cannot be idyllic. This is India, after all. There must be separate enclaves for Hindus and Muslims. The unprivileged caste groups might have their own well. And the womenfolk, no matter what their religion or caste, must sit down to dine every night only after feeding the men. Even so, the illusion of a perfect world is remarkable. There is nothing like this to be seen in Delhi.
Is this for real?