We volunteered at an organic farm about 25 km from Jaipur. We stayed in a beautiful whitewashed mud brick building with a thatched roof. We shared three rooms with two beds in each room. The beds were wooden frames with woven rope where a mattress would be. On the rope went a thick cotton blanket for a mattress, then a colorful sheet with stamped or batiked patterns. Textiles are a big industry in Jaipur with hand-stamped fabrics and dyeing happening everywhere. Each bed also had a cotton quilt, of a type for which Rajasthan is famous.
The overall effect was so beautiful and rustic, with the rich linen colors in random and exuberant patterns against bare white walls and the thatched roof ceiling. The window and door were both made of solid, dark, aged wood and both were double doors opening in towards the room. A wooden bar slid across on the inside to secure them when shut.
It was so quiet there, especially in contrast to the cities. We could hear a train go by in the distance several times a day. It reminded us of our train trips in India and how we had seen fields and farms- now we were staying on one! Sometimes we could hear a distant sound that reminded us we live in the modern world- club music. I’m not sure from where or why, but sometimes we would hear the unmistakable bass beat of faraway club music. It seemed to come from different places and in different proximities to us.
The wild birds on the property serenaded us day and night with their chattering. There was a kind of small owl, flocks of parakeets, and a brilliant blue winged creature we especially liked. They were transcendently beautiful to us but their songs were, incongruously, far from it! An exception was the mourning dove, a common bird even in urban US who’s songs, however lovely, were not novel for us and were therefore ignored.
These gorgeous feathered denizens of the subcontinent had screechy voices and whiny, nagging pitches. One was a laughing dove and always sounded as though it were reacting to something uproariously funny- perhaps, understandably, our ability in peasant farm labor.
The farm was a languid respite from the busy cities where we had been lately. We worked just a few hours a day, enough to get sore muscles and complaints from the kids, but it was not much work at all, really. We weeded roses, harvested some kind of bean, did odds and ends for the cook when he had guests once. We were surrounded by fields on various states of wheat harvest, from the green shoots that bordered the lawn where we ate to the bundled stalks drying outside two of our bedrooms.
Three times a day a man named Supez cooked for us simple Indian meals of chapati (basically a wheat tortilla), rice, and flavorful (read: sometimes too spicy for the kids) vegetable stews. We ate on round stainless steel plates, which made for easy clean up. I felt like we were on a vegan, sugar-free diet and we talked about food a lot. We did homeschooling and read books. We also played cards during our leisure time. There was a swimming pool we took advantage of. The air was cool and dry with delicious breezes, but hot under the sun, especially while working. The nights were cold and comfortable in the cozy rooms with the cotton sheets and quilts. The sky at night was clear with a waxing moon and some bright stars. We could hear the cows- there were a few on the property- lowing at times.
The people were inscrutable to us. There seemed to be several families living in houses on the property and at least a dozen adults working on the farm. The man I had been in contact with was the owner but was not there, rather a man named Rupinder was the manager who helped us get settled and fulfill our work responsibility we had agreed to. Contrary to most of our experience in India, no one took special notice of us. This made our time more peaceful, not least because no one wanted us to buy anything or give them anything. I did wonder a lot about the people, though. Did they get along? Was this a commune? Were they all related? What did they think of us? The place was set up to host volunteers as well as paying guests but it looked unused for the most part. Towards the end of our time they did host guests, which made us realize maybe they do have visitors at times.
I took the experience as a welcome gift and enjoyed the quiet and lack of wifi.
Aside from a few days in Pushkar, we stayed on the farm about 10 days. We never figured the place out and never met the owner, but the experience was tranquil and I will always have good memories of our time there.