DAY SEVEN of volunteering on a farm outside Jaipur.
My day off! I sleep in a little and then pack everything, in case I do not return. Everyone is off working in the fields, and I say nothing of my potential future plans. Mr. Ali, the driver and tour guide, picks me up at 8:30 am. He asks why I have all my bags with me if I am returning to the farm tomorrow. I think, damn nosy Indian, and instead say, “I am a woman, I need all my things.”
We travel to Jaipur in his auto-rickshaw, or his Indian Ferrari, as he calls it. Ken’s flight won’t arrive for a couple more hours, so we stop for some chai and a chat. Mr. Ali is very kind and professional, willing to answer all my questions. Having been in the tour business for 13 years, he knows English well and how to work with all types of tourists. He owns an auto-rickshaw and a car, using helpers as needed.
We talk about family, him being married and his wife staying home with their four children. Two of his kids go to a private, English medium school (meaning that all subjects are taught in English, except for Hindi and Sanskrit), which costs 4000 rupees/month. Like all Indians I talk to, he is surprised to learn that Ken and I have no kids. He says, “No kids, no life.” Not wanting to argue through this major cultural difference, I leave his comment alone.
We turn our conversation to Saharia Organic Farm. While he does lots of business driving people there and is friends with Binod, he is not necessarily a fan of the place. Mr. Ali says that when it first opened and Binod, the owner, was there, it was great. There was organization, teaching and lots of good food. Then Binod left and put it into the hands of management that does not like Western culture. When I tell him about Lel’s comment about western culture, Mr. Ali replies, “Then why does he work there?!” He says many people have left the farm unhappy. He completely understood when the young couple from the US were angry and wanted to get away on his rickshaw. Yet he had to save his face and side with the farm. He mentions that at one time Saharia was listed in Lonely Planet’s guidebook as a hotel location. Now it is not.
Ken finally arrives in Jaipur and we meet him at the hotel. I haven’t seen him in 7 days, and it is nice to give him a hug. We have so much to catch up on, yet Mr. Ali is waiting to take us around the city. We manage a private lunch together and discuss me not returning to the farm. We agree that 6 days was enough. I simply tell Mr. Ali that I will not be needing him to drive me to the farm tomorrow. He smiles and nods. Then off we go on our tour: the cenotaphs, Amber Fort, Water Palace and even the textile factory to buy a sari. Exhausted, we flop down on the bed in our room that evening, delighted to be back together.
Knowing that Lel is on “holiday”, I text him from Ken’s phone that I will not be returning to the farm, citing injury and illness. As expected, there is no reply from him. Anticipating that I wouldn’t return, I left behind my sunglasses in the kitchen for Suirez and my stained farm pants and floppy hat for someone to discover and use.
For every agony suffered on the farm, there was a delight. I will definitely look back on my Indian WWOOFing experience as one of the more interesting parts of my world tour. This work has given me a greater appreciation for how hard life can be for rural Indians, and I won’t forget the farmers and their families.
Like Ratan said, life is 50/50, so there is always some good and some bad. I just wish the chapatis could have been better.