Someone says the man in Shiloda village, outside Akola, has a BPL card. He nods his head and tells his wife, "Bring the yellow card! The yellow one!" Minutes later, she gives me their orange ration card. Maybe they can't find the BPL card just now. Anyway, with one or the other or both of these cards, they are eligible to buy 20 kg of wheat and 10 kg of rice a month, for a total of Rs 100. They also get some sugar and kerosene.
She uses too much of the sugar to make us some tea, it's that sweet. He is actually shivering as he brings the tea to where I sit, on a cot outside the hut on which he has laid a mattress and a sheet, all just for me. I tell him, please go make yourself warm. He walks over to a small fire and holds his feet above it. I sip my tea, dipping into it one from a plate of small rusks he has also brought me. On this chilly morning, the hot sweet liquid hits home something fierce.
Minutes later, a young girl grabs my hand and says, come and have my mother's poha. Even as I start saying no, I realize how much they want us to eat with them, so I say yes. Take off my sandals, bend low and walk over the mud floor -- cold like ice on this chilly morning -- to the tarpaulin they have laid out for us.
The mother, a broad-shouldered handsome woman in a sari, is getting ready to make the poha over a fire in their hut. I watch as she quickly and efficiently slices chillies and onions and some other stuff, then flings it all into a vessel that sits on the fire. In minutes, a small steaming plate is in front of me, and the first thing I notice is that it also contains peanuts. I have never had poha with peanuts. It is excellent.
Two young boys sit beside me, watching me eat and smiling. I hand them my notebook and ask if they will write their names for me. In spidery Devnagari, they do so. Then one takes the book back and writes in English: "HANPH". He gives it to the other, who writes: "NIASR". Thus do I get to know Hanif and Nisar, who spend most of the rest of the day wandering Shiloda with us.
Why aren't you in school, I ask.
We heard you both had come to our village, says Hanif. So we came to see you.