The summer sun in Bundelkhand is unrelenting, especially if you’re making your way across the prickly dry landscape on foot. At the outskirts of a village on the banks of the Ken, my companion and I stopped at a mud house on a large mound, exhausted and hoping to find some food and shelter. Our request for water confused the host. Did we want to drink at the home of a lower-caste person? We had a few gulps of river water she had stored and proceeded to the village.
At the anganwadi centre, we sat on threaded cots under the shade of a magnificent neem tree. Bands of men were smoking and playing cards on the patio, but there were no children or anganwadi workers in sight. A young boy volunteered to take responsibility for our food and pooled items from many houses to assemble a sumptuous meal. Amongst offers for more rotis and tobacco, a discussion ensued.