I met the gorgeously colourful women of Three Sisters in the shade of a banyan tree, where I was all but expiring from the Rajasthani heat.
They were carrying firewood. The banyan was their usual resting place en route to the potter’s village, not far from Bundi. It took two women to lift a basket back onto their heads, but they did it elegantly and efficiently, then headed off giggling.
When I looked over my sketches afterwards, it struck me how timeless that moment in the shade seemed. Women gathering wood to cook with, or to fire their iconic matka terracotta pots. It could have been a glimpse of Indian village life a thousand years ago, or yesterday. But would my three sisters still be doing it tomorrow, or in ten years, given the pressure of change?
To Gandhi, village life was a precious inheritance. Just as important were its animals and forests. If the village perishes, India will perish, he thought. India will be no more India. ‘Be Indian. Buy Indian’ was his mantra to ensure village life’s economic survival, adopted by the local cooking oil brand. But for me, the guardians of village life and the soul of India, are the women I encountered under the banyan: my three sisters.