Somewhere in the heart of India, I realised that even the most introverted child loves the camera. It works as an ice-breaker and as a charming conversationalist.

While staying at Kings Lodge in Bandhavgarh, we made a quick visit to Rancha. Barely a kilometre away from the rustic property, we entered the quiet and dusty village with not a soul in sight.

First our guide took us to Munni ji’s home, where we saw incredible artwork above the doors. After initial confusion, we were told that the stucco work was done by the male members of the house. The use of colours and the designs were impressive.

The men of the house step out to the fields for the day while she stays back with her grandchild and finishes daily chores around the spacious mud house.

Walking away from her house, I met a few others in the village. Even though the village appeared sparsely crowded, I realised it must have been the afternoon sun keeping everyone indoors.

I then met a lady who runs a small shop here and lives in the adjoining extended room with her husband. Even though she misses her hometown Manpur (about 20 kilometres away from Rancha), she is happy to be here and keep shop running, which her father-in-law had started. Her main patrons are the kids from the nearby school, who stop by to buy a few sweets with their pocket money. When I met her, her niece from Manpur was visiting, whose examinations had just finished and Rancha meant holiday.

The shy Gond children only stopped by once they saw me photographing the lady and her niece. First, they inspected my camera (if it enabled a preview) and on confirmation, they sat down to pose for me. Every image I took had to be approved by them!

As I hastily made my way back to the jeep, Bhabi waved at me. From her kitchen garden, she gestured for a photo. And even with our language barrier,  she candidly told me that she’s uncomfortable in front of the lens but nonetheless, one must try. After a few satisfying test shots, she called some members of her family and they all shyly smiled for me.

Read: 8 Things I Learnt in Bandhavgarh

Firs look of Rancha with the dome like temples.
First look of Rancha with the dome-like temples.
The stucco work above each door.
The stuccoed artwork above each door.
The creative decor of Munni ji's home.
The creative decor of Munni ji’s home.
The courtyard of the house.
The courtyard of the house.
Munni ji's granddaughter.
Munni ji’s granddaughter.
Tools of work.
Tools of work.
Siddhartha speaking with Munni ji.
Siddhartha speaking with Munni ji.
Drying mahua flowers.
Drying mahua flowers.
The curiosity building up amongst the kids.
The curiosity building up amongst the kids.
The ladies of Manpur.
The ladies from Manpur.
The perfect posers.
The perfect posers.
Bhabi giggling candidly.
Bhabi giggling candidly.
And one with the family.
And one with the family.
The blue mud home.
Blue is a popular colour here.

Read: Photo story: Meeting the Nomadic Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand

Has the camera allowed you to make new friends?

Note: This village visit was made possible by Pugdundee Safaris

If you’d like to read more, stop by Inditales and Sid the Wanderer’s experience in Bhandhavgarh and Rancha.

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Amrita Das

Amrita is a freelance travel writer and professional travel blogger. She has been contributing to some of the top publications in India and internationally. She propagates female solo travel and shares her experiences from off-beat, culture and adventure travel through her writing.

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