The unpaved road leads to a haphazard colony of mostly makeshift and a few pucca houses in Mauranipur, in Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand region. The lanes are narrow, the sewers are blocked with fallen leaves and sludgy water. Cows masticate nonchalantly on a sliver of ground visible from between two houses.
The daughters-in-law of Mishraji, the owner of a mom-and-pop store, are slaving over a mud oven, getting dinner ready, rolling out perfect round rotis and roasting them directly over the coal fire. Sangeeta and Bipan wipe off beads of sweat from their faces with the ends of their saris. The heat of the burning coals had hiked the temperature in the courtyard in the centre of their home. Sangeeta’s little daughter wanders in, smiling shyly at me.
“Do you go to school?” I ask her. “No,” she sulks.