Around Puja's place, Bijapur

I was eating lunch at a restaurant recommended in my guidebook. Lunch at The Mysore was excellent: I had a thali. I shared the table with an older couple but it was a girl at the next table who wanted to talk to me. As soon as she laid eyes on me, she invited me back to her house. Of course I said no, but she was delightfully persistent and as I often turned down invitations due to fatigue, I thought, all right I'll go.

Puja, who was only 15, was dining with her mother. I vaguely think her father was an employee at the restaurant , as it seemed unusual for a mother and daughter to be dining out and she said her father didn't sleep at home but at the hotel where he worked. There was a brother too who I didn't meet him.

So off to her house we went. It was about 10 minutes walk. Puja appeared to get a big kick out of having a foreigner along with her. At first she jumped on the back of my bike but I was not used to that much weight and thought we might tip over. Then we just walked. Her mother looked a bit depressed but she put up with us with no complaint.

Her family was not well off. The house had only three tiny rooms - a kitchen, a lounge room and a room where the bedding was stored on a ledge. They were all small rooms, dark and with few possessions. Hardly enough room for them all to sleep in. In such houses, people spend most of their time out on the street. But it had charm nevertheless. The rooms are rendered and painted in strong colours and the kitchen had an interesting display of cooking utensils and a fireplace but appeared to have no chimney so I'd hate to think what the heat would be like in summer.

When we arrived, all the neighbours filed in to be introduced to me. Puja's English was very limited but there was a guy who had come down from Aurangabad for the funeral of his uncle and his English was good enough to interpret for us. So I met a lot of people, shaking hands with everyone of them, and neither Puja nor her mother seemed to mind that their tiny little house had been invaded by all these people.

When I was ready to go, some other boys with bicycles offered to lead me back to the city centre so I wouldn't get lost. And on the way, we came past these gates to the old city, inside which Puja lived.

Painted wall - very unusual

Billboard. I like the Indian method of billboarding. Don't worry, the owners would be getting paid. Alas, they are starting to adopt our more charmless approach.

Puja's mum looking out to the street.

Puja's neighbours on the outside of her house. Puja means prayer. Its one of the few Indian names I had no trouble remembering.

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