Rekha Laskar,a quiet woman in her 40s,kneads a large mound of dough with her hands. She is crouching on her feet and her back arches as she pushes her weight on to it. She peels of a large chunk and starts rolling it methodically. But the size of her chapati is not normal. It stretches out far and wide,larger than 15-16 normal-sized chapatis. It is not for two or three people,it is for hundreds, she says wiping her brow. Who is going to play around with so many small chapatis? she asks.
Laskar,along with 200 other villagers from Shankhatirtha in Nanded district are participating in the ongoing wari,or the pilgrimage to Pandharpur.
They have been walking for the last two days,stopping only to rest,eat and drink. Gowardhan Kadam,50,is the head of their warkari group. We have packed all the rations required for the next 20 days or so, he says as he talks about the days lunch. Waran (dal),rice,chapati and batata (potato) bhaji, he says with a smile.
With several make-shift camps dotting the city,the biggest congregation seems to be in the older part of Pune,especially in Nana Peth.
Here at the campus of an ayurvedic hospital,the warkaris have set up a large community kitchen in a make-shift camp providing breakfast,lunch,dinner and tea to pilgrims for the last two days.
We are a group of 150 men,50 women and around 7-8 children. We have brought some rations,but we get most of the stuff from generous donors on the way here,
says Kadam with a smile.
He says everyone is welcome to the humble meals they cook and serve.
A little along the way,a group from Tuljapur is serving freshly cooked vegetable pulao to their wari members. Since most of us are fasting on the pilgrimage,we cook something light. We will also make sabunada khichdi and bhagar, informs Mauli,a warkari who has been doing the pilgrimage for more than 10 years.