One can never fail but to be humbled by the hospitality of India’s rural population. I was out on one of my missions, to discover what else could be done in Jaisalmer, I had decided to map out and sample a cycle tour of its outlying monuments ending with a picnic which I thought could make into a great experience for clients, the trouble was it was June and 38C by 0800. I was not surprisingly melting and so stopped by a village for a break and to rehydrate.
First of all I met a bunch of brilliantly dressed women on their daily 1km walk to the well in order to collect water. They invited me to go with them. Ordinarily I would have jumped at the chance but I had to reluctantly decline, I had already spent 3 hrs in the heat and was suffering. I also didn’t think that they would appreciate me diving headlong into their drinking water which, given the way I felt, was inevitable.
I perched, delicately on a wall. Having watched me from a distance for some time, twenty year old Mandvi, 2 year old son on hip and heavily pregnant with number 2, finally plucked up the courage to come over and invited me into her home to meet the rest of her family. I smiled kindly at her, this curiosity coupled with generosity is a trademark of the rural populations of India. Her home consisted of one room, with no a/c or fan and was shared by many. Not only her and her husband and children but her inlaws and brother and sister in law. As soon as I entered, her little scrumptious munchkin of a daughter couldn’t wait to show me her 2 month old brother (pictured below in the sling) and beamed with excitement and pride. Mandvi’s sister in law was sitting in the corner making a stack of rotis for the entire family before the day got too hot.
Naturally they asked where I was from and if I was married and what I did. Surprisingly, Mandvi then asked how much I earned a month. What does one answer to this? As I was pondering my answer, she asked ‘500?’ Until yesterday, this would have been approx. £5.00. Intrigued as to whether she genuinely considered this amount a monthly salary, I ventured a response of “No, 1000.” Her eyes widened. She looked at her sister in law and then back at me. They then invited me to sit on the only charpoi and insisted on giving me chai and roti. To refuse would be to turn down, true, genuine, Indian hospitality, they wanted nothing in return.
These people have nothing, and live an incredibly harsh existence, yet consider it an honour to feed a stranger in their home. I later found out they were from the Untouchable cast.
Monuments provide the photos, but to truly experience this country one must venture to where it’s true heart lies, which is with its rural population.