One can never fail but to be humbled by the hospitality of India’s rural population.
Having recently been in Jaisalmer, exploring and inventing new sightsseeing options, I had one morning, got up at 0600 to drag myself around several monuments in 38C, before the day truly heated up.
Chuntering incessantly about the heat, huffing and puffing and wiping my dripping brow, I wondered into a nearby village. First, I met a small group of women on their daily walk to the well who invited me to go with them. Reluctantly, I politely declined, I had already spent 3 hrs in the heat and was suffering, another 1km walk did not appeal. They have to do this daily, and carry heavy water pots.
Shortly afterwards, twenty year old Mandvi, two year old son on hip and heavily pregnant with child number two, promptly came over and asked me to meet the rest of her family. I was invited into her home, one room, with no a/c or fan and shared by many, where her two year old neice couldn’t wait to show me her two month old brother gently swinging in a sling.
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.
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