“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
If it’s possible to be overwhelmed by hospitality and kindness, I have definitely found the village for it. Though I had only planned to stay one night, within an hour, the first lady to take me in made me promise I would stay at least a week, and, well, why not! Throughout my stay, she and others then tried to get me to stay for a month (and a year!), and finally after nearly two weeks, I managed to leave, but not without turning down countless offers, from just about everyone I met, to stay at their homes at least a few nights. People had heard I was staying in the area and were calling the two different families (related somehow, cousin of cousin or something) I stayed with everyday to invite me all over to their homes. I couldn’t even go for a walk without being invited into multiple people’s house for tea. The families I met first fought for me, turning down offers from others, and sharing me like a child with divorced parents. Since families here are so intertwined and enormous (they have “the uncle-of-my-sister’s-cousin’s-brother type of relationships), basically everyone I met in the village and surrounding area was somehow family.
I could never imagine a whole town in North America adopting me, literally, within hours of meeting me the way the people here did. After telling my father about this, he asked me why they wanted me to stay. I have no answer really. It wasn’t me per-say, it wasn’t because I was cycling or from Canada, it was just because, in this area, they are so incredibly hospitable that they wanted nothing more than to adopt me fully into their families. (If I am fully honest I was probably such a hit because I was an “engrace,” or white tourists, and the first one anyone in the area had talked to). Both mothers I stayed with referred to me as their daughter, and the girls as their sister. In one of the families, the gramma, who didn’t speak a word of English, gave me a huge hug after I came back from spending a few nights with the other family, something I was told she has never done to anyone else. It was a funny mix for me, still feeling like a child since the mothers all wanted to protect me, but being old enough that at home, I don’t live with my own parents.
Here I am with a few of the family members I stayed with.
They made me into an Indian girl during my stay, dressing me in the “suits” they wear (all over India, at least where I have been, this is the normal everyday thing to wear and every single girl, women, and gramma wears them), painting my nails — something I haven’t done for at least a decade — and giving me bangles, the plastic colorful bracelets they sport for going out. For a girl use to wearing a grease and sweat stained shirt and two-dollar pajama pants with holes, being all dolled up made for quite a change, but a nice one at that. When I left they also gave me two suits to take with me, as well as a pair of earrings and a bracelet. Though I tried to tell them I didn’t need anything, they wouldn’t take no for an answer. In fact, it would have been rude to refuse as for them, it was an honor to have a guest and take care of them (someone else explained this to me after). And to complete my transition into an Indian girl, I even ended up getting my nose pierced (sorry mom and dad). I figured, for a dollar at the jewelers, might as well try it out!
In both families I ate like a king, eating the typical rice and dal with chapati, as well as curries, vegetables at every meal, and mutton on one special night. I never imaged craving curried cabbage, mushrooms (which I have always hated), or mutton and chapati for breakfast, but those ended up being a few of my favorites. I also managed to eat rice and chapati, not only for every meal, but also for dessert, mixed with sugar and gee (butter from their cows) which was as delicious as it was unhealthy. I ate so much, in fact, that I even managed to gain weight, a normally impossible feat for a cyclist in India. I absolutely love the food here, and have been practicing making chapati all week so that I will be ready to make it for myself by the time I get back to Canada. I have also now perfected the art of eating with my hands, and thankfully, don’t get laughed at anymore.
They always wanted to take my photo so I have quite a few from my stay (though, for someone who is use to taking the photos and not being in them, it was slightly challenging for me to pose for so many).
It was an amazing experience staying here in the village because I really got to see how they live in the area (more about that in the next post), experience an Indian marriage (stay tuned for a post about this as well), and most importantly, because I got to see the hospitality and kindness India has to offer.