Indian Hospitality: Turning Strangers into Family
It’s only been 1 year since I last visited India, but I have to say that there’s nothing I miss more than living in a collectivist culture where everyone is constantly taking care of each other. Since our arrival, Ali, Eliana, and I have encountered the traditional “Indian hospitality” at every turn.
It began before we even got to our internship on our first train ride in India. After finally securing our tickets (see Eliana’s post about obtaining last minute train tickets in India), we hopped on a 12 hour train to Bali, Rajasthan to embark on the adventures before us. Due to limited space, we shared a compartment with another family and three other people about our age. Luckily for us, one of them named Yash spoke very good English and, as is customary on Indian trains, we passed our time chatting to him and several children who were extremely intrigued with the Americans riding the train as we watched the desert terrain pass by us. During our ride, we had our first experience with Indian hospitality – Yash helped us with all of our luggage as well as offered us mango juice and roti throughout the ride. Also, since we had no idea which train stop to get off at, he looked up all of the information for us and told us that our train stop was at midnight and only 2 minutes long. With this, he made sure that we got enough sleep and woke us up at the right stop so we could quickly hop off the train. Along the way, a little Indian girl named Abhilesha also kept showering Eliana (whom she nicknamed “Doll” because of her blond hair and blue eyes) with small trinkets like popcorn kernals and branches of lychee.
When we arrived in Bali, the Indian hospitality only seemed to escalate. Manju (who we now affectionately call Aunty) cooks all of our meals in our house and always makes sure that we eat enough roti (bread), subjee (vegetables), and dahl (lentils). Even her 10-year old son, Nikhil, ensures that we always eat first, we cross the streets of Bali safely, and keep our distance from angry cows. Even Ajay, an office assistant for Educate Girls gives everyone in the office chai twice in the morning and orange Fanta in the afternoon while Dr. Shukla, one of our bosses, switched rooms in the guesthouse to share one with another boss so that we could be more comfortable.
Additionally, when Eliana was feeling sick with food poisoning last Wednesday, all three of our bosses came over in the middle of the night to make sure that she was okay, and the very next day Dr. Shukla very kindly drove us all to Jodhpur so Eliana could see a reputable doctor (see attached picture). Even in a good Indian hospital where simple procedures like putting in an IV drip seem difficult, our two great nurses Anil and Aman were constantly by our side to offer both medical and emotional support throughout our two days there. Afterwards, Dr. Shukla insisted we stay at his home for the weekend and made us all feel like family for the time we spent there while Eliana continued to recover.
In essence, there really is no feeling quite like being welcomed into several communities at once with the ease of having been there for years, and it is one that I plan on cherishing for the remaining nine weeks.
Until next time,