A trip to an Indian village
After hearing our driver, Kannu, was cooking for a family of six over a single kerosene burner Lyndsay and I decided to buy him a gas cooker. At a cost of roughly US$ it is not something Kannu could really afford himself because he only earns US$115 per month, has 3 sons, a wife, and a paraplegic brother who are all in his care.
We went out and purchased a 4-burner cooker with a glass top and put it in the back of the car. When we arrived home Kannu went to the back of the car to carry the cooker to our apartment, but Lyndsay and I both stopped him and said no, Kannu, that is for you to take home. He looked at us with total confusion, and said "Sir? Madam?" We explained it was a gift, a bonus if you like for working so hard for us and at all hours of the night. He was so surprised, and so happy I honestly thought he was going to cry.
Later on that evening we received a call from his family. His children were screaming "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" and his wife Vaneela was ecstatic. We were then invited to lunch one day soon, which leads me to part 2 of my story.
Lyndsay and I shared lunch with Kannu and his family on the following Sunday. He picked us up and took us out to his village, where we met his large family and most of his community. Kannu was extremely proud to show us his mud brick home, which was built by his father more than 30 years ago. The home has three fairly large rooms; an open-air kitchen, a storage area, and a room that I guess can be called a bathing area.
His family was ecstatic to meet us, and although we could not communicate too well with them due to the language barrier we still managed to share some laughs through facial expressions, the small amount of Hindi and Tamil we know, and through wild hand gestures.
We ate a five course meal off banana leaf plates and without cutlery, just using our right hand. Being left handed, I pretty much sat on my left hand to ensure I did not use it. The eating with the right hand only is a whole different story, and you are safe from that one for now. The food was amazing, so tasty and plenty of it. We ate while everyone watched; it kind of felt strange as they were looking for reactions, how we ate, how we used our hand and what we mixed with what. We were the first foreign visitors Kannu has ever invited to his home, and I think we may have been the first foreign visitors the entire community had ever seen. So in saying that when we had finished lunch a huge group of men, women and children filed in to sit and meet us. They were all part of the family, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews. We were really on display and felt quite like celebrities; they all admired how tall, blonde and pale we are.
Kannu made a speech to the group, partly in English and partly in Tamil. He said he was happy and proud to have us in his home, happy with what the (Hindu) God's have provided for him and that he accepts his lot in life, happy we are his friends, and then he ended with telling everyone how his heart was so happy to have us in his home and that it meant so much to him to have us there; it took all my might not to burst into tears right then and there.
Later on that evening we learnt that they only eat meat on special occasions (we ate goat for lunch!), they have access to running water only once per day (7:00am - 8:00am) and they bathe from a bucket, they all sleep on the floor on straw mats, and there are over 500 homes in the one small village. His home was sparsely decorated, and everything his family owned would fit in the cupboard of my spare room. Next time I feel like complaining about something I do not have I will think again, and appreciate everything from running water to a fridge.
We arrived home that night with mixed emotions, firstly happy that we had made Kannu and his family so happy, secondly we felt spoilt rotten and fortunate, and then finally that we had yet again learnt a big lesson in appreciating what we have. Our visit to the village was the best and most rewarding thing we have done since arriving in Mumbai