It’s taken a while, but I’ve eventually opened up enough to find my way into the villages, where none of us speak each other’s language … but somehow we connect like siblings.
Surendran is one of our neighbours at the farm. I was with my little brother – Baby Krishnan (he’ll murder me for publicly calling him this) – at the farm, when Surendran came round. Me and Krishnan had been out for about 5hrs; my back was aching, Krishnan had put in a massive amount of physical labour and we were both tired and were winding down in prayer, before planning to head back to the ashram.
Surendran and his brother-in-law came strolling past; disturbed us, mid-prayer, trampled on a vegetable bed with seedlings and told us that we shouldn’t worry about it; and then talked about seemingly arbitrary things for about 10 minutes. Krishnan was in the conversation, while I just looked on, with a child’s smile of ignorance, since I could not understand one word.
Eventually, he walked on, explaining where his house was, and invited us to come for chai. In that moment, though we were both tired and slightly annoyed by him – thinking more about getting back to the ashram – I felt an old and familiar nudge in my heart. We finished praying and I told Krishnan that we should go for chai.
We were welcomed like family into a simple home and fed like princes, until we could eat no more. Now I’m making an assumption based on past experiences in villages – in both Africa and India: It is common practice that one meal is cooked for lunch and supper at the same time, earlier in the day. So when Krishnan and I showed up at 5pm and were immediately fed a full plate of cassava, fried fish, fish curry and moru (a spicy yoghurt, traditional to Kerala) … it is most likely that Surendran and his wife gave up a large portion of their supper, to feed us.
It is this experience that I have been privileged to share on so many occasions amongst the ‘poor’, that reminds me of who God and what Love, truly is. And this is why I never refuse and always eat until I’m stuffed, praising each mouthful as I do. Now some of my western friends question me. They feel that – because I am ‘rich’ and the villagers are ‘poor’ – that I should refuse their generous love offering. Those of you who know me, know that I live according to a different set of values, however.
The ‘poor’ – from my experience – always seem ashamed of their financial poverty, whenever westerners interact with them. There’s a sense that they are worth less, simply because they ‘possess’ less. I choose to live against the grain of the system that perpetuates this feeling of worthlessness, based on money. And because of this, I remain mindful to gratefully receive what is given to me, because – to me – it is worth more than possessions. And, every time I’ve sacrificed a meal, an item of clothing, a seat on the train etc., to offer as a gift, I have been more overjoyed with Compassion than when I’ve received. So I try to not refuse, just because of a money mindset.
I am always given food, because that’s the best ‘possession’ that is available. It is a gift from the heart. And it is in this spellbinding humility and generosity, that I experience a beauty that I find less and less of, in modern ‘wealthy’ society. It is this beauty that inspires selfless love within me.
If I can be served in such a way, by the poorest, then what excuse do I have, to withhold love and generosity to others?
After some tea and cumin water, Surendran and his wife’s only child, arrives … with cricket bat in hand. I can’t resist. Without thinking, I get up and head outside with the boy, to play a bit of bat ‘n ball.
By the time we bid farewell, I am hugged more times than I can count; adopted as a family member; and invited to visit anytime, any day, for a meal. And I know that if I ever wish, there is a bed available for me too.
Though I am an ‘old hand’ at this way of life and adventure, I could not have managed this particular moment, which has opened up a village to me, without my little bro, Krishnan. So, BIG LOVE goes out to him.
What a day!
Moments like these are real reminders – to me – of what life is truly about.
Time will come for me to visit again, and when I do, I will waltz in, as if I am visiting an aunty – either with a pot of food I prepare at the farmhouse kitchen, or with some fish I pick up from the market – for such is the way of community that my heart aches for.
Happy to be here … though I don’t know where the story goes …
Thank you for being here with me.