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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A face full of happiness

This is where I now stand (or sit): On a stool with a full belly of fried rice, sweat dripping down my back, a jug of warm cumin water beside me and glasses on my nose that are sliding down my face. It’s 20.18pm on the 5th of Feb and I just spent the weekend at a friends house (Riya). This was the second time for me to visit her and her family, during this visit to India. I went in October to say ‘hi’. And now I went to say ‘bye’. It’s one of the last weekends here in India and by going to her place, I managed to spend it in a most traditional Indian manner; once again by being welcomed into a home with 4 generations so as to be given MORE, MORE and even MORE than I needed. Unlike other times, I didn’t feel overwhelmed; I knew what to expect and I also knew it would be the last time… so I appreciated it more. And instead of feeling it all to be too much, I just felt so lucky to be there. I realized, that for no reason whatsoever, these people treat me like one of their own…

When I was leaving, I was asked more than 20 times, when I was coming back to stay for good. I wasn’t being asked IF… no… I was being asked WHEN… and all I could answer was: ‘I don’t know’. And even when giving such uncertainty, they were still sure to tell me that WHEN I come back, I have to bring the WHOLE FAMILY with me… mother, father, sisters… everybody! ‘Bring them all Niamh!’ I love it when they do that, it’s so innocent and sweet, because in reality, there’s no room for the whole family to stay! Just as well I’d never follow it through and never take the offer seriously; they’d be in for quite a shock! This family actually isn’t the only one who has invited ALL OF MY FAMILY… nope, nearly every family I’ve visited in the past 5 months (I can’t tell you how many) has said the same thing. It just shows how big their hearts are; even if their cute homes aren’t…

On the note of Indian hospitality, I wrote an article about it last year, when I was back in Ireland. It got published on an internet travel magazine. When I left Ireland for China I made a copy of it and put it in my portfolio along with some other articles. I traveled with it thinking I might need it along the way. And last week, I opened up the folder and saw this article again about Indian hospitality. When it was getting published, I added some pictures I’d taken in this school in Kayamkulam, back in 2010. One was taken with a teacher who is still at the school now. So I showed it to her last week and her reaction was one I didn’t expect. She said she felt privileged and honored that I chose her picture… when really I felt this particular picture so dear to me, because it reflected an amazing time that I was able to share with people who had never been in touch with India before.

Also, when I was writing this article and choosing the pictures, I never thought I’d ever be sitting with that particular teacher again and showing her the piece of work. But it happened only a few days ago; I sat and reflected on the experience I had in 2010 in regards to hospitality, with a teacher who I then was quite close to, and still am, as a result of the time we spent teaching together. How crazy it is, the way we can come full-circle, without any plan or intention. Suddenly chapters that were left open can feel more complete.

This article shows the people who I have great memories with, that these ‘short’ experiences DO have an everlasting impression on me. People I’ve become close to in India (and China also) have said many times, that I’ll forget them once I leave… and then comes their subtle request for me to come back. I’d always reassure that I’ll never forget the time we spent together. However the question will always remain, if I do or don’t come back. Nothing planned and if the circle is left open, a time will always have to come, for it to become full.

By the way, just to add to the whole ‘hospitality’ thing; I’ve experienced that side of India in a different way than last time… last time it scared the life out of me and I didn’t want to fully appreciate it and I kept a subconscious distance (something I’m only seeing now, as I compare both experiences). This time, I didn’t have much choice but to engage because I was living with Lekha for 2 months – the most caring woman in the country – and because of the people here in the hostel as well as at school, they do more than their best to provide me with more than I need. From October onwards (which is when I moved in with Lekha) I first worked on getting passed the fear of their giving and caring nature, then it became nourishing, homing, still occasionally frustrating with small touches of annoyances – and I mean that in the nicest way possible!

This is a topic I could go on and on about, but I’ll keep that for a later date. Let’s just say that I needed such a homing feeling and such nourishment. And judging by what those around me are saying, it’s done me the world of good. Because all I hear is how the Indian food, the climate and their life style, along with the school environment, have filled my face with colour, with healthy cheeks and with happiness…

1 comment:

  1. love reading this Niamh! Thinking of you- PattyRickshaw xx