Sunday, 27 November 2011

Old fashioned hospitality

A ride in a US Army 1948 Jeep took us on a 'safari' this morning. Turning off the main (tarmacadam) road we adjusted uncomfortably to the dirt track for a few kilometres before arriving at the nearest local village.

The stone work reminded me of Connemara; everything else was resolutely local: one storey houses, some of concrete, many of mud; dirt roads throughout the village; inevitably shy at first and then smiling locals who stared with genuine curiosity; smiles that revealed mostly misshapen and gappy mouthfuls of betel-stained teeth.

We drove on to the local temple (to Lord Krishna) where a prayer service had just started. Locals were crowded in the small structure, barefoot, hands in supplication, silently mouthing the words of the priest.

Bizarrely, a little motor drove a drum unit comprising a main drum, two cymbals and two smaller drums: Bomp! Bom-Bom! Bomp! while the priest rang a hand bell (like the one we used at school to resume class) chanting loudly from sacred scriptures. All at a deafening level. The pungent smell of burning incense completed the sensory immersion.

We emerged ten minutes later, motor now resting, tinnitus a real possibility.

Beside the temple, a small group of young boys gathered and responded predictably to the Flip video I took of them. They were joined by some turban-clad men who offered themselves for photographs. One of them even demonstrated how to wind a turban from the 9 metre long cloth. Friendly. Smiling their toothy smiles with bad teeth. Welcoming.

Driving back to the village we parked to explore by foot.  To our surprise, we were invited into one of the houses.  Chai was immediately produced followed quickly by an offer to visit the various parts of their house.  We had to graciously decline an offer of lunch before taking our leave, slightly embarrassed at the spontaneous hospitality - especially amidst such obvious poverty.

Food for thought, you might say.

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