"The Simple lifestyle of India"
Inside a 2 room home in an Indian Village
For our two days off last week, my Indian friend, Shivappa, invited Ross and I to spend two days and a night in the village that he grew up in. This has been the most memorable part of my entire trip. We stayed at his aunt Mallamma's 2-room home, which, in full, is smaller than my bedroom in the U.S. When you duck underneath the straw roof that hangs over the (usually wide open) door, you see the main room of the house that acts as a foyer, a living/bed/dining room and closet (ALL IN ONE!). Mallamma had a small TV, a metal cabinet, an extremely hard bed that acts as a couch (if you lean up against the wall that it's adjacent to), and two plastic chairs stacked next to the TV that she happily unstacked in order for us to have a place to sit. The only other room of her house was the kitchen. The kitchen had a small stove made out of clay that she constantly fed with firewood and oxygen that she blew out of a bamboo-like stick. The total "stove-top" is no bigger than the size of any American lunch tray, and the height of it is equivalent to no more than 10 of these lunch trays, stacked. She sits on the floor to cook. And believe it or not, so do all her neighbors. When I had to go to the bathroom, I squatted in a cement enclosing next to her house that has a drain and a small tub of "clean" water that you use to ensure that all your bodily liquids have been rinsed away. If your waste requirements ask for more maintenance, you just go across the street to the "wealthier" family's home that has their very own outhouse- which is nothing more than a glorified (and fully enclosed) hole to squat over. I joined Shivappa's aunt in the kitchen preparing dinner while Shivappa was talking to some old friends in the other room. I tried to "sit" in the flat-footed-balancing-position that she, (and most), comfortably sit in, but she saw how uncomfortable I looked and lovingly scolded me to sit normally. I was afraid of getting her sari dirty that she had dressed me up in, but Shivappa translated for me that, "that's what washing it is for." Although the only words understood between us were "yes, no, and thank you," at one point, Mallamma hastily shoved a grain patty into my hand with a secretive and encouraging gesture implying that I should eat it. She did this twice, and I decided that she must have been repeating what her mother once did for her. Grace such as this must be the main combatant against starvation among the women here. Especially in "middle-class" villages such as these, the women are expected to eat last. I've visited many homes and villages with Shivappa, and when I first saw this with my own eyes, I asked Shivappa about it and was informed that yes, the women are supposed to wait to eat until their husbands and sons are filled. I then asked, "Does it ever happen that there's just not enough food left for the women?" Shivappa, (though not necessarily in agreement with this tradition), seemed a little too matter-of-fact about it and said, "yeah, and then she'll just go to bed hungry, sometimes with only water in her stomach." I've read that this stems from the idea that the men absolutely NEED the energy to burn while they're out working all day, but in reality, the women are at home, cleaning, cooking, watching the children, and often working in small agricultural fields to boot. So although their lives are viewed as less rigorous, it is actually often harder. When dinner came, Shivappa's aunt pulled out a rolled up mat from behind the bed and laid it on the floor. This acted as our chairs; the cement floor, our table; our fingers, the silverware. When night came I slept next to Mallamma on the cold and hard cement floor, for once thankful of any extra fat that I have on my body, and actually even wanting more for natural padding. Shivappa must have told his aunt that I love to sing, because she asked me to sing her a song. So there I was, laying on the cold cement floor in a comfy little two-room house that was snuggled against a bumpy dirt road amidst a small Indian village, sending the words of "Amazing Grace" through the straw roof that wouldn't even keep us dry if it were to rain. When I finished, we all said goodnight and started falling asleep, but when a mosquito landed on my cheek (it seemed that hundreds ventured in that night through the unscreened windows), I slapped myself so hard that I woke us all up. This sent us all into fits of laughter and for the rest of the night and a couple times after the rooster woke us up in the morning, Mallama would randomly and jokingly slap me on the cheek, hard enough to make a sound without hurting me.