“How will we manage sangati (rice) without going for labour ?” asked Chinapaapakka. Eashwaramma said, “God will give sangati – if not for three meals, then for one meal.” Lakshmamma, older and wiser, added, “God may say go to the forest and collect devadaru leaf and cook and eat it. But even that thought God has to put in our head.”
Every mendicant who comes, 'Bhavati bhiksham dehi', is fed. Respectfully.There 'Bhavati bhiksham dehi' echoes, and gives dignity to the singing mendicant and to the lady giving.
Chinapaapakka taught me that to give when asked is our dharmam, and whether the person misuses it of not is his karmam.
Because though one man conned the village people saying his daughter had delivered under a tree, and took the rice, clothes and money they gave - they again gave as generously to the next person who came and asked.
Eashwaramma was serving food to some very poor ladies who had come asking for food. There is no term 'begging'. 'Adukkone thinnedi', means to 'ask and eat', and is accepted normally. The hungry are fed. I asked her later which community they were from. She told me, "If someone comes and asks for food, we seat them serve them. We ask them which ooru (village) are you from. Why will we ask which kulam/ jati (caste) are you from ?" The person who comes and ask for food is seated and fed and spoken to respectfully. Even in this poorest of dalit households.
Sridhar Lakshmanan This is an experience you will get in every village. When I used to work in deep interiors there were no hotels but food was never a worry. All you have to do is ask or hint but that was rarely the case. They will ask and feed you with the food prepared for them. You will meet at least ten unknown people asking you to have food. In later days for ecologin when we scouted for remoter villages we used to make friends with unknown people in buses and they will offer us even overnight stay.all free you can't offer to pay that is an insult.
Unlike · Reply · 2 · 23 November 2015 at 20:32
Aparna Krishnan Sometimes our going to 'help villages' itself seems audacious. If we could relearn culture from them, all would be well with this earth. While if we go to 'school' them, or 'develop markets' for them (which is all we are capable of doing), we are probably doing more harm than we can realise.
In times of drought and lack, ill feeling and jealousy starts showing up faintly, and generosity decreases. I was talking to Eashwaramma about this and said that maybe the difficulties explained the change in people.
Eashwaramma said, “Manam okkari manchidi korukunte, devudu choopu challaga petthindhi, ledu kindhaki thokuthundhi.”, meaning "If we desire good for others, the God turns a kindly glance on us too. Otherwise he pushes us also down."
She was clear - 'No, at all times on one needs to stay generous. Then God will be with us.'. Village ethics has a clear unconfused stance. One can forgive and empathize with the wrongdoer, but the wrong does not need to be be explained as right.
“Raa, annam thinnu”, meaning ‘Come, eat food’, is a standard phrase, which one hears in any house if one enters when they are eating. Children, from a very young age have said to me, “Raa madam, annam thinnu”, if they were eating when I passed. The local culture is to invite anyone who comes by when one is eating to also sit and eat. The children all have that culture. The children started teaching my daughter to say that when she learned to speak. Now that is second nature to her too.
I was urban, and english educated ... and did not have that nuanced culture of a true Indian. I would immediately think that if i gave away the rice, I would again have to start a fire and cook a meal ... and of all the effort involved.
It took me a long time of being steeped in a rich and wise culture to acheive that simple and spontaneous hospitality.
'To be absolutely simple in one's hospitality to one's enemy or to a stranger takes generations of training' - Tagore.
What all I have learnt from a village of goodness and civilized living, I never even realized. In a village, the stranger and the enemy who comes by has to be, and is, welcomed.
Manohara was our 'enemy'. He was our field neighbour, and there were eternal boundry disputes, his sending his cow in to graze on our lands to provoke ... He was also a crook. Things got bad between us.
When I passed him or his wife in the village I would turn away. When I passed his house, his wife would call me in with all warmth. For that moment I was a guest in her house. On a festival day she insisted that I take six vadais that she packaged into a crumpled newspaper and pushed into my hand.
Slowly I learnt the tenets of civilized behaviour - and slowly I learnt to genuinely call her in when she passed by our house in the village.