I’m an aspiring writer who regularly attends the Sunday book club readings in New Delhi. My name is Blaze Arizanov Kaspian and I’m the co-founder of the Indian start-up StayUncle. Originally from Macedonia near Greece in Europe, I came to India four years ago and have stayed here ever since.
Earlier this month, I visited a small village near Varanasi in Eastern Uttar Pradesh to spend some time with my co-founder’s family and understand the Indian way of life in the hinterland. It was a trip that has changed my understanding of India in many ways. Here’s what I experienced and learnt.
- The great Indian family is not dead
I saw 15 people living together in the same house with love, care and sharing—a bond that I’ve not seen in urban India.
- Care for the old
When the oldest member of the family fell sick, I saw the daughters in law, the children, and even the old grandmother competing with each other to take care: who can serve the plate of food, who will massage the feet, and who will bring a glass of water from the well. When the fever increased, there were at least three people attending to his needs and massaging his hair with warm oil.
- Unmatched hospitality
They practically stumbled upon one another in their attempt to serve me with the most sumptuous of dishes I’ve ever tasted in my life.
- Acceptance of the other and a will to learn
I was asked to deliver a yoga session to the family members. The Grandmother, three daughters in law, one of their husbands, two teenagers, and even one toddler participated in the session. It was an incredible experience for me. I have never seen members from three generations willing to learn at the same time. The house was buzzing with noise and laughter.
- Unmatched ancient methods of health and hygiene
Until a few decades ago the people in rural India used salt and neem to maintain oral hygiene. Colgate arrived and changed their habits. And guess what, now even Colgate uses salt in its toothpaste.
- Anything in the name of god
I was tempted to test the faith of the Indians in their Gods. One day I tried selling a neem stick to a villager for 10 rupees. He laughed at me and walked away disinterested. For the next villager I changed my strategy, “This is a special neem stick which a Brahmin priest from the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi has given me. It is blessed with special Vedic incantations and it will bring well-being to the one I symbolically decide to sell it to.” The villager thought for a few seconds and gave me ten rupees.