Monday, March 21, 2011

Letting go of bitterness due to True Indian Hospitality

We went on a trip to small town near Jog Falls last week. On a local bus there I was cheated by the bus conductor. This had left a bitter taste in my mouth. By nature I am on the kinda naive - believing in the goodness in everyone - side but on this bright sunny freshly cheated day I was bitter.

On the drive back from the falls the driver (of our cab for the day) saw a friend of his walking up the hill. He offered him a ride. Despite beingbitter I bit my tongue as it was a hot day and the road was steep. Few minutes later the driver asked if we wanted some sugarcane juice. Even though (still bitter) I felt this was some ploy to stop us at a preplanned juice stall it was hot so I agreed.

Ankit helping with the sugarcane pressing process.
Video at the end of the post.
Minutes later we were off the main road, winding past sugarcane fields and leaving behind a trail of red dust as we made our way to the friend’s house. The kids jumped out of the car with renewed energy and the excitement got to me as we traversed paddy fields to a freshly harvested sugarcane field. This was as old school as sugar making gets. Sugarcane was harvested and then the juice was extracted using a big squeezer powered by two buffaloes. The juice was slow boiled right there over a wood fire and made into jaggery. I had read about this and now I was standing in the middle of it.

Enjoying a bite and the show
- watching the men operate the juicer
The buffaloes were chilling on a break so the driver, his friend, a farm help and Ankit moved the contraption and fresh juice was made. We washed up at a stream there and then I drank the sweetest juice ever. It was amazingly good.

Seeing our obvious admiration at the jaggery making we were invited into the farmer’s house. His mother fell in love with the kids and we were piled with more jaggery than we could carry back. For the first time Ankit saw what he called reverse bargaining – I offered double the money the man was willing to take.
The welcoming amma - grandmother.
Moneywise he took a token amount just to get me to stop.

When I was a child my mother threatened to wash my mouth with soap if I said a bad word. Leaving their house I felt like my mind needed a good soap washing for having bitter, malicious thoughts about someone who opened his fields and home to us. He got me back to believing in people again (kinda as I will not leave any change with a bus conductor ever again) and gave me a taste of true Indian hospitality.



  1. Hi Mallika,
    This was a wonderful post and reminded me of my childhood when we would go on our annual trips to India (I was brought up in Singapore), My dad's home was a village, and we would spend weeks in a place with no electricity, where the days would go in roaming the fields (with the sugarcane, and other crops). Most of all, it is the hospitality in these places that I was reminded of, because of all the special treatment I was given by perfect strangers simply because I was interested in what they did, and had taken the time to express an interest in their lives. Definitely one of those nostalgic "when I was young" posts :)

  2. wonderful again..absolutely enjoyed reading this one too :)

  3. This post just reminded me of my days of stealing raw mangoes. I guess we all have this common phase. It also reminds me how the stolen mangoes were more fun to eat than the ones our parents bought from the market ;)
    On the ticket conductor topic, I just remembered that all Bangalore conductors always pen down the balance they have to give you, behind the ticket. And they scratch it off when they pay you back. Next time ask them to write it on your ticket and you have your proof :)