this week I’d like to share a story from my Indian adventure, India is a nation that hits your senses full on, every single one of them. In truth the moment I booked my Indian adventure I dreaded it, it was and remains a country that both fascinates and upset me. I was completely out of my comfort zone, India had been a travel itch I had wanted to scratch for sometime and by the time I had arrived I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
India is a hard type of travel, full throttle 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I don’t know who said New York never sleeps but I can guarantee you they’ve never been to India or landed in New Delhi or in Mumbai for that matter. This nation is colossal on so many levels, 24 million people in India use the railways each day, the railway network is the same one that was built whilst India was under British rule (fact of the day). It’s almost impossible to escape the noise in India it’s everywhere.
During my Indian adventure I managed to escape the hustle and bustle by visiting a village. The village was nestled in the Indian countryside, the traditional houses, so quint like english cottages beside them stood the newer concrete ones. The new builds had a 1970’s industrial feel to them and looked more like dilapidated ruins rather then new builds. The men of the village sitting in groups discussing recent events over chai (tea) whilst the children ran around laughing and playing cricket. You’d be forgiven for thinking that India’s national sport is cricket but it’s actually field hockey (another fact of the day).
Whilst my group rushed to take pictures of the locals, I decided just to sit taking it all in. The lack of noise was wonderful I had forgotten what it was like to have peace and calm in my life. No honking of horns, no playing chicken with the tuktuk drivers, my senses were no longer overloaded, I am just watching the world go by, watching people live their day to day lives. A woman approached me, her sari was the first thing I noticed about her, it’s bright vibrant colours of orange, yellow and black, how do they keep the colours so bright? That question is still left unanswered. She quietly says “hello” moving her head scarf ever so slightly over her face whilst talking to me. I say “hello” and put my hand out to shake hers, she smiles and we introduce ourselves to one another. Within moments a child comes bouncing up to me and proudly announces that he is five years old whilst sticking his palm in my face, his hand showing all 5 digits, the woman rolls her eyes and tell me that he is her son. He acts as translator as I am informed that she has two children, her first child a girl is 7 years old, she tells me that she likes school and is very good at it. He is the youngest and the cheekiest out of two, this comment sends him into a fit of giggles resulting in us all laughing with this cheeky little fella.
As I walk through the village I am amazed at the sheer physicality of these women, they are so petite but yet they can carry such heavy objects often balancing them on their heads. Similarly to African women who are also petite yet so physical strong balancing objects on their heads whilst walking miles. I am in awe of my fellow womankind, I am ridiculous I struggles to carry my weekly shop from the car, these women are what make the female kind such a force.
I notice a young woman in her yard and I cautiously approach hoping not to intrude, she smiles at me, welcoming me into her front yard. She is young, 15 she tells me and with babe in her arms. I notice that her baby has eyeliner on and with the help of our groups translator I am told that the eyeliner protects the child from evil spirits and my instant thought is “well of course a mother would want to protect her child from evil”. Now I have a confession before my travels I would of told you that I am an open minded person but I don’t think I was as open minded as I thought. If you’d of told me that in some cultures they put eyeliner on children to warn off evil spirits, I’d of probably said “why would anyone think eyeliner can warn off evil spirits”. Now things are different, I am different, I immediately accepted that a mother would do whatever she could to keep her child safe.
The baby girl reaches both arms out to me and I quickly look at her mum to confirm that it’s okay for me to take the child in my arms, mum unconcerned has no problems with this. The baby girl has beautiful big brown eyes highlighted by the eyeliner, wispy jet black curly hair and shows off the most splendid dimples as she flashes a gummy smile. It’s official I was infatuated and smitten whatever you wanna call it, I loved her in that moment. I told mum via the translator that she was a wonderful mother because her baby was so happy. “You are doing such a good job raising your baby” I said. The translator speaks as he speaks the woman bobs her head side to side whilst waging her finger, oh dear I thought, wagging a finger is an international sign for you are in trouble. The woman turns to face me and says “we raise her”, I say “sorry, we?” The young mother looks at me and says in Hindi “the village raises her, it takes a village to raise her, we all contribute to the person she becomes”.
I was dumbfounded, lost for words, I looked at this mother and I thought “well you certainly get it”. In the west there is a sense of arrogance, we’ve been through multiple revolutions; industrial, economical, digital and the swinging sixties to name a few and we think we know best and yet a young mother in a village in India blows the west’s ideologies out of the water. Yes it does take more then mum and dad to raise a baby, in fact that benefits all those involved including the child. Through all our revolutions I cannot help but feel that the term family has been defined by the west and it takes a young mother from India to remind me that family is a feeling not a definition, family is those who add to your growth and development.