mercredi 26 janvier 2011

"The real people"

"The real people" was the self-denomination of the Arborigen tribe in the acclaimed (and controversial) book "Mutant Message Down Under" written by Marlo Morgan. For those who havn't read the book, this the story of a woman taking a journey with a secret Arborigen tribe, which lives as close to nature as imaginable, with the most perfect ethics, especially in term of materialism, or non-materialism in the present case.

The Indian subcontinent is supposed to be the place of spiritualism, which indeed seems true when you consider the many religions which have cohabited with very little violence in India for hundreds of years, including indouism, boudhism, islamism, catholism... This didn't happen in the western latitudes. But things are changing fast, and India is getting developed... and materialized at an extremely fast rate. This you can see in the bigger cities such as New Delhi, where some parts looks more like the USA* than the lively and exotic mess of India.

As explained in the former post, I had the chance to spend many day in a small Indian village, only 5000 inhabitants. This was a great experience of what a simple life could be. Most of the ingredients used for cooking were produced in the village, and often inside the Malik's familly (who more or less all leave together). They had a few bufalows to produce the milk, from which butter, ghee, yogurt of paneer where made. The full wheat flour was grown on the familly's land. Vegetables were from the local market. Only the spices were coming from further regions, but thats not a lot of weight! Same, most of the things such as the bed were home-made. Its a fully sustainable life, even if these people are not rich at all neither have great living conditions according to our standarts! For example, due to permanent power cuts (which don't occur often in Delhi...), there was electricity only one or two ours a day, at random hours... So, no hot water nor light...

A bit of money was brought by the selling of sugar cane, which was a great part of the locale economy. This allowed people to buy televisions and other modern apparatuses**... Things are changing in India!

I will add as soon as I get hold on a non-dodgy computer!

* sorry to take the USA for reference of materialism, as the symbol of the consumption society in my mind... I guess Europe is not far behind...
** such as mobile phones... Some people in India don't have enough to buy food, but all of them have mobiles...

Atithi Devo Bhava

"Atithi Devo Bhava" in Sanskrit (original Hindu language) means"Guest is God". In India it is believed that honoring guests equals to honoring God. I had the honor and luck to experiment it for 9 days in Vikas' family, which welcomed me the most respectful way you can imagine. For example, the entire family was waiting for me to be finished with my meal before eating themselves. So if I was finishing all the (brilliant) food, they had no food for them!

Everybody in the village was really interested to meet and to talk to an European with long blond hair, something they've never seen before for the majority of them. Were following interesting and insightful discussions on the (many) differences between European and Indians habits relative to religions, food, family bonds, work, living conditions, comfort... I really hope this was as insightful for them as it was for me!

I got quite sick
(food poisoning, maybe due to some spoiled water?), and had to stay at bed for a couple of days. Even more than usual, people were very considerate about my health. Vikas' mum and aunts tried for no on to adapt their cooking to my feeble European stomach. They where so many other nice things. I really felt at home for that time. Maybe I should replace home by temple, as indeed I have been treated as a god!*

Thanks to all the Maliks (Vikas familly), Vikas parents, uncles, aunts, brothers**, and all the others... and above all to Vikas without whom I would never had the opportunity to live this unique experience!

* I guess the other present European (friends from Fribourg) will confirm this, even if they stayed for a shorter period than I did!
** Viraj (Vikas' brother) offered to all the white guests a personalized present, even if didn't know us... Thanks, that's very considerate!

samedi 22 janvier 2011

Being a white with long blond hair in India

1) People trying to cheat you in the touristy places (a milking cow...)

"Hello my friend"
"Hello sir"
"Yes sir"
"Come here"
"Give me money"
"I am an official guide for that temple"
"Come on, that's nothing for you"
"Hand-made craft"

Possible answers to get ride of them:
"No, thanks you": not efficient
"I don't want it": not efficient
Authoritative "No": works reasonably well
"Do you know the meaning of the word no?": works really well with people who can speak English
Ignoring them: works well
A "no" sign with the hand: works generally well

PS: people hassling you to sell you something or people trying to cheat you are a minor part of the Indian people. Most the time, people are fair, they might even refuse a tip!

2) Elsewhere than touristy places (being a white monkey)

People star at you... It becomes really in-comfortable when 30 silent people you don't know are around you...

Although it is fun with kids, and the discussions are always insightful with educated people.