‘Cultural immersion’ is a catchphrase that gets lobbed about rather casually with reference to responsible travel. But what does it mean to be a part of a community, a household and more importantly a family that hosts you during the period of your stay with them?
At the outset, it would not be an exaggeration to state that as a house-guest you automatically become a part of the household experience.
Join the women of the household in the kitchen as they go about their daily chores and you start seeing their world through their lens. You observe the dexterity with which they go about multi-tasking between the tandlachi bhakri (Indian bread made from rice flour) on the chulha (earthen stove) and simultaneously regaling you with tales about the village while monitoring their little ones from the corner of their eyes.
On their part, the little ones of the household play the role of the not-so-undercover-sleuth with élan. From silently watching your every move and ignoring your every gesture at befriending them – be it with a smile or even enticing them with the digital camera – to making you the recipient of their banter as they chase you around the house (this time them demanding that you take their photographs), you start to wonder when exactly during the course of your stay did your equations with them start to change!
And as you wonder, you also watch as the father sits his kids down in the evening to help them catch-up with their homework. So what if only one of the two kids is in school? You observe as he patiently devotes his time to both of them as they make sense of their scribbles and scrawls – so what if only one of them is getting it mostly right, even as both insist that you sit on the floor along with them just because you have notebook too!
But being a part of the household is much more than that. It is about being drawn into the highs and the lows of the family. It is learning about the death in the family not too long ago that left Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations under a pall of grief. It is learning about three sisters who were married into the same village and today they along with their respective three generations live beside each other. It is also learning about how the death of the cow has added to the chores of the household as a motherless calf has to be looked out for.
Being a part of a household is becoming a part of a family in ways you couldn’t have imagined!
By – Elita Almeida