This morning began simply, as any other morning, but quickly transformed into one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. Rajesh Kumar, one of our Indian hosts, arranged for us to visit the tiny village of his birth, Pachayara. Our bus arrived at 5:00 a.m. and transported us through an early morning fog along the rarely quiet streets of Delhi. Kilometer after kilometer, our surroundings evolved from packed city to suburb to rural, and finally to a sparsely populated area dotted here and there with small farms. The population of Pachayara is about 150– I met each and every one of them today. Only one family were forewarned about our visit, but word of our arrival swept throughout the community and within moments we were surrounded by a throng of elated men, women and children, all singing and waving, having never even seen a “foreign person” before, (much less ever dreamed that a group of us would descend upon them out of the morning mist.)
We were first welcomed into the home of Rajesh’s uncle. His wife gave us a quick lesson in the preparation and cooking of raga, a flat bread staple of their daily diet. We were privileged to meet the family’s livestock, 4 enormous cows and one little fellow who was just getting his bearings on his new legs, and learned about the myriad uses of cow dung and urine.
A few of my brave cohort members shared a puff or two from large water pipes to savor home grown tobacco. When we approached the village temple, a throng of people appeared as if from a mirage. Rajesh was taken aback by the villager’s excitement. We were ushered with great fanfare throughout the village, introduced to elders, Blessed by Rajesh’s Mother, and everyone else, and given an impromptu demonstration of the making of curd and churned butter. Soon dancing broke out and we were again personally introduced to their wealth..the cleanest and most pampered Brahma cows I’ve ever seen. (Actually the only ones I’ve ever seen) We were then loaded into flatbed carts pulled by the same cows and taken on a thrilling jaunt down the road to yet another home where we were welcomed with many more blessings and delicacies to eat.
Most tourists never get the opportunity to visit villages like Pachayara, as these villages are private communities of extended families, only open to outsiders through a relative, like Rajesh. I feel so honored that I was granted this very unique experience into the personal and joyful celebration of life by the beautiful people of Pachayara. I wish I could show them the same enthusiasm by my family and community in Memphis.
The children were the most enchanting, of course, so open and honest, their eyes wide with expression and joy. I probably took over 1000 photos in the brief time of our visit, each one now a memory of an experience that will remain fresh and cherished within my heart for the rest of my life.