Last night, on the way back from Mohammad’s restaurant, Heidi and I took the shortcut through the village. The streets there are much narrower in the village than they are on the main road. They seem to run in and out of the buildings, small huts and shops and some shrines. The buildings were not made to accommodate the roads. Men in groups of three on motorbikes weave around the slow moving cows. As we made our way down the hill, someone recognized us in the dark and called to us. It was Kaylesh, one of the main cooks at the Vihar.
Heidi knows him much better than I do, because she’s the program intern and she helps organize the meals. After he saw us, he called his wife out of the house. While he ran to a nearby food stand to buy bottles of Sprite, she insisted that we come inside and drink. Heidi told them that she had a meeting, but they insisted that we come for five minutes. It’s a mystery that I can recall last night’s conversations. Kaylesh hardly speaks English and I hardly speak Hindi (Heidi speaks both pretty well).
Heidi and I ended up going inside, which I was happy about even though my finals were in the morning. I haven’t gotten to see many Indian homes. The house was about the size of my dorm room. There was a small mirror built into the clay walls, next to posters of Lakshmi and Ganesh. One light bulb lit the house, and it was warm and brown inside. The only place to sit was on the bed, where Heidi and I sat with two of the children while Kaylesh and his wife stood. Kaylesh told us about how all the Tibetan monks coming into town order the Tibetan bread that he’s learned how to make. Then his wife went into the corner and came back with a necklace and a pair of earings which she gave to Heidi. Heidi said “oh, no no,” and “how beautiful,” and “thank you so much,” and we were quite moved. We talked about the jewelry, and how Kaylesh’s wife made it. I asked her if she’d made the necklace she was wearing, trying to practice my Hindi. Then suddenly she was taking the necklace off and putting it around my neck with her warm hands. Before I could protest, I was already wearing it.
Kaylesh took us outside and showed us the new oven he’d made. It was built into the corner of the house, simple and round and beautiful, made out of clay. Then we said thank you, thank you, this was so lovely, and walked back to the Vihar.
“That was really cool,” I said.
“It’s amazing how the people who have the least give the most,” Heidi said.