I wanted to share three findings:
Interesting Hospital Observations: Working in a hospital brings patients, diseases and complications not ordinarily viewed in daily life. Working in a hospital in a rural village of India breaks the door even further, bringing in patients and infections rarely seen even in the U.S. Over the past eight months, patients with rather interesting histories have walked through the hospital door. Many leprosy patients have come at different stages of complication. One man stands out in particular, as the tissue in his arm had died so that maggots had been living inside and needed to be pulled out. Maggots can be beneficial when eating dead skin but in this case served no good purpose.
Also coming into the hospital was a case of mumps (MMR is not given in India), many patients with typhoid, diabetic feet, lip cancer (due to tobacco), snake bites from cobras to vipers, women and children with second & third degree burns, and large goiters. The most striking case was a child who was delivered and died within three minutes. The baby would not have lived long, though. It was born with a huge abdomen but a chest the width of a baseball, it had no penis but enlarged testicles, and at the end of shriveled arms and legs, each foot and hand had six fingers and toes. The complications were congenital, although the exact cause we did not know.
Would you like extra sugar with your tea? The humility and graciousness of Indian families has humbled me since arriving in India and continues to quiet me to this day. Never have I consistently seen such caring hosts. Families who work on the farm to feed three children and send them to school immediately stop what they are doing when I enter their house to offer me tea and biscuits. Further, they insist we put extra sugar in our tea, a sign of respect and good status for the family. Also customary is on the anniversary of the death of a family member, their memory is honored by inviting guests from the village for dinner and eating to their hearts content. Additionally, the first time I visited a friend’s house for lunch, I was seated and we were both served until we could eat no more. Then I was presented with a coconut, a scarf, a bindi and a farmer’s cap as a sign of welcome. There was no hesitation at all from my friend or from any of the houses I visit, as there seems to be true appreciation in their actions.
It does feel uncomfortable as the family is far from rich and offering you lunch and tea with extra sugar. However, it is only more complicated and ungracious to not accept. It is equally uncomfortable to eat dinner and end up simply being served, mostly by women. Often I sit and eat with the men as the women prepare the food and then serve it. When we are finished, the plates are taken, a water bowl is brought for our hands to wash, and then the wife cleans the dishes before sitting and eating her own meal. This routine is so consistent that it seems to be a sign of a good host. Their actions seem filled with graciousness and placing values over material things. It constantly challenges me to think about my own hospitality and possessiveness, often at the expense of relationships and my own values.
Just don’t let them cover you in the silver paint: In mid-March, the festival of Holi was celebrated. It is a holiday commemorating the burning of Holika, who was burned to death to protect Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakashipu (King of Demons), who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. The day is richly celebrated by covering others from head to toe in paint. The morning is spent buying the paint powder and mixing it in water bottles with a hole in the cap for spraying. The next eight hours are then spent roaming and searching for friends to spray and color. It was not a choice of whether you wanted to have paint on you or not; rather, it was a choice of how much paint. Even then, those who protested the most were usually sprayed the most.
The fantastic thing about Holi was the universal playful attitude. Those who do not want to be sprayed may protest but eventually they will be sprayed, and when they did they simply smiled. Even today when you walk around Jamkhed, women will wear sarees and men will wear shirts and pants with paint marks covering the back and sides. But I did not see one person who was truly upset about being covered in paint even after protesting for minutes about being colored. That ease made the day very friendly and familial. By the end of the day, after hours of playing, I was unrecognizable – walking through Jamkhed afterwards, I was covered in paint to the extent that people could not tell who I was.