Neighbours

The warm Indian hospitality.

10:15 PM

My wedding plus the fact I've been living in India for nearly 3 years now, and that my landlord is full in wedding stress now (his daughter's marriage) made me think about the way Indian hospitality spread and spread.

In Switzerland you can easily spend a life time not knowing any of your neighbours and have the door slammed in your face if you ask for a hammer.

Now so far in India there hasn't been a single place I lived in where I didn't talk to at least one neighbour.
In bangalore I got to met my first neighbour in 2003 over an enveloppe addressed to me. It turned out we had only 1 mailbox for the whole building and that the girl who picked up the mail that day collected stamps and asked me if she could have the stamps on my letter. Who in Switzerland would ring your door bell and ask you this?

In Bombay I got to talk to my neighbour over the stray cat who chose our side of the floor to give birth to a litter of kitties.
In Chennai, the landlady was living in the house and intorduced me to her sister three houses down the street, and apparently chatted with other neighbours as well. In the 6 months I spent there, I got a Gujarati friend upstair teaching me Hindi and cooking in exchange of my company, the neighbour dropping by to show me her kittens (she knew I loved cats), the caretaker's wife making sure I was eating properly when DH was in Bangalore and who turned the area upside down to find me a doctor when I ran a fever and who dropped by everyday to do the cooking in my home so I could take rest.
In Bangalore 2005 I had my first gal pal in the building since she was a friend of a friend of DH and I told her to use my washing machine, so we had great Sunday laundry time.


And in the current neighbourhood I live in, the downstair neighbour comes to the rescue for spider removal, bridges the communication gap with my maid and enjoy a chat now and then. I also know the neighbour across the street as well, even if it's just saying hi to him. When the landlord is there he always come and ask if I'm well settled. This weekend he is busy with his daughter's wedding which I missed today because I had lots of work to do, his wife still made sure a huge platter of mutton Byriani and Chicken kebabs reached my home. Platter which had me go downstair to thank them and seated in the living for a while to chat and be served more sweets and stuff.

I'm also thinking of the way my familly has been welcomed by my in-laws and extended in-law familly on my wedding, they never met them before but hugged them, laughed with them and made sure they were really at ease and not too confused.

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that Indians are probably the richest persons on the planet as they did not forget the value a smile has and how little a simple "Hi" costs and what benefit it brings. No matter how simple the person they'll always put an extra plate on the table to welcome you in their home. In 2004, I spent the best Christmas ever with the caretaker's wife and her familly. She lived in a tiny garden hut in the backyard of our house. She is Hindu and had her familly over for the holidays. They were living at 10 in this tiny space, but she came up to first wish me a Merry Christmas and then to rush me downstair to have dinner with them all (DH was away). They shared their food, they made me feel welcome and despite the fact we didn't speak the same language we had a wonderful experience.


My landlord told me today : "India is the land were people know how to great it is to be alive" I know he is right there.

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