Labor of Love: Selflessness

As our bus rolls onto the cracked pavement, we step onto the bus, and immediately the smell of strong native spices hit our noses. The bus’s narrow path forces the bulges of our stomachs in as we attempt to squeeze through the rows, before squashing into a squeaky seat. Soon enough, our bus bumps along the dusty, orange, and beaten paths as we arrive at our destination. Local villagers draped in beautifully colored scarfs and garments wave their hands at us bidding us welcome. Meanwhile she balances a pot full of water on her head, with the water nearly shaking out of the pot. After a welcoming and jubilant celebration, Saadiya and I follow a boy to dine with him in his home. His fragile physique trots slowly, giving us a tour of his village, with the slews of cows lying on the side of the road. We shake our dusty and faintly orange shoes off at his doorstep, and climb up the steep, rickety, stone staircase. He seats us on a table draped with beautifully hand woven blankets, baring bright pinks, reds, and even holes, deeply torn in the blanket. She retrieves from her living space, leading us to her kitchen. Pots and pans line the wall with storage containers stacking up to the ceiling. A warm cover blankets the floor, with plates of indigenous brown and green gravies, seasoned white rice, and bright orange mango pulp concealed by the smell of its counterparts. The sound of the gusting wind through the open door carries the smell of the food, causing it to permeate throughout the bungalow. The torn cabinet structures surround us having been stripped carelessly of their frames. The more we eat, the louder the voice of the matriarch becomes as she exclaims, “Eat more! Eat more!” In shock at the enormous generosity, in spite of her circumstances, Saadiya and I depart the home. As we depart, I look up into the ceiling and see the wood panel bore in place by a nail, flailing hopelessly in the wind, yet holding on for dear life.

As a reflect on this village matriarch’s willingness to serve and to sacrifice for people she became acquainted with in only a few seconds, it causes me to think of Gandhi’s principles of selflessness. Nimo articulated so well, the ways in which Gandhi believed in esteeming the value of others above yourself. He practiced resisting a glutinous appetite, fasting regularly, and daily he prepared with no additives such as sugar or salt, believing that food is only a means to live and survive, not life itself. A shift of focus from self to the health and well being of others, creates a world full of more peace and happiness. Leaving otherwise creates the world we exist in today, full of strife, malicious anger and backbiting, and scheming to destroy others. Furthermore, living to see others succeed and thrive, represent the true principles of selflessness. As Devendra says, the reason why the members of the small village open their doors with such hospitality, warmth, and love is because they believe that they truly could be entertaining a their god incarnate, or an angel unaware. Treating us with supreme kindness, and with the food of her home could cost her everything, and yet she proved willing to do so through her gift of giving. Looking at this labor of love, I wonder what lessons Niswarthians could learn from our collective experience in India about selflessness. What lessons of love, service, and giving does this teach us? How much do we take our privilege for granted? How much more should we deliberately offset the negative in our lives and magnify the immense privilege we partake in each day? How much can we accept others, as Devendra said, “with love and no hurdles attached”?