Within hours of arriving in Delhi, we are pulling up in our taxi to our host's apartment building in the outskirts of Ghaziabad. Our host, Vishal, is waiting at the side of the road, greeting us warmly before leading us up a stairway, into his home.
“So this is where you’ll sleep,” he says, gesturing toward a spacious bed that appears to be his.
“Oh wow thank you so much,” I reply. “But really we’ll be fine with just the couches. Where will you sleep?”
“No I insist. I’ll be sleeping with my parents tonight,” he gestures toward the dining room where his elderly parents, smiling, are filling the table with fresh chapatti, vindaloo and pitchers of mango juice.
For three days they seem to never stop feeding us. Even though she does in fact speak a little English, the mother in particular seems to be willfully resistant to our communication attempts.
“Oof I’m incredibly full thank you so much for the meal,” I’ll say.
“Good, good,” she’ll reply. “More?”
“No thank you”
She fills my plate.
On the second night, I awoke around 3 am with a dry mouth and got up to fill my bottle, nearly tripping as I stepped outside our room. Looking down I saw Vishal’s father, peacefully asleep on the ground by the dining table with a thin blanket over him. “Am I really forcing an elderly man to sleep on the floor??” I thought.
Over breakfast I asked him if he often sleeps on the floor and he cheerfully replied that he enjoys early morning yoga at the nearby river and didn’t want to disturb anyone as he left the apartment. It was hard to hold on to the guilt with which I awoke as he continued to chuckle while demonstrating a few yoga breathing techniques, his eyes crinkled in an infectiously tranquil joy.
He and his wife were even more generous with their faith. Gabriela and I began asking a few questions about certain gods or deities and before we knew it a large book had landed on the table and we found ourselves neck-deep in an intensive lesson on Hindu cosmology. As they pointed to each photo and detailed the god’s personality and significance, I was struck by how much these people had given us without after having just met us and without asking for anything in return. Then I understood.
The home is the hearth to the fire that is the spirit of India. Just as the fire give its heat indiscriminately to any who step near, so too does the Indian hospitality warm any traveller fortunate enough to step into the home. We are so grateful to live among a people as selfless as fire.
BY: Tomás Quiñonez-Riegos