I’m writing to you on a bus from Amritsar to Dharamsala. It’ll take about 6 hours, which believe it or not, is pretty short compared to some of the other journeys I have made here in India. So I thought I would take the opportunity to write a little something for the Happynesshub blog.
Having spent two nights in Amritsar, an incredibly busy, bustling city, home of the beautiful Golden Temple (where we spent about an hour wrestling in the line just to get inside), we took up an opportunity offered to us to spend time in a small village called Khasa – just by the border with Pakistan. We stayed there for about 24 hours, arriving at 10 am on Sunday and leaving around the same time the following morning.
It was so worthwhile escaping the tourist circuit for a day. Whilst my friends and I are having a fantastic time, I found myself struggling to really picture the everyday lives of regular Indian people, and this stay enabled me to truly immerse myself in the rural Indian lifestyle.
When we arrived, we met the lovely Jagroop, who made us feel entirely welcome in his home. His mum immediately made us chai (a spiced milk tea, which I am completely addicted to!) and we sat outside with the cows and one incredibly smiley goat, Paro. We chatted about Jagroop and his brothers’ lives and their plans for the future.
What really struck me about Jagroop’s home was the lack of the many material items that we Westerners fill our homes with. The family is not desperately poor. They run their farm effectively; Jagroop works at a hostel and has big plans to start businesses, initially in the village and then in the city of Rishikesh. They have a good car and lots of space in their house. And yet it is very plain: no paintwork, decor, furnishings, carpets or WiFi. There is nothing in Jagroop’s house that doesn’t serve a clear purpose.
And yet we were left neither needing nor bored. We fed the goat, milked cows, collected grass to feed the animals and played cricket with the local children with a simple bat, ball and a couple of bricks as wickets.
Most importantly, the people living in Khasa love to spend time with each other. In every home, there are many simple plastic chairs, which are used for the constant flow of family, friends and neighbours that pass through. And whilst Jagroop’s house does not contain many material items, there is so much happiness and laughter within its walls. The hospitality in the village was incredible – we were given hugs, chai, sweets, delicious paratha and dal – always being offered more if we wanted.
This is what village life seems to be about here. The mornings and evenings, when it is cool, are spent running the farm and in between the villagers play, laugh and enjoy a simple life without excess.
This visit really got me thinking about how much we Westerners clutter our lives with material items, and I wonder if these distract us from our relationships with others. When you are sitting in room, with very little in it apart from other people, you form relationships far more easily. This was shown by the interaction we managed to have with people in Khasa who spoke barely any English. We bonded through very simple communication and laughed at how many people a message needed to be repeated by, for it to be understood by everybody. So it didn’t surprise me to find research showing that materialistic individuals report less satisfaction, more unhappiness, lower levels of relatedness, gratitude and meaning in life.
I think the message to take away here, is that whilst our lives may not have the simplicity of life on a farm, do try to find some time away from all the clutter. Take a walk in the countryside, sit at home with family with no distractions around you, play simple games with the children in your life – it might just put things a little bit into perspective about balancing the value we place on ‘nice things’ over the simple joys of friends and family.
Have a fantastic week Hubbers!