This past Sunday, Father Joe Paul invited the four of us to accompany him to a remote village in the state of Tripura. Every Sunday, he journeys out to various surrounding villages that are in need of a priest to say morning mass for the villagers. Even though the mass was spoken in the native tribal language, Kokborok, he thought it would be a good opportunity for us to exoerience the true life of a small Indian village. The car ride there was about two hours, but took a little longer than expected due to minor difficulties. Unlike America, not all roads in India are nicely paved. Most are bumpy, muddy, and greatly affected by the monsoon season. As we traveled closer to the village, the roads were extremely uneven and muddy, which made driving rather difficult. A couple of miles outside the village, our car got stuck in the mud and Father Joe Paul and local villagers had to push the car free. After that aggravating, but humorous battle, we decided to park the car on the side of the road, and walk the remaining two miles.
Upon arriving a bit late, all of the villagers were already gathered and singing in the small church with a bamboo roof. They were anxiously awaiting Father Joe Paul's arrival and were extremely excited to see that four American guests had stumbled into their community. Mass was said in Kokborok and afterward, Aja, Ben, Ellen, and I were warmly welcomed with flowers and hundreds of handshakes. The four of us and Father Joe Paul were then invited to the house of the President of the village for lunch. Before the meal was prepared, one of the villagers picked fresh guavas off of a nearby tree for us to eat. I had never tasted fresh guavas before arriving in India and they are delicious! None of us have ever seen them for sale in the Boston area, but hopefully we will be able to find some when we return.
Lunch was soon ready and consisted of white rice, a fish curry mixture, a rather spicy chutney, and a piece of fish. I have grown to love the curry mixtures here in India! However, utensils are not an essential part of life for local Indians, which is always a challenge for utensil-dependent Americans. Before this experience, we had only attempted to eat a rice meal with our hands once, which turned out to be pretty messy, but also really amusing! There is also a science behind the hand-eating technique. You want to mix just enough curry into the rice so that it clumps and is easy to grasp. If you mix too much or not enough curry, you are soon faced with a feeding struggle. It is surprisingly enjoyable to eat with your hands once you learn the proper hand-feeding technique!
After the meal, we cleaned our hands, were directed to use the “bathroom facilities” (in which we were asked, “Number 1 or 2?”), and then began our two mile walk back to the car. By the time we had reached the car, we had many animal followers such as, dogs and goats. Only in India does a leisurely walk remind you of Noah's Ark. The village experience was one that I would love to revisit in the future. Traveling to this remote location was a true immersion into a foreign culture and it was great to escape the Holy Cross safety-net that we have in Agartala.
On a side note, since I am talking a bit about the unique culture in India, I have posted a video below of a few performances that occurred on Teacher's Day, an annual Indian holiday in which students honor their teachers. These cultural dances were choreographed by the students and I thought everyone might enjoy a taste of the cultural programs that I attend quite frequently! The first two dances are classical Indian routines while the third clip is a performance from a well-known Bollywood film, "The Three Idiots". Thank you to the Connolly, Costantiello, and Abbott Families for the FlipCam!