An hour’s drive from India’s busy city of Jodhpur takes you to the dusty streets of Chandelao.
I was only there for a few nights, but even in such a short amount of time was able to lay witness to the extreme generosity of the families I met. Each evening, I would walk the streets, kicking up dust and avoiding the cows in the road. It wouldn’t take long, before children were everywhere, pulling me into a small temple or dragging me to their house to meet their parents.
The houses were all the same: concrete shells with very little inside. A few girls, who dragged me to their home, were so excited for me to meet their mother. They ripped off my sandals at the door and pushed me inside.
The bottom floor of the two story house had 4 rooms; a small main room with a house altar, a small kitchen where their father was squatting while preparing a potted dinner, a storage room, and a small room that was empty, save for a 1980s style television that did not work.
Printed pictures of the families five children were glued to the concrete walls. There was no paint, no carpet, just cold, hard concrete everywhere you looked and walked. The children invited me up concrete stairs to see their bedroom, but I felt I had intruded enough.
The family offered me water, then chai, then dinner, but having already eaten, I just opted for a few more minutes of conversation. Then I profusely thanked the family for inviting me in before heading back to the guesthouse for the night.
To say the house was small was an understatement. My apartment feels palatial by comparison. But I never have people over. I do not drag in strangers for dinner. I do not think I have ever been as giving as that Indian family in my entire life.
And that’s what I found, time and again, in Chandelao. One day, Susan–a fellow traveler–and I wandered, quite by accident, into a family’s backyard. In the US, I might hear screams of “Get off my property,” been chased by a dog, or–worse case scenario–been shot. In Chandelao, the family pulled chairs out from the house, invited us to relax, and made us chai tea.
What was going on? Such generosity in such extreme poverty?
It reminded me of a line in The Prince of Egypt: “And that’s why we share all we have with you, though there’s little to be found; when all you’ve got is nothing, there’s a lot to go around.”
Clearly, having more just means you have more to lose.