Homestays are a chance to immersively experience an overnight stay with the rural Indian families so that students can get to know people outside of their group of peers campus. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to learn something about themselves from a brief but hopefully intense encounter with others without whom we might not seemingly have that much in common to begin with. Two first years, Gayathri and Mithila certainly took away a lot from this weekend. Here are 8 lessons they learned through during their homestays:
Sitting by the bank of the river sounds peaceful enough, until you slip on moss and almost land face first into cow dung. But that’s also how you accidentally end up catching giant prawn fish. As was the case with our host’s father-in-law. Such humorous tales were shared over the sigri in the tiny kitchen of our host’s home. Who knew fishing could also be a source of stand up comedy?
There is an unwritten rule in the households of India which states that grandmas are the witch doctors of the town. With their feeble hands stirring herbs and leaves in a pot of boiling water by the flame and their extensive knowledge, it’s hard to believe otherwise. One of many home remedies I was exposed to during my homestay was the use of tulsi in recovering lost voices.
From roads to rice, the influence of the village heads is very prominent. The residents of the Mulshi valley are acutely aware of every aspect of local politics and power dynamics. The rich and powerful exert their power in every aspect of life and while it may not always be detrimental to the state of the village, the inequity leaves an impact on the village’s social fabric nonetheless.
From putting her education on hold, quitting her job and being unemployed for over five years to finally being able to support herself and above all her children, our host has been through it all. Possibly for the first time in my life, I was exposed, unfiltered to the hardships and obstacles mothers have to face in order to make some decisions.
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#UWCday began for us with the time honoured #muwcitradition of the Homestay – wherein the firsties spend a night at a host family’s house. This is an attempt to familiarise them with the rural community’s way of life and make personal connections, before they engage with the community in more challenging ways through their respective service learning programmes. #climatechange #muwci #muwciinmulshi
The story of how eons ago the ancestors of the people living there now came together during Ganesh Festival to build a temple from scratch is one of my personal favourites. Each member of the community brought with them one brick and they built the sacred site from the ground up and that is why even today the people of the community celebrate Ganesh festival with great pomp and grandeur as a way to honour their town’s heritage and history. Who knew that simple stories of the past could shape the lifestyle of the present?
The homestays also taught me how engaging with everyone in the community was essential. Even though this may seem like an obvious thing, we often lose the essence of who all are included in a community. Every single member of my host family had different views and opinions, despite living together under the same roof. The same topics were observed under different lights with different people and that was an eye-opening experience
I was pleasantly surprised by the impact MUWCI students leave behind, as the daughter-in-law of my host parent was one of the students with whom the previous MUWCI trivenis worked. She would smile warmly as she talked about a woman from Malaysia, which convinced me that even a single interaction can leave a lasting impression.
The experience convinced me that sometimes, a language barrier can result in more meaningful conversation, as we had to use the entirety of our body to communicate. The short phrases, the wiggle of the eyebrows and the classic Indian head nod go a long-enough way!