No Such Thing as Personal Space
I was awoken by three Indian women standing beside my bed. Two of which I had never met before. They asked me if I wanted a typical south Indian breakfast – idly. Most people would be confused or frightened by this type of wake up but I’ve come to embrace when things like this happen. Nothing in India surprises me anymore. There’s also no such thing as personal space here. The moment you let go of what you’ve come to commonly know and open yourself up to the unfamiliar, your perspective on life starts to take shape. As a result, you also expand upon your awareness, and I am a firm believer that your sense of awareness is one of your greatest gifts. Embracing the unexpected in life allows you to enjoy the unplanned moments. And the unplanned moments are usually the sweetest.
The one woman amongst the three that I did know turned out to be our guesthouse host. She was an outspoken Indian woman who ran a café in Mahabalipuram. The other two were her friends. One being a Hatha yoga instructor at a nearby resort and the other, a curious neighbour who didn’t speak a lip of English. Josh and I had stayed at her home the night before when we first arrived in town. She lived in a very basic one bedroom flat apartment amongst the narrow cobblestone streets where at most hours of the day you would find children playing or men weaving their fishing nets. Walking outside her doorstep you were welcomed by a hungry cow and a few chickens. It was safe to say that you were never alone in this village – even if you wanted to be.
The neighbourhood streets in Mahabalipuram were the highlight of the village for us. At night, we would get lost and walk for hours on end peering into each of the homes as we walked by. With the warm temperatures, even into the night, most families kept their front door open to help with circulation. The short moments when we would pass by the doorways of these homes, we were instantly exposed to an intimate family setting. You’d see mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents sitting together on the floor in a circle. They would be eating, playing games, or listening to the radio. Most of which were small, unfurnished, but thankfully had electricity and running water. On the outside, each home was painted a bright blue, pink, yellow, or orange – instantly giving life to the neighbourhood streets despite their lack of resources. A sense of familiarity came over me as we walked. It became clear that even though we were on the other side of the world in a small fishing village in south India, the importance of family was present similar to how it is at home in Canada. Family value and connection is borderless. We do not choose our family. We sometimes may not get along with certain members. But in the end, our family is our family, and we are lucky to have them in our lives. If we are able to embrace the unplanned moments when we spend time with our relatives, perhaps we’ll surprise ourselves by how sweet and endearing these connective moments are.
Leaving Mahabalipuram was bittersweet for us. With one Canadian and a Brit not being home for over a month and missing our families over Christmas, Mahabalipuram was a surrogate to us in a way.
Little did we know what we would discover next when we arrived in the town of Pondicherry. Pondicherry would forever change the course and focus of my life – and it’s probably the reason why I’m writing this from a Pondicherry café over a month after first arriving here.