I was reminded of this phrase 'basaa jewayala (come, eat)' when I travelled back home yesterday.
If you come across a person eating in rural India, expect to hear this phrase. The person might be a stranger, it does not matter, you will be invited anyway. The meal might be barely enough for one person, but it will still be offered to you. In most cases, this is an instinctive invitation and the expected response is a polite, 'please continue.' But if you are hungry and accept, the food will be shared gladly and with real pleasure.
This is something I love about India. There is always enough to share.
This point was driven home to me a few times over the last couple of weeks. I was travelling back home with some students, and we were four to a seat. 'Will we fit in?' they asked me worriedly. 'Oh yes', I said. 'There are more coming' the driver said. And yes, we all fit in. And we picked up some more on the way. We sat on each other's laps, scrunched up tight, and there was plenty of room.
The bus I took home yesterday. I was holding on to the overhead bar, but knew that I didn't need to. Propped up by the many people around me, it is very unlikely that I could have fallen..I could barely breathe. And we still stopped every time someone hailed the bus. No one complained. On the contrary, people encouraged the driver to stop and take in more people. 'Squeeze in, there are children ahead'. 'Poor things, they are office-wallahs and this is the last bus home.' There was always room.
So the next time I see a dangerously overloaded bus, I will not think of poverty, but of richness. We might not have a seat in the bus, but we can spare some stranger a long walk. We might have a roti for lunch, but we can still take the edge off someone else's hunger. There's always enough to share.