“Hold this!” Papa Chavan said as he handed me one corner of the patterned blanket. We stood under the jamun tree: Mama and Papa with their sons Vinayak and Manish, and daughter-in-laws Monali and Nayan, grandkids Chinmay and Tanisi and the kids of the land’s caretakers, Tejas and Samiksha.
Up the bamboo ladder, Vasant, the full-time caretaker of the Chavan family farm is ready to shake the tree. When he does, the oblong purple berry-sized fruits are caught by the blanket. When a sufficient amount had reached the blanket’s center, Mama Chavan collected several jamun in her hands which she disseminates for each of us to enjoy.
“Small one,” she says to me in English, “Small ones are sweet,” and she hands me a small jamun. The taste does not disappoint.
Papa Chavan explains, “This prevents diabetes. Eat it every day.”
As Papa Chavan shows me the farm, he tells me the health benefits of the different plants while Mama picks Jasmine and other flowers, offering them to me to smell before decorating my hair with them.
Papa is proud of the family farm he has nurtured for over 25 years, growing banana, mango, lime, chili, coconut, okra and about a dozen other fruits and veggies, "all natural, no chemicals, only fertilizer from these cows” he points to a neighboring farm.
The family hasn’t been to the farm in many months and it is the first time that Nayan, who is newly-wed to Manish, is visiting.
We spend 2 days and 1 night, connecting and enjoying without internet or much of any phone signal. The quarters are close; it is a simple one bedroom farm home. There is ample land where the kids play and where I find different spots to read, write and meditate.
Mama joined me for my morning meditation. I wondered how I’d tap in with her and the kids at my sides. The time turned into one of my favorite experiences on the farm. At first the kids sat restless, not really knowing what to do once Mama and I shut our eyes. Their distraction crept into my own meditation, I realized it was an opportunity...
“There are 4 steps,” I began my explanation. Mama translated my simple English into Marathi for the kids.
“First you bring these two fingers to touch like this,” I brought my thumb and index finger together and placed it on my folded lap, “Next close your eyes and take a few deep breaths,” the kids followed along, “Finally, imagine you are a tree rooted right where you are sitting.”
Mama and I took turns singing mantras. She seemed impressed that I knew some sanskrit. I hold dearly the memory of sitting atop the ledge that overlooked the farmhouse lake as she sang sweetly to welcome the day.
The women cooked meals off the land using the open air back deck to prep and create and we made jewelry out of flowers and string, taking turns dressing each woman up as queen before the selfie-sessions began. We blew the Shankar (conch shell), practiced simple yoga, we laughed (often at me, like when I shrieked as tiny fish in the lake pummeled me like popcorn popping from its kernels). We fell asleep in the shaded areas during the hot afternoon.
Papa Chavan asked me, “are you bored?”
I wasn’t bored. I was amused. I was grateful. An experience like this isn’t one I would’ve sought out at the beginning of my trip when I detested dirt on the walls and feared catching diarrhea every day. Being embraced by this family, despite some difficulty communicating at times, is something I somehow needed and something I created when I accepted the challenge of this journey through India.
So here we are, the visit to the farm. Here I am, recovering from fractured toes and a saddened heart that my Nepal trek is cancelled. But the cliche rings true here: when one door closes, there’s another one waiting for you to walk through.
Adorned in a peach-colored gorgeous flowered Sari, Nayan kicks over the cup of rice in the entryway to the farmhouse. Per Marathi tradition, when the newlywed knocks over this cup of rice, she will fill it back up and the cup will overflow. This blessing shows the abundance she brings to the land and the family. As Nayan piles the rice back into the cup, we enter the freshly blessed doorway.
The message is clear: The moment to love where you are is now.