One of the great experiences of Vellore was the wonderful hospitality that we received. We were warmly welcomed wherever we went – and that was often demonstrated in traditional ways, as we were “garlanded”. “shawled”, or given other gifts. We were also invariably given something to eat and drink, even when that provision must have been costly.
For example, at the school at Gnanodayam, a rural school ‘right in the middle of nowhere’ we were offered cake, biscuits and soft drinks on arrival by the headteacher. We were then taken out to meet the children who had all gathered on the school verandah – and garlanded with garlands of really fragrant flowers – see the photograph – but then given all sorts of individual presents by the children who had been encouraged to bring small gifts for the visitors from England.
When we were the missionaries, at the end of the session, I saw a couple of people walk in with two very large baskets of fruit, which I assumed were about to be shared – but, no, these were for my colleague, Anand, and myself to take away.
We all like to think that we are welcoming – but have we really caught on to the culture of hospitality as we ought?