“ Beta, if you need warm water, look for it in the small room to your right. In case, you have problem let me know… freshen up and come here quickly, I am setting up the table for all of you to have lunch”.
If you are one of those who stay away from home for many months together, I am sure you know how comforting these words can be in an unknown place. The people around the place know her as Kasturi akka (akka means sister) and the heritage house as Dodda Mane (meaning , Big House) in Agumbe in Karnataka. This place holds special importance because Malgudi Days, our beloved series of short stories was shot here.
On my trip to Agumbe rainforest with a few friends, amidst a land unknown and which practically had not too many houses around, we reached her place just in time for the lunch and walked in without prior permission. The warmth with which they received us and showed around the place did not give me a feeling of being a stranger to the family. After few formal introductions and a little chit-chat, we felt comfortable as ever and sat looking at the house and things around. Everything here was different and had a hint of simplicity and being close to nature. Kasturi akka served us a variety of mouth-watering home-made South Indian food explaining how to eat each one of them and the various possible combinations between the various items (in the South Indian style on banana leaves). After she ensured all of us had had the food to our limits she told us about all possible places around we could go to and helped us in all possible means she could. On being asked how much we could pay back to her for everything and in return to her hospitality, she smiled and said- ‘What I prepare here for people is according to my wish, for rest… It’s only your wish if you want to give something.’
I was surprised and left to ponder upon these words after listening to them; this was the first time I had seen the concept of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (which at some point of time I had assumed would only live on screens) come out of commercials and get implemented in real life. I couldn’t decide what left me the happiest- the delicious food, the warmth and hospitality with which they treated us or the culture of the country, which we tend to forget in our fast moving lives. Honestly, Kasturi akka and many others like her are an example for the people in the country to take an inspiration from, to preserve what belongs to us, to save what belongs to the country and its culture.