A weekend at Poopy's house

61 comments

Last Saturday afternoon, following an arduous eight hour bus journey, I found myself in the tiny village of Jalligeri in the southern state of Karnataka, India. The word village might even be too grand a term, as in truth, Jalligeri is little more than a hamlet, nestled humbly amongst sprawling fields and mountain peaks.

The village of Jalligeri

I had travelled there with a young woman named Meera, who runs a small clothing stall outside my house in Goa. Meera was returning to visit family with her nine-month-old son, Gonal, and though her invitation to join them had come entirely out of the blue the previous day, her kind smile and enthusiasm for her home state were intoxicating, and I found myself accepting without hesitation.

So there I was, sweaty and dusty from the journey, stepping off the bus in Jalligeri. The women from the village rushed down to greet us, instantly lifting baby Gonal from his mother’s arms and excitedly fussing around us. They giggled as they took it in turns to push forward and touch my long blonde hair and pale skin, and beckoned for their children to come down and meet us.

Here I was introduced to Meera’s mother-in-law Poopy, a stocky matriarch in traditional dress, who welcomed me with open arms, straight into the heart of rural life.

Miram’s mother-in-law, Poopy (I know, what a name!)

Me, Poopy and her husband

Poopy led us to a small white house with mud-splattered walls and a corrugated metal roof. I left my flip-flops outside the wooden door and stepped into her two room dwelling that served as home to eleven family members, plus a small black cat and three dogs.

Curling tendrils of sweet incense smoked their way out through the open doorway. Poopy ushered me to sit down on the only piece of furniture in the room, a metal bed that Meera explained had been a gift to her and her husband Manju following their arranged marriage.

Poopy’s house

Gods and offerings

Meera beamed as she showed me around, pointing out faded family photos and framed depictions of Hindu Gods, and translating as best she could when her family joined in on the tour. I watched her come to life in the warmth of her home, changing from the western style clothes she had travelled in to a traditional housedress, leaving her shoes haphazardly tossed in the corner and letting her long dark hair fall around her shoulders.

Miram and Gonal

Her family fawned over her and baby Gonal, who was passed between outstretched arms and showered with kisses from head to toe. Their attention then turned back to me, and they happily fussed around, placing a small red Bindi on my forehead and offering the first of countless cups of chai so sweet I could barely stand to swallow it.

Poopy then spread a woven mat in the dirt courtyard outside. Here the women and I gathered together to snack on green mango wedges dipped in salt and chilli powder, while we basked in the warmth of the afternoon sun.

Deliciously sour green Mango

As we ate I could hardly take my eyes off the women’s intricate and colourful traditional dress, hand-stitched with small reflective discs, some of which had been recycled from car mirrors, still warning “Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear”.

When the electricity came on for just a few hours that night, the television was instantly switched on and the house filled with family and friends, crowding around the small screen to watch a surprising mix of Bollywood soap operas and WWF wrestling.

Bollywood Nights

Dinner is served

A simple but delicious dinner was served on the mud floor of the house, and the women and I shared egg curry with chapatti and white radish freshly harvested from the surrounding fields, while the men ate separately outside.

Once the plates were cleared away Poopy lifted her top and pulled out a small mirrored bag containing her supply of betel nut. She offered me a few pieces, then took out a smooth green leaf and spread it with a white paste before demonstrating how to fold them together and chew it.

She laughed as my face contorted with the bitter taste, and after lasting just a few short minutes I had to give in, and Poopy hurried me outside where I gladly spat it out, adding to the red splattered stains that covered the ground.

When the power was switched off at 10pm an oil lamp was lit, and I was motioned to join the other women as they walked behind the house to use the ‘toilet’. Here I was instantly forced to relinquish my English sensibilities, and we squatted together in the mud to relieve ourselves amongst stinking piles of piss and shit.

Let there be light

It was a relief to finally go to sleep after my long day of travel, and I gladly climbed into bed beside Meera and baby Gonal, whilst the other women spread themselves out on the floor around us, and the men of the family lay on woven sacks beneath the stars.

As I struggled to doze off amongst Gonal’s wriggling and the cacophony of snores reverberating from the floor, I drew in a long breath of mountain air laced with the smell of sandalwood and freshly tilled soil, willing myself to fall asleep.

I wondered what the day would have in store for me tomorrow…

  • For more photos from my weekend at Poopy’s house, please visit my Facebook page.

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel February 1, 2013 at 18:31

Oh my gosh, what an adventure. It always seems that the ones who have so few possessions are the first to offer up whatever they have. What an honor to be invited to stay in their home.
I am impressed by your ability to squat and poop with others, though. 🙂

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Hannah February 1, 2013 at 18:36

Thanks Carmel. I didn’t poop though, it was just a number one 🙂

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Carmel February 5, 2013 at 20:22

I have a hard enough time peeing in the woods when no one is around.

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Hannah February 6, 2013 at 04:33

Haha, that cracked me up!

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Rhonda February 1, 2013 at 18:48

wow..what an amazing story Hannah! Congratulations for so fully embracing this unique and fascinating culture. Wow,,, Poopy sure had on the sparkles!!!

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 15:47

Thank you Rhonda. And yes, Poopy sparkled, inside and out 🙂

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Jenny February 1, 2013 at 19:33

Love hearing about this. Keep posting please!

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 15:48

Will do!

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Jeremy or IHeartTravel February 1, 2013 at 21:33

I love experiences like these so much! Being welcomed into the intimacy of anothers life. I’m sure these little moments make your adventure and traveling overall so worth it!!
Great read Hannah : )

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 15:49

Thank you Jeremy, they certainly do! I feel very lucky to have been able to gain such a wonderful insight into rural Karnatakan life.

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Kristen February 1, 2013 at 22:25

Wow, those pictures are amazing. I’m inspired by your ability to not only accept, but appreciate life … even after an 8-hour bus ride and unexpected destination. This post lead me to read a few others, including the 50 Quotes. I love your blog! All the best in your upcoming travels, I’ll be following along!
xo,
Kristen

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:00

Thank you so much Kristen, I’m so glad you enjoyed it and am very happy to have you following along 🙂

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Jade February 1, 2013 at 23:47

What an incredible experience!
Poopy looks like one hell of a lady!
Always love reading your posts 🙂

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 15:51

Thank you Jade. And yes, Poopy was seriously bad ass!

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Hannah @Getting Stamped February 2, 2013 at 02:39

Talk about once in a lifetime opportunity! So jealous and so happy that you got such an insiders view! Great post and pictures to match!

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:02

I’m so glad you liked it Hannah. It was without doubt one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had so far 🙂

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Stacy Carpenter February 2, 2013 at 03:06

Greetings,
What a wonderful story! Even as it is 15 degrees here, it feels warm!
Looking forward to the next story…
Cheers~
Stacy

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:02

Thank you Stacy 🙂

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Margaret Hogan | Destination Here&Now February 2, 2013 at 03:34

What an extraordinary invitation. Given and accepted. Love these sorts of moments. The world needs more of them. Thanks for sharing Hannah.

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:17

It really was an extraordinary invitation, and the best part of it was that I think they got even more out of it than I did. They were so proud to share their home and show me how they lived. And they LOVED having their photos taken!

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Kim February 2, 2013 at 03:53

Hannah, what a great experience- and I love the photos! Is Gonal a cutie or what? Can’t wait to read the next one 🙂

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 15:52

Thanks Kim! Gonal is a major cutie with the sweetest little soul. He did pee on me though. Twice.

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Angela February 2, 2013 at 08:31

Sounds like a fantastic experience. Poopy looks wonderful on those clothes!

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 15:53

The clothes are incredible aren’t they?! All the women make their own clothes – they are works of art!

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Jill Miller February 2, 2013 at 09:17

What a special and awesome experience. The people of India are so beautiful and loving, always with their arms open to share their cultures and smiles with you. I never did try betel nut. The men turned me off it with the filfy red saliva over their faces.

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:04

I couldn’t agree more, the people of India are incredible, and have been the very best part of my time here.

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OurLifeExperiments February 2, 2013 at 13:33

What a vivid story you tell! I felt like I was right there with you! Thank you for sharing, it was very interesting to get such an insider’s view into this way of life!
Maria

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:12

Thank you Maria, it was a joy to share such a special weekend 🙂

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) February 2, 2013 at 15:36

These are the kind of stories that convince me that slow travel is the way to go! Being able to take the time and form those ties that allow you to truly embrace a completely new way of life is ultimately so much more rewarding than hopping off a train and seeing a place for a scant 24 hours before heading off again. I can’t wait to hear about the rest of the weekend!

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Hannah February 2, 2013 at 16:14

Yes, slow travel is definitely where it’s at! The days unravel slowly, revealing all sorts of unexpected treasures, and gifting you with the time required to enjoy each moment to the full. I can’t recommend it enough 🙂

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Jim February 3, 2013 at 06:09

Thanks for sharing your story and photos.
Good luck on your journey.

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 06:25

Thanks Jim 🙂

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Rica February 3, 2013 at 06:45

This is an incredible experience Hannah 🙂 Your friend Miram is beautiful!

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 07:05

Yes, she is truly beautiful inside and out 🙂

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Jonathan Welford February 3, 2013 at 08:45

Great to read an updated post, the adventure sounds exciting. I hope we’re going to have more than one post a month going forward 🙂

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 13:35

Thank you Jonathan. And yes, my resolution this year is to work extremely hard on the blog. In fact, there is a post all about that coming up in the not too distant future… Thanks for sticking with me 🙂

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Monica February 3, 2013 at 13:15

“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”… love that bit. Loved all of it, actually. You are such an effortless storyteller and I loved the photos! Especially the one of mother and son:)

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 13:36

Yes, the mirrors really made me chuckle too! Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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Toni February 3, 2013 at 15:52

Random experiences like this are the exact reason many of us choose to go travelling – how precious! 🙂

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 15:59

They certainly are, and I feel very lucky to have had such a unique and special experience. I hope to return next year to spend more time with Poopy and her family.

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Amanda Jenner February 3, 2013 at 16:11

Really beautiful post Hannah x

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 16:42

Thank you so much Amanda, I’m so glad you liked it x

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VacayGirl February 3, 2013 at 16:38

Love this!

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 18:28

Thank you!

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Stephen S. February 3, 2013 at 17:03

Hannah as always you paint an amazing picture of your life and surroundings. Sounds life great fun I wanna go to Poopy’s house for a weekend.

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Hannah February 3, 2013 at 18:26

Thank you Stephen, I can highly recommend a weekend at Poopy’s 🙂

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Jim February 3, 2013 at 22:04

Your post reminded me of the last verse of the song Guantanamera.
“With the poor people of the earth …”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RuzmxghdrI
I hope that as the hotter weather comes to India you will consider visiting the mountains.

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Hannah February 4, 2013 at 02:53

Thank you Jim. Unfortunately we won’t make it north this season as our Indian visa runs out in five weeks and we will be moving on to our next destination. We are hoping to come back soon though 🙂

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Tricia February 4, 2013 at 08:20

Hannah, what a lovely and authentic account of your time with this generous and warm family! My similar experiences of such hospitality (in India, Morocco, Malta and Tunisia) have left me pondering how I can return the kindness that’s been bestowed upon me. Safe travels!

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Hannah February 4, 2013 at 08:53

Thank you for your kind words Tricia. I feel the same way about wanting to return their kindness, which is hard to do without causing offense. I am going to get all the photos I took in Jalligeri printed up so Miram can take them home with her on her next visit. It is my very small way of saying thank you 🙂

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Tricia February 4, 2013 at 09:51

I think that’s a very fitting way to say thank you – and it reminds me – I have images to print out and send to friends in Munnar, India. 🙂

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Hannah February 4, 2013 at 11:39

That’s great 🙂

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Sofie February 4, 2013 at 10:03

What a story. Amazing how those people welcomed you into their homes and I must say I admire how you seem to effortlessly adapt to their way of life.

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Hannah February 4, 2013 at 11:37

Thank you Sofie. It wasn’t easy to adapt, I can assure you, but I was very aware of how lucky I was to be there, so I did my best to make the most of every moment, good or bad. That being said, I was very glad to get back to a more western toilet!

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Craig February 4, 2013 at 11:56

A beautiful story with some incredible images to take you along for the ride. It must have been a real honour to stay with the family, despite the toilet facilities, small price to pay though for such an experience.

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Hannah February 5, 2013 at 02:55

Thank you Craig. It truly was an honour, and even the toilets wouldn’t stop me from going back again. I’m hoping to return next year 🙂

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TammyOnTheMove February 5, 2013 at 06:13

What a great post. I love meeting locals. It gives you such a good insight into real life India. That baby is adorable, but Poopy looks like she is not to be messed with. 🙂

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Hannah February 5, 2013 at 09:27

Absolutely, I couldn’t have asked for a better insight into their way of life. And yes, Poopy is definitely hard core!

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Lela February 11, 2013 at 17:42

The “toilet” sounds intimidating! I’m heading to India this December with 2 girlfriends. Like you, Sarah and Kim! Hehehe

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Hannah February 13, 2013 at 08:55

Yes, it certainly tested my ability to ‘let go’ so to speak!!! I hope you have a wonderful time in India. We may be back here next December too 🙂

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