Two Potters of Bareja

Apr 1, 2005

"To: Bareja, Ghansyhambhai, near Rameshwar temple". "No, no, no, just write Kheda Taluka." "Ok, give the number of your friend in Narol." "Ok, ok, To: Bareja ..." After about five minutes of group brainstorm, the family comes up with a mailing address. It is obvious that they have never received mail before.

On the second day of our walk, we pass a series of potters. Guri stops to say hello and the next door neighbors call us to see if we need water. "No, but thank you," Guri responds with a smile. "How 'bout some tea? Can we give you some tea?" It's hard to tell if they can afford the milk for tea but it's not so hard to see their enthusiasm; I hesistantly blurt, "Not for me, but my wife is big tea fan, so she'll have some." (Incidentally, it was Guri's tea time anyhow. :))
It turns out to be quite an inspired family: two brothers in their twenties, their wives and their parents, all living in a one room hut, making pots and earning about 40 rupees per day. None of them drink, smoke, chew tobacco, or anything else. And it's obvious in the quality of their presence. The older brother, Ghanshyam, doesn't even have tea.

"We are lucky that we have enough, and we can stay together as a family," Ghanshyam says as Guri places a candy in the mouth of his mute 2-year-old daughter. He tells us how he quit school to learn pottery from his mom, teaches us about pottery himself, and explains the economics of how the city middle-men take most of the profit from this.

And then things get spiritual, as Guri sips her tea from a dirty saucer. We talk about sincerity, devotion and trust in the universe. They are awed by our journey and ask us questions before collectively saying, "See, this is the right kind of journey. The Dandi-yatra that passed through here couple weeks back wasn't all that deep. There was a board on one of the buses that quoted Gandhi about not smoking and right underneath it, one of their own men was smoking. People think we are villagers who can be manipulated, but we are not that dumb."

It's hard to explain but both Guri and I separately felt like we were really connecting with this family. We wanted to give them something but we didn't have anything. It's a weird feeling, especially for me; but it's great because it consciously forces you to dig a little deeper than your wallet. Around about the same time, Guri takes out her camera and takes a photo, which gets them all excited.

Fifteen minutes were up. We had to keep walking in the early hours of the day, if we were to make our 26 kilometer day. Before we can initiate the goodbyes, Ghanshyam reappears in the mix with two palm-sized, glazed, pottery pieces. "These are for you, with our best wishes for your journey to see God." Here we are, feeling indebted by their kindness and here they are putting us even deeper in thankfulness debt. We touch the feet of the father and mother of the house, as they verbalize very kind blessings, and accept smaller of the two offerings.

"Are you Hindu?" the father asks me, right as we are about to leave. Almost immediately, both the brothers and the mother of the house yell, "What does that matter, Dad?" I agree and add, "All paths leads to the same destination, indeed. But yes, I was born a Hindu and my wife is Sikh. And we are both human." The innocent Dad was possibly drawing conclusions from my ever-growing beard and bandana on my head, but it was a very cute moment nonetheless.

"Can you please also bless our sons that they may also progress in their own paths to God," the Dad says as we were passing the rows of pots that will be sold in the monsoon season. I turn around and raise my hands, almost in jubilation of our shared connection, and say my piece: "May all good things come."

Bookmark and Share


Projects I'm Involved With

"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."