In India we take great pride in saying 'Atithi Devo Bhav'. We think this was the guiding principle of our society. So much so that this has been the pet slogan of our government sponsored tourism industry. However, the real lesson was taught to us by an unknown Armenian farmer and his wife. This was during the Jai Jagat global foot march which was taken out under the auspices of Ekata Parishad in the first quarter of this year. (The foot march has been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19 outbreak.)
We started from the town of Artashart on the morning of 10th March on our way to Yerevan. We had come to the highway which connects Yerevan to the southern area, and were waiting for the other group which was to come from Yerevan and meet us there. The wait turned out to be a long one as the group's arrival was being delayed.
Some of us sat along the road while some stretched their legs in the adjoining field. At a distance a farmer was driving a tractor and sowing in his field. He was observing us for quite some time and then finally came near us and inquired. We exchanged the usual greetings but could not talk further as language was the barrier. He was then directed to our local friend, David.
Upon hearing that we were foot marchers from different countries and were waiting for the other group to arrive, he insisted that instead of waiting by the highway we all should go to his house which was just adjacent to the field. He must have guessed our apparent discomfort in finding decent places for relieving ourselves. He also said that we can have water there and relax. Honoring his wish we all walked to the place which was like a farm house.
En route, the farmer told us that he cultivated barley in his field and also had a peach orchard. Historically, barley was being sown in India as well but wheat and maize have now completely replaced it. Barley is actually a much healthier grain. He also told us that he was a dairy farmer and had more than twenty cows. He had three sons - two of them working in Yerevan and one was studying in Moscow. We also came to know that his name was Luva Vardanyan.
After we reached the place, his wife - Angela - came forward and smilingly greeted us. They asked us to be sited on the covered terrace of the house. A table was laid there which held water bottles. There was also bread and cheese. Luva asked us to be comfortable and help ourselves. Angela soon brought a jar of juice which was made of local berries. There was also something like apple cider.
By the time we were tasting these, our second group arrived. Now we were more than forty people. They were also invited to the terrace. And lo! Angela's hospitality began to flow. She brought out bowls of cheese one after another. They were home made and of different types. Some were salted whereas one was made of tender milk. More juice bottles arrived along with home made preserves.
Lavash - the local Armenian bread, which is like a 'rumali roti' in India but which is at least two metres long, was quickly finished. Angela, however, brought in two fresh heaps of lavash. The husband and wife seemed to have some secret communication between them (which can happen only between spouses).
Luva in the meanwhile had taken out his car and had bought those heaps from the local bakery. Angela then brought bowls of cucumbers and salted capsicum. She also brought different types of green vegetables like celery and broccoli. The bowls and plates of cheese were endless. As if this was not enough she kept a pot of coffee boiling and it's tempting smell began to feel the place.
The sight was unbelievable. It was a bright sunny day and the snow-clad Mount Arrarat was heavenly blissful in the background. We had not known this couple half an hour earlier but here were we relishing the choicest food as if it was a a prearranged feast.
We were not just one or two unannounced guests but more than forty walkers. We were feeling deeply shy and hesitant but Luva and Angela were insistent that we finish everything that was on the table. And as they were the divine 'Anna Data' (food givers), their supplies were endless. There was plenty of food left on the table even after we got up.
Before departure we made a circle in their courtyard and sang the Jai Jagat song. Each one of us profusely thanked Luva and Angela. Photos were clicking all the time. Every one wanted to remember this fantastic couple. In response to our thanksgiving speeches, Luva said that it was a great occasion for him to be of service to us and he wholeheartedly supported the idea of uniting the world.
We had to leave because we were walking but our feet were heavy. The load on our shoulders was even heavier.
- Milind Bokil
Read the extended version of this article in Marathi:
चाळीस पदयात्रींचे आदरातिथ्य करणारे शेतकरी जोडपे
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