National Geographic : 1956 Apr
Youngsters Eat from Leaf Dishes Bastar families once went hungry while waiting for rice to mature. Today's increased yield permits two or three meals a day. Basanta and her friend are too young to re member famine time. 588 Its main items were colored glass bangles and bracelets of many hues. "You ought to get some of those, Mrs. Chapelle," Noronha advised as we visited the bangle merchants. "The villagers say your husband is not very generous with you. You must be rich or you could not travel so far and yet you wear only one bangle." And he pointed to a metal wrist-watch strap. Villagers Offer to Adopt Authors The sun lowered over the market square, and with it our visit to the aborigine country drew to a close. Sol planned a six-weeks trip on foot to help the southern villagers improve their use of irrigation water. Frank expected to return soon, bringing improved rice seed. We were scheduled to leave late that day, and our final way of thanking Chano's family was to take them back to Bhirlinga in our carryall. It would be their first automobile ride. We loaded them into the vehicle with their purchases of okra and dried beans. Little Basanta, eating beans as if they were candy, sat beside us and shyly offered a grimy hand ful. Just beyond her, Lachhni, the great-aunt, perched nervously on the edge of the seat. Gentle Naidu, in the front seat, translated their excited comments. Lachhni nudged him; he hesitated a minute before repeating what she had insistently told him. "You must understand that what she is saying is really a great compli ment," Naidu said finally. "You see, expulsion from the tribe is the punish ment our people fear most. Lachhni says if you should ever be expelled from your tribe, you both would be welcome here. The people will pro tect you and teach you how to live in the jungle." Lachhni again half rose from the seat, holding awkwardly to the car, and spoke to Naidu. We had no time to reply. "And she says, too, that the village council met last night and decided that, if you do return, they will betroth Basanta to Mr. Chapelle. "You understand," Naidu plunged on, "that you would still be the No. 1 wife." Then Naidu, sensing our hesitation, hastily added, "Of course, you understand, this is all a jo-well, I'm not really sure it is a joke!" Aborigines Learn Western Handshake Nor were we. But the whole family, avidly following the conversation, had seen we were taken aback. So they made that the big gest joke of all. Not even when the car began to move 20 times as fast as a bullock cart did they stop giggling and chuckling. Finally each in turn reached for our hand-they had learned our handshake, after all-to make us understand that they had not been unsym pathetic in their laughter.