Would you be able to live in our mud huts? The Masai man asked, as 5 of us huddled in the kitchen/living room/bedroom of his mother’s hut. An almost 6ft 4inch giant man sat, doubly bent, on his 5ft bed on which he sleeps with 2 of his younger brothers and 3 kittens the size of my palm! He explained that not only were Masai men tall and slender but they were also very much capable of coiling in order to accommodate everyone else in the house. I thought about his question for barely a second before I said yes. But in hindsight I wasn’t entirely sure if I had replied in the affirmative out of defiance at the misplaced thought that he was referring to my mollycoddled lifestyle or if I genuinely thought I could rough it in the wild.
I imagined myself in India at this time, and agreed I do live in a pretty spacious home with windows and fans and queen sized beds and not in a makeshift mud hut , but I still remember the endless stream of complaints from my NRI cousins and myself about the not-so-common to Dubai mosquitoes and worms, the cold showers and the power cuts that interrupted that very important drama! In all honesty though, we may have moaned about all of the above but the summers I spent in India as a child were some of the best I have had. I spent hours lounging about reading a book a day because the TV wasn’t fixed after the latest short circuit, I learnt to paint, dance, sing and use a typewriter because my grandparents wanted us to learn something every summer we spent with them, and I learnt to make bouquets by picking flowers from the fields my cousins and I traipsed through every morning and then proceeded to exploit our relatives and neighbours by making them buy it off of us for a very reasonable price. The stories and experiences from my days in India without the internet and only real people to communicate with are many and priceless.
The feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world and it’s consuming frenzy is so calming and powerful in my memories of India and I wonder if it would be the same if I went to live with the masai. Will I or will I not survive a week at minimum, in the leather sandals of the masai? Has my carefree days in Indian chappals prepared me for this? No. I may be able to take those cold showers at the river, help cook and build huts (Masai women build their own homes with no help from the men) but I doubt I would survive more than a few weeks at tops.
How can I be sure of this? Well, 2 hours after this lovely tour of the Masai village we were packed in the van and off to a 5 star hotel for a complimentary lunch. We discussed living like the Masai throughout the trip and came to a meekly voiced agreement that we could do it if they could do it. On arrival at this hotel we were so stunned with the view , the service and the luxury of the hotel that all thoughts of living in a mud hut went flying out the french windows … of the rooms overlooking the breathtaking landscape of 700 miles of game reserve, while eating our 10 different fancy desserts and drinking that frothy cappuccino.
I have the privilege of being brought up in a middle class home where all my basic needs and above are taken care of within reason. This privilege acts as my security when times get rough in a culture and state of living that is unusual to me. I found it interesting to hear that the new generation in the Masai tribe can relate to this feeling of a luxury security blanket. Our young Masai guide tells us there are an increasing number of the Masai who go to nearby cities for university and most of them don’t return because their Masai and city lifestyles differ so drastically that most of them find it difficult to re-adjust themselves to the 5ft bed they have to share with 2 others. So how long will the Masai culture continue being the nomadic lifestyle it is now? It is impossible to extinguish the deep rooted culture of the Masai but getting on the bandwagon to a more comfortable and modern lifestyle can’t do one any harm, in fact retaining your good cultural values and yet adjusting to the ever changing world around you is a sign of growth and maturity. And suddenly I don’t feel terrible that I can’t rough it like the Masai.