Life Lessons Learned From the Mango Tree

It was another hot day on the sleeper class train in India. We were on our way to Hampi, which was known for its large boulders and ancient temples. After transferring by a bus we arrived in the dusty village of Hampi. It was late afternoon and we immediately set out on foot to find a place to stay for the next few days.

We quickly found a little cottage of a dusty small road. With a friendly smile, we negotiated a price of 200 rupees per night ( about $3 USD ). Then we went out for dinner, looking for a restaurant called The Mango Tree,  which was recommended in the Lonely Planet.  I should have studied the map more carefully, as we ended up behind the main temple of the village which was covered with shrubs and vines with thorns on them.  Eventually, we found a path hidden among the brush so off we went in search of the Mango Tree!

But we didn't get far as I cut my leg on a thorn as I tried to weave my way through the brush! We decided that if they want to make it so difficult for us to find the Mango Tree then it was not worth our efforts!  So a little disappointed and angered that I got a new flesh wound we retreated and found something to eat near our guest house.  "Stupid Mango Tree!", I thought to myself…

That night we decided to retire early at around 8:00 PM since we were exhausted from the long train and bus rides to get us to Hampi.  Also, it was still very hot, probably around 35 degrees Celsius and we didn't have an air conditioner in our guest house so we had to open all of the windows in addition to having the fan on full power.  Right in front of our guest house was a dusty dirt road that hasn't seen a drop of rain in four long months.  As we lied in bed, we tried to remain still, as any movement would cause us to start sweating. Outside, we could hear the laughter of children still playing, men and women chatting as they walked by, the occasional moo from a passing cow and every once in a while a motorbike would ride by creating a cloud of dust that would have certainly entered our room and irritated me had it not been for the breeze created by the ceiling fan.

At first, we were okay. Then suddenly the voices of people outside grew louder and louder and we could see the silhouettes of people sitting on our front porch!  We didn't understand the language so it didn't bother us so much but we were still annoyed that they were on our porch!  We just had to remind ourselves that we were in a different country with a very different culture! And it was unbearably hot during the day so people came out at night.  By 10:00 PM the talking suddenly stopped and we noticed that everyone was gone.  It was finally peaceful except for the whirring noise of the fan.

Guestroom, Hampi, India

The next day we thought about looking for the Mango Tree again, but because of the extreme daytime heat of over 40 degrees Celsius we opted to eat at a local restaurant.  "Stupid Mango Tree!" I thought to myself again … "Stupid Lonely Planet!  How can they recommend something that you can't even find!"

Later that evening as we returned to our room there was a large group of people gathered outside the house next door.  I took a quick peek to see what was going on and just assumed it to be a party of sorts since some of the people appeared to be joking with each other.  "Great!", I said to Heidi.  "So much for getting to bed early again."

Just like the previous night, it was very hot so we opened the windows and put the ceiling fan on full blast to help circulate the air and drown out the outside noise.  Surprisingly both Heidi and I were very tired and we actually fell asleep despite all the commotion outside.  Around 11:00 PM luck was no longer on our side as the talking outside had increased a couple of levels and we could see several people were again sitting on our porch talking and laughing.  I was sure there was a party and these people were just being disrespectful!  I tried to stay calm and sleep it off, but suddenly the power of the entire town went dead, which is a common occurrence in Hampi or anywhere in India!  Now we could hear every word and every movement they made.  Even though we couldn't understand a word of Hindi it was obvious they were having a good time out there with all of the laughing and loud talking. I was about to yell at them on several occasions but refrained each time telling myself to,  "'Let it go."  The downside to that was each time my anger was a crescendo building and building up to an inevitable explosion!  Finally, around 1:00 AM I got up and slammed the window shut!  Then like magic, the noise stopped and there was silence for the rest of the night.

The next morning as we set out for breakfast, I told Heidi that I needed to let the guest house owner know what was happening, as I was convinced he knew about it, he was probably part of it but just assumed it was okay.  Well, it wasn't okay with me!  "Go easy!" Heidi said.

Off we marched to the owner's home.  He could tell that I was upset and before I could unleash my fury the owner stopped me and said, "The daughter of the family next door has died.  Many people have been coming to pay their respects.  All the people will be gone later today..."

That was not what we were expecting to hear.  I felt like a selfish fool. This was definitely a new low point for me…  "How could I be so inconsiderate and selfish??"

Later that day we attempted to try and find the Mango Tree one more time.  I realized that I had misinterpreted the Lonely Planet's map!  So off we went again and we knew we were making progress when we found a sign that said, "Mango Tree, 5 minutes walk" with an arrow pointing the way.  We were feeling good as we headed out into the hot sun, but then 5 minutes past, then 10 minutes and maybe more with no Mango Tree in sight!  Both of us were getting a little irritated again as the heat was skewing our judgment.  Finally, we came to a gate that read, "Mango Tree,  One minute."  "Finally!" We thought as we headed down a path through banana trees.

Pathway to the Mango Tree, Hampi

Two minutes later still no Mango Tree!!!  Then suddenly a man appears in the path and says, "Sorry, Mango Tree is closed today."  Heidi and I looked at each other in disbelief as we started to walk away.  "At least he said sorry, " I thought to myself.  No, I was pissed, as I turned around and shouted at him, "You should put a sign at the gate that says you are closed!" He just waived and gave the Indian head nod which I still have a hard time deciphering today!

It was our third night in Hampi and it seemed hotter than the previous two nights.  As usual, the power had gone off so we were sitting on our front porch waiting for the electricity to return so we could run the ceiling fan. Inside was literally like being in an oven!  As we sat there staring at the stars the owner of the guest house joined us and we asked him how the family next door was coping with their loss.  He explained that the neighbors' girl had a kidney problem that spread to other parts of her body and the disease finally won.  Then he proceeded to tell us that the neighbors are also the owners of the Mango Tree and had closed their restaurant for the past 2 days to mourn the loss of their daughter...

I learned many lessons the past couple of days.

Never assume. It might make an ASS out of U and ME

We all do this. I made so many assumptions in the few days we spent in Hampi. I assumed I  the owner of the Mango Tree restaurant was being thoughtless. I assumed that the people sitting on our porch where just being disrespectful. I assumed it was okay to be rude to people just because I had paid for the room. I clearly made an ASS out of ME!

Even after this life-changing experience, I catch myself assuming things all the time. At least now I recognize it. Once you recognize this, try to stop yourself and ask questions instead. An assumption is based on incomplete information that will cause you anxiety and stress. Wouldn't it be better to just ask questions up front and get the whole picture?

It's not about you. It's about them.

We all think the world revolves around us.  Some of us more so than others. I am of the former and when I yelled at the owner of the Mango Tree I didn't give a single thought to his feelings or what his day was like. Even though I noticed the man looked a little distraught. It was all about me! Me. Me. Me!  I walked all this way in the hot sun and you don't have the courtesy to put a sign out front that you are closed?

In retrospect, would you want to be friends with someone like me?  Probably not. Regardless of the situation. I don't even want to be friends with me. I am embarrassed and humbled.

Never act without thinking about the consequences

We need to learn to not react in anger as it will surely lead to negative emotions on both sides. Instead, I've learned to take a step back and think about the other person's feelings first.  I felt the people sitting on our porch were being disrespectful but slamming the window shut was a poor decision that I clearly did out of anger. Yes, I scared them off but I certainly didn't make any friends and while it worked, I regret my actions to this day.

Instead, I should have opened the door, smiled at them and politely asked them to keep their volume down.



2 thoughts on “Life Lessons Learned From the Mango Tree”

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