Meet Kavya, the energetic four year old son of Nitin and Kajel, my Couchsurfing hosts in Delhi. Couchsurfing.com connects travelers with local people all over the world who are willing to have a stranger come and stay with them for a short time for free.
To some this concept sounds like madness; strangers you meet online in you your home? How do you know they’re not axe murderers, right? Similarly, other people say that staying in the home of a stranger is dangerous because how do you know they’re not an axe murderer!
Well, I’ve been an active member of Couchsurfing since 2009 and I have yet to have even one negative experience. Using the site I’ve met some amazing people, been introduced to places and cultures I would never have experienced otherwise, and made some great friends along the way too.
So in Delhi, I’m staying with Nitin and Kajel and little Kavya. They live a humble life in a small two-room flat at the top of a five-story block in the Dakshin Puri Extension. Their flat has a small kitchen and a basic bathroom. Their bedroom has a little window that looks out to the main living space which is largely open to the elements so as to be cool when the ferocious summer heatwaves set in. It’s a basic home that costs between 4000 – 6000 Rupees a month ($60 – $75) depending on their bills.
“I want Kavya to see the world,” Nitin tells me as Kavya excitedly unwraps a Kinda Joy chocolate egg that I’ve just bought him. As Kajel helps him assemble the little plastic superman figure from the egg Nitin continues. “We can’t travel so much, but my son is seeing the world because we are bringing the world to him. People from all over come and stay with us and he is interested in all of them.”
It’s true too, despite not yet being in school Kavya already has basic English! He is able to tell me about Kinder Surprises and loves to count in English for me. All this from just being exposed to the strangers who find their way to Nitin and Kajel’s home through couchsurfing.com.
On the face of it, it might seem weird to fly into a country and stay in the home of a person who has never seen the inside of an airport lounge, let alone a plane. But while our lives might be very different Nitin’s motives for being such a gracious host are genuinely touching.
“One day I hope that Kavya will be able to stay with some of the people who have stayed with us,” Nitin tells me. “I hope that he will be able to travel and see the world like I never have.”
I hope so too. In the meantime, Kavya continues to meet the world one guest at a time.