Thanks to Apollo Hospitals, Shankar Netralaya, M.V.Diabetic Centre, The brilliant Engineering Colleges, definitely the holy Dham Ramshwaram (sacred pilgrimage for Hindus and a few hours from Chennai) and our favourite Tirupathi Balaji i have come to establish rapport with relatives and their relatives/friends, many of whom i had never met earlier in my life.The experience had been varied and i pendulate between being hospitable to committing a homicide. Thank God my upbringing prevents me from even thinking suicide. It is just so amazing how peaceful my house looks prior to the arrival of these as it bears the aura of peace dovetailed with conflict.
Quite recently an unusual sort of calm has settled inside me.Is it a sign of mellowing down with age or is it my attempt to be genuinely in tune with Atithi Devobhava (guests are like Gods) i know not but definitely one thing is clear that now i am with my dad in his angst on lodging at relatives and have no second opinions about what hospitality actually means.Since this one says it brilliantly i can comfortably use it now.
"Hospitality,n-The virtue which includes us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging" (Ambrose Bierce,The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
That devil in me stops me from being a medium whereby my hosts gather brownie points in their good Karma.Can't help it competition man! and can good deeds be far behind.
Holi is round the corner and i sit in this Brahm Vela ( that time in the wee hours between 4-6 a.m suitable for spiritual awakening),taking stock of irritants and how to deal with it without causing pain to myself or any body.Holi mentioned here has a purpose, a reminder that this morning when i serve tea to my soundly sleeping guests who are here sine die there is definitely going to be a warm and brilliant smile on my face, the kind which should proclaim Nirvana (enlightenment)and it will get clearer in my writing why festivals and visitors have a chattis ka aankda (serious conflict) so far as i am concerned.i simply smile the laughter at my friends friends version too when she said-"You know Shivani during Christmas i invite all my family members to Chennai and by evening i want to kill them all".So i chant a silent mantra and start.In random order:
a) that they will be cooped up in their respective rooms showing their faces only when the food served announcements are made- i will count my blessings that unlike my dad house which swarmed with guests my kid is not having to share his room and i will not feel exploited or used.
b) Some will inform me when the food is served that they don't eat Bhindi/Baingan/eggs... giving me the look as if they have done me great service-i will not panic and conjure up something in a jiffy.
c) My loo's will definitely look like a devil's workshop- i will muster the inner stength to be Mr Muscle Man sans grumbling and cribbing.
d) They might ask me to do their laundry like this childhood friend of mine from Copenhagen,whom i had invited and we were meeting after say 20-25 years and the first thing he did was to open his luggage and dump the laundry for his 12-15 shirts and also the same number of inner wears.EEEKS! Washing was easy because of Whirlpool! Whirlpool! but it was the ironing which made me feel like wringing his neck while he happily showered humming some stupid old number.That i couldn't say no was understandable but taking it out on my husband-unforgiving.So this time i will offer the Whirlpool! Whirlpool! politely instead of doing it and then feeling awful later.Also if they need to be taught then shall oblige without having any profanity in my thoughts.Not to forget that now i give that friend of mine the benefit of doubt and forgive him.
e) And when these prove to be the kind very particular about Ghar Ka Khana (home cooked food) sightseeing/shopping shall be a pleasure as i shall grab this opportunity to eat out which shall save me that grudge filled cooking later when i return and i shall convince them that when i treat them to Madras meals they can choose that thali (full meal with accompaniments) which serves Dal (lentils) instead of Sambhar(spicy, sour lentils cooked along with vegetables)and that food at Sarvana Bhawan is world renowned as not only are the preparations tasty to the palate but very agreeable to the stomach.Also that it will be my honest attempt to show them the culinary side of South India and prove to them that that South Indian food apart from Masala Dosa( a kind of roll made with rice and lentil batter and stuffed with spicy potato filling and served with spicy pastes of all kinds called Chutney ) need not be condemned without even tasting and knowing their variety and uniqueness.i shall not make desperate attempts to dispel their myths about tamarind and it's use in sambhar,instead.It's of no avail convincing people who can't differentiate myths from reality and who think tamarind makes you impotent.
f) Holi will see me extra busy with more specials than i would have normally prepared to save them of nostalgia and feeling sorry that they couldn't be back home with their family and friends and that they are in this alien land jahaan kuch pata hi nahin chalta hai ki holi hai(where holi as a festival has no signs of merriment). i will take it sportingly if my guests show detachment and are stingy with their compliments.My husband's will suffice and i shall acknowledge lovingly when he says-malpua bahut accha bana hai... (deep fried pancakes minus eggs cooked as a festival special in Bihar)
e) Last but not the least this time my husband will be spared of my wrath and i shall not doubt my husband when he echoes Khalil Gibran in saying-"If it were not for guests all houses would be graves".Maybe i'll use the same later when guests from my side arrive and he is proving to be an ass...oops! sorry! hey it's after six and i must get going now as the guests which are 2 in number for the time being leave at 7 for their training at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services).Starting with a wake up call, followed by tea, packing of the tiffin box... lots to do including grocery shopping for holi to be done without my guests actually having to witness that. Some sort of host ettiquete i guess. So maybe i'll have to call it the quits for the time being.
The dawn of a new morn when i hear the sounds and see the serenity that hints of hectic activity to be followed later, i will be truly dishonest if i don't spell out my real feelings."Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once in a year"(Victor Borge)and to this i shall add just for one day.