We’ve grown up in a culture that has thrown around the phrase Atithi Devo Bhavo easily, elevating some very questionable guests to the status of god-like creatures. Which means they come to our place, warm our sofas, barely moving and despite this we are required (by mostly our parents) to treat them and respect them when they visit our homes. It’s difficult enough to wrap my head around the expectations when someone new visits, but my mother will go the extra mile even for a close relative- someone who has been to our house several times. That’s when I start to wonder where we draw the line. In fact, it’s not only my mother but also my dad who buys into this logic.
Let me be clear–I am not a people hater. In fact, I love having people over and hosting them. I like making sure they’re comfortable. When it’s a new person visits my home, I’ll do the basics–keep the living room clean, bring out the pretty cookware etc. However my parents are convinced the visiting guest are coming in as inspectors – the kind that will spot dust in some corner of the house and then tut tut disappointedly. Besides, we are also actively engaged in putting up the “perfect family” front, something that makes me feel like I am part of a play. I find this annoying given that in reality, no family is perfect.
Do You Really End Up Having Fun When There’s So Much To Do?
There’s this whole agenda of showing your guest how much you can do for them. Of course, you’re going to show kindness and assure them the best hospitality. But not at the expense of ruining your mood or doing so much that you can’t enjoy the party. What’s the need of cooking everything at home? For instance, my parents believe that if you’re inviting people home, then that means they’re coming just to eat special home-cooked food. If someone can help me understand the logic behind this, I will be super grateful. Making a few things at home is still okay, great even, but I don’t understand why most parents are averse to ordering some food from outside. Won’t it be much easier to put out ready food and serve them on plates as opposed to standing in the kitchen to fry some pakodas, while sweating profusely? This is exactly what my mum goes through, and it bothers me. No one gets to spend time with each other. And ultimately, the point of meeting wherever it is, home or at a restaurant, is to catch up and talk, isn’t it?
While there are times when I am at home to help around, I’m obviously not available every time to run around as the guest wants another serving of the delicious biryani. But parents seem to still expect their children to be around when guests come over. We’re then required to play multiple roles- chopper of last minute things, part time entertainer, the person who shows everyone where the bathroom is. They expect us to be around as they host of their friends (yes, I’ve been asked to sing multiple times) and help do all the work. What they don’t realise is that we might not always be in the headspace to entertain someone every time. So it becomes hectic for the whole family. And none of us end up enjoying it because there’s so much work to be done. Hello, nasty arguments!
Everything “Must” Be Perfect
What’s even more stressful is the planning and preparation before the guest arrives. The fact that someone is coming over is made into a big deal. And everything from planning the menu to the cutlery and crockery to the decoration of the living room (and restroom) is taken into consideration. Our best table cloths are laid down, our fancy plates and serving spoons are put to display, fresh flowers in a vase and tea light candles outside the door and indoors are a must! But this also makes me wonder why we can’t use this beautiful decor every day, when it’s just us- are we not deserving?
It doesn’t stop there though. Rooms have to look like they’ve never been used before, even the bed sheet has to be changed and the wardrobes must be kept tidy. What kind of rude guests come to your home and judge your choice of bed sheet and whether it matches the painting above the study table.
It’s Ultimately A Generation Thing
Sometimes I get it. Most of our parents were raised differently. This is what they were expected to do when guests came over back in the day and so they’ve carried forward the same concept even now. But things are very different in our generation, so we don’t exactly roll with their ways. When my best friends or anyone from my family comes over, I’ll keep it simple. I will make sure they are comfortable, of course, but I am not going to bend over backwards to impress them. I don’t even have to do everything on my own because my close friends come forward to help. They know where everything in my house is (and know how to cook more than I do), so I won’t be surprised if they even come and cook at home themselves. That’s just the kind of understanding among us.
My parents’ friends also offer to help, but their requests are always turned down. But this formality doesn’t really exist with our generation. We’ll organise everything together and even clean up all the mess after the party. We don’t think there’s a need to impress guests or each other.
You know, I would have liked to give you some tips to maintain some peace and decorum within the family when guests are planning to visit. But I gotta go, ’cause my mum is calling out to me for the third time to clean my room. Buh-bye!