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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Home is Here and So Also the Heart

Long long ago, 9 years ago to be precise, I came to this city to join my first job. Completely clueless on how to find accomodation for myself and most important, where to stay while I looked for accomodation. I was told in no uncertain terms at my office that I need to find a place to stay on my own when I come over to join or atleast find (unearth) some relatives to accomodate me. Which I finally did- approached the relatives, stayed with them, moved over to another set of relatives, spent my first salary on them in gratitude until finally outstaying my welcome and moving over to my own Paying Guest accomodation.

That was the time I made a pact with myself. I will always keep my doors open for any guest to Chennai and if it has not been already asked, I will make the first move to open my home and heart to them.

Because I know how tough it is in a new city, how expensive a decent short term accomodation is and how little it is going to cost me to accomodate them.

So whether it called for approaching my landlady for providing short term accomodation for friends who were in town for an entrance exam or having friends looking for a job as house guests even when I was pregnant or never refusing whenever someone expresses a wish to come home.

I may not be the perfect hostess, I may not cook large meals- I may just serve Maggi or bread, I may not be able to provide a proper bed but lay out mattresses in the living room even or may not be able to provide an exclusive bathroom and I may not even be home if I am unable to get leave of absence from work- but my doors are open for my guests to make themselves comfortable in my home.

I have never been able to refuse people when they want to come over, no matter how much it may inconvenience me. It might be bedtime for my kids or a lazy weekend with family or I might be going out. But I have faced situations when I have called up friends or even relatives just to check if they are home and if it is comfortable for them if I come over, I have been outright refused without an alternative meeting occassion being suggested. Somehow, everytime this happens, my faith in warmth of relatives, friends and society takes a beating.

Once upon a time, before the kids were born, Hubby and I made it a practice to host atleast one dinner every month- for us it was a chance to call people home, socialize, take out the new crockery and cutlery, show my cooking skills (?) off and generally have a good time. The motto being, if you want to be invited, invite first! Well, I can finger count how many times we got invited!

A lot of people complain when they come to a new city especially a city like Chennai where language is a problem- I know nothing about this place, I only know my office and home and Gemini Flyover. I wonder, why they hell did they not even feel like picking up the phone and giving me a call? A few minutes into the conversation and I would have been calling them over to my home or planning to meet during festivals or weekends or I would have definitely offered to help them shop! Only a shopaholic like me will know what it is like to go to a city and not be able to shop or explore and as much as possible, I make it a point to help my guests to shop!

Enough said- the point is that this is no shameless self promotion but just a statement of facts that I have not forgotten my past- the desperation I felt when I had to "ask" for help and to wait with bated breath until I get an answer and this nagging feeling that there is a shade of reluctance lurking somewhere. The helplessness I felt when I knew I had no alternative and I had to make do with it until I could find a roof of my own over my head and them hold my head high. I have faced hesitation, reluctance and refusal and have been scarred for life and even now I am uncomfortable about staying in someone's home and try to ensure that I give as less trouble as possible! Wonder where the world is heading towards- we dread it when people come home to see us!


beaches-and-hills said...

I so agree with you. When I was in Pune, we hosted many dinner parties. In hope that we'll get to know each other and would in general, have a social life. Well! we never got an invitation.
Have learnt our lessons. Here, we have started with inviting for Tea/snacks and then will see the responses :)
The acco problem: very true, since we have faced the issue, we understand how it is to hear an invitation for stay :)

Monika said...

What a wonderful woman you are.
I love your idea of hosting at least one party per month. :)

How do we know said...

i soo agree!! When i was a child, the house was always open to visitors. I thought thats the way it is in all houses. We do what we can, and the house is yours to use as you please. No fancy formality, no nothing. But later realised all houses are not like that. Everyone doesn't think "Of course you will stay with us if you are in town for just 2 days.".. that culture is gone, methinks. My current family even discourages visitors for meals! I just don't get it!

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

I agree with every single point you've made. I have lived your sentiments and emotions too, so I know how your heart feels...mine continues to feel the same.

This is an open invitation for you and your family if you are ever in Calcutta...our doors are always open!

Anonymous said...

This is one very big reason I want to move into a remote area far away in the hills when I retire. People dont have time for other people in the cities, and their hearts are closed. Old world generosity and hospitality is dead.

Mama - Mia said...

so true ITW.

we lived in a one room kitchen. NOT iBHK. and still there were always friends and fanily dropping in at my parents!

and all of them went back saying somehow your home gives out such positive vibes!

today, we love having people over! and yes, it isnt always eciprocated. or people are so fake that you dont wanna bother anyway.

some relatives are old and cant climb stairs to our place in blr. to make up fpor the fcat we visit often, we make food and acrry so as to not burden them everytime.

and then there are people for howm its too much effort to even order food! its so mad!

coming into a northie family with concerns like seperate beds and bathroom for guests was a culture shock for me. coming from a tiny house when my mils would whine about having no space in her 3bhk house, i didnt whether to laugh or cry!

but then those are cultural differences hard to let go, i guess. but if i have to offer perfect hospitality their way, it makes me nervous!

but then i remember my parents home and how informal things were and yet nobody went home unhappy, i relax and do things my way!

if others dont appreciate it! too bad! :D

loved the post!



Kimberly El-Sadek said...

Since I have been graciously hosted all over the world by sometimes complete strangers, in return I will host anyone who comes my direction. Yes, in America where there is generally a "no guest" policy in most households. Sometimes it's for a day, a week, weekends, a month even and I do not care one bit. This place stinks without knowing where anything is, or how things have to be done procedurally, and god help you if you don't have a car. I think of all the times people have helped me and I consider that I am paying the kindness forward. Life is richer for it.

dipali said...

Itchy, you are just wonderful!
We have a plaque on our front door in Kochi- 'Our House is Open to God, Friends, Guests and Sunshine'.
You live up to it totally. It's a joy to know that there are people like you around:)

Anonymous said...

omigawd! You are a woman after my own heart and thank god you wrote this post. I was going nuts wondeing if I was the only one who behaved and felt this way. Is life in India really getting to be this way? Sob! Because in the U.S. here I sorta take it for granted that people like living in semi-isolation but I'm like a flower( that stretches it a bit but you know....:-)) wilting if I'm unable to surround myself with loving, lovable, racuous, warm people and it's been so damn hard here to expect that easy socialising I was so used to as a pre-married gal in India and growing up in my open-to-all homein Goa.

I remember just weeks into my new marriage when a close pal had to come on a long term assignment to the U.S. I insisted she stay with me despite her co. acco. and welcomed her to stay for 3 whole months before her hubby could join her. Neither my husband nor I found it in any way inconvenient nor odd although many others did. You are the last of its kind Itchy, a breed apart and no matter how much your heart hardens pls. stay that way.

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