All of us who have grown in the eighties had to go and live with our relatives for a long time during vacation. It taught us sharing, adjustment, to develop patience and to curb our mood swings, to learn to eat what has been served on our plate without complaints. In the present times, as the children increasingly grow up in their preciously guarded personal space, they are not able to adjust anywhere even for a day. Even the elders have become so much habituated to live an unrestricted life according to their own fancies and health issues (which are many nowadays) that it has again become a very difficult task even for the elders to adjust at somebody else’s place even for a day!
Don’t you think that this strong bond which we have gradually developed with our personal space is a barrier for even intra- personal communication within one home too. We have our own rooms, our own laptops, our own smart phones which connects us with the world and we tend to become highly insecure if this space is invaded even for a small time. So no doubt, we do coo niceties like inviting our relatives but at the same time, we do not forget to add immediately when they should not visit as some this or that thing is always there. The poor would be guest, gets the unsaid message (if he is wise enough) that actually he will be an intruder, if he plans a visit.
Today, it is next to impossible to house the children of different parents under a single roof even for a day. (most of them are a single doted child luxuriously lathered with intense pamper) It starts with the morning milk. One child likes Horlicks, other Bournvita and if his mother has not been duteous enough to carry that brand with her, then the child sulks and creates a scene. I remember, we as young cousins would sit in a row with newspaper pieces before us and we were served kacchha chiwda and nobody had the heart to demand anything different. In fact, these were the common snacks in every household. But now one child will demand Maggi, another Pasta, someone will want a pizza to be ordered and nobody has learnt to listen and in the end nobody is happy! The children naturally become home-sick in a day! Even in the bhendi bhaji which nowadays is the only lucky vegetable all the children like, there are variations in which way it should be made, one likes it crispy, one likes it green, one spicy and others not. It becomes a Himalayan task to serve the children and keep them happy. After what they will do after meeting their cousins what they will do is that each one will get their mother’s phone and they will play. Virtual games. So sad! When children gathered two decades back in some ancestral home for their annual summer vacation they filled their day by playing interesting indoor and outdoor games.
Previously, we had unannounced guests and we had to reschedule our plans accordingly and that too without the appearance of any complaining lines on our forehead. We deeply believed in the maxim that a guest was next to God and we immersed ourselves into looking after his welfare. We even spent our meagre income many a times on the guests and had to live a hand to mouth existence in the next month. But such was the attachment that we did not feel sorry for the sacrifice as the love was symbiotic and we knew that he too would welcome you with same fervour when you visited his house. Now in the present world, where life has become so fast and planned that if an innocent guest decided at all to go unannounced, then a big lock might welcome him as every family has pre-decided vacation plans for each and every long and short vacation that they get!
In this materialistic world, where we are all involved in first shaping and then building our careers, entertaining a guest for too long is beyond the imagination and capacity of today’s generation. We cannot blame them. Life has not remained that sedate for them and they have huge pressures of deadlines which they have to manage. Previously, the husband handled that and the wife could handle the guests with patience. But now, even the wife has her deadlines and work pressures, so she cannot remain available for the dear guests who may have come with loads of expectations. Here, I would like to point out one positivity that some of the guests have adjusted to the changing times and they not only decide but sincerely implement to be of immense help to the busy family members during their stay and that increases their utility value, and the magnitude of welcome they are accorded in their next visit. So, we see this pliant adjustment on the part of the guests to the changing situation works! Now, gone are the days when the guest was given a VIP treatment, now he has to create a warm space for himself. The roles have reversed. Wisdom lies in accepting this and making changes in us accordingly. Because there are occasions, when we do have to visit our relatives and I honestly think that we should continue with these visits to each other’s abodes as much as possible. A very good refreshing change (gift) that we can give ourselves is the company of our relatives and it sure is a thing more looked forward to, than experiencing the comparative comforts within the four cold walls of a hotel suite. The camaraderie is what we cherish and enjoy and we should strive to enjoy it.
But if your home doesn’t have a guest room, then it is a big question that who will be magnanimous enough to sacrifice his personal space and house this guest. Because neither you nor your guest will like that he should have to sleep in the drawing room. Of-course, the guests too nowadays have lots of adjustment issues. Concomitantly, he and his visit comes at a high premium. You have to prepare separate tea because he has diabetes, he needs a proper bed as he has spondylitis, he needs not very hot and not very cold i.e. Lukewarm water- set to a specific temperature to drink because he has chronic cough problem, he wants to keep some bulb open at night because he has to get up several times for relieving himself, he does not eat very oily food as he has recently been through angioplasty but mind well – at the same time his taste buds should also be satisfied, he cannot stand high volume of music or television as it gives him a headache. Some guests are habituated to drinking only auro water and if you don’t have Auro Filter, then they will also give you a suggestion to buy one by the time they visit again for your health but actually for their convenience. Till that time, you have to boil and cool the water without fail as you have committed the greatest crime of not equipping your house with the necessary gadgets required for a modern Home. Some behave as if they were born with the Air-conditioners and hence cannot live without them. They themselves may come from a hot city but they will bore you to death reminding you that your city is the hottest city on the planet. Whenever they will see you crossing the room, they will puff and pant like steam engines gathering steam for leaving the station. Previously the guests who visited were hale and hearty and did not have so many health- issues to comply with and therefore they easily assimilated into the family schedule without much discomfiture to themselves and to their hosts.
We once upon a time had an interesting guest who every time I prepared tea, opined with a sad sigh that she enjoys her brand of tea only and she is missing it so much that finally I had to buy a 250 grams’ packet of that appreciated tea brand. Such a great ambassador of her tea Brand she was! I wanted to tell her that she should charge some commission from the company. Then there are guests and surprisingly ladies who want to recompense their lost sleep and use your home as hotel suites. They get up at lunch times and that too at their own convenience and they leave their lovely children to fend for themselves. So, in addition to preparing food for this guest who is going to give you loads of blessings for utilising your home as a rejuvenation centre, you also have to work extra as a caretaker of her children and at the same time of your valuable showpieces which become highly endangered as the loving gazes of her children fall on them one by one! At this juncture, you begin to wonder to which relatives will you go to, to compensate your own sleep.?
I distinctly remember the Marathi serial Ase Pahune Yeti on DD long-long ago where the versatile Rima Lagoo and the hilarious actor Vijay Chavan were bombarded with many atrocious guests and we also had a movie where Paresh Rawal frightens the life out of Konkana Sen and Ajay Devgan with the title ‘Atiti tum Kab Jaoge’.So guests are interesting characters no doubt and provided good themes as stories.
I dread to think that this Lockdown has further strengthened the bond which we had with our personal space and belongings. It has also now habituated us further into using our space freely without any intrusion from strangers. (read Guests)
All said and done for a humorous take on the entity called ‘Guest’, I want to reiterate that Guests should be welcome because that bonding and sharing of moments together with our relatives when we go to live at each other’s places and friends wipes out the dry formalities in a relation and creates lovely memories which can become our treasure house. Our generation sure has enjoyed that bonding and we have nostalgic memories of our stays with each other as children so much so that we are still attached to each other with these strong strings of silken memories even after growing up and residing in different parts of the world. The three months spent in lockdown only in the company of our immediate family has no doubt taught us that meeting other people and bonding with them is also our equal need. What better way than to have them as guests and collect wonderful memories from dawn to dusk! So as we co-habit with each other as a guest and a host from morning brush and tea to late night coffee and again brush before saying goodnight, the birth of a lifetime bond takes place as the show of formalities gradually breaks down into warm reminiscences. A little adjustment on both sides would add that cherry to the lovely moments together before the ice-cream of this guest culture totally melts down. What do you say?