Not too long ago I had talked about the globetrotting “Great Indian Traveller” when it suddenly struck me that I had forgotten all about his omnipresent predecessor, the great Indian guest. Yes yes I know all about “Atithi Devo Bhav” ( Guest is God) but this character takes the “god” tag a bit too seriously taking over, if he can, your house, your day, your very life as it were.
So here it goes, my take on the peculiarities of “The Great Indian Guest”! Now the thing you have to understand at the very onset is that this creature does not think of himself as a guest but an extension, nay a part of you, your life. That he maybe infringing on your life or daily routine just does not occur to him. So it falls in line that he can show up at your house any time of the day or night, without any warning whatsoever and more often than not, with many other people in tow, some of whom may not even be known to you. If you are lucky may be you will get an hour’s notice as he calls you on entering your city otherwise you’ll become aware of the invasion only on answering the door bell. At that odd hour, you will be expected to conjure up a lavish meal and make necessary arrangements for his stay. If you do not have a spare room, opening up the sofa cum bed in the living room is not an option. You either kick your children out or hand over your own bed room- a mark of respect for this god you see !
The other peculiarity of this person, in case you still have not got it, is that privacy is a concept alien to him. Not only can he walk in and out of your house as it suits him, he will walk in and out of your bedroom and rummage through your cupboards with the same ease. Not to mention the free, unsolicited advice that you will be offered on every matter under the sun. If you are a newlywed or a new mother, lord help you! Advice will come in faster than you can breathe and if you are naive enough to believe it, you will be left feeling like the worst possible wife/mother in no time.
As if handing over your bed room, kitchen and the welfare of your children to the guest/ god was not bad enough you will be slaving in the kitchen for hours as you cook up one lavish meal after another…pretty much like the famous “Chhapan Bhog” that is offered to the deities in the temples. Eating out, cooking a single dish once and serving it twice are not the options that please this new god in your life. Not to mention that being sent off for sightseeing alone will also be a big affront to him. To put it in a nutshell, you are expected to be waiting on him hand on foot and ad infinitum at that. You will have no clue about his itinerary and you dare not ask. You may grumble, you may mumble “Atithi Tum Kab Jaooge” but voicing it out loud, no matter how diplomatically- nah! Can’t do that.
Finally, when that much-awaited hour does come it is time for good-bye gifts to not only the visitors but their kith and kin as well. Of course, when he does announce his intention to depart, you have to protest vociferously or all that you have done so far will be rendered to a nought. In case you are really out of luck, he will take your pleas to heart and stick around. If the real God above has any sympathy left for you, He will make His counterpart in your house depart.
After a week, fortnight or maybe a month of standing on your head and turning your life upside down, you will spend a few days to put the house back in order. The chances that the guest has done the needful, even made the bed prior to leaving, are very few. And while you are doing this, be prepared for yet another onslaught from some other quarter and also a negative feedback on your hospitality from the departed guest and his entourage.
As I see it- Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The choice really is yours. I for one have made my peace with being damned while not doing anything except holding onto my life, my bedroom, my goodies and my life come what( or who) may !!