Growing up in India, the one thing that was common in all the households were how we treated our guests..Atithi Devo Bhavah..Guests are considered to be equal to god and every time someone visited you, be it on a short notice or otherwise, you treated the guest well. You used the best china, served the best food. In Chengannur house there were special plates and glasses that were reserved for guests. Same in my mother’s home. Amma never sat down with us and taught us how to treat a guest, but we all knew to be in our best behaviour and envied the guest who got to eat bigger slices of the cake while we ended up with the crumbs.
I often have friends over for meals and they all know where the beer, wine etc is and they help themselves to it, while I cook dinner.
I do panic if I have an Indian visitor because most often the mixture and other kurumura that I had bought for such an event would have been eaten by monsters and offering wine/beer wouldn’t have been a smart thing to do. I do feel terribly guilty for offering tea with nothing to munch, but what else am I to do? Indian snacks take at least 15 to 20 minutes to make and there would be too much drama with my Indian guests trying to make me not to cook, for they feel guilty and eventually everyone feels guilty and I end up serving just tea.
Last Thursday, my neighbour came to visit me as soon I returned in the evening. Her hips have failed and she is using crutches to walk and it does take a lot of time and effort on her part to walk to my house. I knew something was wrong the moment I saw her at my door.
I invited her in and made tea. It turns out that her mother’s health deteriorated the night before and she just wanted to talk to someone. She didn’t want to tell me in the morning and waited till I returned home.10 minutes later, Yaya came back from school and as soon as she entered the house, she said hello to my neighbour and asked me
“Mom, can we go to the library?”
“Sure, but later. Today is Thursday, library is opened till 8” I replied.
My neighbour was crying and I just held her hand.
15 minutes later, Yaya came to the dining room and to my shock and horror said
“Mom, I think, we should leave for the library now”
My neighbour left immediately.
I was just so mad at Yaya. How could she do that?
How have I failed to instill something as important as Atithi Devo Bhavah in my children? It isn’t that Yaya is a mean child. She baked a cake and frosted it for my neighbour on her birthday few months ago. But when it came to her need to go to the library, she felt her needs are more important. I did explain to my child that what she did was so totally wrong..but I think, I am to blame here.. I forgot to teach my children simple things that are really important to me.