In case you are wondering what the title of my post means, if I have suddenly taken leave of my senses, or lost all comprehension of the English language, take heart. Nothing so dramatic has happened, yet! The title is simply a literal translation of a Marathi comedy serial which used to air on DD back in the good old childhood days.
‘Ase Pahune Yeti’ was a hilarious take on the uninvited guest problem in Mumbai, with Reema Lagoo and Vijay Chavan playing a hassled couple whose plans are constantly turned upside-down by a steady stream of uninvited ‘guests’. No description I could give would do justice to this very funny serial, but if any Marathi-speakers are reading this, a trip down memory lane should complete your laughter quota for this week, I’m sure.
Why am I writing about this today? Are we also plagued by the uninvited guests syndrome? Quite the contrary. Our problem, instead, is too few guests! We live in a pretty remote part of the country, and although I keep telling everybody we are less than a couple of hours away from New York City, very few have taken advantage of my offer yet. A couple who is visiting us tonight would be the third overnight guests at our place in about a year. (I am not counting my parents and brother-in-law here, surely they don’t qualify as guests.)
No wonder I went into overdrive last night, cleaning up the entire house as if a house inspection committee was coming home, rather than two poor unsuspecting house-guests! I even asked the husband to bring some fresh flowers from the local store for their bedside table. I am not sure if they’ll notice it, but I think it’s a nice touch nevertheless. I know I would feel very welcome if my hosts did that for me sometime.
Although I haven’t been a hostess too many times, I have been on the opposite side countless number of times. Thanks to my father, who never believes in putting up at a hotel when there is even a remote acquaintance in the vicinity. To be fair to him, I know it is entirely out of a desire to meet people one would hardly get to meet otherwise, rather than any kind of miserly tendency. (Folks who know him will vouch my father hasn’t a miserly bone in his body.)
But this did lead to some awkward moments for me as a child. While my father belongs to the ‘take maximum trouble and give maximum trouble’ mindset, I belonged to the completely opposite one – giving the least trouble possible (I don’t like to impose on anyone) and (ashamed to admit it, but attribute it partly to my laziness and partly to my penchant for fairness) taking only so much trouble that I found reasonable.
As an adult, I have landed up twice as a self-invited guest at my mother’s cousin sister’s place in Virginia. The first time, we wanted to visit Washington, and my mother suggested we stay at this mavshi’s place. I dialed her number with great reluctance and apprehension. It was the Thanksgiving weekend. What if they had other plans? Other pre-invited guests? What if they simply didn’t like having guests stay over? I was pleasantly surprised by her warm reaction to my hesitant ‘we-were-thinking-of-visiting-Washington-next-weekend’. You must come and stay with us, she insisted.
A delicious home-cooked meal awaited us when we reached their place late on Thursday night. When we woke up the next day, my mavshi was busy churning out super-soft idlis for our breakfast. Both she and her husband were keen to watch our wedding video the next night and eager to help out with our sightseeing plans in the morning. Their son was visibly excited to have someone new to play with and very very sad when it was time for us to leave.
A lot of my attitudes as a guest and a hostess changed over the two weekends we spent at their place. Was it worth it to take some extra trouble after all? I recalled all the homes I had visited as a guest with my parents. My striking memories were of warm, smiling and welcoming faces. I didn’t remember a single food item that was or wasn’t on the menu. Didn’t remember if the bed we slept in was soft and comfortable, didn’t even remember if there was a bed or if we slept on the floor.
Instead, I remember Kulkarni aunty bidding me happy journey with a warm hug, feeding me ‘dahi-sakhar’ with her hands and praying for my safe travel in her lovely home-mandir. (My father and I were staying overnight at her place in Delhi, before I caught the morning flight to join the husband in New York.) I remember my mami and I cheerfully trudging along in the bitter New Zealand cold, going to the local store to get some groceries for our morning breakfast. I remember busy friends of my parents, taking time out of their hectic schedules to show us around, in Guwahati, Coimbatore, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada and Boston.
Which is why I spent a long time last night, cleaning up the house, trying to make the upstairs loft a cozy and inviting place for our house-guests tonight. I am not very close to these people, they are the husband’s friends. But I want to make the few hours they spend with us tonight a pleasant few hours. If ever one of them goes down memory lane like I have today, thinking of all the people who have hosted them over the years, I want us to be counted in the ‘warm, smiling and welcoming faces’ list for sure.