Guests: pain or pleasure?

We Indians are well-known for our hospitality. It is a trait which has been ingrained in us from childhood. We take great pride in the age-old belief that a guest should be treated with honour, respect and warmth. The doors of our home are always open, and the most casual of visitors are well looked after, irrespective of convenience or space constraints. “There is always place in our hearts if not in our homes” believe the traditionalists. 

But if we are the world’s best hosts, does the same hold true of our guests? Undoubtedly, many of us can be the worst and difficult guests possible. Quite often, hospitality is taken for granted, and guests behave in such an inconsiderate manner that their stay becomes more of a pain than a pleasure.

Reena, a friend of mine, was visibly perturbed as her house guests were so demanding that her entire household turned topsy-turvy. In spite of being mature and educated, the concept of “self help” was totally alien to them. They indulged in excesses which not only irked the hosts, but also their domestic help. They were vague about their meal timings, drifting in and out at all odd hours.

Piles of laundry, and endless demands for hot and cold beverages enhanced the pressure on the already overworked hostess and servants. Use of the landline phone for long stretches interfered with Reena’s husband’s work schedule and commitments. A stage came when Reena could hardly wait to see her guests depart.

Perhaps, Reena’s guests appear to be far more insensitive than what is generally the case. Surely, they went a step too far. Yet, similar true-to-life tales of guests arriving unannounced or overstaying their welcome are not uncommon. God help you if you are residing in a tourist city or hill station, because as a good host, you are then expected to take them for sightseeing and shopping. To top it all, after the hectic outing, the honoured guests like to return for a hot and elaborate home-cooked meal. Some are often “picky” eaters who won’t eat this or that.

I recently heard of a case where the hostess was left dumbfounded when her house guest informed her, “You remember my uncle and aunt who live in Koramangala. Since I have not met them for several years, I have invited them for dinner to catch up on old times.”

Certainly, it will be far from fair to generalise such behaviour. On the flip side, some guests can be charm personified — understanding, considerate and helpful. They drift into the routine so smoothly that their presence can hardly be felt. 

As for my personal experience, I have a friend, who is a blessing in disguise. When she stays with me, she not only lends a helping hand in the kitchen to tide over the morning rush, but pitches in with daily household shopping as well. She waters my precious plants, but also greets me with a cup of morning tea, and that too, with a smile! Are such guests an exception rather than the rule?

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