Friday, 1 November 2013

The Room for Guests


There is a hidden pot of glucose inside all of us. The size of the pot may differ, but it’s there. 

For some, it pours itself into their blood stream when they get booked for an international holiday. For others, it’s the reason behind the sudden high they experience when India wins a cricket match. For me, nothing shakes me out of bed happier than the thought of preparing my home to welcome in my best friends and family. Nothing else can give me the high I need to cook a meal, polish my china, roll out the guest room bed and start looking forward to the arrival, like this hidden pot of glucose inside. Such merry energy it generates within, that it makes me whirlwind around the house to get things ready. To open the windows and let the Sun in. To forget the difficult and feel blessed within. 

Nothing else. 

When I was a child, relatives and friends who were coming to stay meant the geography of the house changing. At 7, that was reason enough to start running around excitedly. You cannot be of much help when you are that young, except maybe stay out of your parents’ way. But we could jive aimlessly why not, even as our parents removed the centre table, pushed the sofas back, spread mattresses with sheets on top (the best ones, if not new!) and make the drawing turn into a pretty dorm. Once the “beds” were in place, the running around and pillow fights happened on them and will you please stop spoiling the arrangement, my mother would say! Of course, she herself could not hide the excitement within. Why, the very air in the house would smell of preparing, readying and all that looking forward is made of. Bed boxes would spew out quilts and lihafs to be sunned, folded and piled in the store. The bathrooms would get a hard scrub and shine like new, thanking their stars for the new voices they will hear sing and the extra touch of makeover, even if it just meant a new flower arrangement and fresh towels. The three women of the house would decide the menus for the meals, divide the labour according to their expertise and bring out some surplus crockery and cutlery, not to forget those plastic plates for the army of kids to eat as they played hopscotch in the inner verandah. The kitchen, in the meantime, would be the cynosure of all tasty activity, ready to serve you-name-it at all times of the day and night. 

Yes, night. Who sleeps early when you have stay-over guests? Dinners would be followed by two groups of junta. The womenfolk would gather together on one side, and instantly would follow the choicest gossip about the “common enemies” in the family and oh it’s all harmless of course I bear no malice towards her, really! The men would sit a little distance away, mumbling something about shares and weather and politics, all the time trying to lend an ear to what their better halves were discussing with such glee. Soon, the cards would be counted and kept in neat piles, and after a few ‘Paploo’ jokes about the last time, there would be silence and concentration. A happy one. A shared one. 

At 2 am a range of midnight snacks would be served, coupled with cups of tea custom made for each and every player. And what have we - its 4 am already and we should sleep now, nahi? The lights were turned off, the privileged ones retired in the rooms. The rest, mostly children, stayed in the hall - that hall-turned-dorm soon to turn into something out of the horror stories the older ones forced down the younger ones’ throats, and I closed my eyes tight, and my ears and sang a tuneless tune to not hear the story. Soon, calm would descend over the whole house, only to be banished at the first rays of the vale’s Sun. And the merriment would start all over again.  

No one minded the shared space. The ideas of ‘my space’ were not so widespread – not for eating, or sleeping or even just being. The feeling of togetherness and oneness surely was, as spread out as the sheets covering an entire hall, or the branches of the 3 mango trees which the children adorned during the day. The shared laughter, the game losses, the food, the sound of spoons on plates, the poking fun at husbands, packets of namkeen and hey, I don’t take sugar in my tea, you forgot? The queue at the loo and I need to bathe first, please. The sombre discussions about ailing elders and the very serious ones about school grades. 

Worries shared. Joys shared.  All under one roof. 

No one minded the shared space. The shared time. They became one with it. 

Things are different now. Houses are structured differently. Children are rightly given their own spaces to do what they may. Hostels make us enjoy rooms we call our own, even as they tell us how we are actually sharing it with a whole corridor. Still, our space. And vacations at home suddenly feel too crowded, why, does everyone have to visit me when I come home from college? No one just walks into our room, even if the door is ajar. Our beds, our cupboards, our TVs and our quilts. One phone call from tayaji and family announcing their arrival for summer vacations and we go in an I-me-myself tizzy. Not my bathroom, please. My kid cousin always forgets to flush. I am not sleeping on the sofa, okay? Why do I need to play cards and eat mangoes when I have my own work to finish? Gossip, uff, get a life people! And so the story goes.

Understandable. Privacy is important. Space too. Mood even more.

And not everyone knows how to leave your bathroom sink dry. I know. Or your bed linen sans aam achaar stains. True.  

But for me, the joy of having people coming to stay with me takes the cake, or should I say the midnight snack! Growing up with 12 others in a house that was always housing more than 12 has left in me a permanent love for visitors (most of them anyway). The houses are much smaller, bathrooms limited, cupboards even more – but the furniture can be moved just right to make place for the brigade. The fridge has enough room to store the extra bhoona masala stock, so there’s more time to chit-chat with them when they arrive. There’s always linen in beds called ‘guest linen’ and an area in the store where extra bags can fit, really snugly.

There is space in my humble hearth, to accommodate the hearts I like. And I hope it always remains that way. 


63 comments:

  1. So much space in your heart, Nischala. Loved the choice of your post.look forward to your writings.

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    1. You mean Sakshi, Kalpana. :D Thank you. :)

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    2. OOps! sorry, I meant Sakshi Nanda.

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  2. Nice one, Sakshi!
    My hubby says- 'Jagah Dil Mein Honee Chahiye!'
    Home may be small in area, but 'Atithi Devo Bhava'! :)

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    1. You husband is right, Anita. :)
      Thanks a lot for reading!

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  3. Very nostalgic Sakshi ! This post reminded me of my childhood days and my childhood home in Lodhi Road. We had a constant stream of guests then. My parents treated them as they would all family members. No frills, No standing on attention but loads of love, laughter and camaraderie. I guess I am a similar sort of host. I like my guests as long as they don’t behave like "guests". :P
    And frankly I am selfish enough to need my own "space". Even if it is for half hour or so!

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    1. Sounds good - "I like my guests as long as they don't behave like guests." If they did, they wouldn't want to sleep on mattresses would they? :)
      Wishing you much more than that half-an-hour, Ruchira. ;) ;)

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  4. This was such a beautiful post which immediately took me back to days whenever there was a family function on my father's side. He has 6 brothers, 2 sisters and innumerable cousins. And then we have the kids of which there are at least 2 from each of these uncles and aunts with the exception of me and another cousin being the loners. All of this adds up to at least 20+ people who compulsorily turned up for each and every function and invariably this added up a crazy gang of people who always has more than enough to catch up on. Wow, those were some fun days when we were younger. Almost all of us cousins are married now, and eagerly await the wedding of the last 2 ones when we can get together again to relive those old days.

    Thanks for rejigging those memories Sakshi with this wonderfully nostalgic post.

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    1. Your family tree looks quite like mine. Why, I even have guys and girls my age who I am bhua too. :P When we have weddings or birthdays, the list of family members far exceeds those of friends. :D Yes, I miss those days. We did not think too much about 'spaces' and accepted everyone as they were. But I do understand guests come in all varieties and some are really not the ones you should open the door to. :P
      Thanks for reading, Jairam! :)

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  5. Beautiful post, as always! (From your next post, please take this as stated!)
    You are correct. Space in the heart is all that matters!

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    1. Thanks for a lovely comment, Proactive. :)

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  6. This reminded me of my home a long time ago, nostalgia. Love this post.

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  7. Very nice one, as always! I haven't experienced tens of friends and family piling on for overnight stays at my place, but I can totally see how little kids would be unable to contain all of their unprocessed excitement with all the chehel-pehel going around the house!
    Reminded me of a Suraj Barjatiya film...with white sheets on gaddas, people joking around and singing antakshri!

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    1. Yes, no less than a scene out of a movie, those chehel-pehel days. :)
      Thanks for reading, Rickie.

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  8. Very nostalgic! This reminds me of my childhood summers when we would all troop to my Nani's place...mangoes and golas and gulmohar and champak trees, smell of red earth... now it is all changed:(, a thing of the sweeping past. Am glad you are able to keep on with the tradition.

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    1. Glad I jogged your memory down the Nani-lane. :)
      I do my best. I certainly cannot manage what the previous generation did so generously. But yes, I do like people I like coming over.
      Thanks a lot for reading. :)

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  9. Coincidentally, I'm about to write a post on the same topic but a different perspective... Lovely post.

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    1. Would to love to read your perspective too, Brendan. Thanks a lot for liking mine! :)

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  10. Beautiful write up Saakshi...I am a fan!

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  11. Beautiful post Sakshi.. loved it.. I experienced it a few days back when 6 of our relatives had come to our place... specially the sleeping in the mattress part and chatting till late night.. sooo fun..

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    1. Glad you could connect with the sentiment here. :) Thanks a lot for reading!

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  12. Took me back into time.. and as always it was much needed.. thank you :)

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    1. Lovely to know I did that, and that it was needed. Thanks, Seeta. :)

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  13. Well - I still have not understood what this personal space is all about :) Lived in a nuclear family but the vacations in Bangalore were a jamboree of people - and THAT was fun.

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    1. THAT was fun, indeed. No matter how hard you try, the quality of both guests and hosts has changed over the years. But nostalgia remains, always.

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  14. Lovely !! These visits actually brewed the camaraderie that would last for life !! Children these days miss it, and heck, they don't know they are missing it !!

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    1. So right there, Sreeja. These visits made and solidified bonds between cousins and with extended family which Whatsapp tries its best to now. :) Children have no idea what they are missing, really!

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  15. Dear Sakshi,
    Here's my Liebster Award & Creative Blogger Award just for you & your awesome Blog!

    To accept, please do see my Post:
    http://anitaexplorer.blogspot.in/2013/11/2-in-one-my-1st-liebster-creative.html

    Looking forward to your reply! :)

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  16. A heartwarming post this, Sakshi, and your emotions are beautifully conveyed. Your post took me to some beautiful memories of days spent in my nanihaal with extended family. In our house, I have never had tonnes of relatives or friends descending on my home. But I do love entertaining friends and having people over including the late night chit chats :).

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    1. How lovely to know we are birds of a feather in this aspect too, as in many others, Rachna. So I know if I descend on your house, I am welcome. :D
      Thanks a lot for stopping by!

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  17. You've sent me on a very welcome trip down memory lane with your beautiful post Sakshi. As an only child in a very nuclear family, I used to eagerly wait for the "annual" get-togethers back at the family home, and even the odd weekends where other families and friends got together. And late night gup-shups with amazing snacks. Still love them. Haven't had scores of friends or family descend home for a long time now...maybe its time to send out a holler :) If we were back at school, I'd give you a gold star, not just for the post, but for making everyone reading this post smile and opening the flood gates through which those delightful memories have come gushing by.

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    1. Yes, it's time to send a holler. :)
      Love your gold star reference, Sid.

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  18. I remember the weddings. So many people staying in a single house. An army of my cousins running here and there. What a time it was!
    So much has changed over the years that I am now missing the past. I never thought I would.
    Beautiful post Sakshi. :)

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    1. If I have made you miss a past you never thought you would, I am sure I did just fine. :) Thanks a lot for that, Amit!

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  19. Such a lovely golden heart you have Sakshi! It's indeed true that the need fir privacy has changed a lot in the recent past. And I believe it is not for good as I see many youngsters who are not even ready to have guests for even a few hours. Our childhood was that way a blessed one with so much of sharing, caring and learning together. May you always have that extra linen and extra baggage space in your home and heart and may the little one acquire this from you. May God bless you with enough of everything. A big bunch of hugs for this heart-touching post. :-)

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    1. Rekha, your generosity with kind words and even nicer wishes for my son amaze me. Love you for that! And thank you for reading this. :)

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  20. Just yesterday we had few guests over and our moms were nostalgically remembering the times when the main door perpetually remained open ..there were guests pouring in, neighboring children in each others houses, constant activity... Sigh! Your post reminded me of summer holidays when all the cousins would gang up under one roof....yes times have changed but our hearts are the same! :)

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    1. Lovely - times have changed but our hearts are the same! Indeed, Aditi. Amen to that! :)

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  21. Took me back to my memories of my childhood and the umpteen summer holidays spent at my nani's home! :)

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    1. Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane! :D

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  22. As a kid, I remember we had several guests. My dad was the eldest and a doctor. From marriages to surgeries - every event was at our place. It was so much fun. But I remember my mom used to crib often. Not all guests are fun when you are the hostess. Lovely nostalgic post Sakshi.

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    1. I agree. Not all guests are fun when you have to play the host under any and all circumstances. Thanks a lot for liking it, Alka. :)

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  23. This was such a time travel post...so nostalgic.

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  24. Memories flew back to me after reading this! Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Sakshiji. :)

    Rahul

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  25. Sakshi I loved your post... as i was reading it, I got a strange feeling because the words on the screen reflected exactly how I feel about having people visit. Nothing makes me happier than having people over & playing hostess. Your description of your childhood memories of having people stay at your place brought back so many nice memories of my own. Nothing like the laughs and all the high jinx of those times. Thanks for sharing... will definitely be dropping by on a regular basis!
    http://allthingsnice-shalinipereira.blogspot.in/

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    1. How lovely to see this comment. Glad you could connect, Shalini. And happy that your first visit here did not disappoint you. :)
      Will hop over to your world too!

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  26. This was such a happy post. It also brought back my childhood memories. Even I love guests visitors to come over. The atmosphere at home instantly changes and you feel cheerful. Though things have changed now, like you I still prefer the gang of guests and visitors over privacy.

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    1. Thanks a lot for stopping by, Diana. Glad we agree! :)

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  27. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed preparing house for guests. And yes all that you have written, from those midnight snacks to shared silences all are super applicable at my end too. There is something about such events that bring out the child in all of us. I wonder how it would be when our kids are growing up and jiving about the house with us trying to spread mattresses and remove the centre table :D Has it already started to happen with you mommy dearest? :D

    Richa

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    1. Exactly, something about these stay-overs brings out the child in me too. And yes, dearest Richa, you guessed it! The jiving has begun! :D
      Thanks a lot for taking time out to read. :)

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  28. That's a lovely lovely post, brought back lot of childhood memories. I too love having guests over and I am glad that my lil' one too enjoys their company and loves to share :)

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  29. Beautifully written, Sakshi. This took me down the memory lane when we had similar experiences... when we had guests at home or when we traveled to our relatives place during vacations. I enjoy having guests even now... nothing can beat the fun, food, (and now firewater too) with family and friends!!

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    1. Agreed! Nothing can beat the fun and food (the firewater I have no clue about!) shared with family and friends. Thanks for reading, Shilpa. :)

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  30. I am completely with you, Sakshi. Athithi Devo Bhava! And oh joy! :D

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    1. Short and sweet and totally right, Vidya. :D

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  31. Picturing the awesome time you had as a child and hope that you will always have friends and family coming over to bring love and happiness and shared moments.

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    1. Thank you for your prayer. If you enjoy them as much as me, I pray the same for you too, Poornima. :)

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