In a culture where hospitality means everything, we experience moments of horror when we visit others or we have people visiting us.
Why is that?
Because having a guest is no joke. It is a matter to take very seriously. Everything needs to be perfect, every pillow, spoon, and smile needs to be in place. So making a mistake can be very crucial and should be avoided at all times. I thought that maybe you’d appreciate some help in protecting yourself from shame and disgrace.
If you follow the tips I’ve got lined up, then (I hope) you won’t go wrong.
1. If you only have a ten-minute heads-up that you are receiving guests then the only way to do this is to split up. The mother delegates and the children should move like tornadoes, clean the rooms, wear their hijabs, put the kettle to boil and dig up some baking. God-forbid there be no baking!
2. Expect there to be yelling and disaster. This is a norm and your mother will try to bite your head off. This is typical Indian Syndrome. Nothing to panic about. Except that guests are coming. Panic about that.
3. It’s time to endure the greetings. From experience, I know that this is what you should be expecting:
Kiss on both cheeks maybe some spit if you’re not so lucky.
A pinch or two.
Statements like: “You’ve grown so much since the last time I saw you!”
To the oldest sibling: “When are you getting married?”
4. Believe it or not, these visits are actually quite educational. You’ll learn all about how Zainab can’t cook a curry to save her life and she’s getting married, or how Fatima is going for driving lessons with a MAN or how Zeenat has decided to attend college and doesn’t wear a top that’s long enough. Some people call this form of education; gossip (technicalities) but it wouldn’t be a visit without it.
5. You have to know that it’s serious business when the guests are coming over for a meal. You’re ready to go when you have the biryani steaming, along with five other side dishes and have set out the plates and glasses that are kept specifically for guests. You have to force your guests to eat till they explode and insist that they haven’t eaten enough even though they insist that they’re so full. If it becomes a battle and the guest looks exasperated and about to cry, then you know you’re doing it right.
This actually happened to me recently, I was at a friend’s house for a week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the best of health so meals were a problem for me. Her mother did not take it well. When I say that she got really offended because I couldn’t eat much of her food, I am not joking. I went through similar battles in all different forms for every meal (including breakfast) and I was honestly so close to tears every time. I’m so traumatized, who knew that food could do that to a person?!
5. Finally, its time to go home! But not really. This is when all of your guests will stand up, or if you are the guest then this will be you acting this out in the same manner. There will be greetings, but prepare for long discussions at the door, more greetings, even more gossiping at the car and then the final greeting before the exit. Sometimes the duration between the first attempt to exit till the actual exit might last longer than the actual visit, but that’s okay because when you get one of these visitors you have to be prepared for it to take up most of your day. Oh, Sister Fatima is coming to pick up a book at 9 am? Well now you know she’ll only be leaving at 9 pm because you haven’t seen her since yesterday and now you have to do some catching up.
6. If you are the guest then your parents must have already given you the rundown of how it works. They must’ve told you some of the following things:
You’d better behave yourself. If you don’t, you know the velan is waiting for you when we get home.
Don’t ask for food, don’t ask for water, if they offer you anything, take one! You want them to think that you don’t have food at home?!
Don’t embarrass me, keep your mouth shut. Speak only if you’re spoken to. You know what? Don’t speak at all.
I don’t know about you, but I remember the pinches and dagger eyes I would get for speaking something I shouldn’t have. I DO NOT miss it.
So in my family, you get some of us that know how it works and actually only take the one sweet we are offered and then you get others. Namely, my youngest brother.
Sometimes I wonder if we were raised in the same house because before walking into the host’s house I say to him, “Bhai, you can’t ask for food, plus you just ate like 10 minutes ago.”
My brother will follow by saying, “Yes Bhen, I won’t ask for anything.”
We walk in, like good guests, and not even ten minutes go by before he starts, “ Hmmmmm…. I’m so thirsty!”
The lovely host will smile happily and say, “Oh, he’s so cute! Would you like some water?”
And the little darling, while ignoring the entire family staring daggers at him, says: “No actually, do you have coke?”
And whilst all of us are facepalming ourselves, the poor host will express her regret at not having a coke and offer him juice, all the while surely thinking, “What kind of child is this? Mother didn’t teach him some manners or what?” because, this, my dear readers, it not normal in our culture. We have been bred to be the epitome of perfection at the house of another. We are formal and we even sit upright. Know that as soon as we leave, my brother and his atrocious manners will be the topic of discussion in that home.
Believe it or not, this is our culture. It has been deeply engraved in us. You’d be surprised at how little exaggerating makes up this post. We’re some really crazy humans but it’s fun when you can see the absurdity in all of it. After all, the funniest of memes, relatable posts and Youtube videos are at the expense of Asians. We work hard to make you laugh.
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