The Genetics of Hospitality

Can one inherit a sense of hospitality? Is it stealthily intertwined in our DNA helix?

Our home is always open to Arvind’s friends. Kids from his kindergarten come visiting and lately, older kids from the neighbourhood – real school kids – as Arvind would inform you – have started to drop by.

They drop by and they stay. Then they stay some more and pretty soon they have eaten all the mac and cheese our kitchen cupboards were selfishly hoarding. Because our kitchen cupboards are real bitches about sharing their mac and cheese and they must learn their lesson.

They have the usual gigs – videogames, Wii, music and lego. Playing pirates was in for a while till they got kicked out for having used my panty hose to pirate with. Harmless cross-dressing – I would understand. Pirates? Gah! A couple of days ago, we found them in Arvind’s bedroom poring over a tampon. My tampon. Yes, you heard me. We then proceeded to have an entirely generic tampon-discovery conversation.

Kids: Where does it go?

Me: In umm.. lady places.

Kids: Where’s that?

Me: Somwhere off the coast of Argentina. Where’s that map? Aaah.. there! Look, there’s Africa! Lots of lions there.

(Blessed reprieve in the form of short-term-whippersnapper-memory.)

Now brace yourselves for the really strange part. Yes, the strange part without the tampon. The Viking and I love it. Having our home upended by totally random, energetic children. Making dinner for four and suddenly having six or seven of us at the table. Charming dinner-time limericks that are almost always about farts and excrement in their many-splendoured variations. Occasionally, in a startling departure from protocol, we are treated to limericks about spew. Its a blessing, truly a blessing. The spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down and all that.

In the midst of all this gross! and eewww!  our home feels just that little bit more like a home with kids.

Both of us have grown up in families with an open home policy. Not to mention a ” have-food-will-feed” policy. Neither of us can remember a time in our youth when we didn’t have friends – or friends of friends – hanging around our homes. Hanging around watching TV or waiting for the next meal. During our college years, it wasn’t even unusual that they dropped by to do laundry. Some of them hung around so much that our families just sort of adopted them after a while. It was simpler that way.

Our mothers, we reminisce, were particularly popular. Probably because both mothers like having people around and have this wonderful, inherent sense of generosity. It also helped that they weren’t afflicted by the most common Mommy sickness – uptight-itis. I can never recall anyone being sent away without being fed, even though I have seen my mother turn a whiter shade of pale seeing how much biriyani my brother’s friends could knock back. However cramped our living quarters were, (incredibly cramped for some years) family members and friends were always welcome to come and stay, whether it was for a few days or weeks. Mattresses, pillows and crisp, clean sheets appeared as if by magic to accomodate them.

It’s crystal clear to us that this is how it has to be. Gregariousness is in this family’s blood. As early as a wednesday, we start planning who will come for dinner/playdates/coffee and chat during the weekend. Friends drop by unannounced, step over our mess politely and feel comfortable that we don’t fly into a panic picking up after us or apologizing for unwashed windows. (People actually do that. You’d think they had puked in your shoes or were guilty of a similiar injustice.)

Parenting brings us full circle. Now we are the ones looking on indulgently and loving the noise, the brouhaha, the masti. Handing out plates of pasta, refusing more Coke, raising our voices simply to be heard above the din of the TV and wishing for our sons the same kind of wonderful memories of a friend-infested home.

I love it when nature meets nurture.


Filed under family, friends

6 responses to “The Genetics of Hospitality

  1. Sounds wonderfully chaotic.

  2. shal247

    well, it gets that way when you’re not terribly organised -and we aren’t! But yes, we have our moments. Thanks for coming by and keep visiting!

  3. Anj

    Heyyyyyy…I am the kind who’d apologise for the state of my windows!!:) But I also love having people around. So in order to cater to both my loves (cleaing and guests) I plan and execute weeks ahead. And then I’m so tired out with the effort that I need a week to recover. So as I would dearly love to live past 40 it’s become clear to me that I’m going to have to ease up on one..and I’m reasonably certain (being mother to a rapidly growing 2 yr old) which one it has to be but boy it’s going to kill me to let go!! 🙂

  4. Anj. We’re *always* having to let go somewhere:-) Lets face it, who isn’t anal about stuff?? My pet peeve is plastic plates, cutlery and stuff. With a rash 18 month old kid at home, I’m doomed to IKEA plastic plates and spoons!
    *balking at thought*

  5. Anj

    Probably the biggest lesson I learnt (but it isn’t well ingrained yet) from having a kid…letting go and not sweating the small stuff. I fought hard for the first 6 months and I still remember it as a very difficult time. If I’d only known then it was a losing battle..:)

  6. oh GOD yes. have food will feed. i think i grew up in a very middle class home that went even lower in terms of economics because we had a palestinian student, a bangladeshi and a sri lankan guy who just moved in with us. to say nothing of my maama’s other friends who pretty much ate all their meals with us – on my poor grandfather’s professor’s salary!

    i LOVE this post. we’re family twins for sure!

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