Hospitality “rules”

Being born in a typical Tamil family, the first exposure to stories were surely the Mythological ones and certainly not the Fairy Tale ones. Starting from Ramayana, Mahabharata, the stories would venture into Saivism, Vaishnavism….these are the age-old methods of teaching tradition, culture, religion to the children, grooming and molding them from young age.

The thing I am talking about right now, here, relates to Saivism and the 63 Shiva devotees, who excelled in showing their devotion to Lord Shiva and attained Moksha or Nirvana. These 63 Shiva Devotees are called Nayanars and each one’s story is an amazing test on their bhakti quotient by the God himself.

Now, here is one story of Siruthondar Nayanar, which I would like to highlight upon.

Siruthondar Nayanar was a Brahmin, living in a small village, in the region of Kaveri river.  He was well versed in Sanskrit literature, Vedas, Ayur Veda and in the art of war.  His name originally was Paramjyoti. The Chozha King, on knowing his verstality made him the commander in chief of his army.   Paramjyoti went to Vatapi, for the war against the Chalukya King.  He defeated the king there and came back with a Ganapati statue, from Vatapi, called Vatapi Ganapati.

One day a Siva Saint, following the Baivara type of adoration, came to his house.  He told Paramjyoti, that he wanted to eat the human flesh of a young boy of handsome body and pious nature. Siruthondar decided to give his own son, as food, since he could not find any other boy.  He brought his son from the school and told his wife to cut him and cook him, as food for the Bairagi.  His wife did not hesitate even for a moment. He cut the son and cooked the body and kept the head separately. Soon, the Bairagi came to sit for food.  He asked for details.  When the lady said that the body of a boy had been cooked, he also asked for the head to be cooked!  A little later, the Bairagi sat for food after bath. He asked Siruthondar to come along with his son for eating.  When Siruthondar said that his son would no longer be available in company, he said that he would eat along with the Bairagi.   He was then told: Go and bring him!  Not willing to disobey the guest, Siruthondar and his wife, went outside and made a mock-call!   The son, Seeralan, came before them and said: O you are calling me.  I shall sit with the Swami.  As the parents were perplexed and excied, Siva appeared, with his son and Uma!  The family immediately merged in His Abode!

The above story taken from here.

As a young girl, I’ve been scared to hear this story first. And surely I had conflicting thoughts like…

I made a vow that I should never have a son – What if the Lord Shiva comes and asks for him ??? or

What if I don’t pray to Lord Shiva – then he’ll not come to test me like this !!!

It sounds silly to me now, but as a child, I was totally disturbed, whether to really pray to Lord Shiva or not…Lord Krishna with his merry-making seemed a better alternative.

This was the fear which was sown into the minds of a young girl, that we need to be totally hospitable to our guests and treat their every wish as our command.  And I’ve seen my amma slogging in the kitchen on her one day weekend break, Sunday, cooking and more cooking for guests, as that was the time when people visited us. Now, we see each other only in FB…thats a different issue altogether.

I am not telling that my mother shouldn’t have entertained guests at her home. It’s a lovely feeling….but I think she forgot to draw a line and the guests poured in weekend after weekend – see, my amma cooks damn tasty dishes.

Now, my question is, why didn’t my mother say that she’s not feeling too well to entertain guests, on a particular weekend ??? Is it a horrible thing to say – Dont come to my home, as I am not well ???

First, these guests are our relatives or our friends. If we can’t put the truth out about our health to our own relatives and friends, then whats the meaning of that relationship ???

I certainly feel that a person has all the rights to cancel a dinner or a lunch, when they are not up to it, health-wise or emotion-wise. This person should be the  deciding authority and certainly it’s not a decision of the guests.

Why don’t we learn this simple thing in life and learn to draw lines when needed and learn to say a NO, when required ??? Is that too hard a thing to do, when your health or emotions are concerned ????


It’s wonderful to entertain guest

Eat and laugh with them

Have a gala time together

Also there’s a line to draw

A No to say

When we don’t feel up to it

Probably this is better

Than ending in the 



21 Replies to “Hospitality “rules””

  1. hmm i can understand what you saying , that way its good to be in UK, usually people ask if they can come to each others house and then they help too..
    Like my cousin and his wife came to stay with me a couple of weeks ago and bhabhi did help in the kitchen and all ..

    Tonight I am going for a 3 night stay and I will do the same well no not help in the kitchen but HELP in EATING all the food that she has cooked he heh ehe EVIL Me 🙂 i know

    I too remember that since we lived in chandigarh most of our relatives were in vilalge so they would come for work or all sort of work to the city, then there kids wanted to study in city.. then a friends friend.. or a relative friend .. it use to be Oh Such and such son or daughter live in chandigarh we can stay there ..
    So our house was mostly a hotel for them, I remember a family of three lived in our house for 4 months casue the lady was getting some sort of medical assistance done in PGI, and the best part was , they were related to MR XYZ, who was a neighbour of My MAASI who lived in KOLKATA..
    CAN you beleive that …

    SO yeah i too have seen my mum work all hours, she was a housewife and never seemed to come out of the kitchen.. This things about Hospitality Yes we should have some rules for sure ..

    And Now too since the house in Chandigarh was locked as mum went to visit my sis in Australia I do get phone calls now and then asking for the keys as somceone wants to stay for a night or a week due to some work I MEAN WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTT..


    1. Its not only the whole lot pitching in to help Bikram – a person not feeling well either physically or emotionally needs to rest, right ??? Where can that person REST if the whole house is buzzing with guests ???

      I feel that we should be able to tell openly to our circle of relatives or friends that they are feeling upto entertaining, if we feel so. And our circle of ppl should be understanding about that. There shouldn’t be any forced entertaining just becos we agreed for this 10 days back.


  2. I think ppl shud be sensitive enuf to understand others need their time off too. I would go all out to treat my guests really well and see that they feel comfortable at home, but we do tell them when we are not in a position to entertain them. And thankfully, I do have a very understanding circle.

    There is a movie in Kannada based on this story too – ‘Bhaktha Siriyala’


    1. Not many are so sensitive Swaru and I am saying that with a sad heart here. Thats why, I feel that we need to tell it out – I cant entertain guests today – forget the cooking – most of the days we order food. But theres a lot to that business than just food.

      U r lucky on so many issues….God bless u. 🙂


  3. Living outside india, our guests are the usual bachelors who would go anywhere for good food and those friends who come from india to stay at my place for a few days before they can find their own place and settle. AB and I go to extremes to make them feel at home.

    Once however, his friend came from india to live 2-3 days. This guy K is from a stinking rich family. He brought along that air. He would not pick his glasses up, not put his plate in the sink and not even cone to the kitchen to get food- it had to be served in his hand.

    The first evening AB did it all but the next day morning I said ‘K, if you noticed, we don’t have house help here. Can you pls clean your own stuff? Thank you.” That set things straight but who gets bitch of the year award now you think? 😀


    1. Exactly CR….thats me – thats me too, bitch of the year award, for saying a small NO, during certain times. 😦 😦

      With friends, I think u can tell them !!! Either they move away from us – then we dont need their frndship. If they understand us, then they become our best frnds….but u have a choice.


  4. So true, Uma, why don’t we learn to say NO! I actually do, these days, you know. My mum would not dream of refusing anyone, but I blatantly do it, because that’s the only way to retain sanity. She would slog in the kitchen and take her temper out on us kids. I would rather say no to the guests and have a pleasant evening with my kid!

    Now on another note, this isn’t about ‘being hospitable’ but the other day, I was supposed to take R to meet a friend, but he developed a slight cold/temperature so I called the girl to cancel. And she tried to convince me to come – NOT because R (who was unwell) might feel better with company – but because her daughter will cry!! WTF!!! I put my damn foot down and said NO!


    1. Both our moms have done the same thing Pal, which we both dont want to follow. And that part abt the temper – u said it right.

      Gud u said No to ur frnd – nobody wants to know what we want to do…if we are little bit soft, then keep pressing on our head more and more.


  5. I can never, ever say ‘no’ and I’ve been made miserable a million times because of that. I feel like a hypocrite a lot of times, cos it’s not even like I end up doing the task happily.. I get mad but I still go along with it cos I can’t get myself to say no. I wish I would learn..

    Regarding hospitality.. I think that kinda extreme stuff happens only in India. Elsewhere people are quite considerate. Also, if someone were to say ‘No I might be busy/unwell/tired on Sunday’, people in India might be quite offended and might label you with nasty tags, but here it is said and done quite often and its no big deal. People work around your convenience..


  6. Hospitality…I had gone through that and still going through that stage. I can’t say ‘no’ to anyone coming home for lunch or for dinner or for stay. When I think about it, now, I feel I should have been a bit strict in saying ‘yes’ to anyone coming home. I think I was taking time from my children to give importance to them, which was not good at all. They praise our cooking and us, and use us, well, most of them. But when we go to their house, they are always busy. Now, though, I have not changed completely, I sense people if they are using me…more matured now!


  7. By the way, I was not very happy reading the story. I can understand why you were scared of Shiva! Thank god, we used to hear more of Krishna stories which were full of fun, cheating included!


  8. Golden rule of hospitality ….. Its the duty of the host to make a guest feel at home AND it is the duty of the guest to remember that he/she is a guest and return the favor by helping out and not feeling too much at home


  9. Agree totally Uma! We need to learn to say No at times. Hospitality at the cost of ourselves or our children’s good only leaves a bad taste 😦


  10. I have seen my mom do the same; and I guess that’s how I learnt to say “NO”; if I’m unwell, and not in a mood to entertain, I have absolutely no qualms in saying that. And when I am well, I go overboard with the ospitality bit. Yea. I set a high expectation for the next guest 😀

    And then, I end up freaking out and may even fall ill — n then cancel out : haha…so basically, i make and ruin my own name in the hospitality field 😉

    But i think it’s a great thing to be able to say NO when that matters. That’s how you stop being a doormat.


  11. Athithi devo bhava is carried a bit too far in our country. Treating the guest as God is alright. But why should that Athithi, the supposed God, be insensitive?? Having been an army wife, I like the habit of people telling in advance that they will be calling on you. But when it comes to hometown and relatives, yes, I have seen the same thing happening in a lot of houses. The women work non-stop in the kitchen, they themselves thought it was their duty. It never occurred to them that they should say ‘no’ if they felt like a day off.
    I remember telling my husband soon after marriage when he brought home unexpected guests. I had a small baby to look after and no help in the kitchen. I told him, he just had to inform me in advance and could not bring guests on the spur (like it was at his mother’s place). Of course he understood. And if there has been unexpected guests he has pitched in to help.
    I am not surprised at all at your reactions to the story as a child because it is rather gory and frightening. We are taught by such stories to give importance to guests and to implicitly obey those in authority (The wife cooked the son when the husband told her, without any sort of questioning). But such things belong to the past and does not suit our world. Blind obedience is not something we should foster in children or anyone. People should be able to talk, question. No one is so perfect as to deserve blind obedience. Well, that is what I believe. 🙂 I hate such stories and thin those who followed without questioning are dumbos of the first order.


  12. You can thank your lucky stars you have 2 daughters…
    If you had a son, I’d definitely have come hop skip n jumping and adopted you as my mother-in-law!! You’re awesome!!!!!! :mrgreen: 😀


    1. + 1:) Even I have trouble understanding why it is so difficult to tell your own folks not to walk all over you!

      So there Ashwathy, I have two sons and every morning i wake up thinking of how good a mother-in-law i must be;)


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