Humour: The five kinds of house guests
Some things – like death, taxes and Devdas remakes – just can’t be avoided. When it comes to social situations, there is one constant: house guests. When one is younger, to be or to have a guest is a matter of great excitement. One of the many disappointments of growing older is an outgrowing of that innocent sentiment. Now the prospect brings with it feelings of anxiety and foreboding, like one feels a few minutes into yet another poor Devdas adaptation. Here are the five kinds of guests we receive, and no doubt are.
Happy home birds
This variety of guest arrives at your doorstep, plonks itself onto a comfortable couch and stays there till it’s time to depart. No amount of cajoling or bribing can tempt this home bird out of doors. You wake and sleep in their eternal presence, wondering how they can spend an entire visit watching Netflix and ordering off Swiggy. Then you figure – this is what modern vacations look like: alone time with one’s digital accounts. Some of their deliveries arrive just as they have left, like the perfect post-modern afterword.
This brand of overachiever arrives on a mission. It aims to leave no monument of significance unvisited, local cuisine unsampled or activity unexperienced. A pioneering spirit and boundless appetite characterise this type. If you gently suggest: ‘No, a train to Churchgate at 9am is not a good idea,’ or, ‘You cannot access Haji Ali during high tide,’ it will look at you with a mixture of such disbelief and defiance that you are almost convinced you’re a soulless automaton with no sense of adventure. Handle with care (and the inevitable white lies about your availability).
These guests are not content with merely achieving the object of their visit. Their secret ambition is to take over your home, your life and your thoughts and steer them in the direction of their choosing. It begins with simple, well-intended advice like materials for cushion covers or a better variety of pet food. Before you know it, you’re being quizzed on your career path and romantic predilections.
What’s worse, somewhere during the inquisition they let slip: I came here to help you put your life in order. That’s the time to bolt for the freezer and lose yourself in the assured comfort of that long-forgotten ice cream.
My favourite variety. In fact, I could be its brand ambassador. This gregarious species will not be satisfied with your hospitality; it will insist on sharing it with others. Whether it’s an overnight stay or a week-long invasion, this specimen will fill your home with people you don’t know, and don’t necessarily want to. Every meal will turn into a celebration, with random visitors filling your home, raiding your fridge and testing your legendary patience. You may have uttered some variation of the polite phrase Mi casa es su casa to them. Now live forever in the penumbra of its consequences.
This is your reward for enduring all the previous categories of guests. They arrive softly, like rain in the hills, fill your home with the fragrance of their beings – and cooking – and leave not a minute too late. This joy of a guest will never bother you with fiddly key-collection requests or guilt you out with allergies. Instead, she or he will share (or pretend to share) your general tastes and sensibilities. This breed will lie to you about your chai being good and jokes being funny, silently replenish your stock of life-saving products like yogurt and hair clips, and leave you a charming little note on the fridge which you discover only after they have left, eulogising your hospitality. To this variety I fearlessly say: Mi casa es su casa.
From HT Brunch, October 6, 2019
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