Overcoming the challenge of houseguests #UBC Day 6
On this 6th day of the Ultimate Blogging Challenge, I’ve actually reached a dead end.
It seems strange because frankly I’ve lived a rich and varied life . I’ve faced lots of challenges which have taught me many a lesson. Which one do I choose?
After thinking long and hard, I’d like to share an experience which many of you may not be able to relate to
There was a time in my life when I was actively involved in helping out my husband in his business. At that time he represented a European company and was responsible for sourcing pharmaceuticals and medical disposables from India. I was his general dogsbody, secretary, office assistant and hostess , all rolled into one.
After Hubby Dear identified a potential supplier, our overseas colleagues came down for an audit and inspection . As they stayed in India for a short while, they visited a new city every day, returning home only to sleep. Initially they stayed in the best hotel in town but after a while, they found that they spent a good amount of money for a mere four hours of sleep. So they decided to stay at home with us.
Now there was no way in which my house could compete with the best hotel in town but I could definitely make their stay very comfortable. This meant that our home had to be comparable if not on par with a ‘hotel’.
I made a strict routine and check list which included regular painting of the house including changing the upholstery and curtainsI every three years. All our visitors enjoyed staying with us and actually looked forward to their India visits even though they were initially scared of the ‘elephants and cows that roamed on the streets.’ All except Mr. W who continued staying in the hotel.
One day, however, Mr. W changed his mind. Unfortunately it was during my painting and maintenance routine. The painters were just getting ready to wind down for the day when the phone rang.
“Can you get the house ready by this evening Mr. W is coming over?”
“What ?” I screamed into the phone hoping I’d heard wrong.
“Yes,” he went on, “He has some health issue and is scared of staying alone in the hotel. I volunteered our home.”
My head began to spin as I looked around. It was summer time and as was my custom, I had sent off the servants for their annual vacation. This not only gave them time with their own relatives but also gave me the freedom to do what I wanted without having them around to breathe down my neck. But this was the first time I regretted my action.
It was hot and humid and all day long I had to suffer the dust flying around while I was manning the office. I had only three hours in which I had to chill the beer, clean the house, whip up a meal and look like a million bucks.
What could I possibly do?
Well, I could have asked for one of the watchmen down in our building to help with the cleaning up after the painters had left but no one was willing to take up the job. So I had no option but to clean up the house and whip up a special meal as well with a bottle of chilled beer to boot.
I stuck two bottles of beer in the refrigerator before I got down on my knees to clean up the entire house. Cleaning a house is hard work but it is even harder when a paint job is going on. Getting down on my knees, I had to mop up the floors twice over as paint dust is very fine and hard to get off the floor. Then I had to make the bed, spread out the rugs, put flowers in the vase and organise a hospitality tray of bottled water, biscuits and some fruit in the guest room.
I had to tidy up the living room too and organise a European style meal as Mr. W just hated Indian food. All with no help as even my girls were away at my mom’s ( another summer tradition when I sent them off for a month with my folks). But I did it!
Just as the door bell rang announcing the arrival of Mr. W and Hubby Dear, I spritzed on some perfume, bathed and ready to play the part of the gracious hostess!
Mr. W was surprised to find that we had a guest room – he was quite prepared to sleep on the sofa and after I’d assured him that having him over was no problem at all, he took off his shoes and relaxed with the chilled beer . All through the evening he began to loosen up and by dinner the next evening he had lost his awkwardness.
He never stayed in a hotel after that.
American readers will find it odd that I found this a challenge but let me assure you that the average Indian household ( in those days at least) had a live-in help and one or two others who come in to do the dishes, laundry and cleaning. We used to have house guests twice or thrice a year , each visit lasting for a week or so. During that time I had to also do their laundry, be their tour guide as well as double up as office assistant organising appointments with suppliers.
What were the lessons learnt?
- Where there’s a will there’s a way. Challenges can always be met with a calm and quiet attitude.
- Organisation is key – I had a system in place: a set of linen, a fixed menu plan and a regular drill for house guests.
- Appearances are deceptive -We used to think Mr. W was stuck up. It turned out that he was scared of picking up infections staying in an Indian home. He learnt that staying in our home was almost as good as staying in his own.
Communication helps break barriers and fosters intercultural understanding – I often used to grumble about waking up in the middle of the night to receive our visitors as the overseas flights used to land at night but after 16 years of doing this, I realised that there was better communication between the our visitors and us. Though most of our visitors were Dutch, we also met people of other nationalities and got to learn a lot about their cultures and traditions. I learnt that at the end of it all, we were all just parents with similar fears and apprehensions.