Millie Rainer tells us all about her experiences with Indian hospitality.
Atithi Devo Bhava, meaning that guests are god, is a Sanskrit saying that I learned during my trip to India. India — the country, the people, the terrains, the cuisines, the languages, akk have an enchanting weave of colors, a riot of sounds that will enthrall you and give you a rush you will never forget.
This post is all about that unforgettable experience of mine, the time I spent in India and what happened when I came face to face with the great Indian hospitality. India is a melting pot of various cultures, languages and religions. So when you are visiting India, it is not one country that you are visiting, but many small countries and many different worlds in one big world.
Capital City Calling
Delhi is the capital of India. Delhi and Mumbai are the most accessible cities of India. They are well connected to all parts of the world. So when my flight landed in Delhi, I entered the swanky Delhi airport and was headed to my hotel in South Delhi. However, as a chance of fate, I met an old classmate of mine (whom I was pretty thick with) at the airport. She was returning from Berlin and greeted me with great warmth and affection. And then, there was no way I was heading to my hotel anymore!
She took me along with her to her place in old Delhi. It was in ChandniChowk. I stayed in Delhi for three days and got acquainted with the big-hearted north Indian hospitality.
Her family members were a delight to live with, they laughed from their hearts loudly and made me the most delicious and different stuffed breads I had ever tasted. They were called paranthas. What I also found out was that, India is the biggest dairy consumer and feeding a guest with lots of lassis and rasmalais (traditional Indian delicacies) is absolutely mandatory. Saying a no is not an option, so get ready to be stuffed with lots of chaats and delicioussubzis (cooked vegetables) and tandoor meats if you are staying as a guest in a north Indian house. Also, get ready to be showered with a lot of love and affection.
The Eastern Paradise
My second stop was Shantiniketan in West Bengal in the eastern part of India. Eat Pray and Love had evoked a deep curiosity in me to experience the ashram life in India. However, I wanted to see a different aspect to it beyond the yogis and meditation. Thus my search ended at the Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan. The name sounded difficult enough, I wondered what the place would be like.
My tryst with Shantineketan remains etched in my memory forever. I stayed with a professor who taught dance at the university. By now I had learned that Indians are extremely caring and warm towards their guests. But what surprised me was the subtle, simple hospitality I experienced here, so different from what I had experienced in Delhi.
Shumita, the professor I was staying with, took me on tours of the entire university and introduced me to many colleagues and students. She allowed me to attend all her dance classes and taught me some Indian classical moves that I am quite proud of.
She cooked delicious dishes for me — mind boggling varieties of fish and prawns prepared for me daily. I loved these little feasts and the long talks I had with her before heading to sleep each night. I will never forget her, or her simple warm gestures like, giving her bed to me each day while she slept on the floor, or taking me to the temple each morning.
I must confess I did not like being woken up so early the first two days and complained. However, she persisted and did not take no for an answer. By the third day, I started experiencing the morning in a whole new way and any grudges against my host soon disappeared.
The Final Goodbye
I wanted to explore as much of India as possible and so I booked my return from a city in the south of India, Bangalore. I knew no one there and met no friends in the airport this time. Instead, I lodged myself and my belongings at a plush five-star hotel in the city and experienced yet another aspect of Indian hospitality.
The staff of the hotel were lovely. They greeted me with a smile whenever they saw me and often chatted with me about different things. On the day I was leaving, they prepared a customized lunch for me, consisting of all my favorite things. (The apple pie was divine!)
And that’s how my sojourn to India ended, on a beautiful, sweet note.
Millie Rainer is a content strategist for Sandalup.com, the web’s liveliest and most exciting Sandal Shop. Millie also loves being a part of the Mom blogging community and finding out how Women Entrepreneurs succeed at what they do best. Hit her up on Twitter @MillieRainer