Atithi Devo Bhav – Guest is God

Atithi Devo Bhavah [Atithi devo bhavaḥ] (Sanskrit: अतिथि देवो भवः; English: ‘The guest is God’ or ‘Guest become God’)[1] is a Sanskritverse, taken from an ancient Hindu scripture which became part of the “code of conduct” for Hindu society. Atithi devo bhav regards a procedure of the Host-Guest relationship

(taken from wikipedia)

Again Babu and I were talking about his experience of staying in my house. The awkwardness and tension was bad enough for both of us, but I now realise how much this was also compounded by a cultural difference. I don’t think this is even a UK/India difference as such, just a culture for some. What I am talking about is the way guests are treated.

In my house it is usually quite a casual thing when someone comes to stay. We don’t often have visitors, but when we do it’s a matter of making sure they have a bed, some towels, showing them where the bathroom is, creating an extra portion at dinner and that’s pretty much it. Basically letting them live alongside us. It’s quite a casual affair, and that is the same experience I have had when staying at other peoples houses as well.

In India, guest is God. Which I guess means that perhaps more of a fuss is made of the guest, I can imagine a guest being fussed over, welfare constantly being enquired about, food and drinks brought etc etc. I know Babu didn’t expect the full works, but to be treated with the extreme opposite must have been so offensive for him, it was offensive by anyone’s standards, but by Indian standards I imagine it would be SUPER offensive. I know if I had my own house the way I would treat a visitor is different, but at times I even feel like I am the guest here, so don’t really have any right to be dictating how the household works. I still feel awful about the whole situation, I know it wasn’t me who caused it, but I can’t help but wonder with a little better planning if I could have somehow avoided the situation.

My main worry now is how to handle moving forward in our relationship from the aspect of my parents. I don’t think I will ever win them around and that breaks my heart. I just fear that the attitude I was faced with that week will be there my whole life. I feel at the moment that I am treading on eggshells, and I don’t think they will get better. I even avoid talking about Babu now for fear of the negativity I will get in response, and he hasn’t even done anything wrong. *sigh*


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