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Glad for the extra company?
 

What do you do when you've just finished cooking a scrumptious meal for your weekend family lunch and guests arrive at your doorstep? Do you grudgingly hand over the food while not so very nice thoughts flash through your mind, or are you just glad for the extra company?

How about when people knock on your door just as you are about to take that long awaited nap at the end of the week, the nap that is supposed to get you through the next week of chaos? Is your smile genuine as you offer them the requisite tea and biscuits?

Career woman and housewife, Nilanthi believes that informing the hosts of your intended visit is the polite thing to do in this day and age. "Most women these days lead lives similar to mine - we've got challenging work at the office from which we come home to household chores, preparing meals and helping the children with their school work.

So when someone just arrives at your house unannounced, it leaves you and your family in utter chaos." For this modern woman, the worst element of such visits is the lesser time that she gets to spend with her children. "I am first and foremost a mother, and with the busy lives that we (the family members) all lead, time is a valuable commodity.

It's important to me to talk to my children everyday, have fun during the weekend and so on." She nevertheless adds, "having relatives and friends over is important, it nurtures good habits in the children, but I'm sure asking someone to have the courtesy to make a phone call prior to their visit, isn't too much to ask."

However, Gayathri, also a working mother disagrees. She believes that it is because of our busy lives that dropping in unannounced is a blessing. "We're all so tied up with what we do and what needs to be done, that we don't realise how important the company of your relatives and friends is.

If people kept calling you beforehand, we'd just find an excuse for them to not visit, but when they just drop in, not only are you treated to a few laughs and a good time, but it is also a pleasant surprise."

She remarks that hospitality is not just part of our culture, but also one of the few good things for which Sri Lankans are known all over the world. "It's important that we continue in this vein and instill in our children to the value of hospitality."

Having guests dropping in uninvited is not just something that happens to people at their homes, but is also a tradition that happens at functions very important to the hosts, such as weddings, homecomings and birthdays, where they come with the added benefit of large numbers.

Says newly married Rashida*, "it was terrible. Of course we cooked extra food because we knew it would happen, but it was still very frustrating to see people bring their uninvited children and parents, sit down calmly and wish me luck on their way out, as though it's the most natural thing in the world.

One couple I invited brought their grown-up children, their grand-children and the two servants. For those two guests, I was rewarded with nine extra uninvited people. It almost ruined my special day."

However, all is still not well for Rashida*. "My husband and I have just finished visiting every relative who invited us, but rather than relax, we now have to start preparing for those very same relatives to start visiting us. They'll stride in on a weekend and expect us to serve their entire unplanned families all day," she says furiously.

Entertaining the young is not so complicated, deems 18-year old Duminda*. "When my friends come over, they eat out of our fridge, they make their own tea, they don't expect my mother to make anything for them and they hang on in my room. But when it comes to my father's friends, they spend their entire evening reminiscing, while my mother slaves away in the kitchen conjuring up various dishes, bringing new glasses, cleaning up after them, and so on.

I mean, when they feel like a drink why don't they go to a pub? They can certainly afford it. They don't have to drop by at our place, clean out our liquor cabinet? My parents don't believe in turning away guests, nor do they go trouble other people. I think people should learn to be a little more civilised these days"

So is playing the gracious hospitable host the height of refinement, or is it having your guests check with you beforehand?

*names have been changed

 

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Produced by Lake House Copyright 2006 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

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