I love Hosting – for the joy that people bring. Especially a wide variety of people. And to top it all, from different parts of the world. As a single older woman (still very actively active) I have become a good listener, and am fascinated by people’s various professions, families, relationships with each other, and in knowing what the social practices are within their countries . (I am also a cross-cultural corporate trainer). Their warm comments bring a glow to any home-maker’s heart - “ A nice place you have here”. “It’s a quiet haven in chaotic Delhi”; “Mmm-m. The breakfast looks so good…..at home there's never any time so we just grab something and run!” , and “Wow, what a terrace garden!” as they sit there and sip their evening beer or wine and have a relaxing smoke.
Then, I’m such a proud Delhi freak that I insist on one opportunity on their first day to drive them from Civil Lines to Humayun’s Tomb sounding just like a veteran tour guide en route, the spiel going as follows:
“ And now we are driving absolutely parallel to Delhi’s river, the Jamuna. Most Hindu temples are built
along the river, and these (the ancient Hanuman Temple beyond the back of the Red Fort) are some of
the oldest. Look at that man who has stopped, got off his bike and is standing, helmet and all, hands folded in prayers, transmitted to the temple from across the flyover. “ Then a discussion on the god-fearing value systems of Indians which still prevail….
“We are now driving past one of the oldest crematoriums of the city, along the banks of the river ….Nigambodh Ghat (beautiful signages all the way). See the roadside flower stalls for the daily flower offerings to the Gods…those beautiful yellow ones are marigold”.
“And now we are passing the back of the Red Fort which the British extended right up to the river, with these high stone walls, to house their troops. Do look out on your left for the first iron bridge built by them across the river (Loha Pul). Look behind you at the bottom of the bridge (while I continue to drive!) for the flood water markers which are indicative of the water level in the river. The area looks innocently green now, with its low lying crops but in the monsoon these trees and huts are completely submerged and dwellers are evacuated right up the embankments of this road where temporary shelters are made for them!”
“And now, hold your breath as we turn right…” and there is the spectacular view of Humayun’s Tomb on it’s magnificent plinth…..and the awed sounds of “Wow!” coming from the passengers in the back seat of my little red i10.
“Delhi is going to be declared a Heritage City you know. It reminds me so much of Rome” say I, “ with a historical monument popping up in every odd nook and corner.”
And so on, talking about the beautiful road built just 2 years ago for the Commonwealth Games; the old Power Plant which might be converted into another Tate Gallery and the profile of which looks like an “ installation” in any case. Past the stadia for the Games (“ There’s the Delhi Secretariat – the Chief Minister of Delhi is a woman!). “
I like to ensure that each traveller’s experiences in Delhi are wonderful, whether it’s places to see, what and where to eat, or fun shopping. Each day is carefully programmed with a personalized tour route, depending on their own interests . For a Japanese architect on his honeymoon, it was the Lutyens zone with the Houses of Parliament, the President’s Estate, the Imperial Hotel and even the Gymkhana Club! Delhi's old British bungalows fascinated him.
For the German astronomer, it was Jantar Mantar! And the Nehru
Ofcourse, everyone comments on how they could never drive in Delhi traffic, and marvels that I do with so much ease. I tell them that I could never qualify for an international driver’s licence and would get hauled up for not knowing the rules of the road. I relate tall stories of how we have elephants (two!) on sophisticated Delhi roads – and camels as well, around the Republic Day for the annual parade – and how the Delhi Police once mandated that it would be compulsory for elephants to wear reflectors down their tails, because their broad black backsides were an accident hazard in the night.
Personalising the home-stay experience extends to calling the local maalish-wali for home massages and herbal beauty treatments. My son’s artwork on my walls gets enquiries as to where they can buy some of his serigraphs of Indian gods and goddesses in the modern avatar. The final touch is my farewell gift to them of a small pack of long leafed Darjeeling tea to remind them of the luxurious tea service, with lemon grass, served to them by Dinesh, on my serene and lovely terrace garden.
Am I glad that I have just one guest room, so that each guest that stays at any given time is exclusive, very special, and a VIP , having my complete attention and care. We often become friends for life.