Atithi Devo Bhava

16th Apr, 2018

| by Nanditha Vasudev , nanditha_vasudev

“The guest is equivalent to god.”

This is supposedly a code of conduct of the Hindu religion. But do we actually follow this?

In today’s world where everyone is busy with their own lives, a guest is often seen as a pile-on. We fulfill all those formalities… giving that warm and friendly smile (maybe even a hug)… doing small talk… saying a few sweet words here and there. But secretly most of us would want our guests to return as soon as possible, so that we can be free again, in our own little world.

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Sumi’s kitchen, where Sumitra, a home chef, serves an authentic Andhra meal, cooked entirely by her, to guests whom she has never met before.
The smile with which she welcomes you is something that tells you – this definitely cannot be a stranger.
Warm and friendly, sweet and affectionate, she greeted us (my husband and I) at her home, as though she were a close relative of ours. All the discomfort of barging into a stranger’s home for lunch left us, as soon as we saw that smile.
We saw a family happily relishing the delicacies made by Sumitra and talking to her like she was a part of them. We blended in as easily as them.

We were invited to eat, almost immediately. Hot cabbage vadas, puliyogare, gojju, majjige huli, two types of subzis, a very different type of cucumber chutney, rasam, white rice, vermicelli payasam (kheer), papad, sandige, and an assortment of pickles (all made by her) adorned the table… all Andhra style… without the pungent smell of garlic. Seeing all that food, I asked Sumitra if she had prepared all of them by herself. She agreed with all modesty. All that I then did was fold my hands in humility.

Preparing two or three items seems like a Herculean task to me, which I do quite grudgingly every day, to feed those I love with all my heart. And here she was, ready with about ten to twelve items, which she had prepared out of so much love, for people she didn’t even know. This truly was to me, living the code of conduct – “Atithi Devo Bhava.”

A homemaker, who lives alone (most of the times) with an aging (I would say geriatric) golden retriever, Sumitra says that this is her way of killing her loneliness. Cooking, for her, is not a profession but a passion she is in love with. She loves to serve food to people even if she has no idea who they are. She says she has made many friends along the way.

Sumitra has had her own share of challenges to face in life, like any of us. But she has found her way of living life positively. Happy in her own world, she lives life absolutely on her terms.
She charges a very nominal amount of Rs.350 per person. She expects her guests to confirm their arrival, at least three days in advance, via a phone call, a Facebook or a Whatsapp message. She prefers an online transfer, preferably in advance, as this will avoid situations of the food going wasted. She prepares more than what you can eat and is happy to pack away the leftovers (if you are ready to take them).
She takes catering orders whenever she can. She is fine with people having a birthday party or a get together at her place, as long as the group is small sized (about ten to twelve maximum). She speaks fluently in Telugu, Kannada, English, Hindi, and Tamil. She makes sure her guests leave with filled tummies and a happy smile on their faces. For Sumitra, that’s all that matters!

We, at Write Solutions, wish Sumitra all the very best in her noble endeavor of serving food to guests at her own home. We sincerely hope there will be many more Sumitra’s, to make this world a better place to live in.

Nanditha Vasudev

Nanditha Vasudev

Copy Editor

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