At home, in India, where I grew up, and saw the way of the home and the hearth– of the family members that opened their arms, where smiles didn’t end at the lips but extended to their eyes and welcomed strangers to come inside and eat some food.

My dadi* used to say, never stay more than three days in homes where you are guests. But my family, when they saw someone at the door, whether the monsoons came or not, whether koyel in the trees sang or not and whether the crows announced the arrival of guests or not,

My family asked these strangers to come inside. It didn’t matter whether they were Muslims or not, they spread a table of food for the guests. Never asked them where they were coming from or where they were headed. They usually stayed for three days.

Dadi* would say, give them food, so they have the strength to answer any question that arose. The three days usually bonded the guests to the family~ and no one cared that they had wandered into our lives.

Would you like some more rice? More badaam*? some sharbath*? Here you take this pillow with the green silk case. It is soft, and you would sleep like a baby. Don’t worry about your travel-weary oxen, the maali* has given them good hay already.

My family, they cared. It didn’t matter they were busy; they lied– no, we were not busy at all! No we were not planning to go anywhere. Did we give you that impression? Oh we apologize! Your arrival in our home, is Allah’s grace. We are blessed, indeed. Sitting with you, breaking the bread and drinking this water with you, that’s the best thing that has happened today. Let me refresh your tea with lemon and mint. Today is a blessed day—

And I heard my father say that almost every day—
what a blessed day it is, you have graced my home

Copyright. © Zakiah Sayeed June 24, 2018

Dadi= paternal grandmother Badaam= almonds Sharbath= fruit juice Maali= gardener.

About Zakiah

I write poetry and some fiction, have a book that was published in 2012. . . Stray Thoughts/Winged Words. I have four grandchildren, ages 16 and half to almost 16 months. I love the ocean, and grew up along the Indian Ocean in South India. I am a retired physician. Don't know much else to say. Thanks for reading. That has been my profile for so many years. My daughter Saadia a great poet and story teller, has two sons; the oldest grandson is now 21 years old, doing architectural engineering at Missouri S&T in Rolla MO. His younger brother is almost 16 and taking driving lessons seriously and is in High School. The other two grandsons, children of my son Sayeed, are 9 and 5. I have recently published another book titled Gulistan, A home of Flowers. It has stories and memories of my childhood and of a distant land which I still consider as my HOME., even though I have lived here in the US for more than fifty years. Hope to see you on my blog.
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23 Responses to Hospitality

  1. I wish everyone could read this. We can all learn a lot.

  2. slmret says:

    I’ve been thinking of you this week, and wondering how you have reacted to the dreadful news from the border! Your post is a very poignant metaphor. I became so angry by midweek that I wrote a letter to my Congressman and Senators (1 Republican and 2 Democrats) and copied the President! I hope they all take the time to read it — it was well thought out, and gave them some constructive suggestions (haha!). I ended it with the verse from the Statue of Liberty!.This is NOT what this country represents, and will, in the long run, be counterproductive, as those children who cannot be reunited with their parents will grow up in foster care, which will likely lead to difficult lives, gangs, and crime! It’s appalling!

    • Zakiah says:

      AND YOU UNDERSTAND! Seriously, no one was a stranger in my father’s home. No one was ever refused shelter or food. And today when I see the faces of disrupted families, the agony written on the faces of children and parents, I think of another time, and another culture and another selflessness.
      Thank you for your comment. I am so glad you gave them a piece of your mind. Will it be possible for you to post that letter on WP? or send it to me? I would love to read it. Bravo to you for sending it.

  3. mrswrangler says:

    Thanks for sharing. Always nice to see how our culture and the culture you came from differ

  4. jstnotherday says:

    This is beautiful to read. (It does raise the question in me, did these guests leave money to cover the cost of hospitality?)

    • Zakiah says:

      HELL NO! My parents would NEVER have accepted that. They never entertained people to be compensated… EVER! My family had the kind of class that got spoken for generations, even to this day.

      • jstnotherday says:

        Greetings Zakiah, I didn’t mean to imply that your parents asked for it. I just wondered if people knew as a courtesy to do it. It is one of those things, hard to know, according to culture. Stopping for a meal vs. stopping for 3 days … I just wondered. Some people, when they would come to stay with me would sometimes leave behind some money for me to find later, as thanks for my hospitality. It was never expected or asked for, and not all did this, only some. I think it is according to their own personal custom.
        I love your emphatic response. It made me laugh with the passion of it. So unlike you, the way I think of you. I think of you as always so calm and serene. This was obviously a point of importance to you. 🙂 ❤

      • jstnotherday says:

        Note: It would be hard to afford to entertain every stranger that chose to come stay for 3 days… a meal, sure. … but then again, maybe not … what’s one meal or 3 meals? As I said… beautiful to read.

    • Zakiah says:

      Of course three meals Lynn! How could you have guests in your home and expect them to not have three meals? They were attended to with high teas, and YES, the beds were also provided for them.

  5. Zakiah says:

    Thank you Lynn.

    Most of them didn’t stay for three days. Often just for the day, perhaps two days, and rarely three days. My parents never got tired of having company. We (my brother and I) on the other hand would sulk a bit because we had to be on the best behavior, and couldn’t show the sibling rivalry. The other siblings were cool with the idea, just the two of us… the black sheep of the family!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. murisopsis says:

    The hospitality lives on in you! I was reading another post and they had the following line “The famous quote ‘Atithi devo bhava’ (The guest is equivalent to God) taken from Taittiriya Upanishad which was a part of Indian ethos for centuries is being eroded.” The author was bemoaning the fact that modern culture is more global and less tolerant and that we need to move from tolerance to acceptance. I agree that tolerating someone is not the same as accepting them. We need more open arms and open minds. I believe the 2 are very closely connected!!

    • Zakiah says:

      With all the Islamaphobia that is going around, I have to let every one here know that in Islam, just as in other faiths and religions, the guest is considered a grace of God. How do you know that God is not among the travelers testing us? It is considered an honor to have people come into our homes and break bread with us.
      I do that here, and my children open their arms and hearts to people here. Of course we are not as accommodating as my parents were, because the homes are smaller, and the domestic help is zero. Still I do what I can to please my God.
      Thank you for your comment Val. I know how important it is for you to be part of the humanitarian cycle of good faith and doing the beneficent work. I think you can understand where I come from and where my passions live.

  7. Beautiful! The peoples of the world need this kind of hospitality and care!!!

    You learned from the best…had such gracious examples…and you learned well, as you have an open heart and open hands when it comes to compassion, caring, helping, and welcoming. 🙂

    I think of my mom talking about how her parents (who were poor) would open their door to people traveling through their area (even “hobos”) and would feed them. Life has changed. I think the government and society have done things that make some people fearful and other people selfish…and so people don’t reach out and help each others like they should. 😦 My parents followed the example of compassion, giving, volunteer work, etc., and passed that on to me and my siblings, and we passed it on to our kids and grandkids. For example, my children help in their communities AND they have traveled to countries like Africa, Costa Rica, Kiev, etc, to do volunteer and humanitarian work.

    HUGS!!! 🙂

    • Zakiah says:

      Kudos to your parents. That’s just it. The prophet Mohamed, who was not a rich man, would share a few dates with the travelers when they stopped by his place, or give them the only piece of bread he had, and stand in prayers and praise God for bringing the travelers to his threshold.
      What a gratifying experience for your sons to travel and do such humbling work! Broadened horizons I say!!
      ❤ ❤ ❤

      • I was raised to remember that some day we might be the “traveler” and we will hope someone will help us. 🙂

        Thank you for being light and love to the world, SweetZ! 🙂

  8. Your father taught the hospitality, Zakiah. This was a good example.
    Love ❤

  9. r_hsw says:

    gone are the days when house guests are part of life and considered important. i remember when i was a kid how my grandmother often had friends and relatives visiting and stayed with us. rooms were shared. dinner feasts were something that was expected, all home made. gone are the good old innocent days.

  10. Zakiah says:

    So true. While I try to be as easy as possible about entertaining and hospitality, I get tired fast. Age sets in and I miss the domestic help that we had at home. Those were great times and yes, so full of innocence.

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