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Learning nothing about Delhi and everything about hospitality

Posted by on October 18, 2012
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It might’ve been a little more poetic to end our trip together in some terrible hostel after a crazy bus ride and getting cheated by rickshaw drivers. But we closed it out in beautiful Delhi homes, eating at exclusive social clubs and being treated to massages.

We actually didn’t do a lick of sightseeing in Delhi. (Our time there was focused more on the meditation course. Plus, why sight-see when, unlike so many places we’ve traveled to, we had friends through which we could experience the city?) But what we failed to learn about Delhi, we made up for with some valuable lessons and new role models in the world of hospitality. Let me share some background:

Scenario #1. We were hosted by our lovely friends Kavita and Shantanu; she’s from the U.S. and he’s from Delhi, but they only recently came to India from D.C. after he got transferred to Delhi for work. They were gracious enough to let us stay with them — in our own luxurious room — for a couple of days before our meditation sitting, which was a treat in and of itself. Then they had to go and up themselves by feeding us with awesome food, letting us use their driver to get around town, and hiring a beautician come to the house to give us facials and massages. And they let us stay in their home once again after meditation, even though they were out of town. Above and beyond much?

Dinner at the beautiful Lodi, The Garden Restaurant.

K and S’s cook used to work as a barista at Indian chain Cafe Coffee Day. He made us the most amazing frothy coffee…whenever we wanted.

Scenario #2. Our friend Anand had us over to his family’s gorgeous home in the city, where we ate one of the best meals we had in all of India. That’s because their cooks use a lot of ingredients sourced from Anand’s family’s own farm. We loved catching up with our friend and meeting his hilarious cousin who performed some crazy good raps for us, but I must say, that fresh paneer was the highlight. (Sorry, Anand.)

Scenario #3. We even got to see my childhood friend, Neha! She’s now a married mom with a busy wedding planning business in India’s capital, but we managed to squeeze in a double-date with her and her husband at a members-only social club, where we caught up on where our lives have gone since high school and dined fried cheese balls. (Just because it’s members-only doesn’t mean we can’t eat fried cheese.)

So why is this relevant to anyone except the people mentioned in the post?

Well, like Sergio in Buenos Aires who helped us find an apartment, or Priscilla who made us feel incredibly at home in herĀ  apartment, or Mike and Maylin who sheltered us, fed us and spoiled us silly in Panama, or Craig, Pratt and the rest of our Oahu ohana who took us under their wings (especially Brett, who, just five minutes after meeting us, let us stay for a week in a vacant room in his house when we were homeless), or Fareesa in Hong Kong who sacrificed so much — her time, her bedroom, etc. — to make us comfortable, these people showed us the true meaning of hospitality.

Eaman and I both come from cultures where hospitality plays a significant role, so I’m not saying we’ve been chilly or unwelcoming to any of our guests, but I do think we had a thing or two to learn when it came to really making someone feel at home. Printing out a map, writing down restaurant recommendations or stocking the pantry with just a few extra goodies can do wonders for your guest’s excitement and make them feel more included and less intrusive. It certainly did for us. We were just so in awe of our friends, their generosity and their good hearts that so many times, Eaman and I would just look at each other with bugged-out eyes and jaws dropped, wondering how these sweet people came into our lives. It’s definitely a pay-it-forward kind of thing, so we can’t wait to have people over to the home of wherever we live next so we can practice everything that these people have taught us.

Yes, that’s an invite!

*Contrary to my rather exaggerated headline, we did learn stuff about Delhi, thanks to a drive around town with Kavita and Shantanu. That said, we still never visited Humayun’s Tomb even though it was a five-minute walk from their home. Whoops.

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