Athithi Devo Bhava… the meaning at a practical level

Athithi Devo Bhava… the meaning at a practical level
HARISH MONGA DIDO

The ancient Indian tradition of welcoming the guest as God has stayed alive despite the countless changes our country has gone through.  The phrase “Atithi Devo Bhava” has come into a new avatar, thanks to Amir Khan and his series of tourism advertisements. Awareness is being created within our country about forgotten courtesies that were symbolic of this ancient land of ours.
'Atithi Devo Bhava' is a social awareness campaign that aims at providing the inbound tourist with a greater sense of being welcomed to the country. The campaign targets the general public while focusing mainly on the stakeholders of the tourism industry. The campaign provides training and orientation to the taxi driver, guides, immigration officers, police, and other personnel who interact directly with the tourist.
It actually means that a guest is akin to God, is one of India’s most ancient maxims.  It prescribes a dynamic of the host-guest relationship.
It literally means ‘be one for whom the Mother is God, be one for whom the Father is God, be one for whom the Teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God.  India attracts millions of tourists – as a guest of the country each year but it still lags behind as compared to other countries.
There was also a popular educative and message able programme on the TV titled Atithi Devo Bhava – a satire on the Indian culture while dealing with the tourists visiting India when the taxi drivers were exposed for cheating
Frankly speaking, one might well say that mankind is divisible into two great classes – hosts and guests and hospitality means a relationship between a host and guest where the host always receives the guest with full honour.  I feel that when you take the responsibility to host something, it is your job to make sure that all your guests are taken care of equally.
There was one attendant - RP - posted with me, was very fond of tea.  He could consume as many cups of as the number of guests comes to the different officers and officials in our branch. He was given a due respect by all the officials on the floor because of his cool nature and age factor as he was due to retire in a couple of years.
I recollect the incident, when one a very senior IAS officer – elder brother of one of my close relative and colleague – a dedicated officer with simple personality – used to come to my small chamber irrespective of a big gap between our status, instead of visiting the head of the department, who too were from his cadre, to have a cup of tea along with a puff of cigarette, to which he was fond of.
Though Benjamin Franklin had said “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days”, but I had relished his visits every time to learn new things from his life experiences.  He is no more now and I always pray that such souls must rest in praise for times to come.
One day, the officer came along with one of his friends and I just called RP and ordered for three cups of tea. He went out of my cabin and returned after a few minutes and addressed me. Sir, will you not have a cup of tea today? You have ordered for three cups – one for me and two for your guests.  I was speechless and had no answer to his valid question as I had forgotten to include him this time while placing the order for three cups of tea instead of four.
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