The art of hospitality/ mehmannawazi/ paahunchar

Each family has their own way of doing it as well as measuring others on the same parameters. A lot of friends and colleagues newly married and staying on their own without either set of parents to guide, often seem to be either oblivious to the obvious or  at times lost when they have visitors at home. A friend , invited us all to his place for dinner some years back when he was newly married and had shifted to his own home with wife in tow. Even though food and other things were catered from outside,the house still looked in mess and everyone including the hosts were uncomfortable and unsure of what is coming up next. I cannot blame their intention but on their part, they were obviously not sure of how to carry things.

A little bit of help on how you can give a pleasant experience to your visitors is what I intend to share…


1) Always offer water without checking no matter what..most indians sip on their glasses without refusing. You then ask for beverages- water is not a beverage, it is either hot or cold. Normally my mother used to ask for tea or coffee even on a sunny day, as most indians prefer tea anytime of the day. When that was refused, she promptly made a lemon juice or any other cold beverage and then sat for her catch up. 

2) When you offer tea or coffee, it is good to place a small plate of cookies or biscuits along side, check with them once or more and if they do not want, you can stack them back.

3) Usually warm snacks like poha/ upma are offered when the visitor’s timings are strictly not nearing the major meal time (lunch or dinner). Again, checking before making the dish is customary and insisting/ persisting is part of your customs. If agreed and asked for smaller quantities, do accordingly, then do not try to over feed. You can also, offer fresh fruits and dry snacks. Appropriate timings for offerings snacks is before 11:00 AM in the morning and before 6:30 pr 7:00 PM in the evening (upto 2:00 PM offer lunch)

4) If you are expecting guest for a particular meal then provide them that meal straightaway, do not drag a tea or high tea session before that, you may end up confusing your guests about the occassion as well as lose the appetite for the actual meal. In case there have been any last minute change in plan or menu do let them know the reason for the same rather than keep them guessing on the purpose. Similarly, when you extend invitations, clearly mention the food/ meal you wish to offer so that they can come prepared accordingly. Always foresee the need of making special meals for elderly or smaller children accompanying along

5) Normally indian desserts are served along with the main meals – like kheer or shrikhand. If you plan to follow it up with icecream or kulfi, talk about it towards the end of the meal, so that they know about it rather than getting stuffed. 

6) All meals big or small can end with mukhwas/ mouthfreshner, even a high tea. It is not required to offer each one individually, but placing them in the centre and letting each person know about it is sufficient. Having a couple of varieties of mukhwas always helps.

Other General Tips
– Instead of pouring a cold beverage in glass, it is good to pour them at normal temperature and add a couple of ice cubes. This makes the beverage look good as well as taste well
– Try and serve gravy or runny sauce based food items in a bowl or small plate. It makes it look more palatable
– Never serve pickles or ready made sauces from  plastic wrapped packets directly. Always  remove them in a small plate inside the kitchen and then serve to all. 
– Try to keep more serving spoons available on the serving table. Do not mix the spoons from one gravy to another 
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13 responses to “The art of hospitality/ mehmannawazi/ paahunchar

  1. Pradnya..yes boss..!..well it is interesting to read this, and learn a few things…These are our Indian customs and we all abide by them:))

  2. It is interesting write up,informing them abt the dessert was very helpful to me.thanks .

  3. Pradnya, you know when i came to Paris(before 19years),my H took me to a french friend's place and i was eagerly waiting that they will suggest me some water, then only later i understood that they wont serve water to their guests, we Indians have those customs na and we follow even now at our place, my kids never forget to serve water to whoever visit our home. Such a beautiful post again, am proud to be Indian and seriously love our customs and traditionals, thats y we are well known for our customs around the world.

  4. Yup, Pradnya..these are the routines drilled in at home too!

  5. Very nicely put together Pradnya..even though all of us know these things, reading as a list makes it very interesting..Like when somebody comes in one is not supposed to ask “would you have tea” rather we say “would you have tea or coffee” This shows we are giving them a choice..:)..

  6. Good compilation Pradnya .well written. Offering tea /coffee or lime juice was such an integral part of growing up.

  7. Very nice post.. Most of them are common sense points, but we'll be surprised how many of them don't use that.

  8. Good one for those who are oblivious to the obvious. 🙂 I am surprised that some would not know/follow the common etiquette.

  9. You have written everything clearly and it was a very good read. I know these are the basics,but you have no idea how forgetful I am in these matters. Like a small child, I am learning these all over since I am at my parents' place :-D.

  10. Pradnya I read this post of yours the day you posted it but since I was in a mad tearing hurry I decided to comment later after I re read the post. Now I am glad I did it. These are what are second nature and I never thought about putting them down. Beautifully written for any person new or old to Indian customs. Thanks.

  11. Its a good one my mom always starts her meal with a sweet even for snack we offer sweet. Nicely explained our custom. Now a days I forget to offer water first most of us here don't prefer. When someone visitd us from India I need to remained myself.

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