The home of my friends – the Jains – in Udaipur is like a second home to me. Not because I go there often and stay with them. It is because I feel at ease there, and don’t feel like a guest. Both Manish and Vidhi are generous hosts and make my stay comfortable. But there are many friends who do the same when I visit their homes but I still don’t feel at home. Here, at the Jain household, I can be myself, and I am. More than me, Manish, Vidhi and Kanku are themselves, too – that allows the wind of freedom to move easily between us. They include me in their conversation with natural grace – from issues about their work in Shikshantar, to more intimate ones about their personal lives and family. Last time I was there, it was nearing midnight when Vidhi, with impishness in her voice, asked me whether Manish had shared the good news. I tried to guess whether it was about any new funds coming into Swaraj learning programme. Of course, it wasn’t and Manish wouldn’t say anything either. This went on for some time until I realized the significance of the good news, and how I was included to savour it with charm and warmth.
The space of the house bubbles with inclusiveness and kindness. I like the kitchen and making tea. The food is eaten together with lots of conversations, leg pulling banter, jokes, sharing, Kanku’s innocent babble and plans. The morning tea with toast, breakfast with fruits and nuts, and dinner with hot chapattis followed by Vidhi’s quiet entry into the kitchen to return with delicious desert are special moments that I cherish the most.
I move around the house with complete liberty. Never have I felt any restrictions or anxiety about anything. The other day, I invited a guest to come with me to have tea in their home without any second thoughts. It was so natural, like inviting someone for tea at my home. I also share my intimate issues with them with ease.
Like me there is a string of guests of Shikshantar who frequent their house. Most times, early in the morning, having just arrived in Udaipur. They are welcomed with the same enthusiasm that I encounter when I enter their home. At times, I worry for Vidhi. The guests are never ending, and the privacy of the Jain family, bears the brunt from these numerous visits. As hosts, particularly Vidhi, they are warm and gracious.
I always like visiting them. It is a home away from home. Although, one person I miss very much is the charming presence of Shilpa, Manish’s sister, who moved out some time ago to make her own nest!