Welcoming Strangers

Abhishek Paul
2 min readOct 23, 2018

I typically get my hair cut at one of those chains of salons. The barbers (or should I call them hair stylists?) there are increasingly from outside the state, ie the North / NE of the country. I’ve taken it for granted and use it as an opportunity to practice my hindi.

Some unfortunately choose to take a different approach. A customer sitting next to me started talking to his barber in a tone bordering on rudeness. He began by asking him whether he spoke Tamil, then he asked him why there were no tamil speaking barbers around, etc. Thankfully it was a short discussion and did not get too unpleasant. But I felt ashamed at the way he was treated.

Our traditions and our scriptures command us to honour our guests, often equating them to divine beings. Here was a man, a stranger who has come to our city to earn an honest living — why do we make him feel bad about it? Why not encourage him on the effort made to pick up our local language? Ask him how his experience has been in our city? Share a little bit about our history and places to visit, etc? There are so many things he could have said that would’ve made the barber feel grateful and given him reasons to talk highly about the city to his friends / family back home. Instead, we only reinforced the negative stereotypes about my city and its people.

We will do well to live by our scriptures: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2, Bible)