METRO PLUS

More than BED and BREA KFAST

The camaraderie without adhering to strict rules as in a hostel, makes PG accommodation popular

The camaraderie without adhering to strict rules as in a hostel, makes PG accommodation popular  

THE CONCEPT of entertaining a guest and making him pay for it is fast catching up in the city.

Conservative Kochiites, wary of sharing their secure homes with strangers, are fast adapting to the idea of having paying guests . . In fact for a small family or an elderly couple to share that extra room on rent is today a serious business. The homes that offer this facility, at present accommodate up to 15 or more and the rent varies from anywhere between Rs.1, 000-2, 000 depending on the facilities offered. Both men and women can avail this service of `accommodation with homely food'.

Profitable

It was the boredom of retired life that made Mathew, a gulf-returnee, think of some profitable part-time vocation that would engage his wife, Vimala, too. "Though we had many initial doubts about providing paying guest accommodation to ladies, we decided to give it a try and today we have 18 paying guests staying at our place. We both are satisfactorily engaged", smiles a confident Mathew. Nearing two years since inception, Vimala single handedly manages the kitchen, though she agrees that the work is quite tiresome. Occupants can opt for vegetarian or non-vegetarian food according to their preference. They are allowed to return by ten at night after which the gates are safely locked. The couple also makes sure that there is no communication gap between them and their guests as they lend a patient ear to their problems. So much so that Savitha Nair, who is a paying guest with them finds the place very homely. Earlier she stayed as a paying guest with an elderly lady in Fort Kochi and felt isolated with nobody to talk to other than the old lady, who mostly kept to herself. "Here it's always fun as we all get along quite well and hear out each other's problems," says Savitha who is happy with her present accommodation. Ashwin, working at Tata Tele Services and a newcomer to the city, is happy too with the accommodation provided by his house owner. Considering the other residential options, he feels that renting a flat might be out of his budget and going for a men's hostel, a complete no-no.

Homely food

Manoj Abraham, in the city for last three months feels that a friendly atmosphere and homely food are reasons to opt for home stay. Rajalakshmi, his landlady is indeed happy that she has been able to live up to the expectations of her tenants. It was a twist of events that initiated her in to this vocation. When she heard from her friends about the shortcomings of the services offered by hostels the idea of letting her vacant flat to paying guests struck her and she found that there were plenty of takers. Today she runs paying guest accommodations at three different places in the city, providing food and accommodation for her guests which includes students and employed persons, men and women.

Dr. Sunitha, one of her guests, feels that the place is a kind of mini-hostel, which combines the best of a hostel and a home. Rajalakshmi says that she always makes sure of the credentials of the persons before welcoming them to share her roof and once admitted the person is a part of her family as she goes shopping with them and takes them for an outing once in a while. The entry time is restricted to nine at night, but those who produce official letter providing genuine cause are allowed to stay out late. "And though the fee of Rs.2, 000 is a little steep but nobody complains, as the quality of service is equally high," says Rajalakshmi.

Mathew Anthony and his wife Siji are another couple who offer paying guest accommodation, in the city. Sensing a great demand for this Siji resigned her job and took the task of running four different homes across the city, exclusively for men. "Maintaining the services was no easy task", says Siji. "In the initial days we had to suffer a loss. Now since one year, I feel satisfied in being able to provide the best for our guests. My husband mingles freely with the boys and hears their complaints and tries to rectify the shortcomings of our service." Even then, all such endeavours have not had happy endings. Many had to shut down before completing a year, owing to heavy financial setbacks.

Adjustment problems

Not few are the occasions when the paying guests are at the receiving end, as their stay turned into a nightmare. Keerthi working with Aptech will elucidate. Even when she and her roommates left the place with clear instructions as to where they were leaving for, the landlady would sing a different song when her parents called, putting them in a bad light. "Such half-crazy hosts are any guests terror", sighs Keerthi as they had to check out within a month of their stay.

There are more than 30 places presently offering such accommodations in the heart of the city and many more are coming up with each passing day. Waving goodbye to strict and congested hostels, the migrating crowd are welcoming this trend, hoping the promise of being a home away from home will be well kept.

HAVE A smooth host-guest relationship. Here are a few suggestions.

Hosts

Maintain a good give and take relationship. Guests expect good value for their money. Treat them well and they will give it back in the same amount. No more wardens please. Give your guests their privacy.

Don't act as a warden, but always keep an eye on them. Keep distance. Keep them as far as possible from your family life. As a first step let them always use an outside entrance to their rooms. Scrutinise properly. Scrutinise your guests properly before taking them in. Don't be blind to believe whatever they say.

Guests

Use but not misuse. Yes, you are paying for it. But that does not explain for the misuse of water and electricity. Freedom has its limits: You can blast your music system and bang your head on the wall whole night.

Why bother when you are not in a hostel? Please remember that a family downstairs needs a peaceful night's sleep. Get used to community living. Don't be a pest. Understand the limits that your host and roommate can adjust. You are not at home. Stop making too much fuss over food.

The host cannot dish out your favourites like your mom. Remember `adjustment' is the key word.

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