While reading some of the essays from the compilation of NPR‘s series “This I Believe“, it was natural that I was stirred to think about my own beliefs. It does sound easy to know what you believe in and write about it in 300 words or less, however, it is quite a task. Peeling layers and layers of emotions, prejudices, experiences and thoughts is a daunting task. It’s almost the equivalent of being naked…stark naked, mentally and identify those basic convictions which shapes one as a person. I was struggling to find at least one basic “belief” but was always optimistic that I will find it. I accidentally stumbled upon one such belief, this morning and thus my first essay for “This I Believe”.

I believe in keeping the door of my home open, open to anyone who wants to come inside, anytime of the day or night. This, I attribute to my mother, to my father and the rest of my family – my grandparents, my two paternal uncles and aunts. I grew up in a joint family and real estate was always scarce. My grandfather would open the front door of our house at about 5 AM in the morning. From that early hour of the morning till about 11 PM or midnight, that door stayed open, it was always OPEN. Many guests, visitors, neighbors would stop by on a regular basis – some would have tea, breakfast, lunch, supper, dinner with us depending on the time of the day, completely uninvited. Some of them spent the night with us. Some out of town guests, relatives, friends would show at midnight, un-announced and they would be welcome with equal zest and complete openness. Someone from the family would fashion a quick meal from whatever was left-over and would make sure that the guest was well-fed and had a clean bed to sleep on.

There was never even a behind-the-door “Ohh why did they stop by now? I am so tired, I wish they won’t stay until dinner!” reaction from anyone. I remember many nights when my mother would wake me and my brother up from deep sleep because some distant relative had arrived in the middle of the night with the entire family and planned to spend a week at our place (they always had some obscure wedding to attend ). Me and my brother would be tasked with ensuring that the kids were comfortable in our room, we would have to join our beds so that all of us could sleep together. There are many such incidents, my college friends have stayed in my house even when I wasn’t around just because they were in town and wanted a place to crash, long lost ex-colleagues of my father have showed up after years of no contact and have spent a week with us, relatives of our neighbors have stayed with us because there was no room in our neighbor’s house, neighbors from our past residences in other cities have showed up and stayed with us etc. I will have to agree that there were times when we (me and my brother) found this quite irksome and have expressed that in more than one ways to our parents. However, they continued and still continue with the “open door” policy. As a growing child and an adolescent, this physical and metaphorical “open door”, sub-consciously had opened doors within me.

Today, after many years of leaving my house (seventeen to be precise), the only real thing that has left within me from that house is that “open door”. This door is open to all, at all times – it is only natural, there is no other way I know of. This I Believe.