“The whole world is your family”; such is the perception of Jagdip Arvindkumar Mehta. A native of Gujarat’s metropolitan city, Ahmedabad, Jagdip is a musical artist by profession who lives in a joint family which consists of his father, wife, son, twin daughters and his baby grandson. Amidst the bustling lights of the city, Jagdip lives in a heritage home set in Ahmedabad’s old city. His family and him have preserved the fascinating history and culture of Gujarat by converting the heritage home into a homestay for tourists who visit and lodge from all over the country and abroad. His pride lies in his family’s set ideals of close bonds, trust and immense love for their traditions and one another.
Ever since the Gujarat Tourism Homestay policy was coined, Jagdip and his family have been hosts to many tourists, some which have visited more than once. His mammoth residence is spacious and any one room can host up to 4 people each, however his aim is to make sure the entire house is welcoming, because that is the essence of a ‘homestay’. The winter months of Gujarat is when his home has the most company, mostly national guests, and some from France and Switzerland too. During their stay, the guests are treated like one of the host’s own, with no locks in any rooms, home cooked authentic Gujarati fare, inclusion in activities such as musical dramas, dance classes, cooking lessons and practice of the Gujarati language.
While sharing fun experiences of his homestay and various guests, Jagdip proudly discusses an instance where one evening his wife was applying hair oil to one of their daughters, after which his wife invited to offer the same treatment to a French lady guest, which she gladly accepted! He additionally shares that while an involvement and exchange of fondness and values, one tends to build a lasting relationship with the guests and the tourists can learn and understand the raw, trivial activities of Guajaratis. The exchange of traditions and way of life has also taught Jagdip and his family about other cultural practices, politeness and styles of greeting. He joyfully mentions that his 91-year-old father pens down how to say “Hello” in different languages and uses them to greet guests.
The Homestay policy started out in 2014, by the Gujarat Tourism, which has opened many opportunities for natives and locals to constructively add to their financial gains and preservation of their heritage. The rise in tourists opting for homestays rather than hotels have exponentially increased over the course of six years. With the policy underway of amendments, Jagdip suggests that the Gujarat Tourism should work towards advertising homestays to make tourists and national public aware of this structure. Marketing ideas such as hoardings, advertisements in various travel magazines and road signs can aid in letting people know of the homes. Furthermore, homestay owners should be exempt from paying Income Tax from income generated by the homestay business and/or homestay owners should be subsidised to encourage added people to open their homes and hearts and put Gujarat on the map for travel enthusiasts.
Overall, Jagdip and his family thoroughly enjoy the time spent with their guests and in the end, the tourists are more like an extended family. The Mehtas are thankful to the Gujarat Tourism to conceive the idea of homestays and they look forward to many more years of “seva”, because, nonetheless, the whole world is your family.