(Part III) Teresa in India: More than San Francisco Tea Culture
This time, I will try to take a closer look at the specifics of culture and life in India. I don’t mean to plunge into any elaborate analysis, but rather draw a couple of examples which might strike a
foreigner, make him think, laugh and wonder.
In India, you can experience uniquely diverse, colorful and spiritual culture – women of all castes gracefully wearing sari, Hindu gods smiling from the temples, markets full of scents, spices, people,
animals and shouting…
Of course, the holy cows have unlimited access everywhere and so do the numerous stray dogs. There are billions of people living in India,and at least the same number of animals on the streets. No wonder that my friend who was coming to pick me up just recently, used a curious but a very credible excuse for running late – he hit the buffalo on the way, since it was dark and the black buffalo certainly didn’t have any night lights.
Westerners, especially girls, might be scared of mice, cockroaches or spiders. I haven’t seen yet any of these species here. Instead, there is an army of lizards creeping on the walls, in the bathrooms and windows. The girls at our home are all scared of them to death, while I think they are rather cute and harmless.
The local shopping center looks as a nearly abandoned market with exclusively over-the-counter type of shops. No vast parking lots, no shelves of goods, no trolleys…but a kind “uncle” who speaks broken English and is extremely helpful. I can also sing odes to the mango shake I’ve had once at the juice stand. After some doubts as for hygienic reasons, I have consented to try the famous potion which was positively the best mango shake I have ever had. With raisins, cashew nuts, dried fruit and ice-cream. Yum!
Every country has its own ways, America has its Jamba Juice, India has, for instance, Pappu Juice Corner – find 10 differences.
Talking about the services, what an unexpected surprise it is to realize that Pizza Hut over here is not a fast food place, but one of the most popular restaurants at the Connaught Place in New Delhi.
People are waiting in crowds outside to be seated (imagine a good sushi place in SF) and then ushered to a restaurant with booths, waiters, porcelain plates and menus. Yes, that’s Pizza Hut in India.
In my opinion, what makes any culture specific and different is the people. And let me tell you – the Indian people definitely let you feel that you are in a different place. Their generosity, boundless curiosity and constant smile never wear out. It is so natural for the Indian people to engage in a conversation with any foreigner (who is always easy to be spotted). I have been attacked by questions ranging from the education and economic system of my country to my private life (in a detailed cross check). Indian people are curious and at the same time let you know their pride over being Indian. They eagerly explain about their traditions, food (which is a crucial part of their culture), religions, movies, languages (they are sometimes very fierce to teach you Hindi)…etc.
It is amazing how most people here know English and there is hardly any need for the foreigners to step out of the language safety zone. However, their English is the “Queen’s English” as they proclaim, which means that some words are almost obsolete and hardly even used in today’s England. For instance, my little girls have never heard the word “dress” but daily operate with the term “frock”. To describe a teacher, one of the girls told me “she is a learned woman”. It has been some time since I’ve heard teenagers speaking like this.
As a part of cultural pattern, I never stop wondering at the emphasis Indian people, especially women, place on good looks. They are extremely outspoken when it comes to appearance. It is normal to comment on weight and overall looks to the point when one woman says to another “You look so beautiful!” whether they know each other or not. Good looking people seem to have naturally gained an authority and respect.
The general idea of beauty is ruled by the fairness of your skin – the fairer, the better. In amazement, I watched a TV commercial advertising a product for men called “Fair and Handsome” – some kind of a skin lightener. You could see a guy in the commercial being surrounded by sexy females, after he used the product mentioned (which makes a good idea for a crazy souvenir).
There is plenty to learn and explore every day. The children uncover hidden Indian secrets for me and teach me how to live, be happy and fight life’s hardships. If I could teach them half as much as they teach me, I would be able to leave content and satisfied.
With this I leave you for today. Be well and make others feel good.