THE MEN: Good manners

Good manners

Indians receive little outside the family context, but an invitation to a meal at home is quite possible if you have made a warm tie. We will take off our shoes before entering the house of the host. The master of the house will introduce you to the living room to sit on a chair or cushion. If you are accompanied by a woman, your host will probably bring his wife, his daughters and his mother. If you are alone, it is very likely that you will not see any other female member.

If the meeting takes place during the day, you will be offered a cellar (sweet milk tea) accompanied by biscuits, pakoras or samosas (fritters of vegetables more or less spicy). All you will be offered with a glass of unfiltered water that you can politely ignore or refuse (most Indians know that foreigners only drink bottled water). If it is a dinner, the table can be put to the western or the traditional way. In the first case, you will have forks and spoons, in the second case you will eat with your right hand only (do not take this rule lightly). With the exception of dessert, there is no service order for dishes (starter, main courses, cheese and dessert), all dishes are served at the same time in the center of the table.


Photo Kaustav Bhattacharya

The meal, always based on rice or chapati (corn cake), is served in a thali (North), a kind of large aluminum plate with several compartments for various preparations of vegetables and achar (spicy condiments) . In the south, large banana leaves are sometimes used on the ground. Now you have to develop the art of eating with the right hand. The Indians make dumplings with rice impregnated with curry. You can also try rolling the meat or vegetables into a piece of chapati.

The women of the house will never share the meal (except in a very westernized environment). The wife, assisted by her daughters, will serve you and will ensure the smooth running of the meal. This aspect, embarrassing to us, is intrinsic to the Hindu tradition that the wife first serves her husband and hosts and only eats when the meal is over. So you will eat with the householder and possibly his eldest son. Do not make the awkwardness of proposing to the mistress of the home to help her or sit at your table, you would make everyone uneasy. Likewise, never ask to go to the kitchen or visit this room of the house. It is a sacred space (with the puja room) to which only women in a state of ritual purity have access. The Foreigner occupying a relatively low position in the caste ladder, you would “sully” prepared food. For all rooms in the house, do not ask to visit them unless you are invited.

The two main subjects of taboo conversations not to be discussed with a Hindu (or very cautiously) are the caste system and sexuality. The Indians know that the caste system strikes deeply against the Western egalitarian ideals and prefers to ignore this hierarchical system of which they are proud (at least if they belong to the upper castes). For sexuality, procreation is the only subject that can be talked about, and between women exclusively. We will then speak of pregnancy, childbirth and development of the newborn. In this prudish society, everything related to sexuality disturbs and is considered a serious indelicacy. With foreigners, conventions are sometimes transgressed, but not within the family.

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