Friday, February 10, 2012

An Outsiders View

So there are so many things that seem usual to us, that we fail to realize somewhere someone may think 'Why that's weird!'
We recently entertained Rebecca Teubl from the Canaan Fellowhship and had a chance to view India and our surroundings from her perspective. Boy was it fun! There were so many things that Becky asked that made me wonder ... 'Wow I really didn't realize how unusual the world thinks this is!'
Here are a few things that came out from our conversations with Becky and her questions for us.

'Why do you guys do this to yourself?'  This is the question Becky asked us when we told her what Masala Chai was i.e Spice Tea. Now if any of you are thinking .... hmmmm Pumpkin spice latte .... uhhh NO. Below is a short of list of the ingredients
* 100 grams powdered ginger
* 25 grams cloves
* 100 grams whole black peppercorns
* 60 grams cinnamon, broken small, or 40 grams ground
* 1/2 nutmeg, crushed
* 35 grams green cardamom pods
As you can see this chai is indeed spicy. But for me and Suresh ... its like spiced latte ... but better :).

I dont mean which side of the road you walk on. (By the way there is no rule for that .... not even for which side of the road you drive on sometimes). This is for which hand you use to eat your food. This was among the first questions Becky asked when she arrived. 'Is it OK to use your left hand to eat?' Ummmm No. Most people in our generation don't really care or wont look twice. You may get the occasional stare like Yeeww use your clean hand i.e. Right hand. Mainly because the left hand is meant to take care of 'other' business. I have watched two of my cousin's being forced to become right handers! One of them now uses his left hand for everything else including writing but not to eat his food. As Americans would says 'Scarred for life'.
As I now watch Isaac be ambidextrous and use both hands at the table to eat his food, I am almost rooting on him being left handed. Why? Just because! I also hear people in our generation call out to him ... 'Use your right hand Isaac ... Use your right hand!'

And going on to the most basic skill that every Indian is taught. Eating with your fingers. We have frequently had non-Indian friends over and Suresh would encourage them to eat with their hands saying 'This is how you eat Indian food'. I never realised how tough and probably frustrating it is to eat with your fingers when you are not used to it. As we watched Becky try her level best and make good use of chappati's as pseudo spoons, we realized how much we had taken for granted our being able to use fingers with so much ease.  But A for effort for Becky being able to handle the art of finger food in India :).


The picture above is taken at Mahabalipuram, right after Ziva got ambushed by a group of young girls. They were so excited to hold her that they pinched her cheeks and flustered her. We walked away laughing and a little while later Becky asks 'Why do they do that?'. She was referring to the way the girls would use their fingers, touch Ziva's cheeks and then touch their lips with those fingers. I have seen this so much that I never really thought it odd. Suresh provided a pretty decent explanation 'Hygiene'. Makes sense. In India no one really restricts themselves from showering affection - especially on a 6 month old baby. So the old wives tale told was if you kiss a baby on her cheeks, her cheeks will fall out and she will look ugly. My grandmother has yelled at me so often for kissing my niece's cheeks ... sometimes even wanting to eat them. So a provision for that is a peck on the forehead or the age old 'touch her cheeks and kiss your fingers'!

Yes at every nook and corner. Cow's / buffalo's/ sheep and any other cattle you can think of. But this particular sight has actually worked out in our benefit. Benefit - we have a two year old son who is crazy about animals. So much so that we were driving through some very bumpy roads in Chennai and very nervous that Isaac would throw up since he gets car sick, when we hear a squeal in the back seat. As we turn around to look for damage, Isaac just yells ' PASHUUU' (Cow in malayalam). We turn to the road to see six cows on the right corner of the road, hanging out together almost like they had come together for CHAI!
Becky you are right - Isaac is in the right country for his likes.

As we drove from pleasant Bangalore to humid Chennai all of us except Becky caught a cold. As Becky kept saying  --- ' If I dont fall sick it is a sign that I serve a powerful God' - A good tag line to have when you are on a two week vacation.  We were on one of the many trips in the car and Becky was helping wipe Isaac's nose for him and then exasperated she says ' You guys need more trash cans .... or plastic bags or something to throw trash in'
Me: 'Becky plastic bags cost Rs. 4 here even when you buy groceries!'
Becky: 'Next time I come to India, I am getting you lots of plastic bags from the US.'
I can't wait for my hostess gift next time Becky ;)
But it does seem that even Suresh has been complaining more and more about no trash cans around the house! Time to go shopping :)

On the whole we had a blast with Becky and learnt a lot more about India :)