Sunday, April 27, 2008

Namaste India, by corporate

Early on while on my favorite route to India, my neighbor across the aisle - someone who looked like Moby flipped open his laptop.

Usually when this happens I always keep a corner of my eye on the computer because I'm interested in seeing what people use in terms of software. ("Hey, who knew Lotus Notes was still around").

When Moby loaded his email, I looked away as is the polite thing to do. But then he threw this presentation on his screen called "India: A cultural introduction". And then Moby adjusted himself sideways in his seat with his back to me and the screen in full view. I saw this as a sign of fate and decided to nefariously intrude on my fellow passenger's privacy by reading along.

After the requisite pictures of the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, a woman playing a veena, another doing yoga - came the serious stuff. This turned out to be pithy bullet points that seemed to be written with the intent of prepping the one minute manager on an entire culture.

Since I was already being neech enough in my intrusion I decided to raise the stakes and took some notes which I thought I'd share. Here were some of the bullets that struck me as being hugely amusing (and I'm barely even going to mention the slide which listed equivalent terms such as "car trunk = car dickey")

  • A namaste may be followed by a handshake. A limp handshake does not mean insincerity (picture of Aish executing a namaste)

  • Learning is by association because of rote learning

  • Never challenge religion of social structures

  • If meeting the same person again, it is not ok to greet him or her again

  • Personal feelings, intuition and faith are more pursuasive than objective reasoning. Build faith

  • Punctuality is appreciated but not practised

  • Wobbling head from side to side means active listening and not disagreement

  • Women need to cover their head and dress conservatively before entering


Hopefully Moby won't be surprised by any of this. In fact, if I see him again, I'll be sure to recommend this new book I've discovered recently, by that paragon of social journalism Shobha De, called Superstar India.

Also:

25 comments:

Pitu said...

Hehe you're posting on the blog from the des? That's dedication!

megan said...

aww ash looks like a goddess in that photo! just heavenly

i'll read your little blog whenever i have some time.. and will comment on that later

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Hi
If we follow Indiamike or Thorn tree(Lonely Planet) we would know some really hilarious comments and deductions firangs make on India.

Joules said...

One of my friends who was visiting Bangalore recently called the head nod that south indians do "a bobble head" move.

Also she was sincerely curious as to how we did our business in the restroom when wearing a saree or a salwar suit.

girlie girl said...

joules, as a not-so-regular Saree wearer, it's hard doing your business when you're in one of those. Plus, you dont want any thing touching the floor, or the seat or any part of the bathroom in general...eek!

Interesting write-up Aspi. Dont worry, during my daily commute on the train, I generally look away when people open their personal emails, but when the person makes it so convenient, you have to eavesdrop...

meena said...

Joules, bobble head move is right. two years ago my team was in Mumbai to meet our offshore partners and my colleague had a tough time dealing with this move. He said it totally threw him off to see half the audience shaking their heads at him when he was presenting :)

Another thing that fascinated him was the 'Horn OK Please' printed on the backs of commercial vehicles. He took about a hundred pics of this phrase painted on every kind of vehicle. He was commending people on the govt's awesome standards enforcement practices for ensuring that all vehicles were using the same phrase!

leera said...

An education in cultural norms indeed, thanks Moby.

That book by Shobhaa De sounds wicked good, I read excerpts of it and heard her talk about it on ndtv. I like her, sleazy romances aside, always enjoyed her columns and celebrity bashing.

Mind Rush said...

Driftji, The Moby Minute Manager missed some main points.

Here is Mind Rush's Top Five Tips to survive if you are an NRI or ABCD on a social trip to Bharat.

5) Stores open at 11 AM. Do not plan to be an early bird shopper. You don't even find worms at nine am...

4) Lunch time is 1 PM or later. Dinner time is 10 PM or later. (Make sure you eat tiffin and drink chai to survive in between meals.)

3) Social gatherings start at least 1 hour later than the stated time. Hosts will think you are crazy if you show up on time.

2) Weddings start 2 hours later than the printed time. Even the girl's side shows up 1.5 hours late. DO NOT piss off your parents by dragging them to the said wedding on time.

And, Drumroll....The key to survival in Bharat...
Point #1 DO expect the practice of folks asking for "baksheesh" (i.e. a bribe) for the lamest of tasks. You can always smile, grimmace or swear and walk away.

Aspi said...

heh heh, looks like we've all had some hilarious experiences around this.

Regarding that fascination conversation regarding doing one's business - can I just say that facilities in India have improved dramatically. Well done! No more hopping and gagging.

Aspi said...

Mind Rush, your top five tips are excellent because they seem to be so heart felt. Personal experience, I take it?

m said...

I hate it when people ask me where I am from, i always give a smart ass answer. and when they are persistant and go "No i want to know where you come from, were you born here or...." then i say "hawaii", then they say "BUT... WAIT your parents aren't from hawaii originally?" i say "they're from Punjab in India"

then they say "well you don't look Indian"

then i go ballistic

"WELL ARE YOU SAYING MY MOM HAD AN AFFAIR THAT I AM THE MILKMAN'S DAUGHTER?"

srsly.. what does my family background got to do with anything, why are ppl so nosey

or those desi people at college who expect the minute you meet them to announce you're desi..

Kama said...

The bobble head move has been derieved from "Bull shake". You just need to observe the bullock-carts in the rural areas.

Joules said...

Not having toilet paper in most toilets though is problematic. I have to carry tp everywhere in my purse which means you take the purse with you in the bathroom and most of the time you dont have a place to hang/put it. So now you are also holding your purse with your clothes while hovering over the toilet. That is one of the main reasons I prefer shopping at the malls or avoid drinking water on an outing.

Mind Rush said...

On the topic of "hovering over the toilet seat"...here's another tip. Places like Walgreens and travel stores sell a five pack of disposable toilet seat covers for like a buck. The package is small enough to fit into your front pocket. In an emergency it can be used as toilet paper. It provides one a sanitary surface in a toilet. So Joules, you can have your chai and do your business too...

(These five-packs are permamnently stashed in my India carry-on cases.)

Mind Rush said...

Kama, your point was LOL!

Aspi, yes, unfortunately, all my survival tips are derived from recent experiences.

But, Driftji, yeh note kiya jaye ki my tips are for "Bharat" and not "India." My sense is that the corporate culture in India has started approximating the time sense of the West.

Aspi said...

Kama welcome. Bullocks indeed.

megan I like that little baiting. Usually the best way to deal with that annoyment is by amusing yourself like that.

Aspi said...

Joules, there is a hilarious post somewhere in all your comments. On the flip side of all of this, sounds like going to the sandhaas in India for women is quite a workout.

girlie girl said...

I agree with Joules...the TP is a big hassle! Thanks for the great tip mind rush...i usually like those wetnaps...they come in packets so you can carry those with you...and ofcourse the thing that will get you thru the entire trip safely...HAND SANITIZER!!

Aspi, you boys have it easy...you can just stand and do your bizness...we, unforunately, cant! Plus, we have all that clothing which make it even harder...ugh, its so rough being a girl!

p.s. how's life back in the desh, Aspi?!

Aspi said...

girlie girl, I always enjoy myself around here. I've managed to trim down stuff that annoys me to a minimum. (I'll do a post on that one of these days).

Related to the hand sanitizer - I agree. Its one of the best things around. But some of my relatives refuse to use it because they feel it leaves chemical residue. Personally I'll take my chances with that compared to the chemical residue left by vada pau and other stuff.

Joules said...

That is so true. As I get older things amuse me more than annoy me. I enjoy almost everything about India.

And a big shout-out to Indian Railways - both Shatabdi and Rajdhani have tp stocked bathrooms.

Aspi said...

While on the subject of using the toilet in the train bathrooms, if you are a man - and I'll put this as delicately as possible - timing is everything.

girlie girl said...

Last 3 times I went to India, I stayed away from public bathrooms at all cost. Unless we were at a decent restaurant or something like that, I would just minimize my liquid in-take. Dont even want to think about the facilities on the train!

Joules said...

ok, enough bathroom talk :(

I will be vacationing in Tuscany for the next two weeks. Will think of you guys and toast a glass of chianti to the drifters.

Aspi said...

All right Joules! Have fun (and pretend to be - who was it - Diane Lane?)

girlie girl said...

Under the Tuscan Sun!!