Sunday, April 30, 2006

Teach me, swami

Apparently, US expats are learning Indian ways. Shocking! Those inscrutable boors, willing to eat paneer and accept that Delhi is not America, Jr.?

An HT story enlightens its readers about the influx of expats in Delhi, particularly those of the corporate persuasion. Would anyone care to introduce me to these folks? Because I'm definitely the spot of milk in the steaming cuppa of my office. Of course, there are execs that flutter in and out, but long-term expatriate employees seem nonexistent in MNC.

The story extols:

Among the many things American expats -- and their spouses -- are taught before they take on that plum India posting is to "never" come on time for dinners hosted by their Indian opposite numbers. Also, they are not supposed to "linger on" after dinner -- because their hosts would probably like to watch Koffee with Karan, not conduct polite conversation over coffee served in the dining room.

The journalist who wrote this story, whom I am sure is quite intelligent and accomplished, apparently was told to make something out of nothing. I'll give her the first point -- many Americans take punctuality very seriously, and it is an adjustment to be hours fashionably late to an event.

But as to overstaying one's welcome? Hah! I've always thought of it as a wonderful, warm aspect of the Indian experience that dinners turn into hourslong affairs where several courses are served, numerous pots of tea are drunk, and one begins to sweat in anticipation of finding an adequate way to excuse oneself without insulting the hostess, proffering just one last gulab jamun.

An anecdote: Someone visiting India contacted me via the blog, and I made a date to have some coffee with her in CP. S came along, always the helpful city guide (way better than Delhi Times). We grabbed a bite, chatted for about two hours, then I graciously suggested she and her companions explore on their own -- get to know Dilli on their own terms .

As we hopped onto the Enfield, S turned to me. "Are you sure they'll be OK on their own? I thought we'd spend the day with them, help them around. Isn't it rude to leave like this?"

Actually, it's more a relief.

1 comment:

Venitha said...

Good to know about being late late late to dinner - I've got lots of Indian friends here in Singapore! If they way they hang out til all hours after my parties is any indication, the leaving promptly thing is way off.