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Nama-Slay: Four “Mistakes” All Indians Have Made

by Venesa Daswani

Sumati Huber dives into  all the do’s and don’ts of Indian etiquettes.

By: Sumati Huber

Four “Mistakes” All Indians Have Made

Being part of human society means having to abide by certain codes of conduct like wearing clothes in public, and not eating with our toes. But growing up Indian adds another unique layer of rules and customs that must be followed. Even the best of us have probably made these mistakes:

Doing Namaste and Touching the Feet of The ‘Younger’ Person

It has been drilled in our heads to robotically show respect to any Indian elders we run into. Whether it’s at a wedding or shopping mall, it is customary to namaste. If the elder is very important, we should also take blessings by touching their feet. But remember that time you bowed down to the white-haired and white-bearded man, only to realise he was the son of the uncle you were meant to namaste? Or when you didn’t know the cool

lady you tried to give a shot to at the bar was a respected auntie with a fabulous hair colourist? It doesn’t help that many times we don’t actually know the person (but don’t forget, they always know who you are) so we can get confused about who we’re meant to show reverence to. On top of that, everyone ages differently so even though we were trying to do the right thing, we still get told off for being wrong.

Eating the Fruit Meant for the Puja

You open the fridge and see a bag of juicy apples, mangoes, and guava. Since you never learned how to cook anything, you figure this will make a nice snack until someone serves your dinner. You’re about to take a big bite and suddenly your mum is there shouting, “What are you doing?! That’s the fruit for the puja later today! You can’t eat it until the pundit has blessed it!” Never mind if you are hungry, your mum will take it away until it has been offered to a divine deity first. Only after the fruit has become holy can you eat it… unless you are the middle child, in which case you will have to wait until the favourite son is served first.

Receiving or Giving Things With the Left Hand

Once upon a time, a terrible person used their left hand to steal all the money from a bank and as a result, this limb became a sign of all bad things. Wait, no, sorry, that was totally made up. Then why in the world do Indians still believe the left hand is ‘dirty’ and inauspicious? Well, despite advancements in hygiene and soap, the left hand is still connected to toilet behaviour in India and this belief has trickled down all the way to Sukhumvit. It can be blasphemous to use the left hand for offerings such as prasad, money, and gifts, or during sacred rituals. Don’t do it unless you want people to gasp in shock and horror at you. Or just use it anyway, especially if you are naturally left-handed? Wink-wink, down with the system.

Wearing Black to Auspicious Occasions

With all the samosas that are force-fed to us, donning ourselves in black-coloured garb can be a lifesaver to help us look slimmer. Unfortunately, this absence of colour is frowned upon by some Hindus who believe it symbolises negative energy and bad luck. It can be inappropriate to wear black to weddings, temples or other important events and you will certainly get told off by your mum if you do. However, if we were able to get away with wearing more black, perhaps aunties wouldn’t point out that we are looking fat all the time?

An unreformed party girl and mother of two, writer, editor and observer Sumati Huber tries to make sense of our unique Thai-Indian society and the aunties that she will one day become.

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