Sunday, November 06, 2005

No peace, handshakes, and hugs

Last night, the couple I sat with at dinner paid for my dinner (in Hindi) when I wasn't paying attention. It took quite a bit of pleading before they let me pay for my food - and we ended up reaching an arrangement where they paid for my coffee, and I got the food.

Today, walking around the Raja's Seat (a garden/view spot in town), a Bangalore couple bought me the snacks from the vendor while I was pulling my money out... On one hand, as a cheap student, it's nice to have people buying me things - but I feel pretty bad, given that I'm rich compared to most people here. Fair enough, the people buying me stuff are big city tourists, but it still feels strange.

I sat down on a bench in the garden, with my mp3 player and book, and tried to chill out and get some reading done. This was clearly not meant to be. From the moment I sat down, an endless stream of people casually dropped by to talk to me, shake my hand, ask me the usual questions... no sooner would one group leave, but the next group in the queue would pull up, and ask the same questions. This lasted for a good hour and a half.

Even with my headphones on and the book open, people would still come and talk to me. With a few of the folks, it as ok, because we had interesting conversations - but by and large, most of the conversations are the same ol thing.

After a while, I gave up on my book, wandered off, and found a clearing with some older boys playing cricket - where, away from the tourists and wandering locals, I was able to get a bit of peace without the constant hello/where are you from good sir/etc.

I'm also starting to get my head around the Indian Handshake.

While the western handshake is quite common here, an Indian variety exists. Simply put, you will begin to shake hands with someone when you meet them, and they will continue to hold on to your hand as long as the conversation goes on. No matter how much you gently tug, as long as words are being exchanged, they will hang on for dear life.

I suppose it fits into the general theme of physical closeness that men have here. The young men especially are very touchy-feely with each other (not with me though, beyond the handshake). Friends will hold hands when they walk, wrap their arms around each other when sitting (sort of like an upper body only version of spooning). It's interesting to see. Society here dictates that they can't touch women.. yet the homophobic standards of the west don't exist here, and so men can be a lot more physical than they would be in the US.

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