‘Wrong’ side of the West

by Rajbir Deswal

Yes, there are many things in the West that are just the opposite of what we have in India — the mode of conversation and address, customs and practices, faiths and beliefs, superstitions and sayings, chores and methodology, style and form, dressing and designing, life-style and attitudes to adopt, etc. Cat, which is generally perceived to be an animal bringing bad luck if sighted crossing ones way in India, is the best pet and pal in the US. Similarly, the owl is a symbol of fortune there which, if it toots and hoots at the night here, is considered ominous. Pig is considered a cute animal and people are seen posing for a photograph with one. Bears, with their faithful cousins as stuffed teddies, are the darlings of every child although a bear-hug may just be a touch-and-go relationship. Our “madaris” eeked an earning out of them till Maneka Gandhi arrived on the scene.

When we make gifts and receive them, we never open the packets in front of the person gifting while in the West, the gift pack is opened and appreciated abundantly the moment it’s presented. And it’s bad manners to call someone if he or she is not expecting you on the phone. The first thing to be asked is if that was the “best time to call” or “Wonder if I am disturbing you!”

Before pressing the door-bell, you have to make sure you did it for good purpose and not just to enquire if “Susan Joe lives somewhere close” to their house! At the store you tell the person on the counter — “Hey, I have a question for you!” The person manning the counter would always greet you by saying “Hi!”, Or “Hi there!” or, “How are you doing today!” You will never jump the queue for you might be scoffed at and spurned, or just curtly told, “The queue starts here!”

There, on being signalled to pull over, the cop comes to you and your getting down or approaching him may be perceived to be “offensive”. The cyclists may be looked down upon as being dispensable hoi-polloi and not as “affluent” here, but they are considered to be the people who care for pollution as also their health in the West. There is only a driver in the bus who also issues you the travel pass. At places you pay while getting down, and not boarding. The electricity switches turn on when turned up. You eat dinner first and take your drinks later. Beggars do not really beg you in the name of God, but “If you could spare some money; food, beer or cigarette!”

While we keep saving all through our life to cater to even the third generation, the slogan there is — “Eat, drink and be merry; tomorrow you may die”. It’s really not unusual for a man to have fourth wife and a woman to have as many Exs — both rearing children of one another. If you draw someone’s portrait or caricature you need to have his permission. It’s not a “petrol pump” but a “gas station” where you pay first and get the fuel afterwards. You adopt highways there for maintenance and cleanliness while we litter them.

Cake-cutting at a ceremony is done after the main course is over. A joke to end it all — Santa asks Banta if he did not have any problem driving on the right side in the US? Banta replies, “Appaan tann India-ch vi raang sad chalde see, tay otthe vi”! — meaning thereby that driving on the wrong side in India makes it easy to drive well in the US.

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com

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