It is widely said that India is a land of snake-charmers. Well, they are shooting satellites to Mars like a legit Star Wars climax nowadays. But again, that doesn’t mean that the societal norms of this traditional country have changed much through the centuries. This beautiful, loud, chaotic country in the southern peninsula of Asia is also one of the most coveted traveling destinations to find peace, seek the inner dervish in you and learn the art of living. However, if you thought you could just drop into the middle of an Indian road from your first class plane seat, then you are sourly mistaken. You will probably come face to face with a cow, no doubt offended at the sight of your sorry burning face at its lunch time.
See, that’s the thing with some traditional Indians as well. They can be a group of offend takers if your norms don’t confirm with theirs. So to ease your passage through this cultural wonderland, here’s a list of things that you should absolutely not do when in India.
- Do not refuse your hosts when they offer you food. Of course, who refuses free food? But still, don’t take the high road here. Instead, be gentle and polite and try to enjoy their offering, even if it may not suite your palate. You see, Indians believe in an age old tradition of ‘atithi-devo-bhav’ or the ‘guest is God.’ So be nice to them, eat the food and drink in their home and be grateful someone compared you to God.
- Do not entertain beggars or take them home! More often than not, the beggars are a part of a syndicate racket run by the underworld mafia and the money you give them will inevitably find its way to their bosses. You can instead share a pack of cookies or water with them.
- Try and avoid skimpy clothes in India. Scratch that. Avoid skimpy clothes in India. Period. Goa beaches and Mumbai party haunts are fine, but the forts and palaces and Delhi bazaars are best visited in a minimum of jeans and T-shirt.
- Now, your friends know and the world knows that you love your partner. But the Indian public places need not know. So do not indulge in PDA out there. In some places it is a serious offence to make out or kiss.
- Do not strike political or religious debates, and never participate in one. You never know when you may offend someone you thought had become your prospective pen-pal.
- Okay, you might be forgiven for stirring a controversial political debate but do not stir one about cricket. Do not talk about India-Pakistan matches. And god forbid, don’t ask who is Sachin Tendulkar or you would be trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, packed in a rag and exported back home.
Every culture has its own norms and ways of thriving. The Indians have thrived on theirs, and done well. From the Himalayan tips of its landscape to the southern peninsula, from major tourist destinations of Himachal, Golden Triangle, Rajasthan and Goa to the hum of its colourful festivals, this country tends to its guests in style. On your part, be sensitive to your hosts, respect their culture, and PLEASE don’t ask who Sachin Tendulkar is!