Miss Manners goes to India

Date: 23 April

Location: Kochi (formerly Cochin), Kerala

Notable sightings: acres upon acres of coconut trees; Kerala means land of the coconuts and the Keralans use coconut oil, coconut meant, coconut milk for everything.

I do feel for you if you have to deal with me in my first weeks back in the west. My manners have been treated to a Delhi-makeover.

I will no longer look you directly in the eye if you address me on the street. Especially as 'Madam'. In fact, I won't even acknowledge you exist. To achieve this level of studied, hardened indifference has been no mean feat for me and I'm quite proud of it. I really don't mean to be rude and it doesn't come naturally. However, I've learned that eye contact or a response – even a dismissive one – will mean, at best, I've attracted myself a hawker shadow selling stone carvings or wooden flutes for the next ten minutes or, at worst, will be considered to have indicated that I'm interested in a romantic encounter.

If I want to attract your attention expect a short, loud staccato 'Excuse me'. I may stand up or point to add emphasis. Anything meeker or more polite doesn't cut it here.

Apologies if I fail to follow correct queuing etiquette. I've become so accustomed to being ushered to the front of every line based solely on my skin colour that I refuse to stand in line.

Finally, and this is my absolute favourite new trait and possibly you'll find it the worst of all, I've adopted the Indian head shake. It awesome. It's a wobble of the head, halfway between a shake and nod. It means yes. Or no. Or maybe. Or it depends. It's contextual.

It looks a little like this.

(And it's not terribly helpful as a response to 'is there wifi?', 'may I got into the temple?' or 'what is your name?')

But it makes me laugh every single time.

Edit: funny story from this morning. A local temple is caught up in an audit scandal. Headline of the Hindi Times reads: Priest insists temple elephant Devi was gift. Lol.




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