ATITHI DEVO BHAVAH. This Sanskrit verse literally means “Guest is God,” the Indian philosophy when it comes to guests and visitors, to their country and to their homes. They will accommodate and they will tolerate.
They’ll let you get away with a number of things…but it’s possible to hit the limit. Here’s how.
Go hunting for the ‘real’ India
Look for the dirtiest possible spot in the city you’re in, preferably with lots of stagnant water and flies, semi-clothed children running around, and a few stray dogs. This should be easy enough to find. If you’re lucky, you might find one just by looking out the window of your hotel room.
Next, pull your camera out and start clicking. Keep clicking, to the point where people around you start paying attention. At some point one of them will get curious and ask you what you’re doing. Reply (with a sympathetic expression), “I want to capture the real India and show the world what it’s like to live here.” Mission accomplished.
Bitch about cricket
Walk into a public place when a game of cricket is on, preferably between India and Australia. This can be at an up-market pub, a roadside restaurant, or even a shop selling televisions in the local market. When a game of cricket is on, almost everyone is watching it. If you’ve chosen an up-market pub, go to the table making the most noise and politely ask if you can join them.
If you don’t know much about cricket, first try to gain some inside knowledge. Your new friends will appreciate your interest. Now, start complaining about the game. “What’s the big deal?” “Eight hours for one game, c’mon!” “B-o-r-i-n-g.” Compare Indian players to Australian players, then raise it up a notch by saying that you think Australians are better cricketers.
You speak good English? How come?
This one is your best bet. Go to a crowded market (that should be easy enough) and pretend to be lost. Look around for a youngster. Walk up to him and ask for directions to your hotel. When he replies, completely ignore what he just said and focus on his English instead. Act surprised.
Next, ask him where he learned to speak such fluent English. “Have you lived overseas? No? Really?” Tell him that you’re impressed. Your manner should be patronizing. Like this was completely unexpected.
Note: If you’ve done this successfully, don’t follow any directions he proceeds to give. They are wrong.
Critique arranged marriage
Invite yourself to a wedding. This will be easier in November and December since, based on favorable planetary positions, most weddings in India take place around this time.
Walking down the road at night, you’ll come across a wedding party every few kilometers. Go up to the gate of any one of these and introduce yourself. Play the “Guest is God” card by telling them that you would love to be part of a cultural ceremony.
Once inside, find a table and mingle with the other guests. Start asking questions, preferably to an older attendee. “So, what are arranged marriages? How does it work? Isn’t that regressive?” “So, the stars decide the date?” “Are you kidding me?” During the conversation, don’t stop stuffing your face with the awesome food being served.
Whine and whine some more
Sit on a bench in a public place with a bottle of mineral water in hand. Then start whining about everything from the heat, to the dirt, to the traffic, to the beggars. Whine to the person walking by and to the person sitting next to you. Take a break when you spot a cow sitting in the middle of the road. Pretend to be extremely amused and (again) take your camera out and click pictures. Following that, start whining again.
The thing is, pretty much all Indians complain about the heat, the traffic, the dirt, and the beggars. It’s their country and they can say and do what they want. You can’t. Be a snob and piss off an Indian. Simple.
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Originally from India, I have lived in New Zealand for six years and am currently residing in The United States. My travel stories are inspired by my experiences in these three very different parts of the world. I feel I have a lot to share and in the process am trying to learn something new every day. To read more visit my Matador profile.
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