The Pooja – Part II

So the puja was over. Now it was time for everyone to go over to Guru’s house for lunch. We hopped into various vehicles and drove the short distance over to the “house”, which lay down a dirt alley. It was a typical three level concrete box, ringed by concrete balconies, that is used for a house here. The thing is… the house did not belong to them. They had rented it out for the occasion. Was their house too small? Were they simply embarrassed that it was not “good enough” for the expat guests?

Then we were called into the living room to eat. There was a television running, with some cartoon channel on. Why they had a TV on, I’m not sure about. Was it because Indians are all like my mom and just leave the TV on at all times? Or did they want to make us more comfortable by running the TV? It could be the latter. It could also be the former. Back in grad school, we would often go over to eat at the house of one of Daniela’s labmates, a woman from Jaipur. She and her husband also always had the TV on.

We were served lunch, rice with a delicious type of red vegetable stew that I commonly see in budget restaurants when they offer a generic “South Indian menu”. As we ate, Guru’s boss, a German who works for the same company as Daniela and I, told us (in German) that they had to spend about $2000 on bribes in order to start the business; mostly buying the goodwill of the local police inspector so that background checks of potential maids could be carried out in a timely manner. It seems that you have to bribe them ¾ of a year’s salary to get them to do the job that the public is paying them to do.

What I did not notice at the time, but Daniela did, was that only the expats were eating. All of the Indian guests waited outside during this time. I know that often women in conservative Indian families won’t eat until after the menfolk, but I never realized that that this extended to certain categories of guests eating before others. Dani was particularly disturbed by this. Somehow, after being here for a coupel of months, I’m not surprised by it anymore.

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One response to “The Pooja – Part II

  1. Traditionally (atleast in south India ) , at Pujas and big festive occasions (like weddings) , it is considered hospitable and polite to allow your guests to eat first. The idea, I think, is to let them have their fill without worrying about if there is enough to go around.

    My guess is, if there were other indian guests and they didn’t join you at lunch, that they felt that you (the foreigners) were the real guests … Which is why they didn’t join you.. It happens even when there are only indians.. Always, at these traditional thingies, the guests eat first.

    This is just a guess ofcourse.. I don’t know the specifics to say for certain… I would imagine that if it were a more informal dinner/lunch invitation and a small gathering, everybody would sit down to eat together..

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