Sunday, 2 February 2014

Manners and Culture

My new year resolution has been put to the test this weekend. To explain how and whys of the story, I have to start from the beginning.

About two years ago, I moved to UK from US to be with GF. My first year in UK was, well as British will put it, not as good as I had hoped. In American English, we call it a disaster. It came to the point that we broke up for few days last year. One of the contributing factor to that was GF's friend circle. Well kind of. I think it is more the fact that I was born and raised in North India while she (and most of her friend circle) was born and raised in South India. I guess you can surmise where I am going with this.

We have quite different cultural background. We are not comfortable with each other's language (we converse in English). I did try learning Tamil in the first year of my residence in the UK but it didn't go too well. I, again, blame her friends for that. I have developed a mental block against the language and culture due to them.

For some reason, all her Tamil friends have at one point or the other have told me "Tamil is a great culture" whilst we were visiting them. However, during those visits, they all (GF included) continued to converse in their mother tongue while completely ignoring the fact that I do not understand them. I would be sitting in the corner of the room being completely ignored by all of them for an entire evening and then one of them claims that 'Tamil is a great culture'!

In the world I grew up in, a person's culture is judged by his/her manners and not just by its literature or art or even achievement of its people. And to be honest, I didn't think much of their manners or their hosting abilities. If a guest of mine had felt ignored or unwelcome in my house, I would have been called uncultured, ill-mannered person and rightly so (well, unless the guest is a complete ass and makes the life of the host difficult). To make a proclamation that my culture is great after such a behavior, is unthinkable for me.

Anyway, as part of our patch-up last year, I told my GF that I will not sit through such evenings any more. She can meet her friends when she so wishes but not to drag me along.

So this weekend, GF went to meet one such couple, D&S. I kind of like the wife, however, I can't tolerate the husband. Just to narrate one of the incident to give you the background: Once they were visiting us and I made Bhelpuri for the wife as she likes chaat. When we offered the husband some, he refused saying he does not eat junk food like this. He, as a matter of fact, gobbles up the bucket of fried chickens form KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and yet, homemade Bhelpuri is junk for him. He actually called my food as junk in my own house! So much for being cultured! Anyway, needless to say, I did not wish to meet them this weekend.

The wife, being the nice lady she is, inquired about me and asked if I am upset with her. She wants to call me and apologize but she doesn't know what to apologize for. I haven't visited them in a year now so she feels bad about it.

This, along with my new year resolution of keeping in touch with my friends and acquaintances, puts me into quite a dilemma. Good manners dictate that I should call her and talk to her but that may (actually, most probably) will end up being invited over to meet them which I really do not wish to do.

Dilemma, dilemma! Any pearls of wisdom from anyone out there?

PS: The problem of ignoring other people while amongst your compatriot is a universal one. I have experienced it with a lot of different cultures: desi and non-desi

I strongly believe that culture is a dynamic concept. It changes with each generation, with each mingling of different cultures. By clinging to it, we make it static which is not good for the well-being of the culture. At the end of the day, we need to remember culture is made by its people and not the other way around. Just my two cents...


Anonymous said...

Unrelated, so sorry for the comment hijack- if you're around London and would like to meet up let me know. One of my new years wish list items is to make more LGBT friends.

Tuhina Mahan said...

Hi Broom. Have been trying to find and alternative way to reach but couldn't figure out a direct messaging (couldn't find your twitter or facebook account). Please email me at at gmail. Thanks

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