Indians may have awkward social situations like people sticking to you like Velcro in a queue, or fighting with the waiter over who will foot the bill.
I was watching a feature on Netflix on how Brits are uncomfortable making friends, are scarred for life at school or how the miserable weather has made them inward-looking.
I was standing in a queue, it was nearly closing time and finally I was now at the window, when a heavy-set woman cut in front me in the blink of the eye.
“What? Am I invisible to you? Don’t you see it is my turn? Just because you are a woman does not make you entitled to be served first,” I started protesting to myself silently and dangerously close to having the ‘moment’, you know, when in an Indian movie, the hero’s dad clutches his heart and keels over at his daughter’s choice of a life partner.
Then a dangerously insane looking character who had been hanging around suddenly pushed the man behind me and attached himself to me and started prodding me in the back with his finger, to make me move forward. We were now like conjoined twins in a queue.
Like the Brits, I am uncomfortable with being in proximity to my fellow beings. I hate touching someone’s elbow in the dark movie theatre when the guy in the next seat takes over the arm rest, and for the rest of the movie I have to sit with my arms crossed over my paunch.
With aeroplane sets becoming tinnier every year, I find it very distressful sitting next to someone who is overweight and who sort of spills over into my seat. I try to get the aisle seat, especially on the long-haul flights, so I do not have to touch my fellow passenger’s shoulder, like we were like long-lost buddies.
The other thing that unnerves me, same as the reserved Brits, is speaking to the person in the seat beside you. Nobody in India speaks to you on a plane, which is a relief, unless I sit next to a tourist, and it becomes squirm time, as he or she asks me everything about me.
If Indians in a queue seem anti-social and do not care about your personal space, they are ridiculously hospitable when you visit them at home.
According to Quora, a question-answer website, Indians believe having a guest is an honour and the person should be treated like royalty. On top of that, Indians are very humble (well, at least some of them) and welcome you in their homes graciously.
The host’s wife will trot into the living room with a glass of water on a tray. I drink the water and need to go to the washroom.
Unfortunately, I feel embarrassed to ask to use the host’s bathroom, and I also hate using public facilities.
Here, you must be aware that it is imperative that you shoot down the host’s suggestion of a cup of tea (the Brits left us with this horrid habit of drinking tea), because tea comes with fried, wormlike stuff, called savouries and very sweet biscuits that you dip into your tea. The biscuit sometimes becomes too soggy and it drops in your lap.
Then there is an awkward social dance we get into that the Brits would never understand. When you take a friend out for dinner, you will have the bill snatched from your hand and then you grab it back and run around the dining hall while the waiter watches in amusement.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.