India is celebrating its 72nd Independence Day today.
India, the word itself conjures up many images such as Mahatma Gandhi, yoga, curry, tigers, tea, spices, cattle, elephants, heritage havelis, crowded streets, etc.
There is a saying that you can take Indians out of India but you can’t take the Indianness out of an Indian.
So this is my take on the many quirks of my Indian brethren who have grown up in India in the 80s and the 90s, odd quirks that I associate with being middle class and Indian.
It happens only in India.
Conserve your clothes
Well it used to be mostly hand me downs from an older sibling, but still our clothes were utilised to their full capacity. A t-shirt was first meant for outings, then as a night shirt, then once it was almost faded and over time, it would be worn to celebrate Holi (the festival of colour) and finally after having washed it, would transform itself into a duster, and then a rag. And when it would be tattered to pieces it was finally trashed. Man what a life.
The quest for eternal youth
Indians believe that for certain consumer goods plastic is the path to everlasting life. Like TV remotes or car seats. New cars came with their seats covered in plastic. Removing that plastic was sacrilege. Even our newly furnished sofa would be covered in a cloth specially tailored to prevent it from getting dusty. The cloth would of course be removed if you were expecting guests. You could live in a house for all your childhood and never know what colour your sofas actually are.
Indians reuse everything. Be it a jam jar or a cardboard box. After we had consumed whatever was in the jar or box or container of any description, it would be washed and reused forever more. All of the spices in our kitchen, all the lentils, all our snacks, all resided in these re-purposed containers. Plastic carry bags would be folded and kept to be used to line the garbage bins. Old newspaper to line kitchen shelves and drawers or used to clean mirrors or glass doors. Used tea bags and egg shells turned into fertilizer. Water used for boiling potatoes was reused to clean silver. We believed in reuse and recycle much before it became a trend to save the environment.
Don’t waste that!
It was a cry from my ma for as long as I can remember .We never learnt to waste anything. There is hardly any Indian home that would do this. We were meant to eat everything on our plates. If the children left any food, it was the mother who usually finished it off rather than throwing it. Any leftover vegetable of the previous day was never discarded. It would gleefully be turned into parathas (unleavened bread usually stuffed with a vegetarian or non- vegetarian filling and cooked on a griddle) for the next day’s breakfast.
Indians don’t even waste minutes on their cellular plan. We use a concept we call the missed call. The missed call allows for communication without wasting precious plan minutes.
One by two
When eating out, usually soup is ordered by the concept of one by two, meaning one bowl of soup divided equally into 2 parts for someone to share it with. The same thing with “cutting chai” a concept popularised in Mumbai where you order a small glass of tea good enough with 2 sips when you don’t want to have a mug full.
You meant pulao right?? Right. For the last time people there is no such thing as a veg biryani it’s Pulao. Or like my western counterparts call it Pilaf
A cold drink actually means a chilled beverage. We use the term cold drink to mean a carbonated drink. But its ok we understand you bro.
My people have their quirks, and I confess that I have been guilty of mocking them (mostly my mother, or grandma really). I realize that those little oddities and weirdnesses are part of who I am, and I really do love it. And besides the fact I am proud of the recycle bit, knowing I have done my bit to conserve the environment.
Wishing all the Indians a very happy Independence day!