Cultural Quibbles


It is strange to be in a land where many oddities are familiar after spending ten years in Nepal.  Blaring horns and pounding drums in the middle of the night celebrating a wedding or a guru.  Waking up to the whirring of the water pump, accompanied by the hacking of neighbors as they perform their morning toothbrushing and tongue-scraping routine.  The sweeping.  The cumbersome metal latches being worked open.  These have all become familiar to me.

There are also many things that feel foreign to me as we put down roots in India.  A new language.  A different government to deal with.  New cities, leaders, co-workers, etc… And making all these adjustments with a wife instead of alone.

Then there are some things that just make you stop and go “huh?”  These can happen in any culture, but they seem to happen more frequently when you’re crossing cultures.  These are what I will be calling cultural “quibbles”.  Not really culture “shock” or “squabble”.  Just the sort of thing that throws off your groove…

Aligning a wheel

My cycle was riding a little rough, so I joined a friend in going to the repair shop down the street.  Next thing I know, I am sitting in the shop with a son handing both of my tires to his blind father to align the wheels.  It was amazing to see this done so proficiently by touch and the sound of scraping metal.  My cycle is riding great now.


We live in the Punjab, where there is a high concentration of Sikhs.  A core part of Sikh beliefs includes a Samson-like vow: the men never cut their hair or their beards.  Instead, they wrap their hair up in a turban, and roll the beard tightly under their chins.  (The polite way to address a Sikh man in Hindi is sardarji, which basically means “sir in a turban.”)  One day as I was walking through our village, I was approached by two young, well-dressed Sikh men.  They were passing out promotional fliers.  I took one.  Imagine my surprise when I found out what they were advertising for.

A hair-styling academy!

More to follow…

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