A Nicer Dicer in Bhutan

Trip Start Jan 22, 2010
Trip End Feb 14, 2010

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Flag of India  ,
Monday, January 25, 2010

Emma almost knocks me over with the strength of her embrace. "I can't believe you're here!"

I extract myself to explain that I need some smaller bills to avoid paying some airport surcharge the taxi driver now says he's due, and her "I'm sure he does" has such an air of experience and amusement in it. She may look the same, but there's something so much more worldly in that phrase.

She and Mariah have been luxuriating in the novelty of hot water, cable tv and a big, clean room (although for the $150/night cost, I think the hot water should last more than 5 minutes; such are the pricing realities in Delhi). They've been putting off dinner for my arrival, so we walk the dark streets to the Defence Colony Market for a south Indian meal.

I have so many questions for them, the first of which, since we're about to eat without cutlery, concerns the nuances of the left hand. All the guide books warn never to use your left hand for eating or for passing things. Don't point with it, touch people with it, or put it in your mouth. The left hand is used for wiping your butt, cleaning your feet and putting your shoes on.

Okay, that's all fine, but how about other things? I see people holding hands -- even two men, which is charming -- so who gets stuck holding the poo hand? Is there some kind of hierarchy for that? And the Customs guy handed me my passport with his left hand. Was he trying to insult me?

"I don't think it's such a big deal anymore," Emma says, "especially in the north. Things are changing." Her perception is that it's a ritual thing around food and doesnt require any obsession with not using your left hand for everything. Mariah sees a guy at the next table EAT with his left hand and promptly uses hers to rip off a piece of food.

Back at the room the girls excitedly settle in to watch Indian info-mercials, which tend to be old American productions dubbed into Hindi. Such are the odd rituals you adopt in a foreign country.

The current product is the Nicer Dicer, which gives the world another way to slice, segment and ritually kill vegetables. But wait! The host is using his left hand to operate the dicer! And now he's sweeping the food left-handed into a bowl and serving it. Some guest pops a carrot into her mouth with her left hand then smiles charmingly at the camera.The order numbers flash up on the screen for locations all over SE Asia, and I can't help wondering if everyone in Bhutan just got a bit more desensitized to the left hand tabboo. Is this just another way the West infects world cultures? Are Nicer Dicers the new virus?
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jookie on

love it. thanks for clarifying that left hand conundrum for me.

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