soup spoons and fish knives

A recent news item about the introduction of savoir-faire classes caught my attention. Apparently B schools like IIMs now have classes to ensure that you don't attack the custard with a soup spoon!

True that the world is shrinking with host of new opportunities for young Indians, and true also that a potential employer would want his employee not to commit a gaffe, but I wonder whether expats coming to India for employment in desi companies - and there are more each day - are taught how to eat with their hands, or whether a young aspirant to a job in let us say Beijing would master the use of chopsticks.

Often learning about another culture becomes a way of breaking the ice and establishing a healthy exchange where both cultures find space. Moreover even in fork & knives culture there are variables, about ways of setting tables, placing cutlery to indicate that you have finished and so forth. Were these to be taught would result in confusion whereby one is trying to recall the right manner and thus fumble and appear gauche.

On the other hand were he left to behave naturally, he would soon find out the right way of the moment and execute it with grace. But there is a deeper side to this issue. I wonder if there is an unexpressed feeling of inferiority that makes us want to ape the west. I have always held that it is only when we are proud of our own culture, that we can aspire to widening our vision with success. Manners cut across countries and cultures and are often inherent. I have seen impeccable manners in the homes of pwhy children where one is at once made to feel comfortable and where food and drink is shared with pride and love.

It is sad that we are slowly losing our identity in our rush to ape cultures that we feel or are made to believe as better. The shrinking of the world should be an enriching experience for all, where all cultures are given the same importance thus enabling each one to learn from the other.