Am I the only one in my right mind?

Bhubaneswar Travel Blog

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A block from my hostel, after the rain

You’ve heard the saying: Left-handed people are the only ones in their right minds.  That may be true in some places, but not in India.  As a lefty, I’m struggling with the whole use-only-your-right-hand-for-many-tasks thing.  C’mon, every Westerner who goes to India has to talk about the no toilet paper phenomenon.  During orientation for my volunteer program, we had a True or False quiz about Indian culture.  One quiz question was, Indians think toilet paper is unhygienic.  I actually stopped the quiz giver and said, I don’t get it.  What do you mean?  Are you asking if they think the paper itself is unhygienic, or the use of it?  (I blame my lack of oral/mental filter on jet lag, thank you.

Please leave your shoes outside the office
)  I was so stuck in my own way of doing things being the only way, that I literally couldn’t get my head around the question.  Turns out, the answer is True. 


After my first muddy walk to work on unpaved roads on a rainy day, I understand why my office is a no-shoes environment.  Walking into a bathroom sans shoes is frowned upon (at least in the office), so there are communal flip flops that sit just outside the bathroom door.  But from my American perspective, the communal use of the flip flops defeats the purpose, you dig?  I’m trying not to judge and simply observe, which is a little easier in this case than in some others since dirt on my feet isn’t going to kill me.

Communal flip flops
  That said, having lived my entire life in a place where trying on shoes in a store without socks is a no-no and anti-bacterial soaps line the store shelves, it’s an adjustment, to put it mildly. 


So think about it: If you use your left hand and a bucket of water instead of tp, would you ever use that hand to bring food to your mouth?  Hell no!  So even though I carry tp with me everywhere, to fit in I’m attempting to eat with my right hand.  The other day I asked someone at work to give me an eating-with-your-hand lesson.  So now I get the technique, but my right hand is so useless I can’t get the message to translate from my brain to my fingers.  While I’m trying to scoop up food my fingers look like a deformed claw.  It isn’t pretty.  But I am managing to eat, and the food is delicious.  Yum.

The delicious Indian version of after-dinner mints


The other day a co-worker brought in some homemade treats and offered me one.  She was standing to my left, and without thinking I reached into her Tupperware container with my left hand.  I caught myself and switched to my right hand; I’m not sure if she was reacting to what I did or to seeing me notice my mistake, but either way, I swear I saw her flinch.


There seem to be other cultural rules around when it’s okay/not okay to use the left hand, but they’re subtler.  I vaguely recall hearing at orientation that it’s better to handle money with the right hand.  But now I’m questioning everything I do: I never realized before how often I touch my face -- is it okay to rub my eyes with my left hand?  If I’m using a spoon to eat, is it okay to use my left hand?  (I think so.) 


Here’s one I don’t get: India has its own version of after-dinner mints in a restaurant, combinations of fennel or anise, sometimes with little pieces of sugar.  They’re delicious.  They’re presented in a tray with little spoons.  So do I spoon the mixture into my left hand, and then eat it with my right?  But then the food was in my left hand.  Oy, I’m so confused!  The education continues…

debrasiegel says:
Hello Lorraine!!!! Thanks for the support. I love knowing that you're reading along. :-) Much love, Debala
Posted on: Mar 13, 2008
LorraineL says:
Debra, You are the inspiration to sooo many people. After just closing the last page in Eat, Pray, Love your words ring somewhat familar! You have always enriched your life, and those who are blessed to know you. Keep up this journey. You have a huge fan club.I will look forward to reading your blog! LL
Posted on: Mar 03, 2008
redzzed says:
take it easy , its just light hearted comment , hence the winky
Posted on: Mar 02, 2008
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A block from my hostel, after the …
A block from my hostel, after the…
Please leave your shoes outside th…
Please leave your shoes outside t…
Communal flip flops
Communal flip flops
The delicious Indian version of af…
The delicious Indian version of a…
The infamous Indian bucket
The infamous Indian bucket
I bought a little packet of my own…
I bought a little packet of my ow…
Do I put it in my left hand?
Do I put it in my left hand?
photo by: debrasiegel