The culture of respect ?

“Ibu, aku terlambat , pesawat belum datang.” I heard a part of what my colleague was saying on phone. We were in Lombok, on an assignment and stuck at the airport. The plane taking us back to Jakarta had gotten delayed by 4 hours.  I had already called up my husband to inform and was waiting for my colleague to finish his call, before we went back to work related discussion again. “Ibu, nanti aku telepon ketika pesawat mendarat”. …

I was sort of surprised + impressed that he still calls his Ibu (Mum) first, even in his mid thirties. Indonesians are very close to their family – mostly like Indians, I had heard, but this was little out of ordinary for me.  I wouldn’t call my parents immediately under such circumstances, they need not know that I’m getting delayed and then worry about me. Maybe, he lives in a joint family. ‘The analyst’ started making her assumptions. Anyhow, after he hung up, I asked him how came he called his mother because she might worry unnecessarily. Indonesians do tend to ask even more personal questions and even to casual acquaintances or even strangers. Though I knew he wouldn’t have minded – he’s a friend.  Anyway, he did a double take – “Mother??, no, I called my wife”.  Then it was my turn to do a double take – “you  address your wife with ‘Ibu’?”. Till then, to me, Ibu meant only following things:

  1. Ibu is your own mother
  2. In formal situations, it is a title of respect – similar to ‘Madam’ – for someone senior in age / designation – mostly aged 30s and above.

So I was even more impressed with this colleague, who was addressing his wife ‘Madam’. Not jokingly, I could tell from his expressions. He added, “Of course, that’s what I always call her”.Having returned home, I mentioned this to a local friend and he set me correct. “We always call our spouses with the relevant title”. This was a shock and relief to me. After hearing the Bahasa Indonesia word for the word ‘husband’ – Suami, which has been derived from Sanskrit ‘Swami’ (master), I had been flabbergasted. So this new information was a happy shock.

 This means, husbands will call their wives – ‘Ibu’ (Madam) or Mbak (Miss) while addressing and wives will call their husbands  – Bapak/Pak (Sir), Mas (young sir I guess?) while addressing them. This to me initially seemed too formal, until I recollected that in many parts of India there still is culture of addressing significant other ‘aap’ (respect) irrespective of gender. Even kids . India always has culture of addressing husband as ‘aap’ – being the patriarchal society that it is. But in some areas even the wives are addressed in kind. In Maharashtrian culture too probably till last century I guess, the culture of calling significant other “tumhi” (respect) existed. However, I don’t think adding a title for those considered ‘junior’ was ever a part of our culture. Fortunately, today we have again gravitated to an era where genders are on equal footing when it comes to addressing each other (genders to come on equal footing in India in real sense will take probably couple of centuries more… but that is besides the point).

So, coming to the point, so far in my interactions, I haven’t come across anybody in this country, irrespective of his/her age, situation,  social status, profession etc, being addressed without title. Titles – Pak/Bapak, Mas, Mbak, Ibu, Nona (for young miss) etc are used in formal as well as casual situations. I guess, in situations with extreme familiarity, sometimes, you could be addressed only with your first name, parents calling their children etc.  I call some of my friends on first name basis, but I think their acceptance of it could be more to do with the fact that they understand differences in cultures.

To me it is amusing how the use of titles does not really impact the level of intimacy in this culture. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Indonesians are very genial? – that they always have given respect to anyone irrespective of their status / situation by addressing them with titles?  I can only make guesses.

Shoes that don’t fit (in my drawing room)

Why do some people wear their shoes indoors?

Or let me rephrase it – why do some people continue to wear the shoes that they wore outside, indoors as well? -in  their friend’s, or even their own house?

Till recently, I never really had to think about this question and likewise, I never really thought that I would one day explore in detail about its causes etc. I have been brought up in ‘No shoes at home’ manner –  and believed that this was Indian custom. A possibility that there existed any other way to behave  – than leaving shoes at the door when entering own/another’s house, didn’t even enter my mind for a long long time. However, times have changed and brought me into contact with people who wear shoes into the house.

Our Indonesian acquaintances have never done this. So no question of this being attributable to the diverse culture. They have always removed their shoes. The people who wore shoes indoors were in fact Indians. Belonging to a particular part of India. I do not want to pinpoint it – So let me leave it at that.

There have been instances, of people from this particular part of India walking in, either alone /in a group and walking in with their shoes, noticing that the hosts (us) are barefoot and yet continuing to move about the house wearing their shoes / chappals/ sandals. When they came in as a part of a group, they still kept their shoes on while the others removed their footwear. As hosts, so far we have said nothing, but I was shocked to see this repeatedly ever since I moved here. And only by people from one specific part of India.

To me, shoes worn outside are dirty and unhygienic. They must be carrying not only dirt and dust but who knows , even bacteria/fungi and what not from various public places that they’ve been worn to. Removing them means avoiding infesting the host’s house with that dirt. I guess, this is how I was brought up. Both India and Indonesia are countries where hygiene at public places can be an issue and people staying in either of these countries should be mindful of this. Further, noticing that the hosts (As well as other guests when they remove shoes,) are barefoot, and still continuing to wear shoes despite of that, is sort of arrogant and disrespectful.

I try and request those who are friends, and they do listen. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they’d remember next time. The job of reminding is quite embarrassing then. That apart, usually as a host it is a dilemma whether requesting the guests to remove shoes will give offence, some of them being my husband’s business associates. I guess, I never really imagined that Indians would do this. Most of the non – Indians ASK you – if they need to remove the shoes. They are very mindful about differences in the culture. Desi guests however neither ask nor are they expected to be unaware. Following rules at the host’s place is not culture specific I think. It is universal.

Anyway, after one more such experience yesterday, when some of my husband’s Indian associates came over for dinner and a couple of them promptly ignored that both the hosts and some of their colleagues had removed footwear, I was forced to think about the possible reasons for this practice of wearing shoes indoors. I came up with –

  1. Weather – People from this community in India belong to a region which can get too hot or too cold. Maybe the floor heats up or gets stark cold and you need to protect the feet. In this case well – this is Jakarta. Perennially stuck at 32 degrees celsius and definitely neither too hot nor too cold.
  2. Some people have ‘house slippers’ or house footwear.  – Basically they constantly wear something in their feet till they go to sleep. Yes, many people in my family too do this. However, the house footwear is not same as outdoor footwear and if they go to someone’s place for couple of hours, they probably can survive without footwear. Some families I know keep spare house footwear for guests. I haven’t done it so far and I don’t think it is practical especially when you are hosting a number of people at the same time.
  3. Some people have health issues or some injury – in which case it is understandable. However I guess this would be exception and even the hygiene-OCD affected people will accommodate such guests.

I could not think about a ‘culture’ specific reason  – none of the above is specific to that culture. Many people live in areas in India which have extreme climates. Not just this particular part of India. Anyway, I found a thread on metafilter discussing exactly this – but in the western countries. This was new to me. I had imagined that US and UK have colder climes and hence probably they must be wearing shoes inside the house. But I had no idea that in many parts, its the same pair of shoes that is worn outside the house. I find it amusing (because its not in my own house of course 😉  ) that some even wear shoes on their beds. But this thread gave many reasons why a person might be wearing same pair of shoes inside the house, what they wore outside.

Anyhoo, my rant is done. Time to sign off. In case anyone knows any cultural reasons why some INDIANS might be wearing their outdoor shoes indoors, please let me know.

My Mum (Always) Never….

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My Mum (Always) Never....

Story of my life

Gyaan

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A day in life of Swapnil

A day in life of Swapnil

Alone, alienated, detached, isolated, soliatary, withdrawn….

I cannot think of any more synonyms, but I just thought of writing this here. Wanted to purge these thoughts somewhere. These are the exact words that describe what I felt a lot during last few months.  Around the same time that I started working, my husband’s critical deals entered into advanced stages of discussions and he had to travel. A lot. Sometimes, in a month, he used to be home for less than 10 days, and not continuously (not consecutive days of being at home). That just left the situation being him back from one trip, just for doing the laundry and repacking and be gone. Thankfully, I had started working, otherwise, I would have gone crazy. But for all the non-working hours in the day, I was all those words I mentioned above.

Sure, I know some people here by now. Knowing is not same as being friends – I realised more than ever. They were available of course, mostly on whatsapp. Some who I consider friends have children and it was I who felt I would be imposing on them if I sought them out. Others… well, they let me know subtly and not so subtly  – that they don’t appreciate ‘clinginess’ and still others… well  I suppose they didn’t even care to understand my loneliness despite my own subtle and not so subtle hints…I don’t blame anyone of course, I should not and cannot be expecting support everywhere I go, cannot expect every person to like me enough to keep me company when I want… and I was alone for quite some time. So anyways, there would have been a limit on how many times I could impose on anyone like that….

I could have of course pursued my hobbies, etc during those days…but I didn’t. I didn’t handle this well. I have never stayed alone even as much as overnight before I moved here and somehow, I wasn’t able to handle it well. I could have explored the city.  I always wanted to. But I didn’t. Mainly because of my still fledgeling bahasa skills and the fact that my husband and I were both not sure about safety in exploring the deep interiors of Jakarta. He was out of the country and he requested that I postpone my explorings till he was in city for longer stretches. There are many ways in which I could have handled this better, but I couldn’t and I cannot – I think- even in the future.

I realised during these days, how much I had taken the social life granted back home. In India, while I was working, the work-life balance was disastrous with exceedingly long working hours. Still I will say, I was better off socially, simply because I had a great set of co-worker friends who had my back all the time. We each hardly had time for our other friends outside work, and we each had distinct tastes and personalities. Still these never were barriers in connecting, in talking about anything under the sun. We never judged each other, maintained our own opinions and still were one cohesive group. I think, most of the meaningful friendships in my life, were formed in my adult life and this group was a big part of it. While this happened because we each hardly had any time outside of work to engage more with our other friends, the most important reason was the great connection we shared with each other.  I cannot expect such connections to form everywhere I go, but then I know what great happiness it can bring. I could of course contact them and all of my other friends, though its not same as meeting in person. Though I hated to just be complaining all the times and consequently I avoided chatting with anyone.

Anyhow, now I expect my husband to be at home mostly. I won’t face this situation hopefully for some time now. Though I wonder sometimes, if expecting your friends to set aside some time for you is really an unreasonable thing… after 5 months of loneliness, I am inclined to believe, it isn’t mostly, because they too can count on you when they need you. Though here in NRI world, things are different. Or, they’re not different, this is just how the world works, its just that I had this moment of epiphany so late in life….

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Protected: My Reinhart and Rogoff moment….

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What (the h) have I have been doing all these days

Have been really busy folks...

Have been really busy folks…

 

 

I looove blogging. Writing actually.

Even better if you know that there’s a dedicated audience for that. That’s why I took up blogging in the first place. However, I have been quite remiss in updating. Some people make it a habit to update their blog daily, but sometimes the inspiration is not there. I admire all those who can describe most mundane things in their lives lucidly… Anyhow, Long story short, I haven’t updated this blog in a while and thought it was time to do so.

Catching up from where I left, I haven’t forgotten about 30 days of creativity challenge. Coincidentally, worldwide, that is what is going on. Well, I don’t have 30 days remaining now, seeing as today is 24th and probably don’t even have that much time daily. However, I plan to complete 30 creative things as promised. In fact an on-going event in Jakarta actually gives me an opportunity to do one creative project that I had been thinking of for some time.  Mostly I will be ready to post it by end of next Sunday. So yes, I haven’t given up on the 30days of creativity.

So what have I been doing….

Well, I have been working. I got a job finally. I mean, I had got it long time back, but the regulations here are just too tedious and they took a long time to release the approval. I got the job in my own field, so even that is great. Work’s been hectic. Especially the last couple of months. Though I am not exactly complaining….

Other than that… well… I got a new phone (yesterday), because my old smartphone crashed and I was cut off from the network for almost 3 weeks. It was kind of living in exile. Especially with Swapnil traveling all the time. The only interaction I had was with my colleagues and sometimes when I called my family. So this phone was much needed. I spent long enough researching on the right kind and all and eventually bought Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini.

Didn’t travel much (at all actually). Given the work-schedule. Most of my local friends also went out of Jakarta / country due to their kids’ holidays and I was sort of ‘marooned’ to put it in right words . .when I wasn’t at work….

I tried my hand at losing weight. Looks like its not my cup of tea….after spending a month of tracking food and attempting some exercise, I have lost just 1 kg. Though something better came out of it. My Fitness Pal has almost become like my Facebook now, because I needed to keep a track of my protein intake . I began recording food and got hooked to it. Lots of support and motivation from the community. In real life nobody took me or my need to lose weight seriously 🙂 so I turned towards virtual support I guess… 

Stopped watching TV altogether. Instead shifted to the whole new genre of entertainment. They call it a new age media and blah blah blah. I call it you-tube series. I landed on one such series by accident. The YouTube series work in unique format. They are hardly 5-6 minute episodes. Sometimes they get interactive. Work a lot on improvisation. Other times, they are shot in real environment. Lot many unique ideas and characters. You can of course watch at your own leisure and there’s probably a series out there on a subject of your liking. Meaning, lot of variety. What’s even great, these things seem to be run by nerds… totally my kind of people 🙂  It was like a whole new world was opened before me 🙂 and I totally am loving it.

What else, no I haven’t been cooking a lot. Actually with husband travelling, there’s noone to impress (and when he’s here he’s anyways far from being impressed). Also with work, I don’t have any motivation in me left to do cook something new. The other day I tried my hand at Mushroom masala since my husband remarked that his colleague’s wife makes it very well. However, it was disastrous and I concluded that I’d rather admire someone cooking for me than myself cooking it… I mean, cooking and I… is a love-hate sort of very moody relationship. Its complicated.

Yeah… those were the highlights of last four months… not much, I know….

Garden wars episode II – The aphids strike back

Not so long time ago, in a balcony far away (from most of my regular readers)…

It is a dark time for the Jedi-gardener. Although the original aphid base has been destroyed, the gen Y aphids, immune to the original homemade pesticidal force have evolved to be more powerful troops. They have united and driven the home-made pesticidal forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the balcony.

The Jedi-gardener group (lead by its sole member) is perplexed and helpless. Aphid troops have this time joined hands with the mildews and are slowly, but forcefully spreading out across the balcony. The home – gardening force  seems to be growing weaker and weaker…

Watch this space for further updates….

Re: Nutritional update, attention: delinquent in Jakarta

Yes, mea culpa!

You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of knowing you, can think any thing wanting …. 😛

 As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my laziness. I was given good principles, but left to follow them with inertia and low morale. Such I was, in India and Indonesia; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Aarti! What do I not owe you! Your blogposts taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. How you’ve managed to stay motivated, enthusiastic about all the things you are doing, and managing to recover from blues too… 😉

Here’s my account for the day – Morning began with soaked methi seeds and chai+couple of horlics biscuits, a mid morning breakfast of a very large pear and a half a glass of milk followed by a lunch at a restaurant comprising of plain rice and broccoli with mushrooms. I followed it up with evening chai and biscuits and an early dinner consisting of moong khichadi (which had more moong and less rice), kokum soup and yoghurt. All in all, I am proud of not having eaten anything deep fried or too sweet. I also ate a fruit, some broccoli and yoghurt 🙂 . I am getting better at this….

Exercise: – 10 minutes brisk walk from mall back to house. I did not take cab….

your turn now… 🙂