Sunday, June 24, 2007

You should Never go Back...

Another superstition that my husband has tried to impart to me over the years is this: it is Very Bad Luck to go back to your house after you have left for work or some other important journey. For example, if you leave the house and walk towards the car, but then remember you
left your cell phone inside, you cannot go back to get it. You have to send someone else to go and get it for you or do without it. Those that go back inside are doomed to very bad luck that day.

In India, you never leave the house alone; instead an assembly of family members and staff members will gather to send you off. Kind of like when Daddy Warbucks would enter and exit his mansion in Little Orphan Annie, but no smart uniforms or even smart people, save for the
family members of course. The maids would stop their work, corral my daughter, and head downstairs to open the driveway gate. My younger sister-in-law would also hang about the front door, overseeing the maids. I was the only one left, not sending off the menfolk (my husband and his dad), but doing my own productive work.

As the days wore on, I began to feel that I was engaging in Very Bad Manners in not attending this Sendoff Assembly. I soon started to linger downstairs in the mornings to half-heartedly join in the celebrations. I realized how helpful such an assembly is and wished I had one back home in the US. "Oops, I forgot my cell phone upstairs," and "I want a thermos of nimbu pani to take with me to the office," or "one more chai," or "get me that cord I need for such and such.."
One dutiful member of the assembly would immediately "do the needful" and fetch the last-minute items for the decamping party.

While you wait for the dispatched to bring back your needed items, you have time to engage in one more smoke or even a chance to abuse one of the cast of Gate Lingerers. There are Gate Lingerers aplenty in such a populous nation - i.e., the labourer who has no TV set of his own to
watch, so instead he observes the comedy and drama of your household for 15 minutes each morning, the paperboy who tries to make up for the day he took off by sneaking in yesterday's paper with today's, there's also the carpet seller, the vegetable seller, the pooja flower lady,
and the cable guy coming to inspect the signal or get payment. Not exactly Amazon, but a world of goods is available to you at your doorstep on a daily basis.

So the Question of Forgetting a Thing and Needing to Go Back is not a question that needs to be asked in India. Someone will be hanging about the gate until you drive out of sight, just in case there is something you forgot.

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