Sunday, February 25, 2007

No Place for South Paws

A nice worker woman from Mustafa was helping me with my bags yesterday morning (bright and early - the only decent time to go to Mustafa). She stood on the curb and handed me my bags. Several times she said, "So sorry ma'am, left hand" when she passed something to me. For a minute I was confused. Is there something wrong with your left hand? Is it weaker so you're afraid to drop it? What's the deal?

Then I remembered. In Indian culture, your left hand is dirty. It's the one you use for, among other less pleasant activities, wiping yourself. So you should never hand someone something in your left hand. It's extremely offensive. This made me consider the numerous times - probably every time - I have brought my cart to a checkout in Mustafa, grabbed things out of the cart with my left hand, and placed them on the counter. Maybe it's ok if I'm not giving it directly to their hands. I don't know how it self-cleanses between hitting the counter and then them picking it up. But come to think of it, most of the counters are arranged in such a way that they are always picking it up with their left, I guess so they can enter in numbers with their right.

I want to respect their culture, so today when I was there (at a time when you should only go if it is absolutely necessary) I was conscious of using my right hand as much as possible. If only they knew - I don't wipe with my left.

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