Lunch with Gerard, a wonderful cultural experience.

Every day here has been full of new and amazing experiences and today was no different. After taking a tour of Bangalore with my driver, Gerard, I was invited to have lunch with his family at his home.

Gerard lives in a small home not too far from the office where I’m working. His house consists of three rooms in total: a main room, kitchen and bedroom. In these, he lives with his wife, two children and mother. The house is situated under trees that provide it with shade. As such, it’s nice and cool even though the temperature outside is on the warm side. I’m impressed by three things as I enter Gerard’s home.

  1. As just mentioned, it’s nice and cool without depending on air conditioning and pricy electric bills. As I think about my own home and my ever-increasing electric bill just to keep the temperature bearable, I am reminded how thoughtful design can really make a huge difference. 🙂
  2. Space is something Americans take for granted. I can’t imagine living in such close quarters and not going absolutely crazy and my mother doesn’t even live with us (no offense Mom. 🙂
  3. The smell coming from Gerard’s kitchen is absolutely amazing and no matter what will be served, I’m already convinced I’m gonna love it.

Lunch today consists of a shrimp curry, rice, chapati (bread) and fried shark. There’s large amounts of everything and it all tastes amazing. Even though I’m getting incredibly full, I have a hard time stopping the food from constantly appearing on my plate which, as an aside, is a shallow metal bowl. Although I’m given a fork for the rice, I eat my curry with pieces of the bread. My fingers get a bit messy, but I definitely don’t mind. In truth, I see many advantages of eating this way, the least of which is that it’s easier for me to be sure I’m not missing anything on my plate. Nobody really talks during the meal which is probably good as it would have been hard to do anyway.  After we’re finished eating, a bowl of water is brought to the table, so that hands can be easily washed.

After lunch, we talk about a number of topics including US politics, Syria, the Indian school system, etc… I learn a great deal such as the fact that although Hindi is the official language of India, school lessons are taught in English. In addition to the official language, each state or region has its own language. These languages are not similar meaning that fluency in one won’t help with any of the others. In total, there are 25 languages spoken in India and most people are fluent in at least three: English, Hindi and whatever language is spoken in their home area. If you move to another part of the country, you may need to learn a fourth if only to more easily communicate with your new neighbors. I contrast all this with my own children, aged 13 and 10 who haven’t even begun learning a second language.

As we get ready to leave, we find that the road is entirely blocked by a construction truck. The driver is on break somewhere, so we simply wait for him to return. When he does, he drives off in his truck accidentally taking down a power line on his way. A neighbor moves the downed power line out of the road and we leave Gerard’s peaceful neighborhood and return to the chaos that is traffic in India.

World culture has always been a major interest of mine and so I’m very grateful to have had today’s experience. I can get wonderful food at my hotel, but much of the experience is westernized due to the numbers of American and European guests that stay there. I’m not sure if he’ll ever read this blog, but in the event he does, Gerard, a very big thanks to you and your family for a wonderful afternoon.

By Steve Sawczyn

Blind from birth, I do what I can to help make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for all.

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