everyone in the office is very welcoming. they invite me for lunch. we walk a block or two dodging both the human and vehicular traffic. my co-workers seem worried that i'll be hit by a car as we cross the roads, not knowing the ways of crazy indian drivers. they give me street crossing directions, which if follow unquestioningly. we decend into a packed basement hole-in-the-wall eatery. my co-workers are hesitant to order me real indian food. they ask if i want fried rice or a few other mild items clearly listed for people who look like me. screw that i said, and made them order me what they were having. it was delicious. in years of working in boring alameda, california, and going out for countless lunches, this would rank among the tastiest lunches i've ever had. and for only 25 rupees (60 cents). i wasn't however, quite ready to eat with my hands just yet. i used a spoon.
for those who don't know, most indian food is eaten with the hands--actually just the right hand. and i'm not just talking about finger friendly pakoras and the like.... i'm talking about rice with curry poured over it. you push it all around your plate with your fingers, sopping up the curry with the rice, then scoop up a clump with the fingers of your right hand, bring it to your mouth and shovel it in (using the thumb). not surprisingly, your fingers end up quite messy (and there are no napkins), though your palm remains clean if you do it right. you also, of course, end up ingesting whatever was on your fingers pre-lunch, which is the part that bothers me most, especially considering that in india, a lot of unpalatable things end up on your fingers. i will try it soon, but not on my first meal out...
oh, and NEVER EVER eat with your left hand. the left hand is reserved for unsavory things, as discussed in my other blog.
after the meal, you go to the sinks, or sometimes just a water jug, and wash off your hand.