Yesterday Ramona and I were at a meeting in Delhi. While I will tell you more about the kind of meeting that was at another point of time, I would like to tell you about a topic that Ramona and I shared and laughed about: the handshake in India.
It’s not that Indians don't shake hands. They do and at meetings, conferences and events just as excessively as pretty much every other country. They use this international sign of saying hello to one another. The men in their three-piece-suits extend their hands, shake the hand of the other one, in sleeves or even pullover. A new person enters the round, he walks from one to the next, shaking one hand after the other. Then, there is a wife at one man’s side…
And she is skipped!
Oh, yes, ladies don’t get the pleasure of a firm – or not so firm – handshake. Or, you can say they get an extra treatment: a ‘namaste’ with the palms placed together in front of the chest or just a nod with the head.
I had never explicitly noticed that but obviously Ramona did when trying to figure out how to greet people in India! I think there are few things more awkward than stretching out your hand for someone to shake it who in that moment reaches out to the next person, ignoring you completely. Or maybe it is more awkward when that person comes back to finally shake your hand when you have decided to fold them in front of you and just nod!
After several unsuccessful attempts of getting a handshake as well and going through variations of the above, she gave up. Nodding and smiling it is for her now! 🙂
Rather amused, she wondered aloud what the root of this behavior was. The handshake as something that the British brought to this country but the reservation about touching women a remainder of the Indian tradition? We laughed, wondering whether a handshake was maybe already an indecent touch. And especially as the auspicious time of Navaratri has started during which many people fast, would that be breaking your fast through this outrageously sexual behavior with a woman who is not your wife?
Excuse our silly thoughts – but we had to laugh a lot and enjoy such fun and thoughts without taking anything too serious. I wanted to share it all, the awkwardness but even more the amusement with you, so that next time when you are in such a situation can decide what you would like to do: stay reserved and nod at the other gender or surprise a few people with a heartfelt and tight embrace – or maybe a kiss on the cheek?