Culture in a capsule
Global Adjustments’ ‘Taste of India’ provides expats a glimpse into the varied facets of the country
Know india betterRanjini Manian with the participants at a ‘Taste of India’ session
Imagine you were visiting India for the first time and had just a few days to spare in Chennai. Now imagine there was someplace you could spend an entire evening being introduced to the dance, music, food and clothing of the region by people who have spent their lives immersed in that culture.
That’s precisely the idea behind “Taste of India”, the programme introduced by Global Adjustments at their new India Immersion Centre (IIC) in R. A. Puram.
“Taste of India has been constructed specially for those who’re just passing through, providing an authentic experience of everything Indian in three hours time,” says Ranjini Manian, founder-CEO of Global Adjustments.
Even the setting is authentic – for instance, the new IIC building has a model of a traditional Indian courtyard complete with a tulsi plant in the middle. In that courtyard, the expatriates do a little ‘sniff and tell’ session with common Indian greens such as tulsi, curry leaves, beetal leaves and more, and exotic fruits such as the custard apple, chickoo, etc. It’s all hands on, including a cooking session where they look in on a typical Indian kitchen and get acquainted with the spices needed for everyday South Indian cooking. And of course, the dinner, when the expats – visitors from all over the world, including Sweden, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. – try their hand (literally) at eating traditional elai sappadu with 14 dishes.
“You’re going to do everything your mother told you not to when growing up,” Ranjini tells the group as she introduces them to dining etiquette, Chennai-style. “You have to mix the rice and gravy with your fingers – I know it’s hard, but just get in there.”
Learning to appreciate classical Indian arts is another big part of the programme, with Carnatic music or Bharathanatyam being broken down to their component parts and explained as simply as possible, aided by advisors such as Aruna Sairam, Gopika Varma and Malavika Sarukkai.
“Each of them helps us make this programme a success by promoting the best of India,” says Ranjini.
For the inaugural edition of “Taste of India”, Lakshmi Ravichander and Saraswathi K. Kumar of Event Art introduce Bharathanatyam to a roomful of enthralled expatriates, explaining the different mudras, and even getting them all to give the aramandi position a try. And at the end of the session, before a final cup of kapi, all the participants have their picture taken wearing saris and veshtis.
But above all else, “Taste of India” is about helping visitors from abroad understand India in all its cultural complexity, and helping them relate to Indians better. Ranjini’s talk, for instance, opens with an explanation of the phrase ‘athithi devo bhava’, discussing how guests are treated in India, before providing insights on cultural variations within the country and relationship building in India.
“I’ve travelled to over 25 countries and lived in four, and India is by far the most fascinating, diverse and confusing place I’ve ever been in,” says Stetson Sanders, the American Vice-Consul, who was one of the participants in the programme. “You really do need a formal cultural presentation of this sort by people who understand the expat experience.”
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