The Making of Sharpe's Peril

Last Update: 19 Oct 2008

To those who have never been to India, the sights - and smells - that hit your eyes and nose can be a little daunting.

A bhail, cow or ox is sacred to the Hindoo and wander just about anywhere they like (though they will receive a gentle push towards the door if they walk into a home or a tea-room) and the ubiquitous pigs - though their stripy youngsters are endearing - bear no comparison to European pigs and look like medieval wild boar rooting around in village middens and dung-heaps.

Dogs and cats are mostly avoided because of rabies. In any conversation (which crop up everywhere and anywhere even on the slightest acquaintance) questions are asked of you which in the Western world would be deemed intrusive and likely result in a punch to the nose - who are you, what are you doing here, what is your given name, do you have family, how much do you earn, where are you staying, can you get me or my relatives a job etc ? - have to be received in India as commonplace.

As ever, 'forewarned is forearmed' and a degree of duplicity can be employed (… and I daresay, expected) but truthfulness can save you some embarrassment in future dealings.

I have always found that shaking hands with your provider (in any way, large or small) and exchanging names before inviting him to please 'honour me' by joining you in what you are doing regarding eating or drinking bridges the initial gap - you will rarely meet a female as they are often barred from social occasions and the subject of 'arranged marriages' though normal to India in many 'rural' provinces is an awkward one to many Westerners.

Make it known that whatever they wish to order will be add to your bill (as religious reasons mean they may not choose to accept available foods or alcohol on the dining-table) but this obliges them to at least try and answer your questions (which is also orientated to 'where do you live, do you have family, how much do you earn' etc in return as it is expected).

The street's tea-stall - it closes between midnight and 4 am - is a good spot to hang-out to met your associates and hear the latest news and gossip.





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