Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where're you off to?

In most of the Anglo Saxon regions the standard exchange when passing an acquaintance on the street (or elsewhere) is to wish the person a Good [time of the day]. With greater familiarity, this might be followed by "How are you?". Keeping in mind that this is a greeting, and not a question, the expected response is along the lines of "Fine. How are you?". Past this you can safely pass, and get on with your lives.

In the Gelf, the greeting goes, Good {time of day} (or alternatively, Peace on You), followed immediately by "How are You?". And without waiting for response or catching breath, continue with "How's your family? How're your children? How're your wives? How're your goats?......"
Response would be something like, "Bright {time of the day}, I am fine, praise the lord. The kids are fine, praise the lord. The wives are fine, praise the lord. The goats are well fed, praise the lord...." And then you shoot the same set of questions back.
This could easily take a few minutes. This protocol is followed for phone conversations as well, before entering the purpose of call. And the telcos have made a killing out of this, with the mean talk time per call about 5 minutes longer than the international average.

In many parts of India, apparently the method of greeting a passing neighbour or colleague is to say, "Where are you going?". Note: Say, not ask. You're not expected to precisely answer this. Unless the questioner is you aunt, in which case, she probably wants to know. The expected response is to vaguely wave your hand in the direction you are moving, and say "Just, there." And smile, and move on.

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