Today is India’s Republic Day and I am miles away from home. As I wandered the streets of Davos, with snow crunching under my boots, cold air brushing my face, multiple accents filling my ears - I spent the time between meetings munching on samosas and veg kabob (can you believe it?). The India Brand Equity Foundation took over a room adjacent to a restaurant and set it up with hot chai and Indian snacks. The India chefs used the restaurant kitchen to create multiple dishes to cater to the Indian palate. The adda never closed at 7pm as it was supposed to but the hostesses never lost their smile and the food never stopped coming our way.
As I sat there and watched the activity, I realized that one of the best assets India possesses as a country is the sense of hospitality.I thought of my grand mother who managed to whip up SOMETHING for the indefinite amount of guests who seem to flow in and out of our home; of my oldest sister who gets three blouses stitched for every saree she buys so that all three of us sisters can wear her sarees; of my second sister and her husband who leave their family and move in with us at a moment’s notice to baby sit my son if I have to travel for business; of my maid who stays way beyond her negotiated hours if we are late getting home without expecting any overtime salary.
What is common among all these people is their generosity and their innate sense of giving without expecting anything in return right away. Yes! there is a moral binding and an expectation that we all take care of one another in time of need. In some ways, doing something per rules for which an agreed amount is exchanged is desirable because there are no expectations. It leads to a very predictable life of opening something on time and closing on time and not making any exceptions. And then, there is the Indian way where a shop might stay open because they could not say “No” to their customers, which might cause them to delay opening the next day.
As India matures, becomes a “professional” country, some of these courtesies may die and some more predictability might set in. And as we do that, I hope that we do not lose that in-born sense of hospitality, generosity and make exceptions to stay open a tad longer because the customers are really having fun. I hope that we master that dance taking into stride the discipline of the west and the flexibility of the east. Here’s to the Republic day and hot samosas in cold snow :-)