Stick with it

- Devendra Gautam

Nov 5, 2015-

About 15 years ago, I chose to miss an opportunity to go to China for further studies. I had just landed a job, and thought that further studies could wait. But that was not the only reason. Deep down in my mind was this belief that the Chinese language would be really difficult to learn, let alone master. Besides, I was not ready to spend a year learning the language, a prerequisite for enrolment into the academic programme. Then there were chopsticks to fear. Despite dad’s prodding, I would always try to avoid them. For someone used to eating to his heart’s content with his right hand and occasionally with a spoon, fork and knife, the Chinese sticks were a really difficult tool. Back then, I would seek comfort in scientific studies that stated that eating food with the hand triggers the secretion of enzymes, which have a crucial role in digesting the food we eat.

On those occasions, I would also often think of a bunch of young school kids waging a war of sorts against their food with their ferocious tools—spoons and forks—in their hostel mess. The tense situation eased at times by bursts of laughter, unrestrained despite the warden’s watchful eyes. For me, the memory of those “little soldiers” makes this world, caught in a web of internecine conflicts, a more liveable place. Revisiting those years, I feel pity for the warden and wonder how he managed to maintain his sanity all these years. Well done warden, I must say.

Back to the chopsticks and how they got me, again. At a high-end Chinese restaurant in Thamel, I had a brief encounter with them not so long ago. My guests-turned-hosts and encouraged me to use the tools that I had somehow managed to avoid all these years because of a belief that chopsticks were not easy to handle. Having realised that escape from these sticks was not an option, I gave a decent try eating with them. My hosts gave me a few tips and that really helped. And I took solace in the fact that my Nepali friend was no better than me when it came to using them.

But that kind of solace will not help us in the long run. Tourism figures show that Chinese tourists are arriving here in big numbers. Had earthquakes not hit the country, Chinese arrivals to Nepal would have surely increased manifold. Worryingly, there’s a dearth of infrastructure and human resources, including Chinese-speaking guides, who can make their stay in Nepal comfortable. The number of Chinese tourists will surely increase if we have the zeal to be good hosts. How can we be good hosts to our next-door neighbours? By making them feel at home. And how do we do that? By learning about their tastes, culture, tradition and language. To start with, how about learning to eat with chopsticks? And how about learning the Chinese language?

Published: 05-11-2015 08:42

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