The Canine Case
March 19th, 2006
In the great debate of national culturedness, the verdict has been drawn. And the irrefutable evidences lie in the social etiquettes of the American poodle and the desi gali ka kutta.
Without making things any harder than they should be, I should go on to introduce the topic of my musings. That my U.S. visit has been nothing short of a cultural shock should come as no surprise to anyone. Considering the fact that I spent the better part of my life in the especially backward regions of a especially backward state of the country, the immaculate cleanliness and orderliness of the U.S. alone should have been enough to send me into coma. To top it all is the all pervasive, almost forced politeness of the average american population. Whereas in India, I would almost swoon over the character and politeness of a Mysore auto driver just because he did not overcharge me heavily for the ride from the station to my home, I have had to adjust my expectations in this country. Every place I go, I am met with a friendly "How is it going?" accompanied with a smile which would almost have indicated the news of a new born child to my Indian counterpart friend. Initially, not experienced in the U.S. ways of salutation and having being posed with such a question, I felt obligated to provide my inquirer with a detailed description of "How was it going with me". In such situations, as my dreary blabbering reached about a minute of callous indifference to mocking glances and amused smiles, the counter person generally used to end my foolish charade with a forced THANK YOU and NEXT IN LINE PLEASE. And after stumbling for uncountable number of times, it dawned upon me that it might all be just a formality. It might just be possible that politeness is just a compulsory overcoat which these Americans by law have to wear. It might just be possible that a question like "How is it going" does not deserve an answer.
All of this brings me to the all important and seminal observation of mine. It was a beautiful sunny day when I, bored with the monotony of daily existence, stumbled upon this brilliant observation which has now proven to be the last link to my theory of cultural culturedness in India and U.S. I never heard a dog bark in the U.S. Can you believe it. Absolutely never. And to compare it, even my own dog back in India although only a few inches in lateral dimension, packs enough barking ammunition to rival the noise of a supersonic jet at close quarters (approximately 120 decibles!!!). And he is supposed to be a pet! I just don't need to present street examples. In India, any dog, unless it is a close acquaintance of yours or is a friend of your dog, is apt to be seen as a potential donor of Rabies virus and a lot of pain. But here in the U.S. all the dogs are almost oblivious of my presence. While passing by, they just seem to acknowledge, with a slight nod of their head, the painful fact that they happen to live in a world which is infested with humans but that nothing can be done about it. There is absolutely no barking. If anything, maybe, there is that smile and probably that unsaid question "How is it going" which after innumerable and inconsiderate repetitions has become mundane enough not to deserve an answer at all...