When Varun and I first decided to go to India to Meet The Parents, I did what any sensible girl would do: I began to binge on Bollywood movies. This was done sheerly for research purposes and to give me an informed understanding of cultural norms. As my appreciation for 7 minute songs, predictable plots and Shahrukh Khan’s acting grew, so did my bits of knowledge of Indian culture. I knew that Diwali was the time for fireworks and welcoming loved ones with diyas (small lamps) and that parents and grandparents get respect I’d never seen in North America.
I boarded the plane with confidence, secretly hoping that there’d be choreographed song and dance when we landed in Delhi.
After a few days and without making any glaring cultural faux-pas, I finally had a chance to play the ace up my sleeve: Touching the Feet of the Elders. Now, if you’ve never seen any Bollywood movies, allow me to explain. Here’s what happens. A child returns from boarding school or from running away with a spouse their parents didn’t approve of and, after a dramatic and slow-motion run toward an embrace, rather than hugging, they stoop down to touch the parent’s feet in respect. Usually, the parent will grab the shoulders of the child mid-stoop to hug them. Like a good Indian Moment, it’s heartfelt and full of respect.
As I said, this was the ace of my sleeve: show the parents I know the culture and respect them as elders.
So. There we were hanging out on the bed, Varun, his sister and I. His Papa came in to give me a gift so I stood up. As I was thanking him, I thought, “Here’s my big moment!”.
So I went for it.
What they don’t show you in movies is the importance of placement when touching feet. Between Varun’s Papa and I was about a corner and a half of bed. As he turned to leave the room I dove across the corner of the bed to touch the back of his feet as he walked out.
Varun and his sister were astonished into hysterical laughter and, Varun’s Papa, once he clued in, demanded an instant replay.
In fact, there were many, many instant replays. So much for smooth.