It is understandable that a lot of Indian practices and customs confuse people from other countries, especially Western ones. But one particularly has been the subject of endless debate and discussion - why do Indians eat with their bare hands?
More often than not, it seems to be suggestive of the fact India is not a first world country. But what everyone seems to miss out is that the economy of a country is not indicative of its culture. It seems infantile to think that the ancient country that cradled civilisations like Harappa and Mohenjo-daro could not come up with two pieces of cutlery.
The practice of eating with bare hands is more culturally rooted than being a commentary on the country's economy.
Even so, it is plain asinine to look at a practice in a demeaning way. There was a time before cutlery was invented when everyone used their trusted hands to eat, even non-Indians.
And you only have to run a simple Google search to realise that even a large number of Indians seem to believe that it is kind of dirty to eat with your hands. What is worse, it is actually understood as a practice followed mostly in the southern states!
Not every type of food can be had with your hands but the food that is originally Indian, which is mostly rotis, paranthas and rice, are easier to deal with one's hands. If one can use one's hands to tackle a KFC chicken leg, then why not the humbler meals?
In the rural communities of the southern and eastern states, food used to be served - for some, still is - on banana leaves. Steel or china does not go well with banana leaves now, does it?
And if you haven't eaten food served on banana leaves with your bare hands, you are missing out on one of the best flavours.
Moving on from the etiquette of eating, one might not easily realise but our body is self-sufficient and does not need the help of external tools to sustain.
Spoons and forks were never a part of the plan. Although it is highly recommended that you use a spoon to have soup and curry.
Using your fingers to eat also prevents your tongue from the risk of burning because your fingers are excellent receptors and are just generally very cool like that.
Food is also one of the few things that puts all your five senses into use.
And if you use a spoon or fork, you neglect one of the senses entirely. And if you are wondering how we hear food, you hear it when it is being cooked or when it sizzles in front of you.
It is very hygienic.
And before you use your fingers to eat, you wash them and you wash them again once you are done - that's twice per meal. One does not need logic to point out that that is quite hygienic. Clean all your utensils and cutlery all you want, but hands are in the end cleaner than them.
You tend to eat slower when you are not using spoon and fork, which helps in digestion.
It takes more effort to eat when you are using your hands, giving one more time to chew and hence smoothen and make the process of digestion easy and not rushed. Having said that, it also encourages one to finish everything on your plate, since it is all there at your fingertips. Literally.
And honestly, it just makes Indian food tastier.
When you are mixing your rice with dal or sambar, having dosa or just plain idli, your finger makes sure it is just the perfect mix. Also it helps, that there is no additional taste of steel, plastic or china when you take a spoonful.
It is not to say that one should not use spoon, fork and knives at all. Use all you want but don't annoy the hell out of people who don't want to! It is high time this entire discussion should be done and dusted forever. Let's just move on to some other discussion that does not seem so culturally inappropriate.