Dining etiquette plays an important part in making a favorable impression. It is a visible signal of the state of our manners including table manner and therefore is essential to professional success. The point of etiquette is to make you feel comfortable, not uncomfortable.
As in many cultures, proper habits of eating and drinking are very important. Dining etiquette is widely respected in many cultures across the globe. Proper table manners vary from culture to culture, although there are always a few basic rules that are important to follow. Here I am getting into a couple of basics.
Dresi is a Tibetan sweet dish using rice, something rare and a delicacy in old Tibet, that is cooked in unsalted butter and mixed with raisins, droma (gourd shaped root found in Tibet), dates and nuts. This dish is usually served in a small bowl on Losar (Tibetan New Year) and other important formal occasions such as the swearing-in ceremony of new parliamentarians and Cabinet ministers. It symbolizes the auspiciousness of the occasion. It hopes to generate good luck, peace, and prosperity.
Western visitors to pre-1959 Tibet like Hugh Richardson and Charles Bell had noted that the Tibetan aristocrats were far more sophisticated during dining than the Chinese counterpart. Well, that may be true or not is not the point of this article.
But every time dresi is served on Tibetan formal occasions you can’t help but observe one basic thing is missing. A tiny spoon and some paper napkins.
After the parliamentarians swearing-in ceremony was over nearly two weeks ago, the newly elected chithues or representatives and kalons or cabinet ministers were served with dresi. What happened next was shocking, unhygienic and socially undesirable dining habit. Our chithues and kalons, like barbarians, attacked the dresi with hands or fingers without washing them first. Nor did they wash hands after they were done eating. They just wiped their hands on anything handy including the desk on which they have important documents. Swapping bacteria, germs and viruses are unnecessary and absolutely unacceptable. Is the health minister listening? Maybe not because he is not a medical doctor anyway.
Well many of them attacked dresi directly with their mouth. That was even scarier! From their facial expression with a restrained smile of uneasiness and from their body language you can tell many of them seemed embarrassed or uncomfortable. Also while eating they tried to escape the glare of the official video camera. But did any one of them think of what I am writing here? If yes, why no steps were taken for so long?
The solution to this unhealthy social custom is a simple one. Serve dresi with a spoon and some paper napkins. A regular teaspoon will do or use a plastic spoon and if that is environmentally unhealthy then go for ice-cream wooden spoon or the cheapest paper spoon. How hard is that? 50 paper spoons and 100 napkins cost less than Rs 70 or a dollar. Cheap. If it’s done for some seemingly invisible cost-effectiveness, then you can bring your own spoons and napkins since you already knew you had an occasion to attend. Also, make sure you have a small plastic tray on which can sit your cup of tea and bowl of dresi. And if somehow things get messy, it stays on the tray and not on your desk.
Pick this practice up from the Indian railway Rajdhani express services and dining etiquette. Sit erect like gold radiating from your chest. Do not bend your back or slouch like an old diseased person. No mouth noise making. No slurping. Some monk chithues are worse on this. They make a strange, loud noise as if they were clearing their throats or something. The noise is similar to the one you hear from someone in the bathroom with constipation. WTF
You chithues and kalons are supposed to be the political elite of Tibet so don’t embarrass us any more on basics. The world, especially China, is watching you. Enough is enough. Next time the staff mess manager fails to provide spoon and napkins with dresi, the least his boss can do is fire him.
Also, stop rubbing your face every now and then with hands and stop digging into ears. If you need to, you can wipe your freaking oily face with a paper napkin. But do not hold the used napkin to your face and stare at it, like Samdhong lama does, after done wiping your face or ears. Well does he see genuine autonomy in the just used napkin? I don’t think so. Also, stop picking nose. Some of you do it as if you were digging gold out of some caves. With all the seriousness and in total innocence.
Either you don’t care by habit or you don’t seem to be aware that you are being taped. It does reflect your upbringing though. To say the least, It’s gross. Do it all you want in the washroom. And this goes for all Tibetans on all occasions. Physical hygiene is as crucial as the hygiene of mind and heart for the holistic development of our people.
Next time any of you, parliamentarians or not, eat dresi, please don’t remember this brief article because it might spoil the taste. If you choose to do so, do it at your own risk.
P.S. A request to the official cameraman is this. Anytime you sense that a finger of any chithue or kalon or any Tibetan for that matter is leaping to his nostrils, move away from the focus of the video camera to something else. We don’t need to see that again.
P.S. This post was first published in March 2016.