The meaningless ack. You mean that you care about their opinion; you say that you agree with what they are saying. If it ever comes up again, you use one of the following techniques.
Distract. Add more or less unrelated information to the discussion, the more the better.
Delay. Decide to decide after some given point, which may or may not ever arrive. Insist that it is now too late to decide.
Seek additional advice. Everyone’s opinion counts equally. If the currently included opinions are not in your favor, invite an auntie or cousin to give their opinion. If you are really losing a battle invite so many opinions that it is impossible to sort out who thinks what. Ideally, this will include the entire family.
Claim supporters, whether or not they have actually expressed an opinion is mostly irrelevant. For example, “Auntie thinks I should get to eat nothing but cake.”
Reevaluation. Decisions are never final. You might think a decision has been made and you are on your way to get a bite to eat, when in fact things have magically evolved and you are going to visit an obscure neighbor on the other side of the city. Turn the tide of the discussion at the last moment before the decision needs to be acted upon to allow reevaluation to work in your favor.
Disagree respectfully and with a smile and you can get away with being quite forceful. The downside, everyone else will be doing the same, and they have a lot more practice than you do. You are hopelessly outmatched and you will eat five times as much as you meant to. A bit of Zen will go a long way. Remember, letting go is just a gesture.
Give up. Some arguments are not winnable. For example, your friends mother is completely incapable of understanding why you might want to go to the ATM, know the address or phone number where you are staying, buy a map, or have your own cell phone. She can’t imagine you going off on your own or even getting lost because the idea of doing things independently has no place in her worldview. Why would you ever want to be alone if you could be with others? She may treat you like a small child, but she will also make you chai ten times a day and generally spoil you rotten. Revel in it, mother love is a beautiful thing.
About this post
These are notes I took on my recent trip to India. I am nervous to publish them because they were written with great affection. I hope that comes through and they don’t seem sarcastic or mocking. I enjoyed participating in family discussions and getting to see ordinary local life both times I visited. I’ve been so lucky to have travelled with two different families who welcomed me, fed me, and showed me the joy (and occasional pain) of life in loving Indian families. Both are closer than American families (at least my own), and with this closeness comes a lovely complexity of interactions.
I enjoyed Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bangalore, Calicut, and Mysore, but Bombay remains my favorite place in India (perhaps on the planet). Crazy, vibrant, full of life, especially the normal places like Kandivli. This time I even took the local train!
kya soch rahi ho?