Satire | Teach yourself some manners

One way to do that is by copying the Japanese tea ceremony shown in the web-series, Shogun

April 18, 2024 01:34 pm | Updated April 19, 2024 09:56 pm IST

The secret of Japanese politeness is their tea ceremony.

The secret of Japanese politeness is their tea ceremony. | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sasha

Is there a politeness index that ranks countries — just like there is for democracy, press freedom, and so on? If there was, Indians would be ranked at the bottom. Be it on the roads, airports or our own neighbourhood, we show little consideration for fellow beings. Fortunately, there is an easy way to learn some manners: copy the Japanese. If you can’t find Japanese persons in your locality, watch Shogun, a Japanese web-series.

I’m asking every Indian I meet to watch Shogun just for this reason. Wife believes I’m going through a ‘Shogun’ phase, like how I went around wishing everyone ‘valar morghulis’ during my Game of Thrones phase. But Shogun is different. After closely observing for eight episodes, I’ve figured out that the secret of Japanese politeness is their tea ceremony, which was inspired, research tells me, by tea.

The multiple tea-centric scenes in Shogun are the ultimate aid to imbibing Japanese standards of interpersonal courtesy. What’s more, you can try them at home. If you diligently perform the tea ceremony at least once a week, your manners will improve — call it Kiku ka guarantee.

For a peaceful home

The only equipment you need is a pot of tea, cups, and human beings to drink tea with. If you’re a tea drinker, you’re halfway there. My situation is slightly complicated. I’m a tea-drinker who switched to coffee in service of a greater cause: maintaining peace in the realm.

In our home, Wife is the only person allowed to touch the tea things. She believes she makes excellent tea, and she well might — if she were to use normal tea leaves. But she uses an exotic tea powder sourced from the sands of Arrakis. Not surprisingly, her tea tastes like liquefied sand. If you also, like me, can only do coffee, just imagine coffee is tea. It’s not difficult.

Last Sunday, for instance, I embraced the tea ceremony in true Shogun spirit.

I was having my coffee-tea with the morning papers when Wife joined me across the table with a half-empty cup of sand tea.

I bowed, and said to her, a gentle smile on my lips, “Lady Sampath, I’m honoured to share this beautiful Sunday morning with you. Let me pour you some more of your rejuvenating tea from the land of the Fremen.”

This column is a satirical take on life and society.

Wife reacted as if I was about to pour Sanifresh into her cup. My mother jumped up and snatched the tea pot from me and set it down at a safe distance.

My feelings were hurt, but I said, “O fair mother of mine, how elegantly you moved the tea pot beyond the reach of your handsome first-born!”

Ennada sollura?” Mother frowned, and looked at Wife, who shrugged and shook her head, as if to say, ‘don’t look at me’.

Then the doorbell rang. Kattabomman ran to get it. “It’s the guard,” he announced. “He’s asking for you.”

“Sir, aapne gaadi tedi park ki hai,” the guard said. He wanted the car shifted immediately. Apparently, a neighbour had sent a complaint to the Society manager, with photographic evidence.

“But that tiny space can anyway accommodate only one vehicle,” I said. “Even if I move my car, it would make no difference.”

“Rules are rules, sir,” the guard said.

“I told you not to park there, didn’t I?” Wife said, making my already rising BP spike further.

“Are you nuts?” I exploded at the poor guard. “Every day that moron from J block parks his pickup truck occupying three slots in sheltered parking and no one says a word. One nanometre of my car bumper is outside the line and all hell breaks loose? What a bunch of jokers! ”

“Sir, if you want, speak to the manager yourself.”

“Just move the car,” Mother said. “No use yelling at this man.”

“Why should I?” I fumed. “If we can’t even organise free and fair parking, how will we organise free and fair elections?”

“Please calm down, Sampath-sama,” Wife said, trying to keep a straight face. “Perhaps you would permit me to point out that the man in front of you is Rampal-dono, a celebrated warrior of our urban village’s security forces. He means no ill-will and is undeserving of your lordship’s harsh utterances.”

“I don’t — ”

“You have always been a rule-abiding resident,” she went on. “Now I humbly ask that his lordship reposition his carbon-emitting chariot in service of a greater cause.”

“What greater cause?”

“A peaceful Sunday.”

“I’d rather commit seppuku,” I said. “But I guess I can’t just yet. I have to watch the series finale first.”

The author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

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