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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: On the one hand...

One doesn’t see this so much now – actually come to think of it, I haven’t seen it at all for years now – but once upon a time painting the nails of only the left hand was common practice among ladies from the subcontinent.

I remember most of my friends and myself doing just that. We’d keep the nails of the right hand short and neat, but grow the ones on the left and then paint them in whatever the fashionable shade of the season was. The older ladies preferred reds and maroons, we opted for shiny silver. I tell my daughter that the blues and greens of her choice would have been deemed appropriate for ghouls and witches we read about in comic books! 

But back to the painted nails on our left hands... I continued doing that after moving to Canada until a lady I worked with in my first job as a cashier at a store asked me why I did that.

I had to stop and think about it. Was it because we ate with our right hands? Long nails wouldn’t be too hygienic on hands we were picking up food with. 

Why didn’t we just use spoons and forks, asked Jen. 

We did, I explained, at least many of us did now, but our food was easier picked up with hands and certainly more enjoyable eaten that way. I reminded her of the expression, finger-licking good. 

“Oh, so that’s where it comes from!” she exclaimed. “Wait until I get home and tell dad. He loves knowing the origins of words and expressions.”

Before I could confess that I had just made that up and wasn’t sure if that is indeed the origin, she shot off another question.

“But why don’t you eat with your left hands?”

Now that, as anyone from the subcontinent will tell you also has to do with hygiene, but of another kind altogether! 

“That’s a discussion best left for another day – let’s go, our lunch break is over!” I said hastily, making good my escape. 

SUREKHA GEHLOT 


What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Mar 7, 2018

September 2018



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