Oprah Winfrey’s clumsy attempt to learn local customs on a recent visit to India has exploded into an international incident after she showed disdain for the traditional Indian practice of eating food with your hands.
Winfrey, 58, sat down to dinner with the Somani family in bustling city of Mumbai, an international city of business and finance.
As the meal was being served, Oprah interjected: “I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still.” The tone of the comment suggested that the practice was confined to poor or uneducated Indians.
“No, no, everyone,” her host corrected. “It’s a tradition… all Indians whether they are rich or poor.”
As the practice goes, you only eat only your right hand, and use the left uncontaminated hand, as a matter of cleanliness, to take food from a serving dish. Oprah gave it a try but quickly gave up.
She began eating bread with her left hand before finally declaring. “So I’m going to use both hands, or I’ll be here all night.” It was the equivalent of double-dipping the chip.
That was enough to touch off a nationwide uproar for being insensitive to Indian customs.
“It’s all the stereotypes and all the clichés the West has, between the elephants and the palaces and the snake charmers and cows,” Journalist Aseem Chhabra told ABC News. “I think I expected a lot more from somebody like Oprah Winfrey.”
“As a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework,” chided another critic in an open letter. “Using our hands to eat is a well-established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of. Our economic distinction has nothing to do with it. A millionaire here eats the same way a pauper does. You have been to Asian nations. You should know that.”
The trip was Oprah’s first to India. The footage was filmed in January for “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” a program on her struggling OWN network. Check out the video below: