a guide to tipping in India

imageIt’s 6 a.m. in Mumbia.

There are two mosques nearby and the overlapping calls to worship have awakened me. And the crows outside my window. (Listen.)

I’m sitting on the balcony sipping tea delivered to my room, wondering how the steward feels that I didn’t tip him. This is a complicated issue because I don’t know the expectations. And I am an American, so I imagine the expectations are high. Our guide suggested I leave a total of 500 rupees for six waiters who served 25 of us Sunday dinner. I left 1000.

The truth is, the smallest bill I have in the room this morning is 500 rupees, about $8. That seems like a lot for a cup of tea. I’ve been handing smaller bills and coins to street children who follow you around begging for money and food, encouraged by their mothers. I had some 100 rupee notes last night, but our guide needed them to make change. So I wonder what it means that I didn’t tip this guy at all.

These are small and insignificant questions. There are two families living on the sidewalk across from my window. They sleep in the open, and during the days they roll up their scraps of carpet and blankets and stack them against the wall. The father gets up to wash the cabs that are parked overnight in the neigborhood. And the children beg.

I want to give them the 500 rupee note. But there are two families on the corner. And more on the next corner. And more and more and more. Where do you start? And where does it end?

I know some of the students are planning to give the family fresh fruit the day we leave. They play with the kids and give them granola bars every morning as we wait for the bus. The poverty is overwhelming, here along the edges of a middle class, mostly Muslim, neighborhood, where we are staying in a YMCA dedicated in 1972 “to the glory of God.”

Yesterday we met with people from the International Justice Mission, a group that focuses on human trafficing, rescuing young girls sold into prostitution or slavery by families who can not afford them or simply taken off the streets.

Where is the glory of God in the face of such poverty and oppression? Perhaps in the Christian men from local churches who pose as customers to verify and entrap the perpetrators. But only handfuls are rescued among thousands.

Certainly the glory of God can be seen in the committed staff and interns of Christian groups who have made such work a priority. But after the girls are rescued there is the work of caring for them, training them, connecting them to churches. So there is more and more and more.

Perhaps I should have tipped the guy 500 rupees. Perhaps I should have asked for two cups of tea, to make it worthwhile.

And perhaps in some way I don’t quite understand I should sell all that I have and follow Jesus.


6 thoughts on “a guide to tipping in India”

  1. Ah, the quandary of “Perhaps”. I understand the back and forth and second guessing. Jim Roan once said, “Go with your initial gut instinct no matter how little or how much. If you do that, you’ll not have regrets later.” Just a thought 🙂
    Engraved in His palm,
    Gina 😉

  2. You should give them fishing rod, not fish. And reduce your extravagance!!! Don’t throw food away. Don’t shopping too much!!! That’s not only save poor people, it also saves the world!!!

  3. You should give them fishing rod, not fish. And reduce your extravagance!!! Don’t throw food away. Don’t shopping too much!!! That not only saves poor people but also saves the world!!!

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