Water, No Ice

Water, No Ice
Indians are known to waiters in restaurants as the “Water, No Ice” people. Most Indians that I know don’t like to order a drink at lunch since the water is free. And no one likes their water with ice cubes in it. Call it racial profiling, if you like, but the Indian position on how they like their water makes sense to me. Given that our ancestral state in the African savannah did not involve any water with ice cubes in restaurants, I suspect that our genes did not prepare us for this daily assault from ice and ice cold water.

On March 1, my wife, Vidya Pradhan and her friend Rohini Mohan started an “online magazine” for Bay Area Indians. It’s called Water, No Ice. It is full of original content – well written articles on – Entertainment, People, Business, Travel, Non-profits and more. The focus is on the Bay Area Indian and so there are many interviews with Indians here. But the themes will be interesting to all NRIs as well as the global Indian.

Vidya has been writing for a while including a children’s book. She brings her love of good writing (inherited no doubt from her writer mother Geeta Padmanabhan) to WNI. Beyond their passion for writing, Rohini and Vidya are excited about the concept of a classy, local, community web-site.

Take a look. You’ll enjoy it.


  1. “Water, No ice”, “Hamburger, No meat” .. am sure, there are a lot more.


  2. Thanks, Basab. Hey folks, is anyone anywhere giving out Best Son-in-Law Awards? I know a very deserving candidate.
    RC Nair, “Cool!”, wow, what a response! Very apt,man!


  3. Ram Medury says:

    The plight of Indian vegetarians in US restaurants often causes a lot of mirth around. Being a ‘pure vegetarian’, I have often directed waiters to provide food with ‘no meat’, ‘no fish’, ‘no eggs’, ‘no mushrooms’ etc. Some of my friends on such occasions have added for good measure ‘no taste’.


  4. Siddharth says:

    The photo “glass of water” makes this a good post! Nice click!


  5. Surya says:

    WAAter please, this post is not funny. I remember the years of Self-consciousness :(. Is that the way to lead a life? Being in a group of desis is better,You yap and yap and dont get time to reflect. Ordering a drink makes splitting the bill difficult.
    Should I be poli..correct and not say about emigres first gen and later who both have a problem communicating; one a oxford desi and the other a not yet homogenised mexican.
    The other faux pas is going and sitting at whichever seat suits me in the restaurant.
    Some funny tit bits:
    – My friend had a tip calculating software on his cell-phone
    – Some waiters think all desis are dot com millionaires and want to talk about their startup circa 2003 @ Uncle Julios Dallas


  6. Sudhi says:

    Interesting!Hamburger without meat?? Makes me feel nostalgic!
    I remember,had to be contented with two desi equivalent of ‘buns’ being a vegetarian!


  7. Intersting…..

    While American fast food lunches are generally cold and top of it you have chilled pop with ice as you have pointed out… I could not fathom why inspite of living in such cold places, people are used to having cold lunches……while Indians living in hot country love to eat hot food!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I got one of answers that you love to eat hot food in hot regions as it helps you cool down as you perspire more!!!!


  8. Shefaly says:

    I think plenty of Americans, other westerners as well as others, who see the futility of ordering (and paying for) supposedly cleaner bottled water, only to be contaminated with ice from sources not necessarily known for the traceability of the water used, wisely ask for water without ice.

    I think what the waiters gawk at is not water-no-ice but tap water in general, as they make no money on it. In a culture, where tips are a % of the bill and water makes no contribution to that bill, naturally this is to be frowned upon.

    Much data proves that in Europe, tap water is cleaner than spring water, not to mention more ‘green’ (no reference to algae, just the materials and energy used in bottling, transporting and then disposing/ recycling).

    I also ask for fruit juices without ice, which usually means twice as much juice.

    But the best gag on ‘spec-ed out’ food orders that are words spoken by a friend on his first visit to a frou-frou restaurant in Paris: ‘I would like steak tartare, well done please!’.


  9. Basab says:

    Siddharth, thanks for the reminder. The photo is someone else’s, under Creative Commons. Here’s the link http://www.flickr.com/photos/malias/45580483/

    Anshuman and Shefaly, as I understand it, the reason for warm country- hot food paradox as well as rare vs well done food is that in tropical countries like India, food deterirorates much faster. Cooking therefore was necessary. This also explains why spices were necessary – to preserve the food longer.

    Shefaly, we have also gone back and forth between bottled water and tap water. Currently, we are on bottled water that is cleaned through reverse osmosis. We gave a thumbs down to spring water, at least for now. But we are fickle, when it comes to the way we like our water.


  10. Dutch craig says:

    Although your article make sense most of the times its not true always. I mean not all the indians who order water without ice are INDIANS (your way). I do sometime order water. Its not about the money .. I already would have had enough coke that day and I dont wanna drink another one. My wife is an american and she orders water most of the times ..she is kinda strict about her diet. Do you call her indian ?? You dont have right to generalize people based on their habits.

    The true american way of life is “live as you like”. It seems you still didnt get it ( since you are writing blogs on others !)


  11. Rajesh Kumar says:

    And deviating from the focus, let me state the Vidya’s book is perhaps my six year old daughter’s favourite bedtime reading.I was doing a calculation yesterday, I must have read it aloud almost eighty to ninety times so far in last six months. Am quite prepared to take a quiz on the ‘The Milkman’s Cow’ actually! Geetaji, that was such an apt gift for Tanya.Yeh-Dil-Maange-More.


  12. bliss says:

    i am not Indian but i don’t like ice in water either. my mother taught me at a fairly young age that cold water is like a shock to the system and therefore, no good. now, i cannot drink cold water and don’t like it any way. 🙂 i hope more people will get water, no ice. it saves a lot of space in the freezer to not make ice. LOL


  13. A curious server says:

    From a server’s point of view, we are not trying to stereotype people who order water with no ice, we just want to know if there is any significance to it. alas, the answer to the question is not as glamorous as i thought. But i must assure you that I wouldn’t assume that because you are Indian that you don’t want ice in your glass


  14. ek aur desi says:

    I always ask the waiter for ‘water without ice’. :)) But I was told to ask for ‘water with no ice’. My friend told me that people out here do not follow the first phrase. Is it so?


  15. another server says:

    I am a server and came across this article out of curiosity. I have always wanted to know why or what the significance is for ordering water with no ice" but, so as not to offend or insult my guests, I have never asked. I have lots of people of all races order their water and other drinks without ice. I don't really care if people have ice or not, or whether they have water or some other drink. It is true that getting a drink order increases the ticket price, which is the ultimate goal for most, if not all, servers. What I do care about is the tip. If I give excellent service then I expect the tip to match the service. Since most servers are paid less than minimum wage($3.13 per hour), our living is made from our tips. Most, not all, Indian customers will tip 10% or less on what is often a low total ticket price. It is this point, and this point alone, that gives a server pause when serving an Indian table.
    Personally, I give all my tables the same service no matter who they are or where they are from and hope that the tip I receive is just.


  16. Lola says:

    I'm an American in India. It seems that the reason people here do not want cold drinks is because they think that drinking something cold is bad for their health- especially if they already feel a little under the weather. Americans don't know that Indians think this, but if they find out they think this is an odd superstition. Most of the US is cold, people drink cold drinks, people sleep in the a/c and they do not fall ill. "Catching a chill" is usually considered an old wive's tale in the US but it is acceptable among Indians usually. (Exceptions on both sides of course). But if you get a runny nose in Delhi, the first thing the doctor will do is tell you to avoid cold drinks. Your Indian mother will tell you to keep away from the kulfi when you are ill. In the US, they serve ice cream in hospitals. lol

    For waiters, I don't think anyone cares if you drink tap water or coke or tea or whatever. Most Americans who try to avoid sugar content will drink iced water or iced tea. But you can't have iced tea without ice so that leaves Indians to order water. Just FYI- it is not only Indians who do it but yes it is mainly immigrants who want no ice. Waiters don't care about that aspect of your order. If they seem a little set-back by your order, it is probably just because it is different from the norm. I guarantee that they are not concerned about the fraction of the tip that they lose that way unless you are also cheap in other ways. (Six waters, one plate of french fries and we will sit here for an hour talking. lol) The waiter just wonders why you don't want ice.

    It's like in India when I order coffee without milk or sugar. The waiters just think it is odd – sometimes they even argue with me that I would prefer it with milk and sugar. But they aren't offended. Likewise in India, try to get COLD milk with your corn flakes. The default mode is to bring the corn flakes with hot milk. Or what is called "iced tea" in places like Cafe Coffee Day in India is usually some sugary syrupy pre-mixed drink whereas in the US it is simply brewed tea, poured over ice. When I try to order iced tea in India imagine the confusion! I want tea- brewed, no sugar, no masala, no milk. Just bring the tea. Then bring me a big glass of ice so that I can pour the tea over it. Want to talk about confusion!!

    It's all just about what you are used to.


  17. Anu Babu says:

    water no ice … waiter no tip … lol!


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