I was returning to Pune from Lucknow and since I had checked in early I had time left to board the plane, I was sitting in the lounge reading a very engrossing book by John Grisham. I heard something very interesting and looked up from my book, I saw a foreigner wish someone in a much-accented tone ‘Namaste’. This made me smile and also a sense of pride crept within me almost giving me Goosebumps. All through the travel, the incident kept repeating itself in my mind and somehow, I was intrigued by its impact.
Then the next day I was in my class and I was teaching the topic of Cross-Cultural Diversity. I explained that since we now live in a world where everyone is close to one another……. thanks to the virtual connectivity and it’s very important that we have the knowledge of the cultures of people from other countries or in other words, Cultural Diversity. Then one of the students pointed out that in our country itself there is a lot of diversity. I reminded them that’s why we organize Cross-Cultural International interface every year to give them insight into all these aspects. One student Kamakshi Patil said, “yes I have observed these foreign delegates coming to our institute and greeting us with folded hands Namaste……..we feel so touched”. Then soon Omkar came out and put forward a few points, then immediately Prajakta and Bhagyashri responded and also started sharing their views and concerns stating how India is losing Namaste.
This discussion somehow brought back those moments of the previous day where I heard the foreigner greet someone with Namaste and I immediately also recalled the feel of pride I felt at that moment. So, I decided to share a few of my viewpoints over losing out Namaste.
It’s really shocking to see the diminishing use of Namaste in today’s world. It’s been replaced by something like Good morning or Good evening. I am not here to judge if it is right or wrong, but I shall surely say it’s very sad that we are forgetting our Namaste, which actually is a symbol, or you can say an ambassador for Indian culture. In India it does not pertain to or is limited to any religion, it’s just a culture type of thing. But if the present generation is missing out on our culture, can only they be entirely blamed? I feel that culture is something that we hand it down to the next generation ( or you can say pass it on) and if I ponder over the whole situation there are many things responsible for this, and everything is related to the other in some way or the other. Like a good career these days requires to be employed in a good company (MNC preferably), and this requires doing good in exams and interviews, and these require good English communication skills along with knowledge, and then this requires education in good English medium school and finally, this very much requires that the child gets selected in the first interview of his life and here his knowledge of English will be put to a test. And everything starts from here itself. We are all aware how much we train our 5-year-old children with all possible English words, meanings and spellings and we almost make them learn by heart at ten nursery rhymes and ironically all in English. So, aren’t we teaching our children that Good morning and Hi are far better or important than Namaste? Then we all have made speaking in English as an act done only by the wise and knowledgeable. So aren’t we ourselves demeaning the importance of our mother tongue? But undeniably, it cannot be helped, the system has become such. It’s really a heartening sight to see many of the delegates from abroad come on the dais in India and start their talk by Namaste and it gives us a feel of pride. And I am sure they do this because this is one small word, but it immediately connects to everyone present. Then why are we not realizing its importance or its Aura. I have observed many youngsters do not feel comfortable saying Namaste, they feel ashamed, and it seems they will be looked down if they say so. Hi, Hello, Hello there, seem more easy and trendy.
Does forgetting our culture make us seem more modern, trendy or the term used these days as cool. We have many foreigners who really are proud of their culture and their mother tongue. Like we all must have come across The Spanish, Italian, Germans, Japanese, Chinese and many more talking on public forums and international platforms in their own languages. Obviously this brings respect for their languages in other people too. And somehow we are losing respect for our culture and this obviously is not a good thing. Because our culture is one of the most important identities of ours and it’s the only thing that distinguishes us, and we definitely have a very rich culture which even the west has come to acknowledge. But we in our quest for worldly things are just running after the western culture. We are now at a very crucial juncture where if we further ignore or look down upon our culture we have the risk of losing it forever. Even the lack of time contributes to this depletion. I remember in our childhood we had lots of time on our hands to spend with our parents, elderly, and society and all this togetherness gave us the opportunity for an exchange of talks regarding our history, culture, mythology and society and these helped a lot in relation building and learning about the culture. Now parents are busy with their everyday chores, most live away from elderly and are alone, so those exchanges about culture are no longer there, and on the contrary, the children have tv, phones and other gadgets to keep them busy and days just pass by. The present generation alone can actually not be blamed but they are the ones who have to take up the mantle and pass on our very rich culture to the coming generations. So I urge all not to miss out on Namaste, because then it would mean we are on the verge of losing our identity and are nearing our cultural extinction.
Dr. Pooja Upadhyay
AISSMS, Institute of Management, Pune.