I have just come back from a trip through the Rajasthan region of India – and for someone who has enjoyed a New Zealand lifestyle for most of my life, it was an assault on the senses at every level – but in a truly delightful way…
We landed in Delhi where in New Zealand the airport would most likely be closed due to restricted visibility, as it was difficult to see 200m ahead due to the pollution in the air. And so began our travels, where sensory overload and the need to be present and aware at all times took on a whole new meaning…
We travelled throughout the region visiting villages, forts, temples, palaces; and even attended a wedding where we didn’t get to see the bride or the actual marriage taking place! We got to see people creating wonderful crafts and learned about their life and situation. We were well cared for in the tour group we were on, and the coach we travelled in offered a birds’ eye view of cities, villages and rural life – it was relatively easy to connect with people though a nod, wave, smile or saying and doing Namaste – either from the coach window – or in person as we walked from place to place.
Regardless of personal circumstance – from crippled beggars to people going about their daily commercial, school or diplomatic activities – the welcomes were mostly broad and genuine. The way the faces lit up in response to a simple greeting of Namaste, was very special – as eye contact was made, and in that short moment we were just two people connecting and recognising the self in each other… For me it was proof of our unity – that we are all the same – regardless of our skin colour, religion, beliefs or circumstances – we each deserve respect and acknowledgement. A smile is universally understood and it goes a long way to bridging the cultural divide.
It was difficult to witness the plight of many of the people we came across – the lack of sanitation, the open sewers; some with no permanent homes and obviously living rough – their babies and children playing in the rubbish, which is often used as feed for the many roaming dogs, pigs and the sacred cows. Although many of the people seemed just as fascinated and excited at seeing a coach-load of tourists – probably wondering what on earth we were doing trying to navigate an enormous coach through their tiny village lanes… We certainly wondered the same at times – but our driver was just superb and was able to handle the tightest of spaces and remain calm, with the trip being without any incident at all.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it has helped me remember that being present and aware helps me see joy and beauty, to have gratitude for my own situation and circumstance, and to look beyond the initial impression to see the real person or situation. That as a member of the human race, we are all united regardless of race or creed, and that connecting at a human level is fundamental to recognising our collective humanity. The needs of individuals are the same everywhere – beyond the basics of life – we all want and need to feel loved, valued and know we hold a rightful place in the world. Remembering all this, with gratitude and love helps me be a better human being as well!
So in the spirit of the local Indian greeting - Namaste, Namaste, Namaste!!
What is Namaste?
Namaste is an ancient Sanskrit greeting still in use in India. It is a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship, and there is much more to it than meets the eye. The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When greeting one another with Namaste, it means, ‘may our minds meet’, indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect, and humility. The reason why we do and say Namaste also has a deeper spiritual significance. It recognises the belief that the life force, the divinity, the self or divine force in me; is the same in all. Acknowledging this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we honour the divine in the person we meet.