While the current topic of discussion across the world is coronavirus, India had ages ago shown the way to beat it. I am not referring to any new or revolutionary discovery but simply the age-old custom of Namaste. I say age-old because I was trying to trace the origin of when people started saying Namaste. But, even Google does not say how old it is or when the custom started.
For those from the West or the millennials who are wondering what Namaste is all about, Namaste is more than a word used to end a yoga session. It is a customary Hindu greeting. It signifies the bringing together of mind and matter or of oneself meeting thyself. The gesture in its pure, simple and beautiful sense means "I bow to the divine in you". Namaste is an action done with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. The namaste is used while greeting and while taking leave. The gesture is performed with the utterance of Namaste or it can also be performed as a silent action without exchange of words. The action by itself speaks volumes about respect, acknowledgment, courtesy, hospitality, warmth, friendship and welcome to the person across. It is the equivalent of today’s handshake with ‘Hello or How are you’ … minus corona.
Research has shown that twice as much bacteria is transferred with a handshake as against a high five, and the numbers can considerably reduce in a fist-bump greeting. However, it is only the Namaste that guarantees zero bacteria transfer. And the icing on the cake is the Namaste as a silent gesture where we can even eliminate the face mask. The numbers shown on recent WhatsApp forwards look frightening that just the utterance of ‘co…ro’ would have the remotely suspected case catapulted into orbit.
In fact, there are many well-known world personalities who suffer from Mysophobia (fear of contamination and germs) who would look less snobbish and more graceful if only they understood the rich meaning and adopted the Indian Namaste.
While we are on the subject of culture, during the course of my research for the first article ‘Coming Home’, I realised there is another Indian culture that the world can very safely adopt for delivering a great customer experience. It is the usage of the word ‘Ji’. I experienced some initial discomfort while using ‘Ji.’ But I soon realised it was the safest and coolest way to avoid any kind of gender bias. There are many names that show up in both genders. Take for example Chandan, Harsha, Kiran, Krishna, Madhu, Shashi or Veda. Now it would be very embarrassing to send a mail to Mr. Harsha who is a female or vice versa. The safest route I realised is to address as Harsha Ji or Kiran Ji. No offence to anyone knowingly or unknowingly. Now isn’t that cool?
Looking back, Indian culture has always shown the world a better way of doing things but sadly, they did not market it like the West. A perfect example is the present trending term super brain yoga. When I googled this word, I came across 343,000 results. But when I typed ‘Thoppukaranam’ it came back with 41,000 results. In fact, super brain yoga is the traditional ‘Thoppukaranam’. A simple devotional action performed in front of Lord Ganesha from time immemorial. And the west propagates it as a Yogic process to improve the concentration of the mind and activate parts of the brain to attain a higher sense of alertness.
They never dreamt of popularising ‘Thoppukaranam’ ‘Namaste’ or the use of ‘Ji’. Thanks to coronavirus, it is time to revive the age-old values behind our rich traditions and customs.
The rich culture of India has always demonstrated beautiful values like hospitality, respect and warmth to the person across. Its practices for human interaction and people management were centuries old and ingrained in the very fibre of society. It was more a way of life and not an imposed discipline. Not to be taught in training rooms, nor hold conferences and symposiums where you see the ‘customer’ as a specimen to be studied under a microscope and definitely, not to dissect his behaviours and come with complex strategies and solutions to keep him happy.
In fact, ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ is not a new concept for Indians. Our service culture has been so deep rooted, that Indians saw every visitor as a guest, and have gone out of their way to serve and keep them happy. A gesture the British misunderstood in the 1600s and it took India 90 years to explain to them that Namaste meant ‘welcome’ and not ‘stay forever'.
Gangadhar Krishna is the founder of delightingcustomers.com and author of an illustrative business book titled ‘Delighting Customers Is …’. He firmly believes in organic business development based on the philosophy ‘Sales Heaps but Service Reaps’. He can be reached at email@example.com.
First Published: IST