Meaning: I bow to the divine in you
Today, the word I use is closer to home. Almost everyone from India would know this word. It is a very common word people have begun using nowadays to greet each other. But the real meaning of this word is much more beautiful. Namaste originally started as a greeting between strangers and friends and even close people. It does not differ with age, gender or race. When you want to greet someone with respect, a salutation or prostration, you bow your head, bring your palms together with fingers pointing upward and thumb pointing towards chest, uttering the word Namaste.
Ancient Hindu scriptures recognised the divine in every soul on earth. God was in every man and woman and animal. Hence Namaste evolved as a greeting for the divine presence inside every being. But of late, this has become the most overused word, used out of context, as a habit rather than a proper way of greeting. The usual bow is absent, with just the palms joined in some cultures. Namaste has slowly been replaced with a modern handshake that is no way related to the actual meaning of the word.
Flash Fiction #14
Nila found the Big Apple chaotic. There was organised chaos, everyone seemed to be in a hurry and the lot of signposts placed conveniently helped her if she knew which stop led where, which she didn’t. It was her first visit here, a solo visit against her parent’s wishes. She was swept by the crowd and decided to go with the flow rather than to a particular destination. Doing her childhood favourite, something she had done back home in India, she got a ticket for the last stops of whatever vehicle she was riding in.
By evening, she had almost exhausted her reserves of energy and cash, and ruing her flawed English, which had invited ridicule all day from a few random strangers. Finding her way back to her only friend’s house seemed more and more impossible as the night wore on. She was sure she must have misread the signs somewhere, and seemed to have missed the scrap of paper that held the address. Feeling her pockets, she wandered aimlessly, feeling the panic set in slowly.
The paralysis that came with panic seemed to close in on her like claustrophobia as she felt hot tears sting her cheeks. She hated herself for behaving like a vulnerable damsel in distress. Every time she crossed one of the strangers dwindling on the streets she spent a lot of time wondering if they were approachable. Once she worked up the courage to approach someone, she realised that what little she knew of English was deserting her in the moment of need. Her tension contributed to her words coming out as Hindi, which was total gibberish to the unsuspecting locals.
That was when she saw the woman with a little kid, who seemed to be an Indian. Surely, a woman with an Indian kid would understand Hindi? She swallowed and rushed towards the lady and the child, afraid that they would disappear. At that time, in her eyes, they were godsend. She approached the lady and started explaining her predicament. Nila’s tension only increased that the kid did not look very much like an Indian from up close. Her rapid panicked talking seemed to confuse the woman, who was slowly beginning to show signs of fear at the hysterical young woman in front of her.
Nila instinctively realised she was frightening the woman. She calmed down, forcefully, and caught her breath. When the woman tried to move away, Nila resisted the urge to hold her back and shouted, “Wait. Help.” The woman still seemed like she wanted to bolt. Banking on her last resort, Nila brought her arms together and said, “Namaste. I am India. Lost. Need Help.”
The woman seemed to connect the dots from the Namaste and India, and her expression cleared a bit. She did not seem like she would run anymore. Getting her courage back, Nila began to explain her predicament in broken English, trying to make sense of her surroundings. As she saw the woman listen intently and try to make sense of her rambling, she got her hopes up. She would get help. It might not have been the only reason, but something told Nila that the submissive gesture of saluting the divine had helped in making the woman stay. Nila had never appreciated the value of Namaste more than she did at the moment.