One of the hardest parts about my trip thus far has been attempting to communicate India’s excellence to people back home. As with any adventure, when I am asked the question “How is it” I am at a loss for words, not knowing how to put one month of learning into a concise sentence. One thing that always remains consistent, without fail, is mentioning the people who I have met and the relationships I have made. It is because of everyone who I have met that I am unable to write India off into one neat and tidy little thought. This beautiful country cannot be explained unless you experience it for yourself because so much of what makes up India lies within its people.

Each person that I have met has been genuinely welcoming. When I first arrived here my coworkers and my host family carried out small acts of kindness. Admittedly, I thought that these were done to make me feel more comfortable, as I had just arrived, but I began to notice that even after a couple of weeks things continued to happen. I also saw them carried out in the larger community. Each day I come across small acts of generosity, performed absentmindedly by strangers for strangers, by one coworker for the other and by one loved one onto another; there was no shortage of kindness. Whether it were someone offering up their seat on the bus, liberally passing their lunch, or greeting each person that walks in the room, these small acts of love are a part of daily life.

Each of these acts has stood out to me and has held great significance in my experience. With respect of the individual so frequently diminished in my own community, it is beautiful to be somewhere that places such a large emphasis on respect. I am aware that being a white woman living as a guest in India grants me a certain amount of privilege in this community. Therefore respect is also granted to me more easily. However, I have also taken note of these acts done to colleagues, friends and family members. These acts are, as I have said, performed in everyday life.

All of this can be better explained through a more in depth explanation of “Namaste”, which was clarified to me by one of my close friends. One of my first days here I was surprised that I had never known this meant hello, to which she clarified that it is indeed a greeting but also much more. Namaste is a Hindu greeting that literally means “I bow to you”. Delivering “Namaste” along with folding the hands in the namaskar, are symbols of the belief that the life, the divinity, the self or the God in me are the same in all.

When I first learned the meaning of Namaste I, of course, remember thinking it was beautiful but I don’t think that I could fully grasp what it meant. It is only while living here that I have been able to see its true beauty, which is carried out through people’s actions. Each time someone is greeted with the namaskar they are given faith, they are given love and they are given respect. The faith, love and respect are then carried out into daily lives through the littlest of tasks that make huge lasting impacts.

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About Grace Beckman

Grace is a junior with a major in English and a minor in Community Action and Social Change. After graduation, she would like to work in the field of community engagement with education reform. Grace will be spending six weeks in Jaipur volunteering with Pratham, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of education in India. Her work will primarily be with the Second Chance program, which provides women who dropped out of school with the opportunity to complete their secondary education and acquire the skills necessary for employment. Grace’s final project will explore the factors that led women participating in the Second Chance program to originally drop out of school and, in turn, what motivated them to enroll in this program.

One thought on “Namaste

  1. That’s such a cool thing to understand and witness around you! The greeting of “I bow to you” and that respect is shown through those acts of kindness and respect. I wonder where else language and culture reflect each other, and I wonder if we have something like that that is hard to see because we’re so used to it. In Arabic, the greeting translates to “Peace be with you.” In Chinese, the direct translations are “You good,” and “Have you eaten?” for two common greetings. And the little things are so important. I remember a guy from undergrad that I got to know through mutual friends over one school year, and we didn’t really keep in touch. But to this day, what I remember about him most, is that any time he came into a room or someone else came into the room, he shook their hand without fail. That really stuck out to me, and more of the little things should, I think.

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