Saturday, June 6, 2009

Namaskarah World ...

Behind how people greet each other is the story of how cultures and people view each other. The two most common forms of greeting people in India are namaskaar नमस्कार and touching feet, दंडवत, dandavat.

Namaskaar is done from a distance, by joining both hands and a slight inclination of the head. Touching feet, दंडवत, dandavat, is the other greeting, reserved for elders and seniors, by juniors. This form of greeting is done by bending down from the waist and touching the feet of the opposite person. Sometimes as a mark of greater respect, the bending is done at the knees also, with the knees touching the ground. An extreme form of this greeting is lying on the ground, chest down and touching the feet.

These greeting styles are common all over Asia - East of India. Joining hands at chest level is also prevalent in the West as a form of prayer - but not as greeting. Both these Indian styles are unique in the culture of the world - for two reasons. But before that let us examine the other two forms of greetings that are popular and prevalent in the world.

From the Desert Bloc - shalom, salaam and the handshake

Done at close quarters, within touching distance, one hand is always kept free and disengaged. What if the 'enemy' attacks?

The other form of greeting is the common Islamic form of greeting - touching one's own forehead with the fingertips of the right hand. This greeting is also done from distance.

Hidden hands ... hidden intentions

These greeting forms underline the mode of social interaction. The 'hidden' hand in the shalom /salaam /handshake signify the 'preparedness' for 'treachery', 'betrayal' or 'perfidy'. 'Namaskaar' and 'dandavat' signify clean and empty hands - signifying openness and trust.

Empty hands vs. 'hidden' hands

This difference in values requires a drastic re-interpretation of 'negotiation' and 'transaction' methodology - in business, diplomacy and at an international levels.

At one end of the spectrum, the response is best illustrated by Shivaji in his 'negotiation' with Afzal Khan. Using a concealed weapon, he used the meeting to kill Afzal Khan.

In more modern and relevant context, are the WTO and trade 'negotiations' and 'disputes', where at stage after stage, the West has come with 'hidden' agendas and weapons.

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