Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chilly Winds of India's Wintertime: A Reflection

"India could be a land of contrast, but I have witnessed and learned how they persevere and raise the bar towards excellence, making them achieve economic progress and rising power. Some serious challenges may be confronting them, but with faith, unity, and goodwill, India could gain something it deserves."

The wintertime in India is about to end, yet early morning is still misty and foggy while late-night gets chilly. The weather is a bit warm in the daytime, especially in the afternoon, but it is okay and favorable weather. A few days ago, when I arrived on the evening of the 16th, the temperature was quite tolerable, and I did not wear a thermal jacket compared to last year when I reached for the first time in November when the weather was cold and cold chilly.

I left India in the summer of mid-April last year. It was about ten months ago, and now I am back for the second time. I had a pleasant experience on my first visit since the people were nice and friendly. The warm acceptance and welcoming smile are their way of showing hospitality to visitors. This is what I felt like when I arrived a few days ago; in return, greeting people in an Indian way, 'Namaste,' is an excellent start to embracing their culture and beliefs.

Misty and chilly morning in Dwarka, Southwestern Delhi

I never imagined that I would go to India and become exposed to its cultural and social norms. Back in the Philippines, I learned the Indian salutation 'Namaste' but later realized its spiritual significance. It is not just a standard greeting but means that when two or more persons meet, 'the presence of God in me meets the presence of God in you' is the real significance of this sacred word. In a philosophical context, it is fitting since God is present in everyone and only needs recognition. 

People of all ages greet 'Namaste' at home, in the street,  in a social gathering, and even on the phone. Bowing of the head while putting hands together in the center of the chest shows courtesy, friendliness, love, and humility. This simple yet graceful gesture is significant even in today's time. However, I have observed that this salutation is declining due to the influence of Western culture. Saying 'hi and hello' is what I have been receiving. Last year, when I was in Mumbai, I seldom greeted 'Namaste'; what I have been hearing most of the time is 'hi and hello.'

When I was in elementary, we used to greet our teachers and visitors in a Filipino way, 'Mabuhay.' Still, before the 20th century ended, it was changed to 'hi and hello,' a formal and casual way of greeting in the West. 

In India, 'Namaste' as a form of salutation feels like being at peace with someone, even without using bowing and hand gestures. Just uttering the word is already a humble experience like no other in the world. 

For someone not used to cold weather, especially the winter season, it is not easy to wake up early. The good thing is that I kept my winter clothing here when I returned home to Manila last year. A morning walk is possible, but I cannot do jogging or vigorous exercises on the street, or else I get chilled.

Foggy streets of Dwarka in Southwest Delhi

On a foggy and misty morning, people start their day bearing the cold. They wear 
thick clothing usually made of wool while riding on a bicycle. I have seen some students chatting while patiently waiting for their school bus. They tolerate the winter season and have nothing to complain about but to bear with it.

In Mumbai and the rest of southern Indian states, they don't get this kind of weather that northern India, including Delhi, is experiencing. The Himalayan region of India is icy at this time and could even have some snow in the mountain range. Dharamsala is one of the most visited places in India and most popular among foreign travelers.

In the cold weather, having a cup of hot tea with milk is nice, or Indian chai. I have learned to make this kind of beverage, which has a warming and soothing effect. Tea is a staple drink in India, and the country is among the world's top tea producers. I like Indian chai rather than drinking regular tea. However, I could not miss drinking a cup of coffee since I drink it regularly at any time. I am in India, so I can enjoy both beverages they offer.

I am also grateful to have been taught how to make their staple food, ' chapati and paratha.' Both are plain bread made from whole-grain flour, but cooking differs in thickness. I also learned to cook the 'dum aloo,' a dish made of potatoes and some spices that complements the 'paratha' or 'chapati.' I eat rice as my staple, but since I am in India, I must learn to eat the Indian way.

It is always good to learn something new. Learning another place's culture and tradition is a beautiful experience and wisdom. In a multicultural and diverse land, there is nothing to be ignorant about but to understand and accept its norms, beliefs, and social standing.

India may be a land of contrast, but I have witnessed and learned how they persevere and raise the bar towards excellence, making them achieve economic progress and rising power. Some severe challenges may be confronting them, but with faith, unity, and goodwill, India could gain something it deserves.

Wintertime in India is about to end, spring/summer is fast approaching, and it is like the rebirth--the restorative phase. It is the most beautiful season when the sky is clear, and the weather is warm with the blossoming flowers around. I hope I can witness their celebration of the 'Holi festival,' which marks the beginning of spring. For now, it is essential to be grateful for the learning that the winter could bring until such time that it will come to an end--then comes the season of rebirth.

© 2013 Del Cusay