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. There may be some serious challenges confronting them, but with faith, unity, and goodwill, then 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. In the daytime, the weather is a bit warm especially in the afternoon, but it is fine and favorable weather. A few days ago when I arrived on the evening of the 16th, the temperature is quite tolerable, and that I did not wear a thermal jacket compared to last year when I arrived for the first time in November when the weather is cold and 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 is their way of showing hospitality to visitors, and this is what I felt like when I arrived a few days ago; in return, greeting people in an Indian way 'Namaste' is a good start of 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 I learned its spiritual significance. It is not just a normal greeting but it 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 right since God is present in everyone and it only needs recognition of this fact. 

People of all ages greet 'Namaste' whether at home, in the street,  in a social gathering, and even on the phone conversation. Bowing of 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 the use of 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 have seldom greeted 'Namaste' and what I have been hearing most of the time is 'hi and hello'.

I remember when I was in elementary, we used to greet our teachers and visitors in a Filipino way 'Mabuhay' but before the 20th century ended, it was changed to 'hi and hello' which is both a formal and casual way of greetings in the west. 

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

for someone who is not used to cold weather especially the winter season, it is not easy to wake up early in the morning. The good thing is that I had my winter clothing kept here when I went back home to Manila last year. Morning walk is possible but could not do jogging or any 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. It is obvious that they are tolerant of the winter season and they 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 very cold at this time and could even have some snow in the mountain range. The place called Dharamsala is one of the most visited places in India and most popular among foreign travelers.

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

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

It is always good to learn something new. To learn the culture and the tradition of another place is not just a wonderful experience but wisdom. In a land that is multi-cultural and diverse, 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. There may be some serious challenges confronting them, but with faith, unity, and goodwill, then India could gain something it deserves.

Wintertime in India is about to end while spring/summer is fast approaching, and it is like the rebirth--the restorative phase. It is the most wonderful season when the sky is clear and the weather is warm with the blossoming flowers around. I hope I could witness their celebration of the 'Holi festivalwhich marks the beginning of the spring. For now what is important is 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