Joining palms to say Namaste is becoming super cool globally discovers NEETI SARKAR

When Johnny Depp did a Namaste at an awards show, we thought it was a spill over from his Capt Jack Sparrow avatar — Sparrow must have sailed on the Indian Ocean and doing various piratical deeds. Then bad boy Colin Farrell did a Namaste on “The Tonight Show”. With Nicholas Cage also favouring the Namaste at a press conference, are we seeing a trend here?

Derived from Sanskrit and meaning I salute you, Namaste has become more than just a formal style of greeting. Native to India and Nepal, the word will not suffice unless coupled with the typical gesture of joining one’s palms.

Classy greeting

Be it on a flight with the airhostess welcoming you with this formal Indian greeting or on a glossy travel brochure with a Namaste welcoming you to some place of historical significance, the gesture is at once evocative and welcoming.

Abhimannue Sreekishan, a business management student says: “The gesture is deeply symbolic as the folding of palms implies ‘I acknowledge the divinity in you,’ therefore, Namaste is of great significance and must not be done away with, no matter how advanced we are.”

Ryan Julius, a marketing executive feels that “the word and the gesture are unique to our culture and it is important that we retain identities such as these.”

American student in the city, Andrea Hamilton comments, “One of the most fascinating things about India is the way people greet each other. I remember the first time I was at an NGO that works with slum dwellers, the way they greeted me with the traditional Namaste made me feel welcome and accepted. There’s so much respect and honour that exudes from the word itself.”

There are, however, quite a few who think that saying ‘Namaste’ is outdated and that handshakes and air kisses have replaced the age old Indian salutation, at least in cosmopolitan areas.

Up in the air

Says businessman Dhyanesh Somnath: “People do not want to be bound by tradition for various reasons. In a field like mine, client satisfaction is vital. Often foreign clients do not know how to reciprocate greetings such as Namaste and at other times, making your client uncomfortable with something he is not used to, could offend him.”

Krishnaveni, a doctor is of the opinion that “Saying Namaste is too formal a way of starting a conversation with one’s peers and colleagues. Ultimately, we follow such customs only when we address elders in the family or the community.”

“Air kissing is very popular among young girls. That is our mode of everyday greeting at college,” says 18-year-old Shiny Thomas. According to her, “Air kisses are less formal compared to a handshake and yet not too informal either because they are just ‘air’ kisses!”

While the debate continues on the preferred mode of greeting, there’s no denying that Namaste is well on its way to becoming a universal mode of greeting.