A Travellerspoint blog

Retaining Essence whilst Embracing Diversity

Quite often when we travel abroad organizationally or for pleasure we are asked to live up to the adage "Do in Rome as Romans do". Cultural sensitivity sessions, norms of behavior, list of Do's & Dont's are mandated for us to follow. While all this makes practical sense and I do personally endorse respecting cultural norms of nations that we travel to; a recent incident made me think a little beyond the obvious:

An Indian gentleman travelling to the US(THE US not just US :-) - taking a leaf outta English Vinglish) got into a cab to travel from Pittsburgh airport to the hotel..since it was dinner time the cab guy( an american) stopped at an Indian restaurant. I know it is a small gesture...but the gentleman actually asked the cab guy to come in and have dinner..the man said he cant afford to pay at this restaurant..and the gentleman said, "that doesn't matter I will pay for you"...the happiness on the face of that man was really heartwarming...a rarity that he hasn't experienced with his fellow Americans ever..he couldn't finish the order himself so packed some for his home as well :-).

A simple act that most forgo in a bid to ape the norm of the land..we do this routinely in India, but to go to a foreign land, and care enough to buy some dinner going beyond the first thoughts that strike us on whether such a thing is appropriate culturally..was commendable I thought.

In our culture we are taught to " nurture the Karna in you".... guests come home the kids are asked to offer a glass of water..the lady of the house might prepare the goodies...but the young ones are encouraged to delicately balance on a tray and offer to the guests:-)...a beautiful tradition that sadly with changing times is being relegated to the support staff at home..but personally feel should be a task retained within the family.

"Giving" is an attitude that needs to be developed from a young age, if you are not able to part with Rs 10/- when you have Rs 100/- to someone thinking that you yourself don't have enough..even if u grow to possess a crore you will not be able to part with 10 lakhs..so net net..giving is not about how much you have but whether we have an attitude to "give"..and of course actual giving is ...give such that we don't keep thinking about what we given...a nice quote that I learnt, "give such that even your left hand doesn't know that your right hand has given something to someone.

I am not remotely even suggesting that an attitude of giving is not a part of other cultures, the gestures of giving are just different, all I am trying to drive home is that things that we normally practice in the eastern world which is part of our ethos can be retained and added to the practices that we find around the world.

Before some of you badger me on carrying practices that we are not very proud of like littering in public places et al abroad..I hasten to add that I endorse best practices to be brought back into India as well..aisa nahin ki the moment you land from the international flight the first thing you do is throw the baggage tag on the nearest footpath.

Restricting our essential self at the altar of diversity may not always be the only path to choose in a new land...this attitude of inclusivity along with embracing diversity (in addition to economic compulsions that in a way force a one world view albeit grudgingly) could eventually lead to a culturally "one world"!! willingly.

Posted by srkjaya77 04:30 Archived in India Tagged diversity Comments (0)


for those who prefer to KISS* the title of the blog reads


(*keep it simple silly)

One of our best holiday trips has been the recent trip to kerala, where each day had an “AHA” moment. Day 1 was like a typical tourist day….cameras out…list of places to visit in hand, hats & sunglasses on and raring to explore the town! Post a short boat ride, we saw the serene Vivekananda rock and the new huge Tiruvalluvar statue at the south tip of Tamilnadu KANYAKUMARI..the scene of the three waters of Indian ocean, Arabian sea & Bay of Bengal mixing created a hue of three distinct colors and was a treat to watch. Also visited the famed kanyakumari temple..and saw the diamond mukutti(nose ring) which apparently served as a lighthouse when Vasco- da- gama docked at India centuries ago.

The plan was to reach Thiruvananthapuram by night so post lunch hopped on into the cab and on the way saw the beautiful ethiparappu falls…it was amazing to see waterfalls at such a close range and the “aha” moment was the unexpected sighting of an elephant on the banks of the water…you kids just went berserk viewing the mammoth.

As the posters changed from Surya & Vikram to Prithviraj, Mamooty & Mohanlal..we entered kerala by nightfall and fell into deep slumber to awaken early next day for a tour around Thiruvananthapuram(DAY2). First place of visit was the famous Padmanabhaswamy temple…the one which was in news for its wealth chambers…but for me this temple is rich in memories from my childhood..since my paternal grandparents lived here, I used to visit this temple with them during my summers stay and the long walkways of the temple lit with oil lamps, the sand that I used to play in, the majestic Padmanabhaswamy(lord Vishnu in sleeping form..ananthasayanam pose) made me feel 25 years younger(tsk! that reminds me of how old I am now).

The rest of Trivandrum was the usual zoo, art museum, aquarium visit…but here nature had a unique experience in store for us….for the first time we witnessed a peacock dancing with its plumes fully spread for almost 15 mins making crooning sounds. Apart from the resplendent spreading of the plumes, it was fascinating to watch them vibrating & swaying as the peacock did a mating jig which any day would beat an Allu Arjun number hands down.

Post a visit to tourist village & a horse ride for sravya(my daughter); we drove down to kovalam post lunch and a sea so clear, water almost transparent & clean was just right for all of us to stand with the waves lapping at our feet for more than an hour. Nightfall saw us back at the capital all set for DAY3.

An early morning train transported us to Alleppey the kingdom of backwaters….shikaras we had seen only in pictures of Kashmir, but here the kerala backwaters have been transformed into a mini water paradise with myriad options of houseboat stay, boat rides of all kinds…pedal, speedboat etc etc….we took the 2 hour exclusive shikara ride option(bowing to pressure of hubby’s water fright!!)…yet those two hours were a lifetime feast to the eyes..we soaked in all the beautiful sights around as we rowed past the water locked kuttanad village, saw farming being done below sea level with dykes built to keep the sea water at bay, folks catching fresh fish on the banks and scaling it right there for their afternoon meen koyambu(fish curry!!). Evening at Alleppey was spent on the beach with camel rides, more sea bathing, yum coffee & omelets at Indian coffee house.

DAY4 was a long drive from alleppey to munnar, via kottayam & kumarakom…we seldom stopped & the kids amused themselves in the car with imaginary games of hotels & singing silly rhymes..inky pinky ponky et alJ

Almost towards noon I was about to write off the day as a boring one when one after another amazing experiences encountered us….starting with a visit to a spice garden where we saw common spices to unusual ones, moved on to see waterfalls along the way and then a half hour elephant ride in the jungles built up the momentum. The excitement mounted as we neared munnar and were informed about a kathakali & kalaripayattu(kerala martial arts) show up for grabs. A real tryst with kerala’s rich heritage, is a must watch…and to every traveller’s delight we were allowed to click snaps with the artists too, which we duly ensured we didn’t miss.

What excited me even more was that we got to stay at a resort right in the middle of a vast tea plantation(bless the soul of the guy who chose this place)..fresh smell of tea, crisp chilly mountain air, chirping of birds just drew me into an early morning walk as the rest of the family were packing up to check-out & leave. Then started my aha & ayyo adventure of the trip on DAY5…told sankar(my husband)to pick me up on the way and I will walk a little…and I LOST MY WAY in the hills of munnar!!!…instead of going down the hill I took an erroneous turn and went up the hill(aka jack & jill)…and with mobile signal also gone ended up wandering & also pretty scared…didn’t dare to ask sankar what he did in the meantime…apparently he was screaming from the car ..jaya! jaya!!..like Romeo looking for Juliet(in anger and not with love though here)..finally found someone who directed me downhill and with some signal feebly showing up managed to contact family…they had gone back to the resort searching for me..the re-union was in silence…my father & hubby decided to keep mum, my mom tried valiantly to lighten the moment by saying some adventure is required in life etc etc…

Anyways we put it behind and moved on to see a beautiful flower garden…the rare and exotic varieties and colors just brightened up the mood. The winding drive uphill, a dam, view points, echo point, vast tea gardens, fresh carrots(chewed up the juicy ones like bunny rabbits J)…& some shopping ended our munnar joyride.

On the way to guruyavur…we visited Kaladi the birthplace of Sri Adi Sankaracharya and began our religious trip to the temple town …a little shopping and some elephants pepped up the ladies as well as the kids that evening.

DAY6 we were up very early..around 4 AM..amazingly the kids also were up and we had an early darshan around 5 AM itself. In temples at kerala, men are supposed to dress in mundus & angavastrams(pancha in telugu/veshti in tamil) for darshnam..and dressing up in mundu & angavastram heightened sankar’s handsome look meter a littleJ

This was a special day for me as we were going to our ancestral village called rayanallur, were my grandfather grew up…though he is no more, his elder brother was very happy to see all of us and we paid a visit to our family deity as well. Evening at Guruvayur was another round of temples…mammiyur(Krishna), parthasarathi temple where lord krishna is seated in a chariot & Venkateshwara swamy temple. Late evenings & early mornings are special at guruvayur where the deity is mounted on the temple elephant & taken for a pradakshina around the temple. This day was even more eventful for some reason and instead on one..three elephants were brought out, we got to see them decorated with traditional ornaments and also take the lord around with full fanfare. The mahouts climbing on the huge elephant in one leap, the lovely decorations, the whole temple lit with more than a thousand oil lamps was the icing on the cake and a beautiful end to an eventful & enjoyable trip.

I will be doing injustice if I didn’t mention the delectable cuisine that we got to taste…appam & stew is well known but the interesting & less known puttu & chana with chukku vellam(warm water boiled in ayurvedic spices) we got to relish during the trip was YUM!

As we boarded the flight, landed in hyd..damarukam & CGTR(Cameraman Gaga tho Rambabu) welcomed us..driving home my thoughts were filled with heartfelt gratitude to a few people without whose efforts this journey wouldn’t have been so memorable. Firstly, my usually laid back hubby who so meticulously planned this trip(mostly to avoid my nagging J) to the last detail. Wish I could express better but words will not suffice to detail his care & love that has gone into making this a memorable experience for us.

Sankar’s friend Vishwanath, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to plan such a comfortable yet well budgeted trip to perfection. I hope to meet him soon, but this kind of help from unknown quarters(sankar himself knows him for not more than 6 months) makes me believe in an invisible universal force working silently in our favor.

The driver Lalji, who drove the xylo immaculately. It is rare to find a driver who doesn’t smell of tobacco or chew nut and eats homeo medicines and drinks lots of water instead of tea. It was interesting to know that he had been the captain of kerala sailing team in his heydays and sad to note that poor grades didn’t help him land a job..sad state of affairs in Indian sports arena.

The kiddoes are worth a big mention, am blessed to have such accommodating little ones who woke up at 5/6 AM even after long drives the previous day without complain. My parents who made my wish to take my family to our ancestral home come true and most of all – this wide universe which posed beautiful experiences for us to relish much beyond what we had planned for….a truly invigorating journey.

Posted by srkjaya77 23:01 Archived in India Comments (0)

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