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.