Monday, 3 March 2014

Vanakkam .. Namaskar .. Namaskaram

I should say I was lucky to spend time in a village for four days, after so many years. Last time I did, I was too young to understand the real beauty behind the village way of life. But now, I was surprised at myself looking at this in a totally new perspective.

We live a city, keep updating ourselves with latest technology, make international video calls, attend video conferences, buy diapers online, converse with the person in the next room via text, click photographs not for memory but for facebook, we do so many absurd things. Well it is alright. We are crazy. But, somehow over all these years, growing up from Doordarshan to YouTube, we have lost many valuable things. 

During those four days of my stay in a small village near Madurai, I realised we have forgotten two main things that was an integral part of our culture. First, 'the vanakkam' and second, 'the thinnai'.

We have almost forgotten the way we used to greet others. Vanakkam (in any Indian language) is such a beautiful expression. Now it is the Hi, hey, 'sup with a cool handshake or a friendly hug. But, when we greet each other with Vanakkam, with our two palms placed together in front of our chest with bowed head, it is a beautiful expression of love and humility . When one greets the other with a bowed head, the ego bubble bursts immediately. It is a simple symbol of being down to earth. After a 'Vanakkam' one cannot help but be polite. We should be proud of our ancestors for coming up with something so simple and graceful. This is our identity. When we become a reflection of our culture and the roots from where we came from, we become more beautiful. 

Every single person in the village greeted us with a humble Vanakkam. What has the city done to us? How did we lose this en route to "development"? It is sad to see that this gesture is now only used by politicians and by people who worship. 'Vanakkam' is not cool anymore!

Another amazing thing that we have lost over the years is the concept of "thinnai". Thinnai is a small raised platform near the entrance in traditional South Indian homes. Even a small mud house would have a thinnai space. Traditionally, a thinnai was meant for the weary travelers to stop by and take rest. The thinnais were facing the road and shaded by low sloping roofs. It was a place for a casual evening chatter , to discuss politics, a place for kids to learn or play or even just sit and  relax. It also acted as a buffer space and reduced the direct heat radiation that would hit the building. Our traditional architecture also had in mind , the strangers who might get tired of the heat and provided a space for them to rest. They would place a small mud pot filled with water for them to quench their thirst.

Thinnais have been lost midst the concrete jungle of the city. Our architecture has now become so insensitive to people , climate and also to the environment.

 Our ancestors were much smarter than us. If only we could realise that , the things that we are losing rapidly in our process of evolving, is much more valuable than the evolution itself, we could create more sensible living conditions. This insecurity about life that we have now is a sad by product of our evolution process. Sometimes I guess we need a backward evolution process!