“She has a question and I’m unable to answer it!” my father explained to him with an exasperated expression
He looked at me with a smile on his face and asked “What is it?”
“Appa and Amma always tell me to fall at everyone’s feet, or do a namaskaram and seek every other person’s blessing. I don’t know half the people whos blessings I seek . How do I know if they are blessing or cursing me ? Why am I being forced to bow down to every other person as a mark of respect? Respect should come from within shouldn’t it ? ”
He smiled and asked “Answer this.. how have you been taught to greet people ?”
“I don’t know.. maybe a Hi!, Hello or good morning/afternoon/evening..”
“The Hindu way of doing it is to see the creator in everybody, and surrender your ego to them so that you can greet them with an open heart minus the ego. Falling at someone’s feet or saying “Namaste!” is symbolic of telling the person this – you bow to him or her, and tell them that you see God in him or her,surrender all your ego, and bow down ”
“That makes sense.. But then I have another question”
A laugh.. “Go ahead”
“If falling at someones feet is symbolic of saying “I see god in you, and surrender my ego, then why do only youngsters have to do it? Why don’t Elders fall at my feet?”
“Who told you they shouldn’t ? They can if they want to”
I looked at Dad.
Dad looked at him and said “Really? Great ! I didn’t know this”
He smiled. Dad and I sought his blessings, and we left – Little me satisfied, And Dad at a loss for words .
This incident has a background- My Daddy Dearest had asked me to fall at the feet of some stranger (We do it in India as a mark of respect) , and I had refused to do so. I was barely ten years old then, and he found himself up a gum tree when I looked up at him innocently, asking “Why should I fall at uncle’s feet? Is he God?”. Exasperated, he took me to our guru(spiritual teacher) and told me that I could feel free to ask anything I wanted
When I look back at this incident where my I drove my Dad to frustration , I do so fondly in good humor, and I’m left wondering whether this incident was an eye opener for me or whether it was one for my father. All I knew then was that my folks didn’t have an answer to an innocent question a ten year old had. I was never asked to fall at anyone’s feet after this incident; But Dad didn’t fall at mine either.
I wonder why my questions were even encouraged – My parents could have just told me to do it because they were telling me to- I wouldn’t dare disobey.
My entire childhood was spent asking such questions- From “What does f$%^ mean ? ” to “Why should I fall at someones feet ?”. More often than not, my questions would be directed at Dad- he was the epitome of patience, and always made me feel like I was free enough to ask him anything under the sun. I was never told that I was “wrong”, and was never given the feeling that I had “sinned” when I questioned. I was encouraged to reason out, think and question almost everything- I think every child in my family was. We have always been taught to answer our conscience rather than anything or anyone else
Little did I know then that I might just grow up to be a bit of a mis-fit to the outside world.Once I few the nest , became a little more independent, and started living life a bit on my own terms, I realized that I was ,according to some of the outside world, “A rebel”. A woman who liked to live ,let live, adjusted when she could, questioned when the no nonsense threshold was reached and stood up for what she believed in is bound to be christened that – and you can blame it all on her bring a “City Bred Girl ,I tell you!” .
Is the “obedient, patient, cultured woman” who tolerates all of the atrocities people commit against her worth admiring? Or are such people the reason mentalities don’t progress under the excuse of “tradition” and “culture”? I will never be able to figure out.