Archive for September, 2009
CHENNAI: The India Immersion Centre kick-started its Navaratri celebrations in its own way by mingling cultures and displaying a kolu that had Indian dolls and Japanese Hina Dolls – Hina Matsuri. Tomonori Minowa, Japanese cultural Consul and Swami Chidananda, director of the Krishnamurthy Foundation, Varanasi, inaugurated the event recently.
Minowa was delighted and expressed his happiness on discovering the similarities between the two cultures that could be seen through the Hina Matsuri and Kolu. The inauguration also saw guests from varied cultures- Greek, Swedish, Japanese, Vietnamese and Canadian expatriats, making it a truly global event. “Hina Matsuri festival is celebrated in Japan on March 3 as ‘Girls’ Day’,” said Kala Venkteshwar, Programme Manager, India Immersion Centre. The Kolu on display featured some interesting dolls like a Chettiar Couple, Musical Instrument Maker, Weavers, Cobblers, a Dasavataram set, and Kondapalli Toys among other idols. The display will be on till September 19 between 4 and 7 pm at the India Immersion Centre, located at the Global Adjustments headquarters at Chennai, No 5, 3rd Main Road, RA Puram.
However varied and different people’s culture and customs may be, sensitivity and respectful behaviour are always appreciated.
As managers in the new era, we are called upon to cope with the good and the bad, with success and failure, with life, and yes, sometimes with death. As leaders of teams of achievers, we need to know how to handle a situation of bereavement, our own, as well as another’s, both practically and sensitively.
In India, we accept that death is not a full stop, but merely a progression into another existence. Hinduism prescribes a long list of dos and don’ts for the bereaved family, to ease the departed soul into a peaceful afterlife, and also for friends and acquaintances of the family in mourning. There are even prescribed days when you may pay a condolence visit. Other major religions in our country have their own sets of practices, many similar to the guidelines laid down by Hinduism.
>With respect and consideration you can’t go wrong
At first glance, the practices of the West may seem different, even the colours of mourning are diametrically opposite. In the West, black is worn in mourning, while in India, we wear white. But look closer and you’ll see that all mourning customs are based on respect for the departed soul and on practical considerations that help people cope with the loss of a loved one. Most of us have grown up absorbing these traditions and customs subconsciously and a recent personal loss brought home to me the fact that in today’s context of a global India, it’s good to take a new look at mourning etiquette, not only in India, but in the world at large.
>The manners of mourning
If you’re very close to the bereaved family or the deceased, of course, you must pay a condolence visit. Taking flowers is appropriate, and if the body is on view, place them at the foot of the casket and stand in respectful silence at the side for a few minutes before moving away to let others view the body.
You could go up to someone you know in the family, and clasp their hands, or offer a brief embrace, if your relationship is close enough to permit it. You could say a few words of sympathy, like “I’m so sorry”.
If you were known to the deceased but not familiar with the immediate family, introduce yourself first, and say something nice about the deceased, such as “He was such a warm-hearted person”, or “She was a wonderful colleague. We’ll miss her”.
Unless a relative of the departed soul wants to share details of the death with you, it would be kinder not to ask for information. The family in mourning would be numb with sorrow and repeating the story would only make them relive the tragedy. But if they start talking to you, do give them your full attention. Being a good listener helps.
Rely on your instincts to decide how long you should stay on your condolence visit. Keep the sensitivities of the bereaved family in mind. It would be thoughtful to ask if they need any help, such as minding children, organising food or even housing people who may have come down for the funeral.
If you aren’t close to the family but would still like to pay your respects to the departed soul, you could send flowers with a nicely-worded card or an appropriate Sympathy Card. Alternatively, if you know a relative of the deceased and a personal visit is either not possible or not really appropriate, technology today offers several solutions. You could send an e-mail expressing your sympathy, or an SMS, which the person can view at his/her convenience.
Give privacy to grieve
Sometimes the family needs time to mourn in private. While immediate relatives and close friends will be a source of strength and support, others, including neighbours, can help by giving them time to themselves. I remember, when a friend of mine in the West lost her child, she sat at home trying to cope with her immense sadness while friends and neighbours dropped by and left little notes, flowers, and even gifts of food for her on her doorstep without disturbing her or intruding on her grief.
If you have lost a loved one, it is good to thank people who call on you or send messages or flowers, for their sympathy. You could do it either personally on the spot or later, by e-mail, telephone or text messages.
Balancing modernity and tradition
While it is polite to pay condolence visits after a funeral, remember that in today’s world of multi-tasking, people need to get back to their work routines as soon as possible. So call ahead and ensure that your visit is convenient. Don’t drop in unannounced.
And do remember that the Westerner is unfamiliar with the Hindu considerations of ‘impurity’ after a death in the family. While religion prescribes codes of seclusion for pre-determined periods, in today’s demanding business scenario, it may not be possible to observe these strictly. If you face bereavement, take a look at how to balance tradition and modern demands. Working from home is a good option in the modern, technologically connected world. I found it an acceptable via media when a bereaved colleague from an orthodox Hindu family felt he couldn’t break with tradition but work was being held up without him.
Finally, if you have to express your condolences when overseas, here are a few tips:
In France, it is customary to send a wreath of flowers with a message. Choose a colour that is meaningful. I recently sent an orange green and white floral wreath with the word ‘Om’, and they were deeply touched by it.
In Japan, on seeing a funeral procession, kids tuck their thumbs into their fists. The thumbs are considered to represent parents and by hiding them in their fists, the children were supposed to be protecting them.In some Asian countries, including Japan, rice balls are offered at the death ceremony and it is the only time that chopsticks are stuck standing up into rice balls.
The rule of thumb: Be sensitive, respectful and practical.