16 Jan Greeting the Hindu Way
Jai Ram Ji Ki
While at a layover at Abu Dhabi airport, on my way home to Patna, I was sitting around a group of women. They were chatting up with a man in Bangla, a language spoken in the state of West Bengal in India and in the Islamic republic of Bangladesh. They seemed to be quite engrossed and had a lot to discuss. The man left when it was time for his flight.
After he left, some of the women started talking to me. I understand some Bangla. They asked me where I was from. They informed me the man was also from India, an engineer, from West Bengal state. So much I had guessed anyway. They told me they were from Bangladesh and were Muslim; and that the man was also Muslim.
I had not asked for so much information, but somehow they thought it important to mention theirs and his religion; as if it made them and him somewhat superior or as if they were clarifying a position. They asked me if I was a Muslim. Who asks about the religion of a person at an airport? I was annoyed, but nevertheless answered that I was not a Muslim.
More mundane small talk followed about where they were going; what work they did; why was I travelling alone; if I had any family. Finally it was time for their flight.
‘Bye,’ the women said as they were leaving; and immediately as an after thought added ‘Khuda Hafiz.’
‘Jai Ram Ji ki,’ I wished them back. They were taken aback for a moment, but quickly regaining composure smiled and continued on the way to board their flight.
I had surprised myself.
In many parts of Germany, it is a custom to answer the phone with ‚Grüß Gott‘. It is completely acceptable in daily life, as well as in business life.
“Sat Sri Akal” is universally accepted greeting in the Sikh universe, at any and every occasion, regardless of the social and financial status of the Sikh.
“Ram Ram,” “Jai Shri Krishna,” “Hare Ram,” “Jai Ram Ji ki” –Average Hindus greeted each other with these phrases, in addition to “Namaskar” and “Namaste.” Whenever we hear these greetings, the picture that comes to our mind is that of a village man wearing dhoti in one of the countless old Hindi movies. Somewhere along the way, urbanization had rendered these greetings bucolic. Hindus with education and class greet in “secular” manner without bringing in the name of God.
I cannot remember myself or anyone I know of saying “Jai Ram Ji Ki” as a greeting. How did we get so depraved as to categorize, albeit implicitly, a greeting in Ram’s name as bucolic. This perception was created and popularized through the most intrusive and influential medium in India, that of the Bollywood movies; and we bought into it. It is time we break that perception.
I was not aware, but that was the beginning of my transformation from an apologetic, non-confrontational Hindu to an emotionally and psychologically aware and assertive one.