As part of my Hindi classes designed for children who are growing up with English as their first language, I teach Indian culture as well. Recently, I have been teaching my students the differences among namaste, namaskar and pranam. In this article I share a few heartwarming stories to demonstrate the power of pranam and how that brought a moment of delight to my students and their families.
I start by saying that these are all greetings that are used to say hello. And that they are used in different ways depending on the person you’re saying hello to. Namaste can be said to anyone and everyone. Namaskar is more formal and used for uncles, aunties, and people you don’t know. And Pranam is a very special way to greet grandparents.
Why Are There So Many Ways to Say Hello?
For kids growing up in Western countries this is a very foreign concept. In the US and Canada and most Western countries there is one way to say hello. Whether a child greets their friend or their grandparents — they say hello. These age and formality distinctions don’t exist. I explained that Indian and many Eastern cultures are very family and community oriented. One’s world revolves not just around their immediate family but their uncles, aunts, cousins and their community of friends as well.
Like most of my students, I was born and raised here in the US. And like many of my students, I have never had any relatives nearby. That makes it even more difficult to relate to these cultural norms.
The Power of Pranam
Pranam Dada. Pranam Nani. I taught my students that Pranam is a special way to say hello to their grandparents. I was very delighted when some of the parents shared how happy the grandparents were to be greeted with such respect – especially since it was such a surprise.
The Outcome: When Kids Said Pranam
One mom wrote to us, “my daughter said pranam to her Nani today and it TOTALLY made her day!”
Another grandparent wrote to us saying, “I’m so glad my grandsons are learning Hindi from you.”
And another parent emailed to tell us that the grandparents were delighted when their granddaughter said pranam and that it was such a surprise!
The parents were happy. Grandparents were happy. And my students were happy and enjoyed the positive reinforcement they received from their grandparents’ reaction.
Simplify Concepts for Understanding
Even though there are others for whom “pranam” would be appropriate, I decided to teach the students to say it to their grandparents because:
- It’s COVID right now so grandparents are the only people beyond immediate family, people are meeting with.
- I wanted to simplify the concept to make it easier for kids, especially my 3-5 year olds to understand.
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