Yogic Namaste Om (silent Namaste Om),
I’m India and I finally discovered my real self on this enlightening visit to America.
Like the five senses, the five elements, and the five seasons, I’ve discovered that I’m also only five things: IT, chai-tea, yoga, Bollywood and the Taj Mahal. These are the only things that I’m really known for, thanks to you, America, my dear friend.
For thousands of years, before the modern calendar was even invented, I have poured over existential questions, never finding answers: Who am I? Am I just another oldest civilization in the world? Or am I your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, largest democracy on Earth? What if I’m only a dull country of many religions, languages and ethnic groups?
I knew that there had to be more to life than just being pluralistic, diverse, and a land of everything. Something simpler. I knew deep inside that I can’t be that complex, that I can't be all of these things and more. That's too much for anyone.
I needed to simplify myself. And that's when I found you, America, my kind friend.
Now I know that I am the “I” in IT. I’ve learned that chai is not chai, it’s chai-tea. I admire your innovative idea, America, to translate the word instantly, leaving nothing to the imagination. Imagination being the real cause of all evil, as you and I both know.
We are what others perceive us to be, no matter what we may feel inside and know to be true about our own selves.
I am deeply honored to notice that you—the country that sent the first man to the moon—have not yet translated the word yoga into your language. How hard can it be to find a synonym for the definition of yoga: “a spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, widely practiced for health and relaxation that originated in ancient me?”
I have 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves, the Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, and the Hill Forts of Rajasthan, the sixth most of any country, but what’s the point of having so much culture if no one knows about it, right? You taught me that I’ll always be known for the Taj Mahal. I’m not complaining at all. All I’m saying is if no one even knows about any other historic heritage sites, why go through all the trouble of keeping history and culture intact? Why bother if, for all intents and purposes, these other 36 sites don’t exist?
In 2017, the People’s Linguistic Survey of India documented 780 languages that use 66 different scripts that are currently spoken in me. I was already overwhelmed with the idea of having 22 official languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Then there’s English, which is as big a surprise to me as it is to you. How can my citizens learn and speak such a foreign language in only 300 years of British colonialism, especially without Rosetta Stone and Duolingo?
But you helped me find simplicity, America. Every Indian, shall henceforth will only speak “Indian.” It doesn’t matter if Indian is not a real language. As we say in eastern philosophies, it’s the thought that counts. Om Namaste Om.
Lastly, thanks to Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, I can’t keep track of how many people in the U.S. have asked me about kids in India jumping in peanut butter and chocolate sauce and pretending that it's poop. For simplicity, I'm taking a cue from your simplified-language-naming-pro-tip, and I'm going to call all Indian movies, “Bollywood movies” from now on, just like you already do. It’s easy to remember!
I now have found a simple identity. The kind the Beatles and Steve Jobs might have accidentally found when they came to me.
Now, when I close my eyes, I see myself in a yogic pose drinking chai-tea while working in IT in front of the Taj Mahal in a Bollywood movie. I've finally attained nirvana.
I’m grateful for your enlightening hospitality on this day, my true independence day. You have been life-changing. Thank you, America.
Namaste-Goodbye (because as you told me, Namaste can be used for both salutation and valediction).