The heart of a friend

I have been a expat/NRI for almost seven years now and I must confess I still carry some old notions in my heart. I have learnt so much over the years yet I find there is so much more learning to do. My friend Marco Blankenburgh is the founder and director of KnowledgeWorkx, in UAE, a company committed to Organizational Development. Here is an excerpt from his Bio-

“Inter-Cultural Intelligence is essentially the new 21st century intelligence, following on from IQ and EI (Emotional Intelligence). With the advent of globalization, he believes that Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) is essential to sustainable success for both individuals and organizations.”

In simple words, Understanding and adapting to the cultural context can help to achieve success and avoid conflict. My discussions with him gave me a lot of insights on Inter-cultural intelligence. I would like to think I was able to put what I learnt from him to good use although I am processing some information in the same old way.

One way I still am guilty of sticking to my ‘Indian’ notions is interaction among various age groups. I grew up in a small neighborhood in New Delhi where community feelings were very strong. Everyone knew everyone who lived on the street. There was a group of 18 kids ranging from 6 to 16 years in age who played together, playing tag , hide and seek or randonly chasing one another . At some other time we would get organized in groups to quiz each other , sing songs and compete. Everyone’s parents were our elders. There was no question of addressing any elder formally or by first name. every one was either an uncle or aunty, So Mr. Patel from down the lane became Patel-Uncle and Mrs Gupta from the third floor became Gupta-aunty. Some times we would add a suffix “jee”which denotes extra respect…… Uncle-jee literally meant respected uncle. šŸ™‚

With this background, I think it would not be hard for you to imagine my slight discomfort when my friend’s 10 year old called me by first name. 19 yrs between us seemed like a big age gap to be bridged easily. Slowly I learnt to take it in my stride and also got used to addressing people who I knew for sure were my parents’ age group by their first names too.

My friend recently visited me and I showed my one year old what she had brought for her. I said, “Look, what Natalie got you, say thank you!” To which Natalie replied, “No need. I am her aunty” [ I had never discussed this with her]

It may not sound like a big deal to you but in an instant, I felt at home.

This old poem by Henry Wardsworth Longfellow came to mind:

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Phir Milenge!!

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One thought on “The heart of a friend

  1. I can so identify with this. One of my favorite quotes is “The accent of one’s birth place persists in the mind and the heart as much as in speech” ( L Rochefoucauld Maxims 1665). Following your blog now, Soni!

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