Good Morning Sunshine

I went for a long walk this morning in the unexpected dazzle of spring sunshine. It makes all the difference when every other day dawns under a thick, grey sky. Whenever I walk, I pass lots of different people – the blonde mums walking their kids to school (three steps in front while the nanny juggles two kids and all their schoolbags); men with briefcases; teenage girls deftly texting as they sidestep lampposts and ditches, all without looking up.

I’ve started forcing myself to say good morning to everyone I pass. A friend from Belgium walked with me once and marvelled that English people were so unfriendly. He said that everyone, young and old greets each other in Belgium, even if they cross paths all the time. A little ashamed, I realised that I didn’t often make the effort to acknowledge anyone. Maybe I’m shy, or just lazy, or maybe we’ve all fallen out of the habit.

The gentle art of saying hello seems tied to slower times, or perhaps just more rural settings. One of the opening scenes of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast sees the heroine, Belle, sing a wistful song about how she wants to leave her provincial country life where nothing ever happens, and everyone is in her business. It may not sound much fun, but the entire song is based around her greeting everyone in the village, and I always remember wishing I lived in a town where every morning was full of so many exuberant greetings. There’s something so basically human about wishing a fellow soul ‘good day’ – something that Ebenezer Scrooge also realised after his night of realisations. The scene where he throws open his window and shouts, ‘Good morning!’ at a little boy down below always stuck with me.

Last November I spent the month in the village of Vrindavan, India, where almost no one passes without greeting ‘Radhe Radhe!’ It was a refreshing nudge out of my usual habit – avoiding eye contact, and minding my own business. Though sometimes in the West we guard our personal space, putting in ear phones and practising staring into middle distance, in India, and many other countries, this barrier doesn’t exist. I hope that more and more of us will remember what a wonderful difference it makes to simply look someone in the eye and say ‘good morning’. For now, I’m practising, even if it meant scaring the local teenage postman this morning. He looked back at me, quite bewildered as I continued walking past. Ah well.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Good Morning Sunshine

  1. Kap

    Poor mailman, i’m sure he’s more used to a curt nod. I find a smile when holding the door for someone is still reciprocated, but i’m not sure I want to have to say good nothing to everyone 😉

  2. I agree, there’s a lot of impersonalism in the West (at least in the cities)—even in our small day-to-day interactions. But we don’t often realize it’s there until we have the contrast of the warmth of India (especially the holy dhāmas) and similar places.

    It can be very uplifting when someone makes the effort to acknowledge you, after all, we seek relationships with others by our nature. Unfortunately the art of “hello” has been lost in many places. Thanks for trying to revive it (even if it means bewildering a few people) 🙂

    In the spirit of this post, I’m going to say “Hello.” I’ve been following your blog for a while, but similar conditioning and lazy habits affect online habits too. It is good to see you’re writing again; thanks for sharing your experience of life.

  3. Bhakta Delroy

    I like how you notice the blond mums 3 steps in front of the kids and the nanny, men in briefcases, and teenage girls engrossed in their texting and yet are somehow able to avoid the lamp posts ect. I like how with your powers of observation you observe that people have their earphones in simply to block the rest of the world out (the city can be a scary place), and we practice staring into middle distance not because we are perfecting the art of meditation but again to guard our personal space and not attract “trouble”. But what are we afraid of, what exactly are we guarding. The thing is that this consumer society here in the west is a dog eat dog, survival of the fittest world. I think its a very good idea to start saying hi to everyone you pass as it will help put an end to the mistrust in society, which ultimately stifles Love. Though I’m not sure how successful I myself would be. If the postman looked at you in bewilderment I wonder what reaction someone as ugly as me would get. Hare Krsna

  4. Ha! I liked your post!

    I have been experiencing THE SAME THING. I am visiting London for the first time and I go on a Japa walk in the morning and in the evening and I was sort of umm…insecure about saying hello since people were so desperately avoiding eye contact. It makes me feel awkward now every time someone walks by and I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I smile and then look down right away mumbling Hare Krishna Hare Krishna…lol.

    I am wondering if you are still in London. It would be very wonderful to meet you Jahnavi dd. I will be here until the end of March and then will return to India. Might you please let me know? I visited the center in Soho, but not sure where else there is a temple. One of my friends recently went to the Oxford Kirttan group and invited me but I had school work…oh dear…

  5. Dear Vaidehi, please come to the Gaurapurnima celebration at ISKCON Soho this Saturday – it would be lovely to meet you there…

    Thank you for all your comments everyone, and for continuing to read…

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