Use of a typical Indian metaphor by Devdatt Pattnaik to speak of culture: Kolam

tumblr_lk8iuxl2vK1qa2x4yo1_500This guest post is written by , cross cultural consultant and trainer. Remember, don’t think “chaos;” think “pattern!”

Often times in my intercultural trainings to Indian audiences, I have sensed a discomfort in my participants with using models (the iceberg of culture, for example) and imagery that are often more easily understood by Westerners. Perhaps, I am more sensitive to this discomfort because I felt the same when I learned not only one but two foreign languages (English and French), with their intrinsic imagery that was so far removed from my local reality.

You can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Devdutt Pattnaik’s use of a typical Indian custom of drawing kolams (rangoli in North India) to explain the Indian world view. Used to adorn the floor at the entrance of even the most humble abode in India, it is basically a pattern that is drawn, using lines to connect a grid of dots. There is nothing rigid about how the dots need to be connected—each person chooses to connect the dots as s/he desires, and each pattern is a legitimate one, just as is each culture.

Below you can watch his thought provoking presentation on India. I particularly love his closing lines. Enjoy! What are your favorite local metaphors and imagery that resonate with the local contexts you work in?

6 thoughts on “Use of a typical Indian metaphor by Devdatt Pattnaik to speak of culture: Kolam

  1. Hi Dianne – wow that was wonderful! My mind was just spinning (in chaos or patterns?!) with questions and applications for this video. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Creating insight is like sending an invitation to share trust with people we don’t know yet, though who are crossing our way or walking on common paths with a different, belief, view point and style. As usual a wonderful speech from Mr Pattnaik. More personal comment on the Cultural Detective page.


    • Olivier, I’m going to add the remainder of your comment on LinkedIn, as I find it so powerful and important:

      “Devdatt Pattnaik’s speech is once again powerful and peaceful and the message he shares clearly made me think of how damaging our own lack of insight is and how it may harm other people’s feeling (and vice versa). As we live in a fast changing world with crucial humanitarian issues we absolutely need to re-consider our own realities before telling other how things should be. Ultimately we have a single common interest: living and enjoying living in the same “garden”.

      Some places in our world should urgently awake to this kind of wisdom in order to open up to inclusiveness and openness instead of terror and conformity.”

      Your words hit a wise truth for me. Thank you for sharing! The role of the facilitator is so crucial, and powerful in ways we can too easily underestimate.


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