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?