Coronavirus Effect: Will the Indian alternative Namaste with folded hands replace handshake now?

  • Instead of handshake, the 'No-contact policy' at airshow suggested adoption of alternative greetings

  • Will it be folded hands in Indian Namaste style or the Japanese way of bowing?

  • Business world needs to adopt at least one alternative to handshake now

The Singapore Airshow 2020 has advised the visitors to avoid handshake or any personal contact in view of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, setting the debate on avoiding personal contact with visitors, a trait that has been advocated in Asian cultures for long.

"Singapore Airshow 2020 has adopted a No-Contact policy and encourages attendees to practice alternative business greetings, instead of the conventional handshake throughout the event," Leck Chet Lam, organizer of the Singapore Airshow this week, told media. Instead of handshake, the 'No-contact policy' suggested adoption of alternative greetings, which may include folding hands in Hindu or Buddhist style or bowing the Japanese way.

The Western handshake, in vogue since the 5th century AD, has remained dominant throughout the modern business world with breaks only during the health outbreaks such as SARS 2003 in China or Ebola in Africa. Ironic but the western handshake returned the moment the outbreak disappears.

Indian Namaste or Japanese bow?

As the future of mankind is in constant danger from contagious diseases, there will be a move to replace handshake for good in the future. If so, what is the best alternative? Will it be the Indian style of folding hands and saying 'Namaste' or bowing the Japanese way?

Namaste Namaste Campaign AIIMS

But for Japanese, bowing the Japanese way is too slavish for the Western culture and rarely was it followed, except for the state dignitaries who were to greet the Japanese Emperor. It may not go down well with the younger generations easily either. So, Indian style of folding hands, which has been campaigned as the best alternative by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) recently may come off as the best alternative to future greeting gesture. Whether people say Namaste or not, just folding hands emanates respect and begets the same.

Future alternative to handshake

However, bidding goodbye to the handshake is remote as it returns once the normalcy is restored after the outbreak. But in Asia, the need for alternative to handshake was there in the past and it can make an official foray across the world, though during the outbreaks.

But the business world requires endorsement of such alternative greeting styles from an authentic world body. Coudl it be the World Health Organization or the UN omnipotent General Assembly? For now, WHO can make suggestions to the visiting business dignitaries on alternatives to handshake, and prepare the entire world for this now.

This article was first published on February 18, 2020