This post is a reflection of the impact one patient had on my appreciation of my culture.
The patient was an elderly man. He resembled a grandad figure. When I was caring for him, I naturally began to speak our native language. The moment I spoke a word of my mother tongue, his eyes lit up. I could see his shocked face, albeit a positive shock. It was almost as if those native words perked him up.
He had been in hospital for a short while, and was fed up of being in a dependent state. In punjabi, he confided in me. He vented his frustrations and fears. I empathised with him, and provided the much needed reassurance he needed. He was nothing short of grateful once we had delivered the required care. As I was about to leave his cubicle, he stopped me and gave me blessings, calling me his daughter. Of course I did explain to him that there was no need to thank me as it was my duty. Regardless, he kept showering myself and my colleague with compliments and words of gratitude.
When I spoke to him in Punjabi, I restored a sense of comfort within him. Similar to the comfort of having a sense of being at home. We sometimes forget, as children of imigrants, the sacrifices the generations before us made for us to have a good life in a different country with a good education and unlimited opportunities. Our parents and grandparents left the comforts of being in a country where they could easily communicate with everyone, to come to a new country where tasks as simple as going to the shops could be a challenge due to the unfamiliar language spoken by everyone else.
Imagine how scary the situation he was in could be. Being in hospital is not a great situation as it is, but struggling to speak the same language as all of the staff caring for you too? Now that makes the situation more uncomfortable for the patient. I was quite surprised to see how much comfort and relief I could bring to my patient just by speaking our mother tongue. I know that made his stay in hospital just that little bit more better.
This just shows the importance of staying in touch with your own culture. My ability to speak Punjabi is most definitely not the greatest, but I do make a conscious effort to try. It’s important for the youth of every culture to actively engage in their respective cultures and maintain their ability to speak their native language. We don’t want there to be a communication gap between the oldest and youngest generation; we want to avoid alienation between generations.