writer, if s/he has an ear to the ground, is not that different from a
drummer passing on the mood of the people. In these past few weeks I’ve
passed on the fear, anger and helplessness, and self-imposed curfew of
communities who’ve been victimised, traumatised by kidnapping. But
that’s just a partial image of a country. A snapshot.
a complex people in a many-layered society we are made of many moods, many
communities, colours running into one another, that it’s inaccurate yet,
anyway, to say definitively we are this or that.
Sunday is, after all, followed by the Hindu spring festival of Phagwa,
people congregating in churches, and grounds, marking renewal in their own
say we descendants of five continents have become an increasingly divided
society, carving little spaces for ourselves, ever shrinking worlds that
rarely interact. You say that that even before a person in this country
opens his mouth to speak you know his position on any issue because it
will be in absolute correlation with their race, religion and socio
say that kind of knee-jerk opinion says more about our own insecurities
than about anyone else or reality. It’s easy when faced with complexity
to run home to our own corners, and shelter with our crowd, join in
popular slogans that drown out objectivity. You know what they are, you
say them in private, in your porches, and living rooms, in your offices,
and over the phone. You know what you think of the other side.
if our renewal lies in watching the clarity in this lovely and destructive
dry hot season, as flames rip through crackling dry grass in hills and
along highways, as pink, lilac, orange blossoms flare up to counteract
fire, we, too, must acknowledge that somewhere, smoke, worse than smoke,
acid got into our eyes and hearts.
vision got so muddy that even good men and women on “the other side”
morphed into murderers, and our own murderers took on the look of saints.
All along it was the mud talking, not us. It was false. Along the way we
lost the gift that all religions say separate humans from animals, that of
reason and empathy. We became mindless hordes.
too, is not the whole truth about us. It’s just another snapshot. The
process of putting them together is our panacea, our way back to 20/20
are millions of snaps of our daily multiracial intermingling,
affectionate, respectful, loving, loyal, between us all, teachers and
students, professionals and clients, workers and employees, lovers, and
friends, scrabble clubs and run clubs, women and men. There are people who
come together for births, weddings and deaths. There are friends who grew
with this truth, the monster, the “other” race, the “other” party,
the “other” leader disappears.
just people we are looking at—and like people everywhere, in every race
they are good and bad, ugly and lovely. Surely we are big enough to
you still believe the other side is monstrous, we can stay with this
atavistic tugging of rope heaving forwards and back, flinging tea and
court cases and invectives at one another, suspicious and paranoid about
“hidden agendas,” or we can take one day, like today, like this hiatus
given to us by old religions, and nature herself and look at one another.
can allow the monsters which are not outside but in our own eyes to melt
so we can see the real human beings opposite us. We can see that the real
monster is the senseless gunning down of innocent women, a respected
real enemy is a trend of flight of capital, professionals and business
people. The real enemy is the sight of that lone barefoot man holding the
hands of two ragged barefoot children crossing a busy highway, that woman
lying half dead under the midday sun. They are descendants of separate
continents, but now they are they same.
those colours run into one another. That’s real.