If there is anything that the past few weeks I have spent in this beautiful, vast and delightful country has taught me, it is simply that human beings, where ever they may be on this tiny piece of rock carrying sand and waves which we call earth, are essentially the same. That all men, white, black, red, yellow, brown, just name it, are all alike. Though our cultures may differs, though our tongues and method of communing with The Divine may vary, essentially we are all the same in our shared humanity. A Nigerian infant for example, if adopted into the Bangolorean culture, would grow up in that culture with absolutely no difference except for the colour of his skin.
Seriously, if you ask me, I believe there is no genetic basis for culture in the sense that it focuses on what divides people except one speaks of it as in art, music, literature and the humanities. Where ever one goes on earth, the story is the same, people love, cry, feel pain, share hope, pursue happiness, hate, much the same way as anyone else anywhere except that the method of expressing these realities of our nature as earthlings differs.
Even though in the course of stay I have heard some people give voice to the fact that we should place more emphasis on our various cultures and how unique we are in our different skins because culture somehow embodies what a group of people consider right and wrong, good and bad, collective beliefs and perhaps memories and way of life, like how for example, the traditional Hessarghattan will not wear shoes for cultural and historic reason, the longer I spend here and the more I get to know the people, the more miniscule differences I find between them and me and the more I see these arguments as unnecessary. The more I begin to see why one day, there will be nothing like ‘culture’ in the context that some have argued in our discussions. Because, the few things I noticed which seem surprising to me when I first came began to rub off within a few days and am sure if stay for say a year or so, the major things will stopped surprising me. If I can so easily blend into the way of life of another people, then why should I think of myself as unique or as different from them? This to me is strong proof how similar we are, and how that ‘culture’ is living on borrowed times.
The few times I have been here, I have thoroughly enjoyed the bustling sound and the jamming car horns of the big city of Bangalore, the morning walks through the stony pavement of the tiny Hessarghattan village, the usual evening discussions between us the writers at the kula in Nytriyagram, and the meals most times consisting of Aloo paratha-made from wheat and potatoes-, Idli and Sambar-made from steamed rice-, Mutton Biriyani– which is a mixture of mutton and rice cooked together- and Idiyappam and Vegetable Stew. The simplicity with which we all accepted each other and the manner in which we shared stories of our various countries (I even had to make Nigerian dishes for the house at some point) all point one thing; how very small a stage our earth is in a very vast cosmic arena.
I believe this awareness should humble every thinking man and thus influence the way we treat other people. And so when I think of the fact that Pascal, a Frenchman, Sukumaran, an Indian, Caroline, American and Giles British and the others, how we all sit together in long hours of engaging chats, the simplicity with which we share ideas, then I ask why? Why can’t this be replicated amongst all of humanity? Imagine what paradise our world will be. Yet, when I think of the rivers of blood that has been spilled by all those generals and emperors over the course of history so that in the briefest moment of glory and triumph, they can become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot, a tiny portion of the earth called countries, I ask why? Why the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on mostly scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of this same planet. Why the unfair treatment of women who are continuously regarded as second class citizen in this absolutely patriarchal country of theirs? Why the massive corruption, that is still on-going in Nigeria despite the music, the continuous killing in the name of religion of innocents in the north and child ‘witches’ in Akwa Ibom State, south/south Nigeria?
I think about how frequent little misunderstandings in politics and religion especially often times lead to conflict and how men are quick to kill one another without the briefest pause to have a rethink. How fervent our hatred of tribes different from ours and I ask, did GOD really intend it so? Did HE intend for our ‘culture’ to shape us in such a way that whoever is different from us becomes a subject of misunderstanding and fear, a victim of ‘do it to them before they do it to you?’, or a vacuum that gives space to give room to certain negative propensities?
A chat with Fatimah, 83 years, a saintly and simple woman, made me ask, why men are most times given to imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position and as such cultivate an eternal desire to always want to control others. Why, if a woman as hugely intelligent as Fatimah can exude such simplicity and humility, why can’t all men be? If Fatimah can, then I can, then the rest of humanity can because, as the ancient myth makers knew, we’re children equally of the earth and the sky. We’re are all star-stuff creature, our very genes made off materials from those tiny dots of light that litter our night sky. Therefore we are not really different. We are all son of Adams. We are the same. This is the lesson I have taken from this residency. And despite being aware of the fact that in our brief tenor on earth, many have accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage – propensities for aggressions and ritual, fanatic submissions to leaders, hostility to outsiders and so on, the sheer love I have been shown so far, the welcomed little smiles in the face of those have met in the streets of this strange country, the manner we of different nationalities have accepted ourselves is prove that man has the propensity to love. If we can exhibit love for our children, for family members, loved ones, then we can extend that love to everyone we meet.
I think writers, as creative minds, we have proven that we can let that aspects of our nature, that compassionate side of us prevail particularly because we are bridges builders, uniting cultures with our pen, showing everyone that our visions and prospects are not bound, like some, to one small part of this small planet earth which we call our home country.
From the great Arshia to good natured Sukumaran, Caroline to Giles, Fatimah to Anu and the petite and ever smiling Muslim Rihan to the workaholic Frenchman Pascal and to the boss of them all DW Gibson…it was an honour to be here…