This week I was delighted to learn that my eight-year old granddaughter and her best friend had produced their first-ever school newsletter. Well researched, the contents covered diversity and inclusion, nature and ecology, acceptance of others, school decorum and punctuality and yes, humor! Enough to cause any (grand-)parent’s heart to swell with pride.
The item that caught my attention in particular, dealt with the origin of the human race and emphasized that most of us are identical, having originated from what is now known as the African continent.
In his bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, Yuval Noah Hariri writes that “Humans in Europe and western Asia evolved into Homo neanderthalensis (‘Man from the Neander Valley’), popularly referred to simply as ‘Neanderthals’. Neanderthals, bulkier and more muscular than us Sapiens, were well adapted to the cold climate of Ice Age western Eurasia. The more eastern regions of Asia were populated by Homo erectus, ‘Upright Man’, who survived there for close to 2 million years, making it the most durable human species ever… It turned out that 1–4 per cent of the unique human DNA of modern populations in the Middle East and Europe is Neanderthal DNA. That’s not a huge amount, but it’s significant.” He goes on to write that while basically identical, “… Sapiens instinctively divide humanity into two parts, ‘we’ and ‘they’. We are people like you and me, who share our language, religion and customs. We are all responsible for each other, but not responsible for them. We were always distinct from them, and owe them nothing. We don’t want to see any of them in our territory, and we don’t care an iota what happens in their territory. They are barely even human.”
The outcome of recent elections around the globe evidence this mindset. Caste or class, religion, color and ethnicity are being increasingly adopted as useful exploitative labels to drive a wedge and widen the fissures between peoples. Unseeing, unhearing and unquestioning we trudge along, looking for alternatives that refuse to show up. At least in our own minds.
But, there is hope yet. For, these two eight years old girls are members of a growing tribe of youth around the world that is starting to band together for challenging the status-quo that preceding generations like ours have callously imposed on them. Young leaders like Greta Thunberg (inspiring climate strike), Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg among others (against gun violence) are emerging to shake up decadent political establishments.
We are all in it together, as expressed in this “sher” (verse) by my favorite “shaayar” (poet) Ahmad Faraz:
|“Kis se Darte ho ki sab log tumhārī hī tarah||Who are you afraid of (for) every one is like you …|
|Ek se haiñ vahī āñkheñ vahī chehre vahī dil||Every thing is same – the eyes, faces and hearts|
|Kis pe shak karte ho jitne bhī musāfir haiñ yahāñ||Who are you suspicious of (because) here all the (fellow) travelers …|
|Ek hī sab kā qabīla vahī paikar vahī gil”||Are from the same tribe, similar appearance and (made of) the same clay like you|
|Rome ke but hoñ ki Paris kī ho Mona Lisa||(Whether) the statues in Rome or (the portrait of) Mona Lisa in Paris|
|Keats kī qabr ho yā turbat-e-Firdausī ho||(Whether) The resting place of Keats or Firdausi’s tomb|
|Qartaba ho ki Ajantā ki Mohanjodaro||(Objects in) Cordoba or Ajanta or in Mohanjodaro|
|dīda-e-shauq na mahrūm-e-nazar-bosī ho||Let us not deprive our desirous eyes their power to caress all these (icons)|
Game changers abound. Go Raptors!
Eid Mubarak to all.