Toppling statues

In 1859, Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities opened with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”

These lines might well describe the current state of global affairs.  On the one hand, there is the pandemic fear – of disease, discrimination, racism, moral turpitude, vacuous leadership and all-consuming greed.  On the other, there is a growing tide of peoples who are questioning the status-quo and no longer prepared to tolerate the historic inequities imposed on entire races by a select few.  A tectonic paradigm shift is underway and the “spring of hope” may strengthen “the epoch of belief” paving the way for “the age of wisdom”.

Inspired by clarion calls everywhere to revisit history I went back in time to select excerpts from a few of my earlier blogs; these are shared with you:

“… We are a product of the continuum of history.  We have been shaped by our own parents and their parents, as also the circumstances and people that influenced them.  This process is continuing through our own interactions.  It is not possible to select, take out and discard a slice of history considered unpalatable, or black (now replaced with “omit”, to respect prevailing sentiments) out personalities no longer liked by us …

“… it is perhaps disingenuous to review and pass judgment on history by employing the prism of our present-day life experiences.  What is served by removing a statue, be it that of Cecil Rhodes, John McDonald, Akbar, Aurangzeb or any other?  Does the renaming of a city change its past or shape its future in any way?  Does it remold its very essence?  Banaras was renamed Varanasi, but we still talk only about the Banarasi paan, Banarasi sari and Banarasi thumri …”

“… Each of the billions of cells that make up a human has a raison d’être and a critical role to play both individually and collectively each second every day, for our bodies to function normally.  The heart cannot take a break from its constant pumping or the liver halt its support to the stomach that cannot linger to ingest a delicious meal.  No organ or cell can claim precedence.  Similarly, we have to concede that each grain of rice has to be cooked to the right texture for a delicious biryani, a precise amount of lemongrass must be used to flavor tom yum soup and the right blend of lentils and tamarind is needed for a delicious sambar.  It is remarkable that each ingredient must subsume its own identity and “blend in” to produce a Michelin-rated dish.  When praising the chef’s production, it is the signature dish itself that come up for praise.  The constituent food items, while important, are secondary.  So it is with us.  While retaining our identity we also have to come together to exemplify the collective Canadian values and strive to contribute towards a more caring world that readily accepts and values diversity …”

The great philosopher poet Mirza Ghalib’s sher (verse) provides an exquisitely nuanced characterization of humans:

Bas ke dushwaar hai har kaam kaa aasaan honaa While/although it is admittedly difficult for every task to be easy

Or,

It is simply too difficult for every task to be easy

Aadmii ko bhi mayassar nahiin insaan honaa (for) men do not always succeed in becoming human

or,

(for) humans do not always succeed in becoming humane

 

 

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