yádum úré yávarum kélír Kanian
It is all my town, where I’m in.
Whoever they are, they’re also my kin.
So wrote the Tamil poet Kanian, and it is from him that I have taken inspiration in these musings. Others have expressed similar view. In the Rig Veda (1:89) we have the words:
Á no bhadráh kratavo vishvato: May auspicious powers come to us from all sides.
The Latin poet Publius Terentius afer (Terence) wrote: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto, I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.
Up until the middle of the twentieth century people were divided as nations and religions. From the last quarter of the twentieth century, another factor has come into play: ethnic identity. In so far as this adds to the psychological comfort level of peoples who were marginalized for several centuries by European colonialism and the earlier Islamic expansionism, in a world where economic, scientific, and linguistic hegemony still reigns ethnic pride is worthy of being nurtured. But in so far as it generates confrontation, feelings of animosity, and belligerent postures towards others, it can and does add to the mutual hate index in the world. Indeed ethnic pride often dilutes the spirit of the Maha Upanishadic aphorism: vasudhaiva kutumbakam: The world is one family, and goes against the framework of humanism whose four characteristics, in the words of E. M. Foster, are “curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.”
Pride in one’s culture and heritage is appropriate, but this need not diminish our respect and appreciation for cultures and achievements of others. Every culture is rich in creativity and insights. There have been great poets and thinkers, scientists and sages all over the world. When it comes to good and bad people, ultimately (in the words of Andrew Marvell)
The world in all doth but two nations bear,
The good and bad, and these are mixt everywhere.
So I will continue to reflect on events and episodes, men and women, not from the perspective of one anchored to a particular culture, religion, or nation, but as a conscious entity that has been part of the human saga on this planet for a brief bracket in time. Let me recall in this context the following poem entitled My Country:
“This is my country, and I am so proud,”
Said a man in a voice a bit too loud.
Another said, “Of course that’s true,
But sometimes I like to say this too:
My country is much larger still.
I’ll tell you why, if listen you will:
Antarctica is my country too,
And all the oceans black and blue.
Mexico and Moldavia,
Canada and Colombia,
Panama and Peru,
And every country old and new.
Uganda and Nigeria
Morocco and Algeria,
England, Europe, even Finland,
Scotland and also Ireland,
All of Europe, east and west.
North and south and all the rest.
North African lands like Tunisia,
Egypt and Syria,
Iran, Iraq, Libya,
Yemen and Saudi Arabia
Mine is Russia and Armenia
Nepal, Bhutan and India,
Israel and Pakistan.
Two Koreas and Japan
Mainland China and Taiwan,
Australia and New Zealand,
Thailand, Lapland and Greenland.
African ones like the Sudan,
I can go just on and on
Alphabetically all the way
From Angola to Zimbabwe.
My country is large, it even lies
Beyond land and water, over the skies.
Includes Mars, Venus and Saturn
No matter where in space you turn.
Sun and stars and the Milky Way
Far and near, whatever you say.
I claim all these as mine in verse,
‘Cause I was born in the Universe.
My problem is: With all this might
I’ve no foe with whom to fight.
This World is My World
This World is Your World,
From the South Pole to the North Pole
Extending to the Universe Whole.”
February 5, 2016