July 2, 2017

Dear Colleagues

From heat of summer and crop of mangos, another round of random reflections for your perusal:

  1. Durban is the port town in South Africa where a large number of migrants came from the Indian sub-continent during the colonial era. And they came from Bihar to Kerala, as plantation workers and wage labourers. Since then, Indian community has acquired an important place in the South African society. Indian community now runs many successful businesses, plays important roles in many educational institutions and are part of a growing body of professionals. Indian food is popular in the country, widely available. Indian temples and cultural institutions mix seamlessly with other religious and cultural practices. If Cape Town is the centre of European influence, Durban appears to be more influenced by Indian heritage. Yet, all of them are South Africans—distinctive in cleanliness, courtesy and road manners!
  2. The best Gold Museum is in Bogota, Colombia. This museum narrates the history of 5000 years of civilisation in the Andean region of Latin America through the history of gold, its uses and rituals in the Colombian society of different periods. As a symbol of Sun God, gold mining, storage, design, product range, testing and utilisation was a highly developed science in 1500 BC. Gold defined the protocols of relations between human, animal, forest and water—all in a mutually sustainable manner. Gold-rich civilisations in this region were decimated through European invasions from 16th century onwards, and a lot of that gold looted away. Is human history everywhere full of such looting?
  3. The Caribbean port city of Cartagena (Colombia) was once the centre of slave trade from Africa during 16-18th centuries. Afrodescendant populations in this region are proud of their traditions and heritage, and some of their habitations do not even have a police system. It has become a vibrant tourist destination, and a diverse mix of colours, languages and dress. The old fort and prison in the walled city remind visitors about the history of wars between British and Spanish armadas on the soil of local habitations. How many such wars have ruined communities world-wide?
  4. Eid is celebrated around the world—prayers, new clothes, get-together with family and friends, and lots, lots of good food. Charity and giving to help the poor are also an integral part of this tradition. This celebration follows one month of Ramazan fasting—to cleanse our bodies and souls. Many different communities have similar system of balancing in life—fasting & eating. All religions and societies follow similar practices and rituals. Has humanity become over-consumerist these days, and needs to learn ‘re-balancing’?
  5. On top of the snake hill—Coatapec—in Veracruz (Mexico) is grown the best coffee of that region. Local communities have believed in the ‘power of serpents’ to infuse coffee beans with vigour! Worshipping serpents is not unique to Mexico; many communities in Indian sub-continent have similar rituals. Mexicans are trying to maintain and recover their indigenous roots while using modern technology of transport, housing, food and communication. Does modernisation be carried forward by rejecting previous practices? Or is a new synthesis, at each stage of modernising process, feasible, may desirable?


All the very best
Rajesh Tandon