Saturday, 26 December 2009

Inverted Time-Space Machine

Some thoughts from Montreal, Sept. 2004

As I sit looking out of the window of our apartment in Montreal into the cluster
of tall stately buildings of the Universite Montreal, it is hard to put it
alongside the view out of the window of my room in Kabul, where I was less than
ten days ago. These two worlds seem to have almost nothing in common, and yet
people live in both worlds, people with roughly the same emotions, the same
aspirations, the same dreams...Perhaps, but the memories of what they have
seen,heard and endured are different, grossly different, maybe that is what
makes the difference, all the difference...

If Montreal is a city of immigrants from all over the world, people who have
come here from all corners of the globe seeking better opportunity, hoping to
realise their dreams, Kabul today is a city still half-paralysed by the shock of
what it has suffered in recent years. And if it is hope that has made people
flock to Montreal and to make it their home, it is total hopelessness and
despair that has forced so many to leave Kabul and their own homeland over the

And if the quality of life, the culture and the sophistication of a
city like Montreal can be thought of as representative of what peace-loving
people can achieve in a stable world through self-initiative, hard work
and expression of their own free-will, the city of Kabul bears ample testimony
to the extents to which other societies can, at the same time, cause themselves
to self-destruct, to squander away everything they have, for a thought, an idea
(which rapidly becomes an ideology) which may make very little sense
to everyone else, but which is enough to sway people to murder, to treason and
even to total annihilation.

Put these two worlds next to each other, and you will see once again the
old rule in operation whereby societies and civilisations have existed in
different parts of our planet at the same time but have been completely
out-of-sync with each other: while one has it all and is going higher still,
the other is going down down down and the bottom is still not in sight yet.
And look elsewhere and you will find societies at all the intermediate levels

It is hard to accept that these worlds can coexist simultaneously. It is even
harder to fathom why and how. It seemed as if I was living in some crazy
inverted time-space-machine, which was playing some cruel trick on me and
my senses. I could not help juxtaposing pictures from these two worlds
and then trying to understand one while keeping the other in context: the sights
and sounds of a lovely maple-tree-lined picturesque wide avenue in Montreal
against a dusty crumbly crowded street in Kabul; a modern smart female
student from the Montreal Universite against a covered-from-head-to-foot,
faceless and unrecognisable one going to Kabul University; an invitation to
dinner at a Montreal home and to one in Kabul; going apple picking in
the lovely orchards outside Montreal and in the incredibly beautiful Panjhir valley in Afghanistan ... it was driving me crazy... nothing made sense any more... it
was as if the same words meant completely different things in these two worlds.

And if I was not dizzy enough, I tried to figure out what these words meant in
my world back home in Assam. Immigrants, war, terrorism, bomb-blasts,...
all these words existed in my world too. Our situation is certainly not as bad
as in Kabul, we still have a chance, at least a better chance than them. And yet
we do not seem to want to take it. Do we not see, can we not read and pay heed
the writing on the wall? Do we have to go all the way down before we learn our
lessons? And if murdering all those innocent children in Dhemaji on
Independence day was not bad enough, even on Gandhi Jayanti last Saturday,
some of our people, probably of the same sort that exist in Montreal and in
Kabul, were trying to kill each other, planting bombs at railway stations,
blowing up markets and homes,... And yet we
have the cheek to call ourselves a civilised and civil people who will only
'do unto others what we would wish them to do unto us'... all this does not
make sense anymore... something has gone very badly wrong somewhere...Is it
enough to just watch and wait and hope that this was the last time...?

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