On the way to a conference last week, I was faced with a more or less challenging situation: an intense dialogue among a few colleagues about the significance of different cultures in world history and development. This is a complex topic and it’s hard to make simple conclusions on the matter. I want to write about this experience though, not because I am after advertising or defending a particular nation or want to offend others. This is simply my way of alleviating pain after hearing highly ignorant and uneducated remarks by supposedly educated individuals in the United States.
I was faced with the question of “who contributed the most to our history” or “whose work we should look for when studying the history of art, philosophy, poetry, architecture, literature, and so on.”
I have often noticed that Europe stands out in the American version of history in many different fields. For example, I happened to take introductory courses to political philosophy and architecture history at Cornell University as an undergraduate student. I can confidently say that the majority of topics covered were related to Rome and Greece and some times Great Britain. I, like many other students, left our class thinking that these concepts were first introduced by these nations only and others were mostly followers. Plato’s Republic was introduced to us as a book that marked the beginning of philosophy and political dialogue and such ideas seemed to begin in a society where thinking and logic were encouraged for the first time. Democracy was shown to be the most mesmerizing concept in a world of chaos. We were introduced to every famous architectural piece in Europe and briefly reviewed a few others (i.e. Ancient Egypt, Japan, and India) in the last couple weeks of the class. Even specialized courses tend to be biased and negative towards eastern nations, following the language used in ancient Greek historical records.
I was faced with the same dilemma in the car last week.
Cyrus’ Cylinder: Considered as History’s First Declaration of Human Rights
in Ancient Times is today displayed at the British Museum.
©British Museum, London
Filed under Africa, America, art, culture, development, India, Iran, lessons, literature, poetry, popular culture, sociology, traditions, War
I was speechless when I read the news. I only hope this baby’s parents will allow doctors to check her internal organs and make sure surgery is not needed for her health. It is interesting how different communities look at an event/outcome from different angles based on old beliefs/traditions and that an extremely negative situation in one society may be viewed as a blessing in another society.
12:24 PM CDT, April 8, 2008
SAINI SUNPURA, India – A baby with two faces was born in a northern Indian village, where she is doing well and is being worshipped as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess, her father said Tuesday.The baby, Lali, apparently has an extremely rare condition known as craniofacial duplication, where a single head has two faces. All of Lali’s facial features are duplicated except for her ears–she has two. Otherwise, she has two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes.
“My daughter is fine–like any other child,” said Vinod Singh, 23, a poor farm worker.
Lali has caused a sensation in the dusty village of Saini Sunpura, 25 miles east of New Delhi. When she left the hospital, eight hours after a normal delivery on March 11, she was swarmed by villagers, said Sabir Ali, the director of Saifi Hospital.
Last week, on Sunday morning while the streets of New York City showed small signs of spring but cold winter winds could still freeze my bones early in the morning, we got on the bus to go to Manhattan for a special event. The Iranian community in New York (and many other parts of the world) had organized a parade in the city for celebrating the Persian New Year, Norooz of 1387. I was a part of one of the dance groups representing a nomadic tribe in Iran, the Qashgai’s. We got ready on the bus and by the time we got to our destination, the sun began to shine to some how help us through. The wind in Manhattan gets blinding sometimes, especially when you are used to the California weather. When our bus approached the location of the Parade, we saw little kids with the Iranian flag painted on their cheeks, young people holding the Iranian and American flags together, yelling “Norooz Mobarak” meaning Happy New Year. When they saw us, the color of our costumes made their smiles wider and voices louder, they waved at us showing their excitement and support. A huge crowd of Iranians and non-Iranians were gathered on the two sides of the street, holding multi-national flags, cheering us on. When we started dancing, I was cold in the beginning and my eyes were watery due to the wind. After a few seconds, I forgot all about myself and immediately melted with the energy of the crowd and what was going on around me. It was like a slow motion experience, when I was watching the crowd from above. I looked around me to see my friends dancing with me or the people yelling “dametoon garm, thank you, beautiful” and saw many different faces. In our group of Qashqai dancers, there was only one Iranian and one half-Iranian, the rest were from all over the world. There I was among a group of dancers from the U.S., Italy, Japan, Mexico, Israel, Tajikistan, and Iran, dressed in traditional Qashgai costumes, dancing like the nomadic women of the mountains in Iran. I bet the Qashgai women have no idea that such an international group was trying to be like them in the streets of Manhattan on the other side of the planet. Next time I go to Iran, if I go to the mountains and stay with the Qashgai’s for a few days, would they believe me when I tell them about my experience in America? How would they feel about it?
We are living in a magical age, experiencing so much unity and having access to much information is bringing us closer to each other. Despite the current direction of the governments that try to advocate separation while demonizing others, we are moving toward unity at a fast pace, in my opinion. I felt this when I was in the middle of the Parade dancing and I feel it today as I see people with many nationalities here in the streets of Berkeley, protesting against the Chinese invasion of Tibet. I felt it when an Indian taxi driver in New York asked me what this event was about and when I told him it’s for the Persian New Year, he said: “oh yes, Happy Norooz to you and to all Iranians.” Becoming global does not mean to forget about our backgrounds, cultures, costumes, histories, and traditions. In my opinion, unity and globalization is about being aware of what a girl my age is going through in Baghdad, what a mother needs to do to survive in Darfur, how a young boy struggles to earn money for his family and study at the same time in southern Tehran, what games children play and what they learn in school in Kabul, how many people spend their youth in prisons in China, and how Qashgai women dance in the mountains of Iran. We don’t need to travel to all these places to know how; we only need to care and once we sit behind the magical screen and type the name, hundreds of links show up to take us to the places we like. We only need to care and it is my responsibility to get to know you on a deeper level and go beyond our surficial differences, so that we can together prevent hatred and war in the future and among our children and grand children.
Filed under Africa, America, Communication, culture, India, Iran, lessons, life, traditions, War, youth, youth voices
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but is it true even after 35 years?
Yesterday there was an article on BBC about a man named Kashmir Singh who was released from a Pakistani jail after 35 years and reunited with his wife and children in India. It was a Human Rights Minister in Pakistan named Ansar Burney, who worked for his pardon after Mr. Singh was convicted of espionage in 1973 and was lost in the red tape of the prison system. But no, this is not a political story. It’s a love story. His wife, Paramjit Kaur, struggled alone to raise their three children as a single parent. Below is an excerpt from the article:
“Referring to his spouse using the honorific, ‘begum’, Mr Singh said that when he last saw her she was a pretty young woman. ‘She is still beautiful but has grown old now,’ he laughed admitting that he remembered very little about his three children. He said it was his memory of his wife that kept his hopes alive through the 35 years of solitary confinement. ”
True love & respect doesn’t need roses and diamond rings; this is as good as it gets.
Mrs. Kaur waiting to see her husband after 35 years.
Shideh & Manata, I really enjoyed reading your posts. When I think of the places I call “home”, it is defined by the people who are there. In the past 3 years I have lived in 3 different cities. And each time I have left one place, the new place never feels like home even when all my “stuff” is there. There is a cliche that says “home is where the heart is”. I find it very true. I speak of my “homeland” as Pakistan, though I have never lived there for longer than a few weeks. My “home” is still in the small town where I grew up, although I haven’t lived there in 7 years. I feel at “home” when I am with my family & the dear friends I call my ‘family’. For me, it is not the boundaries of our houses or the soil of a nation that make me love a place or make it a home. It is my experiences, the people and my association with that place.
Last summer I went to Calcutta, India as a chaperone for high school students who were traveling to do hospice work with the poor. Calcutta is where my father was born and where my great-grandfather opened the first optics shop that turned into the family business spanning three generations and four countries. Continue reading
The following series of videos are the documentary “Born into Brothels”, winner of the 77th Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It’s a visually amazing and heartfelt documentary about a series of young people living in the red light district in Calcutta and a photographer who introduces them to the restorative power of photography.
(Born into Brothels 1 0f 8 )