Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From ‘Have Pen, Will Travel. Observations of a Globetrotter’ by M J Akbar

When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible in their hands and we had the lands … We closed our eyes to pray and when we opened them, we had the Bible in our hands and they had the lands …

- Jomo Kenyatta, first President of independent Kenya

…. Portugese language ….The word for mother is mae and comes from the Indian mai. We have given jungle to English as well, in Portugal it has become janela. Cha for tea is not very surprising, but they use fita for laces, sono for sleep (our sona), nav for boat, almira for, well, almirah which derives from almari and mesa for table – from our very own mez. Pao is pao; no explanations required, surely, for that. Even a verb like dena has become da / dou, while the human feet are perna, a variation of payr ……… reina from rani for queen, padre from padre and chama from shama or flame ………the most poignant word that has travelled so many thousands of miles is duvida, the Portugese word for our Hindi duvidha.

Florence …… Any city that can claim Giotto the architect, Donatello the sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini the jeweler, Dante (‘I am the father of the Italian language’) and Petrarch the poets, Boccaccio the storyteller, Amerigo Vespucci …… the discoverer, Galileo the scientist, and Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo the artists as its children, must have superlative genes.

Anyone who has read Dante on the Prophet of Islam and on Islamic icons like Hazrat Ali will know that Salman Rushdie has been banned for much less. Dante is vicious.

What is common between Italy and India? ……… Both Italian and Indian men are in love with, and in awe of, their mothers. And both drive cars in the heart of the city with the imperious impatience of maniacs.

…….. Arabs ruled Sicily till the eleventh century.

Scotland is a picture postcard dampened by rain.

America smells of food and stinks of indigestion ……. One half of the great American economy sells food and the other half sells medicines for the after-effects

America …. Ethnic analysis of professional malpractice …….. Each year a list of doctors who have been held guilty of deceit towards their patients is published. The highest incidence of substance abuse (prescribing coke instead of aspirin) is found among white American doctors. The highest incidence of sexual abuse is found among Egyptian doctors. And the highest incidence of medical insurance fraud is found among Indian doctors. If anyone has a better story about stereotypes, do please write in.

An American researcher Allen Konopaki, of Incomm Research, has produced these statistics for America: children smile 300 times a day, adults 21 times and teenagers 30 times. In Hawaii the order is reversed.

…….the belly dancer has more eroticism in her hint than a nude disco dancer might have in her sweaty obvious.

There is no pain in life so cruel as to be blind in Granada, says an inscription on the walls of Alhambra.

Ek hi saf mein khare ho gaye Mahmud-o-Ayaz

Na koi banda raha, na koi banda Nawaz

- Iqbal

More interesting is the conscious effort by Spain to reintegrate without making a song and dance about it, the Arab linguistic heritage. This is most obvious on the signboards that line the highway along the coast …….. many of the names are written in both Spanish and Arabic, the latter using the original phonetics. And this in a country which, not too long ago, either destroyed or converted every mosque into a church. It is a mature nation that can retrieve civilization from a difficult past, restore some threads on the tapestry of history. This new creativity has emerged from the spirit of integration in Europe, which has made it a more beautiful continent.

The mind of the superior man dwells on righteousness, the mind of a little man dwells on profit

- Confucius

There is nothing artificial about the welcome in the Balinese smile, which begins in the eyes and spreads gently across the face.

…….Indian sects like the Krishna Bhakts and the Brahma Kumaris who come here and advocate a more Spartan form of Hinduism. It would be a tragedy if the Balinese began to conform. The world comes to Bali precisely because Bali refuses to go to the world.

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