Remembering Charlie Andrews (CFA)

 

12th February is the feast of Charlie Andrews, the Christian missionary and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. Viewed by some scholars as the alter-ego of the Mahatma, C F Andrews went on to do things in Fiji and Caribbean which Gandhi himself could not do physically. In Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” there is a scene in which when CF Andrews comes to bid goodbye, Gandhi says-..(paraphrased) –Between us there are no goodbyes. You will always be with me in my heart.

 

He was an educator and participant in the campaign for Indian independence, and became a close friend and associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He was instrumental in convincing Gandhi to return to India from South Africa, where Gandhi had been a leading light in its Indian civil rights struggle. C. F. Andrews was affectionately dubbed Christ’s Faithful Apostle by Gandhi, based on his initials [C.F.A.] For Andrews’s contributions to the Indian Independence Movement Gandhi and his students at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi named him Deenabandhu, or “Friend of the Poor”.(Wikipedia)

 

This week we spent some time as Diaspora living in North Africa recalling the formative experiences of Gandhi as a leader of Diaspora in South Africa. Before Gandhi was famously thrown out of the first class compartment in Pietermaritzburg he had argued with the ticket collector that he was the only coloured lawyer in South Africa. Many of Gandhi’s formative experiences as a fighter for Civil Rights for Indian Diaspora in South Africa can well be seen as a dress rehearsal for the struggles he made in India. The Transvaal March was a prelude to the Dandi March.

 

SIMON OF CYRENE

 

Cyrene-Modern Day Shahat in Eastern Libya

Cyrene-Modern Day Shahat in Eastern Libya

I remember the priest at the Anglican church of Medina-Father Vasihar once tell us that a man who was from present day Libya was told to help carry the cross when Jesus was being crucified. This is told in Mark Chapter 15, verse 21. Cyrene is the North African Greek time city which is present day Eastern Libya, and is known as Shahat. The Green mountains stretch into the blue Mediterranean and an afternoon walk through the Greek city ruins makes for many stories to come alive. The Indian school in Tripoli has some students who wrote an essay on their impressions on Gandhi, how the diasporic working people are connected to the Atlantic, which has workers (slaves and indentured workers) on the lands bordering the Atlantic. Gandhi returned from South Africa to India, but his message has been followed by other people who have organized for civil rights in the Atlantic region-most famously influencing Martin Luther King (MLK).

 

TAKEAWAYS

 

Through these discussions on the experiences of Diaspora and famous civil rights organizers like Gandhiji and their influence by Christian missionaries like Charlie Andrews (CFA) we see things in a historical and social framework. This is part of a project of “Tripoli Reading Group” to engage our present day contexts.

 

Other blogs of interest

-Father Mintoff of Hal-Far , Malta , a Franciscian Order Monk and organizer for immigrants and refugees is inspired by the teachings

of Gandhi

 

 

http://prashantbhatt.com/2012/03/02/conversations-on-identity/

Father Mintoff at The Peace Lab-Hal Fur, Malta

Father Mintoff at The Peace Lab-Hal Fur, Malta


OF LETTERS AND PRAYERS

If we do not want the English in India we must pay the price. Tolstoy indicates it.
‘Do not resist evil, but also do not yourselves participate in evil–in the violent deeds of the administration of the law courts, the collection of taxes and, what is more important, of the soldiers, and no one in the world will enslave you’, passionately declares the sage of Yasnaya Polyana.
[19th November, 1909] M. K. GANDHI

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/10/04/on-gandhi-jayanti/

February 13, 2014 at 1:34 pm Leave a comment

Can an Airlines company do its own catering?

The message is in the person, not the words.

Daniel Kehoe-Professor of Communications

Nature's best communicators

Flowers-Nature’s best communicators

Can an Airlines company do its own catering?

I asked this question to my friend who was trying to impress with his different contacts and abilities.

As one could not tell him directly that this is leading us nowhere concrete,(weeks of running around have nothing real to show, except for papers and papers) I asked him this Business model question.

THE AIRLINES COMPANY

When I first came to Libya, I was very impressed by a person who was also owning an airlines company. Over several years and many interactions later, I am not as impressed.

This is a local airlines company which has some Soviet time air planes from former Communist regime countries. The Fall of the Berlin wall brought these to countries who are now undergoing the Arab spring.

The many layers of our interactions I will leave for another time and place, but suffice it to say, these interactions taught me something.

CATERING

Returning to the original question-Can an Airlines company do its own catering.

On the face of it, the logistics involved in catering will not be as complex as running an airlines.

When this question was put up as a Business group discussion, the answer from young business-graduates was that it is not feasible to try and mix in business which will have its own specifics and challenges.

We are barely able to survive in our own sector-(airlines) and should concentrate on developing our own product.

The answer was- Even if they can do catering, they should not.

Concentrate on your own field.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

What product do you develop or market?

Came my next “frustrating” question to this friend of mine, to whom I could not directly tell that we are not getting anywhere.

For a medical professional, the hours wasted can be depressing and irritating. But since we require such persons to go through the local bureaucracies-immigration and financial-one has to keep talking to them.

GENERAL TRADING

We put this case study forward in our Department discussion on Product development. As we concentrated on Body imaging, I asked a colleague what was the approach of this businessman.

General Trading – came the answer.

They do not have any specific expertise and are basically agencies to trade goods. We cannot engage in these types of activities due to lack of adequate finances, authorizations and inability/insecurity of whether we will be able to retrieve our payments.

My colleague-an expatriate worker-smiled knowingly

NEXT MEETING

I will repeat the question- Can an Airlines company do its own catering?

The answers will reveal the approach and how much we can develop work
further.

OTHER BLOGS OF INTEREST

Cascade effect in organizations

http://prashantbhatt.com/2012/04/25/cascade-effect-in-organizations/

First Line Managers- Pygmalion Effect.

http://prashantbhatt.com/2012/04/23/first-line-managers-pygmalion-effect/

February 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm 1 comment

The past …On our Republic day-Part 2

                         The past is never the past-
                                                      William Faulkner

 

Image

 

As I remembered the many journeys-conversations of my father to my son, the truth of Faulkner’s assertion became clearer.

 

Around our Republic day-(India) I re-sent to my sons living in Canada a letter from a series I had written remembering my father-a doctor in the Indian army. Remembering that first post-Independence generation to a generation who is now part of Indian Diaspora was my way of trying to map journeys of a nation and its people. Rather than speeches, let us see how professionals lived, how families experienced the garden-tombs of Delhi.

 

Going by the writing cues of Christine Royse Niles-Jeff Goins- (write your Eulogy and write something which you know about) this blog tries to combine both

1.Eulogy- I would be remembered as a writer of details-medical Radiology and the many journeys I have mapped in

                my diaries-journals 

 

2.Write something you know of—- I know something about medicine, education and walks..

Some shadows in the garden tombs around Delhi are those of my family

who have walked these for four generations..

Some squirrels with whom we have shared peanuts.

 

REMEMBERING MY FATHER…AROUND MEDICAL STUDIES AND GARDEN TOMBS OF DELHI

 

Admission in medical college also introduced me to the garden-monuments of Delhi, the love of which has lasted over the decades. In the initial days of higher studies, the brilliant school students are in for a shock, as most of them are toppers in their school. Higher medical studies are very intense and getting to know the basics of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry of the human body and memorizing it is not easy. In the initial year, I continued staying in Pratap Chowk Delhi cantonment and my father helped me get into the nuances of medicine.

He had a book of anatomy by Grant, which had good illustrations. This book was the one he had studied in his own MBBS days. He also got me a Grey’s anatomy full volume.

 

“This is the Grey’s anatomy which I had always wanted to buy but did not have the money to buy” he told me gifting me the classic anatomy text and also revealing an intimate family detail. Later on through relatives I came to know that at one phase of his medical studies in AIIMS he had to borrow money from some relatives.
Over the years many such remarks revealed many aspirations of my father.

 

He saw me read Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine and said, ” This is the Harrison which I wanted to read more thoroughly but did not,” thus revealing the need to go deeper into the basics of a foundational text of Medicine.

 

“What are the signs of Hyperthyroidism” he would try to jog my memory regarding the link between basic physiology and manifestations of disease.

 

“What are the steps of surgery of Inguinal hernia,” he would take me through the nuances of Applied anatomy .

 

Being an anesthetist-like my father- is an interesting job as one has to know the basics of Anatomy, apply it to your work in Applied Anatomy and also physiology, internal medicine and many other subjects which form the intricate and beautiful maze of medicine.
Apart from knowledge , and how to approach higher studies, he instilled the ethos of practicing medicine,

“For you this may be one in a hundred patients, but for the patient it is 100%. Always give your 100% to each and every case you study.” That lesson which he taught and instilled in me, has remained etched in my memory and I have tried to live by that credo.
In my second term in medical college, my parents shifted to Pune, where my father was posted as Senior Advisor. That was the time when I first stayed in hostel. That was 194 Old Boy’s Hostel of MAMC. The room was facing the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg of Delhi, and the garden monuments of Firoz Shah Kotla was nearby and we spent many lovely hours of morning calm there. In lunch time we would feed squirrels. The Ambedkar stadium which hosts football tournaments was close by. I saw many interesting football matches. The Daryaganj Sunday street book sale was another attraction and I got introduced to works of Tolstoy there, and would read them in the lawns of Kotla or India Gate or Raj Ghat.

This was the first time I was living away from the family home. However, in visiting these streets and parks, cultural and civilizational hues of Delhi, I was in a way returning to the same paths which my grandfather (BSB) and father (PNB) had walked and experienced in their own younger days. We are one with the soul of Delhi when we hear the Imam of a mosque call for prayers at Hauz Khas , or sit on the lawns of Qutub Minar, or pray in the Laxmi Narayan Mandir of Mandir Marg, Delhi. Generations of our family have lived, worked, studied, prayed, played, walked in these streets,gardens of Delhi. Delhi is one of the greatest cities of the human civilization, having been capital of India for thousands of years. The legendary Indraprastha of thousands of years ago, to the Mughal rulers like Shah Jahan, to modern times of India’s independence, one can feel many currents in Delhi.

 

My father had probably prepared me to seek and imbibe these cultural aspects of medicine, Delhi, and life in many conscious and subconscious ways through his examples and words.

 

* * *

                    The past is never the past-
                                                            William Faulkner

 

 

As I remembered the many journeys-conversations of my father to my sons, the truth of Faulkner’s assertion became clearer.

January 29, 2014 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

Grace..Reflections on our Republic Day-Part 1

18-NGMA

National Gallery of Modern Art-Jaipur House, Delhi

“There were worse husbands”

Grace, James Joyce

* * *

Around the time of our Republic day (India) we spent some time reviewing works discussed in our Reading Group.

Our walking-reading book club spends many lovely hours in Abositta Ferasiya. The memoirs of the former Bishop of Scotland- Richard Holloway “Leaving Alexandria” tells his journey and how he became a bishop whom he would have hated when he was twenty years younger.

” There has been a terrible beating up of some Indian camp workers.
What do you make of it?”

We will discuss when we meet, I replied.

GRACE

“There were worse husbands”
Grace, James Joyce

The story of the drunken fall of Tom Kernan in a bar, his rescue by his friend Mr.Power, bringing Kernan back to his wife- an active practical women of middle age and the subsequent planned retreat in Grace by James Joyce formed the back drop of our discussions this Republic Day.

In previous years, we have discussed around our Republic Day –the Prophet and the Proletariat and the attitude towards women in Islamic society, and Ronald Barthes famous essay on Chaplin Man. Chaplin man is fascinating due to the possibilities he represents. He is still out of the consciousness of the Revolution. Still tied down to bread-winning rather than being a conscious party worker.

Around our Independence day-2013 we went through some major works of fiction which have helped shape Indian identity over the past 65 years-through Partition, Corrupt layers, Emergency, Diaspora experiences.
(the links of these blogs are posted below for interested readers)

Why Grace?

“Have a friend with whom you can discuss things,” one veteran, an Anatomy teacher had given this sage advice many years ago. “Life can be very lonely in a foreign country,” he said, gifting me a book from his collection.
Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Steps of God” made me take a journey into knowing the different phases of intelligence. We will discuss the concept of “Devata” as told in Hindu civilization in coming blogs.

The story “Grace” by Joyce starts with a drunken fall. Three friends plan to salvage the life of their friend through a religious retreat. The Protestant origins of Kernan, the Catholic retreat, make an interesting discourse. Where is the Grace in this story? It is definitely not in the drunken fall. Nor is it in the domestic quarrels alluded to by Joyce. Was it in the way the priest was trying to market his sect of belief? Or was it in the sharing of friends.

Kernan, he said, we worship at different altars, he said, but our belief is the same.
Joyce, James

On reading the story one finds the grace in the camaraderie of friends.
Grace catches nuances of urban life. These are relevant in any modern city. Life looked back through the lens of experience. The different shades of faith and practice.

CORINTHIA

As we had arrived a bit early, we sat on the corner facing the Mediterranean and revised Joyce’s story “Grace”. Mr.Suresh, an old-timer at the embassy, originally from Najafgarh area of Outer Delhi was guiding the guests to the hall. He speaks Hindi in an accent which reminds one of route 578 from Safdarjung to Najafgarh, an intimate memory.

The Chaplin-Man, still outside the revolution, tied down in the daily struggles of bread-winning got beaten up in the camp on the outskirts of Tripoli. The positive aspect was that there was some type of security force available after around two hours. They surrounded the camp and brought an end to the incident.

For those interested-also see blog-Notes from an Indian Camp-

The story of the once-Protestant Kernan and his jibes at Catholicism and the comment- We all worship at different altars ..but our belief is the same reminded one of the many debates between socialists of different hues back home in India.
Mumbai, the home to the oldest working class in India, has socialists of many callings and there is a tendency of each group to try and present themselves as the true bearers.

A democrat from UK wished us Happy National day and started talking about “New Libya”.

We heard him out. The code was Silence. However, one of us could not resist asking him his opinion about the recent statements of the Grand Mufti.

……………………….

It was an interesting evening. ..I became the Bishop I would have hated 20 years ago…The words of Richard Holloway came back to us in many ways.
Say Grace…

Other related blogs

On our Republic Day

2012

http://prashantbhatt.com/2012/01/27/reflections-on-our-republic-day/

2013

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/01/28/reflections-on-our-republic-day-2/

On our Independence Day-2013
ORIENTALISM -PARTITION NOVELS

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/08/11/on-our-independence-day-part-1/

CORRUPT LAYERS-EMERGENCY

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/08/13/on-our-independence-day-part-2/

DIASPORA AND ASSIMILATION

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/08/16/diaspora-and-dis-assimilation/

WHY READ FANON

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/08/23/why-read-fanon/

Around May Day
MUTUAL IMPROVEMENT SOCIETIES

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/04/30/mutual-improvement-societies/

INTERRUPTED CHRONICLES

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/05/03/interrupted-chronicles/

LANGUAGES AND VOICES

http://prashantbhatt.com/2013/05/07/languages-and-voices/

HOW I REACHED HERE-MUSINGS IN A LIBYAN CAMP

http://prashantbhatt.com/2011/09/18/how-i-reached-here-musings-in-a-libyan-camp/

January 28, 2014 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Is her life over-Scenario 2

 

 

 …she had to see things through his eyes

One of the tragedies of married life

                                      Mrs.Dalloway-Virginia Woolf

 

 

Write in the voice of your favorite writer.

 

Jeff Goins cue made me think of the many possibilities.

I settled to try and write in the voice of “Mrs. Dalloway”.

In the first scenario of a 52 year old Mrs.Dalloway in Tripoli we tried to see the life of a now bored wife of a rich businessman whose many personal and professional affairs she tolerates, for the sake of her social position and mask and her children.

 

In the second scenario  an imaginary 52 year old expatriate worker, who has done some things in her personal life, and now is living Ibsen’s reality- The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.

 

* * *

 

Laughing and delightful, she had met Carlos in the church.

They became friends and one of the old timers told me that he was not her first or even legal husband.  As we walked up the stairs of the office to the pension department he told that these were the papers of her first and legal husband from whom she had no children.

“He was a thorough gentleman, though weak in some ways which Carlos satisfied her,” Sam revealed an aspect which was not known to many who had always seen Carlos and Mariam happy married.

 

“In our society, this type of relation is not possible.” Sam told of how these things were made possible by visa manipulations. “She used to get him beaten up by Carlos, and eventually sent him back home and did not send the visa, putting an end to this relation.”

 

A MRS.DALLOWAY -IN TRIPOLI

 

Is her life over?

 

She cannot call back her first legal husband whom she has not seen for almost twenty years. She cannot leave Carlos from whom she has a mentally retarded blind daughter. She pays for the housing and tickets of the first “legal” family of Carlos whom he has called from Pakistan to try their hands in post-revolutionary Libya.

 

          “These are things I cannot tell anyone,” she confided in Sam as they met over coffee. He kept silent as he knew her first husband well, a regular church-goer, who had first introduced Carlos to her. Now he is back in Mumbai in India and rebuilt his life.

 

When upset, he would go for long walks by the beach, feeding cows and crows.

 

Initially he did write to her, trying to find out why there was a delay in the visa. Then he had written to Sam who never replied as he could not tell the truth and did not want to give

misleading answers.

 

 Image

 

 

 

          “Do not tell Carlos about my salary hike,” Mariam told Sam.

 

 “Now his family has come and are staying in the house. I have to swallow because of my daughter.” They drank tea in the gentle sea-breeze coming from the Mediterranean, on a quiet Friday afternoon in the surgery ward.

Her great toe had been amputated last week.

Complications of chronic diabetes , they wrote in the case sheet.

However, Sam knew that this was related to the family which came from Pakistan last week.

 

On returning to his home in the evening, Sam reflected on the many stories which the cows back home must have been witness to, in the beaches of Western India.

 

 

* * *

TWO MASTER PLOTS

          Again in this scenario-we use a blend of the two master-plots

1. Hero goes on  a journey

2. Stranger comes to town

          Both these are used in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs.Dalloway” and can be an effective tool to go into the minds of the protagonists, their social settings.

 

500 WORDS

 

Part of the 500 words a day challenge by writer blogger-Jeff Goins.         

http://goinswriter.com/my500words/

For a regular diarist the interesting thing will be being selective

January 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

Is her life over?-Scenario 1

Image

 

No decent man ought to let his wife visit a deceased wife’s sister. Incredible!
                                             

                                             Mrs.Dalloway-Virginia Woolf

Write in the voice of your favorite writer.

Jeff Goins cue made me think of the many possibilities, from Ruskin Bond-India’s Wordsworth in Prose, to James Joyce-the intimacies of Leopold Bloom, or Amitav Ghosh-the voice of the sea-farers.

I settled to try and write in the voice of “Mrs. Dalloway”.

Only I imagined her to be a Tripoli lady, 52 years of age, having studied in a University in Malta in her younger years, and now the bored wife of a rich businessman whose many personal and professional affairs she tolerates, for the sake of her social position and mask and her children.

* * *

Laughing and delightful, she had crossed Shara Omar Mokhtar when he caught her eye.

Later she texted him not to recognize or approach her in public.

“In our society, this type of relation is not possible.”

She liked him and the many opportunities such a relationship would bring to her.

“I know why Sulaiman helped Hemal to get the farmhouse in Tajoura last summer,” Reem thought to herself.

Her silence did not mean that she did not know.

“Will you come to Sabratha with me this spring” Khaled had asked her as they walked through the garden of their office complex.

” No! That is not possible for me, till my children grow up.”

Reem walked past the stationery shop on Shara Omar Mokhtar.

This was where she used to once buy crayons for her daughter, when she had entered nursery. Next year she would be graduating from architecture school. She had to hurry with the fresh onions and potatoes, or she would be late in preparing the salad. Sulaiman’s friends from Germany liked the way she prepared salad, something she had picked up from their years as students in Frankfurt. The salad , the hopes which life had held out to her. Now she lived from semester to semester of her children. Next year, her daughter would graduate. But she still had three other school going children to care for. No time to walk in Sabratha, especially with foreigners who are buccaneers of sorts.

A MRS.DALLOWAY -IN TRIPOLI

Jeff Goins challenge to try and write in the style of one of your favorite writers made me set an imaginary Clarissa Dalloway in 21st century Tripoli .

Mrs Dalloway was first published in 1925 and concerns a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway in post-World War I England. It is one of Woolf’s best-known novels. Created from two short stories, “Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street” and the unfinished “The Prime Minister”, the novel’s story is of Clarissa’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess.
With the interior perspective of the novel, the story travels forwards and back in time and in and out of the characters’ minds to construct an image of Clarissa’s life and of the inter-war social structure.

For those unfamiliar with the work, Clarissa meets her one time lover Peter Walsh after 30 years, at 11 am on the day she is preparing for a party. Her husband Mr.Richard Dalloway is lunching with a Lady, who has not invited her with her husband. Meeting Peter, just back from India, makes her think of the many possibilities which life would have had if she had married him.

If such a character would exist in Tripoli of 21st century, she would probably meet a Peter Walsh much later in life. The social structures would have made her marry young to a wealthy businessman who treated her like an instrument he owned. Only much later in life, meeting an expatriate worker from another society did she find a model to compare her situation with. However, she keeps silent about her longings and also the many indiscretions of her husband for the sake of her children.

Is her life over?

A 52 year old “Clarissa” in Tripoli’s post-revolutionary society would still find many social structures still the same as in the times of the previous regime. The collapse of the state machinery makes the less well-to-do and compromised sections of society-students, dependent children and wives even more vulnerable, as the rich and powerful have no checks and balances which were available earlier.

She would probably use her daughter who is studying in final year of architecture college as her alter-ego and encourage her to liaison with a foreigner. Her husband would resist such an attempt and would want to marry off his daughter in known family circles.

A SCHOOL CHARACTER-MASTER PLOTS.

The writer Stephen King in his book-On Writing- tells how he modeled some characters on the basis of school girls he knew. He also tells of trying to write 1000 words a day, the importance of the first draft and the re-writing and editing processes. These are similar to what Jeff Goins has said. However, his public challenge of 500 words a day has been a creative way to get us out of our shells.

The two major Master Plots presented in “Mrs.Dalloway” are

1.Hero goes on a journey

2. Stranger comes to town.

Both themes can be seen in the journey of Peter Walsh, he has been on a journey to India and through many relations, and he comes home to Clarissa Dalloway after thirty years of their first love. The question of how life would have turned out if they had married each other comes forward and both characters answer it in their own ways. The rich inner dialogue , stream of consciousness techniques are seen. Both characters are from the same country and Christian background.

In 21st century, with increased mobility, there is more chance of people of different backgrounds, countries, civilizations meeting each other. This can make the richness and complexity even more interesting and building on the two major master plot themes can be a great journey of discovery.

A DOUBLE-WITTED TRIPOLI “MRS.DALLOWAY”

Reem said a polite hello to Huda, the sister of her husband Sulaiman ‘s first wife. There was no avoiding her as they were in the stationery shop in the morning, there were no other customers and Reem could not pretend she had not noticed Huda. Reem had thought she will prepare for the party, and make a quick round of Shara Omar Mokhtar to do some shopping. Huda reminded her of the will her husband Sulaiman had made last summer. Most of his assets would go to the children from his first marriage.

“What about my children,” she had asked Sulaiman after a lot of internal debate of whether to bring up this topic or not.

“I have spent a good quarter century with you, taken care of so many things. Where were the children from your first marriage when you were sick in hospital two years ago,” she had screeched, unable to control herself.

Sulaiman would not discuss this topic with her. Reem had not wanted to think about this but the chance meeting with Huda in the stationery shop had set about a chain of disturbing thoughts.

Reem had to try and see things through her husband Sulaiman’s eyes-one of the tragedies of married life.

Over the past three years, he had become more and more secretive, involved in the affairs of the changes going on after the change in power.

“The rules and regulations, the officials are still the same. But there is a difference. But you will not understand these things,” Sulaiman had brushed her aside when she tried to know the inner dealings going on.

She reached for her cell and texted her friend who she liked but could not meet or recognize openly.

” Maybe you can come to the party I am hosting tonight.”

 

500 words a day
500words_wide-e1388529158371
Part of the 500 words a day challenge by writer blogger-Jeff Goins.

http://goinswriter.com/my500words/

For a regular diarist the interesting thing will be being selective

January 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm 1 comment

Waiting at Adana 1994

Dissecting layers ..Art in a Migrant Night

Dissecting layers ..Art in a Migrant Night

 

 

Jeff Goins suggestion about waiting made me thumb through some diaries of yesteryears.

In her book-Reading like a Writer-Francine Prose tells of one of lessons she learnt from the great short story writer Anton Chekhov.
“I began to think, nothing was wasted, that some day, I would do something with what was happening to me. To use the New Rochelle Bus station in my work.”

The truth of how things are not wasted, but add perspective with the benefit of hindsight, comes through.

THE ENGLISH TEACHERS -SYMBOLS

The reading group which evolved in the coffee tables of Grand Hotel –Tripoli (now closed) was many years in the making. The college English teachers taught us to think with many hats, how to see a work from the Marxist or Psychoanalytic approach, or take a feminist or post-colonial angle, trying to think of what a particular work has to tell about race, gender, nationality or ethnicity. All these approaches can be useful, but some teachers like to have a formalist approach. When you take a formalist approach you tend to take less of the broad themes of love, death, identity, justice and more on form or technique. A formalist may ask- why is this story told in first person, why are the events of the story not told in chronological order, or how was this character introduced.
The first English teacher I befriended in Tripoli was Mr.Francis of ISM International school. I first met him at a stall in the annual fair of the ISM school. I did not know him personally then, but got a good number of interesting books from him. One of them-Every Secret Thing-by Gillian Slovo which I read almost a decade ago, came back to me in many bits and parts as I saw the ceremonies at the passing away of the South African hero Nelson Mandela. The many intimate things which Gillian Slovo tells in her memoirs, including the affairs of her mother, how she left her children and they thought that she was away on some work for the movement, but later realized that her mother was having affairs in those periods of their childhood when they were left alone made interesting food for thought and discussion.

Years later, another English teacher who nudged me towards
post-colonialism, helped dissect issues of subaltern historiography and Marxism. We would sit on our back terrace and see the stories woven in the Cairo Trilogy of Naguib Mahfouz.
“Can I bring a gift for you from Egypt” my friend Ibrahim Gomari told me on one of his visits to Tripoli. He cares for his mother in Cairo as nursing care is not good here. I told him to bring me “The Cairo Trilogy” as his contribution to our “Reading group.”

The Trilogy follows the life of patriarch Al-Jawad across three generations, from 1919 –the Egyptian revolution against British colonizers-to the end of Second World war in 1944. It is a panorama of Egypt through the life of Abd Al-Jawad and his children and grandchildren.

adana 1994

The end of the Trilogy was symbolic. Two brothers raised in the same house, one became a communist and another a Muslim brother. In the last portion of the novel a son is born to the Muslim Brother. This is a symbol of the future of Egypt, as depicted by Mahfouz in this Trilogy, which is very pertinent to this day. I still remember the gentle Mediterranean breeze where the nuances of this work were explained to me by English teachers.

ADANA 1994

After the war of 2011, most English teachers who were close to us medicos left. As medicos we may not have the scholarly constructs of the academics, but we see misery in a direct way, in our work lives.

The night watchmen now are seeming to fall on each other, and things are not looking good.

The reading group lacks the depth which was once brought to it by life long teachers like Mr.Francis, who once explained the subtle evil scheming of a character like Iago. One fine morning, this teacher explained Iago to me-

“Possibly the most heinous villain in Shakespeare, Iago is fascinating for his most terrible characteristic, his utter lack of convincing motivation for his actions”

Technocrats or career diplomats, professional doctors or engineers or businessmen, corporate representatives or marketing executives do not have the richness which an English teacher can bring to a reading group.

Or is this my own lamentation /confession of not being able to maintain the high level which this group had in yester-years. Besides, people who have positional leadership /advantage by way of officialdom or corporate backing sometimes tend to be patronizing beyond their depth of perspective.

Being one of the main facilitators of the group, one branch of the Reading Group meets almost weekly at Adana 1994. As we see the events of the country, two years after the fall of Tripoli in August 2011, we analyzed the Ibsen’s plays- and the premise- The Sins of the Fathers are visited upon the children. How true is this in the personal and social contexts which we live in. This question sparked off some interesting discussions which cannot be discussed in open forum. In the type of security vacuum which exists in Tripoli post-2011, one has to take care.

In these discussions we try to record the daily life of the working professionals from different nationalities in the city of Tripoli.

20 YEARS

Have the armed youngsters heard of Gillian Slovo?
Have they sat and tried to understand the works of Mahfouz and tried to see the meanings in following the life of Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd Al-Jawad-one of the most famous patriarchs of Arab literature. Are there parallels between the fictional Mr.Jawad and the many “benevelont-dictators” who saw their end in 2011?
And do they know about Iago? What are their own motivations? Are there bigger powers whose motivations make these smaller players puppets? Or is there no time to discuss Iago any more?
Chekhov’s assertion- nothing was wasted, that some day, I would do something with what was happening to me, and whether we can seek answers and lessons in literature came back to our reading group as we went through some works from Africa –Gillian Slovo and Naguib Mahfouz which give a window into society of the two main halves of the past century.
In the works of Gillian Slovo we come to know of one of Mandela’s greatest regrets-the fact that his children, and the children of his comrades, had been the ones to pay the price of their parents’s commitment, as encompassed in the words- “You are the father to all our people, but you have never had the time to be a father to me”

A WEEKLY SUMMARY

Every week, we meet at Adana 1994 and summarize one work of literature and try to see meanings and lessons…
Francine Prose in her book-Reading like a Writer-told of her lessons from Chekhov, her forays into “Close Reading” and her wish- “To use the New Rochelle Bus station in my work.”
Adana 1994 is an attempt to do that in Tripoli.

 

 

* * *

500words_wide-e1388529158371

Part of the 500 words a day challenge by writer -Jeff Goins.

http://goinswriter.com/my500words/

For a diarist the interesting thing will be being selective

For those interested in reading further see the following blogs

http://prashantbhatt.com/tag/500-words-a-day/

http://prashantbhatt.com/tag/tripoli-reading-group/

January 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

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