So Life is.
We sipped Mint tea at the sea front in Tripoli and had a lovely walk in the breeze.
For the past two months, I have been keeping a joint journal with my sons-Sagar and Sahil as we travelled from Malta to India and then after some discussions decided to take the trip to Canada. Keeping a journal is a good way of being connected. As we saw the different shapes of the journal, and I told my sons to suggest themes for a family magazine, Sagar wondered if our family has enough activities and scope to make a magazine. As we sorted out some memorabilia and notes, photographs and pamphlets, set up some paintings and art works ( a mask from his school in Malta earlier this year April 2012, a pelican feather from the zoo in Tripoli in 2009, a Sriyantra which I acquired from Rishikesh in 2006 and have carried and kept with me in Tripoli, Malta, Mumbai, and now Mississauga to name a few artifacts collected and carried.) he knew that if worked upon, we could have a lot of themes to write about. We did so, in our own ways.
As I sit and have mint tea in Tripoli, discussing with some other expatriate workers the nuances of life in “Free Libya” after the elections, having been away from Libya for almost three months, the joint journal comes back to me as a living vehicle of our work together.
In coming days, we will together revisit some interesting discussions-experiences we had, which we have recorded in our joint journal.
As we sipped Mint tea in the department in Tripoli, many old associations came to mind.
Cycles-Immigration and Generational, relations-transactional and transformational.
After an interesting week of work, three long term expatriates sat together and one veteran summarized the issue of immigration cycle beautifully by focusing on the “Generation Cycle.” By changing the focus of discussion, he brought out an interesting dynamic which saw the discussion go to issues of relations built within biological family networks, business organizations and between long time professional colleagues who having stayed together for long in distant lands develop links which they probably would not have developed in their home countries.
So Life is.
As we walked on the Tripoli sea-side after having sipped mint tea in the breeze we saw the beautiful full moon. One year ago, it was not so safe to walk these areas. Things can be a bit uneasy at times even now. However, it is much better than before.
Why are immigration cycles created?
Studying immigration cycles of the different generations, going back to the 19th century when British took over some parts of India, to the wave of immigration in middle of 20th century when the colonizers left the Indian subcontinent, and the economic migration waves which started taking place in 1970s made one reflect on the growing affluence and clout of the diaspora in different parts of the world, in North America, Western Europe, Middle East,North Africa to name a few.
But coming to the Generational issue rather than the economics which drives these migrations, the issues of finding happy matches come back.
This reminds one of the opening lines of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina –
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
As we returned from our walk by the sea and sat on the back terrace, the talk went back to how the generations perceive back home after having made their mark in the different parts of the world. I noted how one young spirited brother has a very distorted version of the Indian economy back home, as he translates his London-Birmingham of UK realities to the hill economies of the tough undeveloped regions of Garhwal Himalayas of India. He wrote a long letter to me, and asked me to try to understand
“ Where I am coming from”.
It was interesting to read his aspirations, misconstrued as they may be (according to me..and I agree that I am not right all the time), but I wondered just two things
Should we try to give or take from our home countries
Instead of asking ‘where I am coming from’ it would be better to ask
‘in which direction are we heading.’.
Interacting immigration groups.
While the different immigrating groups share some realities, they also have differences and hence tend to keep to groups from their home countries. The Egyptians will tend to stay with fellow-Egyptians, the Indians with fellow-Indians, Filipinos with fellow-Filipinos. Professional interaction does make them intersect, but their festivals, foods, fun are all unique which they carry with them to whichever foreign land they may go to.
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Joint journals-Mapping our journeys together
How do you keep a journal? One “teacher” asked me. Having a personal diary or journal is different from keeping a joint journal. Some organizations have minutes. Some have a summary of the salient points. One of the ways of mapping our joint journeys together is try to seek the dictionary meanings of words we read in a piece of literature. This I do with my sons Sagar and Sahil and though one thinks one knows the meaning of the word, when one reads the dictionary meaning and then re-reads the passage, it gives a different meaning
A passage we considered and discussed
“ I think a certain kind of America is doomed, though something greater may be coming. The novelist and only the novelist thrives on breakdown, because that’s the moment when he can analyze the beauty of the values that are falling and rising. The end of a great civilization is always a great moment for fiction. When the old England at the end of the 19th century fell, along came Dickens; when Russia fell apart, along came Tolstoy. One looks forward to the fall of great civilizations because it gives us great art.
As an exercise in reflection, we analyzed the similarities and differences of Gulzar’s “Angoor” and the original Shakespeare play – “A Comedy of Errors” on which it is based. Seen in the backdrop of what values are falling and rising (as mentioned in the passage of John Gardner above) and the immigration cycles, intergenerational and inter-group interactions opened many interesting discussions with my sons and some close colleagues who watch the generations shift.
Transactional versus transformational relations
Routine life is spent in transactional relations.
There are some relations and interactions which rise above the mundane and transform.
These open windows into worlds and universes which one will normally not see.
As we see the rise and fall of certain values, note them down in our joint journals and see how we try to preserve our spirits in the rigmorale of national and international ‘rat-races’, we can take time to remember some transformational relations.
A pelican feather of a bird from Tripoli speaks its own language.
So life is.
After an interesting week-end of walks, dinners, discussions, reflection and self-examination, having had mint tea by the sea-side, we return to have mint tea in our departments.
Many things come out, sipping Mint tea at Tripoli.