Us and Them

Why is it always 'Us and Them' for human beings?
What pleasure does one derive from creating barriers, groups, and all sorts of differences?
Don't we realize that life is too short to spend squabbling, discriminating against people based on the color of their skin, the way they speak, the way they look?
What makes a white man look down upon

people with different color than his?
I walked into a 'smoker's room' at work today and lit up my cigarette.
I was sitting and smoking when two white people walked in.
The lady looked at me and told the man, it stinks in here!
Perhaps she referred to the smell of stale cigarette smoke.
But as a smoker, normally I would not complain about the stink of cigarette smoke.
And this lady was a smoker…
I immediately felt the urge to get up and walk out, but then I grit my teeth and stayed put.
The feelings of racial intolerance lie smoldering like not-quite-put-off-coal, under the surface of our psyche.
We just don't want to accept it, that's all.
When the chemistry is right, these coals of intolerance simply burst back into flames.
Interesting, hmm?
We see it everyday — at grocery stores, at gas stations, in the streets, at work…the list could go on and on.
What decides the worthiness of a person?
The color of his/her skin?
After the WTC attacks we, as South Asians, are afraid.
We're being attacked by 'unknown enemies' and looked at with suspicion by the citizens of the nations we live in (be it Canada, USA, UK, or any other European nation).
Sometimes this suspicion makes them attack us, sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically.
I realize now how the people who've faced racial discrimination feel.
The constant agony of being judged, mostly being alienated.
As I write this, the resolve to head back homeward grows stronger.
Perhaps by next summer, I'll be back home.
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The sweet smell of the soil, the affable people in the streets, the often-unpleasant poverty will seem strangely endearing now.
The chaotic traffic, the crowded population will seem reassuring.
"You're home…You're home!" The faces will say.
I look forward to my return to home.
As a matter of fact, I've learnt to cherish my homeland and the values of my country after leaving it.
I remember an old friend once telling me, "Accha ho ya bura, apna des apna des hota hai!"
Buddy, I didn't realize then how true you were.

Isn't it really paradoxical, how we realize the value of something that is not in our proximity and within our reach?

I ventured out of my homeland, not entirely in search of a livelihood. I'd wanted to meet other people, see other ways of life, other cultures.

I realized a rather crushing fact… everywhere, if you are different in anyway, people frown at you.
It is as if almost a feverish emotion grips us and makes us look at people who are different from us with jaundiced eye.
While the whole world is gripped in nationalistic fervor, I stand by, step back and look at the world we've created.
It is pathetic that we spend our energy fighting each other, hating each other, when we can make the most of this wonderful earth, living in peace and trying to achieve a greater goal for all mankind.
What good would a dollar do when we leave…or gold or precious gems, for that matter?
We've come without a cloth on our bodies and we'll return to the soil in the same way.
"Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust" I'd heard preachers say at funerals.
Aren't we exactly that?
Cosmic dust in the face of infinity?
What is our worthiness in the face of the eternal universe?
A song by Joni Mitchell gives me goose bumps as I read it.



    I came upon a child of God
    He was walking along the road
    And I asked him, where are you going
    And this he told me
    I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm
    I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
    I'm going to camp out on the land
    I'm going to try an' get my soul free
    We are stardust
    We are golden
    And we've got to get ourselves
    Back to the garden

    Then can I walk beside you
    I have come here to lose the smog
    And I feel to be a cog in something turning
    Well maybe it is just the time of year
    Or maybe it's the time of man
    I don't know who l am
    But you know life is for learning
    We are stardust
    We are golden
    And we've got to get ourselves
    Back to the garden By the time we got to Woodstock
    We were half a million strong
    And everywhere there was song and celebration
    And I dreamed I saw the bombers
    Riding shotgun in the sky
    And they were turning into butterflies
    Above our nation
    We are stardust
    Billion year old carbon
    We are golden
    Caught in the devil's bargain
    And we've got to get ourselves
    Back to the garden

We are stardust!
We are golden!
And we've got to get ourselves, back to the garden.

I wasn't even around, when Woodstock happened.
But I can understand what it must have meant to the people in those times…
It gave some meaning and direction to their hapless lives.
It made them break free from the hatred and anger of that time.
The world needs something like that –- not Woodstock though, that's over and done with.
If another Woodstock happens, it'll only make some lucky sucker really rich, that's all!
That's what our world has come to, hard-nosed cynicism, and depressed youth.
Go to any Asian country, you'll see that it's true.
As a matter of fact, anywhere in the world, people who think are depressed.

When will we see the Sun, amidst all this darkness?
When will we realize that this world is made for love and peace, not hatred and anger?
Why is it so difficult for us to feel compassion?
Why has the society mutated into something so grotesque?

These are questions that rise from my spirit…I hope I'll find answers to them someday.

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