Danielle, the randomly spoken-to French grandmother on French TV became the darling of the Web overnight after the Paris attack, for speaking up for all the peaceful, regular Muslims and for clearly differentiating them from the terrorists. She got many responses of “Bravo, Madame!” for her sensible, dignified stance, so clearly spoken from genuine belief. It would be nice if we are able to access news and views from languages other than English and from each other’s bhashas, for it would then be one move closer to reality without the exclusive filter of the anglophone view. Perhaps every Indian media house could search for and select a panel of responsible people who could translate when required from various languages for the publication or channel. HT sourced a person like that after the Mumbai attack to share what the Urdu press editorials were saying.
Besides Mme. Danielle’s view on YouTube, an article from 2013 was doing the rounds again on Facebook, by Naomi Shihab Nye, an Arab-American poet who wrote about how she helped a wailing, stranded Palestinian grandmother at Albuquerque airport in the USA and how nice the atmosphere became once communication was established, how the Palestinian grandmother shared ‘mamool’ date-and-nut cookies with other passengers and nobody refused and everybody smiled in good-fellowship.
Yet another lovely story on Facebook this week was about citizen Mohammed Yunus of Chennai who let it be known on social media that he had two empty apartments available for the use of stranded Chennaivasis, especially women and children, and this inspired others in our flood-stricken Southern capital to share their spaces, too. Kind words, cookies, shelter - how many individual possibilities exist to express ourselves as human beings.
These heartwarming stories circulating this week made me think of my mother’s father, who taught biochemistry at MS University, Baroda after retiring from the Madras Municipal Corporation. He graduated in Chemistry from St Joseph’s College, Trichy, in the 1920s and when not in the classroom or laboratory, he was out on the football field playing with his Christian, Muslim and other friends across caste and creed. Many ‘Tambrahm’ boys of that generation preferred cricket for not only was it considered more ‘stylish’, it was not rough-and-tumble like football. But my grandfather loved football and was known to cheerfully say “B---er off!” to the finicky fellows who made fun of him for preferring his ‘rough’ football to their ‘gentlemanly’ cricket (of those days). It was a term picked up from his football gang in Trichy and slipped out sometimes in later years despite his second, professorial avatar and his participation in international scientific gatherings in Paris, Wales, Karlmarxstadt in the old GDR, Kuala Lumpur and other places. My granny usually looked away to hide her amusement at these occasional verbal lapses by my ‘delinquent Thatha’. My grandfather’s early cross-cultural camaraderie made him a very liberal father to his three daughters. It made his daughters very liberal in their outlook and they in turn raised liberal children who liked people of all backgrounds and participated comfortably in life across cultures.
Such people make it easy to reject hatemongers. Just saying.
The views expressed are personal.