Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Nothing unique

The whole of Europe is dotted with museums – museums of all kinds. There are museums housing old technology, ship engines, domestic appliances no longer in use, toys, gardening implements that have become obsolete and also cultural heritage museums. While rapid strides in technology in what someone has aptly called the ‘technitronic’ age rendered very many things that were of common use only a generation ago completely redundant, ravages of the Second World War left Europe virtually stripped to the bone. Cities from Helsinki to Warsaw to Coventry to Belfast were bombed aerially. Cologne, Hamburg and Dresden were leveled to the ground and priceless architectural heritage lost forever. The collateral loss of human lives was even more appalling. It has taken nearly three quarters of a century for Europe to recover, rebuild and finally rediscover that it is one geo-cultural continuum even while having different nationalities within that continuum. The European Union is not a mere monetary entity but much more. It is the beginning of a new world order, an order the logical conclusion of which is going to be an Earth Federation. Twenty-eight countries of the European Union and about half a billion people speaking in twenty-four different tongues speak the same language today. Not only is their trading chip common, their worldview too is shared. One looks at the destruction the Second World War brought in its wake and one wonders – where would the world have been today if that war had not happened? It certainly would have been a different place than it is now. Perhaps a sedate evolutionary relative of the staid and laid back time of a century ago; when the meteor called Hitler had yet not impacted it. It could also have been a far more evolved place than it is today had the clock not been set back by the same meteor. Now, the scale and timelines may be completely different, as they are bound to be – being so unrelated, but there is a commonality between post-war Europe and present day Nagaland. We may have built some museums, but given our predilection for being austere with truth we may overlook things, the loss sustained by our cultural heritage in decades of unabated conflict is there for us all to see, perhaps privately acknowledged. It is easy to populate a list of things that once were and are no longer so. It is painful as well. Top of mind recall is reserved for the gentle demeanour and cultured manner that were the distinctive features of our behaviour. Today, the discourse is loud and often times laden with invective. The look and feel of our towns is now no different from similar synthetically put together towns across the world, their Naga-ness having disappeared. This Naga-ness was the once all too familiar, intimately personal sense of space and how we inhabited it. It manifested itself in very many ways, in the intricate carving with which we would embellish the wood used in building our homes, the sense of easy style we had in negotiating our way past everyday situations that would leave lesser humans flummoxed, the exotic native foods that were once on our plate and most of all the way we used to interact with nature. Today these things have disappeared. In fact we are poised on the cusp of a historical imperative today. It is the age for us to either reclaim or forever forego our heritage – our own story. Is it time to pick up the pieces and rebuild some of what is salvageable? Or should we leave everything behind and bravely venture into the unknown with hope and prayers alone? This is the existential problem that is faced by all of us today. The relative frames of reference, objectives and its subsets may be vastly different between two people, but the nature of the problem is the same. To remain motionless or inert is an option that may not be feasible anymore.