I have always been fascinated by my kind, the humankind. How paradoxical are our realities? We are different, all of us, yet we are alike, all of us. You don’t have my face, my skin tone, my voice, my mind, my habits, my attitude, my perceptions, my values, my dreams, my ambitions, my soul… yet you and I are alike, we are both humans! We are not different in many respects, we both have a brain to think and a heart to feel, we both have our needs and we both have our means and ends, we both have our dreams and we both have our struggles! Each one of us, the humans, around the globe is no different from other humans but we still are different.
What’s almost miraculous is that our differences are categorized as well. With time we have had our own classifications developed on various grounds. We have socio-cultural, economic and geographic systems and groups. We are divided in nations, ethnicities, linguistic communities, cultures, economic elites and layman and more. As of today we reside in a global village where open economies and increased diplomatic harmonies have prevailed leading to border crossings. We have come together again, mixing up yet keeping our origins and identities in place. And then within our nations and geographical territories we are a unified diversity.
I found this photograph and it kept me pondering for quite some time. Have a look:
These a pencil colours. They all alike for they are all pencils, the same race. However, each of these is different from the others in its community for each of them is a different colour. Even if there are two yellows, they differ perhaps by an amount of tint that is negligible for you. I captioned this picture as, “Our Social Diversity!” I found it apt because this painted an image of our society before me.
I live in a very diverse society where various cultures, religions, languages and traditions mingle. Lahore is a home to 10 Million people. Citizens hail from not only this city itself but from various regions of the country and from foreign lands too. You would find native Lahoris, Punjabi speaking, Saraiks, Sindhis, Balochis, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, Potoharis, Gilgitis, Urdu speaking families from around Pakistan; African and Central Asian origin students and Chinese engineers and workers too, people from the States and Europe who came to Pakistan working with the UN or other welfare missions and have been living here for a few many years now. We aren’t New York or London for certain but Lahore is no less in its cultural diversity, for that matter we have our own social diversity. The communal diversification began with the influx of people from all over the United India, the North and the Bengal and other regions, when the British colonized the sub-continent conquering the last seat of the Ranjit Singh’s empire, the capital of which was the most significant cultural hub and religious centre since centuries – Lahore. Lahore was secondary in political influence to the court of Delhi and next to Amritsar as a centre for trade and commerce but it was that one fortress without penetrating which none in history could colonise or conquer the mighty Indian Sub-continent. Lahore was made into British headquarters to govern North West of the British Imperial Colony of India. Lahoris weren’t very much the class to be of aid to the British so they began transferring officials and workers. That is when Lahore began to diversify in its society. Traders who made their way from the North West towards Amritsar and other commercial hubs of United India added much to Lahore as well. After the independence in 1947, Hindu majority migrated across the border to India and millions reached the Walton Camps to the new state of Pakistan and then, we had more diversification. My forefathers, Punjabis, also migrated to Lahore. This city’s diversity in society and culture has only grown since then. The provincial capital, known well as the Heart of the Land, is a Mini Pakistan itself. The country’s rich socio-cultural diversity is the colour of Lahori heritage.
Lahore has its own colours, very alike yet very different. We come from different backgrounds, from different origins, speak the lingua franca in our own accents, represent different cultures, have different opinions, different perspectives, different values…. Yet we are one in the society, together we make Lahore. We may go to the mosque, the church, the temple or the gurdwara, we may wear different types of dresses, we may like different spices in our food, and we may have different words for expressing but come together to paint the canvas of Lahori culture. How paradoxical but how beautiful? This blend of races, religions, ethnicities, cultures, origins, backgrounds, academic and economic statuses, opinions, ideas, values, philosophies emerged out of need and then acceptance is much worthy of our cherished heritage and a seed that bears the fruit of development and civilization. Together we make the most synchronised symphony and compose the most melodious tunes. How miraculous is it, our social diversity!