I shook hands with Nelson Mandela

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How do you feel if you could meet face to face with one of the greatest men ever to have walked on this planet? On Sunday evening (27th  November) I had a wonderful conversation with a retired journalist with 30 years of international experience, Ms. Kamatchy Sappani. She was a very energetic, bright-eyed woman who has a world of knowledge.

She shared with me about her experiences in Japan, Scandinavian countries and United States.

This globe trotter gave me a wonderful tip: When I said that my desire is to be a politician, she suggested that I study in Scandinavian countries. Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland) have the best political systems, governance, health care and education. These systems have to be adopted in India.

She met numerous personalities. One of them was Julius Neyrere. When she met this world renowned personality, she was surprised to find him short, old and frail. This was the same man who was centre stage of politics a few years before then. When she asked him why Tanzania was a member of the commonwealth inspite of the atrocities committed on them by the British? He replied that he found the charm, gentle mannerism and the aura of Queen Elizabeth too difficult to resist. He had no other option but to join the commonwealth.

Ms. Kamatchy described Queen Elizabeth as a gutsy woman who drove ambulances and participated in the 2nd World War.

When I asked her about her greatest experiences, she mentioned that it was her stay with tribals in the jungles of Borneo. These tribals had no property or belongings. They never accumulated food and lived only from meal to meal. What would our civilization do when we go to catch fish? They would fill their boats and store fish for months to come. Most of the fish would then rot. What do these tribals do? They catch just one fish for that meal. Now tell me who is more civilised?

Would our civilised hunters bother if an animal is pregnant and avoid killing it? The tribals have a rule ‘No pregnant animal should be killed’. Now who is more civilised?

The tribals don’t cut trees. Cutting trees increases the toxicity of the lake and kills the fishes. Now readers tell me who knows more about environmental science. The ‘uncivilised’ tribals or we ‘civilised’ people. These tribals sleep on bamboo platforms erected on top of bamboo shoots. Why bamboo? Because it grows again. Can we the ‘civilised’ people take a leaf out of their book.

Ms. Kamatchy said that these tribals live in the present that Eckhart Tolle and other gurus talk about. I think we the civilised people need to learn lessons from these tribals on how to avoid pomposity, greed, jealousy and misery.

I wished I could take her hands as a souvenir. Yes! She shook hands with NELSON MANDELA. In a journalist meet he stepped towards her held her hands for a long long time. He asked her where she was from. She replied, India. He gazed into her eyes for a long  time and smiled. What thoughts flashed in this man’s mind who fought his whole life against apartheid is anybody’s guess?

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