We, the Government
By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
January 21 was the longest night of the year. It was the Winter Solstice when, due to an ancient collision with a rogue planet, Theia, our globe, tilted 23.5 degrees off its axis. That cosmic event distributed the heat and life-giving light of the sun evenly around the globe for the 365 days of our journey around Surya. We call it the Seasons.
For us, in our tourist town, the term ‘Season’ kept evolving. Before Independence, it referred to the 9 months, from March to November, when the residential schools opened, the ladies of the Raj rented cottages for ‘The Season’, and the Rajas, Maharajas and Nawabs moved into their summer palaces. The Charleville, the Savoy and Hackman’s Grand Hotel were full and the Separation Bell rang down the Corridors of Amor. But that is another story!
On Independence Day 1947, a contingent of Manorites marched up to Mussoorie and hoisted the Tricolour for the first time. The word ‘Season’ assumed a different meaning. There was the star-studded Bombay Season (“That’s Nutan on the next table!”). The balle!-balle! exuberant Punjabi Season was when the sprung floor of Hackman’s rocked to Benny the Yeah Man’s beat. And the very distinctive Bengali Season with earnest groups wrapped in balaclavas and overcoats (dressing gowns were an acceptable substitute a la Ashok Kumar’s favourite robe) ambling down the Mall, led by a dada. Dadas knew everything that was to be known about culture and it was sacrilegious to contradict them!
We, in Mussoorie, know that such diversity keeps us alive and thriving. And so when certain ill-intentioned netas tried to create trouble for some traders because of their ethnicity, established business people rallied in support of them. Pragmatism prevailed over ugly politics.
This is part of our ancient Indian cultural heritage brought out superbly by the legend of the arrival of the persecuted Zoroastrians to the shores of Gujarat.
Centuries ago, when the king of that coastal area was informed of the arrival of these people, he sent his wise men to offer them a bowl of milk brimming to the top. His subtle message was, “We have all the people our kingdom can support. There is no room for more!” The creative exiles, very carefully, poured a spoonful of sugar into the milk. The sugar dissolved, sweetening it, but the milk did not spill over. Ever since then, emigrants from Fars, or ancient Persia, have added to the achievements of their adopted land. We now know them as Parsis.
Such immigrations of beleaguered people into welcoming India have happened all down the centuries. In Ladakh, we met the Dahs who claimed that they had been brought there by their legendary guides, the Lahs. In Tamil Nadu, there is a belief that their distant ancestors sailed in from an island continent just before it sank into the sea. Researchers into the origins of humankind believe that Early Man evolved in the Great Rift Valley of Africa. They then spread across the world, adapting to environmental factors to survive. The first humans to arrive in India, apparently, were the Negrito people. They are now found, in their original form, only in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
From the arrival of the Negritos to that of the Tibetans is the span of millennia. We are convinced that our Tibetan settlers are an asset to our town. They are cheerful, hard-working, disciplined and handle their own affairs with quiet efficiency. They have offered fresh social and cultural insights to us in Mussoorie. Their food has enriched our cuisine. In every way, they are us.
The bottom line, therefore, is this. Mono-culturism may serve a cynical political agenda. It does not serve a human one. Hitler died realising that it is suicidal to pursue the over-hyped glories of a mythical past. The Human family comes in many forms and shapes. But unless these keep mixing and replenishing their genetic and cultural diversity, they will weaken and die. The only genetically pure race left on earth are the Sentinelese. They are so pure and so weak that they could be wiped out by an epidemic of the common cold.
That is a future that We, the Government, must resist.