This is not exactly a Paper. The sort of Paper presented in sophisticated, international conferences.

These are scraps of my own questions which keep troubling me ! These scraps resemble the ones you scatter around after tearing off a useless paper on which you have been scribbling things, which were so very important, you thought, but did not make any cohesive sense.

Like fluttering birds in the blue skies, fluttering and falling, wounded with bullets in the middle of the flight !

I want to share these scattered, torn scraps and strips with you, because I need you to focus your intellectual microscopic lense on them, decipher what has been scribbled and why, and perhaps make some sense out of them.

I want you to hold in your hands those wounded birds whose feathers are soaked in their own blood, and whose shocked eyes pierce your heart.

What is ‘culture’ ? How do you define culture ?

Is it our art and literature ?

Is it our anthropological heritage ?

Is it our way of life ?

Is it how we think, behave, go about our business of life ?

Is it about our traditions ? Our historical memories ?

And who can be sure that Time does not distort those historical memories ?

What are the parameters which define and determine the cultural diversity ?

And haven’t the accepted cultural norms been undergoing constant changes over centuries of human existence on this planet ?

Was buying and selling of slaves not a component of human culture in certain parts of the world ?

Weren’t human sacrifices not a part of culture ?

Weren’t gladiators a part of entertainment culture ?

Weren’t fighting wars for territories not an essential part of human culture ?

Weren’t expanding empires for power, for supremacy, for glory, not a part of culture ?

Weren’t mummifying the kings after their death, and surrounding them with all their queens and concubines and slaves, mostly by poisoning them and mummifying them, along with the choicest of foods and clothes and jewellery, so that the mighty kings shouldn’t be deprived of the comforts and luxuries they were accustomed to in their lives, and keep enjoying them till eternity, a part of culture?

And, discovering new lands by those couple of nations who had the knowledge and the money to build strong ships, and had the courage to negotiate the turbulent oceans ? What was the culture involved ? To establish their supremacy over new lands, make the inhabitants their slaves, whipping them to load their own food and minerals and wealth on the ships of the invaders?

In the half-lit grey Museum in Mauritius I saw a unique map of the world. The continents and oceans of the world were lying flat on a sepia-coloured paper, the size of a medium-sized table. It was lying there, the world, with a thick red line dividing it in the middle.

What was this red line ? A couple of centuries back, the Dutch and the Spaniards occupied that lush green island by turns, fought each other, turned out one, while the other ruled over it. Eventually, they sat across the table, and decided to divide not only that island but the whole world into two halves, “One part you explore, exploit and rule ; the other we will !” – they decided, cheered, and raised toast to this unique decision.

The whole world was lying there, on an old, worn-out, sepia-coloured, hand-made paper, with a river of blood flowing in the middle. And I was reminded of more recent histories of similar rivers of blood : during Partition in our own country, during the World Wars, during ethnic cleansings, vast chunks of humanity brutally killed and uprooted !

Which culture and which civilization are we talking about ?

The same brutality can be witnessed even without visible wars. Because wars are being fought every day, brutality lives on, rich becoming richer and the poor pushed to starvations and deaths !

Wars continue to be fought in the name of nationalism, patriotism, religions, ethnicity, territories ! And believe it, for cultures too !

With the technological revolution, globalisation has brought people closer as never before. But at the same time it has stolen our dreams from our eyes, compassion from our hearts, sensitivity from our souls !

If we are really concerned about culture, and are concerned about respecting the cultural diversity of billions of people living in this world, if we really believe that aesthetic and ethical experience are an essential part of our culture, if we believe that we must respect the otherness of the others, let us wake up from our long slumber, and bring back dreams in our eyes, compassion in our hearts, and sensitivity in our souls.

And if we want to decipher cultural diversity, we will have to probe deep into those ancient folk tales and folk songs, myths and legends, which gave shape to the cultural identities of human groups, inhabiting different parts of this planet.