Reading Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ welled up my eyes several times. What a team of men! Not only Nelson Mandela, but his comrades who never got all the glory but were still with him in all the hardship they endured. Walter Sisulu…Ahmed Kathrada… people from another planet surely, for they remained in prison for 27 years ‘of their own accord’! They could’ve got out if they had said they are standing by their beliefs no more. But they didn’t, and suffered so much for their people.
And it struck me that these people are still alive, still breathing the same air we are breathing. Books of heros are usually read when they are long gone. But in this case, they are right there, all alive, and I felt a strong desire to meet them as soon as possible. I know I can’t go right away, but meeting these giants is on my agenda from now on.
I call them giants because they looked above and beyond their personal gain, their families and any materialism. They lived for a cause, a just and worthy cause in my view, and defeated oppression by resistance. South Africa got rid of apartheid last of all, but we could well have been experiencing this strange human behaviour even today if these men didn’t do what they did.
Hats off to these people. They changed what nothing else could change. ‘The winds of change’ reached South Africa a little too late, but I am glad these guys did see the end of it with their own eyes, experienced freedom, and went on to run the country. Next stop: the movie ‘Invictus’.
One troubling fact that lingers in my mind:- freedom, hard as it is to get, dissipates into nothing if it is taken as end of story. This is what has happened to most of the third world states: they demanded independence like flaming tigers, and did get it. But what happened shortly afterwards has everywhere been a sorrowful story. People thought of independence as something like a new system, a new heaven where everything would just click into place. No one would have any troubles whatsoever. True, no troubles as far as freedom is concerned, but what of the responsibilities that come attached with it? Most of the states were left naked at the time of their independence, and that demanded immense amounts of work, energy, honesty and responsibility. Most of the time, this did not occur, and independence dissolved into chaos. Recently I was part of a conversation where Quaid-e-Azam was blamed for separating Pakistan from India, and thus causing loads of troubles for already poor people.
I don’t believe that is the case, Pakistan could’ve done much better if we didn’t think of independence as an end, but only means to the end of a great country. Anyway, that’s far from the topic, we are living amongst some of the greatest men of recent times. Can we get some leverage for the privilege of being on their shoulders? Only if we realize this leverage.