7 June 2012
It has become my favourite, remembering my time in Ghana and comparing what happens around me here in India with my imaginations of what would have happened in the similar circumstances there in Ghana. I shall be shortly completing one year of my return from Ghana. I spent only an year there but it has left such strong and permanent impressions in my mind that these cannot be wiped out easily.
I recall the months before I departed. These were a very difficult patch in my life. I had a determination to get out of the country to experience some different part of the world. Coming from a middle class Indian family I could not just go out and buy air tickets for some destination and start to move. When I came to know about something called as overseas volunteering, it seemed to me a good opportunity and a better fit in my career path which involved working in the professional field called Development Sector. Further volunteering was supposed to take care of my own expenses even if it was not going to help me earn enough to take care of my family or save for the future. I opted for it and left my job just to find that I had to go through hell lot of problems. With problems in my passport renewal, my departure got delayed. During the same period my son got ill and with his hospitalisation my savings were almost gone. I had to borrow from my parents and also had to leave them with responsibility as my wife and son were going to live with them till the time I returned back. Though not being able to get rid of all those bad feelings, I entered Kenya Airways flight and started my journey for Accra, capital of Ghana.
After that moment, every day brought something new. It was as if the whole world had changed for me. Actually it was the other way round as I started to see things differently. I came across many kinds of people. I had interacted a lot with foreigners before but here in this land I myself was a foreigner. Having a fairer skin than the locals always gave me a kind of privilege in this country of black people remained under colonial rule sometime back in the history. At the same time it also gave me a glimpse of what could be your life like in this country which also has its fairer skinned lower caste called Fulanis. While on the road, a number of times I was confused by the people as Fulani and I could perceive the way people look down upon them. That touched me at the emotional level and even being in that foreign land I could then empathise with the lower caste people in India for their sufferings, which have been brought on them from the higher castes which I come from for generations altogether.
There were many similarities and dissimilarities between Ghanaian and Indian culture. I started to appreciate them and saw many aspects of my culture in the completely new light. Once at the Bongo District Assembly, we were waiting for the District Chief Executive to arrive and as usual being a political leader everybody took his late arrival on the scene for granted (so similar to India!) To somehow pass our time we were chatting and discussions were centred on traditional gods and spirits. I could see striking similarities between the Hindu beliefs and the traditional African beliefs prevailing in that area. In Hinduism, an elaborate system of rituals and a beautiful mythology has been evolved around all these whereas African gods and spirits have been subjected to either voodoo or a systematic neglect due to influence of Islam and Christianity.
I travelled. I knew I had to save some money and take back home to recover from earlier borrowings and meet the expenses till I found the job. I was saving as many cedis as I could and kept watch on all the pesewas leaving my hand and still I managed to travel. Ghana does not have Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower but the travel in Ghana has given me so many simple but beautiful moments which I can still cherish. These include eating Kebabs at a street side stall on a cool evening in Bolgatanga, spending a night on roof top in a very remote village, taking a dip in the swimming pool located on the verge of the forest, seeing the wild African elephants from very near, watching a football match in a modern stadium with a very high spirited crowd and enjoying a cultural festival giving a glimpse of the entire country.
Dissatisfaction about my performance on the work front still lingers behind sometimes. Initially I used to always question myself whether I was really needed by the people in my office or they were just seeing me as some liability of having a foreign volunteer or they just didn't care. Always after seeing my boss Mumuni, who eventually became my friend and other people like Joshua, Godson, Henry the question used to disappear, since I always got an unspoken positive answer from them. The highest point of my work satisfaction was reached during a meeting when illiterate rural women members of a shea processing cooperative made all efforts to understand my strategic study and appreciated my work and asked me whether I could continue one more year to bring all of my thinking into reality. However my decision was already made then when I had started from home eight months back.
After I came back home I did some enquiry about the outcomes of the work which I had done. As I think on it as an afterthought, some of the things were not supposed to work at all since their premise and the conditions were totally wrong. These things did not work. Others were based on the right premise in the right conditions. These worked to the right degree of efforts, direction and attitude put into them. This sounds so universal that actually there is no point in comparing what could I have achieved while in India and what could I have achieved as an overseas volunteer in Ghana. These days I can see what I could have done differently to make myself more effective on the work front to get more and better results. It’s too late.
I decided the date on which I would return home about four months before. It was a practical decision in view of the bonds I had back at home and my need to solve the problems which I had created myself. With that date mentally set, my determination just took charge of the things. It was last month and I had to accomplish certain tasks. For me personally it was also a kind of giving a due and proper end to the work and its process, which had started 11 months back. At an odd situation while I was visiting my friend Raj to do some shopping in Tamale for the gifts to take back home, I came to know that I could no longer stop Malaria. While lying on the bed in his house struggling with very high fever, I could actually tap into my deeper levels of consciousness. After every breath, for which I was having a great difficulty, I could actually visualise my future course of action step by step. This was one great spiritual experience which has left lasting impressions on my consciousness.
When I was lying there on the bed in Raj's house. There were people of three different nationalities present in that house taking care of me. People from two other nationalities though not on the scene were having great concern about my health and were in touch with me on phone. When I recall this it strengthens my belief in something I can term as global brotherhood. It made me rethink my nationalist world view which has been inculcated in me while I was growing up and brings my thinking near towards globalism. These days I experience a great improvement in the way that I have a new widened perspective about world. I am very happy that I could find people with same values as mine across cultures and could get many new friends sharing those values.
While I was there in Ghana, I was fed up with all that music which my neighbours used to play loudly throughout the day as well as night. I never did any special effort to understand it while being there though music as a subject interests me a lot. Now back to my life in India, I carry the Ghanaian music always on my mp3 player and whenever I am not travelling out of the city my daily commute to the office does not complete without playing those. These days when I hear these songs, I appreciate the beautiful tonality of Ghanaian languages and many finer aspects of the music. Though I don’t understand them language wise, the sheer energy expressed through them makes a good start of the day.
Though these fourteen odd songs have gained importance, memories of my days in Ghana are getting blurred day by day, as I move forward in my life with my better than before kind of job and responsibilities on home front. Life has become very much easy, as the earlier problems which I had got myself into are gone, and I am back to my comfort zone. However it has reduced the intensity of experiences in my life. But suddenly and unknowingly the memories come forth and remind me of the sharpness of life, I had felt there in Ghana and the broadened horizons of my own views and capacities.