“The man who loves other countries as much as his own stands on a level with the man who loves other women as much as he loves his own wife.” Theodore Roosevelt
“Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill and calling for larger spurs and brighter beaks. I fear that nationalism is one of England's many spurious gifts to the world.” Richard Aldington
The year was 1981 perhaps August, and without any prompting, preambles, or even real context the speaker blurted out the following in the presence of a then simple twenty year old, just concerned about performing his duty that he was paid to do. “The Indians are an interesting people where ever they migrate to in the world at large outside of their homeland.” “They never enjoy assimilation and the desire to be fully integrated into any society they live.” At the end of the conversation he took his exit into his house, leaving an astounded and sole member that constituted his audience.
Last Saturday our country lost what I believe was one of its best patriots and most decent citizens, in Dr. Wahid Ali. He was very respected by any who encountered him in any capacity, and I am certain, would be missed by the several whose lives he touched in some simple or tangible way. I for one was, and never fully forgot those profound and unsolicited words he uttered in my presence some 27 years ago.
It was due in part to his position as President of the Senate around again 1981 that I happened to cross part with the Trinity Cross winner, first President of the Inter-Religious Organization , and distinguished UWI Graduate. Incidentally, it would seem that he was way ahead of his time as well. The records revealed that in 1972 he only accepted the proffered nation’s highest honor The Trinity Cross, when he was promised by then PM Dr. Williams, to eventually start the process to change its name. Meaningful social changes as many of us recognize, often tends to move at a snails pace, and it took legal actions, and much politicization to finally rectify the situation in ‘Rainbow Nation’ at long last.
In my job back then, I saw daily and clearly up close this amiable, approachable, and unpretentious citizen far away form all the public glare of power trappings. Part of my Civil Service functions was to provide security at his residence. He was always a health advocate and apparently practiced what he preached to his patients long into his golden years when in 2004 at 76 he was attacked by six bandits while doing his early morning exercise walks around the Queens Park Savannah. He would daily place a mat on the ground near by and do his exercise routines, as I and others from time to time observe from a safe distance with some silently curious amusements. There were generally no talking, and the only noise would come from him as he loudly cleared his lungs while lying on his back with his feet upraised performing the routine.
Looking back today, it might be viewed as a combination of Pilates and Calisthenics with some elements of yoga thrown in for good measure. For both me and others that made the daily trek to his residence, we could almost check and set our timepiece based on the preciseness and regularity of the exercises. For him, one sensed that it a welcome changed from the drudgery of even then acrimonious political routines of the day.
I never asked him what prompted the comment, or what he meant by it, but as a keen political and social observer, pondered and reflected on it’s meaning throughout the succeeding years in my quest to see if there were any merits in the view point. Whether true or not back then or even now is perhaps irrelevant one would think. Nevertheless, the fact that someone of such a stature would openly make the comment , or could begin a process of serious and critical historical self -reflection and national introspection speaks wonders of him as a human being and national ,concerned about our country and the fate of his people across what was virtually unknown then as ‘the global village.’
Again, it is our country’s lost that he is no more, for Dr. Whahid was proud of his heritage, and was indeed humble enough to accord the respect to others with differences to him, most would agree. It is a pity that we cannot find many more national political figures of such magnitude, and generally leaders with similar characteristics across the nation. Our country, today’s children and future leaders, could definitely benefit from folks that reflects this rare combination exemplified in the body and spirit of this true patriot with all of the corresponding encompassing noble qualities.
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