“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
Today is the 18th of July, the birth anniversary of an extraordinarily altruistic soul who walked the face of Earth with a purpose, a purpose to free a land that deserved to be free, free from the shackles of apartheid, from the boiling cauldrons of poverty and hate and to establish a nation whose central foundation exuded equality and righteousness for all.
Although volumes have been written about this man of great mettle and a leader of class, I’ve decided to pen down the five most admirable things about Mandela (though five is a very petty number) as a tiny tribute to the hero of South African struggle:
1. White or black, who cares? : The discriminatory practices which have prevailed in South Africa, based on meaningless ethnic differences, have been most appalling. The fact that this man had the courage to question the practice of Apartheid and to stand up to the generally oppressive and excessively domineering ‘whites’ does not only exemplify Mandela’s courage, but also gives us an insight into the perseverance and grit with which he led the anti-Apartheid revolution. Mandela teaches us how to take stand up for the things which need standing up, however difficult the circumstances may be. Being a coloured man does not discolour a person’s innate goodness.
2. Politics can be clean: For Indians, I know how unbelievable this statement sounds. Politics here seems to have become synonymous with uncontrollable corruption and can be rightly called the ‘exclusive art of money-making’. But the truth is, politics isn’t as dirty as we make it sound. Politics isn’t about booth-capturing and rigging votes, and bribing individuals with alcohol bottles. Politicians aren’t born crooks, willing to resort to the most preposterous practices so they can have their way. Nelson Mandela is clear proof. He has taught the world how politics is in fact people-centred, nation-centred and not blatantly money-motivated. Politicians don’t have to be white people with brimming bank accounts, a propitious family background and an international education. Politicians are people who can relate, and relate well – to the various groups of people on an individual level and also to the nation on a more holistic plane.
3. Altruism: Nelson Mandela was never in pursuit of individual success. It would have been much easier for him to succumb to the system and not raise his voice against it at all. But he felt for his people and could effectively empathize with their unjustified pain and suffering. His struggle was a culmination of the unnecessary grief the blacks were subjected to, and not simply because he felt discontent for himself alone. He fought not only for his people, but also for national integrity. He could envision a better, stronger, bolder nation, a nation where ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ could live in harmony with each other – a dream which many in those days wouldn’t dare to have. But even behind prison bars for years on end, Mandela was valiant enough to dream, and even more valiant to fulfill it.