“I must have flowers, always and always.” – Claude Monet
“Let us unite, not in spite of our differences, but through them. For differences can never be wiped away, and life would be so much the poorer without them. Let all human races keep their own personalities, and yet come together, not in a uniformity that is dead, but in a unity that is living.” – Rabindranath Tagore, The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore: A miscellany
Budapest in spring is beautiful. Actually, I find the word “beautiful” to be inadequate and lacking. It is just not enough to describe the sheer exquisiteness of the city at this time. The blooming cherry blossom trees and magnolia trees, the daisies and the daffodils, the hydrangeas and the lilies, the tulips and the peonies. Wherever you look, whichever way you turn, you’d find trees and plants burgeoning and bursting with colors. Red, pink, yellow, green, blue, violet. They line the sidewalks, the parks and gardens with lush green carpet of freshly cut grass and intermittent small patches of vibrant blossoms, the balconies with their hanging flower gardens. What a sight!
There is so much colour and vivacity around me these days, that I cannot help but think about the nature of colours. Colours are strange. They have different meanings for different people. For some it is a definite bringer of joy and comfort, but for many it can be a cause of anguish.
Recently on one of my everyday journeys I came across an incredibly distressing situation. I was in a tram, and it was rush hour. The train had stopped at one of the stations waiting for the passengers to get on and off. As the doors were closing a girl stepped in and held them open for the passenger behind her. The man was old, in his late 80’s, wearing ill-fitting suit, worn out leather shoes and a top hat, carrying a violin case. As he stepped in, he saw who was holding the door open for him and started getting agitated. The girl was African, with unblemished shiny black skin, her eyes bright and warm until that moment. As he started hurling racial abuses at her, she stepped back as if she was slapped across her face, her eyes registering the shock and immediately glistening with tears. As she stood in a corner, sobbing silently, the rest of us horrified passengers watched the brutal attack like one watches a car crash. Unable to tear our eyes away and unable to help. After all, how can anyone reason with a man almost 90 years of age, who couldn’t walk without support, the weight of his myopic perception making his shoulders droop and his posture stoop? We could all only offer the girl our sympathetic and apologetic glances and go about our mundane lives, while trying to forget this ever happened.
So you see, not everyone takes change the same way. They might celebrate the arrival of spring, the change in weather from cold to slightly warm, the naked branches of trees blooming with flowers and baby leaves, but are unable to digest the fact that slavery has been abolished and racial discrimination is not cool. For instance, that old man, who, earlier that day, must have stood underneath the shade of a blossoming cherry tree, appreciating its beauty and played his violin to make some money, could not tolerate that an African was freely roaming the streets of Budapest. Its just so strange that some people admire nature’s glory in Spring and the colours in the blossoming flowers yet are unable to cherish the same variety when it comes to skin colours.
I think that all kinds of discrimination and bigotry stem from one single cause. Fear. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear that comes from ignorance and half-cooked facts. If someone speaks a different language or has a face structure unlike ours, why do we feel the need to judge them and make them feel like outsiders? The same goes for skin colour. And for religion, gender, sexual orientation, even political affiliations and opinions.
Is there really nothing that we can do?! Because we must do something! If you are incapable of respecting and appreciating differences and dissimilarities, then the least that you can do is live and let live. It is a very simple idea and extremely straightforward. It can help us in achieving a painless and peaceful co-existence which seems so unattainable right now. And if you ever feel the urge to impose your opinions and beliefs on someone else, then just imagine how it would feel if we could only see grey, only hear music in one note, had to eat food with only salt and could never smell the sweet scent of spring flowers… if everything was the same and there was no diversity. Of course, there will be less conflict but there will also be monotony, and we all need a purpose, something we look forward to, that’ll make our lives worthwhile. So live and let live. Keep repeating this little nugget of information in your mind and enjoy the sights!
P.S.: In the last 2 years, I have never been singled out for not being from here or discriminated against racially in this beautiful city. I am stared at some times, of course, and I diffuse that situation with a disarming smile (hehe). What I and my fellow passengers were unwilling spectators to that day seemed to be a singular incident. I cannot imagine what that girl must have felt while facing such a vicious attack. Nobody deserves to be treated that way! And if she ever comes across this blog post, I just want to apologize to her, from the bottom of my heart, for being too much of a coward and not speaking up.