Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pale Blue Dot

One of my father's earliest memories is running towards his home, terrified that it had washed away after a monsoon thunderstorm rolled in. He was outside with his older sister collecting drinking water from a nearby well. My grandfather had recently moved the entire family across the new border after the Partition of India in 1947. Lacking basic amenities and accommodation, their first house was built with mud: soil, silt, and clay.

One of my mother’s fondest childhood memory is falling asleep on the rooftop of her house listening to Punjabi songs under the moonlight. She loved the sound and rhythm of the language and wished to learn, but it was of little use in her village. My grandmother would tell her it was a distraction and she should focus on her studies instead. However, my mother has a endless passion for learning and taught herself the basics of the language.

Six decades later my father is an entrepreneur working in Africa and South Asia after spending a career as an Engineer and my mother is as an English-Punjabi interpreter working for the Courts, Refugee Board, Lawyers, Doctors etc. after spending a career as a High-school Teacher.

Now, in their retirement years, though they refuse to retire, both of them use smartphones and tablets and communicate by Email, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Their journey has taken them from reading books under a kerosene lamp to reading books on a tiny device that was simply unimaginable during their childhood.

The world changes at an incredible pace and I can only wonder how different everyday life will be a few decades from now.

At the same time it is extremely unfortunate that too many people have been not been given or have been denied the opportunity to progress and better their quality of life.

I don’t have a solution for this but I wish we, as a society, put more emphasis on enabling education for all and inspiring a passion for learning in everyone because I firmly believe that no learning is ever wasted.

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Finally, my favourite people around the globe:

- Stephen Fry (Comedian): Look up his brilliant career on Wikipedia

- Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist): Wonderful and insightful lectures, talks, podcasts, etc

- Chris Hadfield (Astronaut): His "Space Oddity" music video from space is incredible

- Malala Yousafzai (Student + Activist): A brave girl with a passion for learning

- Parveen Saeed (Philanthropist): Search "Parveen Saeed BBC" to find out what she does.

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Aside: The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers from Earth. "YouTube: Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot"


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