I am in Hyderabad, India, attending the World Editors’ Forum. Although I stopped over in New Delhi in 2005 during a very long trip to China, this is really my first visit to India. But which Northerner of my generation is not culturally affected by India? As early as I can remember, India was the earliest baggage of cultural globalization that we carried; there was my father’s old GRUNDIG radio which had a “changer” (as records players were called) which repeatedly played some memorable old Indian songs that we all loved to dance to and sing along with. These were eventually re-worked by several Nigerian artists of the sixties. Then the Indian films that were sources of melancholy when re-told by people who were lucky to watch them at the only cinema house in Ilorin, Palace Cinema! The mobile advertisement board of Ilorin is a colourful man who is still very much around today, a certain Ibrahim Dan Boy! And believe me when I say that he still cuts his dresses in an Indian style, even now!
For me there was another strand to the effect of India that has remained long lasting and that was the influence of India’s struggle for Independence. My father used to talk about India and its liberation heroes, but he was particularly fond of Pandit Nehru. By the first year of secondary school, I had read Nehru’s book, GLIMPSES OF WORLD HISTORY, which was actually a selection of prison letters he wrote to his daughter, Indira Ghandi. She also went on to be an Indian Prime Minister. Nehru was the most socialist-inclined of all the leaders of the Indian liberation movement and was an outstanding political figure of the 20th century as a leader of the Non-Aligned movement. He wrote several other books that I would also read like DISCOVERIES OF INDIA. He was a romantic and a lover of poetry. So India, the home of early spiritual/cultural traditions of humanity, that gave the world Mathematics, Chess, Polo and Golf, amongst others, has burnt its imprimatur on my consciousness and has always fascinated me. It is therefore a pleasure to be in Hyderabad, the host city of our Congress. I have three extra days after the Congress to soak in the delights of Hyderabad and its twin city, Secunderabad and should eventually share those with you.