Tuesday 13 December 2011

Revelling in diversity

Another insightful returners moment…..I am out shopping with my friend Helen. First there is this amazing array of bread, covering about 30 feet of wall space and a central table stand. Wow, bread is a basic and yet here I am bemused by the multitude of forms, shapes, flavourings it is to be found in. Even compared to my local supermarket at home this is a wide range, compared to what was available in Rayagada it is incredible. Next, the vegetable aisle and I smile to myself when I see Mooli and Lau on display. I’d never see those at home. Here in London, with its mix of cultures and peoples even the supermarket aisles are labelled African, West Indian, Asian etc. Standing at the checkout I survey the people, the usual baskets piled high with produce, patiently waiting on the next available checkout operator. but such a range of peoples, a real mix of races, ethnicities, creeds, and cultures. I am conscious that I am trying to place where everyone’s or their forebearers has come from. A trip down Holloway Road and it is like entering a forgotten world of small shops and helpful shopkeepers – the fishmongers, the fruit and veg shop etc - the market looking more like something one sees elsewhere in the world as people try to buy and sell to make a living. I love it!

Coincidently my online book group has just been reading a short story by Leila Aboulela entitled “Missing out” which gave rise to a discussion of the cultural hybridisation which occurs when people migrate, either through choice or not, as they inevitably begin to feel homesick on the one hand, home making on the other; as they begin to feel less part of one place and yet not fully part of the other place. It made me aware of how I am increasingly feeling, being a part of that every growing body of people with a sense of reduced belonging to one place and never a full sense of belonging to another, but with this comes a sense also that the whole is greater than the some of the parts and in a world where fear of other is on the increase I can but wish for more cultural hybridisation.  The scientist in me is reminded of the phrase “hybrid vigour” :) That aside diversity rocks!