Valediction by Janaki Natarajan
Namaste to you. I bow to whatever is good in you.
Well, humans, dear humans. Looking around and sending you on your way—the young ones—is my task today. You’ve been here studying, and reading, and playing, sad and happy, but now you will be on your way. I would like to pour libations to our ancestors, walking from Olduvai in Mother Africa, and here we are now—here, in Marlboro, as sisters and brothers, all of you, young and old and middle, it’s good to see you.
Our ancestral voices which echo in me ask me to say to you, plunge into humanity. And what does that mean? In Thiên An Môn (Tiananmen), surrounded by a sea of humanity, a girl turned to her mother and said, “Amah, isn’t this great? We cannot fall, held together within humanity, amongst the people.” Ancient communities, collectivities are broken, but we cannot, and surely do not want to, repeat the past. I do not wish to repeat the building of caste, nor enslavement or supremacy, nor warlords, nor wars, now, so a few can be supreme and rule. Why, having experienced the Holocaust, do humans, the same humans, act the Nakba of Palestine?
So plunge, but with the principals like the pine tree and willow-like tactics. Humans do not want to fall into the dust alone. None of us do. Listen. The damaruka fills the caverns of the mind, lit incandescent, shadowed cool places replete with work, food, and coconut water for everyone.
So, the principals. Who owns, and who rules. Who labors, and who benefits. Plunging to build a world we wish to see. Plunge. Opposing ancestral voices—even your elders, oppose us—to gain a future. Signposts are writ large. Read and rewrite, and follow—or not—to your future. Like so many, we maim ourselves to beg, so we may eat cake. But can you do so? I cannot. Walter and Fanon and the rest sit near my ears, our ears, telling and telling, speaking past bitterness, speaking history, and speaking the future.
Pine and read earth cannot meet? Yes they can on this earth. Light and darkness cannot exist without the other. Even Fanon never allowed for separation, but unity and struggles.
Do you love the people—the working people? Do you love labor? As I was told, be ordinary, not exceptional. Some say that life is like a kaleidoscope. It’s not so. Patterns seem to change. Some say patterns cannot change, but that’s not true either. Break the kaleidoscope and it is but rolled board with bits of glass. Make a prism. See the light shine through myriad shafts, radiate and recreate. This is life. Be fearless. And change the world to a better place.