I was woken up suddenly by a knock at the door of my cottage in Jinja, a small town close to the source of river Nile and not far from the shores of lake Victoria. It’s about seventy-five kilometres from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda
It was a real struggle to come round so early in the morning as when I went to sleep the previous night I was totally exhausted after a 13-hour journey from London to Entebbe airport and then a further two-hour drive to Jinja. The purpose of my visit was to attend a week-long meeting of six African and seven other countries. Interburns was hosting this meeting and being one of the Co Founders, I arrived a day earlier to make sure that the necessary arrangements of this retreat were in place.
The knock on the door was gentle but repeated. After about a minute of listless denial and resistance, I finally accepted the bitter reality that I must leave the bed and answer the knock. When I opened the cottage door, to my surprise, there was no one outside. The fresh morning breeze took no time to freshen me up and I stepped down from the small front balcony on to the small glistening grassy patch in front of my cottage. I saw nothing except a lone nine feet tall tree covered with a fresh generation of newly emerged green leaves.
Suddenly, I discovered them. They were comfortably sitting on one of the horizontally oriented branches of this tree. Young bright green leaves were utterly unsuccessful to hide these three almost similar size monkeys. One of them was staring at me and showing his teeth with a meaningful smile. All of them had an inquisitive glow in their eyes.
Last night when I arrived here, it was almost to pitch dark to make out any details about the surroundings. But even then, the overwhelming sound of the flowing Nile in the background was the most striking feature of this resort. The morning breeze was very fresh and now, I was fully awake – thanks to my monkey friends – to explore the surroundings.
The view was joyfully inviting and beautiful. I looked around and the first few steps of a four thousand miles long journey of River Nile was in front of me. I started to walk along gently. I was in no rush as there were about two hours still remaining for me to be ready for the breakfast meeting. But it took me few minutes to draw its attention towards me.
The seasoned and very wise river was in its full flow and appeared very self contented and not interested in conversation. As we walked along together for a little while, it seemed to have somehow recognised the similarity between us. The on and on flow of its waves was no different than the unending stream of thoughts in my mind. This commonality soon brought us together and we started to chat.
The river asked me “why are you here for?” I replied “to build bridges across the global disparity in healthcare. I am here as the part of a global team of burns specialists. You may call us dreamers! We are here for five days of meetings of experts representing six African and three South East Asian countries from one side of the divide of our current polarised global healthcare system and the experts from US, Canada and UK from the other.
Though we have all agreed to build bridges across this divide of global injustice which is causing deaths and suffering of millions of innocent people, the struggle now is to formulate plans and strategies to succeed in our mission.
Then I asked the river, And why are you here? ”The river smiled and replied “ Exactly for the same purpose. I’ve been here for so many thousands of years, to build bridges” I said, “But apparently you look like more of a natural divide than a bridge to me, especially when I saw you from the aeroplane” It smiled and said “But the world is not what it appears from above. I will share my story of building bridges with you.
Thousands of years ago, people were scattered as individuals in deep jungle. They were the slaves of their survival, imprisoned in their own personal needs. They learned nothing but cruelty from the surrounding harsh environment. Survival for the fittest remained their guiding principle. People from one side of the river looked at the people on the other side with suspicion and fear. They were obsessed only about their own survival. It was their jungle instinct. This feeling of persistent threat kept them separated from each other and they remained lonely.
I felt the pain in my heart for them and decided to move forward with the help of love. I thought they needed to know how to communicate with each other and how to build bridges. My waters then flooded the banks across the jungle and deserts alongside both edges and converted it into a fertile land. They responded with their intrinsic human goodness and intelligence. Very soon they learned to grow abundant food and created shelters for themselves. Soon, they left the lonely and savage life of jungle and became a community. They developed new skills and learned to explore their environment. Finally they achieved a breakthrough of access to their emotions. They created words and very soon mastered the art of weaving them together into language. This enhanced their strength of exploration and discovery into themselves and in their environment.
One day, a few of them, a handful of dreamers like you all, discovered something very powerful within their hearts. The power of love and goodness which is the driving force for humanity, in fact, the universe. These emotions emancipated them from fear and suspicion about each other. They found the courage and willingness to build bridges across the apparent divide of my flow. They brought their canoes of determination together and tied them with the ropes of their faith in human goodness and created a bridge of compassion and love.
And that was the happiest day of my life. I felt as if the purpose of my existence is served that day. Although I knew that there were many oceans dividing this world, but I also knew that now they have learned the process to overcome it. By using the same principles and same skills, they can cross any divide. The power of communication will help them to overcome all the differences. They will become mature and start thinking harmoniously. And finally, they will be able to love each other. Remember, communication is the key. Talking to each other and becoming friends is miraculous and it is the most powerful way of building bridges.
I said to the Nile “I did not know that you are also a dreamer like us. We have the same dreams and hopes and desires that our world must learn to live and learn and love together. We need to learn to build bridges in the face of global healthcare disparities. This global injustice in healthcare is resulting in tragic deaths and disabilities of millions of innocent people. This suffering because of the burns injuries, trauma and disparity of global health care and inaccessibility of essential medicines must come to an end. In order to become a civilized world, we must now learn to cross the oceans divide.
The Nile said to me, I think you are right. When I look at the present day world, on the one hand I feel proud that they have achieved remarkable success over thousands of years, but on the other hand, it breaks my heart when I see them forgetting the lessons of harmony I taught them through history. They seem to sometimes forget that together they did defeat the scarcity and achieved abundance.
Let’s be together in our hopes that one day, people of this world will identify their intrinsic compassion for each other and the power of goodness. They will be able to overcome the divide of race, religion, colour and creed. They will finally learn the universal language of love. And there will be new songs and unheard melodious music in the air. That day, all of us will join the dance of global harmony together.
acknowledgement: we are grateful for few images from the free access internet websites