Some time back, I visited my grandma’s house in order to check on her health, and to hunt for another good book from the old stack of my grandfather. An intriguing and alluring smell filled my senses and drew me towards the rusty, dusty racks of old books. I was dusting the shelf when a book fell off suddenly. It was secured with a hard cover, but was badly frayed, with termites slowly devouring its edges. I picked up the book, ‘How Far We Slaves Have Come!’ by Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro. I read the authors’ name and put it back securely, thinking that great leaders are now left only in books.
While I was leaving the room, a croaky and gruff yet strenuous voice stopped me in my tracks: “Life without ideas is nothing; there is no greater joy than to fight for them.”
The stiff voice belonged to the man who was considered a great monster by many, for a long period. He, then, exhaled and the smell of Cuban cigar’s smoke filled the room; the guy was a chain smoker.
Another guttural voice filled the room in response: ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’
Here I was, feeling completely out of place, listening to the two great revolutionary leaders of their times having a courteous conversation.
Their words impacted me and I couldn’t help thinking that we are nowhere in the race of brining a positive change, in order to place our nation among the prestigious ones.
The old man from South Africa looked at me. His wrinkles deepened and he graciously answered my unasked question,
‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’
I decided to join their conversation and asked: ‘We are now living in a world order under the threat of the fifth generation of warfare; hence, our internal institutions are being sabotage and educational institutes are under the influence of the western ideology. How can the weapon of education help the deprived ones?’
The other man, busy burning his lungs, flicked the ashes off of his huge Cuban cigar in the ashtray and replied:
‘Man do not shape destiny, Destiny produces the man for hour.’
I asked again, ‘What sort of a man, a leader no doubt! Right? But, what sort of a leader?’
Mr. South Africa replied: ‘Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.’
The man almost done with his cigar added: ‘My friend Ernesto Che Guevera said: “One must have a large dose of humanity, a large dose of a sense of justice and truth …. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”’
I took a deep breath, and gave them a smile and left the room, but not before picking up their book “HOW FAR WE SLAVES HAVE COME!” authored by the first black political leader and philanthropist who became South Africa’s president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and the man one who brought revolution in Cuba by beginning his movement with only 82 people, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.