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The Coronavirus Diaries: A Time of Enrichment

Wednesday July 8 2020

Kasta Dip, Director of India Peace Centre, reflects on 95 days living in Germany during the lockdown.

When I left for London in the last week of February, I had exciting errands and was looking forward to meeting our partners in the UK and Germany to strengthen our partnership more perceptively.

Little did I know then that all my plans would be marred so abruptly by an unprecedented pandemic-induced global lockdown. Disappointed but understanding the situation, I had to cancel all my plans. I decided to return home immediately to be with my family, but by then the government of India had already banned international flights to and from India until further notice. So, I got stuck in Hamburg where I was hosted by our partner organisation, the Centre for Mission and Ecumenism and a couple of families and friends for 95 days.

At a time when the government had issued advisory to practice social distancing to stop the spread of infections, I thought it was going to be a bizarre ordeal for a Dalit who has already experienced exclusion and social distancing from his childhood. But soon I realised that my professional relationship with my hosts was turning out to be very personal as they made me feel like part of their families and took care of my hospitality with utmost generosity. They began to fill in my diary again with different engagements and exposure,s not only in Hamburg but also in other cities within Germany.

As days passed and my emotions settled down, we began to explore our cultures together. There were always questions and curiosities on food, faith and festivals which were intriguing and enriching. We cooked together and ate together; walked together and laughed together. A spicy Indian curry became a favourite dish for a German who has never been to India and was reluctant to even have a taste of it in the first instance. We tried the best of our culinary skills and had great fellowships. Long drives and long walks were daily routine and somehow became my habits. The longer the walk, the deeper the conversation.

Frank and honest conversations not only led to better understanding of each other but also yielded respect for what we value the most in life, in different communities in different parts of the world. Prejudices and ambiguities could be easily overcome by reasonable interpretation of cultures and traditions.

In our conversations we vehemently criticised social norms and taboos that chuck certain groups of people to the periphery and create oppressive social structures, and critically appreciated people’s and civil societies’ movements that stand for justice and peace, whether it is solidarity for Dalits or campaigning for #BlackLivesMatter.

In all these, I realised that acts of hospitality and humour draw people closer and create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Differences do not make  grounds for discrimination but draw appreciation for diversity, which is a gift of God. Sometimes this beauty is hidden from our view because of prejudices and ignorance, and lack of interest.

Lockdown was an opportunity for me to get enriched by experiencing this beauty which I had missed during my earlier visits. Work can take us to places but life connects us to people.

India Peace Centre is a partner organisation of the Church of Scotland

The Coronavirus Diaries: Updates from Church of Scotland partners around the world

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Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
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