Friday, January 7, 2011

Sensing Sankofa

True! thanks to the social networking sites there is a lot of nostalgia happening around as Mr R Edwin Sudhir points out in his article, 'State Of Reunion' published in Times of India, January 3rd 2011. And judging from the sets of friends as we know them as, these reunions could be a " double whammy of mass meetings and disjointed memories."   Especially for those who have to take time out from their hectic schedules and fit into their diary of events these reunions. He has said it all so eloquently. But what i loved the most was the word that he uses right at the starting. And i was made aware of EGO- SURFING.  i honestly didn't know what it was.  So just like the so many other new aspects of the new life that i come across and if it suits me to know about it, i googled to know correctly what he meant by ego-surfing.
Maybe it will be good on my part to keep his article right here in front of me so that i am not sidetracked from what i have to say. The fact of the matter being that i generally get sidetracked.

Yes i will not deny that i am with him and agree to what he has to say. Specially admire how he has made his point right on the spot. My purpose of reading and re-reading was only to see how well he brought the beginning and end together. So apart from learning how to express clearly, his words left a smile on my face.
Plus i learnt about this new pastime/hobby or whatever, this occupation called ego-surfing.

So according to him ,'' Nostalgia is all right, provided it's in manageable doses."  i was just wondering then if it is wrong/silly/pointless to feel nostalgic for i am going down memory lane at the drop of the hat.
Consider this, anything or everything happening around you takes you way back in time because the more you think about things changing, the more they still remain the same.
Many a times we are like amazed, sometimes stunned other times shocked to see history repeat itself.
Rather sometimes thanks to this nostalgia i am able to look back and see things more clearly.  i feel compassionate and more accommodating than i would have normally been thanks to events from days gone by.
A lot many positive changes happened in me because of the wisdom being instilled in me by what had been when i was say, a child, a teenager, a college student later a young married woman and finally a mother.

i consider nostalgia to be some musical fancy word with sounds, smells and sights to what is called past experience. And many a times i feel one cannot help but take a plunge in the past.  Its like happening naturally almost all the time,  reunions or no reunions. It's happening like breath,  automatically and unwittingly.  Although the choice is then up to us. Sometimes we'd like to indulge in it and other times it just whizzes past like a bird that just flew above your head.
i feel i cannot control it.  And even if i could i would not want to do so because for me this going down memory lane has been like self discovery.
i have realised my identity and made revisions to it to suit the time, place and all my needs. Surely there has been a lot of personal growth in between.

Just a few days back i learnt something really enlightening and it was another aha moment for me. For what i thought was just a common pattern for embroidery was actually a symbol of great knowledge. Well ! the stylised pattern looks like what one has commonly seen as a print on cloth, as a design for grills, also features in architecture,  jewellery, of course as an embroidery pattern, an alpana (decoration on floor) design and even as a design for henna on hands and feet. Now with the world going bonkers over tattoo, the design is also very popular among tattoo lovers for what it symbolises.
So this then and the pattern on top of my blog is an abstract stylised form of Sankofa, a mythical bird that flies forward while looking backwards and has an egg in it's mouth.

" Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi."
This is Akan and translated,  the proverb means, " It is no taboo to return to fetch something which has been forgotten. You can always correct your mistakes."
The Sankofa bird reaches into the past and returns with values and assets that can be used to build the future.
The egg in the beak symbolising the past and the future.
The symbol means, " taking from the past that which is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through benevolent use of knowledge".

The Akan people are an ethnic linguistic group of West Africa mainly Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire who have over the centuries developed a highly artistic system of communication using ideographic and pictographic symbols.
Each symbol representing a specific concept, a saying or even a proverb very much rooted to the Akan experience about everything in life.
Sanko- means go back and fa means to take. Go back and take= Sankofa.

Looking closely we might find the similarity it has to how generally we represent the heart.

Call it a coincidence or find it strange but just like the older African religions which had nothing written and  their beliefs were handed down orally through proverbs and stories so has been the case with what we know as Hinduism. The deeper meanings of life, culture, community or nation are conveyed in a similar manner.
To me like i said my memories that flood in all the time has been everything that this pattern symbolises.  i find my memories useful as i delve into it all the time taking from it whatever my needs could be at that it something most mundane as my cooking to teaching some song from school to listening to some music that soothes rather than agitates to something that goes a step further which could also be personal development.  Looking back i see the places i have defaulted and then make corrections that has helped me now and should continue to help me in the future. The problems i faced have been valuable too.
 i guess then i can replace wording my feelings with something that sounds even more musical than the word which is beginning to sound so cliched.
i cannot hence use the phrase,  'Wallowing in nostalgia' for it has a very negative feel to it.  i'd rather say something like SENSING SANKOFA .

Before i quit i must give due credits to yet another article from TOI from which i have quoted my new found wisdom.
Maybe i am influenced also by the book by Alex Haley,' Roots' which now i seem to read like i would a sacred text for earlier i had not found it to be so endearing and on the contrary when my father had asked me to read it i had read a few pages here and there and reverted back to my Mills and Boons. That was way back in the 70's i suppose.

Also since i am now aware to a little extent of Akan and their wonderful words of wisdom i would like to sign off with this and the rest that i have discovered.
"Nyasa mu bunu  ne mate masie." Or as per Akan, " In the depth of wisdom abounds knowledge and thoughtfulness. I consider and keep what I learn."

  • If all the seeds that fall were to grow, then no one could follow the path under the trees.
  • If an ass goes a traveling; he will not come home a horse.
  • Marriage is like a groundnut: you have to crack them to see what is inside.
  • One should never rub bottoms with a porcupine.
  • The family is like the forest: if you are outside, it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has it's own position.
  • The rain wets the leopard spots but does not wash them off.
Image courtesy:
For any one interested in knowing the meanings of Akan/ Adinkra symbols:


  1. akan was enlightening.something new i learnt today.thanx.i believe sankofa is everyday is because of the past what people are u ialso find memories very makes our life interesting.good thoughtful post.

  2. @Gauri thank you sis :). My effort seems rewarded when u say that u too learnt something.
    It was a learning for me too and basically i felt like sharing.
    Ur appreciation gives me joy.:)