Living in a Round World – A View from Exile

This was my first impression of America when I arrived in September 1990. A transit through London and the peace and plenty of the US had opened my eyes. I realized that I actually came from a country and society that had robbed and contained us. In years to come, I had to carry a heavy cross of having come from a Third World country.


Living in a Round World – A View from Exile


If only the world was flat. If only the end of their land was the edge of their world. But beyond their land and across the deep, monstrous seas were land with people. With their own kings and queens, their prime ministers and presidents. They too had mosques and churches. They too had fears and gods. Their ships three hundred years ago set sail on the belief that the earth was not flat but round. Their Seafaring traders brought home all 
the wealth they acquired – silks, pepper, gold. In return they left their customs, language and their gods. They remade the globe all over again. This time: Not a box but a sphere.

That adventure again found a new world – that had acres of land, deep woods and lot of water, gold and oil. So the men stayed on.. .built houses, laid roads, bought slaves and drafted a new constitution and a Brave New World.

But men in the flat world never knew all this. White men robbed them. Their kings sat on their thrones; their women sat their kilns their men lived with the cattle and learnt from the beasts a bovine grace, the cobblers knew only of shoes, the fishermen went to fish; the shepherds tended their goats, and the Brahmins teachers taught their children that the world was flat.

The kings died… the princes took their seats, the women died… the daughters sat at the kilns…the fishermen, the shepherds, the teachers died…they left their fears, their ploughs, their nets, their goats and their textbooks in which the world was flat.

But in the Brave New World the fathers spoke Italian, French, English, and Spanish. But their children forgot Italian, French, English and Spanish. They began to speak only – American: The slaves of course, never spoke.

They made the telephone, radios, cars, banks, guns companies and stock exchange. They dug the earth for iron, oil and gold. They cleared the forests and the rocks and food grew in abundance.They believed liked their fathers. They knew the world was round, so each had a face and a name a house and a car. But the slaves never spoke.

They made use of the screws, the lever, and the gear, the wheel that began to move weave, write, talk, count and what not. The men collected the gold. And more gold. Printed the dollar and went out to shop in the world – with dollars in the purse, a pistol in his holster and a, plot in the mind.

While the children in the flat world flocked around the memsahibs in silky hats and the men in suits. They looked at their pink skins and stared in awe. They ran behind their cars, peeped into their colonial, houses, say them eat their cattle, and saw them disappear across the sea…

They read their textbooks, felt their globes and learnt what narrow-minded fools their parents were. When they read they knew .They drove home the men in suits, went to schools, and drew the map again. And made a world with few kings, one flag and one anthem. But there was so much to do.


Banyan trees grow in most old temple courtyards. Both symbols of age and antiquated ideas. The hanging adventitious roots of these trees reach the ground and begin all over again the next generation. And if you wanted to ever arrest the growth of the banyan – strike at the roots.

These men too began to make trains, telephones and governments. They too dug their earth for the coal, gold and oil. They found the gold was gone and the oil lay too deep. They too printed the paper money and only paper it turned to be.

They had nothing but a ‘story to tell. A story of a thousand years. Of kings and horses. Of their gods and their temples and their forts. Once it was interesting but now it is all boring.

A thousand years of tilling, a thousand years of storytelling. The children who sat around their grandma under the old banyan tree grew more and more. Undoubtedly their women were more fertile than their soil. The children asked questions. And it -seemed like so many questions had no answers.

The politicians came in. Some who spoke English and some who refused to speak it. And their answers to the problem: blab, blab and quite smartly fertilizers for the land and condoms for the tillers.

The repair and renovation was on. A million blackboards, chalks and teachers. And from scratch… the a,b,c…the ba ba black sheep, the multiplication of tables, the anatomy, the debits and credits, the binary system until the boys learnt to split the atom, fire missiles into the sky and stand in attention whenever their national anthem played.

The princes sold their thrones to the museums, the untouchables attended college, the Brahmins Jostled in crowded public buses with the sons of cobblers and fishermen, the daughters left their kilns and attended schools. The times were changing and so were the men. But they had to pay a high price for everything. For onions, petrol: rice clothes or Change. Their business men dodged taxes. And hid their money. For some the swizz paid 
interest while some the cockroaches eat. Lies, cheating, dishonesty, scandals entered business, politics and normal life. 


Sometimes the men are confused. And in their frustration they hurt and kill one another. Because one grows a beard, or one holds the cow as sacred and the other holds the pig as filth. Because the factories get closed. The red flags are hoisted. Black labels are pinned. And then the slogans and abuses. In the frustration they burn buses, loot shops, stop trains and refuse to work. 

It’s their way of asking for change. It is a way of checking if government works, if democracy works. The new reborn nation is fighting to uproot the mistaken concept of their forefathers that the earth was flat. 

That’s the price for change. Let them pay for it by a hundred burnt buses, stabbed men and derailed bogies. Let all hatred and misunderstanding be consumed in those burning flames. The men have realized to think anew. And these are certainly sincere attempts to cope up living in a huge round world…

K.A.Xavier December 1990. 

(I had signed off the article printed in a dot matrix printer as K.A.Xavier which might have been one of the last times I ever wrote my name like 

that – I would read like a sentence, Xavier Augustin Kaidavalapil. “Mr.K” was how it was finally pronounced.) 

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