“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When I was to leave for DRC a lot of people were very concerned. My first time to Africa and I was going to the ‘dark heart of Africa’ The Congo – one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Was I crazy? Where are you going for research they would ask and I would say ‘DRC!’ The mild response would be a worried look and an awkward ‘Oh’. And a stronger one would be things like “Do you want to get blown up?” And while this concern was well intended it was often misplaced, as most of the people who warned me against coming to DRC had never been there themselves. In fact, the few people I met, who had been there, had mostly good things to say about the country and its people.
I come from India I know what the rest world thinks of a country with a ‘dangerous reputation’. I am aware of what the international media says about India. Women travellers are now scared to go to India, exchange students choose other locations, ‘Indian men’ are seen as lustful and vulgar. Is rape a problem in India? Yes – (But where is it not?) (PS. Read more about this on my other blog, link at the bottom.)
However, my point is that this is not the only story of India. There are so many more stories- beautiful, colorful, historic, amazing and fun – that get lost when a particular negative narrative becomes the only narrative of a country.
Before coming to DRC, partly because of all the well intended warnings and partly because of everything I was reading about the country – I imagined it would be a really scary place, men yielding guns, car’s exploding, people getting kidnapped, raped and all of this taking place in a gigantic ball of fire revolving around the dark abyss of the earth! (Ok, this is a bit exaggerated, but it comes pretty close to my imagination.)
And now that I’m here, it seems quite different. Yes, sometimes there is a palpable tension in the air in some places and there are certain places where I’m not allowed to go. But there are also people. Regular people like you and me – walking around on the streets, buying and selling goods in the market, going to restaurants with their family, going to university, getting married, playing with their children, enjoying the sunset – basically going through the rigmarole of this glorious mess that we call life! These are the other stories. The ones we don’t hear in the media, read in academic literature, and policy documents about the country. These are the other truths and it is this side of this ginormous country that I want to explore. These are the stories I want to find and share with the world, in no way to romanticize its problems, which do exist (like everywhere else) but so that we see more than just one narrative of this beautiful country.
So here, on my blog you will find such stories. I will update it as I go and I look forward to interesting discussions.
Here is the link to my other blog where you can read my view on the Nirbhaya rape case in India :
Here is the link to Adichie’s TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/transcript?language=en