Thursday, 14 October 2010

Village Life

I have read two books this week. The first was called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and it charts the rise to fame of a young boy who grew up in Malawi and overcame adversity, and lack of education, to build a windmill and bring electricity to his village. The village he lives in is small and harbours a close knit community, which clings to the traditions of the past. The members of the community have no choice but to get along and carry some responsibility for one another. In the face of famine, the needy are assisted by those better off. Faced with insufficient funds to attend ssecondary school, the boy continues his education through the local library. His determination is fueled only by his enthusiasm for science and his altruistic intentions of dragging this remote community into the 21st Century.

The second book is Alexander McCall Smith's latest Edinburgh yarn. In the novel, Isabel (the main protagonist) refers constantly to Edinburgh, not as a city, but as a village. The story is woven in such a way as to present many coincidences, but these seem real when you consider that in reality we all live in villages. The circles that we move in are relatively small. Even if we move, the community we inhabit becomes our village.

Many people see Dubai as a huge metropolis of glittering skyscrapers but, just like everywhere else, it's just a village. You'll be talking to someone who you've never met before, and as you mention someone else, they already know that person. I interviewed someone last year (a maid) and she was lovely. I wanted to employ her but her current employer wouldn't release her soon enough. When complaining about this to a colleague at work, I realised that my colleague knew the employer of this maid.

In the small village I moved from, it was perfectly acceptable to walk into the newsagents to cancel your papers; then visit the doctors for some intimate procedure with the nurse, to find that the woman in the newsagent and the nurse at the doctors is the same person! In a small village in rural England this is to be expected but in a city inhabited by 1.7 million people it comes as a bit of a shock. A metropolis it may be, but every day I am struck by how small a community it is.

The difference between the village in Malawi and Edinburgh or Dubai is not in the size of the community, the advancement of technology or indeed even the setting. It's the sense of community that matters. In Malawi, you could rely on the other members of the village. In the 'village' you inhabit, could you say the same thing?

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