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Ubuntu – I am Because We Are

by Vidya Sury February 21, 2014 15 comments
love is all around us

“I am because we are”

The Ubuntu philosophy: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

I connected with Michelle Wallace of Writer in Transit last year. Then we were both part of the Tree of Life collaborative writing challenge orchestrated by Samantha Redstreake Geary. We interacted often as we belonged to a group. Again, in December 2013. we participated in the Composers for Relief Supporting the Philippines, another beautiful initiative by Samantha.

So when Michelle announced the Ubuntu Bloghop celebrating her blog’s third anniversary/birthday, I signed up.

Happy Anniversary Michelle!

I love the name of the bloghop “Ubuntu” Besides being a delight to roll it off the tongue, the word has beautiful meaning.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition in a 1999 book:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

He goes on to elaborate that Ubuntu is the essence of being human – that you cannot exist as a human being in isolation. The beauty of Ubuntu is interconnection and the generosity that flows as a result.

How wonderful to live by the Ubuntu philosophy!

ubuntu vidya sury

Ubuntu in action

If I had to grab an example of Ubuntu from my own life, I’d think of my great Grandmother, Grandmother and Mother. And specifically one of my uncles (Mom’s brother) who never thought twice about sharing everything he had. He saw the world around him as his family. If he had money and someone needed it more, he just gave it to them.

I remember, years ago, when we lived in Mumbai – and Vidur was just born, we were waiting for him to be 100 days old before he could go visiting. Yeah some belief. So – finally, D day came and my Uncle and Aunt were very excited to welcome the prince home. We reached their place and during the walk from the railway station to their house – a 20 minute stroll, we went through the market. Everywhere, we were surprised to see people greeting my Uncle – not casually acknowledging – but in a very loving way.

One lady, a flower -seller stopped us and insisted on giving us a few lengths of garlanded flowers and refused to take money. When we forced her to take the money, she broke down and said she wouldn’t be alive and sitting there had it not been for my Uncle’s generosity during her time of need. Her story is typical. Drunk jobless husband who beat her every day and frittered away whatever little she earned, two children to support.

Then one day she approached my Aunt asking for work. My Uncle fed her children and asked if she would like to do business instead and explained how the area needed more flower sellers, what with two-three temples nearby. She was nervous, but he convinced her and got her what she needed to get started. There was no looking back after she realized she enjoyed doing it.

Over the next two-three days we met many more people like the flower lady. My heart swells with pride even today to recall that time.

Ubuntu in action!.

Another great example of Ubuntu I can think of is my blogging community. We are individuals yet we are all interconnected when we come together to support each other. I can proudly state that I belong with a group of bloggers who:

  • care for each other
  • respect each other
  • are compassionate
  • respectful of each other
  • affectionate
  • eager to support each other

Above all, Ubuntu implies compassion, giving and generosity. It is the legacy we leave behind.

What is your idea of Ubuntu?

Please share in the comments!


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My Inner Chick February 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm


You. Are. A. Sweet. Prayer.

love you more than fluffy ivory kittens in spring.

My Inner Chick recently posted…Our Stories Become Our Lives

Elle February 22, 2014 at 12:42 am

Hi Vidya, I’ve loved this philosophy since I first heart about it, so much so that I wrote about it in one of my articles last year. I’m so happy that the concept is being shared in such a global way. And you bring even greater appreciation for it by the way you live. Thanks for this Vidya…you are blessing our world.
Elle recently posted…2 Positive Steps to Dissolve Cold Pent Up Feelings And Warm Your Heart

Sulekha February 22, 2014 at 11:36 am

Ubuntu has such a lovely ring to it! Its meaning is awesome too, I am because you are…my dad was like your uncle, loved by all. He believed in helping others, unconditionally. Loved reading your post.

Michelle Wallace February 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Hi Vidya.
I LOVE your thoughts on Ubuntu!

I’d like to share the following with you: “What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion–everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.” – Chris Abani

“You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.” – Chris Abani when talking about his mother.

These are examples taken from a TED video, in which Chris Abani, an award-winning Nigerian author, talks about humanity and the Ubuntu philosophy through the stories of some remarkable people. If you get a chance, watch the video…

And here are some quotes that resonated with me: “We are all equal in the fact that we are all different. We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same. We are united by the reality that all colours and all cultures are distinct & individual. We are harmonious in the reality that we are all held to this earth by the same gravity. We don’t share blood, but we share the air that keeps us alive…” C. JoyBell C.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
― Herman Melville

I’m so glad that we’ve had the opportunity to connect… 🙂
Thank you for reaching out across cyberspace to share in the spirit of Ubuntu!
Take care my friend…
Michelle Wallace recently posted…Write… Edit… Publish: What’s In A Face + UBUNTU

Corinne Rodrigues February 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm

You’ve chosen such brilliant examples, Vidya. Your uncle deserves a book written about him – you seem to have endless stories of his good deeds!
And Write Tribe, there’s so much we can do together, if we only realize the power of community!
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obsessivemom February 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Loved reading your post Vidya. If only we’d THINK about others a little bit we’d all live in a happier place. Your uncle seems such a special person.
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Michelle Liew February 22, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Yes, we should spare a thought for others…it would make so much difference if we all did.
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A Walk into the Woods February 22, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Vidya, it was absolutely amazing (goosebumpy amazing) to read the meaning of Ubuntu. The only Ubuntu I knew of was an Operating System some 7-8 years ago… But knowing what it means, and reading about your uncle, and then your analogy of Write Tribe in the context was a great feeling.
I am so glad to be a part of the ‘Ubuntu’ movement. Let’s all spread love!!

Kalpana Solsi February 23, 2014 at 12:57 am

Loved your thoughts on Ubuntu and what a lovely family you have Vidya.
My mom made a practice of giving something useful to a servant who had stopped working for us. One day she came and asked for a ‘blanket’ and mom promptly parted with an ole but good blanket. I did not like her generosity. My mom replied that she is poor and needy so she has asked for it and reminded that once upon a time she served us faithfully.
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Kathy February 23, 2014 at 2:12 am

I love all your lovely examples and you are absolutely correct about Write Tribe. That is the way I feel about the group too. ♥
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WriterlySam February 23, 2014 at 10:10 am

It brings me such joy to see those who connected through collaborations join each others communities and rally around a common good! That, in and of itself, is the true spirit of Ubuntu:) Cheers to you, my dear friend!
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Pratibha February 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Thank you so much for the share Vidya! I am overwhelmed by the support you give out to all of us. It means a lot!

I loved the Ubuntu philosophy and I am going to incorporate this into my life! Love always
Pratibha recently posted…Quotes that remind you to love yourself {Life Mantras}

Trisha February 23, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I just saw LONE SURVIVOR at the movies today, and it had what I would consider to be the spirit of ubuntu at one point as well – the Afghani people who shelter soldiers in distress because of a 2000-year-old tradition of sheltering the underdog from their enemy, so to speak.

Your uncle sounds like an amazing person! I love that people like him exist in the world. 🙂
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Damaria Senne February 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Vidya, your uncle ke motho. Your uncle is human. That is the compliment that Batswana people in South Africa would give him to acknowledge how he helps people. And it is the small things that we do to help others that help demonstrate our humanness; the everyday kindnesses that we do without thought; stepping in when someone else is trouble, celebrating with each other when good things happen.

Michael Di Gesu February 24, 2014 at 10:45 am

Hi, Vidya,

Nice to meet you. What a wonderful family you come from. To be such a strong part of Ubuntu. How wonderful.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It opens up new experiences to us from around the globe without leaving the comfort of our own homes.

This community .. our community.. is very special and it’s true that we all appreciate and grow from one another. How appropriate this bloghop is for all of us!
Michael Di Gesu recently posted…WHAT’S IN A WORD? …


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