Nanda Pavaday: “Covid-19 is showing us that we are not what we have but what we contribute”

Encounter

The lockdown teaches us that we are not our car, our house or the money we have in the bank. We are not the lengthy titles we have on our business card; nobody is asking us for it anymore’

* ‘Happiness is found in what we manage to build within ourselves. Having time for yourself allows you to form your own thoughts without being influenced by others’


An economics graduate, Nanda Pavaday is a popular storyteller with wide following on social platforms, especially on Facebook. He has plied his trade weaving narratives for companies and brands and has won numerous awards during his career. In 2019, he launched ‘Ti Zistwar nou Pays’ – a collection of stories from his childhood and in 2020 his second book ‘Confizri’ was published. Excerpts from the encounter:


* Your Facebook posts and your writings indicate that you are a strong believer in positivity. How can people stay upbeat in these trying times?

To be honest, I am not always positive. Like others, I have my moments of doubts and worries too, but I avoid sharing those episodes unless I am convinced that the readers can learn something from them and move forward. People tend to like my jokes and funny posts because it is in human nature to enjoy a good joke.

When things get overwhelming, I remember a saying that conveys the message that not a single leaf falls from a tree without God’s will. I usually find some serenity in this thought. It helps me to accept that whatever happens fits within God’s design and the Almighty always works towards our best interest.

* Do you really think that positivity and optimism can go a long way in meeting the substantial challenges which face us all,, whether it’s about the effects and consequences of the pandemic or the grim news we have been fed with since last year

It is important not to react to every piece of information that is being shared. During times of stress, a lot of what is said and forecasted is not necessarily true or does not materialise. Being in a reactive mood is never a good thing. It is always better to take time to think and try to make a positive contribution in whatever way we can.

Last year during the pandemic, I used to check on my friends by sending them a message via email and WhatsApp every two three days just to ask them how they were doing. I wanted them to feel that they are not alone in these trying times and if they needed me, I was there for them.

* Why is it that we seem to be losing our bearings, our soul to greed, quick bucks…? It’s so easy to pin the blame on our parents, on the education system, but is that really the case?

The problem of eroding values is definitely one of the most serious ones that our country and the world at large is facing. Over the years, there have been many new colleges and universities that have set up and many professional schools built to teach people skills; efforts have been made to raise the educational facilities to nurture a more intelligent population but, in parallel, most of the channels through which these values were transmitted have collapsed.

Families are less closely knit, and parents hardly spend time with their children; the movies kids watch are a far cry from the ones we watched in our childhood since they were infused with values and propounded the importance of family values and togetherness.

Our leaders are simply not good role models, the media promote a skewed vision of success, one that tilts heavily towards material abundance, and religion has become more of something we do as a matter of routine than something that teaches and elevates us. Activities like gardening, poultry breeding and fishing that used to teach us about the virtues of patience have now been replaced by video games that teach kids to click buttons and go. Drugs and gambling have replaced sports activities in every street corner.

As a result, year after year, we are producing people with professional skills and book knowledge but very few with sound values like honesty, integrity, loyalty, compassion, respect and accountability.

* You were saying earlier that our leaders do not serve as good role models. One would like to believe that the people are fed up with the way politics is being conducted locally; they might be looking forward to see change happening at that level. Do you think that’s really the case?

The present system has passed its expiry date. Today there are not many young people who would accept that it is their dad, as head of the family, who gets to choose the person they should marry and spend the rest of their life with. Likewise, in most companies, decisions are no longer taken by the bosses to be imposed on employees but rather in concert with them. The tendency is for all individuals to be consulted and involved in matters that concern them.

It is only in politics that we see a small group of people deciding on matters that will affect and influence our lives without consulting us. This explains why the current system does not respond at all to the aspirations of the public. In the past, it was important to have representatives militating in favour of the people because the means of transport and communications were limited and did not make it possible to mobilize thousands of people to come forward to discuss their cases. Such is no longer the case. Through the means offered by advances in telecommunication, it is now possible to involve a person or a group of people on any subject that affects them, and obtain the support and contribution of real professionals in debates that require a certain expertise, without them needing to be physically present.

The current situation where we sit there and watch people who are supposed to represent us put on a show demonstrating a total lack of knowledge, competency and concern breeds frustration and anger. The current political system would have long collapsed had it not been for the huge amount money invested in it and that holds it in place.

* In your list of institutions and other stakeholders that inspire hope for the future, where would you place the youth of our country?

When we talk of the future, we can only talk of the youth. But then it’s also about the legacy we leave to them. Right now, in these uncertain times, the only certainty we have is that there will be more scandals and more mudslinging. We are not inspiring our youths to be better people.

Some time back, I was approached by a colleague to write an article for their magazine because I am considered to be a successful author. I felt uncomfortable with the term ‘successful author’ because, as I told them, it gives the youths the impression that the success of a person is to be seen on TV or giving interviews in the papers. I would rather they see me as someone who has faced failures and misfortunes, and made mistakes, but kept going. That’s a vision of success that has more depth.

* How else can we have hope for the future?

In one word, it will be ‘faith’. I think we live very unspiritual lives. We focus mostly on what is visible, even more so with the advent of social media that has made it essential to be seen doing things rather than actually involving ourselves and really connecting.

To me, success is not just about going higher up but deeper inside. When you look at a tree, you find that the branches and leaves are always being swayed but if the tree has deep roots, the trunk will stay firm come the winds and the storm.

* What about belief in a Supreme Being?
I have decided to believe in God. Arguing that God does not exist because you can’t find proof of His existence is like being Mauritian and saying Mauritius does not exist because you can’t see it on the world map. You are probably looking for it in the wrong place.

One must not confuse between disproving a concept of God and disproving God. Concepts are signposts of something, they are not the thing itself. It is absolutely impossible to prove the existence of God through logic because scientific knowledge requires that you are separate from the subject of your study. To experience the divine, you have to turn your attention inward, towards yourself.

If you can’t see the ocean, either you are too far from it and your view is being obstructed by mountains and human constructions, in which case you have to come closer. Or you are already in the ocean and you need to stop searching. We have been searching for so long whether God existed anywhere outside of us. He would have been found by now. Not believing is easier than believing.

* What is the most important lesson that you take from the pandemic?

The lockdown teaches us that we are not our car, our house or the money we have in the bank. We are not our office because most of us don’t even have one now. We are not the time we spend on our job; it is not even considered essential to society. We are not the company we spent our life building, most are closed or hardly operating. We are not the lengthy titles we have on our business card; nobody is asking us for it anymore. We are not the gang we hang out with to make us look good. We are not the selfies we take in classy restaurants and places all over the world.

We are not our friends, now we see the toxic influence some of them have over us. We are not our fans and followers but the trust that exists between us. We are not the football team we thought we will not be able to live without. We are not the weapons we built to protect our borders, they are all useless as the enemy is small and invisible.

We are not our flock of servants and workers tending to all our needs. This epidemic is having both a humbling and a regulating effect on all of us. By isolating us, Coronavirus is getting us to be real.

By cutting us off, it is forcing us to be with who we are. We are our minds and the thoughts that we allow to sit there. We are our bodies, our health and how we keep ourselves fit. We are the food we eat and the hygiene we maintain. We are not our religious beliefs and the great show we make about all that but the silent faith we have in our hearts.

We have no home if there is no love. Our children are not ours if we have not built ties with them. Some of us are feeling useless, naked, vulnerable. We are finding out we are not the things we do, how we make ourselves look, what we have accumulated.

And there are some who are baking bread and distributing to others, some are creating music and prose, some are imparting knowledge and life experiences, some are opening their heart and sharing love. Covid-19 is showing us that we are not what we have but what we contribute.

* Anything else?

I think that happiness is found in what we manage to build within ourselves. Having time for yourself allows you to form your own thoughts without being influenced by others.

In our modern life, it is not our deficiencies that make us sick but our excesses; we must therefore learn to slow down and recharge our batteries as often as possible. You can only know other people as deeply as you know yourself.


* Published in print edition on 16 March 2021

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