Saturday, June 28, 2008

Farewell Dinner of Walid

We gathered in Sara-Vahid's place yesterday evening at around 20:00 with Walid, since he was leaving Amsterdam.

I learned new things about Singapore and Iran.

At one time during the chat, Vahid asked me if we know "Leyla and Mecnun". "Of course", I said, "It is turkish!". Walid said "Really?, I thought it was indian.." To be honest, I guess it is arabic although I once read that the desert of Leyla and Mecnun's tribes were in Afghanistan.
I should ask Kaustubh if he heard this story or not..

I also learned that his name is after a Lebanese politician: Walid Jumblatt. His brother is called Yaser Arafat, and he has a cousin called Muammer Kaddafi.

It was interesting to hear from Walid that there were no clashes between groups in Singapore. Tamils, Chinese and Malays live happily in the country, without any integration problem. He said that in big buildings, a certain percentage of residents has to be from each ethnic group, which in a way "forces" the different groups to integrate. And it seems that this policy works.

One other thing is: the official language is English in the country. The education in universities is english. I was a bit surprised first. "Why are not your own languages promoted?" I asked. But it does not make sense since the question then would be: "Which of malay, chinese and tamil must be the official language?" In this sense, it is logical to select a language other than any of these three as official language, to prevent conflicts. But still, it is sad that the new generation forgets their own languages, and prefer to speak english in daily conversations, as Walid said.

Vahid and Sara talked about an Iranian poet with azeri origin: Shahriyar. I learned that there are actually two deserts in Iran. Also, one grandfather of Vahid was azeri; and his city Mashad was close to Turkmenistan.

It was also interesting to learn reasoning behind his surname. They also told me that women do not change their surnames when they get married. That was surprising at first; but considering that we and they did not have any surnames in the old times, getting the husband's surnames must be a tradition originating from the west since surname tradition comes from there too.

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