Being a culture bridge builder – how do you define culture?
[Neha Ikram] Many define culture as food, religion, language, music, region or geography, ethnicity, clothes, and so on. However, I believe that culture is more than that. It’s the things we don’t see, like our beliefs or views about gender. Both are correct – culture represents the things we see, the tangible, as well as the intangible things. The iceberg, a commonly used metaphor to describe culture, is a great example for illustrating the tangible and the intangible. When talking about culture, most people focus on the “tip of the iceberg,” which is considered as making up 10% of the object. The rest of the iceberg, 90% of it, is below the waterline. Most leaders in businesses, when addressing intercultural situations, pick up on the things they see, things on the “tip of the iceberg.” This means that they never address the cultural issues and problems that are underneath the surface level. Solutions become temporary band-aids covering deeply rooted cultural systems. Culture is learned, shared, dynamic, systemic and symbolic.
You have raised your voice concerning human rights violations on children and women in Jammu and Kashmir and Karabakh. Do universal human rights exist or are they an illusion?
[Neha Ikram] To answer this question it can be given two responses – a positive one and a normative one. However the true response is that Human Rights don’t exist. They’re an idea. They are not as tangible as wood. They’re hope for many and reality for some. They’re a political idea and a political ideal that if one understands about a vision of the world where those ideas and ideals are available, then one can hope and aspire to have them. But they’re simply an idea. And if one exists in an environment where that idea has not arisen, then human rights don’t exist. They only exist for those who do have them, and for systems that, in fact deliver them.
Can we define beauty?
[Neha Ikram] We become more and more artificial, more and more superficial, more and more verbal, moving in a linear direction. Not vertical at all, but linear. And then artificial things become more important – theaters, cinemas, the whole business of the modern world. And very few have the sense of beauty in themselves, beauty in behavior, beauty in language use, voice, way of walking, feeling of humility. With that humility, everything becomes gentle, quiet, full of beauty. We do not have any of that, and yet we go to museums and galleries. We have lost the delicacy, the sensitivity of the mind, the heart and the body. When we have lost this sensitivity, how can we know what beauty is?
Delusion by Neha Ikram
“I close my eyes seeing myself stand on the mountain top. The fresh-cold breeze brushes my skin quietly and gently. The wind is fabricating my serape. The twirl of my dress fluttered as if – I have wings attached. The vibrant green field, making me feel alive and giving me a sense of true freedom. The field uttering to me, we will unite and never depart. My eyes opened, the sense of freedom disappeared and the dream was gone. Paradise. Pearly Gates, where no one has the power to cage your mind, your thoughts, your vision, your soul. Given the virtue to be alive within your pure skin. Every breath inhaled is purity and goodness. A vicinity where no soul has witnessed unlawfulness. Characters build upon morality. Hearts made of kindness and humility. The mind of wisdom and insight. Every step leaves behind traces of graciousness. How I wish this was our world. I closed my eyes again in the hope of withdrawing from this cage and never departing from the Pearly Gates, where my soul belongs. But, my eyes opened, the sense of freedom disappeared and the dream was gone”.
You have written an insightful piece of art. What came to your mind writing it?
[Neha Ikram] I believe that every believer has their own definition of Paradise. For some people the definition of Paradise is a castle made of Diamonds and Sapphire, for others tall gates deluged with pure Gold and Silver and turquoise rivers flowing. However, for me the definition of Paradise is just as simple as the words uttered by God. How we imagine the Pearly Gates to be – is how we desire our lives to be like in this world. Paradise for me is a vicinity where no soul has witnessed unlawfulness. So when «I close my eyes and see myself stand on the mountain top» I emphasize in that very moment how I imagine Paradise, and that one day this piece that I have written will turn into a beautiful truth of mine – in the life hereafter. Because I believe that God will give human beings the parts of Paradise they imagined in this world. Some human beings will be living in these Diamond castles, some will be amazed by the glory of Gold and Silver – and some like myself will feel at home by no longer being caged to the world and will never “depart from the Pearly Gates where the soul belongs”.
Immanuel Kant said: Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means. What comes to your mind hearing this quote?
[Neha Ikram] Kant explicitly says “at the same time”. In other words, we can treat other people as a means to our own ends as long as we also — at the same time — treat them as ends in themselves. We should never treat people only as a means to an end — we must respect their worth as ends in themselves at all times. But we use other people as means to our ends all the time. This occurs due to the lack of moral excellence. We have this misconception that education makes one lettered. However, this is not true. Moral excellence does not come from education, it cannot be bought or gained. It can only be achieved with character development. We are endlessly busy developing things, that we have forgotten to plant seeds of consciousness, wisdom, and humility within us for our own character development. This quote sends out a strong and beautiful message. A message we must comprehend and act upon.