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Mandela, going strong at 95!

As the world’s most beloved anti-apartheid icon and living legend turned 95 on Thursday, braving severe illness and battling the odds against a life-support system, the message that comes through is his sheer resilience and affirmation for life, in every circumstance, and particularly during times of deep duress. Heart-warming news of Mandela ‘steadily improving’ is coming from South Africa, relieving the world of immense sadness that had dawned upon it six weeks backs when the misty-eyed reports of the leader’s lung infection had been doing the round. Yet the leader’s great strength and his zest to hold on to life, to fight the battles at the last frontiers of one’s long and arduous journey through decades of political and global upheavals speak volumes and are inspirational, to say the least.

Indeed, not just South Africa, but the whole world had erupted into sheer joy when the icon’s 95th birthday was celebrated across the world, as a dynamic symbol of racial and cultural reconciliation and togetherness, as a moral beacon against injustice and tyranny of state power. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was rightly hailed as a ‘giant of our times’ by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose contribution to racial harmony and making of a more egalitarian world remains unchallenged, alongside the other stalwarts of the last century such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Mandela has been equated with Gandhi and King, all revolutionaries par excellence, and men of extraordinary courage, wisdom, patience and will, it is also true that he has outlived them all to become a legacy all by himself. Mandela has orchestrated the biggest of tectonic shifts in the contemporary history of human kind, consolidating a world that is markedly freer and more just, at least in name and on paper, than it used to be three decades back. Yet, the continuing irony of racial disharmony comes home from the unfortunate fact that the day the world celebrated the anti-apartheid icon’s 95th birthday, was also the day that followed a terribly judgment coming from a court in Texas, USA, acquitting a Hispanic-American watchman for shooting a black boy Trayvon Martin because he ‘looked menacing.’ It is a travesty of all that Mandela stands for, needless to say.
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