Our Sudan

Tarig Hilal
The story of a generation as told by Tarig Hilal has had a massive positive impact. This story was narrated by him at TEDxKhartoum with the theme of positive thinking. Tarig Hilal’s talk which was titled ‘Our Sudan’ is now a project under the same name to make a short film which will go a long way to inspire and encourage the young generation to think differently about themselves and about their future. Please visit in Facebook : ttps://www.facebook.com/ProjectOURSUDAN?fref=ts
His story of ‘Our Sudan’ starts with a painting of a torn and faded picture of Old Sudan. His story is about a romance with the past, losses of his age and of hope for the future. It is about wide clean roads, tree line streets and open boulevards. About young men straight and proud , women wrapped in gold and finery. He is reminded of the early morning siren. Old men were seen on bicycles, cycling slowly through the town. Trains ran on time. This blogger here recalls having read that 50 years ago Sudan had the biggest railway network in Africa with 5000 km of train tracks from Egypt to Darfur, to Port Sudan on Red Sea and till Wau which is now in South Sudan. Tarig Hilal spoke of the Coliseum, St.James and Jazz nights by the Nile. Greek stores which provided all imported goods. Weddings were held for forty days and nights. The same with funerals. Khartoum University was in its glory days then. Exams were marked in London, students had their laundry done and cars were made in England. Sudan had lush green gardens and seasons which broke the heat. This was the Golden age with brave men and women who had fought for Independence and the generation that followed. Men who went to study in Paris, London, Moscow, and Budapest and came back refusing foreign passports and foreign jobs. Masters of the West, children of the East, product of the ‘Khelwa’ and the grandest schools of Europe. People fixed by visions of grandeur and sense of dignity. Men were full of passion and idealism. He looked at them with awe and envy. Awe because of their achievements and envy because they were simple and more passionate. Education was free and the Universities were of world class, secondary schools had good stock of books and standards were not negotiable.
The culture of today’s generation reveres the past. Old is better than new. Romance fired by vision who show them respect. But Tarig’s generation saw the world crumbling and was so different. Broken roads, shattered sidewalks, cracked walls, peeling paint, long queues for fuel and food. The Coliseum is now a centre for fights and only-heard-of St. James. Falling standards of the University. Weddings and funeral are now shorter in days. Buses tilting sideways with over capacity. This time they took the foreign jobs and passports in Europe, US and Asia. Some returned, many of them did not. Gardens were turned to dust. Revolution happened to them not by them. They were not where they could be. The country was not where it should be.
Look to the past with honesty he said. Respect the past.
Today’s tall buildings in the skyline have jagged edges with southernmost limits. China, Brazil challenges the new world order. Black man is the President of USA, internet has the power to connect us all. Golden age was not so golden. Today’s age is not so dark. They live in the world as it is. Today’s generation is to be proud too. So many more people are today in US, Europe and Gulf. They make us stand tall.
Despite the challenges, civil society is active, young man who is a student drives a taxi, women have started community colleges, brother sacrifices his education so that his younger brother can go abroad to study. Many came back to Sudan to start business despite the risks. We must of course respect the past but not live in its shadows. Doctors, lawyers, academics, artists, politicians and soldiers have returned to Sudan. Yesterday need not be better than tomorrow.
“Rather than lament what we have lost, let us take stock of what we have” said Tarig. It is still a great country, a country of great promises. The country is rich in people, heritage, land and resources. Sudan had 39 million people, now 30 million remain . Among these numbers are Arabs, Africans, Christians, Muslims, Animists, Black, White and Brown.
It is a diversity bound by marriage and memories by faith and language, powered by roads and mobile phones, by trade and urbanization, cities in which for the first time all of Sudan can be seen, a land where great civilization flourished and died and grew again to tell the tales of tragedy and wisdom.
It is in Sudan, Middle East meets the African continent, White Nile meets Blue Nile, and Red Sea cuts its way and confluences with its vast land rich in resources like gold, uranium and hydro-power with an access to the sea and the wealth that lies beyond. But most of all it is about its people. People able and eager, desperate to build a better life. Where education is revered, knowledge is pursued and the young clamour to learn despite challenges. People willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves. Here lies the possibility of redemption, an original sin acquitted, separation of the South is a payment on the road towards mutual dignity, prosperity and respect. This is the Sudan. Respect the past without being bound to it. Accept the present without succumbing to it. Build a future upon both. Build upon a future dream. A new dream. A dream of their generation. Future is not a matter what will be but what could be. It is a choice and it is for this generation to make.

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