The poetry of these words from The Tempest will ring familiar to most readers, even those not well versed in Shakespeare:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"
It is the amazement of Miranda, daughter of the sorceror Prospero, upon seeing a world beyond the narrow island where she has spent all her life thus far.
But her father's quiet response is also important:
"'Tis new to thee."
I have always identified with the character of Miranda, who, like me, grew up in an isolated, well-protected, and beautiful place--the tiny college town where I grew up is considered by many to be enchanted, not unlike Miranda's distant island. It was in many ways a charmed upbringing, especially in my earlier childhood. But as I became a teenager, I became more disheartened with the narrowness of my world and the sameness of my surroundings. When I left home for university (we call it college, but it's what the rest of the world would call university), I went relatively far -- 800 miles -- and began discovering a "brave new world." I wrote my college entrance essay on Miranda, even.
I was reminded of this expression of wonder and newness when I came upon the globe in the photograph--a globe which has a magical quality to it, but more importantly is tilted to the side of the world that I am only now discovering in my current phase of life.
And there is a beautiful irony in it all, too. To me, this world is "new" -- but Prospero reminds me gently, "'Tis new to thee." Meaning, it is not new at all -- in fact, this world is ancient, more ancient than anything I have known thus far, with a deeper history than anything I have encountered in my own young nation, or even in my travels to Europe. The newness comes from my own eyes.
But I have been learning about South Asia now for a few years, non-stop, with voracious curiosity. I have discovered many dark and dismal sides of my new world as well. But I am drawn on in endless fascination. And it still feels new, and it still glows for me.
Image at top left is a digital
portrait by Pakistani artist
Imran Zaib, based on one of my own photographic self-portraits in Thari dress.