Coming from an erstwhile British colony, I can’t help but compare Cote d’Ivoire, a French colony, with India. I’m yet to figure what exactly went wrong but broadly it could be attributed to the lack of strong leadership at the moment the mantle was handed over. The civil war lasted till 2005, but the damage was done. It had stopped short a tremendous surge of growth that the country had never witnessed before.
The locals are really friendly and particularly with me. Reasons being a) My name, Ali, is much more familiar a name to them than any other Indian name, since almost 50% of the population here is Muslim and b) Those of you who have seen me recently would be able to imagine me blending into this environment with the look and hair crop that I carry (or don’t). Almost everyone is bald here including the women. Hence you can understand when I say that hair salons and the wig markets are big in Africa.
There is a calm among the Ivoirians, and Africans in general, that commands respect. One can’t help but be polite to them and they, in turn, maintain the highest standards of courtesy, which probably has been augmented by the French culture. The sad part of this is that a large part of the local culture and traditions that existed before colonisation have more or less been wiped out of their memories. Hardly does anyone speak the local languages in public anymore except for isolated pockets.
Culturally, it is much more open than India. Sex as a topic as well as a trade is commonplace and multiple partners is not something that is looked down upon. Marriage is not as integral to one’s life here as it is in India. Polygamy is rampant and no legal binding on any action that seems like a divorce. The extended family concept is unique. If one member of the family earns well, he is obliged to look after every relative of his who seeks help. Any random cousin can come and stay in your house if you’re earning well, and you must provide for him. At the same time, you are not forced to go out and work by your family and are free to choose when and what you work.