A to Z Challenge

U for Ubuntu


Language: Nguni Bantu


‘A person is a person through other persons.’

‘I find my worth in you, and you find your worth in me’

‘The root culture of a person influences who he is as an individual’

Some words don’t have proper translations. Even those who know both the source language and English could only give us a vague idea about the meaning, and with that flimsy base, each person who reads it develops his or her own interpretation of the word. Especially if a word is used across a widespread geographical area or culture, each region might have its own differences to the meaning to the word. Ubuntu is one such word.

Those who know computer science would have known that Ubuntu is an operating system, even a simple search would reveal this. But then, the word has such a beautiful origin, having a much deeper meaning. Humans have been living in civilisations since many millenniums. And one of the core values or beliefs of human life is the fact that a person is made by the society he belongs to. Each society or community has its own cultural values and that shape a person from that culture. No matter where destiny takes us, a part of us will remain rooted to our birthplace. The Africans seemed to have grasped this concept the best, using this word to define something so profound.


Flash Fiction #21

Uday looked at his laptop in disbelief. This couldn’t be happening! In front of his shocked eyes, error messages appeared one after another, vying for attention on the small screen. He read through half of them, simply clicked ‘close’ on most of the pop up dialog boxes and angrily snapped his laptop shut. Three months of his work had gone down the drain. He had had big dreams when he had come to the branch of his company in Johannesburg. He had been sure of the big promotion using which he would settle down back in India.

Too stunned to do anything but stare at the lid of the laptop blankly, his eyes fell on the intricate pattern his team leader had doodled with a marker on his bright red lid. The patterns seemed to move hazily.


Uday looked up to see Tshepo, his team leader, walking towards him.

“Yeah?” He responded listlessly.

“Head Office approved your holiday. Two weeks. You only need to submit your final documentation and we are done. You can give the demo after you are back!”

She stopped on seeing the look of utter dejection on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“I messed up. My OS crashed. I have lost every file and I did not even have a backup. I am not fit to be a techie.” And the words poured out. Tshepo listened in shock, for a few seconds, after which she gave a gentle smile. “Uday, cool down, relax. It is not a calamity. I am sure we can find a backup somewhere… besides, we are well ahead of schedule. It is not the end of the world!”

Uday just shook his head, not wanting to talk further. Much convincing later, he was on a flight back home, and all through the journey, Tshepo occupied his mind. Her resilience and kind nature had surprised him. A native African by birth, she had been his beacon since the moment he had entered this office. The way she always had a kind word for everyone, irrespective of their stature, and the way she always looked at the positive side made him want to follow in her footsteps.

But as touchdown neared, Uday’s mind was focused more upon the family waiting for him. He saw his parents waiting at the arrivals gate and his troubles seemed to fly out. The closer he got to them, the farther his troubles seemed to go. And when he had finally reached them, all he had on mind was his impending visit to his native village. Johannesburg and his office seemed distant memories.

Twenty days later…

“So, how was your vacation?” Tshepo’s bright voice brought with it a rush of love for this place and everything connected to it.

“No computers, no emails, no frantic calls, no deadlines and most of all no internet – plus a visit to my roots. It was fantabulous!” His grin spoke more than his words did.

“On that good vein, I have another good news for you. I just checked, we had a backup of your work on the cloud and your work is safe. Maybe it was your oversight, you messed up basic commands and got error messages unrelated to your project but I bet you didn’t even read them. But I had complete confidence. It is Linux. Won’t fail that easily!” She gave a small smile, handing his laptop back to him.

As his eyes fell on the pattern she had drawn, he tried to express his gratitude with his emotions, as she said, “I knew you needed the break. Don’t overwork yourself.” As he continued looking at her mutely, she nodded, “And yeah, ubuntu never fails!”

And for the first time ever, the intricate pattern seemed to spell the word and it all fell into place.


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