Recently, I stumbled upon something interesting about fish. As is common knowledge, in many Indian cultures fish is a symbol of prosperity. For example, the fish plays an important role in Bengali weddings as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. In fact, during a Bengali wedding it is customary for the family of the groom to send a fish wrapped in a sari and adorned with jewellery to the bride’s family. Continuing with the fish motif, there are sweets in a Bengali wedding that are shaped like a fish. And finally, no Bengali wedding is complete without fish being on the menu for the guests.

But what’s interesting is that in Chinese culture too the fish is a symbol of abundance. In fact, the Chinese words for fish, yu (second tone), and abundance, yu (fourth tone) are homophones. According to a Chinese legend, a carp fish that can swim upstream and leap the falls of China’s Yellow River at Dragon Gate will be transformed into a dragon. The legend has long symbolised success in China’s civil service examination. Thus, we see that the fish plays an equally important role in Chinese culture.

Why this similarity? This is because both Indian and Chinese cultures are part of the same Asian firmament. Apart from the fish mentioned here, there are countless examples of common cultural motifs and legends throughout Asia. And it is this commonality that Asian nations must harness for common benefit today. There’s no denying that the global order today is undergoing a transformation. And Asia is poised to see exponential growth over the next few decades. This is the opportunity for Asian nations to unite and unleash the continent’s growth potential. Otherwise, the moment will pass and soon it will be time for Africa by the middle of this century.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Asia is massive and the countries are too diverse. But they are also home to some of the most ancient civilisations, share similar colonial experiences and currently have a demographic edge over other parts of the world. Plus, many of them are at a developmental stage that can easily serve as a springboard for massive growth. Thus, I believe this is the time for an Asian awakening based on cultural and developmental commonalities. This is the time for Asia and all nations in the continent must come together to uplift their people. It is now or never.