Friday, September 9, 2016

Green Moist Grass...

It feels like the world collectively is going through a dark night, where millions of children and their families are suffering not only the pain of leaving their homes, lack of food and security, injuries and deaths of dear ones but also rejection, humiliation, and discrimination. All of these people bring desires, aspirations, capabilities and determination to contribute to the societies they are passing through and will settle in one day. Millions, on the other hand, in the receiving countries live everyday in fear, anger and frustration. Sometimes, their fears are realistic and sometimes they are exaggerated and exploited by the rhetoric of few. But is suffering for one group and fear for another is the long term answer? Is this what we want to settle for as the human race of this era?

It is up to their own governments and host societies what they do with all the courage, determination, lessons learned and skills that the internally displaced populations, migrants and refugees bring with them. How all of these virtues and the energies associated with them can be transformed into something beautiful and productive. Certainly, it cannot be done with fear, xenophobia and rejection rather it is more likely to be counterproductive. However, welcome, empathy, openness and support can create beautiful possibilities both for the arriving people as well as the host populations. Let us embrace with courage and embark on beautiful possibilities together!

I wish I could sleep
In the middle of this dark night
And dream of walking
Into the daybreak
Over the green moist grass,
Full of yellow wild flowers
And colorful butterflies
Hearing lively laughter of children
Seeing them play, learn and grow.
Young men and women rebuilding
Broken hospitals, schools and homes,
And mixing their aspirations in the cement
Fathers are being fathers
And mothers are smiling and
Celebrating the renewal,
Where all are paying attention to
The wise words of the elderly
To bring the Nations together in peace
I wish I could walk into the daybreak
Over the green moist grass...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Let Children Be Children!

In July, I visited Melilla, an autonomous Spanish city in Northern Africa by Moroccan border as part of my professional work. We were there facilitate training to better prepare their local people on how to provide appropriate psychosocial support to migrant and refugee children in Melilla. Almost all of the incoming children see Melilla as a stepping stone to move on to Europe. However, in most cases, these children are held in Melilla with little to no resources in the name of ‘protection’.

I saw children stuck in Melilla not only physically but also psychologically and socially. These children leave their homes, their mothers and fathers, their friends, the world they grew in and the good and the bad of it to go to Europe, their dream destination. They come from various countries: Morocco, Mali, Algeria and Syria. They leave their place because they are too tired of the suffering back home or they are pulled by the dream of availing themselves of the opportunities that are available in the rest of the world. But the rest of the world doesn’t always understand them, it mixes its own fears and agendas to their innocent dreams and aspirations. The local administration is trying to do what they can according to what they think is right. They have devised a protection system for these children. The children are trapped in places like Melilla, where ‘protection’ takes the form of iron bars around their lives and plans for future.

The children are not accepted for who they are: values, thoughts, dreams and aspirations. They are forced to become what the new destination wants them to be as soon as they arrive. Local systems are forced on them without explanation or care. If they happen to fall out of it, they are branded as ‘anti-socials’ or ‘bad’ without any delay. They are perceived as criminals, not only by the law and order personnel, but also by other citizens in the receiving society.

We witnessed, a restaurant waiter hit one of the children because he was begging for food. But what would a child do when he is forced to live in a center with a capacity of 180 but is holding 320+ children at any given time? We met with a few workers in these centers, they too are burned out. Anybody would run away, especially the one who is already on the run from misery and suffering. They didn’t give up everything they had to succumb to more suffering. And when they leave the centers and try to fend for themselves, they are not allowed to work by the law, not even for a couple of hours. Please note, many of these children are between 16-18 years.

My perception was that the so called protection system is not in place to protect the best interest of the child but to protect Melilla from these children. On the contrary, if the system would genuinely protect the well-being of children, they will not be considered a threat to the society. If their resilience is acknowledged and enhanced, they can actually contribute positively to the society if given an opportunity.

All we need to do is listen to these children with empathy and device programs and activities that fall within the local laws but also synchronize with their dreams and aspirations. All the relevant actors from law and order departments, civil society organizations and other non-governmental organizations must collaborate to prepare these children to embark on a journey that is positive for them as well as for the communities they will become part of in Europe. Below is my humble request to the adults of Melilla and other receiving cities where children are held against their wishes with meager resources just to control their movement:

Let the children travel on the sun rays,

Let them sail on the waters,

Let them fly with the wind,

Let them ride on the clouds,

Let them glide along the birds,

Let them explore the sand.

Let children be children,

Let no boundaries limit their aspirations,

Let no laws crush their dreams,

Let no differences demean their dignity,

Let no barrier hinder their path,

Let no fear cut their wings.


Children are born to play and explore,

Let them chase their desires,

Let them break the walls,

Let them question the rules,

Let them infect us with their innocence,

Let them fall and rise again.


Let us behave like adults,

Let us protect them and their dreams,

Let us listen to their deepest feelings,

Let us provide a safe space for them to express,

Let us support them in their vulnerable moments,

Let us extend our hand when they fall,

Let us nurture their childhood,

Let us let them be children!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stop in the name of Allah, the most merciful!


This is a poetic petition to the youth around the world who is picking up guns in the name of God and is giving up their own lives to fulfill the agenda of those who sit in their safe sanctuaries. These young lives belong to a variety of backgrounds and they are being misled in the name of Allah, the most merciful. It is absolutely unacceptable! The internet is full of information on this recruitment process and the consequences. Here's one news story:http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/19/middleeast/isis-child-soldiers/.

 
People have picked up arms in almost all religions including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and even Buddhism. However, never before young lives were targeted the way they are now. There is an entire recruiting machinery that is out there recruiting them to kill, to be wives of terrorists (who many times end up being sexually exploited) and recruit others using various ways including the social media. In addition, it is not only the extremism that is enticing them to join ISIS but the unfortunate ‘Islamophobia’, particularly in the west, pushes them to the sidelines. It makes things even more complicated. I also recognize that religious extremism is not the only cause that drives our youth to abuse and exploitation. However, this particular poem comes from the accumulation of pain that arose every time I heard a young life was sacrificed for religious extremism in the last couple of years. I do want to emphasize on one thing though that most of these young people are not devoted Muslim people, on the contrary either they are new converts or do not believe at all. So at the end of the day, none of this is really about Islam, this is way beyond one religion and includes actions, behaviors and ideologies of people from different backgrounds and religious groups.

 
We cannot eliminate this horrible movement by labeling these young lives as terrorists and bombing them. We must bring our children back with compassion. It is both our right and duty to tell them the truth using many ways and many times. It is said that God is love and there is nothing we can do to reduce His love, mercy and grace for us. It is equally true for all the people that have gone astray in the name of extremism and I urge them to come back in the name of Allah.


Stop, my brother and sister,

Stop because you’re too precious.

Look, there is more and better,

All blessings of The Most Gracious!


Yes, killing the infidel

might be an order,

But the same source says,

Forgiveness is better!


Agreed, it is not easy forgive those

who have caused us the pain,

But it is possible,

If one changes the thought lane


There are little joys around,

The smiles of our dear ones,

The prayers and wishes of elders,

Are all His divine inspirations


Choose to bless others,

Choose life over death,

Choose to spread His love,

Not to promulgate human wrath.


Allah made us all with great care,

And His actions are never erroneous,

Choose to nurture His creation,

Chose to support his loving plans.


If He so desires today,

To bring a people to destruction,

He is able to do it on His own,

He doesn’t need to rely on extremism


If He wanted everyone to be alike,

To think in a uniform fashion,

He could’ve done exactly that,

And instilled in us an identical passion


But He made us different,

He diversified our choices,

He gave us the power to think,

He empowered our voices.


It’s not over yet,

You still have a chance,

A chance to live and prosper,

On earth, see paradise at a glance!


He still wants you to be like Him,

His purpose for you is not defeated,

For the well-being of His creation

You are very much needed.


Help the non-believer to believe

To see the hand of the most high,

To the most merciful and most gracious,

I urge you, my dear, become an ally!

 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How Can I?

How can I question my brother,
when I have not yet met the demand?
How can I eschew an idea
that I don't even fully understand?

How can I not love,
if this is the supreme command?
How can I not forgive,
if that is the way most grand!


How can I not help,
when capable is my hand?
How can I just sit back,
when the hour is at hand?

How can I contain it within,
when love seeks to moisten the entire land?
How can I remain at the oasis,
When my calling is out in the sand?

How can I look away,
when their plight I comprehend?
How can I return hate for hate,
when love is all I tend?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Love you, Red Cross and Red Crossers!

I started writing this poem a few months back. I wasn't sure why was I thinking about my death. After a lot of reflection, I asked my husband, a fellow Red Crosser, the same question. He replied, "Maybe because you're thinking of transitioning from the Red Cross, an organisation that you love and worked for most of your professional life". I had no clue that the thought of leaving the Red Cross could have such a powerful impact on me.

Since I started with the Red Cross, I worked in many different positions and several different countries. I began as a nobody, I leave as an internationally known name and with a knowledge that it is a long way before I arrive. Whatever I am as a professional, I owe it to the Red Cross. Needless to say, I will continue to volunteer with Red Crossers whenever I can catch some free time from my new  job, which seems to be awesome too!

This post might be too cheesy for some and it is okay! I didn't plan for it but I couldn't resist it either. Separation from what you love is never easy and it is alright to process and share your feelings of sadness into something meaningful!

When I die,
drape me in a saree 
with a Red Cross pin
to honour my passion and mother country.

Teaching a fellow Indian woman about the importance of sharing your feelings in Orissa, India (2003)

When I die,
don't pluck the flowers
to decorate my grave,
they don't need to die with me.

When I die,
don't feel sad,
smile for me,
and know she's free!

When I die,
make someone else feel special,
take care of her,
as if she was me!

When I die,
don't miss me,
let my memories
inspire you to break free!

When I die,
know I am around
looking at you
with pride and glee.

When I die,
continue to improve
the service to needy,
Now it is your responsibility.

When I die,
know I will live eternally,
and we will meet again,
this separation is temporary!


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Advance with Love!

I am a person of my own,
I tried to meet social expectations
but couldn't fit in any frame.
It wasn't my fault.
It was my hair
that billowed with the breeze
and altered the set style.
It was my arm
that went up
when heard the call
and fell out of place.
It was my leg
that hurt just laying
in the old structure
and unfurled breaking it.
It was my mind
that couldn't tolerate,
the stink of stale ideas
and rolled out of the shell.
It was my vision
that responded to new experiences
and expanded out of the blinkers.
It was my colourful heritage
that couldn't standstill
within one vapid doctrine.
It was my polyglot heart
that empathised with the strangers
and repeatedly jumped out of the lane!
And because of the mystery of love,
I survived and thrived
in new shapes and forms!
Drops of love from above
keep me wet enough to be reshaped
And grace continues to forgive
my frequent solecisms,
As I continue to evolve,
break social constructs,
and go beyond boundaries
just to fall in love and be loved
over and over again!  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Women Victorious over War in Liberia



Can women of Syria and Iraq contextualise this victory of peace in their region? How can we take this example there and inspire them to write their own story of victory over war?





C