Sunday, December 30, 2012

From Dreams to Death in Delhi

Dreams, hope and aspiration followed by rape, assault and eventual death. We don't cry for every death. There are billions of people in this world and hundreds of thousands die every day. And here. a girl, a stranger who died almost two days ago and most of us can't stop mourning for her. What makes her special?

She was 23 year old, delicate and beautiful like a rose petal. A medical student with a potential of saving many lives. She was probably in love aspiring to make a family someday. She was a daughter who had made her parents proud and held their fragile dreams with affection and responsibility. She was deceived, repeatedly raped and assaulted inside a bus by six men on Dec 16, 2012. She was brave enough to retaliate but was feeble and tired to continue to fight against the oppressors. Even when she was left to die, she tried her best to survive with broken organs until it was just impossible. Usually, people are brought back to their homes when they are about to die, she was sent outside her motherland to die. She transitioned to another world, hopefully a fairer and painless world, while the evil triumphed and my God watched.

A good reason for national advocacy for the women's rights and a great lesson for the girls who aspire to be independent and dare to stand up against so very strong and cruel men.

I wonder how many girls in and around India had to hear a caution about not going out because of what happened. Yes, innumerable people in Delhi are on the roads full of rage against the rapists but how many of them are feeling more committed towards women empowerment in India?

A lot of inspiring talks are happening but how many women are feeling more confident to be out on the road, how many parents are more comfortable of letting their daughters live independently? I wonder if the  slogans, poems, blogs, speeches are more powerful or the silent fear which is further strengthened in hearts of girls and their well wishers as a result of this horrible event?

Next time I am in Delhi, will I be comfortable to go shopping by myself after a certain time or will I think twice? Forget about late evening, even during the day, next time I am surrounded by two men in a shop or a bus, what would go through my mind? This event has certainly left greater fear in my mind for myself and my cousins and I am pretty sure I am not alone who is feeling this way.

So how do we make this event go beyond inspiring words and fleeting protests? How do we make sure that my brother would feel comfortable if I choose to decide my schedule based on my needs rather than social limitations based on fear? What would make me fearless or at least fear less?

Change in the laws, better police, new conversations in homes, empowered girls and what else? And most importantly, how would we get there? How do carry this debate beyond this tragedy? How do we turn this debate into actions, actions that go beyond a certain socio-economic section/s of the society? What does Bombay have that Delhi does not?

Is this only about physical safety or also about dignity? What are some indicators of gender equality and how do you inject them in a society? How long does it take? Will I be able to see it realize for my nieces growing up in Delhi? Would we as a society be able to answer the call and honor this death in Delhi? 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Humble Christmas

Waking up to Christmas makes me think of what does it mean to me. I see decorations all over, Christmas Carols (songs) being sung in Christian platforms as well as shopping malls etc.  In many parts of the world, there are special services in churches. Lots of people, poor or rich, buying gifts for their family and friends. A super time for business for sure!

Nobody really knows what date exactly Jesus was born, so some Christians do not celebrate Christmas day. They believe that birth of Christ must take place in our hearts and every day is a day of celebration in that regard. I am in agreement with both groups, keeping one day to celebrate Jesus' birth with the rest of the world and making sure everyday Jesus is alive in my heart.

While Christmas has become a reason to give gifts to each other and merry making, I am not sure if that's how it looked like at Jesus' birth. According to the Gospels, Jesus' parents didn't have a place to stay that night. So they ended up taking refuge in a stable, where animals are kept. The place must be stinking, with hardly any lighting and glamour. Not sure if they had anything to eat at all, forget about a Christmas feast. And when Mary gave birth to little Jesus, his first bed was a manger, a box from which animals were fed. The first group of people that came to greet him were local shepherds.

photo courtesy Google
This scene is rather humble and close to poverty. God here is trying to take our attention to the poor, to those who don't have a bed to sleep on, no home to go to, no feast to enjoy. How many of us actually share with those in need today? How many of us renew our commitment towards poor on Christmas day?

Jesus came in poverty and lived like that all His stay on this earth. He mostly hung out with lowly folks. I want to do well in life but I do want to be able to support those who are poor. I do want to own a house but I have to be gracious and generous to those who don't have one. I can't be Jesus but I do want to support His cause.

Friends, if Christmas has any importance to you, think of the poor and lowly around you and see Christ in them. Share the gifts of love, hope, peace and joy with them, meet their needs today and everyday. I will try to do the same. Yes, it is true that most of us can't meet our own needs fully but sharing a little bit out of the little we have, is divine. Merry Christmas to all my dear readers! :-)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May this Christmas, love, peace, joy and hope take birth in our hearts one more time and may His abundant grace nurture it forever!



We have seen much of oppression and rage in the world this year, may the new year bring freedom and happiness to humanity!!! 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gang-rape in Delhi: Disgusting and Disappointing

Delhi is the best place in the world for me but one thing that keeps me away from it is general disrespect for women in the city. Recently, in the capital city of the biggest democracy of the world, a young woman was raped by 6 men and is fighting for life. The victim is a 23 year old medical student, who happened to be with a male friend on the roads of New Delhi late evening.

The men, including the bus driver Ram Singh, had taken out the bus for a joy ride on Sunday evening. They spotted the student and her friend at the Munirka bus stop in south Delhi and called out to them saying the bus was headed to Dwarka, where the woman lives.

On the bus, the sources said, an argument began when the accused asked the man what he was doing with a young woman at that time of the night. The police sources said because she fought back hard, the assailants decided to "teach her a lesson". {Source: NDTV, Dec. 18 2012 (http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/delhi-gang-rape-rapists-wanted-to-teach-girl-a-lesson-say-police-sources-306918?pfrom=home-lateststories)}

Needless to say, general public in the country, particularly women and human rights activists are outraged and are demanding action from the administration.

Yes, Delhi Police needs to be way more proactive in protecting women. As per the recent reports from Aaj Tak, security situation for women on the roads of Delhi is still questionable. I am not sure what is the administration waiting for? Maybe the fact that Delhi tops in rapes in the country is not sufficient for them to take an action. Or let's give them benefit of doubt, maybe they don't have enough trained personnel to make the capital of the country safe for women. 

Or is it about willingness or lack thereof? Does it make sense for Delhi to be safe enough for girls be out on the road late at night? What would be the implication on the girls and their families in general? What if girls would actually feel freer and more independent? What about the control that their elders have on them? Change in the situation requires a true reflection on our system. 

That question takes us to the culture… I do feel that this problem is beyond law enforcement. Our culture plays a big part in the situation. In my country girls are worshipped as goddesses but in the same land, many girls are just 'less than equal' members of the family. There is an unwritten but a well known rule that it is the girl's responsibility to protect herself by staying inside the house after dark and wearing 'decent' clothes. 

Woman's honor is so big that it is connected to the honor of the whole family and yet it is so fragile that it can be ruined by anybody inside or outside the family! With due to respect to those families where women of the family have equal rights and respect, most of our women do not feel equal or independent. 

Yes, things are changing with education but a lot needs to change. General perception around independent girls need to change and law enforcement needs to be much stricter for those who abuse women. It is ok to trust that women can handle their independence and their independence does not attack the honor of any family or society! 

Delhi, my beloved, stop pretending that you support equality for women, embrace it! How will you progress by treating a key constituent with disrespect and contempt. Protect your own honor by honoring your women!  


Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Prayer for Healing

A while ago, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, my son laid next to me reading a book. I too was reading William M. Thackeray, an English novelist from the 18th century. I was intrigued by the fact that I had something common with him, he too was born in India. While we were reading, every now and then my son would move and I would feel his presence next to me. It felt so soothing.

That soothing feeling reminded me of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and of the parents and families whose children were snatched away forever. I was filled with gratitude for my son's presence, couldn't thank God enough for his life.

How horrible it must for those families to loose a beautiful, special and important member! Anger and disgust towards the killer, disbelief in their loss, guilt for not being able to save their dear one, questioning their faith, disappointment in the system that couldn't protect those innocent lives and sheer sadness are just part of the mix of feelings those people must be going through.

Let us pray for healing for the families and the community. May the almighty soothe the pain of these grieving families through His abundant grace. May time reduce their suffering with each passing day. May the family, friends and community come together to grieve the loss and celebrate the beautiful souls that have transitioned to a better world. Amen

Prayer Candle (courtesy google)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shocking Tragedy: Newtown Ct

What a horrible tragedy in the US today! 20 Children from Kindergarden to 4th grade were killed in the 'safe' school environment in a 'calm' state of Connecticut during the season of 'festivities and celebrations'. 

Several things come to mind, what's the face of terror? A face with beard in the mountains of Afghanistan, a face of joker in Aurora, Colorado, or a regular face with golden hair in Buskerud, Norway? There are so many more examples where children have being targeted. 

Children? Beautiful and innocent children who need and deserve care and nurturance! Our society is obligated to protect our children and yet our society gives birth to persons with bizarre urges to harm others. 

How absurd?

Heard a while ago that the bodies of those little children are still in the school. I can't even imagine what it is to be the mother of a dead child who can't even have the body to grieve appropriately. How painful! What a feeling of helplessness! You say goodbye to your beloved child in the morning and few hours later you hear they don't exist anymore! Shock, denial, anger, disgust and helplessness will be a big part of the mourning process.

This incident reminds me of the worst disaster I responded to in South India. In July 2004, 83 children were burned to death inside their classroom. Following the tragedy, we worked with the siblings, mothers, fathers, classmates and teachers of the victims. In first few days and weeks, all we did was to hold their hands and cry with them. There were no techniques, no specific methodologies, except for empathy and participation in their grieving process. 

Tragedies like these go way beyond the deaths and the event. For the mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings of the fallen and witnesses, this will become a psychological wound. For many, this wound will bleed every now and then and will take a life time to heal. Hopefully, the society will come together to grieve with these families and will slowly  accompany them in the path to recovery. 

Most importantly, the nation will take some concrete steps to prevent tragedies like these in the future. Relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates would be educated about what behaviors and activities to watch out for. Only limited weapons would be made available to general public, if at all.  Those who sell weapons would do appropriate background checks before selling them. Schools would work on serious crisis management plans, wherein entire school community is trained to handle these situations in addition to the school safety officers. Lessons would be learned and implemented.   

Can't stop thinking about the parents that will not be able to put their babies to bed tonight because they were put to sleep forever by a disgruntled individual. May God in His kindness and grace give these families comfort and strength to survive through this very tough time of their lives. Hoping against hope for peace. 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kindness leads to Resiliency

It's been a long time since I posted last. Honestly, I thought of writing several times but moving from Puerto Rico to the US, starting a new job and now hurricane Sandy response has kept me too busy to write.

This was also a time full of insights, I just didn't find the time to pen them down and share with you all. One important thing that I relearned is to trust God in the most challenging circumstances. Faith keeps peace intact! Secondly, moving on is the only way if you're alive and the best thing God made was another day. One new insight that I learned was that every stranger is a potential friend!

Yesterday my husband and I attended a conference on 'Resilience' at the National Academy of Sciences in DC. For those resilience is a new word, it simply means the ability to bounce back from an adverse situation. As national experts were talking about their understanding of resilience and culture of resilience in communities, I was trying to summarize their distinct views in one word each.


One word that that came up over and over again was 'kindness'. Kindness is one of the first things I was taught at home, then in the church, after that in the moral science class at school and off course life experiences repeatedly reinforced the importance of kindness. And I here I was in a different continent in a national level conversation and professionals talking about kindness in relation to overcoming from a disaster! 



Kindness is a virtue that is as simple as sharing bread with the hungry to giving a new life through forgiveness to bringing a community back to its feet after a catastrophic event. However, for kindness to make a difference, it has to be part of our lives and thought process. We can't teach kindness to people as part of a disaster response. It has to be an integral part when we think of our neighbors during peace time, no matter how different they look or behave. Kindness is way more than nice words and good deeds. Kindness conquers prejudice and gives way to love, hope and peace.

In the era of video games, i pods and other materialistic environment, let's not forget to give back to our children what we learnt from our elders. Let us teach them kindness through our thought processes, words and actions. Let us find time to manifest kindness through our lives and let it spread to others. 

A kinder community will bring itself up because people will heal each other through care and sharing. Kindness within and outside the community will facilitate its recovery. Yes, a kind community is a resilient community!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Be Quiet and Sit Down

Be quiet and sit down! We have heard this instruction/phrase several times in our lives, especially if we grew up in a country like India. Apparently, this is not only a mother's frequent instruction to her children but also almighty's request to the whole humanity. Obviously, sitting down doesn't really mean forever but to quit from the restlessness be still for a while.

Recently, a lovely couple visited us and after a simple vegetarian meal, we sat down to chat. Sometimes, conversations here include the increasing drug problems in Puerto Rico and how we need to be careful with our youth. And because I have a 12 year old son, I easily get worried with new database.

However, if you hang out with the right people, any conversation finds a positive direction. Our guests follow the Radha Swami tradition and they shared a simple teaching of their spiritual master, 'Be quiet  and sit down'. Their master says that everybody has a light inside their soul which is a source of peace no matter what the external situation may be. To be able to see it, one needs to take time out from all the distractions in and around us and focus. We can do it by meditating on our own beliefs and values regardless of what religion/tradition we follow.

When Daksh, our friend, was explaining the teaching to us, I teared up because I had seen that same light several times and it had the same effect on me. The only difference was that I started seeing that light first in a small church in India. I still see it when I focus on how wonderful God has been to me and all His blessings for us.

It was awesome, somebody from a different religion was talking about exactly the same end product. It was like, one more time, God telling me, 'I am beyond any religious tradition. No religion owns me. I am able to reach out to anybody, no matter what language, term and way they use to call me.'!

My dear friends, no matter where you are and what your background is, your're entitled to your light and inner peace. All you need to do is to make the effort… I leave you today with my prayer to the almighty that He helps you in the process…

ऐ खुदा, आम आदमी को बना दे ख़ास,
तेरा हर बन्दा अपनी अजमत पे कर सके नाज़,
हर एक लिये है अपने हिस्से का नूर ,
खोल दे ये दिलवालों पे राज़



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Earth's Perspective

I saw this photo on a friend's Facebook page. Not sure who owns it but I thought it reflects reality!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Breath in Peace!

Inner peace is your right and actually it is just like air all around you. The oxygen around you cannot keep you alive until you breath it in, inner peace functions the same way. Make a conscious decision to claim your inner peace, feel it entering in you, focus on it, meditate on it and learn to celebrate it inside you.

Problems will never cease to show up and the life is too short to wait for all problems to finish before learning to live with peace. And by the way, problems faced with a peaceful heart are faster dealt with. Trust me, it is your decision to continue to worry or grab your portion of inner peace that is out there waiting for your attention and action.

Now claiming peace may not be a simple process especially when you are facing a challenging situation. For example, sometimes challenges overpower my ability to be at peace and I go down the path of disappointment, sadness and fear. These feelings might be important but I am not sure if they are worth it most of the time.

I am learning to grab peace through my faith in God, somebody who is greater than I am and certainly bigger than my challenges. I seek love from the people that love me (by the way, love increases by loving!). I derive hope from all the past experiences where I thought I would not be able to bounce back but I did! Faith, love and hope are my weapons to fight with disappointments and sadness and they also enable me to claim what is rightfully mine, my inner peace!

For you some other combination may work. But one thing is for sure, 'positive fetches positive' even if it takes a bit longer. Continue your journey in the garden of peace, where there will be flowers of hope, love, faith, harmony, forgiveness but there will also be the thorns and distractions such as disappointments, sadness, fear and anger. Adorn your life with the flowers and if you get hurt by a thorn, know that your soul has the ability to get healed if you so decide.

I am inhaling peace with the fragrance of flowers of hope, faith and love and exhaling fears! What about you?

Blessings!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Anjan Mein Niranjan"

Recently I was in Washington DC, supporting our teams responding to fires and storms in different parts of the country. When I am in DC, I usually walk or take metro to get to places and very rarely do I take the cabs. However, some times when it is a bit late at night or I am not sure of the way, I take a cab. The best part of taking cabs is the conversations with the cab drivers, they are usually immigrants from India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, or Eritrea, etc. They are very respectful and like to share their story of arriving to the US and their current lifestyle.

Talking with the cab drivers can be very informative. One gentleman told me about how he struggled to get to the US, chasing the 'American Dream'. It took him several years to reach the US, during his journey he walked for thousands of miles to cross his country's border, then took a plane to a country in South America and worked their until he got the opportunity to move to the United States. In this time, he lived with different types of people, adapted to different cultures and tried to speak different languages. He now is proud cab driver and makes intelligent conversations with interested passengers. What a determined and inspiring person!

So I have several stories of cab drivers like that but what recently happened passed all other conversations not only with cab drivers but with any stranger ever. As I entered the cab, I knew it was going to be an interesting ride. The cab driver was an elderly Sikh (Sikhs are the followers of Sikhism, an Indian religion) gentleman with a big white beard, he looked like a sage. His persona didn't fit the driver's sit at all but he was very comfortable there. My heart was so ready to receive his pearls of wisdom.

I started the conversation by telling him that my great grandfather was a Sikh too and he later converted to Christianity. He asked, Who was Christ? I replied, 'Sir, please you tell me because you certainly know more than me'. So he proceeded to tell me his version of God and how he thought God dealt with  this world over the generations. I am not sure if I agreed with everything but his version was beautiful and music to my ears. Before I knew the ride was about to finish, actually way I earlier than I would've liked.

Just before we arrived, we exchanged our names. His name was Mr. Gill and when he heard my name he asked me if I knew the meaning of my name. I told him 'Anjana' is derived from 'Anjan', which means kohl (eyeliner). He said you're right when 'Anjan' is taken in a very little quantity, it is called kohl but if it is spread around, it is nothing but dirt. I kind of felt bad… but he was just about to give me the gift he had for me...

He said, 'Anjana, Anjan mein Niranjan ho jaao! Meaning this world is full of Anjan or dirt but Niranjan is God or Godlike. While you live in the dirt of this world you must become Godlike. Stop eating meat or drinking alcohol and stop doing other bad things.' He wasn't simply talking to me, he was giving me instructions with some divine authority...

As the cab stopped, I bent to see the meter but he had already switched it off. I asked him how much I owed him but he said I couldn't pay him any money. He said donate some money in the church instead. Then he said, 'You may leave now'. But somehow I didn't have the  strength or the desire to leave but I forced myself to leave the cab. I was full of gratitude because of the pearls of wisdom that he blessed me with. I was also perplexed if this was real or I was living a mystical experience…! I am still perplexed but I am holding his teaching close to my heart.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Societal Failure

It is sickening to watch the face of the Colorado massacre suspect, his red hair and his expressions. What made a bright, handsome, young man coming from a normal family do such a horrific thing is beyond imagination. It must be so painful for the survivors and the families to watch this man on the TV.

It must be like needling a fresh wound to see this man. I pray, wish and hope that those who are directly affected by this massacre receive the strength and support to live  this heartbreaking time of their lives. Terror, deaths, injuries in a place where you go with your family to enjoy is so shocking and numbing.  Hope the survivors are surrounded with right resources and are soon involved in constructive activities that facilitate healing of their physical and psychological scars.

I wonder how his family members are dealing with the situation... they might be experiencing a mix of guilt, sadness and helplessness. Hopefully, concrete lessons learned can be derived from this situation so that never again parents have to deal with this type of guilt.

I also wonder what is going on in the suspect's mind. The expressions on the suspect's face are so diverse; he looks tired, shocked, disoriented, and indifferent. Are those real reactions or is he making them up? If he is in senses, what all is going on in his mind? I just can't get over his face... how a person without any apparent reason can kill and hurt so many innocent lives. Why could not we as a society prevent this massacre to happen? What a tragic failure!

Yes, probably this crazy man will get the due punishment but is punishment to the perpetrator ever enough to heal the wounds of those who survive the trauma? Yes, the court proceedings and final judgment in this case are vital but it requires long-term attention beyond the punishment of the culprit. This horrific event requires some serious scrutiny. All psychological and social factors must be thoroughly studied and the lessons learned must be shared with the parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, and all other stakeholders.

Thankfully, failure can be a firm foundation for many successes. Let us come together and vow that we will do everything in our control to teach our children peaceful ways of dealing with life. Secondly, we must give appropriate attention to our family members, neighbors, colleagues and if we see anything questionable, we must take the appropriate action. Come, let us please vow for peace!



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Colorado Killings: A late reaction

The recent massacre  in Aurora, Colorado was a horrible event. My heart is troubled and aching. As I see the news in CNN, lot of questions come to mind. What led this young man  to commit such an  awful act? How come no one saw something 'not right' about this person? And if they did, what type of thoughts or lack thereof  prevented them to report it? What kinds of things that families, neighbors, regular and/or online businesses should be looking for to prevent people taking such actions?

What is the definition of personal space in western societies where nobody in the family knows what a person is up to for months? Looking at similar events, one thing is pretty clear,  that a combination of psychological, social factors and life experiences lead to such dreadful and irrational behaviors. Are there any early indicators of psychological factors that can be detected by families or school community? If there are no early indicators, are there other indicators that manifest at a later stage and can they be disseminated in the public in a simple manner?

Being a firm believer of human resiliency, I know that the survivors will eventually move on with some support. However, every human has their own unique coping mechanism and therefore requires certain types, levels and durations of support. I hope nobody is pushed to move on and they have enough time to grieve and those who want to celebrate their new life can do so without any judgment or criticism. I pray that the survivors of this tragic event and the affected families receive appropriate support to recover from this unthinkable episode of their lives.

One question bothers me often... is the value of life different in different parts of the world? The real picture says yes and the logic says no… In some cases, I get to see photos and names of the people that died in a violent attack, sometimes I even see their names engraved on the monuments built in their memory and on the other hand millions of victims are no more than just numbers! Yes, it is true that there is a discrepancy in how people live but there is also a discrepancy in how you are remembered after you die regardless of what you did throughout your life… I am grateful for those whose legacy is honored and I am eager to see that the remaining 'numbers' are transformed to names and faces that duly receive pertinent remembrance.

In the end, I want to acknowledge that we are all affected by tragedies, such as the shooting in Aurora. I would like to encourage all of us to get involved in activities that can prevent such hateful events and please be supportive of those who are grieving tragedies like this wherever you may be. Let us all march towards a world free of fear and full of freedom!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Religion: Conflict and Harmony

Those who use religious rhetoric to ignite, maintain or exploit differences amongst different groups manage to influence many of us from time to time. Off course, our own biases and worldviews may provide a ground to flourish those ideas as well. Using religious teachings and principles to facilitate conflicts is one the biggest tragedies of the human history.

Most of us know that no holy scriptures of any religion encourage human slaughter, no not even Islam, as many people in the West believe. In fact, Islam, the religion that Prophet Mohammad brought about is primarily about peace and service to the almighty. Islam comes from Arabic words ‘Salm’, which means peace, and from 'Silm', which means submitting your will to Allah – the Almighty God. Chapter 5 and verse 32 of Holy Qur’an clearly says that killing an innocent is a sin. Similarly, foundations of other major religions around the world are based on truth, peace, love and forgiveness themes.

We need to focus on the founders of our religions, their life styles and the holy scriptures that came out as a result. It is the rhetoric, doctrines, popular assumptions are what leading general public and therefore it is easy to base a conflict on religious grounds. If people were well aware of what their holy book and the holy book of the ‘other’ says, conflicts based on religions would never succeed.

Recently, I explored peaceful themes in the holy scriptures of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity and I found out that all these religions talk about one God. Hinduism has about 330 million deities but they are the extension of ONE ultimate reality (Chandogya Upanishad 6 : 2 : 1; Rigveda 1 : 164 : 46). I strongly believe that all major religions come from the same source. It is like one father with many children.

It is normal and perfectly ok for the children to find their own ways and have conflicts. However, if we use violent ways to resolve those conflicts or humiliate each other, it DOES hurt our Father. A loving father is happy when he sees all his children prospering and getting along well. God wanted us to be different and that is why He has given us the right to choose our religion, our life style and our preferences.

There are innate differences like race and then there are differences because of the choices we make and God wants it like that. If not, he would have just created bunch of robots! He wanted the human race to have diversity like the colors of a rainbow, the different musical notes, and variety of different flavors and fragrances.

When we are upset because of the differences, take a moment to appreciate those differences. Our differences are valid and were made for a perfect harmony. Learn to enjoy them rather than judging them or getting mad at them. Let us come together to be a rainbow full of hope, a calming symphony and a beautiful bouquet for our creator!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thank you, Lord!

Lord, I know I don't thank you enough… Teach me to thank you everyday and for everything that I owe a thanks to you. I know if I take the time to thank you sufficiently, I will not have the time to worry!




For your blessings all around me,
Lord, I thank you
For the family and friends that surround me,
Lord, I thank you



For those who serve your creation,
Lord, I thank you
For the passion and motivation in the mission,
Lord, I thank you

For the opportunities to help others
Lord, I thank you
For the strangers that become sisters and brothers,
Lord, I thank you



For all the challenges we face,
Lord, I thank you
For your freely flowing abundant grace,
Lord, I thank you



For the hope that is renewed every morning,
Lord, I thank you
For the new possibilities that are forming,
Lord, I thank you

For meeting the needs of me and mine,
Lord, I thank you
For letting us be thine,
Lord, I thank you

Photo from Google
For the love that overflows in me,
Lord, I thank you
For the work you have started in me,
Lord, I thank you

For the privilege of direct connection to you,
Lord, I thank you
For every time you draw me closer to you,
Lord, I thank you

For the second chances you give me,
Lord, I thank you
For every time you forgive me,
Lord, I thank you


For the work and the fun,
Lord, I thank you
For the rest and the run,
Lord, I thank you

For the choices I can make,
Lord, I thank you
For the chances I can take,
Lord, I thank you

For the day I will transition to your side,
Lord, I thank you
For the eternity I will be by your side,
Lord, I thank you

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A POEM FROM AFGHANISTAN but its true for many other countries

Afghan children sort bricks at the Sadat Ltd. Brick factory, where they work from 8am to 5 pm daily, on May 14, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Majid Saeedi/Getty Images.




I feel ashamed
when I sit at the dining table eating for more than an hour until I am full, but my country’s children from morning to dark night hunt for food in the dirty garbage.

I feel ashamed
when I ride in comfortable cars that make dust as they pass, while intelligent but poor people go to a bus station, get the runaround, wait for hours, and then walk along the edges of war-damaged streets.

I feel ashamed
when I earn a big monthly salary without sweat or hard work, but others wake up early to make a little money working until sunset.

I feel ashamed—
I work in a building with modern equipment, electricity, Internet, but our needy workers stand on curbs, during the sunlight-warm days of summer and cold days of winter, waiting for hours to find daily wage work.

I feel ashamed
when I sleep in a soft, new, clean bed, while my common compatriots do not even have a pillow to rest on.

I feel ashamed
when I see farmers do hard work without basic equipment for years, but their season’s crops go to waste because of distant markets, damaged roads, and transportation expenses.

I feel ashamed
when I hear about our countrymen affected by HIV/AIDS who can’t get good care because of expired, bad-quality medicine and greedy doctors who cheat their patients.

I feel ashamed
when I say I support civil rights, but when I see civil rights abuses I do not stand with the victims and even stand against them.

I feel ashamed
when I realize I have a huge fortune that I don’t share with needy people who are so much less lucky than I.

I feel ashamed
when I see I am a human being, but I can’t see anything like humanity in myself.

By Mina T.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Levels of Peace



In a post last September, I tried to explore what makes a heart peaceful and it helped me understand that a peaceful heart or a combination of peaceful hearts can lead to global peace. It all starts with who I am, how I perceive others and interact with them, how I use my influence in a group and how my group deals with issues in my society at large. No, I am not responsible for everything that goes around me but I may have a certain level of influence on it. I may fail sometimes but I might succeed on other times and it is worthwhile to try!


I am many people. I am a soul, have a gender and age, am a family member, I belong to a religious group, have a certain educational background, represent a professional organization, have a nationality and so on and so forth. Some of me may remain the same and some of me can change but all of me continues to evolve. The good news is that I can decide in which direction I want to evolve and what type of influence I want to have on my inner being and my world at different levels.


Levels of Peace (Dayal de Prewitt A, 2012)

The diagram above strives to dissect peace one more time! Many experts have looked at different paradigms of peace and I am not sure if I, as a beginner, needed to come up with one more. In all honesty, it just reflects my learning process and nothing else. Let me attempt to explain it briefly...

There might be 'peace processes' at several levels but if an individual has not experienced inner peace, everything else may lack its effectiveness for this individual. But it can be very complicated to reach out to that inner being, if it is hidden in a dark corner inside us. Our agendas, negotiations, fear projected as need to hold on to the power and superficial comforts hinder us from reaching inside. And reaching inside is not a one time event, it needs several and long visits down there.

Next level of peace is our interactions with those immediately around us, in our homes, neighborhood, workplace, even those that we may share a seat in the train. There are innumerable reasons that threaten that inner peace and often how we deal with them can safeguard or destroy it. Yes, we can take charge of our interactions and give them a peaceful direction no matter how aggressive the other person is.

Communal groups play a critical role in bringing peace and harmony in the society. Unfortunately, these groups have a great potential to destroy peace and harmony at the same time. Because when we are in a group of people that we identify with, we feel more powerful, which is a great thing most of the time. But in that moment of feeling powerful, if we perceive another person/group as an enemy, we may have the need to exert that power. That is why for any communal group whether it is based on religion, ethnicity, professional background, etc, we must take conscious pro-peace decisions. 

Next comes political peace, it works at different sub-levels, from small towns to international situations. It has to do with our political leaders and their agendas. Most of the time they have nothing to do with destroying, sustaining or fortifying peace because they are too engrossed in pushing their agenda forward. And if peace helps in that, they promote it but if peace becomes an obstacle, they don't mind shattering it. Although, this level is hugely important in terms of influence on the society, however we cannot afford to bestow so much importance to it because sadly most political leaders are not worth it. 

Finally, global peace which goes beyond all boundaries and all players has a direct connection with inner peace. Only those who have their inner peace or have managed to taste it are able to make a contribution to global peace. Global peace is the most interesting level because on one hand, it seems like the mirage in the desert and on the other hand, once you establish inner peace, it seems within your grasp. Having said that, please know that every time we are establishing peace at any other level illustrated in the diagram above, we are contributing to global peace. 

Peace has no capacity on its own but if we are able to claim it within ourselves at individual level, we collectively have the capacity to claim it  for our world. The real challenge is to find  inner peace and sustain it. There is no one formula for all. It is an individual process that includes God, the nature and all around us. Come, let's claim our inner peace and let it overflow to the ends of the earth! 



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thanks, Coke!

On January 15th this year, I wrote a post, entitled 'Peace Vs. Coke' where I expressed my desire that peace education must have a reach like that of Coke or Pepsi, if not better. The post also suggested that it would be a great contribution if every Coke bottle could carry a message of unity and hope…  Coke's new advertisement brings the message of hope directly into the bedrooms around the world in several local languages.  



Yes, there are more and stronger reasons to be hopeful. Thanks for reinforcing that belief, Coke! I wish more and more companies would take the message of peace, hope and love and make it a jingle in our schools and streets.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Business of Serving

To serve others is the greatest act that human beings can do, it is also a beautiful gift to God and the best part is that one can indulge in serving without much cost and there are ample amount of opportunities to serve! This world is full of poor, disabled, and broken people and many times all they need is sincere attention.

The challenge is to find the desire to serve. Once we are able to find the desire, we can easily find the time to serve. Serving involves serious business. It is the transaction of smiles, happiness and peace. The better you are at the business, the more profit you make in gaining all three.

For many 'serving' brings psychological healing. Helping others to heal has healing effect on the helper. For example, I often receive feedback from my readers about how this blog has helped them in reclaiming peace in their lives. However, I think the biggest beneficiary of this blog and the feedback from you all is me. As I write and get your reactions, I gain insights that bring peace in my life and my family. I can easily say that this blog has made me more peaceful than what I was when I first began.

Yes, serving is a serious business, which brings actual profit. My friends, get involved if you are not already and share your benefits with us too. Blessings! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The balance of Peace

The Balance of Peace (Dayal de Prewitt A. 2012)


Today peace-builders are looking for the most apt definition of peace. We know that peace is not merely the absence of war, it is way beyond that. Peace can be defined both at societal and individual level. It can be an environmental condition or state of mind or a combination of both. 


Different people define and attain peace in different ways. In India, for thousands of year 'sadhus' (sages) migrate to Himalayas to search for peace and enlightenment. Others spend time in religious activities to achieve peace. Sadly, some engage in violence to look for peace. For many, simply spending time with dear ones or relaxation can be peaceful.


No matter how we understand peace and how we choose to achieve it, there are some factors that will affect that process. These can be internal and external factors as shown in the illustration above.  


As a result of interactions with several people in different parts of the world, I have gathered that forgiveness plays the most important role in inner peace. However, sometimes forgiveness alone cannot resolve ongoing situation. For example, for a rape victim the act of forgiveness can bring peace in her/his heart, whereas another victim may require a combination of justice, support and forgiveness to be able to embrace sustainable peace. 

In case of oppression, justice is essential to achieve peace. Justice can also be perceptual, therefore it must be defined by the oppressed not by others. Although justice for peace must break the chain of violence. However, it is important to note that revenge sometimes can be misconstrued as justice. 


Developing and focusing on relationship with inner self and/or God can help see the bigger picture and the greater good. Spirituality helps to look at the immaterial things and justice beyond this world and the current life. It can help germinate the seeds of hope and lead a life towards peace. Spirituality strives for oneness with the creator/universe and usually goes beyond religious rituals and differences.


Peace requires both decision and action, which can be facilitated by support of others. Support from family and friends can bring peaceful showers on a person's heart. Guilt is an enemy of peace and it can be eventually eliminated through validation from others. Just sharing laughters, meals and even pain with dear ones can make place for peace. Support from others is as important as supporting others. Peace derived from serving is divine peace!

 
In hindi, there is a saying, 'Bhuke pet bhajan na hoye Gopala', meaning with a hungry stomach it is difficult to even worship God. Economy plays an important role in attainment of peace. If people are constantly worried and struggling for their meals, homes, and other basic needs, peace talks can be ineffective as well as useless. This is where the role of state comes in the picture of peace. Job opportunities, means to meet basic needs have a direct connection with peace.


Contentment or feeling of satisfaction with life is also an important factor related to achieving peace. One may not be oppressed and be economically well but if he/she is not content from within, it may hinder peace. A healthy and positive perspective towards life and supportive society is critical for peace to take birth and grow in a balanced way. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Live

If you are experiencing hopelessness or fear, I urge you to look deep within. You can do this by spending some time with yourself or taking a walk in fresh air or playing an outdoor game.


Challenge yourself and face the fear. Visualize what is the worse that can happen. Think of three nice things that you can still do in that situation. Simple things like spending time with family or going for shopping or helping others or teaching poor children or partying with friends or just praying... the list can go and on!
 
The point is that sad things happen in everybody's life and most people eventually learn to move on. We all have the capacity called resilience, which helps us to bounce back from an adverse event. All we need to do is to believe that we will overcome.
 
No need to die before it happens, live your life because it is meant to be lived. Look for brightness in the sun, look for fresh water in the rain, look for twinkling stars and calming silence in the night, look for hope for future in a child's smile, look for God's power in the sky, His skills in the birds that fly around, His art in the Trees and flowers, look for life when you breath. Live!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Flexibility and Peace

Flexibility has a deep-rooted relationship with peace. It is the cheapest way to comfort! If we can adapt to new situations, we are usually more peaceful. Adapting does not mean submitting or bowing down to others but it means adjusting to a situation in a way that reduces the hurt and increases the comfort for us and for others around us.

It takes a broader perspective to life to be able to adapt. Just like we have to change our clothing according to the climate, we must be able to modify our lives as per the demand of a situation. Imagine wearing two sweaters and a jacket in a hot afternoon, maybe not a good idea.

Sometimes we mistake stubbornness to strength. In urdu, there is a saying, 'Jhookega wahi jisme kuch jaan hai, akad khas murde ki pehchaan hai', which means that the one that has life will bend but rigidness is the sign of a dead body.

A certain level of flexibility is required for any successful relationship and so this is something that all of us are capable of. However, sometimes we tend to forget that and feel stuck in a particular situation, whereas, all we need to do is to take a step back and analyze how can we adapt to this situation in a win-win way.

Remember the saying we have heard a thousands times, 'every problem has a solution'. There is always more than one way to deal with a situation and there is always a way that is peaceful. Today, if you are stuck in a situation, think about what little changes you can make to improve the situation. These changes can be about the situation itself or about your preferences. Take time to think different strategies and evaluate them, see what will work for all and will add peace to your life. Sometimes, just slowing down and taking baby steps increase calm in our lives. Smile and be peacefully flexible!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Time to Teach Peace

Recent violence in Afghanistan, continued killing and arrests of civilians in Syria, conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, killings in Northern Nigeria, shooting of a teenager, Traven Martin, in the US are just some very sad examples of how human beings behave to gain control over a situation.

Let us take a minute and go back in time, into the childhood of the aggressors in these events. I wonder how many of them received formal or informal peace education growing up? If they heard conversations at home around the importance of peace and its impact on their well-being? If they had the opportunity to go to school, they had peace education as part of the curriculum?

When we learn certain values in our childhood, we are very likely to retain them all our lives. Our personality is mostly shaped in our early years. Therefore, we, as States, schools, parents, must find ways to integrate peace education in our homes, classrooms, and in our society at large.

Little jingles and poems with simple messages can be written and taught to toddlers that can have a long lasting impact on them. Many cultures already have a treasure of peace related stories, poems and some countries like New Zealand (http://www.disarmsecure.org/Peace_Education_in_Schools.pdf) have peace curriculum in some of their schools. Here are a couple of examples of peace poems (can be translated in other languages) for little children:

Peace with my brother and peace with my sister,
way of life, way of life
No more quarreling, more and more smiling,
that's my life, that's my life
— Anjana Dayal


Or a poem written by a child (http://favicons.blogspot.com/2012/04/poems-by-children-on-diversity.html)
Peace begins with saying sorry.
Peace begins with not hurting others.
Peace begins with honesty and trust.
Peace begins with showing cooperation and respect.
World Peace Begins With ME!
--Halley Hall 

As responsible adults, lets make simple modifications in our educational systems to ensure that our future generation has better skills for conflict resolution because with increased sophistication in the weapons, humanity will not be able to survive many wars. Therefore, my dear readers, as we teach our kids to walk, let us teach them to walk on the way of peace...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Economy Says, No More Wars!


When as adults, we see our child in a fist fight with another child over something, we intervene and help them understand that probably fist-fighting was the not the most appropriate solution to whatever the situation was. At the same time, when we look at our mutual problems, which are more complex, we tend to forget to practice what we preach. From time to time we, intelligent and mature adults, fail to handle problems, disagreements and conflicts in the most appropriate way. And like the two fighting kids, we too get focused on winning without thinking of the consequences of that victory. Sometimes, that victory or efforts towards it, ruin a relationship. At a macro level, it escalates into wars. Can we as honestly say that nothing could have prevented the bloodshed of our fellow human beings? There are always peace options but desire for quick conquest overpowers the efforts for a meaningful collective victory. Let us build a case for eliminating or substantially reducing wars from our society by looking at: cost benefit analysis, finding common grounds and shared vision.


Cost-benefit analysis

Wars affect the economy both positively and negatively. On one side, many make big profits on weaponry production, contracting and construction. Some local people are recruited for these activities and are able to make money. But these profits do not reach the majority of the population. On the other side, a nation looses money in investing on the training, equipments, maintenance of the troops and other requirements. In the war zones, the devastation and loss of infrastructure incurs major damage to the economy for many years to come. With (a) thousands of people losing their livelihoods, (b) hundreds of acres of land polluted with mines, and (c) current and future workers impaired physically and mentally, there is a much bigger cost to pay than any profit wars may bring to the global economy.

Those who advocate that wars will lead to some kind of well being to specific countries and/groups must analyze the potential benefits of any war against the cost being paid. Cost of the current wars around the world is (a) immeasurable resources, (b) hundreds of thousands of lives (c) physical, psychological and social wounds, (d) destruction and devastation in affected areas, (e) future adverse effects of wars such as unexploded ordnances and finally (f) increased hatred, which may lead to several other conflicts. What benefits are worth of this price? Can an ideology be truthfully promoted at this cost? 


Finding Common Grounds

Since the cultural/ethnic filters amongst nations/groups are very different from each other, there will be conflicts but we need to change the ways of conflict resolution. When we begin to look beyond our cultural filters and linguistic interferences, deep inside all societies advocate for forgiveness, peace and love. The holy Quran says, “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate”.  Jesus was not advocating for revenge and hatred when he said, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. The Dalai Lama posits love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. Rabbi Menachem Mendle said, “Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that ‘other’ exists”.  Mahatma Gandhi objected to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

We cannot to start a process of coming together until we forgive, accept and empathize with each other. It would be easier to find common grounds if we look at common needs. In order to find common grounds we need to (a) refine and use our diplomatic skills more than ever, (b) negotiate while respecting each other’s leadership (c) utilize a collaborative processes for creative problem solving, (d) be flexible and (e) where agreeing is not possible, agree to disagree deferentially.

Assiduous dialoguing is essential to reach a mutually acceptable pact for parties involved. Focus of such processes must be the ‘issues’ and not 'people'. In addition, agreements are sustainable only if they are understood and acceptable at the grassroots. A bottom-up approach is recommended to set the framework for negotiations. Both communities and governments have significant roles in peace-building and sustaining peace. 


Shared Vision

Let’s take a moment to visualize that all the resources, power and wisdom that is being spent on wars around the world is diverted to feeding the hungry, providing shelters to the homeless, giving appropriate health care to the sick and bringing smiles to faces covered with dirt and wet with tears. I recognize that no matter how beautiful this vision is, it not practical and probably cannot be realized in a short span of time.

However, as responsible citizens of the world we must try to move towards this vision. Especially, now, when many players in the world are equipped with Nuclear weapons. We cannot continue to risk our future. Recently, a young graphic designer in a conversation expressed his fear about a potential nuclear war. He said, “If the world leaders do not learn to negotiate and there is a nuclear war, the world would go back to stone age”. His fear is not based on any research but is important because it represents the fear of thousands of youth around the world.

In today’s age of globalization, where there is much greater interdependence between States, it is the best time ever to develop a shared vision.  Whether rich or poor states, developed, developing or under-developed countries, all hold overlapping dreams that can constitute a shared vision, such as (a) Economic prosperity and international trade opportunities, (b) Freedom to serve God according to local traditions, (c) Opportunities for optimum growth and development for children, and (d) Well being, respect and independence. It might be difficult and painstaking but it can be done. 

World leaders, before you decide for another war, I request you to think about what do you want to leave for your great grandchildren, ruins because of nuclear weapons or opportunities that come through peace and prosperity.

Monday, April 9, 2012

US in Afghanistan?

Recently I read Joe Klein's article in the Time magazine regarding the length of US mission in Afghanistan and its impact on the troops. According to the article there are many veterans who are looking for clarity for the current mission in Afghanistan. Being a veteran's wife, I too find myself in midst of those conversations and truly there no satisfying answers for having 89,000 (figure from February 2012) soldiers on ground, especially after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. 


No war is ever good, even if it is fought in the name of peace. However, I recognize that in complex state of affairs in Afghanistan, merely peaceful negotiations and restoration activities may not present a comprehensive answer and other military and political tactics might be needed for a long-term solution. I wonder if we can re-evaluate our mission, strategies and resources required to carry them out. Seriously, putting 89,000 precious lives in harms way does not sound like the most appropriate strategy in the current circumstances. 



For more than a decade, priceless lives and billions of dollars (in the times of recession)  are lost. There are long term mental health and psychosocial issues for combatants, local civilians and the families of the combatants (NATO personnel as well as the insurgents). Other impacts include destruction of already scarce infrastructure in the Afghanistan and further deterioration  in relationship with Pakistan. Last but not the least, time is the most important resource that is being lost everyday that there is no resolution to the situation. 

From the humanitarian point of view, I thought that maybe US presence is needed there to avert human rights violations in the country, especially after Time magazine's cover (July 2010), which illustrated the plight of a Afghan woman. But this Sunday's newspapers were full of worrying statistics pertaining to violence against women, children and elderly right here in Puerto Rico. And then I did a quick research for violance against women in the US and I found some more concerning numbers there as well. Here are some facts in the US and Puerto Rico:
  • Three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner each day in America, on average. (http://www.nnedv.org/docs/Stats/NNEDV_DVSA_factsheet2010.pdf)
  • Approximately 2.3 million people each year in the United States are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner averaged 6.9 physical assaults per year by the same partner. (http://www.nnedv.org/docs/Stats/NNEDV_DVSA_factsheet2010.pdf)
  • 27, 934 Domestic violence cases against women in Puerto Rico in 2012. {Maricarmen Rivera Sanchez, (April 8th, 2012), El Vocero, San Juan Puerto Rico}
  • 26 women have been killed as a result of domestic voilence in 2012. {Maricarmen Rivera Sanchez, (April 8th, 2012), El Vocero, San Juan Puerto Rico}
  • 30,000 cases of child abuse and elderly abuse in Puerto Rico {Gloria Ruiz Kuilan, (April 8th, 2012) El Nuevo Dia, San Juan, Puerto Rico}. 
  • More info on Human Rights issues in the US: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/countries/americas/usa
Let me join thousands of Americans who have been advocating for the best way forward, which is to bring back the troops and focus on improving the situation back at home, financially and socially. Let Afghans be the leaders in designing their future. They have survived for generations and they will continue to evolve as a society in their own style and their own pace.


Organizations such as US Institute of Peace, Washington DC are exploring ways of resolve the situation in Afghanistan in ways that will protect lives, improve diplomatic relations and will probably be more economical.  For example, tomorrow, on April 10, USIP will host an event called Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan. One can also watch the live webcast tomorrow at 10:00 am EST at www.usip.org/webcast



It does not matter which side wins the war in the end, it is the civilians involved and the families of the combatants who lose. Conflicts are and will remain part of the ever-dynamic global society but ways of conflict resolution must be modified in the age of nuclear weapons to prevent irreversible damages. It is time for the US to lead the world towards creative problem solving through diplomacy and dialoguing. 


One God of All!

The more you study various religious books, you find more commonality in the various teachings than differences. I actually wrote an artic...