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 (}

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!

Peace Seeks Justice

Yes, the country seeks peace. But the angry protestors seek justice, The grieving mothers seek justice, The oppressed generations ...