Monday, September 10, 2018

Inner Peace

It can be very hard to embrace peace while seeking justice. The search for common ground becomes difficult when at least one party's agenda is to oppress and marginalize the other. While peace and justice go hand in hand, often times fight for justice shrinks the space for inner peace.

A constant process of reflection and introspection is required to keep a check on your own thought process and behaviors as you move forward. For those who are genuinely trying to sustain peace within and with the environment, here are a few simple tips: 

Find Common Ground:
  • The hardest and the most important part is to continue to look for and build on the common ground with those who might seem to be in opposition with you. No matter what, there are always shared needs and aspirations among all human beings. Well-being, a good future for the next generation, common principles and values, greater good are just some of the examples. 
  • It requires a patient and collaborative dialogue to explore commonality. Both sides need to actively listen to each other to find out what's that little piece that appeals to me in what the other person is saying. That focus needs to be sustained because we know it is very easy to hear others just to be able to reply back! Be patient with others, yourself and with the process!
  • When allegations are made, listen with an open heart. Some allegations will make sense and some will not. Take what makes sense and leave what doesn't. Accept all allegations are important for the one who is making them because either they have felt them genuinely or they make their case better. However, what is important for others doesn't have to be important for you. Focus on what makes you a better human being and what facilitates the way for peace. 
  • Ensure to take breaks from the conversations and reflect on what is going on. Combine reflection with simple mindfulness activities such as deep breathing, prayer, meditation, or walking. Ask yourself, is peace still your goal, both inner and interpersonal? If yes, in what direction the conversation is going? Are you on track or need course correction? Keep the perspective and focus.
  • Go back to the conversation with renewed energy and focus. Engage in limited durations until the other party is influenced by your energy or they disengage. Make sure that the other party understands your goal and genuinely try to understand what is their objective. Not all the engagements will end in interpersonal peace but they must not snatch away your inner peace for too long. Continue to practice mindfulness as you engage or eventually decide to put closure to ongoing discussion. 
Retaining Inner Peace - Anjana Dayal de Prewitt 2018


In the end, no matter what the conclusion of the engagement is, maintain your inner peace. Ensure you have done everything to stand up for yourself in a peaceful fashion. Other things might include escalating the issue to higher authorities, alliance with other leaders in the organization/community, researching policies and laws (if, relevant) that support your case, documenting your thoughts so that they are clear to all involved and other things that you might come to your mind that are peaceful. I will end by sharing what one of my mentors told me as I was going through a similar struggle, she said, "Keep your chin up and smile as often as appropriate!"  Claim your inner peace, it belongs to you! 

Please share any questions and/or insights in the comment box below. We all need to protect our inner peace in midst of the struggles of this world, any insights to further improve or strengthen this post are welcome! 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Request of an Immigrant

It is not easy to be an immigrant in a foreign country, leaving everything you knew to learn and adjust to everything new. This poem tries to give words to a silent request that most of us immigrants have for the citizens in the host countries.

Beyond the color of my skin,
See me, my brother!
Beyond my different accent,
Hear me, my sister!

I bring more than my foreign birth,
I bring valuable experiences,
I bring my skills, a desire to collaborate,
I bring more than our differences!

I am not here to put you down,
I am not here to snatch your portion,
I am here to exchange goodness,
I desire for a bright future to apportion! 

I beg you to treat me as equal,
I am as human as you are,
I beg you to evaluate me fairly,
I am God's child just as you are!

I want us to celebrate each other,
I want us to elevate each other,
About our differences and commonalities,
I want us to educate each other!

I love my motherland so dearly,
I would go back home if I could,
My language, my culture, and my identity,
I would reclaim everything, only if I could!

But brother I am here,
Sister, let me in with an embrace,
Let me be part of your family,
I promise I will add to its grace!

Yes, for you it might be a compromise,
To have a stranger in your land,
Let me not be a stranger for too long,
Make me your sister, give me your hand!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Where Is My Mami?

This poem is based on conversations with people during my recent trip to Texas and desk review of what is going on in the US since the Zero Policy was enacted in May 2018 by President Donald Trump. There are little children in detention centers/shelters and they don't know where their parents are or when they are going to meet them. Some parents reported that the officials didn't even notify that they are being separated so they couldn't even say goodbyes to their children or couldn't prepare them for what was coming. Anyways, some children were so small that they wouldn't have understood what is being done to them.... This poem has tried to imagine one such child's feelings who is in one of these shelters and wondering where her mother is... 

Why am I here?
Where is my mami?
No one here picks me up,
For a long time I have been crying!

I am afraid,
Angry, sad and confused,
And I don't even know
That I am being tortured and abused!

The floor is cold,
And so are the adults around me,
When I have a family,
Why only strangers surround me?

They give me food,
but it doesn't taste the same,
I want my mami to feed me,
And play our little game!

I miss resting in my mami's lap,
I miss her touch and her sweet voice,
I miss the way she called me, 'mija'!
Did she leave me here by choice?

I miss playing with her in the grass,
I miss looking at the stars,
Why can't I go pass this door?
Why, why am I behind the bars? 

Does my mami know,
I am lonely here?
Does she know I am desperate for her?
Does she no more care?

I just want my mami,
Just bring her to me,
How difficult is it
To reunite a child with her mami?

I don't know my crime,
Why am I being punished?
I don't know for how long?
Help, before my hope is diminished!

Hey Carlito, do you know,
Where my is mami?
Hey Mr. Sam, do you know,
Where is my mami?

Where is my mami?
Where is my mami....?

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Justice for Asifa means Justice for India

In January this year, an eight year old girl, Asifa Bano, who belonged to a Muslim nomad community, was kidnapped, raped for several days in a temple and killed by a group of Hindu men in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. Please click here for an account from a journalist who met her parents days after the horrific crime was committed. Investigators believe that the accused men committed this crime to force Asifa's community out of the area they were living in. What makes the situation even worse is that Hindu right-wing groups including government officials protested the arrest of the perpetrators (For more information, please click for an article by BBC here)

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights recognizes rape as a weapon of war (more information, please click here for an article on their website) and this crime fits this definition amidst the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Rape is a heinous crime and no form of or motivation for it is better or worse. Every single time, it is a show of power from one human being to another based on gender, age, religion, ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, and/or nationality. This story reveals the intersectionality of vulnerabilities Asifa represented, she was a young relatively poor girl who belonged to a minority religion. None of these attributes she could have controlled. She was also a strong girl who supported her parents by taking care of the cattle everyday and dealt with micro-aggressions of one of the perpetrators. It must have taken a lot of courage for her to go back to the forest each day to do what she was asked by her parents. However, no matter how strong an individual is, it is hard to win if the oppressors have the support of the system. 

While India has been a strong example of unity in diversity for hundreds of years, it has also witnessed violence based on gender, religion and caste over and over again. One of the worst incidents of communal riots happened under the Congress government in 1984 after the assassination of then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi (Congress party), by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Her supporters killed about 3,000 innocent Sikhs and there wasn't much done by the law enforcement to stop the dreadful atrocities. Please click here for an article from BBC regarding the tragic consequences of that massacre.

Similarly, misogyny is not new to the country. In 2012, I wrote an article on this blog about another disgraceful assault on a 23 year old woman in my hometown, Delhi and how Indian culture is partially responsible for the disrespect and crimes against women in the country. You can read that article here. Please click here for a couple of other horrendous stories by The Wire. These stories are just the tip of the iceberg of the problem in India, where girls are worshipped as goddesses! There are legal bodies in place like the National Commission of Women (For more information, please click here) but they are too far away from stopping crime against women especially in small towns and villages. Until a woman's vagina is connected to the honor of the clan and a woman is expected to be a sacred, sacrificing goddess who should simultaneously be ready to serve as a slave, not much will change. A change of mentality needs to take place in addition to the legal reforms for a substantial change to happen. 

What happened in Kathua reminded me of the 2002 riots in Gujarat (If you don't know or need a reminder, please click here for an article by New York Times). Mr. Narendra Modi was ruling Gujarat then and is ruling India now and his party is sharing the power in Jammu and Kashmir currently. In 2002, many women and girls were raped and killed. In total over 1,000 people were killed and 150,000 people (mostly Muslim) were displaced. This was done as a revenge of the killing of 59 Hindus by Muslims. The difference between the actions of the two religious groups was that the attack by Hindus was supported by the government structure. 

Under the current government, crimes  and oppression against minority groups have significantly increased in India. Please click here for an article by Human Rights Watch on how the system is being modified and utilized to commit atrocities against minorities in the 'New India'. Burning of places of worship, lynching, rapes and threats have increased like never before. In 2017, a fifteen year old Muslim boy was stabbed to death on a train as he was returning from Eid shopping (For more information, please click here for a news story from Indian Express). In 2015, a fifty year  Muslim man was killed and his son was brutally injured  because a mob decided to punish them for allegedly eating beef (for more information, please click here for an India Express article). I can go on and on with stories of recent oppression on the minorities.

Clearly, this is not the first time we have felt immense pain because of the oppression on a vulnerable person/group in India. However, Asifa's painful story takes this persecution to another level. This time, a temple is used for days to violate and kill a human being, that too a minor girl.  And when the perpetrators are arrested, politicians, police officers and others come on the road with Indian flag to protest. The Prime Minister of the country takes days before he makes a general statement about the crime. While Asifa's and her family's pain is above and beyond any religion, it is really hard to ignore and minimize the fact that a temple's perceived holiness is allowed to be exploited as a refuge for raping the young child repeatedly and the national flag is used to validate the actions by government officials! This is shameful and unacceptable!

The saving grace is that few Hindu extremists attacking  minority groups do not represent the millions of peaceful Hindus, who, as a matter of fact, are openly condemning this oppression. Majority of the people  protesting on the streets against the injustice are Hindus along with people from different religions. When such people come together, they are first Indians with humanity as their primary religion! I pray they prevail and with them India prevails!  

I pray for peace, consolation and justice for the family of Asifa. I pray their grieving process is not combined with fear. I also hope and pray that other people in their community are not afraid for their own well-being and of their children. I pray that the sanctity of the temple returns and sustains. I pray for victory for the millions of Indians who are fighting for justice in the country. I pray that the pride of the country, the Indian flag, is raised only to glorify mother India! I pray that India becomes a stronger example of unity, spirituality, harmony, and peace!

P.S. As I was about to publish this post, I read the latest update on the case: the villagers refused land for Asifa's burial and she is now buried about 8 km away from the village she last lived in (For more information, please click here for a Hindustan Times article). I pray that Asifa rests in peace, Amen.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Step Forward!

We all have experienced times in our lives when moving forward becomes a challenge. Fears, doubts, blame, shame, anger, sadness and sometimes complacency hold us back. We become stale, and even start stinking like the standing water. Just a little step forward adds life to our lives and we must not stop not matter what! It is important to visualize your dream and go for it! As Lao Tzu said, The Journey of Thousand Miles begins with One Step! 

Every morning, start afresh,
Take a deep breath, step forward!

Even when the day is heavy as rock,
Pull all your strength, step forward!

If there seems to be no path ahead,
Take the leap of faith, step forward!

Before fear consumes all the courage,
Position yourself, step forward!

When no other hand pulls you,
Hold on to hope, step forward!

In the midst of confusion 'n' chaos,
Focus on your own next step forward!

Confidence will follow surely,
With faltering feet, step forward!

The destination may be far way, 
It is closer with every step forward!

They may say you’re not part of them,
Embrace your uniqueness, step forward! 

Shame, guilt, sadness, or anger,
Girl, put on your lipstick, step forward!

Your smile might be wet in tears,
Wear it anyways, step forward!

No matter how tired you might feel,
Tap in the last bit of  energy, step forward!

When nothing seems to work,
Grab more grace from above step forward!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

On the Go!

This post is for those of us who are a bit different from the majority. For those who don't fit in the general societal frames in terms of thinking, life style, choice of life partner, way of bringing up our children, dressing style, etc... For example, those of us when walking on the street holding your spouse's hand notice people looking at you in a weird fashion, in my case because I am a brown woman married to a white man double my age. People also raise eyebrows about me being too liberal with my son. Sorry but not sorry because I don't see my son as a robot who should follow all my instructions, he needs to have space to discover this world and be a person of his own! Yes, I fear, I pray and I share my insights with him but he needs to be his own person.

 In today's world, more and more people are able to break the chains of social expectations and be themselves. And when being free is combined with compassion and gratitude, it is lethal for all kinds of misery! When you are free to be who you want to be, you are happier and thus are better able to share and spread happiness around! There are questions and there is also admiration! Admiration from those who too have dared to be different and also from those who live very structured and 'by the book' lives but in their hearts would love to break free! You know who you are, right? :-) Before you join the world of misfits, please know -

It takes some tears,
A lot of resilience,
A few leaps of faith,
And consistent perseverance. 

To live a life that's different,
Which doesn't fit any frame,
To figure out every morning,
The next steps of the game!

To frequently live,
Outside the norms,
To defy the standards,
And learning new forms!

When there are hardly other 
examples to follow. 
When you look for insights,
You often find them hollow.

When you're wrong,
For many,
And a sheer enigma
For Plenty!

When often your dreams,
Are questioned,
Your desires and aspirations
Are frequently sanctioned!

When you can't
belong nowhere,
And your restless soul,
doesn't settle anywhere!

When you're an Indian American,
But you also adore Pakistan,
When you admire Judaism,
And also revere Islam.

When you're a Christian,
But you see Jesus,
Way beyond Christianity,
Answering prayers of all of us! 

When all colors
Look absolutely beautiful,
You see the distinction 
But also the convergence!

There are times,
When you're tired,
Of being yourself,
And being differently wired! 

And in midst of all,
All shades of love surround you,
Love that questions, let's go
And that bounds you! 

 But again you decide to leave
Everything you know,
To the unknown,
To uncertainties you go! 

You go to explore,
To embrace humanity,
To appreciate the Creator,
In bits and in totality! 


It’s all about the roots! Our roots don’t pull us down, they enable us to grow farther away to explore the unknown skies! #roots #trees ...