Thursday, November 22, 2007

Lost in transition

This October, 17 members of the French charity organisation, 'Zoe's Ark' were charged with child abduction by the Chad government. They were accused of smuggling children from the country, citing that they were orphans of the Darfur conflict. According to the UN, virtually all of the children had been living with family members in villages.The aid group was working in the Abéché region of Chad - the base of operations for dozens of aid groups - to raise awareness of the crisis in Darfur and provide aid for children affected by it.

When a reader comes across a story such as this, they're divided between supporting the Chad government that claims the foreign aid group is interfering in matters that they don't need to and those who are disillusioned with the corrupt system existent in a country, that prevents them from providing the most vulnerable victims of turmoil with fast relief.

In a war-ravaged country, children are one of the first to suffer. Adults always have more survival options available to them. Children, dependent on others for even their basic requirements, often find themselves helpless in the face of adversity.

According to a survey by Berlin-based organization Transparency International in 2006, Chad ranks 156 among 163 countries, making it one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Therefore, processing of documentation that will allow the children to be legally taken out of the country and placed in a healthier environment would take time and there is always the possibility that it may never become a reality. Meanwhile, it's the children who bear the consequences of an unjust system that denies them essentials like nutritious food, clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities, not to mention more serious basics such a sprotection from violence, heinous crimes and most importantly, the right to life .

On the other hand, several cases have been reported in the past of perpetrators smuggling children into foreign countries, stating reasons of rehabilitation and adoption, and find themselves trapped in vile circumstances of debilitating exploitation such as human trafficking, physical and sexual abuse. From one bad situation to one that is worse.

The aid organization had claimed that the children were sick, hungry and abandoned, and had raised money from European families to rescue the children and place them temporarily in French homes. But checkups showed the children to be in good condition and well-fed in the context of Chad.

The majority of the children came from Chadian villages along the border with Sudan, but aid officials were not able to say if the children were Chadians or Sudanese. The long and porous border, and the violence in neighbouring Darfur, has pushed Sudanese and Chadian residents into each other's territory. This makes tracing the childrens' families difficult.

Until formalities are sorted out and paperwork processed, again it's the children who wait for someone to lead them back to a tumultous, and sometimes lost, childhood.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Black Sea - in name, in colour, in state

The recent oil spill, that poured over 5,55,000 gallons of fuel oil in to the Black Sea, has been termed as “one of the worst on record”. Go figure. 30,000 birds are feared dead. It's an understatement when I say that's a huge loss for the planet. One that we can't afford. Precious, irreplaceable wildlife has been wiped out causing a massive environmental disaster and a serious ecological imbalance. The weather – a violent storm, to be precise - was cited as the reason for the spill. However, the real cause remains official negligence that allowed the oil transport ships to ply even though they were using outdated and inadequate equipment. The havoc that the storm wreaked pales in comparison to the damage from the oil spill. We’re standing at the brink of the threat of losing the Black Sea itself. It disgusts me that such a catastrophe has occurred because of such a dismal cause; as a result of which we’ve all lost so much.

Corruption, negligence and red tapism have long plagued administration systems around the world. Various attempts are made to eliminate or at least reduce their impact. But the problems persist, raging through everything in their path, bulldozing them to dust. I get that there are a dozen factors beyond our control. Reasons no one can be blamed for. But it’s just unacceptable for such ‘accidents’ to occur simply because those responsible couldn’t be bothered enough.

Russian environmentalists say that it may take several years to clean up the mess from the oil spill, the problem being aggravated by the oil that is quickly sinking to the seabed. It could last there for generations, affecting anything that attempts to be borne of it. Russian prosecutors are to conduct a probe into this oil spill. But it may already be too late. Several feathered creatures have met an oily grave and been choked out of existence. We’ve lost plenty.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Marcel Marceau - A Dime of a Mime

Legendary mime Marcel Marceau passed away recently. For 50 years, he spent his career performing without uttering a single word. Whoever coined the term 'gift of the gab'? It fascinates me that the man achieved so much during his lifetime without speaking. It has always been thought that the ability to think, reason and communicate through words are two of the main reasons that make man the highest being in the order of the animal kingdom. Marcel Marceau probably never heard of the theory since he flouted it so beautifully...the ability to succeed without communicating verbally, that is. Not the ability to think and reason:)

A survivor of the Holocaust, Marceau said (offstage, he was famously chatty) that among the many children who died in the genocide, there may have been a Mozart, an Einstien, someone who could have invented a new cancer drug. I hadn't thought of that before.

To a man who survived one of the ugliest periods in human history, to an artist who revived a dying art, to someone who believed in constantly going Marcel Marceau who lived, loved and entertained...I salute a genius.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Home - or someplace like it

I guess many of us don't realise all the things we do and all the places we go on an average day. There must be an infinite number of schedules that people all over the world follow. But all - or at least most - of us come back to someplace that we call home.

So what exactly defines a home?

I've heard lofty sayings that a house is just four walls of bricks but a family makes a home. I've never really been one for lofty sayings.

It would probably be safe to say that a lot of us really don't think about what 'home' is until there's some space between us and the place that we take for granted at the end of every busy day. I've recently had the chance to reevaluate what home means to me...the concept, the physical space, the insitution. In my opinion, it's where I feel uninhibited. Don't get just means that much like a person that you're in love with...home is where the walls have stood witness to your life...that if they could speak, they'd have fabulous accounts to give of the years that you've spent within their limits. Which is why plenty of people call their schools 'home' or a place that they go to trek often as 'home'. It's because the particular space can give testimony to their evolution, in every sense of the term.

Like I said earlier...home really comes to mind only when you're away from it for a while. Well, at least in my case. I've been living out of a suitcase for the past few weeks and frankly I hadn't felt at home for sometime now. The phenomenon of always being on the go gave me a feeling of discombobulation. But the other day, I regained a sense of oreintation. Which led me to develop a strong conviction. That home really is where the heart is. Looking into your heart is the only way of figuring out whether a space is home or not. Because the space that we call home is a part of our heart. We travel with it. And so in a sense, we never leave it behind. So if you're in a space and can manage to look into your heart and bring those fuzzy feelings that remind you of a safe familiarity that you associate only with home, you know you're there.

When I developed the conviction, I was able to do just that...look into my heart and feel like I was home. Because home really is where the heart is. And quite honestly, I think that's probably the only lofty idea that exists.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Of Time Crunches and Thanks-a-Bunches

Ever had one of those days where twenty-four hours just don't seem enough? I've been feeling like that lately. From the minute I get out of bed to the unearthly hour that I crawl back in, (only to wake up soon after) my day is packed. There's just so much to do that it seems impossible to fit everything in! It would feel so good to be able to look down at your wristwatch or the time display on your cell phone and just be able to push a couple of buttons to see the numbers magically reverse, granting you a couple more hours of breathing time. I'm sure a lot of you out there would agree with me when I say that that would be an invention of the millienium!

Getting back to reality, I've begun a new chapter in my life in so many ways. I'm at this crossroad where it seems that there are an infinite number of paths ahead of me. And the permutations and combinations in which I can take them, endless...each leading to a destination more fascinating than the next! I'm grateful that my life's going the way it is. Plenty of work, not as much sleep as I would like, pressing deadlines...bring it on. I'm ready to take on the world!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The First

Wow! My first blog ever. I considerd doing this a couple of times before but didn't get down to it. So here I am, putting down my thoughts, for the very first time, for all the world to read. Feedback is welcome.

Where do I begin? I've just started at a new college. It's amazing what 'firsts' feel like. The first rain, your first car, your first love. I kind of feel like that now... Sure, it's not my first time at college, but it's my first time at this one. And, oh first blog too.

I'm making new friends, learning new things and never know what to expect from each new day. Sometimes, I've been excited, apprehensive, shy to the extent that I become stand-offish. But I've also been positive, interested and in return, pleasantly surprised.

I'm at this stage where I want to learn EVERYTHING! I want to know all that I possibly can. I've already started making an effort to get my hands on all kinds of info. But the more I find, I only realise that there's so much more. I love the feeling...

It's really is empowerment. It opens your mind to tremendous possibilities. I just hope that one day, everyone has the opportunity to know what that feels like.