by Anita Mendiratta | Feb 28, 2023
Morning, and a news story spreads across the world. A seemingly simple story coming out of Istanbul, Turkey: CNN INTERNATIONAL: Football Fans Donate Stuffed Toys to Quake Survivors 27 02 2023
A football match. Tens of thousands of people in a stadium. Sports fans excited to see their favourite athletes take the field, make the goal(s).
And then suddenly fans across the stadium start throwing items onto the field. Distinctly foreign objects for a football match. Fluff. Fluff is pouring down. Soft, fluffy toys – stuffed bears. Thousands of stuffed bears are being thrown onto the field.
It was an act highly unusual for a football match as global football regulations impose severe penalties when anything is thrown onto or near the pitch.
But these items, these gifts, were different.
These stuffed toys were for victims, tiny little victims who had suffered one of the greatest losses of their lives. The earthquake on February 06th, 2023 had taken everything. It had taken their home, and for so many it had taken their hopes. To date, it has taken over 44,000 souls across the country. (Source: Turkey Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD)
These fluffy gifts thrown forward by from football fans across the stadium to help move forward the lives of so many little ones could easily appear to be a simple gesture – soft, fluffy toys in white and blue, in pink and purple, in yellow, green, in beige and brown, all tumbling to the ground in the greatest of spirit, with the largest of hearts, with joy and ease.
These soft, stuffy toys, thousands of them, looking to make their way to little hands desperately needing to hold something special close to their hearts. Something that is theirs.
This simple, sweet little gesture can be looked at as a simple news story that sparks a smile, setting a positive tone for the workday ahead. But there’s so much more to be seen, and felt, beyond these fluffy little toys.
These little toys are symbols. They are symbols of hope. They are symbols of healing. They are a hand of care reaching out to someone seeking compassion, needing to be seen, held, cared for.
At the Anita Mendiratta Foundation https://anitamendirattafoundation.org/ we are acutely aware of the huge impact that these small, seemingly random acts of kindness can have on the tiniest of people in times of crisis, how outreach to the tiniest of hands can provide strength to the most broken of hearts.
Which is why as soon as the news story broke the critical role of these toys was recognised, even if the gift givers themselves did not realise their significance. These toys are, in fact, tiny little sponges – little sponges that are going to soak up so much fear, and so many tears, from so many small children. In their own wooly way, they will block the cold, they will banish the loneliness, they will be the safe companion children need. In doing so, these toys will be a vital part of the healing of these tiny, wounded souls, victimised beyond comprehension by the falling apart of their world. Their healing will help sooth the hurt of their wounded families, their guardians, their community.
It is so easy to underestimate in times of crisis how even the smallest gestures of kindness can have the greatest healing power. The impact is beyond measure. These gestures, these simple gestures, see what is impossible for many to see: how a gentle touch of the shivering hand of a small child can help them know, and feel, that they are not abandoned, they are not lost. They are safe.
These little toys are going to sooth the nervous systems of the young children that hold them, children that have spent the last three weeks in tears outside of their homes now heaps of rubble, outside of their comfort zones, outside of their safety, outside of anything they knew that loved and protected them.
These little toys are going to become their homes.
A simple gesture – a toy – thrown onto a football field by people who simply wanted to show that right here, and right now, they care.
And what better way than with a bear hug. x
Seeking a safe, trustworthy way to help those suffering the impact of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria? Please click on CNN IMPACT YOUR WORLD: https://edition.cnn.com/specials/impact-your-world
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2023
by Anita Mendiratta | Jan 31, 2023
Who created the first map of the world?
It is an interesting question, and there are many possible answers.
Historically speaking, many cartologists would argue that it was the Grecian world, when back in the 6th Century Anaximander, a respected academician in Philosophy and Geology who, through careful charting of equations, drew the world as he saw is – cylindrical.
Then there was the Greco-Roman world. Eratosthenes. Claudius Ptolemaeus, also referred to as Ptolmey. He, a celebrated astronomer, mathematician, and geographer back in the end Century, saw the spherically.
And then of course, there was Eratosthenes. He, a Greek geographer, astronomer, and mathematician, who applied his unique skillsets to create a system for looking at the world with greater accuracy. His measurement of the circumference of the world and establishment of longitude and latitude were critical in how we all see the world today.
But then there was of the Arab world. Building on knowledge of the history of conquests from across the world, Al-Idrisi, Arab Muslim geographer, scholar and importantly traveller, created a view of the world as he saw it – a vast collection of rich geographic and geological detail that revealed to us all a more scientific view of the world.
Many different possible creators.
Many different views of the world.
And yet they, as contributors to our view of the world, all possessed similar traits:
A firm belief in all of the possibility that can be unlocked when we understand not just what is known in the world, but yet to be discovered.
A courage to apply their thinking to create a world that makes the future stronger, better, wiser, and more fulfilling.
A respect for detail and difference across the world, and yet a belief that all are still connected.
A genuine desire to give to others a richer world.
Each made a remarkable contribution to honour shared world has expanded and evolved. Each left a legacy for generations to come. Each is to be thanked, however long ago they gave of their gifts to give us greater insight and appreciation of what is now ours to explore.
But then one can ask the question a different way: who created the first map of your world?
In a second we all know for ourselves the answer, the person who, first and foremost, shaped our world.
We all know that one person who gave us greater understanding all of the possibility that can be unlocked when we understand not just what is known in the world, but yet to be discovered. We can easily identify who showed the courage to apply their thinking to create a world that makes the future stronger, better, wiser, and more fulfilling for us all. They are the ones who, uniquely, demonstrated respect for detail and difference across the world, and yet a belief that all are still connected. And through all of their greatness, through all of their personal ambitions, they had a genuine desire to give to others a richer world.
You know. I know. And it is important they know.
for the world you created for me and literally millions of others through your shaping of a more truly connected, curious, and compassionate world,
for the view of the world you inspired in all of our minds,
for the compass you have been in our hearts,
and for the legacy you leave,
we thank you, we salute you, and we love you.
Safe travels. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2023
by Anita Mendiratta | Dec 30, 2022
The close of 2022 is just a few sleeps away.
Which begs the question: what next?
2022 has been a year marked by the quest to re-establish some sense of ‘normal‘ following two extremely trying years. The global pandemic pushed the global community apart – billions of hearts kept apart, unexpectedly, unwillingly, unknowing for how long. By being apart we were united in what we said would happen when we were able to reconnect. We said we wanted to be together. We said, after so long of having our world disrupted by extreme, extended uncertainty, that we understood better all that we had, all that we valued, yet all that we took for granted. We said we wanted to work together. We said we wished we could do better. We committed to doing better, together.
Importantly, we committed to there being no ‘back‘ and no ‘normal‘.
We felt proud, purposeful, embracing responsibility to create a better world not just for now, but for generations to come. Focus was ‘forward‘, fully aware of ‘normal‘ no longer being good enough.
We quietly said to ourselves “we now matters to me“.
2022 was our chance.
And yet here we are, so close to the final days of this year of opportunity of reforming a global community, refocusing on global priorities, reconnecting as a global community, slowly drifting apart. Not because of a virus. But because of, well, the muscle memory we all carry that is ‘going back to normal‘.
So close, but yet so far.
Which is why now one has to wonder: “what next“?
As 2022 comes to a close we see all around us issues great and small that have marked the year soon closing – issues that have been flagged as forces of change that are needing to become our collective call to action. Discussions, debates and dialogues around the issues – these were dutifully done. Decisions were made along with investments, along with policies, along with promises. Documentation is in place.
Which again, begs the question: “what next?”
Global climate crisis storms continue to paralyse lives, reinforcing Mother Nature’s frustration – what next?
COVID cases growing in China yet borders re-opening – what next?
Inflation rates rising – what next?
Recession is threatening – what next?
The crisis in Ukraine, the devastation of life for the people of Ukraine, is reaching its first anniversary – what next?
The global energy crisis leaving billions in the dark – what next?
Equality – what next?
Sustainability – what next?
Transparency – what next?
Circular economy – what next?
Carbon neutrality – what next?
Travelling purposefully – what next?
Caring for community – what next?
Making poverty history – what next?
Leaving no one behind – what next?
Looking back on 2022, please may we not find this to be a year onto which we can apply Shakespeare’s painful words: “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
We have a choice: wait and see what will happen next or shape what next.
‘Next‘ is so near. Now, in these final hours of 2022 may we feel in our hearts a shifting from ‘thinking about’ to ‘doing something about’,
from looking at ‘we’ to ‘me’,
from ‘being inspired’ to ‘being the inspiration’,
from ‘when’ to ‘now’.
So, what next?
So much, if we wish for it. And what better time to make a wish, a special wish to last a lifetime, than on the eve of a new year?
May 2022 close with clarity of heart of all that 2023 can be,
and all of the blessing of the ‘what next’. xx
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
by Anita Mendiratta | Nov 28, 2022
For the first time in years, at a moment in time so desperately needed after years of immense separation and strain, the global community has come together and celebrate the spirit of connection, the spirit of competition, the power of determination, the love of the beautiful game.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 has kicked off in Qatar.
For thirty days, and for the first time in the Middle East and Gulf region, the Football World Cup enables people to unite in celebration the biggest sporting event in the world. With immense, glowing pride the host nation invites football’s most formidable athletes to come show their on-the-field prowess as a world of fans and followers watch on from across its magnificent built-for-FWC purpose stadiums, across the host country, and across the globe. The power of sport, and its ability to ignite the hearts of literally billions in a matter of thrilling, exhilarating, often even excruciating, always hope-overflowing seconds, is now on show.
The spirit of the FWC is infectious, it is unavoidable, it is undeniable, whether one is a football follower or not.
Why? Because the FWC is one of our shared world’s most remarkable reflections, and important reminders, of the precious alchemy that occurs when the intense pride of place, and immense glow of the human spirit, come together.
In Qatar, the 2022 FWC marks the first time people of the Middle East and Gulf region are able to show their love for the beautiful game and the way in which it connects them to the global community without politics, without prejudice. Despite all of the controversy leading up the whistle blowing at the start of the tournament’s first match, the world knew that when focus finally shifted to football this was going to be a sensational time of sporting excellence, drama, and dreams coming true. Not only would this be it a moment of a lifetime for athletes and fans alike, but it also moment in history for Qatar. And for the Middle East. The games would act as a force of connectivity of the region to the world, with the world, for the world. Finally.
What was unexpected, however, was the way in which one of FIFA’s the most historic world cup matches ever was about to set the flame of human spirit of the 2022 Games ablaze!
Within 48hrs of the Games kicking off the FWC with absolute courage and class, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Green Falcons took to the field to take on not only the match’s strongly presumed victor, but FWC 2022 tournament champions – Argentina’s celebrated (and sports celebrity-rich) Albiceleste.
For literally millions watching the match the questions preceding kick-off were only two:
- how long would Saudi last?,
- how badly would they be defeated?
Betting was on. The Green Falcons were given a less than 10% chance of victory by the betters. Those in blue and white in stadiums, fan parks and viewing were ready to celebrate their stars. The stats reflect every reason for confidence. Understandably. Messi has always been the magic maker. Argentina is used to being positioned in the final four of FWC tournaments. With 70% possession on the field on the day, expectations were high of fan favourites Argentina leaving Saudi on the field wondering what had happened. How severely had their wings been clipped.
The reverse happened – a moment in the history books for the people of Saudi Arabia.
The Green Falcons took to the field and took on the match with not only dignity and grace, but a burning determination to win, to eclipse expectations, to soar like never before.
As the whistle was blown at full-time, the stadium, and region, erupted in thrilling shock and applause at Saudi’s 2:1 win. It was Argentina that was left standing, numb, wondering what happened. How had this happened??!
On that field, on that day, the beautiful game was more than just a thrilling show of football on fire. It was pure, absolute, heart-squeezing, thrilling, history-making beauty.
But not just beauty because of the game and its historic upset.
Indeed, there is the deeply penetrating, emotionally intoxicating sensation of the immediate, joyous electricity of Saudi victory, the way in which political national divides dropped, political positions, fell away, diplomatic filters faded.
In the moment there were scenes many believed they would never see in their lifetimes (over and above the Kingdom defeating the Argentinians!):
- a stadium full of green and white flags flying high over blue and white,
- fans from across the region – Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Qataris and so many others, jubilantly singing and dancing with absolute regional pride, celebrating their Saudi brothers,
- global sports commentators cheering the David vs. Goliath story that had just played out in front of the world,
and of course, one of the most remarkable,
- the Emir of Qatar adorned in Saudi’s national colours just over 1 year since the end of a punishing 4-year, billions of dollars blockade by regional neighbours including the Kingdom.
The beauty, the alchemy, of the beautiful game was at work once more.
Importantly, the heroic athletic performance of the Green Falcons will engrave itself in history far beyond sporting records. The magnificence of the moment is about its enduring, glowing legacy. This is a moment which is going to be marked in history of not just global football, but in heart of Saudi’s Vision 2030 – a national growth and development plan shining an enormous light on the Kingdom’s commitment to opening its doors and opening its hearts to the people of the world. Central to the Kingdom’s aspirations is its establishment of a leading position on travel wish lists of people from across the world – people who never before imagined being inspired by, and invited to, Saudi.
22.11.2022 has become a moment where the pride of Saudi Arabia has shown across the globe. On the 2022 FWC stage Saudi loudly and lovingly shouted out, with all of its strength of heart, its invitation to the world to discover Saudi, and Saudis.
Still being referred to as a ‘euphoric’ and ‘historic’ victory over Argentina, it was also heroic.
For anyone blessed to be a part of the 2010 FWC in South Africa, we all know how ‘the Games’ were about so much more than the games. Those 30 days of world class football were a platform for South Africa to showcase to the world not only who and what it was as a place and people, but its rich, unrivalled, often underestimated, and overjudged, spirit of possibility. The 2010 FWC in South Africa helped transform the nation once and for all, for good: defining its identity, embedding its pride, and connecting it to the world. The Games demonstrated the nation’s newfound energy, unity and capability – hosting the world’s largest sporting event becoming a mirror the New South Africa’s fierce determination to rise as a nation, while at the same time expressing with humility its gratitude to the world for the opportunity. https://anitamendiratta.com/mega-events-in-praise-of-unsung-heroes/
Saudi’s win on the 2022 playing field, as with South Africa’s win in hosting the 2010 Games, reflects to the world what Saudi is as a people, as a spirit, and in as an invitation to the world to understand who they are and how much they have to offer. Just like in South Africa in 2010, in Qatar in 2022 Saudi demonstrated to all its simple, pure humanity, its spirit of possibility, and it’s commitment to the global community.
Which is why it is so important that to remember that mega events are never only about the moment on the field or the duration of the event. The FWC is never about one month of football. Nor is EXPO about four months of global exhibition. Or the Olympic and Paralympic Games about a month of celebration of athletics at its best.
It’s about legacy.
It’s about the power of legacy to swiftly, powerfully and respectfully shift the image of a nation in the eyes, minds and hearts of the world. https://anitamendiratta.com/its-all-about-the-afterglow/
However this FWC concludes, whomever takes home the trophy, wherever Saudi ends up on the total tournament tables, the Green Falcons proudly soar at the top of the tournament leader board for greatest upsets of the 2022 Games.
That is the magic of megaevents. They are never simply about the event itself. They are about legacy of identity – identity in the eyes of the world, and of one’s own.
In 2010 the FWC legacy was not only how the world looked at South Africa and South Africans, it was about how South Africans looked at their fellow South Africans. As equals. As champions. As one.
As the 2022 FWC continues, with matches knowing out team after team, there is no matching how the region and world will now look at Saudi, and Saudis. And critically, how Saudis will look at one another, stand together in remarkable historic pride.
Look, look down there!
Can you feel it – the audible pounding of your heart?
Can you hear it – the silence?
Look what’s happening!!
FWC 2022 – you may not remember the final score when the final whistle was blown declaring the tournament’s winning team.
You may not remember who kicked their team of gold.
But you’ll never, never forget where you were when….x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
by Anita Mendiratta | Oct 31, 2022
We see it all around us, and more importantly, we can feel it.
The runways are lighting up. The world is opening up. Things are looking up. Finally!
Travel itineraries are reaching out to Africa. And Asia. And the Americas. And all places in between. It is a worldwide scramble for travel, and it’s exciting. Wish lists are turning into bookings. Virtual hugs are being turned into tight, real squeezes. Missed milestones are being turned into shared memory-making in one place, not on one screen.
Travel anywhere, whenever one wants, has, for a world of grounded travellers, long been a dream, even if long lines at many airports are a nightmare. Not to mention the enduring risks of cancelled flights, lost baggage, long waits, and sky-high airfares.
The travel turbulence can, and is, being pushed through. There is no stopping travel’s return. Millions upon millions are going, now. They are getting on with their planning, their boarding, their living again. Don’t even think of getting in their way!
The labels for this global travel scramble are growing: ‘pent up demand’, ‘revenge travel’, ‘bounce back’, ‘back to normal’, ‘resilience in action’.
However diverse the terms, whatever we call it, the message is clear: travel is back. That word – ‘back’ – is one which can easily be understood as a very good thing, a sign of welcome recovery. Recovery is indeed underway, green shoots are dotting the landscape. But seeing the increasingly impatient, irritated, ‘I’-centric crowds, clearly all is not good.
Why? Because those little green shoots, at first a welcome sign, are now a warning sign.
The warning? We, the world’s travellers, are at risk of going back to our old ways in this new world of travel.
As a world of travellers exhausted from 2+ years of waiting, missing, and dreaming are scrambling to book holidays, board flights, and be with loved ones once more, they are trampling over the green shoots popping up on the road to recovery. We see it all around us, and importantly, we feel it, a growing sense of ‘Oh dear, here we go again’.
As the world is reopening, the world is forgetting. We are forgetting what was once our shared focus, our shared agenda, our shared hope, for over two years. We are forgetting what Mother Nature gave us all, everywhere, all at the same time: over two years to rethink how we view travel and tourism – the privilege of it, the opportunity of it, the blessing of it. As a global community of sector leaders, we rethought our championing of it, duty to it, responsibility for it. We talked about the risks of returning to old ways: over tourism, overcrowding, overuse of resources, overextending the networks that allow us to connect, overstaying our welcome in communities. Importantly, we reflected on our undervaluing of frontline experience delivery workers in travel who are the future of travel, and our underserving sustainability’s call to action.
We committed to not repeating our old ways.
Sadly, however, it appears we are losing our way. Again.
We see that the desire to recover travel momentum is turning into the desire to recover lost earnings, to make up for lost time, to leave behind the pains of the recent past.
We see wide open natural environments becoming congested, photo-ready sunset spots, again.
We see houses of faith turning into tourist attractions, again.
We see places that should be respectfully quiet ringing with the noise of conversation, again.
We see sacred spaces being coming spots for the perfect selfie, again.
We see members of local communities starting to get that look in their eye as their streets buzz with strangers stopping to take photos of them without stopping to think to ask permission.
One can argue it is human nature – after years of being deprived of the world, travellers are yearning to venture out once more. They want it. They need it. They deserve it.
And oh, how dearly, deeply they have missed it.
The missing, however, does not make the madness acceptable. The missing does not make the invasion acceptable. The missing does not make bad manners spending money a good thing. The missing does not make the stomping on green shoots acceptable.
We as a global travel industry, and as a global community of travellers, need to be careful. We need to be very careful that in our quest to make up for all that was lost in the recent pandemic past – time, touch, dreams, desires, discoveries, meetings, memories, and of course money – we re-embed bad behaviours that will cost us the blessing of the chance to co-create a stronger, smarter, more sustainable, more grateful future.
The battle is on: human nature vs. Mother Nature.
In our minds we may wish to boldly think that we will prevail. In our hearts, however, we know that in this battle, in the future as in the past, Mother Nature will always win. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
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