It is said that one’s true colours are most vividly exposed when faced by challenge – colours reflecting:

  • Darkness vs. light.
  • Cowardice vs. courage.
  • Hopelessness vs. hope.
  • Separation vs. unity.
  • Them vs. us.

In the midday hours of March 15th, a time when many of New Zealand’s Muslim community paused for prayer at their local mosques, time seemed to stand still as all of the day’s colours turned to black, and then red. The details are now well known. By the end of it all, 50 lives of local Christchurch residents had ended, each and every one of them far, far too soon.

Looking terror directly in the eye as soon as first hearing word of the people of her nation hearing shots, and while still processing what the madness meant, somehow, somehow, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was able to find words to light a small candle in the terrifying, eclipsing darkness:

“They are us.

While many across NZ, and the world, felt a sickening feeling in their spirits that seemed to release a whisper of ‘not again!’ in their minds, it was the lone voice, the white, pure light, of Prime Minister Ardern’s words that broke through with a strong, clear, determined message to the people of New Zealand – especially the Muslim community – and the people of the world: ‘‘never again!’

As each hour and day passed, her example was inspiring. Inspiring much, sadly, because it was so unique in its unscripted, unfiltered, unwavering compassion, conviction, and action. Her inner compass seemed to pierce through all of the underlying noise, all of the tragic headlines, all of the bubbling plot lines. In so doing it guided her, without hesitation, without delay, without need for permission, in the absolutely right direction: towards her people, all people, with the Muslim community first. Where she went, what she wore, with whom she spoke, how she helped heal, day after day she made headlines. By standing with, she was standing out.

Her strength was undeniable. Her example unquestionable. But what was it that, days after, continues to have has unique, style of leadership spotlighted, celebrated and desperately sought after.

Her position was clear, her prayers clearly directed. Dressed in black headscarf the Prime Minister stood with mourners at Friday prayers just one week later, national television and radio stations carrying the deep, soothing, unifying sound of the azaan carrying across the nation.

Her words that day did, and will always, reflect a level of unity increasingly unheard in these days of people, communities and nations pushing apart. “According to the Prophet Muhammad … the believers in their mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain. New Zealand mourns with you; we are one.”

Swiftly, sincerely, patriotism changed, policies changed, NZ changed.

And the coverage changed. Her genuine words, actions, spirit of unity and image dominated international media platforms and city icons. National symbols from the silver fern to the haka were reworked to honour the victims and show support of the wider Muslim community. Never, never before, has the western world seen such a standing up for the Muslim community.

Insha’Allah, it is not the first and last.

What is it about the power of what happened in Christchurch? How did the Muslim community, through it’s unbearable loss, find itself in a position of unbelievable unification of the global community?

How could it be that one single act has caused such magnification of a willingness to understand, a desire to help heal, across one global community?

It all comes down to three little words – NZ’s translation of “I love you’: “They are us'”

Three little words suddenly set in motion, a spirit of change that has gone across New Zealand, and has rippled across the world. Three little words and it could have stopped there. In today’s day of soundbites, quick hashtag activism, it could have stopped there. But it didn’t.

Seeing the Prime Minister Ardern immediately expressing her condolences was expected. What was unexpected was the way in which she bowed down to lay flowers – she did it with her head covered, her leadership taking on the colours and textures of tradition headscarves worn in times of mourning. And in covering her head, she showed an honouring and the respect of the people who were suffering – what they stood for, what they believed in, what held them together, their faith that ultimately came under attack.

Those actions have rippled across the world in a most profound echo.

The question is, for how long will the echo be heard?

Almost two weeks on since that horrific day, as daily reports from NZ are replaced by dramatic daily event unfolding in ie. the UK as the Brexit clock ticks louder and louder, and other new global challenges emerge, how will this time, this turn of sentiment, be embedded?

How will this new way of society looking at itself, looking out for its collective, no longer accepting the divides, endure?

How, when the azaan – the Muslim call to prayer – is heard on the streets of Christchurch, of Auckland, of Sydney, of so many places across the world , will people respond. Will they pause and look up….or will they look away?

Much has been written about Prime Minister Ardern – ‘Jacindamania’ as many now call it. And hopefully, much more will. Why hopefully? Not because it is about her. Nor because it is about her tiny country that is a mere fraction of the size of many global nations shaping the globe in the future.

It is because her tiny nation is showing how one small moment, one small place, three little words, can shift, in a more compassionate and connecting direction, the minds and hearts of the world.

For that, one can only say a prayer of thanks. x

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

“HEY, I SEE YOU” – Words of a Truly Class Act

He could have been egotistical, but he wasn’t.

He could have become political, but he didn’t.

He could have been ungrateful, especially to is early critics, but he chose to be refrained.

He could have been reserved, closed, inaccessible, but instead he was open, personal, unrestrained.

He could have been soundbyte-ready as he responded to reaching the climax of celebration of the greatest performance of his life, but he chose to go unscripted, unedited, unmatched.

An artist who has brought back to life the larger-than-life greatness of another, Rami Malek is, unquestionably and unmatched, a class act. Even his Oscar statuette seems to be bowing in praise.

Just hours ago, 2019’s Best Actor took to the stage of the 91st Academy Awards in front of the industry’s finest and elite, and almost 30 million viewers outside of Hollywood’s iconic Dolby Theatre. It was not his first time receiving the industry’s highest honours – ‘Best Actor’. Awards season had been Rami’s Spring. Across the world, stage lights were shone upon him, calling him to receive yet another trophy for his remarkable portrayal of the legendary, gone-too-soon Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, the edgy songbird’s original band members watching on in the audience with quiet, tearful pride.

Which is why at the Oscars, the finale of the industry’s schedule of the awarding of statues. he could have been jaded, just a bit unphased, another award not unexpected.

Instead, the only repeat performance he gave was one of pure, genuine, purposeful gratitude: gratitude for the trust, courage, vision, patience and faith of others.

Gratitude for his feeling of difference creating a sense of sameness with the character, the hero, he was to portray. Grateful for simply having a job.

To watch Rami Malek as Rami Malek, to listen to his inner thoughts become his quotable voice, is a re-positioning of a compass. In a world where the person and the personality can become two profoundly different things, where people are forgiven for their becoming distracted by external pressures to ‘keep it real’ by keeping themselves really interesting, to stop, be still, and listen to Rami Malek feels as beautifully, sweetly simple as watching a child approach an it’s all for you candy store with wide eyes, awed by the limitless amounts of goodies in front of him, and then slowly, tentatively, shyly choosing just one, checking again if it is ok to take.

To hear his words feels as if it is to listen to the whisper of his core. It is to hear a clean, warm, peacefully moving breeze. And to give thanks for the reminder of which direction the compass points.

Life imitating art? Or art liberating life?

Having left the stage following yet another magnificent acceptance speech, somehow, beautifully, his last words to the press seem to be those that will be the most lasting. Especially when giving credit to one who gave him strength beyond measure, and to whom he will forever give thanks.:

I never thought I could possibly play Freddie Mercury until I realised his name was Farrokh Bulsara. And that is the most powerful message that was sent to me from the beginning.  That was the motivation that allowed me to say ‘Oh I can do this’. And that man steps on stage and he moves people in a way that no one else does. – All of that passion and virtue and everything burning inside him allowed him to look at everyone else and say “Hey, I see you.”

We all have someone to whom we owe our deepest, truest whispers of thanks. to whom our lives will forever be grateful – someone, somewhere, who, somehow, saw us. How beautifully he has captured this spirit, this praise, this thankful prayer.

Words, wisdom, so deserving of an encore. And a deep bow. x

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

Stand Together, Strong Together

It was just a matter of days ago. A single moment now etched, actually deeply engraved, in time. A moment that for many lives has changed life forever.

And it was spotted so randomly, half way across the world, half way through a long-haul journey. Half-focused, half awake. Nairobi was under attack. Again.

Immediately eyes filled, heart dropped, blood heated and the voice in the back of my head rose: “Again!” 

Once again a nation that has experienced far too many attacks on its people, its security, its stability and therefore its image in its history, is hit. Again.

15.01 2019 – an attack at a well-known hotel in Westlands, a popular, modern suburb in the nation’s capital, by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, sees the news cameras and social media of the world turn to the scenes unfolding outside the DusitD2 hotel. Scenes feared by cities across the globe, yet seen to often in today’s times of global conflict, eclipse what should be the images that represent the vibrant, confident, characterful and proud DNA of the city of Nairobi, and people of Kenya per se. By the time the dust at the DusitD2 had settled on 16.01.2019, over 20 souls were lost, over 700 evacuees were trying to banish the horror of the experience from their minds and hearts while their bodies healed. Officials, able to contain the situation swiftly (just 20 hrs), were trying to manage the damage to the country beyond the immediate and the obvious. The lingering threat to the magic of Magical Kenya, and magical Kenyans: their image, and their spirit.

When moments of crisis occur, whether acts of God, acts of Mother Nature, or acts of angry men and women, in today’s world of global media, traditional and new media, it is so easy for people thankfully uninvolved, near and far, to simply sit back and watch, safely and comfortably, through screens large and small. Sadly, many quickly feel the desire to also start commenting, whether accurately informed or not, more often hurtful than not. Silence is broken only through social media comments.

These are times, however, when touch is more important than technology. Immediate response should be prayers and support, not opinions and speculation. Such was the instinctive response that day, in those initial moments of the Nairobi attacks. With eyes filling with tears, call were made, reaching out to Kenyans loved as colleagues, friends, citizens, to let them know they were not alone.

Why? because this horror was happening to Kenyans – this is NOT who they are. These are people, not profiles. This was real, this was raw, it is terrifying. Adrenaline was flowing. Fear was mounting, uncertainty was spreading. Prayers were needed. Now.

For one increasingly involved in professional and personal media messaging, it was an interesting moment of truth. True nature rapidly rose to the top: touch, quickly, directly, compassionately. The tech is for transmitting prayers only.

As the days post-attack unfolded, the remarkable strength of spirit of the people of Kenya shone through, again, through their presence both live and online. Because of this the global community rallied around the nation, holding back on judgment and resulting punishment through such blocks to economy, society and identity such as travel advisories and investment alerts.

Magical Kenya’s magic is because of its people, and their ability to stand together, #KenyaStrong.

The spirit of Kenya, Kenyans, burns bright.

Courage takes strength of character – a strength that is able to stand up to attacks of people, place, principle and promise. So too does support, wherever in the world it may be needed, wherever next the world’s eyes are suddenly turned.

Together will always, always, be stronger. x

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

Closing 2018 With a Kiss Goodbye

Just a few hours to go before the sun has set, the bubbles have chilled, the candles have been lit, the finest is neatly fitted on, the friends and family gather, and the clock’s countdown begins. 2019 is so very close.

For all the excitement, freshness, energy and inspiration the thought of a new year unlocks in mind and heart, in moments such as these there is a hushed voice one is able to hear within one’s head – “slow down, not so fast.” These precious, last few hours of the year about to close are to be savoured by quietly, thoughtfully looking back, not wasted by rushing forward.

What a waste it would be to not pause and reflect back on all that has taken place, all that has played a part in shaping not just the year, but oneself. As has become the norm, the past year has been one with moments beyond expectation, beyond comprehension, and even beyond fiction. Moments of both triumph and tragedy, for the world, and for one’s own world, created distinct bookmarks that will shape the chapter soon to be simply titled ‘2018’. Add in intense personal milestones – births, birthdays, greetings of welcome, and goodbyes – and the combination becomes a heady cocktail. Bitter, sweet, sour, savoury, smooth, sharp, undetectable, ever-lingering….the ingredients all came together, not always tastefully and digestibly, but somehow digestibly. There was no choice but to drink it in.

Why? Because through the year, through all of the moments, memories, milestones, and madness, this is now a signature cocktail – created by, and for, you. Never before blended, never again to be created. A, your, original.

What a waste it would be to quickly throw aside this unique creation, this time, these last hours, without raising a glass to the year present that will soon, so soon, be a year ‘past’.

And so, as 2018 counts down to a close, may your heart feel gentle wave of silence wash over it – a silence that instinctively causes you to close your eyes, allow those signature moments to surface with the help of your mind’s eye, feel the invaluable part that each and every one has played – good and bad, high and low, perceived blessing and curse – and release a quiet whisper of ‘Thank You’ as you blow a kiss goodbye.

May the final sunset of this year reflect back onto you a warmth, and wink, for all that 2018 has been. And may tomorrow’s first sunrise greet you with an exciting, inviting, embracing smile of “Now let’s begin!!”

HNY2U! x

So Close To The 2018 Finish Line

As predictable and understandable as it may be, its invisibility means we get caught off guard.

Year after year, it sneaks in. Slowly, unsuspectingly, the symptoms start to reveal themselves:

days feel longer,

tempers shorter,

and tolerance levels even shorter still.

As darkness eclipses sunshine earlier and earlier, sense of humour fades.

Inner voices of cross, irritated, impatience commentary become louder and louder. The fatigue feels endless. The ability to rise above increasingly challenging.

And then they start….those all too familiar sounds of the season: Christmas carols.

Suddenly it all makes sense. It’s that time of year again, that time when, after months and months of tireless positivity and productivity, your inner voices starts to whisper, louder and louder, “I’m tired!”

We all know the feeling –  when a new year begins, 365 (sometimes 366) days of ‘doing’ are ahead of us.  Turning the page into a new calendar year is nothing but wonderful, powerful, joyful. The risks and challenges that lay ahead? Those are the sources of growth, of getting outside one’s comfort zone to discover what more one can become, can achieve, can celebrate.

Today’s day and age of 24/7/365 connectivity has turned millions upon millions across the world into steadfast soldiers of the working world, be it profession or vocation or both, entering January each year with excitement, optimism and extra battery refills to keep energy and delivery strong. Into the year one marches, twelve months of possibility stretched out in front of us. The blessing of all that can be becomes the fuel for the year’s momentum of motion, of meaning, of moments of magic.

Why? Because with each new year comes new hopes, new prayers, new resolutions, new emotions. No matter how hectic the list may be, there is a bounce in step at the newness, freshness, possibility of the months head. Milestones pass as the months move on. The thought of counting down to the end of the year is a futile one. There is so much time ahead, and we all to busy getting on the the busyness of daily business, be it personal or professional, that pausing to count is academic. For what purpose?

Then suddenly, somehow, suddenly, the direction of the year changes. We’re in November, which means there are only a matter of days to go before December begins the countdown to the end of the year. It is no longer about looking forward from the start line to all that can be done. It becomes about looking backwards from the finish at all that must be done to ensure commitments made are fulfilled, promises are kept.

Needless to say,  it creates a deep change in body, mind and spirit. A heaviness sets in. So much to do, so little time.

But what is about reaching around Day 330?? What is it that makes each new day feel heavy? How can this be? And in a quiet whisper to ourselves, we ask,: ‘how can that growly person looking back in the mirror be me?’

Realising this, the reality of timing, of it being ‘that time of year again’, seems too simple an explanation. And yet it is the only rationale needed. It is the simple truth.

All it takes is the sound of a little drummer boy playing his pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, or the sight of an angel’s wing twinkling in the night’s dark sky, to make one’s heart pause, breathe in, find a place of calm, know that the finish line is near, and know it’s okay to feel the fatigue of the many months that have passed.

For those in the global travel industry, this is when the heart of why we do what we do goes to the fore: creating opportunities for people to pause, whether with those loved or even alone, and allow the time to be used for self-care. As proud practitioners of a sector that has become one of the most critical worldwide for not just in growth of economies, societies, cultures and communities, but for global unity, safety, security and opportunity, so easily we get caught up in the ‘where’, ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ of travel. It is at this time of year when we the travel community, as travellers ourselves, start to focus on the ‘why’ – because we too are so in need of a holiday. No further analysis required.

Whatever one’s faith, whatever awaits at the finish line, those sweet moments are the end of the year are near.

Close your eyes, open your heart, hear that soft, soothing sound: pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. And….breathe.

Onward, stepping forward in to the rhythm of the little drummer boy’s beat: pa-rum-pum-pum-pum.

You’re almost there.