IN HONOUR OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST TRAVELLER


 

December 24th.

Work phones and emails are silencing across networks, deep exhales are sounding across the globe. Everywhere, whatever the global coordinates, local sentiments, races & religions, rhymes or reasons of daily life, a hush is setting in. Something soft, something special, is filling the air. Something that unites us all, whatever our religion / faith / spiritual sensibilities. Like fairy dust, it makes this night brighter, merrier….softer, slower, kinder.

It happens every year at this time. Christmas eve. A day when miles are travelled by millions for the sake of simply being together. As the clock nears its moment of striking midnight, a sudden rush of emotion is felt to be where one needs to be, to be with whom one’s heart most desires, white Christmas or not, even if only in one’s dreams…

It is moments such as these that magnify the gift that is travel – the ability to come together to share the times that truly matter.

At this moment, according to NORAD’s so stunning Santa Tracker http://www.noradsanta.org/, Santa has just left Nepal, he now making his way to India. From there it is onward to Sri Lanka, followed by the Maldives, back through India, up to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, through the Middle East, then onward westward. With magic up above, children across the globe look up the skies. Grown ups too. It’s impossible not to. Maybe, just maybe the sound of bells will be faintly heard, the soft glow of a red nose may be faintly visible…

On this night, while our eyes may see nothing, the image in our hearts is clear. The world’s most dedicated traveller never fails to deliver, in all ways. With 9 reindeer leading the way, a soft red globe at the front of the pack, Santa is spending this night crossing regions, and religions, sprinkling the world with the gift wonder.

As midnight rings in across the globe, wherever you may be, whatever your spirit may sing to, may this night be one to pause your thoughts, squeeze your heart, and leave you feeling blessed in your ‘here & now’.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

AIDING OUR BETTER ANGELS


It was only 3 weeks ago.

It is hard to believe it was only 3 weeks ago when so much of the world woke to a shock they will never forget, yet one that so, so many wish that they could.

The map was red, undeniably, unquestionably, irreversibly red. He had won. The Republican candidate was now to be referred to as ‘President Elect, Donald Trump’.

Hundreds of millions across the US, and the world, woke to shock. Time-freezing, ‘you will never forget where you were when…’ shock. The people had spoken. The American elite will no longer lead. Now it was time for the power of the people to rise, and govern. The relieved souls: US-based in the main.

For the rest, it was shock and awe. The dawn was to bring a map bathed in blue. The responsibility of the right to vote was wisely to rise over the unprecedented theatrics of the 2016 US Presidential campaigns. The moment of truth was to reveal a choice in favour of experience, stability, global sensibility, and decency over disruption and disrespect. The polling booths were to be the moment when the country (and world) switched channels, resuming regular programming, the reality show having come to its final, dramatic episode.

But it was not to be the case.

Sunrise brought the rise of dismay. And angst. And tears. Could this be true? Have the American people chosen this man, this character, as representative of the nation’s vision, identity and ethos?

2016 has been a year beyond fiction, beyond feeling, and beyond logic, in so many ways.

First came the continued tragedy of the Refugee and Migrant crisis. Then Brexit. Then the US Elections. The people have spoken once more. And their words, their wishes, are expressions of a desire for profound change, with separation at the centre of their sense of stability, security and future opportunity.

The feeling of ‘how can this happen? really was like deja vu all over again……

Which begs the question: what do the events of 2016 say about us, each of us, as a citizen of the global community? The choices we make in terms of:

  • What attracts our attention?
  • What pokes us in the eye, stirring up our compassion?
  • What forces us to take a stand, taking action?
  • And at the same times, what goes unnoticed?

Today, months after Brexit, days after the US Presidential Elections, seconds since the latest crisis, our attention is pulled in so many directions. But actually, none at all. The intensity of activity turns to a numbness. There is just so much noise that it is simply easier, and understandable, to cover one’s ears and walk away.

But if there is anything that Brexit, the US Presidential Elections, and so many other tests have proven, we cannot, simply cannot, turn away. What may seem the path of least resistance is, in fact, the path of apathetic abandonment of responsibility.

What is happening is not ok.

What is being ignored is not ok.

Turning away, covering our ears, walking on, is not ok.

Never, ever, should it take the lifeless body a tiny Syrian toddler named Aylan on Turkish shores to draw the attention of people of the world to the plight of others. ‘Syria’ has become a symbol of abandonment. ‘Trump’ has become a synonym of populism. ‘2016’ has become a page in history punctuated with disbelief…the ‘Word of the Year’ most consistently expressed in 4 letters, the first being an F, the rest best not put in print but rightly assumed.

So where are we now? What have we learned? What difference will 2016 really make?

If anything, one can only hope, it will be the need to do everything possible, sometimes defying instinct, to not turn away.

There is too much, too too much, happening every day everywhere around us, trying to create a global community of enemies. That is not who we are, and who we are meant to be.

Whoever we are, wherever we are in the world, our blood reveals immigrant ties. Our hearts reveal hope for a safer tomorrow.

Our better angels are fighting tirelessly to rise above. Because all lives matter.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORDS FAIL


 

To watch / read / listen to the debates, discourses, digs, documenting, and painful dispatches from campaign offices in this year’s US Presidential election is truly historic. In so many ways both the Democrats and Republicans are making history. Personalities and profiles of the candidates are unprecedented. Some of the reasons were expected – the first woman at the helm of a party in the presidential race versus the first outsider and self-funding her opponent. One a lifetime in the political arena, the other a lifetime in the boardroom. One an assumed contestant for the 2016 presidential race, the other a complete shock in participation and now pole position.

Yet there are similarities – both are deal makers, though each with profoundly different agendas, styles, and bottom lines. Both possess gravitas and grey hair in their respective areas. Both love their families, flowing in their affections and fierce in their protection. And both are in it to win it. Never before in the race for the White House has the competition been more diverse, nor divisive.

As hundreds of millions are spent in the countdown to election day, the equivalent of GDPs of small, struggling nations, messaging grows more acutely focused on the courtship of voters, building on bases, seeking to appeal to undecideds, imploring the need for all Americans to exercise their democratic right and responsibility to vote, to step forward and help shape the future of their nation’s economy, psyche, and one hopes, unity.

To be at this point in the race is to be in a period of intense noise. The media blitzes are expected, the massive spends a cost of doing business and praying for the return on investment, be it party funds, supporter donations, or personal wealth. This is nothing new. The new highs in spend are what they are. They are expected, and accepted.

What has been a great shock to the political system, and the people of the US, and dare it be said the world, has been the shocking, simply shocking, lows that the presidential race has reached, and continues to reach, with each passing day. Attacks on the opposition have become abusive, personal fur tearing and assaults on character and capabilities eclipsing professional agendas and policy perspectives. Social exchange has gone into freefall.

Painfully, embarrassingly, the vocabulary of the US presidential race, candidates, critics and commentators (official and those simply socially empowered with 140 keystrokes of opinion, qualified & verified or not, American and worldwide) alike, has become the stuff of tabloids, tantrums, bullies and brothel owners.

Credit where it is due – it is one candidate in particular who built his party campaign off of hurling offenses and building fear. Now a party nominee, the hateful and hurtful rhetoric has reached new highs, the national elections vocabulary new lows. Still, whether one’s one words or echoing those of another, to give such language, such sentiment oxygen, is to magnify the mess.

Back in the day when both candidates were children, to use the language used so freely and so unashamedly today, by those in the race and then magnified by the population at large, would have both candidates and all speaking such soiled language, grounded. Four letter words, hate speech, bullying – these used to be prohibited, punishable. And yet today, as the race reaches its climax, the entertainment of the race has stripped the candidates and the American people of a filter. Speaking one’s mind, regardless of prejudices and paranoia, had become applauded as being honest, being anti-establishment, being what is going to be what makes a nation great again.

But what happens once November 08th has come and gone. How will Americans look at one another as they look to their respective futures? Together, after pushing so far apart? Hopeful, after declaring oneself so hopeless? Safe and secure at home after being so overtly singled out for as unwelcome?

And what about once one crosses US borders? How does the world now look at this nation that has declared war on itself, one turning free speech into foul exchanges that cheapen the overall image and sense of ethics of a people? How does one maintain a seat at the table when they have shown absolutely no regard for table manners?

What we are seeing now is beyond comprehension. There are no words for what has become acceptable language. Whatever the outcome of the presidential race, the image of the position of the ‘President‘ has been bruised. The dark, painful colours of this fight will take years to fade, exceptional effort to heal, though no question scars will remain.

The scars? A society that allows such open, unedited, abusive and offensive language as everyday language. Walls have been built and bridges destroyed across the nation’s psyche, simply through words. Bricks and mortar were not needed.

Still, as the sun rises on November 09th, with ballots having been counted into the wee, dark hours of the morning, the victor announced and ballots safely discarded, how dearly, desperately, one can hope that thrown away with the ballot papers will be the rhetoric that was used to rip people apart, Americans recognising that from this day forward, greatness as a nation comes through a desire to be better first and foremost through how one looks at, speaks with, reaches out to the person standing right beside them, whether they were voting right, left, or in the middle just 24 hours before.

It’s not ok. And it is not an evolution of the times that must be accepted. Americans are better than this. We are all better that this. Decency is not a political policy, nor a position, nor a platform. It is a simple code that should, at a cellular level, be shared by all nationals, political preferences aside.

One can only pray that as the sun rises on November 09th, words of unity and respect will be be reawoken. America, the world, is better than this.

Saying a prayer……x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

PLEASE DO NOT LOOK AWAY


 

One year ago the image of baby Alan Kurdi washing ashore gripped the world. The desperate quest of his Syrian family for freedom and safety ended up in this tired, overtaken rag doll image becoming a reflection of the plight of the Syrian refugees. A little angel forced our attention.

One year on. And where are we now? Has his life been honoured by lives protected? Lives saved?

Has the call to the global community for compassion and accommodation been heard? Has the message been able to make its way through the year?

Painfully, it appears not.

Immediate response to the image of lifeless little Alan on the shores of one of Turkey’s tourism beaches was citizen outrage and political action. As hearts opened across the globe, and hashtags acted as a voice imploring a humanitarian response, policies were put in place to open doors. European leaders, some but not all, showed an ethical leadership and unity unseen for quite some time. Their show of courage and conviction within political leadership was needed, immediately, not later, as day after day thousands of desperate, journey defying refugees arrives on the shores of the continent. Tiny children. Tired parents. Too many to count. Too many tears to see through.

Hearing of the struggles for life, hundreds of millions worldwide watched as flimsy, water-defying boats arrived in Europe, and the journey of the refugees continues. The long walk to freedom. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometers were taken on without hesitation by the refugees remarkably on terra firma. Germany, Austria, the UK, France…anywhere, actually. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers. Thousands of kilometers away from Turkish shores, refugees began their trek to their so dearly hoped for final places to rest their tired hearts, souls and soles.

The world was finally watching. And yet the reality is that long before baby Alan washed up on the shores of Turkey, refugees had been fleeing from Syria to places promising simply safety. Millions. Millions the world chose not to see as it was not on their shores.

And then reality bit, hard. As waves of refugees arrived into Europe, doors began to close, along with hearts. Policies were changed, promises fell, compassion faded. And # activism moved on to the next issue, the next crisis, the next popular outrage.

Still, while the world looks away, the global refugee community continues to fight for freedom, dignity and safety. The numbers of refugees making the terrifying journey since little Alan’s death has reached almost one million, with close to 6000 lives lost – those that we know of.  This past week, in a period of just 30 hours, an estimated 6,500 refugees made the terrifying crossing of the Mediterranean, including a pair of five day old twins born on the waters thankfully finding themselves on the dry shores of Europe, and in the headlines of global news. The survival of these two little souls has been called a ‘miracle’, the story squeezing the hearts of the world. Likewise the image of little Omran, the young boy pulled out of the rubble of an airstrike on his neighbourhood in Aleppo. His family chose to stay. He survived. His brother, however, did not.

Children, fragile children, have become what it takes to get the world’s attention, to care.

But does the world care enough to not look away?

The care, compassion and action of the world can be so much more. We who can make a difference must stop looking to the lives of refugees for stories of miracles – we must create the miracles that their life stories so desperately, courageously seek.

The policies of governments across the world accepting, or rejecting, refugees are a direct reflection of the wishes of their citizens. It is the opening, and closing, of hearts and homes on safer ground that is determining the fate of the refugees – courageous souls simply seeking to find a way of looking towards tomorrow with confidence that they will see the sunrise. Are changes needed to systems and structures to take in refugees and make them productive, appreciated members of society? Absolutely, this we know to be true. As is needed ways of identifying those taking advantage of the suffering of others to drive their own agendas, gaining access to be able to do damage to societies simply trying to do good.

As opportunities and issues across our world continue to bring people together, the refugee crisis has rightly been called ‘the moral test of our generation‘. To fail this test would be profoundly shameful.

Today, right now, here’s how you can help: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/28/world/iyw-migrant-how-to-help/index.html

And please, please, do not look away…..x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

2016 OLYMPIC HEROES LONG BEFORE THE RIO GAMES BEGAN


To watch the 2016 Olympic Games is to watch magic happen. Day after day, event after event, new records are set, new dreams are realised. Coaches, families, friends and funders cheer from surrounding benches and bleachers as young spirits ignite, turning years of tireless training into seconds that will last a lifetime. Some win, some lose, all are top of their game, whichever part of the Games in which they are participating. Tears fall, the pain of Olympic moments caused by both physical and emotional highs and lows. Through it all, ignited spirits glow strong.

Even those losing out on their goals for gold will forever feel a golden fire within their hearts. They were there when the Opening Ceremonies saw the world’s flags and finest athletes walk the stadium surrounded by a world of applauding admirers sitting right there in the venue, or the tens of millions sitting in their homes and offices watching from across the globe. Their Olympic moment can never be taken from their hearts, their life stories.

For all athletes the road to Rio has been a commitment beyond compare. All else was put on hold – at times it felt as though their lives depended on it. Those around know only to support – be there, supporting in silent strength, unless loud rallying of effort and energy was required to keep them moving forward, looking upward.

Their moment is all that matters. The rest of their lives can wait.

For the average athlete, superhuman in their strength of ability, hardships are assumed to be few. The fundamentals are assumed to be taken care of – a roof over their heads, a meal in their bellies, a team of professionals guiding their every move, a sense of peace that they are safe in their place in the world. Focus can afford to be selfish. There is little reason to fear anything but failure when tomorrow comes.

But for one team competing at the 2016 Olympic Games, fears they faced tomorrow were far beyond athletic performance. The assumptions of home, health, safety, security, and selfishness do not exist.

Home is no longer a place they can go – it no longer exists.

Family? Not 100% sure.

The future? Again, not 100% sure.

Such is the flame, the view of tomorrow, that is held in many of the hearts of the ten athletes that make up this year’s Olympic refugee team – the first ever refugee team in Olympic history. Without a nation state, still they have remarkable abilities, and even more remarkable dreams. And so, together these ten incredible forces of nature, often without nurture, stand tall, together, under the iconic Olympic rings flag.

Their spirit is everywhere, strengthening the Olympic flame for all.

The question is: how can these heroes be found, supported, championed, given a feeling of peace and place with all they need, beyond the Games, beyond these precious ten representing the over 65 million refugees worldwide today?

As these remarkable athletes grace Rio with their courage and commitment to not just sport, but survival of the human spirit. May they be the enduring flame, inextinguishable of the 2016 Games.

Their stories are here – https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/refugee-team-olympics-brazil-sports/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=global&utm_campaign=general-content&linkId=27340192

Please take a moment, read through their journeys to Rio. Open your heart to be able to hear their Olympic dreams, their daily dreams, come to life.

I challenge you not to cry…x

 

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

AS THOUGH SCRIPTING HIS OWN LAST WORDS


One more idealist is now in Heaven.

Just a matter of days ago, one of our world’s great men – Michael Elliott – raised his glass for the last time, and then shut his eyes. As has been said in one of the many salutes that has followed news of his passing spreading across the globe, just 48 hours before his last breathe, as people gathered around him to toast him at his retirement party, “nobody could have known that he was, in fact, the life of the party at his own wake.”

So often the news of the passing of a global personality spreads like wildfire, and then quickly burns out. People pause, remember, and then return to normal programming of daily life. The personality was known, but not necessarily the person. The loss is somewhat removed from the lives of the rest.

However, every once in a while, the pause holds, the thought of the loss hanging like a thin layer of cloud over all thoughts.

Such was the case on learning of the Michael’s recent passing.

While having met him only once, this was (not liking writing ‘was‘ in the past tense!) a person who penetrated one’s conscience. His presence was strangely soothing. His combination of gravitas yet gentleness, silence yet strength, wisdom yet youthfulness, overriding presence of idealism, was, is, unforgettable. His CV underlined his acumen, his deserved admiration from the global community. He was, when we met, at the top of his game in the media world.

And then, in 2011 at the height of his journalistic career, he made news by choosing to leave being one of the world’s greatest men of the pen, to join ONE, working for a greater world. As expressed by the organisation,:

“Whether lobbying political leaders in world capitals or running cutting-edge grassroots campaigns, ONE pressures governments to do more to fight AIDS and other preventable, treatable diseases in the poorest places on the planet, to empower small-holder farmers, to expand access to energy, and to combat corruption so governments are accountable to their citizens.”

Joining a unique group of global voices and visionaries, Michael shifted his focus to leading what is today “more than seven million ONE members on every continent around the world carrying forward (the idea that where you are born shouldn’t dictate whether you live or die) through hard-nosed government advocacy and campaigning for smart aid and policy change to benefit the world’s poor.” (Source: ONE Annual Report 2015).

Over the next five years, as President and CEO, his vocation shaped his DNA. As poignantly expressed by Bono, co-founder of ONE,: “Above all else, he wanted his life to be useful. If you were around him, that’s what he demanded of you.”

To read the tributes now flowing through the wires is to read hearts celebrating greatness. Clearly, at a cellular level, he lived each moment dedicated to ONE. Only the invasion of cancer was able to stifle his efforts.

Now, as the pause lingers, tributes reinforce that Michael was a man who inspired people of inspiration to keep their chins up, eyes focused, hearts open. Reminded of him in reading of his passing, it is impossible not to feel a straightening of the backbone. A gentle push on the back to keep moving forward, following one’s inner compass that instinctively points north.

Why? Because every single day our hyper-connected world of communication reveals example after example of his sadly disconnected we are becoming from one another. Conscious, active, and increasingly aggresively articulated  choices are being made as to where compassion is being exhausted, and where caution should be applied. Care for others is falling a far second to protection of oneself. Fear has become a motivator for action, not faith, nor human kindness, and certainly not a commitment to creating a better world for all. Walls are being spoken of to keep people apart at a time when bridges are required for understanding, unity, safety.

Michael, his last chapter of his life’s work, is an example of the fullness one can realise in life…even when the number of pages we have are fewer than hoped. Now is the time to work, actively work, to make a positive difference, one by one by one. Because tomorrow is a grand assumption.

At a time when the world so desperately needs us all to believe in better, and do what we can to make it happen, may the memory of this great man keep our chins up, eyes focused, hearts open.

May the Heavens welcome you with open wings, Michael. Rest well.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

A VOTE VIOLATING VOWS


Just the thought of such a desire is staggering.

A nation, part of the world’s greatest union of nations representing one of our generation’s greatest achievements in international cooperation for shared economic, social and security benefit, choosing to break away and stand alone. Impossible. The wish, the perceived advantages of walking away, seem unfathomable.

And yet it has happened.

BREXIT – the United Kingdom has chosen to leave the European Union.

And now a wildly moving wave of ‘how did this happen?’ is reaching across the UK, and across the world. The pain and unnerving realisation of reality of those in the UK who voted ‘IN’ are palpable. The cocktail of sadness, shock and shame heartbreaking. The quiet of those voting ‘OUT’ deafening. There is no going back, no face to save. OUT it will be, and if the EU has its wish fulfilled, it will be a rapid process, well within the 2 year ticking clock period allowed. No one wants to be unwanted, unappreciated, unloved. If the UK has chosen to go, then UK must go.

Reading the overflowing amounts of analysis the morning after the voting day before, there is a clear sense of ‘what just happened?‘ So many are still so taken aback that this is where the UK chapter of the story of the EU is to end. How did this happen? How did we get here? It is still all so unclear…

What is clear with the BREXIT vote yielding an ‘OUT’ outcome is that confidence in the UK is plunging. Markets across the globe are feeling the far reaching tremors as one of the world’s most beloved currency drops to its lowest level in over 30 years. Questions are now being posed, loudly, around trade relations, tourism movements, and capitals of commerce. The cachet of London, and the UK, has been severely tarnished.

But even beyond that, beyond the statistics, the schedules of exit, the scenarios of what life will now be as an independent island economy, is the human impact. So easily overlooked, this is where the scars are appearing most deeply.

However the legal exit formalities may unfold, relations are tarnished, sadly irreparably. ‘Divorce’ has become one of the most popular, and possibly meaningful, analogies when BREXIT is explained. Indeed, it is a parting of long-committed partners who, over 40 years ago, thought that their vows were for several lifetimes. But then the hurt began, individual wishes and needs being eclipsed, a feeling of “this is not working for me” emerging. It was not a surprise – the UK / EU relationship had had troubles areas for many years. But when one partner finally says to another “Do you think we should get a divorce“, the DNA of the relationship cannot but change. Feelings of betrayal, bitterness, rejection and rage are natural. There is no erasing the question once asked. On paper the marriage may still be intact, but in the hearts of those involved, a fracture of bond has occurred.

This is what the entire BREXIT question, campaigning and outcome has felt like. The fact that the UK even held a referendum was a huge slight to the people of the EU. Again, posing the question of divorce is damage enough. The offense is felt. The hurt is real. And the reaction is raw. It is no surprise, therefore, that the EU is asking for rapid imposing of Article 50, and appointment of a successor to the Prime Minister of the UK. The decision is made. It’s time to move on.

While back in the ‘what the hell just happened?’ UK #regrexit trends and discussion around a second referendum gains momentum, deep down, the damage is done. Credibility is lost. Commitment is violated.

One can only now hope that, where counseling was unable to break through conflict, this breakup of a 40+ year relationship will encourage all involved to pause, and think deeply about, what each can do better next time. For the UK the ‘next time’ sadly is not an option. But for the EU, the opportunity exists for Brussels to dig deep and address the issues that made one of its strongest members so irate with the relationship that breaking one of history’s strongest bonds was the only option.

The impact of BREXIT goes far, far beyond geopolitics, economics, IN/OUT. The impact is personal, deeply personal. Because whatever the paperwork, our global community is about human bonds. We test and break these at our peril.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

HONOURING THEIR OLYMPIC DREAM


 

A mosquito.

A tiny, seemingly inconsequential flying creature, commonplace across the globe. Simply a prick of a pain in most parts, barring those where Malaria is a very real risk to lives of locals and visitors alike. But otherwise, just a nuisance, normally.

But for countries across the globe, especially in the Americas, this little pest has had a paralysing effect. Travel and tourism: cautioned. Family planning: delayed. Olympic dreams: debated.

Zika. It has become a globally known name of a virus up until now ‘out there‘ but seen as far from risk to the ‘here & now‘. Its pesky, prickly carrier? Those once tiny, troublesome little mosquitoes are now the source of terrifying prognosis for hopeful parents, and heartbreaking probability for hopeful athletes. The competitors at the moment, fighting out the debate re. Games go/no-go? WHO, CDC, IOC, and so many other entities.

But the Zika virus is not the only pestering problem. Brasil, host country to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, is bruised on many sides at present. Health & safely. Economy. Politics. The list only grows.

Sadly, while the reasons for woes may differ, the pre-Games distraction does not. And with that, the complete disregard for what the Games mean for the thousands of athletes from across the world who have put in hundreds of thousands of hours of training, hoping, dreaming, crying, trying and trying again and again, to get to the Games.

How is it that the athletes, the heroes of the Games, are repeatedly forgotten? How has it become possible that their blood, sweat and tears dreams are so easily set aside to give space to the drama?

Whether London, Sochi, Athens, or elsewhere, and now Rio, challenges to LOCs re. infrastructure readiness, citizen support. Now, in the case of Rio, government and economic collapse, not to mention the threat of the Zika virus, push away the dreams of athletes to allow for pre-Games debates on Games viability. These are the debates that directly, disappointingly, devastatingly take the oxygen out of the hope and inspiration that Games can and do so naturally generate.

And yet, once again, it is the athletes that are the losers in the pre-Games game playing.

Their training will continue, their dreaming will continue, most likely until the last possible minute until which the verdict can be delivered. They, the athletes of the 2016 Games, are not prepared to quit, even if the rest of the world is ready to quit on them.

Sadly, even now, there are so many emotions pushing back on their dreams. The natural momentum of skepticism, pessimism, negativity, are increasing the level of debate, and levels of concern, the list of reasons why the Games should be postponed or relocated.

And through it all, the athletes, and their dreams, are left as silent, innocent bystanders.

What will the final result be? Who will win – the athletes, or the antagonists? The dream, or the debate?

2016 is no different to 2012, or 2008, or any other Summer Games….or Winter Games, for that matter. Somehow we need to find a way to protect the dreams of these Olympic hopefuls, honouring their endless efforts to get to their version of gold, honouring their dreams.

Citius, Altius, Fortius“. These are the words, in Latin, that define the essence and dictate the slogan, of the Olympic Games.

“Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

These words apply not only to the athletes, but to a world of onlookers who, like the athletes themselves, should be working daily to win in the race of hope & glory over debate & disappointment.

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

WHY WE CRIED THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED


 

Why the tears?

Why the worldwide wave of shock, and the enduring mourning? Why the news cycle take-over? Why such unedited expressions and unfiltered images of sadness from celebrities and civilians alike? Why so many tears?

There’s something about the passing of a musician that stirs the spirit of the world. It’s like the passing of no other type of celebrity. Something that, for some reason, hits the hearts of millions, and unites strangers in memorial songs of celebration of a life once artistically lived, and now all too soon lost.

It is happening right now, at this moment. Across the world icons have been turned purple, music downloads are pouring through the internet, doves are crying.

Prince, just days after his last concert, just days after simple flu stopped his footsteps and sent him for medical care. Just 57 years of age.And David Bowie, and Maurice White, and Glenn Frey, and so, so, so many others. And this is in the first four months of 2016 alone. Some are defined as ‘legends‘, some less known.

We never really knew them, who they really were, the person behind the personality. Their personal lives were theirs. Granted, many were far from discreet. Still, while we may have seen through the news, read through the tabloids, what they were up to, the world never really knew them, not in way that warranted such profound outpourings of grief.

So why the tears? Why such a feeling of loss?

Because while their lives were mysteries, they, in their musically penetrating way, were an open-book part of ours. We might have been too young to understand the lyrics, but still, they spoke to us – to our emotions, our fears, often finding a voice when words were otherwise impossible to find. Lyrics linked to personal moments of life, of death. First love, first heartache, last moments, last memories, everlasting memories…

To hear music of now lost legends is to hear times of our past now gone. All it takes is a few notes, and a song can take us right back, stirring up memories of people, places, passions, pains. Musical links, deeply embedded in our lives, creating a personal soundtrack.

And so, the day the music dies, we cry. Not only for a musician’s life now lost, but a part of our lives remembered with tears – some sweet, some bitter, some long gone, some just an arms-length away – and what that musician brought to those times, without knowing it.

Today the tears are purple, tomorrow the colour will differ depending on whose shoulder the hand of fate next rests.

Whatever colour the tears, in our hearts they are a release of loving appreciation of what one person, one stranger, brought to our lives.

They are a tribute, a moment of pause to think of who they were, who we were back then, when we lived with their music filling our ever-shaping lives. And who we are today.

They are a quiet  moment alone to say a prayer of thanks.

They are the physical representation of the sound that can be heard when doves cry.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

HOPE COMES ALIVE IN A HANDSHAKE


 

Numbing. The feeling was simply numbing. And it was becoming all too familiar.

First a high. A high that would carve a line in the history books of the 21st Century. And be a defining moment for millions looking on. Never did they, we, never did we all think the day would come.

As global media looked on, the sounds of pure, personal excitement in their voices were unmistakable. Real, raw. Almost relief. This was a moment they official voices of global networks would be forgiven for getting emotional. They never thought they would see the day. Air Force One’s wheels touched the runway of Havana’s José Martí International Airport airport with a profound feeling of exhale, the strength of the Boeing 747’s brakes feeling almost as though a metaphor of the strength of the brakes being put on a long, heated history of distrust, disrespect, deprivation, and for millions, imposed distance of peoples. AIR FORCE ONE LANDS HAVANA – MARCH 20, 2016

As President Obama and his family descended the staircase and walked onto Cuban soil, the first visit of a US President in almost 90 years, the promise of possibility was released. As the following hours of protocol, appearances and press conferences unfolded, history was being rewritten second by second. But no moment more powerful that when the hands of President Obama and President Castro reached out. With one simple handshake and a look into one another’s eyes, the words of the US President made clear that nothing was ever going to be the same again, saying with the sound of hope in his words,: “We have half a century of work to catch up on.

It was, and will remain, a moment where just a for a moment, the world seemed to be looking forward as one. Hope comes alive in a handshake. Higher and higher eyes looked up, hearts soared.

And then it came  – the low that would send the world’s hearts crashing down.

Half a world away from Havana, the people of Brussels would wake to look horror in the eye. First an airport bombing, and then within the hour, a metro station. 60 minutes, 30 lives taken, 230 lives escaping end with only injury, yet still shattered.

Within a period of 24 hrs the world saw, felt, shed tears, as the highs of possibility of peace and partnership, people coming together despite the history and the odds, turned into the depths of horror as terror pushed people into dark, desperate corners, grief of the day beyond comprehension.

With it, worldwide, acknowledgement of the exhausting continuation of what has become a merciless means of uniting the people of the world in terror – a terror that tries over and over to divide with its modus operandi of death and destruction. All shamefully and unjustly in the name of religion.

Now. just a matter of days on, as the experts and analysis dig deeper into what happened, why, and because of whom, the only certainty that the global community can around what lies ahead comes from one human truth: we need one another.

Across the globe, people are turning to keyboards to express their confusion, their compassion, their hurt & heartache, and their undying hope that this horror can stop. Theories around how to protect ourselves are emerging on all sides. So too are expressions of care and camaraderie for those suffering. One month it is Tunis, the next Lebanon and Paris, the next Istanbul, now Brussels….and soon, who knows. In so many ways it feels that nowhere is safe, no one is safe.

But putting up barriers, physical and psychological, will not keep us safe. Quite the contrary – this is where the danger breeds. Through judging others, damning others, and seeking to be apart from others, we lock ourselves into dangerous bubbles of ignorance, intolerance, inhumanity. We fuel the fire.

How will our world find a way to stop this tragic story of terror from writing future chapters? How can the roots of extremism be pulled from the ground, deprived of oxygen? How can the meaning of one of the world’s great religions be brought back to its true meaning as it is meant to be lived, celebrated, no longer linked to the selfish, barbaric motives of those using faith as a shield to hide behind, falsely fighting for its protection and preservation, pushing separation over diversity within unification?

There is no one solution, no one focus that will yield triumph over those resorting to such horrific means to make us stand apart from one another, in fear, inflamed by intolerance.

But there is one truth that cannot be overlooked: Ours is a world to be shared.

Time and again, history has shown us that separation only causes our decay as societies, and as economies. We need to keep working at understanding our differences, being able to be secure in our celebration of others, recognising that while externally so much may seem to differ, our hearts are the same. We love, we laugh, we dream….we cry, we grieve, we bleed.

While completely unconnected, the events taking place this week in Havana and Brussels do, in fact, share a vital connection. Events unfolding, shaking the course of history, changing the lives of millions. One – Cuba – showed how, at a time when so many forces are pushing us apart, rewriting history based on fear and fundamentalist thinking as witnessed in Brussels, there are those working to shape a future as one. This same spirit, this same determination to extinguish fear and find a peaceful way forward, is needed to face this latest challenge.

How can this happen? How can a movement of understanding occur, defusing fear in differences and setting alight appreciation of diversity of thinking and living, take off? It already has – through tourism. At its essence, tourism is about going to places unknown, exploring and understanding others’ lives, lifestyles, loves, getting to the heart of what makes them who they are, and in so many ways, discovering how similar that is to oneself when it comes to core beliefs and values. Here too, hope comes alive in a handshake.

Today two of the most previously ‘locked out’ nations across the globe – Cuba and Myanmar – now represent two of the most sought after destinations for not just travellers, but also investors in the travel & tourism sector. At the heart of opportunity for the Cuban people is the tourism industry. Not only will it bring much needed jobs, investment, earnings, essential skills, infrastructure and taxation to and for the people of Cuba, it will bring invaluable respect and appreciation for the Cuban identity. And it will bring a change to the nation that will allow it to blossom as a member of the global community.

Underlying the reengineering that needs to take place around Cuban policy, economy and industry is the very human component that will form the foundations for the future of the Cuban people. A foundation that will make the real difference when it comes to ensuring longterm change. For as was optimistically said by President Obama while standing alongside President Castro, just days ago in Havana,:

“I have faith in people. If you meet Cubans here, and Cubans meet Americans and they’re meeting and talking and interacting and doing business together, and going to school together, and learning from each other, then they’ll recognize that people are people, and in that context, I believe that change will occur.”

With a hope, a prayer, and a passport…

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016