by Anita Mendiratta | Jul 22, 2018
In an increasingly ‘I‘-centric world, how heart-squeezing it is to see the global community living near and far step forward, swiftly and courageously, to protect the lives of others. Of strangers. Of youngsters. Because it is simply the right thing to do, and it must be done right now.
The moment: June 23rd, 2018.
The unnerving sight: a row of young boys’ bicycles lined up alongside the entrance to Chiang Rai’s now globally famous Tham Luang cave, fringed by the football shoes – small sized shoes – of boys aged between 11 and 17. Twelve pair, plus one, that of their assistant coach, he 25.
The fear: they are lost.
It was meant to be a brief, cooling, post-practice cave excursion in honour of one of the little lads’ birthday. Little did they know that monsoon rains would push them further and further back into the dark, cold, daunting cave network. Little did they know the world would be counting the minutes….hours…..days that would pass as they stood on a musty outcrop for a time they were unable to count.
10 days to be exact. Then and only then, over 4km of cave passage exploration later (with some stretches reaching deadly depths of 5m), the boys first sensed through warm scent in deep, cave darkness, and then through the glow of a diver’s search light. Joy, relief, prayers of thanks, were short lived. They were found, but they were not out.
How were these 13 boys, all unqualified divers, many unable to swim, going to be able to travel the 4+km of cave route through rising monsoon waters the colour of cold coffee? How would they survive the contours, the crevices, the cold, the enduring risk of claustrophobia-provoked panic? How could Mother Nature be so cruel?
The risks were real. The search alone put fears of failing into the flowing waters. There was no guarantee of even the most qualified of divers being able to make it through even just the search for the boys. And even if they were found, there was no guarantee they were still alive. Life and death were two extremes of a spectrum demanding second-by-second respect from all involved – trapped boys and search party specialist alike. The cocktail of faith and courage made for initial brave, bold attempts.
With prayers flowing and shrines rising outside the cave, across the Kingdom of Thailand, and across the world, the nation and world’s best and brightest began to gather, tanks and tools at the ready, at the entrance of the cave – a gateway to a complex network of passages now filling with the annual monsoon’s most threatening shows of force. Even the best of calculations were merely a hypothesis as the heavens poured down.
As windows of dry briefly opened, rescue teams set out. The fragility of the situation came back to all as fast and furiously as the monsoon flood rains as one of the rescue operations team – Former Thai navy Seal diver Saman Kunan – died on July 06th as exiting Tham Luang cave. Nothing, and no one, can and would be taken for granted.
On July 02nd when the boys were miraculously discovered alive on an elevated ledge deep within the cave, long waves of exhale of relief and gratitude spread through the cave pathway, stretching out to meet with Thai sunshine and tired families, and continue across the world. They were alive! But they were still trapped, with the rain water pouring into their severely limited space with its severely threatened oxygen supply. The journey out for just one of the boys would be a miracle. For thirteen? How? When? In what order?
The drama of the rescue is now a part of the modern history of the Kingdom, along with the life stories of a team of heroic divers, an international team of 18 including 13 from across the world and 5 from at home in Thailand. 13 boys, one by one by one, over the period of July 08th to 10th, returning home to their families to resume their lives with renewed hope.
At a time when our world has become increasingly closed to those needing homes, those needing hope, the rescue of these young boys proved that, when the call comes, from wherever, doing the right thing means doing it right now, right where needed. It is so easy in today’s day and age of quick reads, quick commentary and quick clicks onto the next story. To forget why caring matters. To forget why stepping up and honouring what matters most keeps us connected in ways that social media and other platforms of quick-sharing can never do.
And as demonstrated with such quiet class and beauty, to forget that the story is not over until those precious final two words are conveyed.
Thank You. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018
by Anita Mendiratta | Jun 28, 2018
Pick one, just one.
You can only choose one thing. You have 30 seconds.
Now you have another two minutes. What’s the next thing you will choose? What’s the one thing you will choose? And then the next if you’re going to have to run, if you’re going to have to leave where you are and leave everything else behind.
Now pick another. You can choose three in total.
What about one more, but then that’s it.
Now you have to go.
You have no idea where you’re going. You have no idea where, how long you’ll be gone and you have no idea if you’re coming back, pick only four and now go.
That’s what it means to be a refugee. Only a fraction of it, but this is what it means to be a refugee. Soon this is all you will have. Four things. The first, the second, the third, and the fourth most important things that came to your mind.
You might never come back. You might never see the rest of your things again.
Ultimately, you need to choose and ultimately you have no idea where these choices will take you.
It may not be four. It may be more….it may be none. You never know.
What you do know is that you will be judged, you will be judged by what you are wearing. You will be judged by how you look. You will be judged by what you are carrying. You will judge be judged for the rest of your life, your qualifications, no longer matter. Your money no longer matters. Your status no longer matters. Your home no longer matters.
All you have is you and four things. What will you choose?
The things are one thing. What about the people?
Who will you leave with? Family? Friends? Stranger?
Who will you meet? Who will protect you while someone is trying to hurt you?
As the fates of time and place would have it, this #WorldRefugeeDay was spent in a refugee camp in Kenya – Kakuma – home to over 185,000 refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, the DRC and other neighbouring nations. A field trip meant to be just a day turned into an unexpected overnight stay, with nothing but day-packs in hand. No toothbrushes, no soap, no water, no mosquito repellent despite the known severe outbreak of malaria, no mobile phone chargers, no change of clothes. Nothing. Just our IDs, our faith, and our evolving plan to travel in, stay, see, sleep, and somehow manage to drive out at dawn to a distant airport for return to Nairobi. We knew we were safe. We knew we were set to leave once in. Somehow we would figure out the essentials in between.
What are the essentials? What emerges as must-haves. What quickly and acutely comes to mind when there is no time to really comprehend the what next? And what if it all goes horribly wrong?
The experience was a tiny, tiny glimpse into how one’s mind has to work when working out how to move forward with so little of what is normally needed for smooth, safe, predictable and peaceful daily life. Blessed to be in a position of knowing when we would be back to our clean, secure creature comforts, adjusting to the baseline of needs for the brief time ahead was hardly traumatic. The day after tomorrow would be a day back to the familiarity of the real world – familiar faces, familiar places, a familiar fate.
But for tens of millions, tomorrow is an extension of the sudden uncertainty of today.
How does this happen? How is it that reality can change in a moment? From safety to tragedy. From comfort to fear. From comforted to completely alone.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that we did to influence the life into which we are born. And yet, for billions of people, lives seemingly a dream look down on the millions, literally millions, condemned to a life that is nothing short of a nightmare.
Whether caused by acts of God, acts of Mother Nature, or acts of angry men, today and every day millions run, having to choose, quickly, what they will take.
What can we give them? What do they need? it is not simply about money – throwing a few coins into a donation box while quickly passing by. The first gift of giving is compassion – looking a child, an adult, another, in the eyes with a genuine feeling of “I see you.”
And then reaching out a hand with a heart whispering the words “….and I will help you.”
World Refugee Day should never be just one day. Each and every day, everywhere, our hearts must remain open to those needing care, compassion, comfort. Because every day they are living lives of heroic courage and determination, despite the shunning looks and judgemental glares.
And because easily, so so easily, it could have been us.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018
by Anita Mendiratta | May 30, 2018
What is it that creates moments of magic?
What is it that causes a country, a world, to stop and watch as a fairytale comes to life?
What is it that still has the world talking, debating, awing, about the Royal Wedding of May 18th 2018, so many days after the day when HRH Prince Harry took as his bride an American divorcee – an act for which his great granduncle, King Edward VIII, was forced to abdicate the throne?
What allows us the pause our thought for a day and open our hearts?
What is it?
As the wash of the colour purple fades across the world, once again we are reminded that we, as a global community, sharing such often indescribable challenges around our core humanity, need hope and love and dreams to remain human.
The world will continue to watch, to evaluate, to analyse, to care…. because somehow, through it all, it keeps the world in touch with something positive, something hopeful, something bigger and better than the battles of global co-existence.
Because somehow it drip-feeds our need to dream. To love. To wish for better…for others. And to celebrate the simple joys of the heart.
Viewing parties took place across the world. global media watching closely in the lead-up to the big day for any details that may act as a keyhole into the big day inside the grandness of Windsor Castle. From carpeting to canapes, calligraphy to choir selections, puffs of detail filled the warm, sweet, slightly purple air around all things and everything Harry & Meghan.
It is impossible not to think of the royal wedding acting as a BandAid, helping some of the hurt that so many are feeling across the world as, through fiery people, politics, policies and pointed attacks on principles
As the day neared, with all of its family drama sadly unfolding in front of the world’s press (especially as opportunists crossed lines of decency to find a way into the story, either as the message or the messenger), the underlying values of the occasion shifted, forced to make way for the value of the occasion. Pricetags were confidently and creatively put on the big day. The cost of the ceremony. The cost of the flowers. The cost of security. And of course, the cost the much anticipated dress. All of these add up to amount that is being put into the ‘wedding of the year’.
And then there are the price tags of the purple glow surrounding the grand event: the money to be spend on memorabilia, by tourists travelling from near and far to be in Windsor and the UK per se, on the day, the money to be spent filling glass after glass of Prosecco from the first moments of arrival of the glittering guests of both Hollywood and British royalty. GBP 80 million, GBP 500 million, GBP 1.2 billion. The speculation around the economic impact was ever-inflating. A surge in spending was, however, absolutely clear. Likewise the surge in global interest, with viewership of the nuptials in the US morning reaching unprecedented levels, with over 29 million people watching in the early morning hours, no doubt in their PJs with bubbles in hand.
Was the buzz of royal wedding business as high as the royal wedding of Prince Harry’s brother, the heir to the throne? No, and it was never expected to be. History was being made, in a different way, at a different time, with different expressions of excitement and excess. Eight years back, on the April 29th, 2011 occasion of the marriage of HRH Prince William to his college sweetheart, now Princess Catherine, the official figures revealed that, according to PwC, “William and Kate’s wedding generated roughly £107 million ($145 million) in extra spending: Good for retailers, (and just) less than 4% of the amount spent in the UK on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.” This time around, the ‘I Do’s didn’t in terms of UK spend stimulation. But that does not reduce its worth at penny.
While in the moment the recent royal wedding may show lesser spend levels and no direct benefit to the UK’s tourism, retail or related economies, still, the value of the national interest cannot and should not be underestimated.
The royal wedding offered the UK, and the world, a pause to the problems of the day. It offered a time when people across the world, hearts across the world, were given permission to just sit back and breathe some fresh air. Conversations stretched for days around the simple things, tiny details of the day that had the world commenting, critiquing, complaining, and celebrating, the sometimes silly, superficial, sentimental.
That was the magic. It was the gift of the pause, The gift of the fresh air. The gift of the time knowingly spent being nothing but touched by the beauty of a moment – someone else’s moment. By the beauty of a commitment: stand by me.
Long may the newlyweds be happy, and long may the hearts of the world heal through the gift of the simple beauty of their day.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018
by Anita Mendiratta | Apr 3, 2018
It was just over 15 years ago when a little girl with a quiet dream set out to start her own little consulting business. It was not to be about size of business – buying a small island was never the goal. It was about working purposefully, living a labour of love, working only with clients adored. Having a vocation, not a profession.
From day one of deciding to leave a global consulting firm and go solo, one simple model was followed: actually one role model. Her name was Pam Golding.
Pam was easy to identify – she had in fact come into the life of this young dreamer through a pre-solo project that forever changed the course of her young career. At first Pam was a Stakeholder, selected by the former consulting firm from a short-list of business elites for her high profile, highly regarded, and hugely respected leadership within South Africa and Africa’s C-Suite community, a position of immense power achieved through her success at the helm of South Africa’s largest, most revered, most successful and most trusted property company – Pam Golding Properties (PGP). She was to be one-on-one interviewed at her company’s magnificent head offices, Monterey – a breathtaking old schoolhouse estate where peacocks roamed the rose gardens, antiques and artworks lined boardroom walls, wood and crystal combined to turn high ceilings, winding staircases and flowing banisters into settings for fairytales, silver service signalled teatime, and serious business unfolding all around released a respectful hush through the hallways.
For many, the thought of meeting Pam was a cocktail of excitement, intimidation, fantasy and fear. For this little girl, however, it was pure awe. Never will she – I – forget slowly driving up the driveway that first time, gravel slowly crunching under the tires as my car crawled in the direction indicated by the formally uniformed yet gently friendly security guards, suddenly stopping midway to simply stare at the way the sunlight was striking water falling like raindrops from a classic fountain in the centre of the parking grounds. Time slowed, softened. Detail magnified.
Arrival at Monterey was a process, an occasion, a series of precious steps. And then the moment of meeting occurred. Slow, almost thoughtful footsteps on polished, thick wooden floors announced the imminent arrival of greatness. Yet, despite her enormous reputation and achievement, her size was petite, her voice lyrical, her smile radiant, her handshake delicate, her stories enchanting…her hugs sincere.
From the first moment meeting the grand dame, I knew in my heart that this icon would forever be my embodiment of success. But not for the reasons one may think. Not at all.
It was not because of what Pam did – her being the founder and chairperson of a now globally reaching powerhouse in the housing market. Rather, it was about how she did it – always:
- with grace,
- with acumen,
- with courage,
- with poise,
- with exceptional preparedness,
- being grateful,
- being personal,
- being presentable,
and always, always, being a lady.
In the presence of Pam one sat taller, spoke softer, thought more carefully, moved more gently, breathed more deeply, looked more closely, felt more grateful.
From that day on, and especially when I decided to go solo as a consultant, Pam Golding became my mind and heart’s true north. She became my client. She became my friend. On many occasions over the years, as our personal and professional lives danced, she became my confidante. My business took its name – Cachet – from an article title called out on the cover of an edition of PGP’s ‘Icon’ magazine. Its sound, its meaning and its source could not have been more perfect. Year after year my little business grew, I grew older, Pam grew increasingly close in thought, heart, and frequency of engagement. Every moment, every memory with Pam, left my heart smiling, deeply, quietly, so so very gratefully. Always, always, Pam was held dear as my embodiment of success. On the 10th anniversary of my business, it was she to whom I raised a class of Champagne, tearily saying ‘thank you‘ to her for showing me how to shape the business I had hoped for, pausing to celebrate her, her way – enjoying chilled Champagne at lunch time.
To this day when asked what has been the secret of success of my little business – a business now well into the 15th year, blessed with longevity and reach long past those first fragile dreams, spontaneously I always believe it to be this: etiquette.
That was Pam. That will always be the gift of Pam.
Pam’s example – her excellence, her gravitas, her grace, her sunshine, her style, will always be my heart’s true north. White roses will always be her reflection. Wisdom with a brightness of smile and sparkle in eye will always be her echo.
Always be ready. Always be thankful. Always be personal. And when in doubt, always wear the pearls.
My heart is crushed. Rest well, dear dear Pam. Rest loved. And thank you. xx
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018
by Anita Mendiratta | Feb 11, 2018
Finally, finally, the moment has come. The 23rd Winter Olympic games have begun!
After months and months of controversy, debate, dispute and daily discussion around geopolitical taking attention away from the love of the games, finally the focus has turned to the athletes. Winter sports stars, standing tall carrying their national flags even though some of their nations may never see a snowflake touch their soil, be they brave Nigerian bobsledders prepared to take on break-neck speeds reaching up to 150km/hr, bare chested Tongan cross-country skiing hopeful braving bitter -20degC temperatures during the Opening Ceremony, or any of the over close to 3000 athletes from snow and non-snow nations excitedly (some forced to be flagless) ready to put their best forward for love of sport and country.
Together they stood, united under a white-dove graced South Korean night sky, to declare the 2018 Winter Olympic Games ‘on’.
From that moment, until the 2018 Winter Olympic flame is extinguished on February 25th, the world’s winter sports hopefuls, and a world of global fans, families and followers, will watch as 102 events unfold across 15 different sports underway in three cities – PyeongChang, Jeongseon, and coastal Gangneung.
Finally, the focus is on the real heroes of the Games – not the political negotiators, not the envoys, not the Heads of State grabbing the headlines. But in stead, the humans that are the real heroes of the moment, and all that will unfold with breathtaking courage, fierce commitment and awe-inspiring skill over the days ahead – the athletes.
Every two years we see the Olympic Games taking hold of our attention. Between the Summer and Winter Games, the world comes together to celebrate the global community’s love of sport as a force for personal and collective performance excellence across sports, and a platform for peace across nations. And yet, as sure as one can be that the athletes dreaming of this moment are working their hearts and bodies out to achieve gold, one can be sure that behind the scenes geopolitics is creating game-playing of its own unique kind. Some is subtle, undetectable. Yet, as has been the case now, and in Games past, the games behind the scenes take centre stage. Boycotts, bannings, behaviour undeserving of Olympic association, becomes the focus.
It has become a heartbreaking norm.
For global audiences, this has become familiar lead-up to the main Olympic events. A sadly familiar scene, each time making it acceptable for the athletes to become the second story.
How can this be possible? How can this be acceptable? How is it that the athletes take second place?
Unlike any other tine in the past, this time history was made when sport acted as a historic means of erasing borders, right at home, as for the first time in a decade the two Koreas stood as one, sport transcending other areas of competition and conflict, athletes acting as the ultimate ambassadors of hope.
As the 2018 Winter Olympics not undergo their daily tests of will and skill, the world has the opportunity to refocus – to refocus on the heroes behind the true humans-to-heroes pushing our often stubborn global community towards seeing one another as simply equals seeking a tomorrow where dreams can be fulfilled. These are the people rebooting our innate, absurd human connection to hope, recognising that God is indeed in the detail, taking noting for granted, not one millisecond, not one mile travelled, not one memory created.
As so perfectly and poetically stated to CNN by Ghana’s courageous skeleton athlete, Akwasi Frimpong in the lead-up to the Games, simply being a part of this time, part of this global elite sporting community, is beyond all that the human mind and spirit could have ever hoped for – just being in the athlete’s village “is like holy ground”.
May the world find that these Olympic Games, these heroic athletes, retrain our hearts and minds to focus on what truly unites billions of people across the global community. The one thing that can truly be a unifying force, a source for understanding. respect and peace. The one thing that we all share: the quest to fulfill a dream.
In loving salute to the heroes of the Games. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018
by Anita Mendiratta | Jan 20, 2018
One thing. What is the one thing that you are going to do for you this year?
It is a question that often floats to the top of one’s thoughts when January arrives, and the habitual creation of New Years Resolutions. What is the one thing that you have committed to making happen this year? Truth is, it is often a handover of something meant to happen the year(s) before, that simply never managed to be achieved. Gaining a new language. Losing weight. Adding a new tick to the bucket list. Taking away those aspects of life creating clutter, chaos, concern.
If the year could be marked by only one thing, one defining feature of change for oneself, what would it be? What really matters most? Importantly, what would make the freedom of a fresh, new 365 days unwasted if (finally) achieved. Equally, what would make a heart sad if the year were to pass and it remained a lingering wish of fulfillment.
These are the investments we make in ourselves. These are the words we carefully write as we capture the story of our lives. These are the quiet, personal quests that bring value to our lives. And learning. And quiet love of life.
At the same time, how can our lives be of value to others? For every ‘one for me’, what is the ‘one for them’. Who is the ‘them’? And how can our lives bring more life to theirs?
As time passes, as miles are crossed, as meaning is intensified, the ability to actively, even passively, make a difference in the life on another becomes more motivating. Because we can.
Which is another reason why January offers such a perfect opportunity to recommit. And in so doing, reconnect to one’s constructively compassionate heart. Something – some cause, some issue, some programme, some person, inspires breaking out of the bubble of ‘I’ and looking further to the ability to impact another.
Pick one. Whatever the cause, whatever the me issue, whatever the programme, whomever the person, be inspired to break out of the bubble, to make a difference. To commit to a year of support.
One heart. One choice. One stop-order.
In just one moment a year of making a genuine difference is mobilized, making this year one to quietly look upon as one that was lived richly.
Pick one. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018
by Anita Mendiratta | Dec 26, 2017
‘Tis the season to be gifting, this time of year filled with shopping, choosing, wrapping, waiting….and then giving. Cards are read, parcels are unwrapped, ribbons fall to the floor as excitement rises. Smiles, hugs, thanks. Onto the next. For millions across the globe, this is the routine inspired by Santa’s sweet surprises, loved ones’ lovely thoughts turned to presents under the glow of Christmas tree lights.
For millions, however, simply being able to sit peacefully for a day, for just a few hours, would be a gift in itself. The ability to shut one’s eyes, breathe in silence, feel safe and warm and loved. It is so easy to forget these souls so deserving of such simple joys.It is so easy for the radius of one’s life to close in.
And then a Christmas miracle happens – an announcement is made that makes one’s heart burst with a wide smile, widening the lens, cracking open a feeling in one’s spirit that “God is watching.”
The date: December 20th, 2017.
The messenger: the MacArthur Foundation.
The message: 100&CHANGE has awarded the partnership of Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee (IRC), working together in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, its ultimate prize, USD100 million to invest in early childhood education in Syrian refugee children: Sesame Seeds – “the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy7z8PUxNDY
Because displaced refugee children are at risk of profound loss, educationally, emotionally and societally, not to mention spiritually. And because our world’s current crisis of displacement risks destabilising the foundations of not just nations, but generations, both for those displaced and their host nations.
Because by breaking the scared, visible silence of a child, setting them free of toxic stress, the worries of a parent – or guardian for those little ones whose families are lost – are also set free.
Because injecting into a society a mechanism for adoption of those in need, a society’s core strengthened at all levels – family, community, wider society.
Because if anyone can teach a child to not just learn again, but trust, laugh and dream, it’s Elmo.
And, because, survival is not enough.
The gift of this remarkable grant of 100&Change, created by the vision and hearts of a remarkable organisation, The MacArthur Foundation, will touch the lives of tens of millions of those in need, directly and indirectly, with hope, with harmony, with a sense of ‘home’. Importantly, for the global community, it offers an emotionally comfortable and connecting way to care through a programme championed by beloved, Muppet characters hundreds and millions worldwide grew up on, and that still speak to one’s inner child no matter how big we may now be. Because, as stated by David Milliband, President and CEO of IRC, “the refugee crisis is a test of all of us.”
And so, as the new year nears, please, please add to your list of resolutions, placing it right on top of the list, the support of an organisation deserving of your stop-order because of their vision and courage to make a true, sustainable, meaningful, and multiplier-effect difference for our shared world.
Can’t decide which one? Here are three incredible programmes so worthy of the world’s support:
SESAME SEEDS: http://refugee.sesameinternational.org/
MSF SEA: https://www.msf.org.uk/country/mediterranean-search-and-rescue
ZIP ZAP CIRCUS SCHOOL: http://www.zip-zap.co.za/
Pick one, please, and give the gift of hope and security and life. No gift could yield greater heartglow. And Elmo will love you for it.
Happy 2018. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017
by Anita Mendiratta | Nov 24, 2017
On Tuesday, November 21st, 2017, the world watched as a nation ruled by fear, unfairness, often near-famine, and fading faith saw its ruler of almost four decades exit the stage. Robert Mugabe declared his resignation as President of Zimbabwe. It was over.
Scenes of ecstatic relief and disbelief immediately transmitted across the world as Parliament’s roof rose from the cries of excitement, tears of joy. It was over.
And now the world watches the ‘What next? Who now?‘
It is all too easy to look to tomorrow now that today is into its final hours. It is natural. However, there is nothing natural about what happened in Zimbabwe.
To begin with, the ruler, taking office in 1980, President Mugabe stood tall as patron. In the initial years, his care for his people was true to fatherly form – protective, seeking personal well-being for all. His African-nationalist position was firm, his loathing of white colonials clear, unedited in his point of view regarding the historical rulers of his homeland: “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.”, openly declaring, “Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy!”
As time passed, however, and faculties dimmed, power and often violent control eclipsed purpose and the once held vision collective good. His reign evolved into a lifetime of leading with self-serving power, inspiring fear and paranoia. Over the last 37 years his iron fist was visible as his dictatorship took hold, seeing, inter alia,:
- qualified ‘white’ farm owners violently forced from their homes for the sake of ‘black’ ownership, a prelude to liberation,
- those speaking….or rather whispering…against the lion of the nation being silenced through the stopping of their heart, and
- the disappearance of opposition a clear statement of cost of voicing conscience.
For over 13,500 days of rule, life was as he dictated – paternalism the shroud that covered his people. Global leaders shook their heads seeing a nation, once rich in natural and human resources, faced starvation of body, mind and spirit. But there was no way for the people of the nation, his nation, to fight back. The power and oppression was drowning of all hope and humanity. His personal and political indulgences were simply to be accepted. Just be quiet and look away.
Which is why the events of the past week are so astounding.
For decades, literally decades, the desire for overthrow has been omnipresent, within and outside the country. But the threat to people, politics and power repeatedly defused any possibility. Only the hand of God seemed to be able to rid Zimbabwe of its aged ruler.
And then, unsuspectingly and non-aggressively, the hand of the Military moved in. After the sudden firing of Vice President Mnangagwa, on November 14th, 2017, tanks move into central Harare, major arteries of the capital blocked, the national broadcaster taken over.
The President is put under house arrest within 24 hours. 72 hours later protests erupt on the streets as the 93 year old President refuses to leave his throne. 24 hours later threats of impeachment linger, with the President standing firm in his rejection of exit, despite his wife and party leaders forming his inner circle being expelled from their shared political party, ZANU PF.
And then, the 21st of November dawns. And statement of resignation is released. It was over. President Mugabe was President no more, the flames of his fiery life of leadership extinguished.
Today, in just hours, the nation’s interim President will be sworn in, the ‘Crocodile’ taking the crown in a peaceful transfer of power, for now. The nation looks forward as the world looks to see how Zimbabwe, under President Mnangagwa, will shape its future.
It would be such a great shame, and do the nation such disservice, however, if the world is to simply look on, knowing it will eventually look away. The past week in Zimbabwe is a profound lesson to the world in decency, civility and humanity. Let us never forget that, as a hurtful, often hateful, leader of 37 years is overthrown, not a shot is fired, not a drop of blood is spilled, not a sheet of glass is broken, not a rock is thrown. Instead of wishing that their oppressive leader hang, or that he spend the rest of his life stripped of his freedom, dignity and safety, the people of Zimbabwe wish he rest. Their leader, their father, is tired. Let him rest.
The courage shown by the people of Zimbabwe in their willingness to openly, visibly and audibly, have their identities and demands revealed, all in a place where one would fear death if exposed, is incredible. The honour with which the transition took place – peacefully, collectively, decently, is exemplary. The people of Zimbabwe deserve the world’s respect and salute.
Is now a time for the world to watch closely the new leadership, new hope, and new possibilities in Zimbabwe? Absolutely.
And it is also the time for the world to pause, in prayer and praise, for the people of Zimbabwe. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017
by Anita Mendiratta | Oct 22, 2017
To travel to discover a destination is one thing.
To travel to fulfill a quiet dream is quite another.
We all have our little lists of ‘must see‘s in the world – places near and far where we would one day love to dance, to dine, to take that oh-so-local adventure, find that oh-so-beautiful artwork, to do the daring, and to share ‘I was there’. And then there are those places that quietly whisper in our spirit an enduring wish of ‘how incredible it would be….’ – a place where one’s imagination of what might, just might be, becomes real.
To have these moments come to life, these quiet dreams fulfilled, is to discover true awe. It is an enduring quest of travellers.
Yet pure awe in travel can be so hard to find…..because all too often we are looking so hard to find it.
When one does find it and feel it, however, it is unmistakable – there are no words, there are only tears.
And soon, very soon, the secret to its discovery is revealed: being still, being quiet, and being grateful.
This is where awe is found. This is how travel dreams are fulfilled. Time slows, seconds stretching out to be able to squeeze in as much as possible. Senses seem heightened, sounds and scents dialed up, peripheral vision closes in, the eyes taking in all that is seen as though with a magnifying lens, not a detail overlooked.
How best are these moments preserved? Which device does the best job? Filtered or unfiltered? For sharing on which platform? Friends or all Followers?
None of the above. None will truly do the moments justice.
The only, only essentials of the experience:
Such was recently the discovery when finally, finally, a dream to see the sea turtles came to life.
The place: Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
The species: Tortuga Verde (Green Turtle)
The timing: October – end of turtle season, under an almost-full moon.
The encounter: a magnificent est. 30 year old grand lady returning from a journey of thousands of miles to the safe shores of the national park, setting in motion a next generation of ancient life.
The echoes and images: intense.
The photos/videos: none – these great creatures are nocturnal. No photography is permitted. Absolutely none. No exceptions.
Reflecting on the experience, while at first there was sadness to learn from the guides that no cameras, mobile phone or otherwise, were permitted on the beach during the night visit to the turtle nests, in the end it was this absence of devices that made the moments magic. Suddenly, responsibility for the richness of the time shifted from what was in one’s hand to what was in one’s heart. From what one saw in front of them, to what one felt within.
The rules of Mother Nature, and her appointed guardians, are non-negotiable. The park guides strictly yet sensitively trained to protect the giant sea turtles who have, as a result of man’s hunger for exotic food and souvenirs, put these ancient sources of life that spend their lives migrating across the world’s waterways, into a state of global endangerment. The shame of the situation, and the innate truth that it is us, we who feel entitled to roam and often ruin the world around us, has lit a fire in the turtle guides who reinforce that an encounter with these incredible creatures is a gift, never an expectation. Respect for the great turtle, in one of her most private moments, must, must come first, for as long or short as one’s encounter may last.
Tractor-like tracks on the beach from the night before seed hope that maybe, just maybe, the night ahead will see green turtle return once more. Ledges of sand pressed down along the shoreline, and then pulled almost 100m inland, start the quiet conversation with oneself – inaudible prayers take flight.
But again, there is no guarantee. Mother Nature decides, and quite honestly, does not care about the travel plans of tourists. Her only concern is her precious green turtles.
At last the long-awaited time came: time for a walk to designated stretch of beach, and then a wait……waiting, waiting, and hoping that a silhouette emerges from the water and slowly, cautiously shuffles to a safe nesting spot…..as guides carefully look out for what only their naked eyes would be able to detect, while travellers looked up at a magnificent moon-rise scattering gold-dust on the waters of the Caribbean.
And then a firm whisper breaks the silence: it is time to go see her. No talking. And absolutely no cameras. Seconds tick by slowly, so slowly, nearing the still unseeable beautiful beast. Suddenly all is blurry – the overwhelming intensity of anticipation causing tears to fall.
In the darkness of night with only the glow of the rising moon over our shoulders, and a faint red light over the turtle’s shell as a guide for our vision, tiny movements were evident in a giant dugout of sand. Enormous, yet so vulnerable, she has safely nested in the sand and was ready to lay her eggs. In silence, with only the sound of her legs slowly shifting sand filling the air, guides whisper her entering into a trance – the pain of the process of laying her eggs had begun. One by one, times an estimated 120, her soft-shelled eggs, glowing white like little moons themselves, began to fall from the safety of her protecting body to their sandy, exposed, dangerous new world.
Gathered in a small, tight, limited crowd, onlookers were able to close in to see a cycle of life unfolding. One by one by one, the eggs continued to drop, mooshily stacking one on top of the other, rebuilding their new home until time for their little lives to break through their individual shells.
Unexpectedly, undeniably, the extreme intimacy of the moment – her moment – caused a deep, urgent need to look away…..to shift the soft red light from her tail to her face, to absorb the beauty of her, as she shared this incredible moment with us. Seeing her so closely, her head heavy, her aged eyes teary, her nostrils buried in the sand, she had evolved from being ‘a sea turtle’ to a gentle, graceful sight, her raw, rugged presence making a softly touching connection, unmistakably, to the storybook of, in this case, my life.
Something in those moments, on that beach, with only the sound of the sea gently lapping on the shore in the near-distance, caused a penetration of spirit beyond anything imagined, anything which could be analysed. Any attempt to find words caused child-like tears to flow. The darkness of the night allowed for a safe mask from the eyes of others. ‘Alone’ was desperately needed to be able to take it all in, to not let the emotion run out.
It was a feeling of pure awe.
While no more than 180 seconds were spent in each of the two rounds of viewing over the 80 minutes of the experience, the time was timeless. Priceless. With images and emotions of the encounter still so vivid, so real, there is no question about it: the quest to find the perfect photo would have resulted in a complete loss of the perfect memory.
It was a profound learning. And its truth still lingers. Sometimes the best way, the absolute best way, to capture a moment in time is to simply take it in, slowly, deeply, unfiltered, in the moment, allowing each and every single second, each emotion, to embed itself in one’s memory, in one’s personal storybook. These so often simple, subtle occurrences carve lifelong impressions…
A tropical moon rising.
A slow walk into sandy darkness.
A stumble into night nests from nights before.
A teary approach towards an ancient creature creating life.
A fixed stare on the power of Mother Nature.
A whisper of thanks for the blessing of the here & now,
Quickly followed by echoes of appreciation for those who made the dream come to life, more perfectly and profoundly than could ever have been imagined.
Gracias con todo mi corazón, Señor Ministro Ventura y Alejandro. Muchas gracias. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017
by Anita Mendiratta | Sep 19, 2017
September. A month in which the world shifts its focus onto the United Nations.
The 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly has commenced in New York. The period of the 12th through to the 25th September brings together literally thousands of diplomats, direct reports, decision makers, donors, delegates and media determined to stay ahead of the issues that form the agenda around which 193 member states unite.
Across the city national flags from across the world splash out their colours, while sirens and blue lights signal VIPs in transit. Mobility is challenged both on the main roads and in the meeting rooms. Getting from A to B whether a place, a policy or a principle, can and does demand careful maneuvering.
It’s all about diplomacy.
To see diplomacy in action is to watch a slow, subtle dance unfold. The steps are ever so carefully choreographed – the movement of a hand, blink of an eye, shift of a shoulder…each a form of communication. Together, apart, together, together, together, apart. Nothing ever stays the same. The tempo of the music, the style of the steps – each and every motion becomes an expression of interests, intentions, intrigue.
For many in the audience, the dance can become frustrating to watch.
Who is leading? Is the follower happy to do so, or actually wanting to be change the song, seeking to lead? Why such hesitation?
Being ever so careful not to step on toes, the dance works its way through. Externally, it appears a graceful management of energy and emotion. Below the surface, however, diplomacy can in fact be an invisible, full body sport.
Such was the case recently when another UN General Assembly took place, this time in the global Travel & Tourism space. The stage: Chengdu, China. The occasion: the 22nd General Assembly of the UNWTO – the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
Over 1300 global tourism leaders came together to shape a shared future of one of the world’s most important sectors – a sector that is today responsible for 1 in 10 jobs worldwide, 10.2% GDP, 30% Services Exports. The stats are one side of the powerful story. The other: the ability of Travel & Tourism to act as a priceless vehicle for preserving cultures and identities of peoples across the globe, protecting natural environments and communities, and promoting peace through the alchemy of understanding and respect that travelling unlocks.
Over the course of the UNWTO GA week, statutory meetings put the plan of work of the organisation front and centre. Initially meeting by region, the global collective then came together to tackle critical issues of the day. Of highest priority: confirmation of the Secretary General-elect, the individual who would define the course and culture of the organisation for at least the next four years, commencing 01st January, 2018. But this was no usual nominee confirmation process. These were no simple, easily resized shoes to fill.
Who would, who could, possibly succeed one of the finest, wisest and sharpest Secretary Generals that the organisation, perhaps even the UN system, has ever had at the helm? Organisational meaning, momentum and unity were all on the line. Who would be able to smoothly, confidently cut in on, and take over, this critical dance with the same style and substance?
When the time came to confirm the leader charged with the responsibility of leading the organisation, the diplomatic dance took a dramatic twist. The music could not have been more deafening, more penetrating. Intense debate, with unprecedented moves, at times left the dance floor boards close to cracking. The floor that connected one and all started to splinter away. Fatigue, frustration and fury – powerful, deep bass notes muting any trebles trying desperately to break through.
And yet somehow, somehow, a collective rhythm was found. The mental gymnastics spontaneously, diplomatically performed by the outgoing Secretary General to shift individual styles into a line dance of 1300 were exhausting to even watch. With fierce strength of spirit determined not to let the floor fall through, finally, masterfully, a piece of music, a proposed way to move forward, was found. Its chords penetrated people’s hearts, shifting their steps from ‘I’ to ‘we’. It was a United Nations show of truly united nations.
So rightly, so deservedly, as the music stopped, a wave of standing ovation began. Instantly, the thick, heavy heat that had built up in the room was pushed out as fresh, pure air washed through. The music hushed…the tears fell.
Crossing the globe, the steps that will carefully, cautiously, thoughtfully unfold in New York this week will, no doubt, prove to be history-making. Thankfully we have within the global community a few, just a few, masterful dancers of diplomacy who not only understand the steps that need to be choreographed to reach a truly inspired, uniting outcome, they seek to teach them.
Dr Rifai, please take a bow.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017