Wednesday, November 25, 2009

26/11: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Welcome. Today marks the anniversary of our raison d'etre. Truth be told, we couldn't see this far ahead when we began our individual journeys a year ago to come together as India Helps. We only knew we had to do what needed to be done at the time, put one foot ahead of the other, stayed firm, committed and tenacious, and here we are, still functional, still together and more hopeful than ever.

Beginning today, all the way up to our team's first anniversary on December 3rd, we will share our personal journeys with you--lessons learned, moments recaptured, and our wishes for the months ahead. We invite you to read about the lives that have become much more than "cases" to us and earnestly request your continued support so that Team India Helps remains true to its name and mission.


Kiran Manral's Story (Founder)

I had just tucked the child into bed, and was about to drift off to sleep myself, when I got a message from a friend in Kolkata, "Kiran, stay indoors, stay safe." I jumped up. "What's wrong?" I messaged back. "Switch on the television, Mumbai's under siege," she replied. And I did. And I sat catatonic in front the television set for three continuous days. Unable to tear my eyes off the screen.

I could feel my heart getting numbed. I saw television channels going mad, human desperation stared me in the face, hope died, horror swamped the city. The phone lines were jammed. Friends, their siblings trapped in the Trident, their lives hanging on the line with intermittent SMSes assuring their families that they were still alive and well. The blasts, the sound of gunfire, the visuals of a calm and collected Hemant Karkare putting on his bullet proof vest and checking the small pistol in his hand before going after the terrorists who had just fled CST gave me momentary hope. He seemed like a man who would get the job done. The newsflash that he was killed had me lose all hope. I broke down when I saw the Taj Mahal dome go up in flames. I hugged my son when I saw baby Moshe bawling as he was brought out from Nariman House. A slow rage built up in me as I saw the visuals of the bodies being brought out from CST. The only fault of the victims was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been me. It could have been mine.

I have never felt as helpless in my life as I did those three days. It was a nightmare that I experienced vicariously, but which has shaken me to the core. I needed to do something. What could I, an ordinary citizen, with no resources, no contacts, and no influence do to help? I could try. I visited Karuna Waghela's home. There was chaos. There was no money for the funeral rites. I went back and sent across some funds. I sent in some groceries. That was the start of India Helps.

I began a blog. I posted details of victims/bereaved and pointed readers/fellow bloggers towards them. I asked kind souls to help out, to send in funds, groceries. People opened their hearts and their souls. People wanted to give more than just a signed cheque. They wanted to visit the victims, to hold their hands in condolence and solidarity. They wanted to offer them a shoulder to cry on. Within a week, I had people write in wanting to be part of the India Helps team. We met. We had a list of CST victims with us. We distributed responsibilities amongst us, a group of strangers, connected only through a collective grief, and went out searching these victims and their next of kin. We went into slums, into areas of the city we had never visited. We offered help. Anyway we could. We were never turned away.

We met all kinds of people. People who genuinely needed help, people who tried to take advantage of our help, people who were milking their tragedy for all it was worth, and those who were resolute and brave and stoic. I was humbled by those, women like Karuna Waghela, who rose from their grief to carve an independent life for themselves. Families like that of Bhanu Narkar, who were gracious in their grief, and reluctant to accept financial help. Children like Ganesh, who were forced to grow up before their time and become the head of the household.

A year down the line, my anger still burns strong. Each time I read about Kasab's trial my heart aches for all those who lost their lives at his hands.

But I have hope. I know that people are not apathetic. That people will rise to help. Whenever needed. And that is the spirit that no terrorist can ever kill.

1 comment:

Aditya Tibrewala said...

nice post, my vote for IB of the month goes to you... keep it up!