It is 10 years since the brutal attacks of 26/11 shook Mumbai and the world. 10 years since my husband Ajay Bagga and I came out safe after spending 14 hours in the Taj Mahal hotel on the night of 26/11 getting a new life. 10 years since I recognised the value of life and love all over again.
Often I meet people who tell me to forget about the incident, put it behind me and move on. They are right in a way. Impressions of such traumatic memories weigh heavy on the soul. They can then express themselves in a myriad of psychosomatic ways affecting our physical, mental and emotional health.
The few physical wounds healed quickly for us. But the unseen, unknown ones? Ajay and I are lucky that we are practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya and Meditation. This regular practice has helped us come out of this trauma in a solid, strong way. It even helped assuage the pain we couldn’t see or feel. Not only that, it made us capable of healing the wounds of others.
The wisdom of life and beyond, regular immersion in Satsang with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji and committing time to Seva has helped us orient ourselves to understanding the higher purpose of life.
Being surrounded by people who love us, who meditate & who have committed their life to society, helped us find back the strength of our body, mind, and spirit. The scars faded slowly and gradually, emptying the memory of the screams, sounds, and shivers, replacing them with reasons for relief and gratitude instead.
Now I can recount the ghastly events of those few days with a dispassionate distance. Whenever I meet anyone who was in one of the locations of the attack or lost someone dear then, a strange solidarity binds us.
For us, life has indeed moved on. Moved on to bigger, better things. But we were the lucky ones who came out alive.
What about those who lost their lives? Those who sacrificed their lives saving others? Those who were permanently injured physically or mentally? Those were not just a number, in the count of victims. Those were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and more. Relationships are broken so untimely, that the loss is almost impossible to repair.
For the sake of their sacrifice, I argue that we should not forget an incident like this.
Our world today is gripped in so many parts by fear and hate mongering created by religious, national and sectarian divides. I travel a lot around the world and I experience how communities and demographics are changing, unfortunately for the worse. Terror and its toxic hand are destroying families, severing futures, impacting economies and the world order at large.
I was in London when terror struck Paris on November 13, 2015. It was terrible. The next Friday, Nov 20th was our World Forum for Ethics in Business (wfeb.org) annual conference in the European Parliament in Brussels. Just as our conference concluded, Brussels was shut down in the fear of a terror attack. The shutdown lasted for 5 days. The longest a whole city, the centre of Europe, almost completely shut down. Incidentally, the shutdown was lifted on 26/11. Billions of euros lost in missed opportunities and business.
This can’t continue. It’s not normal for humanity to live in the fear of where danger will spring up next. It is our responsibility to address the problem at the core. It may, however, feel too overwhelming, too big a challenge to address. But we have to start somewhere.
This is where I feel totally inspired to see the work of the Art of Living Foundation. Inspired and guided by Gurudev, my friend Deepa Dave an Art of Living teacher, worked tirelessly for years in Manipur, ultimately resulting in 68 rebels surrendering to the Govt on 15th August 2017. Another Art of Living teacher Mawahib Shaibani left her lucrative investment banking career to become a meditation teacher and has trained thousands of youth in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, to become ambassadors of peace. She and her team have saved hundreds of yazidi girls from spending a lifetime as sex slaves and rehabilitated them to a normal, civil life.
Gurudev himself played a vital role in getting the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) declare a unilateral ceasefire with the Govt of Colombia ending a five-decade-old conflict which had resulted in the loss of over 200000 lives. The Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also got the Nobel Peace Prize for this in 2016.
There are many more such stories of reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of lives. They compel us to have confidence that if the intention is pure, the approach is just, the action is sincere and the belief is strong, all matters can be resolved in a nonviolent peaceful way. Maybe not all together, but at least one by one. That would be a lot as well.
In a poem I wrote to the terrorist thereafter, I ended with “Your hatred has made my love stronger,
I will work more for peace and harmony,
You would have been a different person too,
If only I met thee!”
That’s what I tell all my students at Sri Sri University too - Be grateful for what you have and work hard for what you want. Life is short, love and serve. The world needs every kind and positive person.
26/11 was followed by Thanksgiving 10 years ago. This year it is preceded by it. I am thankful for having life, just being alive. I am optimistic that with every thought, word and action of love we are making the world a better place. We can begin now.