Monday, 4 August 2014

Of War and Peace

It was nearly nightfall on 4th August 2014. Today was also my young brother's Birthday. He is a Commander in the Indian Navy and the son of our Father who served as an Indian Air Force Officer. The day had been busy and I noticed my children were tired after an afternoon spent in the park. I served them their dinner early and cleared up the mess afterwards. S was still edgy and R was crying from the tiredness, protesting loudly when I tried to get them into the shower. After the tribulations abated, we sat down to watch a DVD... and turned off the lights at 22:00 hrs. As we lit a solitary candle in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of people who died during the First World War that began a Century ago today, I gathered my two daughters close and tried to answer some of their innocent yet profoundly disturbing questions on topics like 'darkness', 'candle-light', 'fear' and WAR.... A hundred years to the day the First World War began, we sat in the pitch dark room with candlelight illuminating our faces, and casting moving shadows around itself....
For a while tonight, I was speechless...

We'd finished watching 'The Sound of Music' on DVD just before 21:15hrs and the kids had all sorts of questions throughout the film. About the children, Captain, Maria, the Sisters from the Abbey and 'that horrid Man who was so rude and stuck up' and was forcing the Captain to join the German Warship Fleet... We talked about Patriotism and Dignity, Discipline and Conscientiousness "the voice that only I can hear telling me to think before I speak, act,or work..."
Both of them were, understandably, curious and full of questions about the World War, which I was somewhat prepared to handle, but what took me completely by surprise were the simplest ones; "Why did they fight?" , "Are they all dead because of the War?" "What do bombs do?"... And so on. What was I to say to my youngest asking me if there would be no war someday?!
I tried to give them some answers in a way that they could understand the nature of war and it's unforeseen consequences. I pondered the irony of a public spectacle of Remembrance of the first War of the Modern world, while shelling and  missile-attacks still ravage parts of the developing world and recollected a phrase from a much loved film from the 1990s: "The purpose of War is to serve a political end, but the true nature of war is to serve itself."
I tried to explain this to them in a way that they could understand....

We talked about life during and after the War, the History of thouusands of years of Civilization that stood on the banks of rivers of blood... I considered telling them about Religious and Ideological Wars when one of them asked me about Wars in India and Spiritual belief: the battle of Good versus Evil.We read about Child-friendly explainations of the World as it was; past Governments, Political Standing, Power and Freedom... I hope I managed to convey to them both that War is neither convenient, nor entirely avoidable yet no situation or conflict is so far gone that it cannot be resolved peacefully. War gains nothing and destroys everything. It was and still remains imminently responsible for the suffering it metes out. Children, families, industries, livelihoods, are all lost, scarred or robbed as it begins it's relentless march to Victory or Death whichever comes first. Defeat is not an option...

Even the people it churns in the crucible of it's machinery are reduced to being nothing but a shell of a human being. WAR happened a hundred years ago today and hundreds of millennia before that. And it still is happening today. That is a sad, sad Reality. As I later read about the First World War and it's many fall outs, the German oppression and the Holocaust my mind conjured up the present conflicts and the excruciatingly macabre denial of the suffering innocent people of Gaza...
I spared them the horrors that visit me when I read about children and families bombed out of homes and UN Shelters by Israeli missiles and rockets...

Time moves on but it seems we are yet to learn from the War that began tonight, a Century ago, slashing and destroying the face of the Geo-political world as we know it from History books and faded yet treasured B&W photographs... Humanity, Kindness, Compassion and Care... Are these values we really live by and uphold?! Or do we let life, daily life, get in the way and rescue us from the horrors on BBC and CNN? What if Gaza wasn't really Gaza but Guildford, Glasgow or Gloucester?? Would our reaction be just as clinical, our Government Policy just as cold and unaffectedly distant? When will The USA and Britain awaken from the slumber of ineptitude and shake off the comatose indifference of distance and realize that our inaction today will sow the seeds for poppies that the children of Gaza and Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan may never wear on their lapels...
Who will remember them and honor their right to live?! Shouldn't we all? Surely, the greatest and most poignant tribute to pay today would be a pledge to end this iniquitous war and begin to rebuild the futures of the Children of Today...The people of Gaza need the world to stop this unjustified and ludicrous attack now.
Today.
We can still do something so they don't lose a loved one nor have to hold on to the memory of a sibling or parent who died a week ago... a day ago or an hour ago in the senseless naked dance of death that the missiles bring down on them all. How unspeakably pitiable are we as humans that we forget and disregard the sacrifices of all those who lay down their lives for peace.... Why are the powerful, rich and extremely influential Allies so impotent and mute hundred years on?? Have the last one hundred years and many hundreds of conflicts numbed us to the pain of innocent children who only ever hope for a time to live, laugh, love and play? Have we learnt nothing at all in this Century of Wars and conflict, weaponry and combat?? I wish I could get the so-called influential leaders of the world to answer me when my daughters ask me, " Mummy will there be a day without and War on our Earth?"

Inexplicably, tears made my throat seize up and we became silent.... Finding solace in a hug and a prayer for the soldiers who gave up their lives so we could have freedom and peace, they folded their tiny hands and closed their eyes as they asked Him to end suffering and oppression everywhere. For now, I just silently hug them close and pray...