The Visible Invisibles

Avinash brings us a soulful poem, on being in a limbo, lost, but not quite. 

I’m neither here nor there
not sure when or where
in a queue am the person standing last
of an uncertain future and a blurry past
I have a label and no name
My desperation the claim to fame
no caste or creed we are all the same
head bowed tongues tied once wild now tame
the once wealthy are now homeless
the once believers are now godless
the once atheists are now fanatics
the once uneducated are well versed in ballistics
I could be from the land across the seas
or from the land across the border
I could be from the poorest country
or from the affluent sectors
i thought i mattered,
I thought It made sense
till I was stuck in a category
the lifeless without death’s ultimate mercy
Things could be better
things should be better
I am.not just a headline
I am not just a news update
I am not just a status
and surely not just a tweet
I could be a painter
I could be a scientist
I could be an engineer or even a doctor
or I could just reach my teenage
where I’d know what I wanted to be
I didnt want to be found slurping the saltiness of the ocean
the very ocean that now is filled with tears of my kin
I didn’t want to be found in an ambulance
where blood and gore is no more a sin
I didn’t want to leave my home to a place where I’m not wanted
I didn’t want to forget who I was in a place where I can never be me
I’m not angry with God, though he too is a reason
I’m not angry with Science, though it is no less a reason
I’m not angry with my parents who sent me away on a boat
I’m not angry with my children who were not taught to know better
I’m not angry with fate, for putting me through all this.
I’m just angry with man, for this is nothing but the greatest inhumanity by man
money drove some,
prospects drove some,
blood drove some
family drove some
love drove some
life drove some
security drove some
safety drove some
benevolence drove some
violence drove some
staying back wasn’t an option
destination isn’t one either
fear trumps love
fear trumps sense
fear trumps reason
fear trumps memory
fear trumps everything
but hope.
hope is powerful and cruel
but beggars can’t be choosers
and citizens of the limbo
can’t quite ask for more
we are just the absurdities
that resulted from atrocities
we are a history that wont be forgotten
we are a dark mark that can’t be unlived
but it is never late
and better late than never
no one else has to go through
what we went through
history might never be unlived
but definitely can avoid being relived…
till then,
i have to lurk in the dark
with no sunshine in sight
I am not a hero
neither wanted nor deserved
I am not the watchful protector of justice
but just the reminder of the opposite
more of a vociferous victim
than a silent guardian
who am I?
I just wish…

Forgive me Father, for I have Sinned…

An emotional piece by Mr. Soumyajyoti Bhattacharya, piecing together the pain and guilt of a survivor fighting for each day.

My crime? I can not recall much. But I must have done something wrong. Else why would the world turn against me ? I am not sure what my crime is. I have an inkling though. And here I am. Ready to confess…..

My crime is that I am a Muslim. I love my God, my Father like you love yours. And religion has always been about having faith and being a good son to my God, which is why I am here. I am just trying to tell you I am not someone who obnoxiously parades my values in front of others and tries to push it onto you. I am just here to tell you, I practice faith in a God I have grown to believe in. Does that make me a criminal ? I guess…At least that’s what everyone tells me. I am here to speak with your god, all this hatred has driven me to stop listening to our complaints a long while back.

My crime is that I decided to flee my volatile nation with my wife and kids while I still could. But WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE ? Do they expect me to stay ? Would anyone in the world have stayed while their country was being ravaged day in and day out by fires straight from hell flung on their homes by people who do not care whether you live or die? Greater good they tell me. Ha! What greater good is it where my entire life is taken from me for things I have not even done? What greater good is it where I my family is made to feel like a bunch of unwanted victims of the bubonic plague back when the Black Death ravaged Europe ? I did not ask for this. My family did not ask for this. So why do we have to pay…..But it is my crime I guess.

My crime is when Tariq died, I could not save him. Oh, who Tariq? He was a friend and a wonderful man. Tariq had just gotten married when he got news that we were fleeing Syria. He knew because I told him. He lived in Aleppo though, and he told me that everything will be fine.That was before ISIS took over Aleppo. I have not heard from Tariq since then. He was a Shia muslim. The news tells me ISIS doesn’t like that. This reminds me though. Once, in college, I didn’t want to drink alcohol but I had taken up a bet that I would. Tariq fought with me like the brother he was and convinced me to give up on the bet. He convinced me to do what was right. Before I knew it, He had even paid my debt on the bet. Told me, anything for a brother. Your brother could not return the favor Tariq. Not when it mattered anyways.

When I married Alisha, I had promised her all the brilliance in the world. And I tried to keep my promise. Being a doctor helped of course. That seems like a life time ago though. I love how full and beautiful Alisha always looked. How her eyes always radiated energy. They do not anymore. She has lost weight. Too much actually. If it weren’t for everyone around me looking the same, I would have thought Alisha was exceptionally sick. She wasn’t. Apparently, this is now the trend here. Disease, malnutrition and a general feeling of despair and grief. Alisha’s eyes do not emote anymore, they are hollow… echoing gloom of perpetual grief. I failed in the one promise I had made which I always intended to keep. Yes father I have failed.

The world abhors us now, they hate us. They keep us in camps of dirt and inhuman conditions. They do not give us jobs, freedom, respect. Because we decided to save our lives from a war that wasn’t any of our fault. Because we Muslims are all terrorists now, just like all Christians are mask wielding White Supremacists, Jews control our banks and Hindus obliterate any Muslim in India. You say am generalising ? That I sound illiterate? But I was only doing what I have seen you doing-does that make a bad man too? So Father, pray tell. I went to be happy again. Can you get me that? I am a doctor…I need to know I am worth something again, I need to see my daughter laugh again like she did on her last birthday when I bought her that cute teddy bear she lost at sea…Father tell me, do you  listen? Or have we driven you to hate us too?

No. I am not this man. I am a well to do student in a country far away from any conflict. But I am not ignorant. Then what is this? See it as what you will. A rant of a teenager sick of being in an ignorant world, a propaganda from globalist liberals, a work message from an NGO trying to make a difference…or just the truth. Honestly, I can never express the pain of the people everyone else have conveniently refused to help by hiding behind masks of terrorism, islam, conflict, policies, economics or geography. I cannot. But what I know is, try and make a difference.

You might need someone to someday make a difference for you too.

What do you Say?

Mrs. Morgan Nicole Henschen shares her thoughts about our engagement with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, in this emotional piece.

When I was asked to write a piece on the refugee crisis in Syria, I thought, 
well, that will be easy enough. It’s a simple, straightforward objective. I know the 
situation is bad. So I just need to expound my opinion on the bad. But then I actually 
sat down to write, and I tried to answer a simple question.  
What do you say about that? 
What do you say when you learn four million people have fled their homeland 
because their own government began attacking and torturing them? What do you 
say when you learn this has been going on for five years? What do you say when you 
find out twelve million people need assistance, and four fifths of the population is 
living in poverty?  
What do you say to a country that has lost thirty-seven percent of its 
hospitals and has lost twenty years from the life expectancy of its people? What do 
you say when that life expectancy is now fifty-five years—below the age of your 
What do you say to a country that has lost forty years of development? What 
do you say to the three million children who can’t even attend school? 
What do you say to the families of the four hundred seventy thousand people 
who have lost their lives in this “conflict?” 
What do you say while you sit in your comfortable recliner behind your 
expensive laptop? What do you say after driving in your decent car to a have dinner 
with your loved ones? What do you say after you returned to a beautiful home? 
What do you say when you just got out of a hot shower with clean water?  
What do you say after you found fault with all of those things in the moment? 
The laptop needs a new charger, and the recliner makes a funny noise when 
you rock. There was traffic on the drive, and your car needs a new coat of paint. The 
house needs a bigger kitchen and a deck so the kids can play. The shower knob 
needs to bereplaced, and I don’t think I like the fragrance of my soap as much as I used to. 
The water bill was a little high this month. 
What do you say when you honestly want for nothing, and yet you 
complain—while across the world people are dying just trying to live? 
You don’t say a single, useless word. You just cry. You weep bitter, ugly, 
shame-filled tears, and you pray to God for forgiveness… 
 God, forgive me.  
After you’ve done that, you go kiss your children where they’re sleeping 
safely in their beds. You embrace your husband who’s working hard outside. You 
pray some more, and then you start looking for ways you can help. You raise 
awareness in your circles. You start calling your representatives to lobby for aid for 
these people. You start getting rid of things you don’t need so you can fund it 
yourself. You do whatever you can.  
What you don’t do is forget. And you don’t dare turn a blind eye ever again. 

The Last Lionness

Mr. Siddhaarth Sudhakaran, a member of Aurora Charitable Society, writes a beautiful poem inspired by his many readings. In his words: “It’s inspired by an article I read long back about the massacre of a Kurdish village during the early stages of the civil war. An extremist section of the Syrian rebels carried it  out since they were worried about the influence of the Kurdish fighters in the war. It kind of increased my disdain for the blind Western support to the rebels and the war in general. My poem is basically about a female peshmerga fighter as her village is being encircled. The identity of the attackers I chose to leave ambiguous.”

The deafening boom of the guns, I hear yonder,
Never allowing my thoughts to ever wander;
From the cries of my people, the death of our dreams.
To live as free people, is utopian it seems.
My comrades are out there defending our pride,
Outnumbered we may be, but we’ll not hide.
We shall walk free, though I know not when;
And live amongst  a brotherhood of equal men.

A frail wail, so familiar pierces the dreary air,
Momentarily lifting me from the depths of despair.
Inside I rush, to pacify my petrified progeny;
To my parched ears, his cries are calming company.
Holding him to my bosom, a lullaby I sing,
Of dwarves and fairies and the fortunes they’ll bring.
Little does he know, my labour of love;
Of the impending doom, few hours from now.

O Heavens, What is that dreaded noise I hear?
Synchronized, Soulless sounds getting clear, more clear.
Interrupted they are, only by rounds of random gunfire;
The avalanche of advancing boots, they seem not to tire.
Holding my child close, I come down on my knees,
“I surrender myself to Thou , Do as You may please”
Upwards shifts my gaze in search of divine intervention,
“But let my son live long to breathe the air of liberation.’

– Siddhaarth Sudhakaran

Syrian refugee crisis — a final nail in the “humanity” coffin?

Mr. Aditya Shankar writes  an impassioned wake up call to all of us, about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. This piece was previously published in his blog, which is linked below.

I remember this artist making a real life sculpture of poor Aylan on the seashore out of sand. The caption of that sculpture was “Humanity washed ashore, SHAME SHAME SHAME”. I think I would’ve captioned it “The Death of Humanity”.

This article is long overdue. Believe me when I tell you, this is not something to be read with a pinch of salt or with a mug of coffee in your hand like a good book ; it is something of a wake up call.

March 2011. A peaceful protest against the dictatorship soon turned sour and escalated. The Government started violently dealing with the vocal citizens and rebels began fighting back. The “Assad regime” was accused of using all of the available militia and its technology to control the crowds; the use of chemical weapons against the Syrians was perhaps the first sign of a non negotiable situation. The peaceful protest against the brutal and unforgiving dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad led to civil war & by extension this undeniably mournful Syrian refugee crisis.

Now that you have a small backdrop into a deeply distressing matter, let me ask you one simple question — how would you react knowing you’re innocent, that your children are innocent and you had nothing to do in a war where you’re suddenly forced to pick a side (neither of which will guarantee your safety) and suffer for a collective decision that you were never a part of?

I’ll tell you how I would react, or I’d much rather give you an example. When you’re blamed for something you haven’t done, and you’re wrongfully punished for the same, what would you do?
Simple, get angry or get even, right?
Yes, that’s exactly what I would do, and in most situations I would choose the latter.

Let’s put something as simple as that into our topic of conversation. Syrian citizens, scores of which are perfectly innocent of all the crimes its government blames them for, are forced to accept the punishment wrongfully dished out to them and are forced to leave their country of birth just because some people couldn’t iron out their difficulties by simply talking? Do they get angry or get even? Neither, because all their energies are spent in a harder battle of survival. Why is that? Are they not entitled to their opinions? Do they not deserve to be heard and respected?

Syria, for all its problems, is actually a very well educated country; majority of the population is well above the established literacy rate and can contribute a lot to the world in terms of development. So why is a country like Syria, for all the good things it can contribute, being made to suffer like this? The answer lies very deep in a web of political drama and domination. The Assad regime’s sole purpose was to eradicate the majority Sunni population and that wasn’t appreciated, not the premise, nor the method.
Drifting from my personal disgust of the Assad regime, I’ll jump right into the details.
A wave of Syrian refugees has caught Europe and the United States flat-footed, leaving the European Union scrambling to devise a plan to deal with those arriving on its shores and Americans debating our role in the matter. A humanitarian reaction is natural–but woefully inadequate, because refugees will keep coming as long as the Assad regime continues to brutally repress Syria’s Sunni majority. Only by bringing the conflict to an end will the flow of ever more thousands of refugees stop. This crisis was neither unpredictable nor unavoidable.

Let me put things into perspective with a few numbers-

Syrians have been fleeing, or being forced from their homes in massive numbers since 2011. Nine million Syrians have reportedly been displaced. More than half remain in Syria, while the vast majority of the others have taken refuge in nearby countries. Lebanon, which has only about 4 million citizens, hosts more than a million refugees. And another major contributor to the crises has been Germany, they’ve been the role models for the rest of the world to follow. If 8,00,000 migrants seek asylum in Germany, it would amount to about one refugee for every 100 Germans.

National history is key to understand a country’s response to unexpected waves of migration. Historically, migrants often rely on their neighbour — or their ’motherland’ — to host and understand them. Thus, crises in Algeria and Pakistan usually lead to responses from the French and British states respectively. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is seeing Poland lead Europe’s response. Migrants tend to follow these same geopolitical trends. But the Syrian crisis has had no natural leader. Germany has therefore become the de- facto leader, most welcome to refugees from a country — Syria — that didn’t neatly fit into the sphere of influence of any other European country. To comply with this new capacity as a refugee-hosting country Germany has amended its asylum laws in the same manner as France, Britain and the Netherlands have for their former colonies.

We all saw the saddening picture of the 3 year old Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi washed ashore after trying to flee to Turkey. I know I can speak for almost everyone when I say that truly made me sad. It is a sad, sad world where a person’s body is washed ashore like it is a log of wood that drifted along the currents of the ocean, let alone a 3 year old boy who might have just uttered his first few words, a boy who could have become a national icon; someone who had a huge future to look forward to. The possibilities are endless, and yet, the poor child and his family had to pay for something they had no say in. How does one justify this?

Politics is an ugly game, and when it starts going south, everyone plays the “blame game”. How do you know whom to blame and more importantly whom to hold accountable? That is something even the most ardent followers of the crisis couldn’t answer, because quite simply, this wasn’t the idea of one man — it was clearly a syndicate that drove Syria to its knees.

In all our worldly desires of power,domination and lust we forget the very reason why we’re considered the most developed species on the planet — compassion and the ability to comprehend and process our feelings in a way animals cannot. If a thirst for power could drive you to pushing your own people to extinction with a war, what good are you? Isn’t it the biggest irony there is? Your lust for power and the need to rule is completely undermined if they are no people to rule!

Forget power and lust, for now there are lives at stake, solidarity and respect must be paid to the ones that gave their lives for no reason other than the unfortunate sin of being born in the country.

The only way to end this crisis is to end the war, and for all my advocacy of peace and a fruitful dialogue, it is time to fight fire with fire; because in all this spite and trauma the only loser is Humanity. How many more young boys and girls like Aylan have to suffer before our natural instincts to grow as a species kicks in? How many more innocent men and women should be made to suffer for something they didn’t do?

This whole episode should be put behind us and we should move forward like one family if we’re to survive this ; and even as I type this and consider the crisis as the final nail in the coffin of Humanity, I still have a small faith in the fact that the coffin hasn’t yet been buried. Let us hope that that sad day never comes where we are forced to bury our very humanity.

Article Originally Published in:

A Better Place in the Sky

Ms.Niveditha Swaminathan writes a tearjerking letter from a little girl to her Abba. Many refugee children are all alone, having lost their parents along the way, or having been orphaned even before they find a way to leave their countries. Anna represents just one of many thousands of such children left to fend for themselves on the dangerous journey to safety, and the dangerous, sorrow-filled life in refugee camps.
Dear Abba, 
‘Doesn’t that cloud look like a bowl of popcorn, Abba?’ 
Yes,but I think that’s an Anna cloud.You see,it’s got a tiny little head and pretty curls on 
top of  that, just like yours’,you said on my birthday last year. Then we watched more clouds until mama brought out my cake with the big 8 on top of it. 
I still have the gift you gave me,a notebook to write all my stories in. Mama said I couldn’t  take a lot of things with me.
I didn’t want to take anything else. 
Remember how you and mama made jokes about my fussy eating habit? My superhero    name was Ms.NeverHungry. A few days back,I told mama that I wish I really was  Ms.NeverHungry. 
I’ve never seen her look more upset. 
Yesterday, some nurses came to visit us. A lady took her baby to the nurse.Her face turned pale 
once she saw that the baby was covered in plastic.I laughed and told her that the baby  would get wet otherwise, but no one told me why the nurse started crying after that. 
In school,I told Ms.Sara that someday I would build a big and beautiful house and invite all the homeless people to live in it.Someday came sooner than I thought.Mama told me that Ms.Sara went to a “better place”.If she ever visits us,I’ll introduce her to the other 10    people Mama and I share the tent with.Do you think she’ll be proud of me, Abba, even  though it’s not a house? 
Why did those strange men take you that night? Why did Mama hold me close and cry after we heard that loud noise? Mama and I miss you a lot, Abba.I saw that Anna cloud again this morning,so I thought I’ll write a letter to you.Omar uncle in the adjacent tent promised me that he’ll make sure the letter reaches you. I know he’ll keep his promise. Do you know why? 
One of the nurses who visited told me that he is very sick, but he’ll go to a better place soon,a place in the sky. Mama told me that’s 
where you went. 
Do you like the better place, Abba? 
Do you watch the clouds from there?  
When can we come to the better place in the sky? 
With love, 

      Think of Syria

      Mr. Badri Narayanan writes a heartfelt piece asking us to think of our roles in global crises- and pleading that each of us at least find it in us to spare a thought for those suffering.
      Do you have food to eat? A roof to sleep under? Loved ones to laugh and smile 
      with? An identity? If your answer was YES to all the above questions then you’re 
      living in paradise.  
      You might ask me the same and I will say yes to all the above questions but what 
      is pertinent here is that there are more than 11 million people who will answer 
      NO to all the above questions, they are either the victims or refugees of the 
      Syrian civil war.  
      Just as HG Wells rightly pointed out, “If we don’t end war, war will end us.” blood, 
      death, mutilation, violence and a lot of sorrow this is what war results in, war 
      more often than not, is one mans personal interest inciting a mass populace 
      against him in rebellion and everything that follow is chaos, agony, bloodshed and 
      in the end, nobody is a winner. The same is happening in Syria as we speak. It all 
      began in March 2011 as a part of the Arab spring, but peaceful anti government 
      quickly escalated soon after the governments violent crackdown and rebels began 
      fighting back against the regime. By July, army defectors had loosely organized the 
      Free Syrian Army and many civilians took up weapons. This is how it all began.  
      A rebellion in the country was quite common during that time because of the 
      Arab springs, but this was nothing of that sort, this had all the ingredients needed 
      for a full blown worldwide humanitarian crisis, religious conflicts, terrorist groups, 
      army interfering, to add to all this the west intervening and 5 years down the line 
      220,000 people have lost their lives more than half of them were civilians. How 
      are the people affected by the civil war? UN estimates more than 6.6 million have 
      been internally displaced, more than half the country’s prewar population of 23 
      million are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, bombings are 
      destroying crowded cities and  widespread human rights violations.  
      How is the west intervening and how is it proving detrimental? The western 
      countries, like marvel’s civil war have taken sides to help opposite parties, for 
      example, the Syrian Ba’athist government is supported by Russia while the Syrian 
      national coalition is being helped by middle eastern states who ally with the US, 
      the UK being as cunning as they are, provide support to both the government and 
      rebel groups that haven’t been designated as terrorists. The Kurdish People’s 
      protection Unit has received air support from France, the US and Canada. Adding 
      to all this since the intervention and proclamation of large parts of Syria by the 
      ISIL, the west has bombed and ordered air strikes on those IS inhabited areas, and 
      what is the collateral damage? Lives of innocent men, women and children.  
      The countries that are helping the refugees- The countries that are predominantly 
      providing asylum for Syrian refugees are, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and Canada 
      in the west.  
      How can we as Indians and India as a country help them? Well India has always 
      maintained a cordial relation with Syria, now that’s a start, but us as citizens of 
      the largest democracy in the world can pool in resources together and come in 
      contact with various international NGOs and help raise money, as citizens of a 
      DEMOCRACY we can raise our voices for those Syrians that are stranded and help 
      them find a home in our country.  
      What is happening in Syria is a humanitarian crisis and only humans can put an 
      end to the samedialogue is better than demolition.   

      Problems that Plague Modernity

      A thoughtful introspection by Mr.Soumyajyoti Bhattacharya, on the problems that plague modern people, and how it’s important to step back and realize that sometimes, somewhere, things are so much worse.
      For a member of a general urban family based out of a metropolitan city in a 
      well-developed country, the problems are many. The general nuclear families of 
      today are frustrated with balancing work and family, maintaining a healthy 
      credit score while ensuring enough involvement within matters of society and 
      self. Then there are the necessities of food, water, sex, personal hobbies, 
      watching the sports team you support, visiting the colleague’s son’s Bar 
      Mitzvah. Life cannot be any worse than being an adult with a family 
      amongst the bourgeois of an economically stable nation. Except it can. And you 
      and I turn a blind eye towards it. Knowingly. 
      Imagine your healthy life. Frustrating and with ample problems which should 
      never be compared with the problems of others, Yes, as the problems are 
      problems enough for you. Now imagine your fine life disrupted tomorrow by a 
      routine protest. Against your government and their malfeasance. You roll your 
      eyes as set off to work. You have been about too long to know these protests 
      don’t last. People tire out. Except a month later, people are still vociferous in 
      their opinions and The Government, growing gradually uneasy, reacts by 
      dowsing young men and women in ricin gas. You frantically return to the 
      confines of your home and call everyone you know to ensure they are safe. 
      They are. That should clear the knot in your stomach, after all you’ve been in 
      here for far too long to believe this will result in something. Except it doesn’t. 
      The knot stays. And you don’t like what your instincts are telling you, the 
      instincts you have always trusted ; with you wishing your instincts weren’t so 
      right all the time. You sense the incoming doom and want to leave before 
      everyone else does. With your qualifications and job experience, you think you 
      will make a living anywhere. Except your country will not let you leave. And 
      other countries are getting involved on your soil. Selfish idiots, they have no 
      business here, you think. They do not care about you. They never do. In the 
      grand play of things, you are inconsequential. You do not realise this however. 
      Poor human soul, you want to live. To fly. To see your daughters become 
      wonderful young women. To kiss your wife and make love to her under the 
      moonlight. Again. You do something your ethics would have never permitted 
      you to do on a normal day. You make a shady deal. “Things I do for love”, you 
      against your better wisdom, you get on a boat to land in a country as a illegal 
      migrant. You remember your qualifications. You remember your ancestors 
      worked hard to make life easier for you. You know you are young enough. You 
      know you can do it too.Till the boat capsizes. And drowns all of  your family, but 
      you. Yet it seems like it wasn’t the boat which capsized due to overcrowding. It 
      was your world. Your life. Yet you feel no pain, no grief, no adrenaline 
      fueled joy on surviving. You feel…well you feel nothing. And then they tell 
      you to run to the next nation. They say they have a lot of people already. They 
      say they cannot afford to feed ‘freeloaders’. They dub you terrorists because of 
      your religion. Months pass, years pass. The good life is a distant memory, your 
      wife and daughters a constant thorn by the side of your otherwise miserable 
      existence. Home is nowhere, life is nothing. At night you sometimes still look 
      up and wish that the moon wasn’t so bright. It reminded you of the smile your 
      wife gave you the night she conceived your firstborn child. That is the only time 
      you feel anything anyways, and somewhere deep down you know that you 
      wouldn’t give it up for all the luxuries you can get. 
      Now look around you and realise this is not true. Whether you are a man, a 
      woman, a child or an elderly ; if you are reading this, chances are you are not 
      the person I just described in the passage. Yet it can be. And while in an ideal 
      world we all would work towards improving international geopolitics, we 
      cannot. Can we not be more human ? If this was us, wouldn’t we want others to 
      be more human towards us ? Are you not the same species as “those refugees” ? 
      Yes. You are and you can. I know I am doing my part. I suggest you do 
      too.Else you never know when Fate does a little laugh and Karma turns her 
      back on you too. 

      Understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis

      Mr.Keshav Padmanabhan writes of his journey of understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and how to place it in our own daily lives and discussions.
      The Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis that has followed, 
      has led to the global refugee crisis reaching its highest point of 
      refugees and internally displaced peoples (IDP’s) since World 
      War II.  
      The war has led to numerous dining table conversations and 
      social media fights with friends, here in India. Europe has 
      faced the one of its worst migration crisis, which led to 
      shutting down of borders in many countries (within the 
      Schengen zone), which would have been unthinkable a few 
      years ago. This crisis also led to massive growth of the far 
      right in Europe, which is frightening to many and fodder for 
      discussion to the uninvolved.  
      Yes this crisis seems to be euro-centric if we read the media in 
      India, but that’s not necessarily true. In the month of January, I 
      was at the German consulate in Bengaluru with a close friend, 
      who was there to pick up her Visa and I found a family of 
      Syrians, desperately checking with the consulate officials if 
      their asylum status has been approved. I was amazed at the fact 
      that rather than traveling through Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan to 
      reach Europe, there were families flying out to reach India and 
      leave to Germany through our borders.  
      I have spent the last five years reading about refugees, learning 
      about their dangerous trips on flimsy boats across the 
      Mediterranean where hundreds have perished and even about 
      the conditions of those living in refugee camps in Lebanon and 
      Jordan. Not once was there a mention of India. Which is why, I 
      was quite surprised to find a family waiting at the consulate in 
      Bengaluru, with their hope of leaving soon to Germany. 
      Ali* a Syrian student living in Hyderabad, was helping this 
      that these families spoke little or no English and had no clue of 
      Indian languages. He travels to Kolkata, Chennai and 
      Bengaluru quite often to help his extended families or friends 
      to gain asylum in Germany. 
      There are quite a few families who at that point in time were 
      waiting to gain asylum status from the consulates here. These 
      families here on visit visas, can’t really work and live at hotels 
      or lodges funding their stay for a few months with their life 
      savings. These families have no idea of the local language or 
      people and according to Ali, fall sick quite often due to the 
      kind of food they eat. These families as foreigners here 
      obviously face the great Indian welcome of paying more, just 
      because they are supposedly are rich enough to be fleeced. In 
      fact according to a lone Hindustan Times article, we have 39 
      refugees from Syria living in India.  
      In this articleone can see the basic complaints of the refugees 
      accepted within India. The number maybe small for now, but 
      there’s a lack of policy at the government level to handle these 
      individuals running away from war and terror. The refugee 
      card doesn’t help them gain jobs. Those here on visa’s looking 
      to find asylum in Germany too cannot find work and have to 
      pay to lodges and hotels for a couple of months to stay 
      according to Ali.  
      The family I saw in the consulate had been in India since 
      November and would be here till at least February with the 
      lack of any support from our government. Ali showed me a list 
      of families here in India seeking asylum in Germany and it
      set of families, mostly women and children according to him 
      who’ve come here for even a temporary stay and have found 
      their conditions difficult.  
      While we enjoy looking at the refugee crisis from the outside, 
      there are few here in India who sufferbecause of the refugee 
      crisis in Syria. Syrians here cannot go back home, they are 
      fearful of talking to the media in many cases because of 
      reprisals back home. Those who are refugees here find it 
      awfully difficult to survive. Those even here on a temporary 
      visa cannot work. 
      The Hindustan Times article shows us an image that is very 
      similar to the one Ali spoke about. Their conditions here must 
      get better with the government needing to do something in 
      special cases like this to further help these individuals, running 
      away from war and terror in the hope of having it better. As a 
      country having aspirations of a seat on the United Nations 
      Security Council and becoming one of the great powers of the 
      world, it is time that it steps up and opens its door to more 
      refugees or even as a transit centre for those seeking Europe.