October 21, 2010 1:24:26 am
The last time US national Kia Scherr spoke to her daughter Naomi was on the phone on November 24,2008,when the 13-year-old was ecstatic at having her nose pierced and was preparing to write about her experiences in India. Two days later,Naomi and her father were killed when two gunmen began shooting wildly in the Oberois Tiffin restaurant.
Two years later,Kia,54,is in Mumbai,planning a commemorative event on the second anniversary of 26/11 and to launch the Indian arm of a non-profit organisation that responds with compassion to acts of terror.
Naomi and her father Alan were in Mumbai for a global meditation meet organised by the US-based Synchronicity Foundation,a spiritual organisation that promotes meditation using sound technology. As news broke that the father and daughter were unaccounted for and then later confirmed dead,Kia received an outpouring of support.
From as far away as Zimbabwe and Peru,people from all religions Muslims,Hindus,Buddhists,Jews,Christians sent us their prayers and love and support, says Kia who,for the last 11 years,has lived in Synchronicitys meditation sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains,Virginia. For Kia,until then,visitors to the sanctuarys retreats had been from the outside world. But this experience showed me that we are one human family. Were all connected at the level of the heart. And when life is lost so tragically,it reminds us of how sacred life is.
That inspired her to start One Life Alliance with Master Charles Cannon,the founder of Synchronicity Foundation. Theres now a Facebook page,a website and plans to travel across the globe,reach out to victims of any kind of violence,ask people to simply value the sacredness of life and live with compassion and kindness. Whether its druglords or gang members or suicide bombers,we cant fight that directly. But we can be different with one another, she reasons.
Along with Kia and Master Charles,who was himself trapped in his room in The Oberoi for 48 hours,over a dozen other 26/11 survivors of the original Synchronicity group will return,most of them for the first time since the attacks. Among them will be Linda Ronsdale,a childrens book author and illustrator,who was injured and survived by pretending to be dead under one of the tables at Tiffin. Ronsdale,unable to keep her promise to teach Naomi how to draw a dragon,went on to start the Peace Dragon Art Project for schoolchildren,and will spend two weeks before November 26 teaching Mumbai schoolchildren to draw peace dragons.
Kia is meeting people at a feverish pace,and hoping Chief Minister Ashok Chavan,whom she met in July,will keep his promise of attending the event. From a teenager who started a Facebook page in memory of those who died on 26 / 11 to religious leaders,she wants people from diverse backgrounds to take the One Life Alliance vow. That pledge is itself not very different from a quote by Mahatma Gandhi on the home page of the school Naomi wanted to join: Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
With President Barack Obama expected to spend a day in Mumbai in the first week of November,Kia has e-mailed the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. I heard the President wanted to visit each of the sites attacked to show solidarity. If it can be arranged,it would be a great honour. He sent me a beautiful letter of condolence when he was President-elect back in December 2008,which I still have. It would be ironic,Ive been to the White House twice,and I end up meeting him here in India.