As I try to reflect on my time at Sambhavna and write something meaningful and interesting to conclude my experiences in Bhopal I find I am stuck for words. Literally. I cannot write anything. I have started and deleted umpteen sentences, tried writing about mosquitoes, contaminated water, flowers, the people in Bhopal, my feelings about being back in the UK, and almost successfully that goat called Lucky who lived outside the clinic and who I cant stop thinking about. All have proved fruitless. And I’m not sure why.
As I sit at my parents’ dining table, drinking herbal tea and wondering if it’s odd to be contemplating an extra pair of socks in June, a million thoughts race through my head. There appears to be a mental block, stopping me from writing about the people, places and things I learnt in Bhopal. Perhaps it’s the emotional backlash of being swiftly transported from one life to another. Last night as I showed my parents photos from the clinics, the protests and the bastis, I realised how much feeling I have wrapped up around Bhopal. Joy, hope, admiration and sadness, fear and compassion. When I really let myself think about it I just really really miss that little pocket of inspiration tucked away in the middle of an urban slum in Madhya Pradesh. There are so many things I could talk about that I miss about being at Sambhavna but most of it can’t be put into words for the moment. It all seems a bit surreal and I’m not sure I’m ready to process it just yet.
I think that may be the key to my lack of inspiration. As we jet across the world to different countries, cities and environments we have developed the ability to assimilate with great ease. Four weeks ago I ate with my hands, was fully immersed in Muslim culture and spent most of my time in some of the most impoverished parts of an Indian city, with people who speak a different language, have no concept of what living in the West is like and who live without running water, electricity, bathroom or a bed.
Now I am in Glasgow, drinking wine with good friends, eating in yummy organic cafes with my mum, making plans to move to London, and preparing for the epic Glastonbury adventure with the Bhopal Medical Appeal in a couple of weeks. And somehow it ALL seems normal. I am not having a hard time adjusting to life here where the environmental, economic and social climate is so drastically different to Bhopal. I think the only way this is possible is for body, mind and soul to close off a bit to the experiences that have ended, and open to the new ones that lie ahead. All of this makes me realise how difficult it is for the fundraising effort here in the UK to stay connected, involved and active in the lives of the people in Bhopal, and how much effort it takes to try to maintain the link between what is occurring in the UK and the impact of that on the people that we are committed to helping. It is no easy task, particularly when communication across countries is difficult and each side is supremely busy with what is happening around them on a daily basis.
Glastonbury will be a brilliant opportunity to get everyone talking about Bhopal. It is mindblowing to consider the impact that the Bhopal Medical Appeal’s presence at such a huge event will have on the Bhopal campaign, especially when I recall trying to get Shahnaz, the librarian at Sambhavna, to pronounce Glastonbury and explain to her that 200 THOUSAND people would be going to the festival after she asked me what BMA were planning to do at the music concert that 200 people would attend!!
The scale of such an event is probably incomprehensible to most of the people at Sambhavna, but to the Bhopal Medical Appeal it is the perfect platform to bring awareness of the ongoing issues of Bhopal to a huge audience, cast a great big spotlight on the negligence, abuse of power and disgraceful actions of Dow Chemical and hopefully get people thinking about environmental contamination as a global issue that affects all of us in many different ways. The link between Bhopal and Brighton, the Glastonbury Festival and those present in the Leftfield, the UK and the rest of the world, is in our compassion for fellow human beings, our belief in justice and in our ability to recognise the human spirit as something powerful that exists in all of us regardless of the country we live in, the God we believe in or the language we speak.
Glastonbury Festival will help spread the word and show people exactly why the situation in Bhopal should be important to all of us. Add into the mix some brilliant live music, a great big camping party, chai and chat and an enormous field and I think it should be a pretty incredible week. (No comments about mud, portaloos or rainy days please!!).