Grey shades of tragedy

Tragedy manifests itself in various shades. It is grey, it is bla, it is pain, it is suffering, it is sadness, it is tears, it is screaming, it is helplessness, it is a world that will never be right again.

Today we remember and mourn the tragedy that occurred on 9.11.01. Thousands of people lost loved ones during this act of terror. Thousands more lost loved ones in the following months and even years in war and persecution. My own father was subject to severe racial profiling after the events of 9.11, from extra airport security to verbal abuse on the streets.

This too is tragedy.

But my father was lucky. Several others were incarcerated and physically and mentally abused for their beliefs, appearances, ties to certain family members, and other factors unbeknownst to both them and us.

Tragedy both creeps and leaps. Sometimes he is a cautious beetle, tentatively crawling onto our skin and latching on, burrowing deep. Sometimes he is a wiggling antenna of a leech, waving around until he finds blood, sucking with relish until he is painfully ripped off.

Tragedy blinds us to empathy. We are American. We are Indian. But rarely are we Human. We see our city ripped apart, our people hurt. We don't see the refugee camp where children search for missing parents.

I recognize the tragedy that occurred 13 years ago. I mourn it. I am deeply saddened by the lives lost, the tears, the pain, the fear of those trapped in a burning building. But I encourage us to see beyond our own pain, and acknowledge tragedy's many faces across the world. Cry for those. Pray for those. Take action against those. 

And so the sky cries

The roof of the house peeks out like a pointed speed bump on the otherwise still surface. A dog swims away from it, steadily paddling towards nothing. I cry out at the dog "you're going the wrong way, you won't make it!" It continues on its way, leaving ripples, a lazy arrow headed towards an unknown target. A child shouts, breaking my reverie. I quickly duck, narrowly avoiding collision with a worn soccer ball. The boy runs past me, skinny arms flailing, chasing down the ball as it bounces and skids on clumpy red clay. He brings the ball back to a group of eager children, throws it into a makeshift pitch, and the game proceeds. To his left the work painstakingly continues. Plywood boards being pounded together, tin roofs erected. Women sit in plastic chairs or crouch low over fires, the lucky ones, over propane burners. Dogs laze around, most of them foraging for scraps freely, some possessively tied to a flimsy home with a string. My toes feel gritty in sandals, the red clay has crept in, an unwelcome invader. The air feels too wet, it's going to rain again, they know it. The frenzy continues, pots stirred faster, boards nailed faster, even the pace of the soccer game picks up with the imminent storm as the people prep for yet another assault. I continue my trudge with a basket of rocks, and drop them at the beginning of a path between the "houses". I don't think we'll get the stones laid before the downpour begins. A man hastily approaches me, giving me a quick nod, his eyes weary, and we begin to place the rocks on the muddy road, hoping to create some semblance of a walkway between houses, and more importantly, hoping to prevent streams of red gulch creeping into the makeshift homes. We work tirelessly for what seems like hours before the rain beings to pound. The river swells. The dog is no longer to be seen. The men and women rush "inside". The children reluctantly follow with their parents' shouts. I let the rain pound down on me, despite the man's protests, feeling helpless in its triumph as it envelops me in a wet hug, swallowing us all in its greed.