US national Kia Scherr, who lost her daughter and husband in the 26/11 terror strike at The Trident, said the hanging of Kasab was like removing a thorn in Mumbai.” Now we can move on,” she told The Hindu on Wednesday.
She said what had happened was appropriate and it was a chapter that can now be closed. “I know there are people who say that this should have happened sooner but never mind,” she says. Secretly, she would have liked to see him apologise to the people of Mumbai and to the city.” But that’s a fantasy,” she admits. “I feel he should have been allowed to do some good before dying.”
Ms Scherr had written a letter to him, as part of her proposed book ‘Letter to a Terrorist’ and she was hoping to meet him and share the letter with him some day. That will now never come to pass. Every since the day she lost her two family members, Ms Scherr has turned her life around by working for peace.
Last week she was busy making plans for a commemorative event on November 25 and 26 in Mumbai, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the terror strike. And despite her loss she has been busy mobilizing support for peace the world over. “I was shocked to read that on the Global Peace Index India ranks 142 out of 158 countries. The US is placed at 88 and Canada is in the top ten,” she says.
Her peace initiatives led her to form the One Life Alliance Trust with the help of Gul Kripalani, the honorary consul for Iceland and others, “I am trying to make the Alliance practical and working out means to make it a peace building tool in real life,” she said.
What is opposite to an act of war or terror, she asks. “It’s an act of peace. We have to learn to live in peace, compassion and love and we have to slow down our lives. It’s important to listen to other people and your own inner voice. Forgiveness is a bridge to peace,” she points out.
Forgiveness is how she dealt with her loss due to the terror strike. “It has to do with ourselves whether we choose to hate or forgive. If I hadn’t forgiven, it would not have freed me up to do the things I want,” she says. Forgiveness is not about condoning anyone’s action but coming to terms with acceptance and choosing to live with compassion, she adds.
Kia and her family were part of a spiritual movement and led a quiet life in a meditation centre in Virginia, USA. Now she feels connected with Mumbai.” It’s an intimate connection, my family died here and its forever,” she says.
“I was a quiet reserved person, now I can’t sit still and I can’t leave the memory of my husband and daughter lying there under the table. My work for peace is survival for me,” she explains. Right now she wants to work on a curriculum for peace in schools and get students to take the 30-day pledge honoring the sacredness of life. A young student from Meerut, Avnit Kaur has become her first ambassador.
The One Life Alliance is working with schools in Mumbai and some schools are willing to take the pledge to honour the “sacredness of life.” There are activities that one can do everyday to become a better person and students are taking this up. The pledge will be a part of a 30-day programme focusing on a single aspect of life every day.
Working with students and schools is a major dream Ms Scherr has and on November 25 and 26, first year management students from Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research in Mumbai are helping her with organizing the events over two days. There is a “peaceathon” or a walk for Peace on Saturday followed up with events at the Gateway, with a children’s choir apart from a Global Peace Forum at Welingkar’s. “Things are reaching a nice momentum,” she says and a pledge for peace will also be taken at the Gateway of India.
Ms Scherr, 56, is also a popular speaker now at various events on adding values to education. Measuring the peace index in Mumbai has become a project for students at Welingkar. “Peace is not the absence of war, she says. “We have to work to raise India’s peace index.”
For Divya Kumar, a student at Welingkar, working on the 26/11 events is part “of our giving back to society. Its part of our social responsibility.” The Institute tied up with One Life Alliance to stand up for peace and non violence.
Krish Iyer, another student, is coordinating a research paper on Mumbai’s peace quotient by doing a citywide survey to come up with a peace index for Mumbai and a peace quotient for corporates.
The events this weekend are going to involve students, corporates, the fashion world and the terror strike survivors.
For these students it’s not just coordinating an event but it will be part of a two year programme to devise clever ways to market peace and dump terrorism, says Aditya Bhat.