Meena Menon, The Hindu: Thirteen-year-old Naomi Scherr was to write an essay on her trip, an educational experience to India. She was seeking admission to a girls’ boarding school and this essay would have been part of her application. But Naomi and her father Alan, who lived near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, United States, were killed in the 26/11 terror attack on the Trident Hotel here.
Alan Scherr, a former art professor, had come to Mumbai in June 2008 to scout a retreat for members of Synchronicity Foundation, a spiritual organisation. The group rate offered at Trident had worked out best, and so they were at the hotel at the time of the attack. Alan’s wife, Kia Scherr, 54, in an interview to The Hindu, points out: “A month after my husband was here in June, David Headley too was in Mumbai, scouting locations — such extremes in polarities.”
Counter to terrorism
For Kia, the loss of her daughter and husband is irreplaceable but two years on, she has gone ahead to become co-founder of the One Life Alliance, which will train youth to appreciate the sacredness of life and act as a counter to terrorism. She has been in Mumbai since September and will be here till January next to foster her organisation.
A mission of love
Unlike Synchronicity Foundation, which focuses on meditation, the One Life Alliance is the response of love to an act of terror. “I am not here to teach meditation,” says Kia. The mission of her group is to inspire, encourage and honour the oneness and sacredness of life. After the tragedy, she got thousands of responses from all over the world.
“This shows that as a human race we are connected and we value life. Life itself is sacred. These are the times which require us to be on the move and we are committed to honouring the sacredness of life in ourselves and in each other. Our success as human beings is measured by how we interact with each other,” she explains.
Spirit of Gandhi
“Be the experience you want to see. It’s time to bring back Mahatma Gandhi’s saying — be the change you want to see.” She recalls that as a 15 year-old in her social studies class she was asked to choose a topic and a map to go along with it.
“I was attracted to Gandhi then and I chose him as a topic, drew a map of India and tracked his journey.” The spirit of Gandhi is guiding us now, she says with a smile.
The One Life Alliance is developing sacredness of life education and training programmes.
“How do we honour each other, listen and communicate with each other? Conflicts will have to be resolved in a peaceful manner. We also want to bring together people from conflicting countries apart from creating an online global community.” She met U.S. President Barack Obama at the Taj Mahal hotel during his Mumbai visit.
A waiting grandson
Rahi Gaikwad reports:
Little Harsh was only four when his grandfather Assistant Sub-Inspector Tukaram Ombale was shot dead as he tried to overpower Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab during the 26/11 attack. Two years later, Harsh, now six, still believes his beloved grandfather, to whom he was deeply attached, will return any day.
“Whenever we speak of the incident, or when mother gets very emotional, Harsh says, ‘baba [grandpa] is there; he will come.’ He thinks he is going to come from somewhere. That father has gone out and it’s taking long. He expects him,” Ombale’s daughter Vaishali Ombale told The Hindu.
Ombale has four daughters — Pavitra, Vandana, Vaishali and Bharati. Harsh is Pavitra’s son. “He comes over from my sister’s place quite often as only his presence brings the house alive,” said Vaishali. Ombale would shower gifts on his doting grandson and listen to his prattle on the phone. Since 26/11, that call has stopped, but Harsh still imagines he is answering his call. “He would pick up the receiver and speak into it as if he is having a conversation with father,” Vaishali said.
As time has passed, there are some indications that perhaps Harsh accepts that his grandfather is not coming back. “For Diwali, father would buy him clothes and crackers. We do all that for Harsh, but this Diwali he refused. He said, since baba is not there, let’s not do anything.”
Time has not lifted the pall on the household. Vaishali said she was doing her training through correspondence as she must look after the house. Her mother, who was so shaken after the loss, “is doing better,” she said.