BLOG

The Inspiration Behind PRISE

KATHMANDU 1991

Written at the Shangri-La Hotel by Amanda Roberts

A dedication to the poor.

GRINDING POVERTY

A thousand images dance before my eyes- as the Goddess Shiva weaves her inexorable karmic web.

An onslaught of sensations, assault and smother.

Too much to feel, see, experience and grasp.

The heavy, moist air settles on my shoulders like a clammy blanket.

Flies buzz and circle angrily as they attempt to find my nostrils.

The air is cloaked in a heavy stench of sewage, the odor of caked blood, old fruit skins, paper, rice, dog waste and mud.

The burden of Life is so evident in these brutal and ruthless images of suffering.

A deeply troubled Mother helplessly rocks her wailing infant as she fruitlessly tries to soothe her wailing infant. He moans from a gut splitting belly ache. She wonders frantically if he may die as two of his brothers have before him. Her large brown eyes stare wildly into the distance and she mutters a prayer…….

Goats’ heads are nailed to the door of a butcher shop as the smell of slaughtered meat smothers my nostrils in a display of Man’s vicious and callous ways. A sari'd woman with bloodied arms repetitively slices through mountains of purple flesh and fat with a cookery knife.

An old mangled brown woman, haggard and dust torn staggers under a backbreaking load bent over, half-breathing, barefooted, her hands gnarled and calloused. Her sinewed, drawn face has suffered a billion deaths and labored through a million births. What does that soul see, feel and fear? How does she hope for and dream?

Our eyes meet, mine moss green, hers dark brown. Four eyes merge for a second, an eon in time.

A door opens, the light beckons an ancient song resumes….

The taxis cabs hoot incessantly, the heat is stifling and I, with my Western swagger and arrogant gaze eavesdrop like an unwanted peeping Tom on these scenes of grime and pain. What twist of fate placed ME in the lap of luxury instead of my brothers and sisters? Why?

Why should I, with my clean white skin, fussy red hair and frivolous woes be so privileged? What deeds earned me my comparatively carefree life? I wallow in my self-indulgent guilt as my lily, white feet tip toe through the filthy stones, my back gnawing at me like one of the ever present stray dogs.

How fascinating, I say, I try to distance myself from my horror and disgust. And yet I know, there is no opportunity to hide here from the stark reality of these tragic lives.

Shiva’s relentless grimace is everywhere as she turns yet another arm over and over marching through Time with no acknowledgement of the ghastliness she bestows on all in her path.

Not cruel, just unyielding-her terrible neutrality and indifference are non-negotiable. An endless tide that is unstoppable.

Every second is a birth and a death-within a molecule and a universe simultaneously. How magnificent and yet unfathomable.

Each second a beginning and an end…..

What right do I have to be so insolently “observing the culture” as if learning absolves me of my crime of objectifying my surroundings? How do I make sense of myself in this soup of suffering?

The answer unbeknownst to me came two decades later in the form of PRISE, a gift to the world and especially the poor who never had a chance.