I have been living the London riots and the aftermath for a week now. I live in Enfield and I have personally witnessed my community unravel and I have personally experienced fear in my own home. My mother who lives in a small town in Himachal Pradesh, India has seen more of Enfield over the last few days than I could ever imagine; though unfortunately my mum with the rest of the world has got to see Enfield for all the wrong reasons.
There are many images that will stay with me from this week and I would like to start with the heart-warming picture of the Sikhs in Southall resplendent in their beautiful jewel coloured turbans protecting the Gudhwara on Tuesday evening. They looked intimidating and fearless and I wished I had them outside my front door in Enfield. Their message was simple and wholesome; saying they were asking the ‘brothers and the sisters to come together not for violence, but to protect the community’.
I would like to take you next to the speech and the images of the bereaved father in Birmingham...who lost his son...who was ruthlessly mowed down with two other young men early on Wednesday morning. Tariq Jahan made an eloquent and remarkable appeal for peace, just hours after trying in vain to revive his son. He said, “I don’t want there to be any more trouble, anyone getting hurt. My son died defending the community he lived in. Blacks, Asians, whites — we all live in the same community. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home, please.” His call for calm was heard and Birmingham was peaceful. Mr Jahan’s simple and powerful plea has been celebrated as a defining moment in the disturbances that have ripped across UK. The Prime Minister, David Cameron paid tribute to him on Thursday in his address at an emergency House of Commons session.
There are now countless stories of people doing amazing things to help rebuild the torn communities of London and help to put people’s lives together. It’s today’s London riot story that struck me because it shows very simply how kind people can be. The story is called Save Shiva’s Shop. Hackney featured some of the most devastating scenes of looting and violence. Local shopkeeper Siva Kandiah ran the Clarence Convenience Store for 11 years and had to watch as it was ransacked and destroyed, leaving him with nothing...no stock, no money in the till, and no store. Siva had buildings insurance, but not contents insurance, which means that he cannot replace his valuable stock. He has family, a wife and two girls. Overnight on Thursday a website appeal sprung up and in less than 24 hours has raised over £9,000 today (Friday). Mr Kandiah says, “I am grateful for everything people are doing. Their friendship has been so important to me. I do not have the words to describe how wonderful these people are...”
This last story has renewed my faith in humanity after a long week of whys and how’s...I just now want normality and things back to normal. Yet, am not sure what normal is anymore in truly broken Britain. Before we find normal again we need to find solutions; solutions right at the heart of our society. We need to make changes; we need to change attitudes and we need to start with ourselves. Like Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
Photo credit: David Kerr