thanks for the heads up clymène. I haven't checked her site in a while so its a pleasant surprise.
Queen Rania frequently writes such messages on her website (ie. during Ramadan, after the terrorist attacks last year). I personally love this idea of her communicating directly with everyone.
Since this latest message will only be on the website for a short while, Im posting it here:
A WORD FROM
Recently, I was fortunate to visit India, Delhi specifically, for the first time. I would like to share my first impressions of this amazing and expansive city with you.
India is a vast country…almost a billion people live there. Let me put that in context … Jordan’s entire population could fit into Delhi!
I arrived in the late afternoon…all my senses instantly alert to the cacophony of sights, smells and sounds of a city which was, by then, bathed in a warm, soft apricot haze. It was the end of the day, but the streets were teeming with life. Old and new cultures merged effortlessly. Modern, fast cars, the latest models, slowed to make way for the sacred water buffalo that dreamily roamed the streets; auto rickshaws scooted alongside their more traditional counterparts, and motorcycles zipped in and out of them all, like bees. There is an energy and buzz about this vibrant city.
Lush greenery flanked the roads; leafy canopies provided shelter for pedestrians (and troops of curious monkeys) who ranged from sharp suited businessmen doing deals on their cell phones, to dhoti
clad street vendors selling green palm juice – a welcome refreshment in the balmy air.
The first signs of Spring were everywhere…from the fuscia bougainvillea cascading over walls and weaving through branches, to the elegant khrishnapuri tree…a bare tree, with seemingly bald branches… until right at the very end of the branch, an explosion of color burst forth, attesting proudly to the life pulsing through its veins.
As we made our way to the hotel, the majestic silhouettes of India’s parliament buildings loomed elegantly and, in the distance, the defining arch and eternal flame of India Gate (a memorial to the Indian soldiers killed in World War I) framed the evening sky.
If this was just my journey to the hotel, what wonders did tomorrow have in store?
Light showers overnight meant a cooler morning, a welcome change to the previous evening. I was grateful; we had a busy day ahead.
We set off to the KusumPahari district, one of Delhi’s most disadvantaged areas, home to some 130,000 people. As we moved through the narrow alleyways, I was greeted with the brightest smiles and most graceful namastes
. Between the industriousness of the street barbers, the shopkeepers stacking his shelves and women hanging out washing, there was a real sense of purpose and vibrancy in this little community.
In places like Kusum Pahari, many families are so poor that they need their children to work and earn money. That means the children, sadly, often have to drop out of school. The Ritanjali Learning Center, in the heart of this community, is trying to remedy thatwitha combination of courses, compromise and commitment. Serving about 150 students, the dedicated and innovative volunteer teachers cater for youngsters and adolescents alike. And they really do provide something for everyone.
I was honored to light a diya
lamp and offer my blessings for continued success before entering the learning center. I joined a class of bright and eager pre-schoolers learning subtraction, and then I watched an art class in action. The aim of these ‘catch-up’ classes is that the students can be reintegrated into mainstream schooling and complete their school certificates.
Downstairs, I chatted with some teenage girls who were totally absorbed in vocational training classes. They were learning hair-braiding, manicures, embroidery and henna painting…the tools of any good beautician. Nearly at the end of their six month course, some of the girls told me they were already working in malls, bringing home money for their families. It was a win-win situation: they learned new skills, they gained independence, they generated their own income. How proud I felt of these young, strong, determined women.
Later in the day, the pace slowed and I was honored to visit The Raj Ghat
, the last resting place of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The memorial stone is a simple square platform made of black stone – emblematic of the humility and simplicity with which he led his life.
With 25 million babies born annually in India, ensuring they all have a safe and healthy start to life is a considerable challenge. This morning, I visited the Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital, one of India’s oldest and most prolific vaccination strongholds. At 50 years old, with some 900,000 patients a year, and only basic resources at hand…the hospital is not without its challenges. The wards are small and the demand is high, but good will abounds, and the staff’s tireless professionalism, compassion and commitment means that everyone is given the best care possible.
I was given a fascinating insight into the busy lives of the doctors, nurses and administrators as they strive to dispense life-saving vaccines to India’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. As a mother of four young children, and a member of the GAVI Fund, I know how effective this simple interventionist medicine can be. And so does the Indian government. Thanks to their responsible vaccination program and its comprehensive coverage, last year only 66 cases of polio were reported. In a country numbering a billion people, that is a remarkable achievement.
In my conversation with the parents of 4 month old baby, Snetha, to whom I gave some polio drops, they expressed their appreciation of the care and medication they were receiving. Like parents anywhere, they wanted the best possible start to life for their baby. Judging by Snetha’s healthy glow and alert eyes, I had no doubt that she had received it, and would continue to blossom.
And with that, my short but, memorable, trip ended. My experiences have certainly whetted my appetite to explore India further, and I am very much looking forward to a return visit in the not-to-distant future. To those of you who haven’t visited India, I encourage you to go…not just for the culture, color, and cuisine, but for the warmth, hospitality and graciousness of the Indian people.