Tuesday, February 21, 2012
She examined the small circular object in her palm, then slowly reached out and gently passed her fingers over her grandmother’s eyes...
The elders would be here soon to take the body away, there was nothing more to be done. All that needed to be said, had been said, as was the tradition of her people; the final stories had been told, the last of the wisdom passed down and the farewell gift had been given. She turned her back on the now empty shell and passed out into the night, strolling towards the nearby water she had frequently visited as a young girl.
She smiled at the idea that another young one would soon be playing there, creating new adventures out of sculpted sand. With her grandmother’s transition, the home that her parents had grown up in, her own home away from home, would now pass to another young family beginning their new life together; she lowered her head and gave silent thanks to the ways of her people, that even in death there was an offer of gifts to the living.
Strange she thought, as she sat on her favourite rock, that not so long ago the house would be... What was that word? Oh yes, ‘sold’ to the person who had the most ‘money’ to ‘pay’ for it, rather than be given to people who needed it. Those words seemed so foreign to her, even though she was well versed in the histories of her people and understood the concept of money , the words just did not seem to have a place in the world she had grown up in. She looked down again at the circle of metal in her palm, amused that such a rare and unique object had been passed down to her. Her grandmother had explained that once, long ago, they were very common, although most had shiny, polished stones instead of the plain pebble that jutted out from the top of this band, so even back then, this particular piece was special. Imagine, making ornaments out of polished minerals dug from the earth, and wearing them as symbols of... Oh yes, right, they called it ‘wealth’. She giggled at the idea, such concepts, she mused, were barbaric. Was not everyone wealthy? Did the world in which they lived not provide for all?
During the final days before the transition, she had sat with her grandmother, as was the custom of the times, to share stories, ideas and dreams... It was during this time of bonding that her Grandmother had given her the ‘ring’ and told her the story of its origin.
It was a common custom back then for families to gather to celebrate the date of a person’s birth and it had been at one of these feasts that her grandmother’s future had been determined. Although at the time, the practice of formally asking a father for his daughters hand in marriage was outdated, her grandfather had insisted on making the request before announcing the engagement. During the meal he rose from his seat to make his intentions known. Initially, there was much celebration and immediate approval of the union but when he, only moments later, presented his betrothed with the expected symbol of commitment, silence had descended. Her family, having come from a long line of rich and powerful people, were shocked at the obvious disregard for what they considered to be an important element of the ‘promise of forever’, for there, perched on a golden band sat, not the expected display of wealth, but rather a small, rough, unpolished stone... Her father was furious, until the young man, confident in the message of love that his gift represented, slowly and deliberately began to reveal the meaning of the rock.
He explained that many years ago, when he was young child of the age of six, he and his family had lived comfortably in India. His father had been a well paid book keeper for a local Diamond mine in Krishna and for years had done his job, content in his ability to provide generously for his family, without any consideration as to where the diamonds were coming from. Then in the year of 1994, he accidently discovered a discrepancy in the finances of the company and in the process of trying to clear up the odd miscalculation, stumbled upon a disturbing truth. Many of the stones that were being sold by the company were in fact being smuggled in from South Africa; referred to at the time as ‘blood diamonds’ for the fact that they were mined by slaves, the discovery had serious ethical implications. Knowing that his own people had for years been working in unacceptable conditions, underpaid and unable to provide for their families, the morality of his position within the company hit him and he realized he had a choice to make; he could do something about it, if only he could find the courage. Torn between guilt and fear for his own safety and that of his loved ones, he nevertheless sought to dig up as much information as possible. Eventually, with the help of some cousins who were working as cutters in the nearby factory, he managed to hatch a plan of escape. Smuggling a few small diamonds and a wealth of information out of the country was not an easy task. By some miracle the family, having left everything behind except for what they could carry, made their way East across the country to the coast, then travelled up the coast to Pakistan. There, they used the stolen diamonds to buy passage to Canada where they sought refuge in exchange for information.
The small stone, he revealed, came from the yard of their house in India, the only piece of his homeland that he still had in his possession. He had carried it with him, a symbol of all that was good and true about the human heart, a symbol, he said, of freedom. As his eyes shone with unshed tears, he placed the ring on his beloved’s finger, proclaiming to the family that it was the most pure symbol of love that he could offer.
The mood in the room had become subdued, but there was a peaceful feeling of love and acceptance that flowed from the family towards the young man that night and as the evening wore on, some had the courage to begin to ask questions. Long into the night he shared his journey and its outcome with the family. A bond was made that night that would never be broken.
The family learned that it had taken the government a long time to act, and it was years before any kind of serious move was made to stop the torture and abuse of helpless innocents in the name of procuring precious gems. Finally in 2007, the U.N. revealed the results of years of investigation into the diamond trade. The call was put out to governments around the world to intervene on behalf of the slaves; in time diamond smuggling and slavery was abolished but it had taken the sacrifice of thousands of lives and years of civil unrest and war.
In the years to follow a slowly growing awareness had spread across the globe, and over time, people united, with one voice, tossing divisions and petty differences aside. A world wide movement was launched, and seemingly without any kind of leadership, grew into a unified show of solidarity that brought strangers from around the world into alignment with one another. A new age of peace was born.
It was now known as the global shift in consciousness and was accepted as one of the most remarkable times in human history, a defining moment where mankind stood together, after thousands of years of murder, war, starvation and suffering and declared with one voice that they would kill no more. Her grandparents had been there, they had lived during those times, had fought for the freedom of their people and had celebrated with their people on the day when the wars ended and the battle had been won.
That had been 200 years ago; as part of their new found freedom, her people had rediscovered the value of natural foods and had begun to exchange ancient knowledge that had for many years been hidden from the people because of their inability to communicate openly. People grew strong and healthy as the chemicals left their bodies, the balance was restored and life expectancy increased dramatically. There was much that needed to be re-built and there was much joy to be found in the co-creation of a new unified world.
She grinned at the ring as she slipped it on her finger, reflecting on how honoured she was to possess such a rare treasure; a stone that symbolized the hard won freedom of her people, humans, who had finally found the peace they had so long been seeking.
Jean Victoria Norloch