Response to shooting in Orlando gay club that left 49 dead
I arrived in Gurguon, India a few days back to begin my internship with Asmara Group. While my project will deal with improving the sustainability of the Vietnam supply chain, I begin this journey in India for an introduction to Asmara and apparel manufacturing. It is my first time here, and so far it's been full-speed ride of my senses.
It's a particularly strange and difficult time to be an American right now. I think the last few months of political rhetoric around immigrants, people of color, and women -- and this week's shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead and at least that many injured -- have made me voracious to absorb and learn from a culture so different than my own.
My last factory visit of my training included a trip to Orient Craft's Chopanki unit. Orient Craft is India's largest garment manufacturer and the recipient of numerous sustainability and social compliance awards throughout the last five years. This particular unit reflected the company's heavy investment and dedication to building a business that benefited its people, community, and environment. It is also located in a region of India with a large Muslim population.
Upon entering the factory, I was given tilak, the ritual mark applied on the spot between the brows during a blessing or greeting, and caju katli (a sweet cashew chew covered in beautiful silver leaf). I was then taken to the gardens to plant a kadam tree. It was there that I learned that according to religious Hindu texts, when people plant trees and care for them, those trees are reborn as their children. Since a traditional burial uses nearly one tree, Hindus are bound to plant three trees on special occasions during their lives as a symbol of giving more life than they take.
I reflected on that pay-it-forward philosophy, one that is rarely adopted in the business world under pressure to meet next quarter's goals. I reflected on the shock, anger, and sorrow I had been feeling all day after learning about the Orlando shooting the night before. I reflected on the Muslim-American's experience and how this event, quickly labeled a terrorist attack, would impact that experience.
And after that reflection, I decided to dedicate my kadam tree to the forty-nine people in Orlando who lost their lives on Sunday night. This was my small way of showing hate that it CANNOT stop a humanity built on love. This tree is a symbol that those innocent forty-nine will be reborn through the ways each of us chooses to love and support one another in this life.
Sunday's act of violence was not Islamic and not representative of the Muslim community. It was a person acting in the name of Islam who does not practice the religion the same way many peaceful and kind people do around the world.
Solidarity, brothers and sisters. The light in me sees the light in you.