Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bhopal 2005. Rashida Bee's nieces apply mehendi (henna) on the palm of my hands.

Bhopali mehendi
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
The picture you see here is one of joy and warm hospitality. It was taken in September 2005; we were in the living room of the humble but cheerful home of Rashida Bee, Bhopal tragedy survivor and leading activist.

But things weren't always this happy in Bhopal.

bhopal 1984
On December 3, 1984, more than 27 tons of poisonous gases leaked from a storage tank at a Union Carbide pesticide factory into the heart of Bhopal city, immediately killing 8,000 people.

Since then, more than 20,000 deaths have been attributed to the disaster.

Survivors and their children continue to suffer long-term health effects ranging from cancer and tuberculosis to birth defects and chronic fevers. Multiple studies have found mercury, nickel and other toxins in the local groundwater and dangerous levels of toxins including lead in the breast milk of women who live near the factory zone.

"We are still finding children being born without lips, noses or ears. Sometimes complete hands are missing, and women have severe reproductive problems," according to Bee, who herself still suffers from respiratory and vision problems from gas exposure.

I decided to show here two contrasting pictures, because to me, today, 21 years later, Bhopal shows the world just how the human spirit can triumph over almost anything that life has to throw it.