„Since when are you interested in nature programmes?“ asked my husband as I flicked on ‚Planet Earth‘ on Netflix.
I shrugged and settled into watching baby polar bears climb out of hibernation after a long winter on the Arctic and the soothing voice of David Attenborough.
„Since when do you care about drinking bio-milk“, asked my husband with a raised eyebrow. I told him how I had only recently learnt of calves being dragged away from their mothers during feeding so that milk can be collected and the distress of both mother and calf during this process. Biologically friendly farms on the other hand, allow the calves to finish feeding as well as resting cows between pregnancies.
Since when did I become so emotional, I asked myself as I could barely stop tears welling up as I heard the story of a friend’s difficult delivery and the short separation from her newborn baby which she had to endure as the baby was kept on intensive care.
As cliche as it may sound, since becoming a mother is the simple answer to all these questions.
Since when did we care so much about the refugees from Syria and how our country responds to the ’swarms of migrants‘?
Since we saw the horrific picture of the lifeless body of a baby boy washed up on the shore. The message suddenly hit home to everyone. An image which spoke to every parent, every sibling, to every one of us.
I’ve been meaning to share the story of my family’s migration to the UK from India for a while. But that story seems inconsequential in comparison to the plight of refugees arriving daily on the shores and borders of Europe.
Because we were economic migrants. We weren’t driven away from India because it was torn by war, but chose instead to leave the relative comfort of our middle-class home, the love and warm embrace of our extended family and our place in society there.
My parents were pulled to the UK by the promise of postgraduate medical training, the chance to see and experience the land of Shakespeare and Wordsworth’s daffodils (my mother is a postgraduate of English literature) and the vague idea of providing something more for their children. Initially without the idea of settling there forever. But somehow they never left.
And part of the reason we never left, was because of the many English families who made us feel welcome. The pensioner friends who taught my father how to cook English casseroles, encouraged my young mother with her career and who introduced us children to the delights of childhood in the UK – from strawberry picking to Mayday parades and barn dancing to bell ringing.
These many acts of kindness shaped our future in a way we could not have known. It helped us to integrate into a new, western society without too much effort. And without a doubt contributed to our success here.
And the future of the many refugees and migrants who arrive today lies in our hands. Be it through donations or simply through the way we choose to interact with the new members of our society.
‚Blogger fuer Fluechtlinge‘ is one such initiative in Germany which channels the efforts of those who want to help in a direct way.
We should not however forget that there are very many ways to say welcome.