Mediterranean Toxics-Free Tour crew update 3

Ship's cook reports on meeting Bhopal survivor

Feature story - 12 November, 2002
Rossano, a cook on the MV Esperanza, tells about his moving experience of meeting with a survivor of the Bhopal disaster during the ship's stop in France.

Rossano, a cook on the MV Esperanza for the Mediterranean Toxics-Free Tour

There are a few things that make my experience of sailing around with Greenpeace extremely precious to me: the vastness of the sea, soothing my soul and heart; the natural life which surrounds us, with its wonders... and the beauty of the people I encounter along the way, paths that cross unexpectedly.

I meet Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Victims Women Stationery Union, the first time by chance in front of Sete railway station, a small tourist town in Languedoc, France, where the Esperanza is harboured. She strolls along with a heavy bag, together with Doctor Quaisser, involved too in campaigning on behalf of the victims of the Bhopal tragedy, and a few French volunteers. I offer her to carry her bag, but she does not speak, nor comprehend, any English. When I ask someone to translate my offer to her, he replies "Well, if you can convince her to allow you to do such a thing..."

The next day she and the Doctor are to be guests of honour in an on-board press conference about Bhopal and the environmental crimes of multinational companies.

She gives the crew a first taste about her experiences. She was in Bhopal when her life on earth turned to a nightmarish hell. She has witnessed so much pain and death, and she has lost six members of her family. Six members of her family, as simple as that. What would I have done, being in her place? How would have I reacted? How much hatred would have filled my heart, blinded my soul, with desperation engulfing me till I choked?

But I see no hatred or desperation in the eyes and features of this woman. As she speaks to us with her calm, low voice, there is only an amazingly deep dignity and firmness. I feel the power and energy that she emanates. I am full of love and admiration and compassion for this person. Oh, Rashida, what an invaluable lesson you have given me! Humbled, I ask myself: Who am I, a "Rainbow Warrior" (how ridiculous and pompous), compared to her?

She thanks us for helping her in her struggle. I go to her and let someone tell her that it will be the highest honour to fight in her name. Her eyes are on me, as to estimate me, and then she thanks me with a smile. It will be our only way to communicate in the next hours, through our eyes, but I feel we are able to share more in this way than by talking.

Thanks to her I know again why I am here and why I am on board of this ship. I am here to take my responsibility for my contribution to the mess that our society causes this world. In the name of consumerism, we are cutting down entire forests, sucking the seas empty, bombing countries... and gassing to death a few thousand people in India.

I know why I am here and I am aware of my commitment, and of the powers awaiting me out there, ready to crush me. I don't say it thinking of being a hero, or with pride, but with humbleness and awareness of the horror of what the future could be. It is worth trying. You teach me that Rashida.