I woke up to a friend’s call checking up on me and my family at 2 am. I am instantly reminded of what my parents would say back in the days, “It is never good news when the phone rings in the middle of the night.”
The intuition wasn’t off mark. A series of events in Paris, strongly reminiscent of the Mumbai attacks in 2008, has left everyone in trauma. “A year that started with the Charlie Hebdo tragedy ends with a new, even more dramatic onslaught”, is how The Guardian is describing it, making us wonder if Hebdo was indeed a recce for the things to come.
My husband and I sat through the night discussing the vulnerabilities of liberal countries like France, and the impact this incident would have on immigrants. For obvious reasons, neither of us could sleep. It is a strange feeling to realise that it could easily have been us instead of them, if it was a different day, a different time. As we scoured the internet for scraps of updates, thinking of the families whose lives will change forever after tonight, and looking for any way that we could help, the Hashtag, #PorteOuverte popped up on our feeds.
Parisiens are using the hashtag #PorteOuverte, which means “open door,” to offer their homes as shelter to those who need a safe place to sleep. Due to the attacks, certain subway lines have been disrupted, and people are stranded at different pockets of the city, unable to get back home. There are taxis in the city that have put their meter down for tonight, and are plying people for free. There is the medical staff that has turned up to volunteer help, there is the city administration and city police trying to take control of the situation on the ground, and then there is the rest of the city, coming together to offer something more powerful than a prayer right now – the comfort of their homes.
For someone brought up on a healthy dose of “Don’t trust strangers”, and “Be careful who you invite to your homes” while growing up in India, leading up to horror stories of what happens when you ignore the advice, this hashtag is as much a lesson in contrary, as it is an impetus for us to act.
#PorteOuverte is the compassion and kindness of strangers at a time when it is needed the most. #PorteOuverte is an entire city, and its people, opening up its doors for people when there will soon be lobbying against immigrants and refugees and a specific religion, in response to this attack of terror. #PorteOuverte is a reassurance that out in the world that is so full of madness that people are killing each other for no reason at all, there are still others who are there to lend a helping hand, and a place of comfort, even if you are just afraid to be on your own on this dreadful night. And above all, #PorteOuverte is also the one simple definitive help all of us in the city can offer proactively before posting our thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.
First Published on Bayside Journal