A photo story to help end human trafficking in India

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Back in December, BollySpice interviewed Naomi Lloyd, author of fantasy/romance book series: “The Tandro Connections” and “Our Diamond Connections: a journey of diamonds and people.”

We last spoke to Naomi when she was just about to embark upon India to shoot a photo story high-lighting the lives of women who have been rescued from human trafficking through the charity, “YouCanFree.Us”.

In this interview Naomi describes what it was like doing the photo story and she shares with us the pearls of wisdom she picked up along the way. She also describes how her experiences in India gave her a new-found clarity: both as an author exploring themes of connections (in both of her upcoming books: “Our Diamond Connections: A journey of Diamonds and People” and her Fantasy/Romance book series, “The Tandro Connections”); and as a photographer and ambassador for the charity YouCanFree.US – working to end human trafficking.

How did your journey to India begin?
19th March 2016 was a day that did not appear to bear any significance at the time but would later reveal itself to be a significant turning point on my writing journey. I was sitting on a grassy bank, notebook in hand, earphones plugged into my iphone as I listened to songs on random shuffle, and I settled down to write a key part of Book Two. I was procrastinating slightly as I looked up at the birds in the trees above me and wrote a particular sentence over and over again.

I knew the writing needed to be emotional and to feel authentic to the reader because I was writing about Stefanie’s feelings of being disconnected both physically and emotionally when she arrived on Tandro (my fictional planet from The Tandro Connections book series). We have all experienced feeling disorientated when arriving in a foreign country after a long-haul flight but my character had arrived on another planet! I needed to dig a bit deeper than simple jet lag!

I remember closing my eyes and trying to imagine how she would experience this. That perhaps she would feel terribly alone; an alien amongst these “people” who all looked so similar to each other and yet so different from her; how far away she would realise she had taken herself away from her husband and children……and then the music changed! The unmistakable sound of Alanis Morissette’s voice boomed into my ear and I put my notebook down and listened to the lyrics carefully, before playing the song over and over again. I basically committed the song to BE an ear worm in my head and it hasn’t left me all year:

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

If you have never heard the song, I highly recommend that you look it up.

But If you had asked me, at the time, why I was so obsessed with listening to the song, I am not sure I could have explained. It just spoke to me and the energy I was trying to convey in my stories: that simple but hard truth, that life will always throw you challenges but the greatest one is learning to accept them as gifts that help you move forward; to find acceptance and to forgive your-self and those around you.

What I could never have imagined back in March 2016, as I sang along to the words, “Thank you India”, was that I would end up travelling to India at the end of the year; that going there would turn into one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced and that it would show me more than I could have hoped for: the light and the dark.

And as I returned home from India on December the 6th, in time to decorate the Christmas tree with my family, I was able to quietly hum along to my theme song of 2016 and both empathize with Alanis Morissette and understand why she had chosen to dedicate a song of gratitude to a whole country back in 1998. Whilst in India, I travelled both in company and alone: some days I was working with the team members of the charity YouCanFree.Us- a charity striving to end the evil of human trafficking – and other days I had to be brave and travel alone as part of my research into stories for “Our Diamond Connections” – a non fiction book I am also writing. The days I experi-enced with the charity were incredibly eye-opening, heart-breaking, uplifting and inspiring.

What did your work with the charity involve:
I spent one day photographing a beautiful group of girls who have been rescued from the prisons of the brothels and are now being cared for, educated and rehabilitated so they can re-emerge in to society as free young women no longer exploited, trapped and abused. The girls wel-comed me into their training centre with beaming smiles, keen to show me their art-work and happy to pose for photographs with their children who have been rescued with them. They threw their arms around each other and hugged each other tightly. There were obvious bonds of union be-tween these girls, formed in response to the terror they had all experienced and survived. They laughed with an innocent child-like sense of freedom as we walked around their gardens and they happily let me follow them with my camera.

They trusted me. They called me didi (sister) and they embraced being young girls who could en-joy receiving safe, invited attention as they danced around me, allowing the sun to shine through the thin material of their head-dresses as they twirled around. And I knew then that if there was ever a time to feel gratitude and faith then that was a day I will always hold on to. It was like seeing these girls releasing a light inside of them that had been trapped; an energy that had been zapped.

Thank you India.

But then there was the dark too. I also saw the girls that are still trapped, owned, exploited – slaves to evil- in their thousands. And this was hard. You cannot un-see what you have seen. But as the founder of the charity, Sujo John explained, when you see evil with your own eyes, it opens up a part of you that is moved to take action. It changes you but this can only be for the better if it will help others.
And for this, Thank You India.

What were the personal challenges for you?
The days on my own took me by surprise in another way. Navigating the safety boundaries in a country bustling with people wherever you looked, a relentless energy of cars honking and activity on the streets, but also a much higher level of danger for a woman on her own, was not an experience I wish to ever repeat. But it taught me valuable lessons: awareness of danger, of frailty, of reality. And yet by taking these risks I also made some inspirational connections that I would not have made without those challenges.

I heard rags to riches stories that make Hollywood look bland: about a thirteen year old boy from a deprived village who headed to the city with nothing more than two pieces of clothes and a head full of dreams and determination. A boy that turned his dreams into reality and now runs a diamond ex-port company with a annual turnover of 800 million dollars. A company that he runs under the mantra that their employees should only ever be referred to as family members . A place of business where everyone is treated like a human being and not a machine to make money and where the founder spends half his day dedicated to their social responsibility programme to give back to the communities around them


Is there a personal moment of realisation you would like to share?
I spent a wonderful hour talking to the Director of the Gemmology Institute in Mumbai about India, diamonds, tolerance and the strength of people when put under pressure. I will never forget the feeling of peace that washed over me as I listened to this calm and intelligent lady talk to me as she sat behind her imposing mahogany desk, Indian music playing in the background, and she said:

“A baby is born all fresh but it does not know how its brain works. But as you grow you acquire in-formation and you look around and decide how to apply it. How you apply it is what is important. You can start applying it and become a brilliant, sparkling human being ( like a rough diamond to a sparkling diamond). But then you can choose what to do with that brilliance. You can choose whether to keep that sparkle to yourself or whether to spread it around. Like you Naomi, you are a happy person and I can already think ‘ Oh I enjoyed meeting Naomi ‘ and by you being happy then my happiness level has gone up! So being brilliant and applying that you can spread that light around.”

Thank you India.

Thank you India, for giving me clarity. For when I returned from India, I sat down at my computer and pressed the delete button over four key words: “The Magic of Diamonds” – the original title of my diamond book. I immediately typed the replacement title: “Our Diamond Connections: A Journey of Diamonds and People.” A simple action; finally making the connection I was supposed to make!

It wasn’t a difficult change to make. A good writer friend of mine once advised me: “Writing is an organic process.” He was right! Directions do change on a writing journey and with this comes clarity.

I was, and still am on a journey, of understanding the scientific, historic and personal journey that diamonds can teach us: about human relationships, patience, pressure and how by creating strong connections with others we can reflect positive light back into dark corners of the world.

The clarity for me came in the form of a light bulb moment – something that often happens when you take yourself out of your comfort zone! The diamond lessons I have discovered are all connecting themes that run through each of the Tandro stories I am writing too: the bonds of family love; the different ways human weaknesses are exploited; and the dangers that lie within the ideals of perfection and power.

Why did you choose the name “Tandro”?
I chose the name Tandro due to the Sanskrit meaning of tantric: ‘woven together.’ The loom on which all things can be woven – and upon which are enhancements of balanced sexuality, creativity, power and the achievement of desired objects.

And as with Hindu and Buddhist practitioners, who believe in the weaving together of the spiritual and the physical, the way Hedler governs Tandro is linked to this metaphor: the Derados, the diamond-collared necklace that the people wear to exchange their energies with each other, is their attempt to weave together the physical and the spiritual in order to generate more energy.

But it is only when Tandro makes connections with people on Earth and experience the power of human emotions – the intense energy power that can only be derived from love- that the battle to achieve the supreme source of energy power begins.

The more I read about Tantric and its original meaning of a loom that gives support to the fabric – continuous or continuity in the sense of unbroken – it makes sense to me as to why I felt compelled to give the books their titles: The Tandro Connections and Our Diamond Connections.

It’s a perfect fit with what I now know about the parallelism between diamonds and people: the strongly bonded atomic structure that gives the diamond its strength and its light; just as people re-veal their light and strength when they are strongly connected with others.

What project is next for you?
I am now deep in research for my next chapter in “Our Diamond Connections” – titled: “Your True Colours” – an insight into the different diamond colours and how exploring this in more depth begins to tell a story; that each colour of a diamond has its own unique story. Just like each one of us has our own personal story; some people have more “colourful” stories than other people.

This research into coloured diamonds has proven invaluable for the story-line and design for the “The Derado”- the diamond-collared necklace all the Tandroists wear in the book series.
Because the connection between diamonds and Tandro are key.

I have been fortunate to make some great connections with world famous diamond specialists dur-ing my diamond research. Uwe Koetter, South Africa’s most awarded jeweler, is one of the crucial connections that I have made as their Head Designer, Johan Louw, designed the “Derado”, an im-portant necklace feature from the Tandro series.

For the Tandroists, their Derado is unique to them. The colour of the diamond they wear is matched to their unique aura so they can release their distinct energy aura mist.

The pink aura design to represent Stephanie’s character – as she has an unusually emotional au-ra. The collar is made from rose gold with niobium triangular inserts embedded within it. In Tandro, Stefanie is considered to be worthy of a pink diamond. This would be set within the eye of the pen-dant which she can then press to release her energy aura mist.

We are all attracted to different energies: experiences, music, people or places – and this is what makes us all so unique. What gives energy to one person can be draining to another; what makes one person run towards it can make another turn the opposite way.

Albert Einstein said: “Energy is Everything” and he was right – of course!

We need energy; we desire energy – it is everywhere and everything.

But if energy is everything it is also power! The Derados are a huge source of power to the people of Tandro because by wearing the right coloured diamond to reflect their aura they can exchange energy with others around them and absorb even more!

The question is what would make the perfect diamond colour for you?

Take the quiz to discover what your dominant diamond energy colour is and find out what coloured diamond your Derado would contain: http://www.tandro.co.uk/quiz

Find out more on how you can help end human trafficking here: http://youcanfree.us

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