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Times News Network / Peace: The Lee way [ May 13 2003 ]

It takes ovaries! The one-liner group that she supports among many others best defines Lee-Alison Sibley, for it takes guts (or ovaries in case you give it a gender tilt) to be singing songs on peace in times of war.

At first glance she looks frail, almost nymph like with her head of auburn curls and delicately etched features. But that impression goes out the door when she begins to speak. The lady who calls herself the ‘Guardian Angel of Kolkata’ admits its not easy being the wife of the American Consul General, especially in current times.

Peace marches, anti-war protests and women’s liberation have been issues close to her heart since she was a child. Lee has walked with Martin Luther King when she went to hear the famous African American leader give his moving speech “I have a dream...that all people one day will be free,” and it is that anthem for peace and liberty that is echoed in her songs. Not just King but the tenets of Mahatma Gandhi have played a major influence in her life and she upholds his ideal of offering peaceful resistance to situations. “I am pro-peace, a woman who will always stand for it and will continue to believe in peaceful solutions to all problems. I love my country very much.”

Her affair with India spans several decades. Ask her what she likes and she merrily retorts —”You want the long list or the short list? I love the old and young feel of the country that has roots going back several thousand centuries and still is as global and as new in its approach as any other. I love the music, the art, dance, textiles, crafts, the people, the epics. I have taught the Mahabharata and I just love the country. It is so warm.”

This mother of two sons aged 24 and 20 is proud to say her children are global citizens and relate to people not by virtue of their colour, nationality or ethnicity. “My children used to play hide and seek in Fatehpur Sikri where we often went on weekend trips from Delhi and have strong bonds with India,” says Lee.

An avid pupil of Gurudev’s poetry, Lee, a masters in classical music from the Manhattan School of Music, has learnt Rabindrasangeet under her guru Pramita Mullick in Kolkata and loves the Gitanjali. “I thought it was a love poem and recited it as such to my husband, George. It was only later that I learnt it was a devotional prayer eulogising the joy of singing to the Lord. I find it beautiful.”

Her work takes her cause a step further. “Poverty is not new to me but it is always disturbing. I see it as my duty to do what I can as a human being to end it. I often assess needs and match the same with a donor, very often it is my mother who steps in— I help and support five NGOs working with children and the underpriviliged in Kolkata,” she says.

Lee attributes her drive to her unusual upbringing. “I was taught to love all human beings and not hate anyone.” It is perhaps that which gives her the courage to stand up and look a wrong in the face, confront and attempt to rectify it.