Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oh! Come All Ye Faithful...

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!…

I remember well this hymn, What A Friend We Have In Jesus very well as we all sang it loudly right from our belly, as our music teacher, Miss Valent, rehearsed the song with us over and over again, in end November, just before we left for the winter holidays on 10th December, in Shillong. A small Christmas party would happen in the Dining room with lots of good food and gifts. As boarders, we were always excited and hungry for the food and we sang as loud as we could, almost till our lungs burst.

Hence, on my visit to Shimla this October, on attending the Sunday Mass at 9 am, I could hardly hold my tears as the memories and faces from the past flooded my mind as I sang with the Choir Group there, sitting right in front of me….

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!…
Indeed, the first cornerstone of Christ Church was laid on 9 September, 1844 and the Church consecrated by Bishop Wilson of Calcutta on 10 January, 1857. The letters on the cornerstone was legible till the early twentieth century when it became indistinguishable from the masonry. Col. J T Boileau built the Church of stone and brick in lime mortar with neo-Gothic elements. This was the first 'proper' Church in Shimla. Before that, the Church service was held in a thatched building on the Northbrook Terrace, on The Mall near the Telegraph Office.

This has a nave, chancel and tower. The stained glass windows over the alter and the clock were both placed in 1860. The floor has a centre aisle flanked by pews and the two sides aisles again flanked by pews. Heavy snows in 1961 caused extensive damage to the building and the pinnacles running along its length were dismantled. Even today the Church has some interesting memorial tablets while the pews still mark the seats of the British Viceroy of India and The Commander-In-Chief.
Sunday service only: English 9 am; Hindi 11 am

Sunday Band outside the church
> State Central Library, Shimla
And those who watch the Sunday Band....

To each his own

October Shimla
Fun times at The Mall
Way to the house where Tagore stayed in Shimla

The house where Tagore stayed for eight months

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blood on the Tracks

Why are you crying Bombay?

When your own sons
Bathe your body in blood
And hack your reputation
With violence and intolerance
And slice your spirit
With their local abusive tongues
And wish finally to christen your name
With appalling words
Like the Raj Thakeray
Or ghastlier ones
Like Bal Thakeray?

Why are you crying Bombay?

Your sons have set a precedent
They have raped your virgin beauty
Your open heart
Your enormous capacity
To hold and to love
Many sons and daughters
From across this land and overseas
Who nestle at your breast.

They have turned the Queen’s Necklace
You wear at twilight
Into a garland of beheaded men
And burnt alive your faith
In being the home to
Multilingual, multicultural, multi-religious groups.

It is they who have shown you
The face of terror – First
And set the stage
For others to replicate.

Those you call
Your “sons of the soil”
Have defecated on your face
Their undigested, rotten, foul-smelling soil
Of deep-seated animosity, anger, hatred
And poverty of their soul.

So why are you crying Bombay?
At what started on the 26th day of November, 2008
And went on for three long days
When your own sons
Bathe your body in blood
And hack your reputation
With violence and intolerance?

It was only the epitome
Of what began many years ago
When the first lady Prime Minister of India
Created for her own reasons of insecurities
A Frankenstein in your soil
Out of your own soil?

It is only an aftermath
Of heinous acts of crime
Made in the name of
Amchi Maharastra; Amchi manas!

Why are you crying Bombay?
When those who raped you first
Are silent today?

Pix:Street Life of Bombay

Moshe Holtzberg, the two-year-old orphan of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivika Holtzberg, who died in the Mumbai attack, sobs during a memorial service at a synagogue in Mumbai on Monday. The child calmed down after he was allowed to play. The boy and the nanny who saved him will fly to Israel in a military aircraft. (AP picture) - Courtsey The Telegraph

Friday, November 14, 2008

Choking To Death

A study conducted by the team drawn from research centres in Asia including India and China, Europe and the United States, announced their latest and most detailed assessment of the phenomenon.

Asian cities from New Delhi to Beijing are getting darker, glaciers on the mighty Himalayas are melting faster and weather system is getting more extreme, a United Nations study has warned.

Brown clouds of pollution are hanging over Asia, making "cities from Beijing to New Delhi" darker, melting glaciers in ranges like the Himalayas faster and turning weather systems more extreme, the UN said today.

Formed as a result of burning of fossil fuels and biomass, the Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs), made of soot and other manmade particles, are more than three km-thick, said a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The layer that stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to China and the western Pacific Ocean, are in some cases and regions aggravating the impacts of greenhouse gas-induced climate change, a team of experts drawn from research centres in Asia, including China and India, said.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UNEP, said: "I expect the Atmospheric Brown Cloud to be now firmly on the international community's radar as a result of today's report".

The five regional hotspots for ABCs identified in the report includes the Indo-Gangetic plains in South Asia from the northwest and northeast regions of eastern Pakistan across India to Bangladesh and Myanmar, the UNEP said in a press statement.

New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai feature in the list of 13 megacities where ABCs are reducing the sunlight hitting the Earth's surface, making the cities "darker or dimmer".

In her private communication with me Anjuli Pandit, Project Manager, The Climate Project India, was kind enough to send me one of the most commonly used images when discussing Climate Change's impacts on the Tibetan and Himalayan glaciers. It shows the rapid decline of the Gongotri since 1935 especially.” We can say that on average Himalayan glaciers are receding at the rate of 10-15 meters per year. “

"The rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers will first increase the volume of water in rivers, causing widespread flooding. But in a few decades this situation will change and the water level in riverls will declie, meaning massive eco and environmental problems for people in Western China, Nepal and Northern India." - Jennifer Morgan Director of WWF Global Climate Change Programme. .

We have reasons to be alarmed. Glacial Lake Outburst floods (GLOF) is common in many parts of the Himalaya region, because the glaciers are melting and form a lake. At some point the lakes outburst and create huge floods which have devastating results on the human, flora and fauna lives as well as the ecosystem.

Global warming is not a myth. Nor is it a myth that climate change is not going to affect all areas in the world especially wherever there are mountains the most. India and China are high risk aeras.

We have to act immediately. We cannot change the damage that has already been done by first world countries. We can only arrest further distruction of earth, its life and the beautify around.

We need to act NOW!


Good News: ‘Air New Zealand to trial biofuel in December
Wellington, Nov 14 (AFP) Air New Zealand said it will conduct its first trial of biofuel on one of its Boeing 747 aircraft on a flight next month.

The airline said this week the biofuel will include 50 per cent standard jet fuel and synthetic fuel made from the oil from seeds of the jatropha plant.

Air New Zealand's chief pilot David Morgan said the two-hour test flight would be held on December 3 with the jatropha blend fuelling one of the four engines.

"Various procedures will be carried out during the test flight to confirm and measure the performance of the engine being operated with this fuel," Morgan said in a statement.
Rolls-Royce fuels specialist Chris Lewis said the properties of the fuel would be virtually indistinguishable from conventional fuel.

The jatropha oil will come from plants grown in east Africa and Air New Zealand said they could be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas.
The test flight is a joint venture between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, a Honeywell company, and the airline said it was part of efforts to make commercial aviation more sustainable, amid climate change fears.

British-based Virgin Atlantic became the first airline to trial a biofuel in February on a flight between London and Amsterdam, using a blend including coconut oil and babassu nut oil.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Twin Story: Poverty & Hunger

In a recent email I received a few days ago, the following message circulated over continents.

Title: Food They Bought For One Week And The Number Of Persons In The Family


The Melander family of Bargteheide - 2 adults, 2 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

The Revis family of North Carolina - 2 adults, 2 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98

The Ukita family of Kodaira City - 2 adults, 2 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25

The Manzo family of Sicily - 2 adults, 3 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

The Casales family of Cuernavaca - 2 adults, 3 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna - 4 adults, 1 teenager
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

The Ahmed family of Cairo - 7 adults, 5 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

The Ayme family of Tingo - 4 adults, 5 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village - 7 adults, 6 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp - 3 adults, 3 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

And they of course forgot India. For that please refer to Amrita

The point I am trying to make here is poverty and hunger go hand in hand and just as poverty is created by lack of education and opportunity, hunger its true sister is just a shadow of poverty.

In his article Hunger: Old torments and new blunders in The Little Magazine (Volume II, issue 6) Prof Amartya Sen says, that if all the food in the world were to be stacked together in gunny bags, the breath of these bags would go around the world and up to the moon, six times over!

So where is the food. It is in the rich mans plate, the first world’s greed and the merchants hoarding to keep price up or in the sea to keep the hunger going in the world and the prices upwardly mobile. So only the rich can eat and the teaming millions die, for want of food, clothing, education, jobs and medical care.

In India, the story is not far from this truth. The teaming grotesquely obese populace live in disturbingly close distance from the ones who do not have two proper meals a day.

Yet, in India, there is something that perhaps is absent in many other parts in the world.

Even the poor have not lost their smile! Because, even the most desparate may crib and cry, curse the gods at one moment, but in the next they are still keeping the health and the smile on their faces, because they are not spiritually bankrupt as well.

And this makes us survive the worst yet.

Last, but not the least, in India we are facing another kind of poverty which can be defined in these words - Life is...'leaving the house in the morning for work, dressed in clothes that you bought on credit card, driving through the traffic in a car that you are still paying for, filling petrol that you cannot afford. All this to get to the job that you hate but need it so badly so that you can pay for the clothes, car, petro and the house that you leave empty the whole day"

Ref: Hunger: Old Torments, new blunders

MUST READ: On BBC High Food Costs A Global Burden

Also: Malnutrition Getting Worse In India

Photo credit:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Can The Real Hindu, Please Stand Up

My maternal grandfather, a mathematician and scholar was a very orthodox Hindu. In his house, he observed all the rituals and restrictions of a Brahmin although he was caste “boddi”, whatever that means. In his home he had many visitors coming from all walks of life, but there was a simple rule to be followed – guests from other castes, Muslims and Christians would be entertained in the common varandah just outside the drawing room and would be entertained with tea and biscuits or sweetmeat, offered in cups and plates which were meant for only guests of different caste. These crockery had their own place, in a mid-safe, not the same as where the other crockery were placed. They would also be washed outside the house and not brought inside. Apart from this, there were many other staunch restrictions observed in the house, which were very Brahmin-like.

So am I to call him a proud Hindu? Alas! He would have shuddered to hear what I have preferred to call him – a moron! Thankfully, none of his children, of whom my mother was one, followed in his footsteps.

We have gradually let ourselves forget, who a real Hindu is. It is not in the practice, the rituals and the mantras which make a Hindu. It is a way of life, a tolerance and a Philosophy, which makes Hindus what they are.

It is not the saffron colour, the japas and the mantras, the tikka, and the orange lungi, which make for a Hindu. In fact, as often as we like to reinterate this fact, that many times it is truth – the real Hindu, does not need to dress in a certain way, not follow certain rituals to prove that he is one, not carry trishul and a lota , to say he is a sannyasi. Or a householder. He has to just follow a way of life, where he respects all religions and is tolerant of all. In fact, that has been his greatest strength, that no matter how many psunamis he faced in the hands of men of other religions, he himself has not raised the same dagger in retaliation.

But not anymore. The last few years have seen a surge of orange more than the eyes can bear. And daggers and guns have fired from asuras, pretending to be the saviours of the Hindu religion or saving humans from converting to other religions. This is not the way of the Hindu. And while, the country in which we live, has seen the likes of Narendra Modi, Bal Thakeray, RSS, Bajrang Dal, all touting, that what they do, they do for the Hinduism, the fact is that all these are criminals as dangerous as SIMI.

Smita Gupta in “ Some Bombs Get Defused” (Outlook Magazine October 6, 2008 issue) says – “Indeed, police investigations have revealed that members of organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), don’t just get military training, they are also keen followers of the methods of Islamist terror groups.”

And follows it with the investigation of a bomb explosion in the home of L.G. Rajkondwar, a retired PWD executive engineer and RSS member, in Nanded, Maharashtra, in April 2006. The explosion killed N. Rajkondwar and H. Panse and injured M.K. Wagh, Y. Deshpande, G.J. Tuptewar and R.M. Pande. They were all Bajrang Dal activists.

The FIR recorded the injured activists’ claim that stored firecrackers had gone off inadvertently. But the investigation nailed this lie, revealing that bombs being assembled by the Bajrang Dal activists had exploded accidentally before they could be used to damage mosques. Moreover, the entire operation was being styled in a camouflage so as to resemble a Muslim terror operation. Soon, the police arrested 16 persons. The remand application said the accused had diagrams, maps and material related to the manufacture/storage of bombs. It said they had also identified terror targets across the country.

On May 4, 2006, the case was transferred to the ATS (Anti-terrorist squard). The ATS’s first chargesheet, filed on August 24, 2006, established a Bajrang Dal-Sangh parivar terror network.

It says:
- The Nanded accused were also responsible for blasts at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November 2003), the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and the Meraj-ul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August 2004).
- The target of the bombs which killed the Bajrang Dal activists was actually a mosque in Aurangabad. Both H. Panse and M. Wagh had conducted a recce of the Aurangabad mosque in May 2004.
- Panse and Pande had started a gymnasium to attract Hindu youth and organised seminars. They also gave speeches to create an anti-Muslim atmosphere, alleging acts of injustice by Muslims against Hindus, inciting the latter to do "something for Hinduism." They were also trained in bomb-making near Pune, Goa and at the Bhosla Military School at Nagpur. An RSS camp at the school trained 115 participants in karate, obstacle courses, and shooting. The trainers included two ex-servicemen and an ex-IB operative.
- Police discovered a false beard, moustache and shervani during a search of the house of H.V. Panse; a cellphone intercept revealed that Wagh was to visit Aurangabad on April 5, 2006.

If in 1984 the VHP created the Bajrang Dal to protect the Ram Janaki Yatras, in 1993 it moved out of Uttar Pradesh, became a nationwide organisation and was officially designated the VHP’s youth wing. Over the years, it has shifted focus from mobilising support for the Ram temple to what its current chief Prakash Sharma describes as "problem-solving". The problems include terrorism both in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in the country, the influx of refugees from Bangladesh, referred to as "infiltration’’, and conversions to Christianity. "If government agencies don’t act against those whom the Bajrang Dal has identified as an isi agent (any Muslim) or involved in the slaughter of cows, then we just uproot them from society ourselves," said Rukun Singh Payal, a VHP functionary from Uttar Pradesh.So even as the Kanpur case is being investigated, and Bajrang Dal activists continue their rampage against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and north Kerala, clearly there is a need to study the stormtroopers of the saffron brotherhood.

Can these be ever called Hindus? Or can we say they are doing any good to our society? Are they not terrorists who need to meet the same end as all criminals must – the firing squad? Or the guillotine? What is our home ministry doing? Just changing clothes? Or is it time, for UPA government to own up to the fact, that the violence we see today is a State and Centre sponsored terrorism.

: “ Some Bombs Get Defused” (Outlook Magazine October 6, 2008 issue)
Also read: Few Blind Men In Hindostan
Must read Hot debate on this subject:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fearless At Fifty!

First Birthday

The body – naked, embalmed, clothed or buried – has been the object of art, literature, physiology and politics”, writes Shefalee Vasudev in Marie Claire August 2008 editorial. “More than the human body in general, it is the woman’s body that engages our attention…”

Yes, don’t we know that? The female body has also been the kurukshetra over which blood has been shed and battles fought. It has also been the dreaded existence for which men and women in unison, in some cultures have snuffed it out of existence, even before it could see the light of day. It has been raped, ravaged upon, mutilated and denied its right to pleasure, physical and emotional, like all males do. It has been the grounds, which have been trampled upon for centuries. Not even where feminist theories had at one time taken birth, has there been a scene of change – women and their bodies still are looked upon as only second to men.

In the light of the above, making it to fifty is a great relief.

Men will no more look at me as a diet for the night. My body is undergoing change. My girth has no promise laid in them. I am not their image of fertility – 36-24-36 – and thank God for that. I will now hopefully receive some respect in the public transport systems where they will quickly stand for me to sit down I hope. And their compulsive desire to pinch my bottoms or nudge my breasts, whenever, I am in a hurry or absent minded, will meet with flat disapproval from their end.

I no more have to watch the backside of my dress, sari or salwar to protect myself from their evil eye, looking to see if I am still fertile, able to bear a child, because I have stained my dress from the back. I no more have to worry about being the body to fill their lust and allow them to deposit their expulsions inside my womb. Hopefully, even if I stand naked before them, they will only show disgust. Thankfully, I was born in a culture where, I do not have to perform sexually to prove that I am desirable. Nor wear lipstick to cover the fading colour of my lips. Nor wear rouge and powder my nose before I go to bed, so that in the morning when I rise, he does not see my wrinkled skin or I myself refuse to accept my growing years. Thankfully, I will resign to the fact that although my mind is racing still, my body is not so fast and I must tarry before I take on another job, just to catch my breath. Thankfully, when I see my hair turn silver, I will not try to recapture its youthful black of yester-years by applying shades of black that challenges the colour of black itself. Thankfully for all the gifts of true freedom from the body, I am fearless at fifty. Half a century passed. For the night to fall, it may not take another half. Hence, it is best to rise to a new dawn, when still I can cross my legs and sit on the floor for an hour each time and devote myself to Higher Thoughts and practices, for if not now, then perhaps, it will be too late. And this time, not men, but I myself will be obsessed with my body, now sick, now aching, now unmoving. The roles will change and from being an observer of the ever changing, decaying and dying body, I will become only the body and mind. I fear not fifty therefore. It holds the promise of true freedom from the body and mind. Soul-ly!

Psssst! I hear the older they get, the worse they become

Casually, most recently with Bengali writer, poetess, Nabaneeta Deb Sen

Monday, September 15, 2008

Memory Of Loss

Gladys Staines in happer times with her entire family in Orissa

Aditi Raja talks to Gladys Staines, in PEOPLE magazine, September 26, 2008
"When a brutal act of violence took her family from her, Gladys Staines decided to forgive her malefactors. How does one ever get over loss of beloved ones? On Jan 22, 1999, a crowd burnt to death her husband, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines, and their two minor sons, Timothy and Phillip, while they slept in a station wagon at Manoharpur village, Keonjhar dustrict, Orissa. Today, a nurse in a hospital in Queensland, Australia, where she moved in 2004, Gladys puts a stoic face on the past, believing in the power of prayers to heal. The recent violence in Orissa is something she is praying will stop. “ India has been known for tolerance, we must live in harmony, respecting each other.” She says.

After spending over 20 years in India – raising her family in Orissa, India remains an unshakable memory in Gladys’s life. “I miss my Indian friends the most, but I also miss Indian food, the aromas or smells associated with life in India”. On accasions when she gives talks in India, she wears a sari and often cooks Indian food with her 22-year-old daughter, Esther.

Since she left India, Gladys has put her efforts into regaining her nursing registration and conducting lecture tours about the leprosy work being done in Orissa. She visits India often, the plan being to expand the Graham Staines Memorial Hospital in Baripada in Orissa.

Memories of her own tragedy remain fresh, she says. “ I am human with feeling and emotions. There are times when I feel low but not to the point of despairing or giving up”. She decided to forgive the killers immediately, which helped the healing process. There are moments that return, such as a poem Graham liked: “ Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, day after day it is gone…..till youth like a vision is gone…..then until death says NOW”. “ I miss his companionship, love and when there are decisions to make”, she says her grief palpable……”

Loss of a beloved, to death, or to another person, or in any way, is a living pain one continues to live with, forever carrying it in the recesses of the mind. If the death is one, which has been brutal, then, no answers can be found. There is shock, disbelief and anger, which are natural in these circumstances. And in spite of it all, there and then, if one is able to forgive the killers of ones husband and two sons, let me tell you it takes a lot of courage and belief to get to that stage. Recently, we had Priyanka Gandhi Vadhera who took the time off to finally go and meet her father’s, the late Rajiv Gandhi’s killer, in the jail. Why did she do that? Because, until one forgives, there is no closure to the pain one goes through and when one forgives the other, one is able to move on. A Psychological fact that there is a shift in the way we think about ourselves and those who have harmed us. The bitterness is no more and we can really put the past behind us, and move on with our lives.

That is exactly what happened with Gladys. Only thing is that she was able to move on faster and look what she is doing – talking on India, visiting India frequently to work on the Hospital for lepers in the memory of her late husband, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines. That is something, we can all learn from and use it as an example of a blessed Christian life.
~~~ ~ With hope for a new dawn ~~~~

Other posts by me on the Shameless Hate Tirade against our brothers and sister of Christian faith by fascist Hindu goodas - In Bad Faith

The ugly face of Hindutva movement and Bajrang dal fascists and its extreme intolerance to Christians, Shame! Woe To You, you who destroy the basic tenets of Hinduism – tolerance of all religions.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hey Fatty!

Many kids suffer from being called fatty, by their friends in school, because their body weight makes them a point of distressing mockery. But, now, the word fatty must aptly describe a nation.

According to Rachna Chhachhi, in Outlook Business Magazine, September 20, 2008 issue, over 60% of America suffers from Obelix syndrome, being grossly overweight. Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food in 1970; they spent more than $10 billion in 2001. Studies show that they are now spending more on fast food than on new cars, computer software or even higher education. Fast food sales are higher than videos, books, movies, magazines and recorded music sales combined.

An average American consumes 3,747 kilocalories, whereas the recommended allowance is 2,000 – 2,500 for sedentary to moderate – activity people. A third of the calorie intake is from junk food. And that’s not all; the serving sizes have gone up too. A typical hamburger in 1957 weighed 1 ounce (28 gms) and contained 210 calories. A typical hamburger today weighs 6 ounces (170 gms) and contains 618 carolies. There are even steakhouse restaurants that offer a free meal if you can eat their 96 ounce (2.7 kg) steak in a certain amount of time sic!

When the writer, who heads business development in a financial services company, ordered for a quick bite at a restaurant in Releigh, North Carolina, a plate of salad arrived which could have fed the entire neighbourhood in India. However, the lady sitting at the table next to hers was a typical example of an American mother, grossly overweight, sitting with a thin daughter, who was being tutored in the art of matching her mother in size. A family size pizza dripping with cheese had been ordered but as the little girl could not finish her pizza, it was packed and taken home to be force-fed to her.

Really, the average American, like his or her serving size, is expending.

The author of the piece laments – “For the life of me, I cannot understand how a country that has progressed so much, so fast cannot see the health bomb it’s sitting on…..its brings to mind something from Chetan Bhagat’s book, One Night @ The Call Centre, apparently, call-centre trainees are taught that the brain and IQ of an average 35-year old American equals that of a 10-year old Indian kid!” She insists that we read the book if we do not trust her. She goes on to say, and I join in with her, there, that the surest proof of the dismal IQ level, reflects on who they chose as third 43rd President, who was then re-elected again to prove the point beyond doubt.

So, despite food prices rising 4.8% in 2007, the average American family of four still spent 13% of its disposable income on food. A 2003 study conducted by the University of Tennessee showed that a child’s eating habit is strongly influenced by the mother. Another survey found that of the top 24 disliked foods in America, 17 were vegetables.

So today at long last, American mothers are being exhorted to work harder at eating more fruits and vegetables into the family diet, while cutting down on sodas. Duh!

Joke: George Bush and his wife were at a restaurant. When the waiter came to take the order, Mrs Bush placed an order for an exotic protein and fat rich meal topped with a succulent creamy dessert.

“And what about the vegetable, M’am?” The waiter enquired.

“Ah,” said Mrs Bush, looking at Bushy, “He will have the same!”

Reference: Outlook Business Magazine, September 20, 2008 issue

Friday, August 29, 2008

.....and so it is

“Lady the waters are choppy
Do not step in”
The lifeguard cautions

He does not know
Across a thousand miles
The stormy seas
Have beckoned me

To teach me
Their lesson of salt
And grit

To tell me
Not to take the turning of

To show that
The rough waves meet
The same fate
As the smooth ones

Both are but passing spray
Dashed upon the shore of
In froth and foam

Both joy and sorrow
Are ephemeral

Mere ruffles on the
great ocean
of Being

My sorrow I surrender
To the sea
As I walk away

Memories of joy too
I have cast upon the breeze

I know now
The great vastness
In its depths
Is churning up
New experiences
Specially for me.

- By The Shores
- A poem by Manjul Bajaj

….and so it is with life
Cast upon this earth
An ocean composed of many drops
Of waves of laughter and joy
Followed by the ebb of tide
Where sorrow resides

….and so it is with life
That sorrow and joy are partners
One following the other
Oft times

…and so it is with life
That the only permanent is
Impermanence itself
They come and go.
What is, isn’t
What isn’t, is
Or is yet to be
But surely will.

Sitting by the shore
Trying to catch each wave
Between the fingers
Alas! It ne’er will be

…and so it is with life
Giving birth to the new
At the same time
Shedding what is old
Yet, the point of beginning
And the end
Are same.

All is in the passing
This life; this death too
One moment birthing the next
All are illusions.

One strung to the other like beads
In a mala
One after another
A continuous process
No beginning, no end
Just a wheel, a chakra

Forever moving….
Forever moving….

.... and so it is with life
Forever moving

- …and so it is - By Julia Dutta, a poem inspired by By The Shores

Poet Manjul Bajaj writes in English, Urdu, Hindi. She has edited and co-edited respectively, two volumes of poetry, which include, among many other poets, verses by Julia Dutta as well. The two volumes, In Many Voices (Price: Rs 125) and Here And Now (Price: Rs 495) can be bought through DelhiPoetree Email: Mobile 91-09313120050

To view By The Shores on YouTube and listen to the sound of the ocean :

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In Bad Faith

“The entire Kandhmal district has been placed under indefinite curfew and the government has issued shoot at sight orders.

The order was issued after violent clashes between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers and local Christian groups over the past few days.

Atleast 14 people are reported dead in the district although the official number stands at ten. There have been no further clashes on Wednesday but a retired DGP's house was attacked near Raikia.

Hundreds of policemen have been deployed to prevent any more violence from taking place.

The trouble started after VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed on Saturday night. The saffron group then retaliated by setting fire to an orphanage killing a worker and injuring a priest.

The police say there is no conclusive evidence that Maoists were involved in the attack on Saturday.

Two people have been arrested but their identities have not been revealed. Many others including Christian activist leaders are being interrogated.” ( )

No evidence, no proof, just blind faith that VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was speaking against Christian conversion policies in the state of Kandhamal District in Orissa.
However, in Face The Nation with Sagarika Ghose, on the night of 26th August, 2008, a fiery RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav, who was infuriated at allegations that Hindu groups were targeting missionaries and Christians in Orissa said - “The situation is quite different. Hindus are at the receiving end. A highly respected saint was killed. There is enough evidence to prove the complicity of Christian organisations in the murder.”

Reverend Dr Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India rejected Madhav’s claim. He said conversion has become an excuse to attack Christians and malign them. “The VHP gets the maximum amount of money India than Christians. Christians have used money to serve and empower the poor and marginalized. Not a single case has been proved till date in the courts of forced conversion (by Christian groups),” he said.

The issue is not religion but poverty, said Professor Mohanty. “Kandhamal is one of the poorest regions in the country. Seventy per cent people here are below the poverty line; 51 per cent are tribals and 16 per cent are Dalits,” he said.

“It is a situation of poverty and landlessness, both among Hindus and Christians. Orissa has become the experiment ground of globalisation, economic reforms, mega projects and Hindutva politics.”

Hindu groups are not to blame for the violence and the state is in turmoil because of Christian missionaries, alleged Madhav. “Every conversion in Orissa has to be registered with the local police or magistrate but no such thing happens. Where is the chance for Hindutva politics when missionaries are going about aggressively and alluring people,” he said.

The Sangh Parivar doesn’t hate conversions as much as it does Christians, alleged Howell. “An ideology of hatred has been propagated by some sections of the Sangh Parivar. They don’t hate Christian service; it is the very identity of being a Christian that is hated. There are just 2.4 per cent Christians in India and we too have contributed to the growth of the country.”

Christians are not hated, insisted Madhav. “Every religion is respected in this country but Christians criticise and attack Hindu religion. It this attitude of Christians which is leading to tension in this country,” he alleged.

The communal divide in Orissa’s tribal districts is the result of poverty and “competitive politics”, said Mohanty. “The shrinking rights of tribals over forests and land and the coming of mega projects is the economic issue there. They are all poor there and poverty is being diverted to communalism. It is competitive politics,” he said.

Madhav called such an analysis wrong. “There is a clear cut division between Hindus and Christians and it is because of their (missionaries) wrongdoing and Congress leaders. A holy person is killed and the very next day the Congress tables a no-confidence motion against the state government—what does it suggest? The Congress is a part of a larger political conspiracy,” he alleged.

Howell announced Christian institutions in the country would close on August 29 to protest against the attacks in Orissa. “I hope the civil society wakes up before it’s too late,” he said.
Madhav said Christian groups were free to shut their schools and institutions but they must also shut “proselytization” activity.

“Do not make this a Christian versus Hindu issue. We must go into the sources of violence,” said Mohant

My Observations:

This is not a problem of two religions clashing together. It is a case of caste dynamics at play. What Hindus need to do is rescue the downtrodden from their abject poverty and the influence of casteism. Rather than make it a political issue. If thousands of humans who have no food to eat and no money to spare, no education they can rely on, are turning to Christianity, where they are released from the evil grips of man-made caste divisions and are respected as humans and their children, given education and food to eat, only Hindus are to blame for this.

And in times to come, the Dalit movement in India will gain power. So will many of the poverty stricken turn to Christianity. After all, dignity is what everyone loves to have and it is a basic human right. Lets face it, at the end of the day, people need food in their stomachs, clothes on their bodies and a shelter over their heads and all these come at a cost. If to save oneself from the clenching grip of poverty, a human is willing to take on to Christianity, which promises equality, why blame it on conversion? Self respect, is not an exclusive property of the rich. It is again a basic human need.

Therefore, you bigoted mongrels, who in the name of religion will shun your own poor brethren, clean up your own home first?

If Hindus in whatever name they choose to call themselves, VHP or RSS, are unable to help the poor because their agenda is such that the vote bank is dependent on poverty and lack of education of the people in their constituency, then let them face the consequences thereof.

In the meantime, it would help them to remember the services given in the name of Jesus, by illustrious souls such as Mother Theresa. Or the Sisters and Fathers, at numerous schools and colleges across the country, where thousand of children are educated and made into proud citizens of India. Institutions we can truly be proud of, where education walks hand-in-hand with Faith, no matter, which it might be. Let them not forget that some of the best schools and Colleges are run by Christian missionaries, many of whom have left their countries to live in India.

What has been the so-called VHP and RSS contribution, if I may ask, which can match the zeal of Christian missionaries?

I am not a Christian. But have received enormously from the Christian institutions, friends and family. I love them all.

I only dislike people who say they are Christian Brahmins.

I only dislike people who say they are Christian Brahmins.

Then I know, where the disease has started from.

Blind faith? Fragile peace blown to bits in Orissa

Shoot-at-sight order issued in Kandhmal

Orissa fallout: Christian schools, colleges shut across India

PM terms Orissa violence a 'national shame'

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doctor, Heal Thyself

Thank God it’s coming finally!

Doctors will soon get a template for treatment as the Union ministry of health and family welfare has begun drafting a set of standard treatment guidelines (STG) at the national level in an attempt to bring uniformity in medical care across the country.

Among other crucial directives, it will tell doctors which drugs to prescribe and which not to for various diseases. And in a bold move, it will recommend that doctors follow a line of treatment that doesn't involve prescribing drugs when medication is unnecessary. Or definitely too expensive when cheaper varieties, which guarantee the same results, are available.

In India, Doctors have been misusing their power over the patient starting from simple remedies to complicated ones.

As soon as a patient arrives at a Clinic, the Doctor’s mind begins to tick away as to how much monies can be extracted from the patient. By way of exorbitant fees, expensive prescriptions, unnecessary tests, hospitalization and ad-on. Patients are paranoid to visit Doctors. Add to that the regular practice – instilling fear in the minds of the patients, so that he never goes against the will of the Doctor. You never know, it might be a dangerous disease cropping up…it could be anything….etc, etc. Basically, unethical practices that go against the Hippocratic oath.

Indeed, most Doctors have become more diseased than the patients, with a virus, which has no cure - greed!

It is time the government woke up to the horrors of these ill practices.

Naturally, many of us have turned to the alternative medicine. While, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Colour Therapy, even Reiki, is practiced as an alternative, one that is making headlines is Ayurvedic medicine. Yet again there is a danger. All and everyone seem to be selling Ayurvedic medicines. And nobody tells you the truth, because perhaps they themselves do not know. Mercury, which is one of the components of some Ayurvedic drugs, if not used in the correct measure can leave residue in your kidneys. This will cause further problems in the long run. No body tells you that if you take any drugs, Ayurvedic or allopathic, it is imperative to drink more water, in order that your system can flush out any residue from these drugs.

I prefer to stay with Himalaya Drug Company, whose research methodology I know and whose medicines I have tried and found effective. Plus, they lend themselves to free consultation. Or go to an Ayurvedic doctor, who has a Degree under his arm and whose Certificate I can see framed and hung on his Clinic wall. A Ramdev Baba will not do for me, thank you.

Unless a disease is hereditary by nature, diet, exercise and a few other small things can manage the disease simply. One and a half litre of water, consumed within the first two hours and before breakfast, every day, does a fine cleansing job. If the water is luke warm, even better. I, shuddered at the thought of drinking almost two litres of water, first thing in the morning, but after seven months of doing so, I can vouch for it. It is perhaps the most natural way to get rid of toxins in our body. We all know it is not only the virus outside that causes diseases, quite often it is the toxins inside which needs to get flushed out too. Or else, we might breaks into diseases.

Until 1989, I used to smoke forty cigarettes a day. After a great struggle, to quit smoking, I finally did it. Naturally, when I completed a year of no smoking, I was thrilled. But my joy was short lived, when I was told that the amount of toxins accumulated in my body over the last so many years of smoking, would take twenty years to actually get flushed out of my system. Only then could I say, that I was nicotine free!

Toxins not only flow in our blood, but they lodge themselves in our tissues as well. Hence, if the blood is cleaned, then the toxins come out from the tissues and flow into the bloodstream and get flushed out. This is a continuous process. Why not help the system then – Drink water! Abundantly!

Most of what we learn from outside is already available to us. Or we already know about it. Sample this one –

This Tibetan detox tip, for any exercise that draws a sweat, is so deeply rooted in common sense you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. You’ll be way ahead of the game in trying to rid your body of all the pollution we live with just by adding these two simple steps to your normal workout.

Rub sesame oil into the skin before exercise.

Following exercise, before showering, rub your skin with a lentil or chickpea flour to pull out the toxins that get attracted into the oil from the exercise. Shower as normal.( Health and Green Living )

Frankly, I could have slapped myself! This is exactly what I do when I have an oil bath or have a good message by the local malishwali!

Don’t you too?

Chemical Ally
Outlook Magazine August 25, 2008

Himalaya Drug Company

Note: The views expressed here are the authors only. They in no way suggest any treatment. Just what has worked for her.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gone With The Wind

Bob Dylan’s classic title “ …..the answer my friend is blowing in the wind” is truer than ever in present times when the whole world is looking for alternate renewable energy. ”

India ranks fourth amongst the wind-energy-producing countries of the world, after Germany, Spain and USA. The country’s estimated potential is around 45000 MW at 50m above ground level. By 2012, the country aims to produce 5000 MW of it. Wind-farms have been installed in more than nine states. Also, wind-solar and wind-diesel hybrid systems have been installed at a few places.

Wind power is a renewable energy source, which has no waste by-products, and causes no pollution. But it is quite ‘unpredictable’. When wind speed is low, less electricity is generated.

With such high hope, really we should have been doing much better, but for….

Maharashtra! It is second only to Tamil Nadu in terms of installed capacity to generate wind power; as on March 31 this year: 1,756 mw. The potential? A whopping 3,650 mw in 28 feasible sites. So what happened?

If you haven’t guessed yet, let me tell you what happened.

The sector has received huge incentives and tax holiday which pushed the business houses to take up the offer with the view of utilizing the above, starting wind farms and not meeting the optimum production required.“The incentives offered are a win-win situation for wind farm developers,” explains Mahesh Zagade, director general of Pune-based Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (meda), the state’s nodal agency promoting non-conventional and renewable sources of energy.

“We offer a differential wind power tariff of Rs 3.50 per unit with annual escalation of 15 paisa for 13 years. The sales tax subsidy has also helped. Central incentives—an 80 per cent accelerated depreciation, 10-year tax holiday—and indirect tax benefits, such as on custom and excise duties, altogether make it highly viable for business houses to enter this emerging business.”

Till 1993, the then Union ministry of non-conventional energy sources (mnes), now the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (mnre), provided capital subsidy to set up wind farms. Subsequently, onus shifted to state governments. The Union government, however, continued to provide accelerated depreciation (80 per cent in the first year), virtually allowing an investor to write off its capital in a year, and a 10-year tax holiday

Now you know! Business houses have been starting Wind farms for tax relief rather than wind production, which is abysmally low at only 11. 7% only. And what’s more, companies like The Pune based Suzlon Energy Ltd, demanded and got Rs 58 crore as evacuation arrangement for its three wind farms.

Not only that “In April 2006, the i-t department in Pune began investigating Suzlon’s wind-farms as part of a nationwide operation—spanning Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Daman and Diu, Pondicherry, Delhi and Karnataka—to check for false depreciation claims, and ascertain if equipment suppliers and state electricity boards connived with equipment owners to manipulate such claims. i-t authorities believe windmill owners make false depreciation claims to evade taxes; to the tune of Rs 700-1,000 crore.”

In places like Dhule where wind farming is promoted hugely, the people of the place are agitating against Sulzon Energy Ltd. Says Raghunath Chavan, a 50-year-old villager from Dahivel village in Sakhritaluka, on whose land now a wind mill stands, “Suzlon had initially promised us a clinic and power supply to the villages/hamlets wherever towers were being constructed. Also, at least one family member was supposed to get work at a minimum wage of Rs 68 per day. None of these promises has been met till date. We continue to live in the dark while we see our land being used to erect windmills to generate power for the cities.” “Government has connived with Suzlon to transfer the land. This is adivasi land and must be handed over,” says Kishore Dhamale, coordinator of a local ngo, Satyashodhak Grameen Kashtakari Sabha, campaigning for land rights of adivasis and forest dwellers for the last 40 years.Since 1980, local tribals have been demanding that land be regularised in their name. The first petition was filed in 1982; the same land, alleges Dhamale, has been given to Suzlon in a matter of days. When the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 was finally passed, it gave a ray of hope. “But it has been thwarted by allocating land for Suzlon’s wind farm,” says Chavan.Villagers allege Suzlon is using muscle power to suppress the adivasi campaign. On July 14, 2007, police burst tear-gas shells and lathi-charged protesting villagers, injuring many. 18 people, including one girl, were detained for three days.Villagers also accuse the company of malpractice such as forging signatures of village leaders. According to Dhamale, the document, which bears the sign of the approval by the gram panchayat, has the signature of the sarpanch in English, whereas she is illiterate. Further, activists allege huge tracts have been deforested; close to 35,000 trees were cut in a matter of few days. the wind farms because, wherever the farms are situated, the companies are usurping the land.

In the light of the above, while we are desperate for alternate, renewable environmentally friendly energy, even if we have the capacity to produce it, in India it seems corruption, will fan the winds more than solutions.


Gobar Times
Fanning An Alternative, Down To Earth August 12, 2008 issue
Must Watch: Clean Air Technologies
To know more about Sulzon Energy Ltd visit
Learn more...
India Environment Portal

Thursday, August 07, 2008

DDA flats: Delhi's Disaster Analysis

5,010 flats of one to three bedrooms spread across Delhi whose plinth area range from 39.39 Sq meters (393 sq feet approximately) to 158.00 Sq meters (1,580 sq feet) with a price band ranging from Rs 7.20 – 77.80 lakhs plus extra for freehold property registration, and of course additional other expenses that will be incurred before taking possession of the flat.

Besides, out of these 5,010 flats:
17.5% (877) flats are reserved for Schedule caste
7.5% (376) flats are reserved for Scheduled tribes
1% (50) for war widows
1% (50) for physically handicapped persons
1% (50) for ex-servicemen.
10%(501) of these flats 5010 in number will go to DDA officials which is never publicised

Total: 1,904 flats reserved for different categories. The rest, 3,106 flats available for others.
There is no mention of single women, divorced/separated women, or women who are living in Hostels or as paying guests/on rented premises, who desperately require accommodation of their own, living in a dreadful, dangerous, and aggressive city like Delhi.

Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) magnanimous offer will be gulped up by thousands of Real Estate Agents, booking in different names and selling it to desperate-for-housing public at a huge premium. DDA knows that. But if you are lucky, even 1% you will land a flat, which will be in shoddy state, and if you want to occupy the flat, then you will have to spend an additional 5 – 10 lakhs on the flat, before it is livable in. After all DDA has warned buyers that it is in As-Is-where-is-Basis. So be ready to face the perennial problems that will surface after possession until you have breathed your last.

Yet, thousands will flock to buy these flats on grounds that it is the best possible offer, in comparison to private builders whose constructions may be better (or at least there is a show of it), but are beyond the capacity of the common man. Please note, as of today, the common man is not to be mixed up with the middle class of yesteryears, who are now burgeoning into the opulent category.

Therefore, even if you get lucky, and you have scraped the last pai from your Bank Account to have a roof above your head, be prepared to live with people from the above categories who will be your neighbours. And you had better shut up, because for every little reason, you will be reminded that you are from the Braminical caste, or the elite classes, who have been looking down and oppressing them for centuries. You may then, raise a polite hand and whisper gently, “When is it that I oppressed you?” and pat will come the answer, “Your forefathers did! And for that you have to pay”!

The story is the same everywhere. There is a surge of the then downtrodden in every sphere of our lives. Say education, say, work, or even in the day to day life of a common man, who eyes are inundated by likes of Mayawati, whose status has begun to dot every square inch of Lucknow, I am told to. In Institutes considered prestigious in the country, like Indian Institute of Advance Studies in Shimla, the Dalits are pushing for dominant position, just by virtue of their caste.

But the purpose of this post is not about crying foul about the then downtrodden masses. I have a serious question, grimmer than the highest metaphysical query – should I, join the aspiring millions who will be handing over their application to DDA latest by 16th September 2008 in the hope of being doled out a roof over one’s head?

I used to have two flats, but now I only have one in Kolkata. I bought this three years ago, from my brother at a rather competitive rate. I work in Delhi, but have no desire to make this city my home after my working life. I am dreadfully distrustful of medical professionals here and know for sure that in the event of any major sickness, I will go to Kolkata where my family is and where my youngest brother’s wife is a doctor. And albeit Kolkata’s medical facilities and professionals may well reverberate what we see in Delhi, but I believe that I will not become a guinea pig in the hands of the doctors, as my sister-in-law is a doctor! Besides, despite having my own flat there, my brother has reserved a flat for me, right under his, in case I want to stay close to them in future.

This brings me to the next point – what about my partnership then? It continues, even if we are in two different places, as it is now. In fact, the separation has accelerated me onto the area I love most in my life – the spiritual path.

So, in the context of the above, should I join the hundreds of DDA flat aspirants? Or shall I fall back on another job I know so well – join the unscrupulous businessmen, and apply nevertheless. And if I get lucky, I know, I will be rich!

Which then is the better of the two devils that plague me at the moment, one, the extreme danger of being clubbed with Brahmins and get spat upon with vile attitude of being oppressor, or the never ending greed for more money?

Of course I forgot to say, in so far as the mind is concerned, it is Never enough, whether it is for more money or more curses from the surroundings.

The seeker of suffering the curses as well as the suffering that comes from wealth management, and fear psychosis that follows from either state, begins and ends with me. There cannot be anyone else to suffer the consequences. Including the loss of interest on the Rs 1,50,000 deposit money I have to pay, and which if I don’t get lucky will have to wait for six months to return from DDA. And if I lose it in the post, then I have had it!

It will be like looking for a needle in a haystack! Or in the 5,000 flats, even one of which did not come to me, due to the misfortune of my not being born to the then downtrodden, but now elite class.

Besides, all these flats are basically defaulters flats, I will have to hire my own Lawyer to check that the papers DDA is doling out is authentic and this is not a double sale and if I know Delhi right, I can't be sure about either, neither DDA nor the Lawyers! They are all hand-in-glove.

Therefore, if I must, it will be only at my own risk!

Rs 7 lakh to Rs 77 lakh, DDA’s housing scheme from Aug 6

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Free Soul

On the surface of things, Bengal’s elite have nothing similar to Delhi’s elite. But the three days of Vedanta classes I attended proved otherwise.

While Bengal always stood for simple living and high thinking, Delhi thrives on opulent living and low thinking.

The class led by Pravrajika Vivekprana from Sri Sarada Math, on Vedanta as explained by Sw. Vivekananda, seemed to “lack the luster” of the city in which it was held. It often happens, that the one giving the lecture, out-shines the blinding glitter emanating from the audience, from their sparkling diamonds and shimmering silks, with a personality clothed in more shine and dazzle, so much so that the audience, albeit, shining like a thousand midday suns, may be found wearing Ray Ban shades, in the middle of a late evening lecture inside a Hall!

But here was a sharp contrast – a very subdued sannyasin, emanating the personality of Sw. Vivekananda and yet so, simply dressed in her saffron, un-ironed sari with a chaddar, that in fact, she stood out for different reasons – the lack eye-blinding looks of both the Delhite and Bengalis-living-in Delhi looks. For I must warn you that the Bengali elite in the audience, shone as well, although they may have worn tater saris with large zari borders with their necks and wrists strangulated by the yellow metal – yes, all that glitters is gold, you know of course. And in that sharp contrast of matter, both of body and mind, the class went on for three days. Pearls of wisdom fell – the lectures delivered in New York, 1896 by Sw Vivekanda, The Free Soul.

“There is but one Infinite Being in the universe, and that Being appears as you and as I; but this appearance of divisions is after all a delusion. He has not been divided, but only appears to be divided. This apparent division is caused by looking at Him through the network of time, space and causation.”

At a very scientific level, we know today that all the three mentioned, i.e., time, space and causation, is merely the creation of man, because, without these we are unable to understand the world around us. We need time, to differentiate events, we need space to differentiate objects including, subject-object phenomenon, and we need causation to understand, that one thing is responsible for the creation of another. There is a cause, behind an effect. But, our ancient texts, The Vedas and today’s science have proved that all three are false premises but, we must create these in order to function.

This then brings us to a mighty problem. How then do we explain the origin of the earth and also our own selves?

The concept of Vedanta is also very simply explained in three states. Jagrat, swapna, sushupti. Awake, dreaming and deep sleep.

In the waking state, all things exist. We see the world around us, the houses, the trees, the glittering audience in the Hall, or the subdued sannyasin, in saffron clothing and high thinking. In a dream, one is even able to recreate the same and many other events, because, the mind has picked up impressions of the surroundings enough to make sometimes very coherent dreams and sometimes, fuzzy ones. But in deep sleep, which is a state we sometimes experience, when we wake up in the morning, and say, I had a dreamless sleep and I slept so well, all disappear - the house, the tree, the glittering audience or the subdued sannyasin, even the dreams! This is the state of sushupti, or what Vedantins call deep sleep. Everything disappears in this state, except one thing. That one thing is the Self. Because, in a state where everything has disappeared, even the Self should have. But no, when we wake up, from deep sleep, we are still able to remember that we had a good sleep. Who is it who remembers? Vedantins have told us, it is the Self, the soul which is eternal, without beginning and without end, that is forever there, that Infinite Being which is our true Self.

“There is but one Infinite Being in the universe, and that Being appears as you and as I”.

We are in a state of perpetual dreaming and when we wake up, we realize, just as we realize when we wake up from sleep, that it was all a dream, no matter how factual it seemed while it lasted, there is no world, we are where we have always been, at the very Source itself. We are the Absolute, the eternal, all pervading Presence. There is nothing to do, nowhere to go. There never was a beginning nor will there be an end. We are in fact, The Free Soul.

“I was once traveling in the dessert in India. I traveled for over a month and always found the most beautiful landscapes before me, beautiful lakes and all that. One day I was very thirsty and I wanted to have a drink at one of the lakes; but when I approached that lake, it vanished. Immediately with a blow came into my brain, the idea that this was a mirage about which I had read all my life and then I remembered and smiled at my folly…..the next morning I again began my march and there was the lake and landscape, but with it immediately came the idea, this is a mirage.”- Sw Vivekananda in The Complete Works Of Vivekananda, Volume 3, chapter 6, page 9-10

Likewise, this life and everything around us, the good, the bad and the ugly – It is all a mirage and only when life is no more and the last breath is gone, we will realize, we were always The Free Soul, The Absolute.

So is Bengal's elite simple living and high thinking bejewelled eye-blinders and Delhi's opulent living and low thinking shimmering silks and dazzling diamond, brain drains!

NB: All quotations in this text are from The Complete Works Of Vivekananda, Volume 3, chapter 6
I request Dr Kanchana Natarajan, Reader in Indian Philosophy, Delhi University Kanchana to throw some light in this matter.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I am Indian, first

“I am a Muslim. I am an Indian, and I don’t see any difference in the two” – Omar Abdulla, on 22 July, 2008 in the Parliament.

How very true and so well spoken. India has always been a country of many religions. In fact, that is our strength. We may all belong to different religions and follow different paths, or even be atheists, India has the space to house all. We cannot at all say that just because we are called, Hindustan, this is a country for the Hindus. Certainly not! There is in fact, no true Hindu. We are all a mix of many religions. Hinduism has taught us to be receptive to all, because it does not bar any. This is mainly because, Hinduism, per say, is not a religion, it is a way of life. And in that it has been more receptive to all religions.

It is a known fact that in the last so many years, India has never attacked any country, it has only fought to defend its own territory whenever attacked, or helps out a meeker and powerless nation around her. Like Bangladesh, when it was attacked brutally by its own Big Brother, Pakistan, because it fought for its own independence. But, even that, only on the behest of the warring nation. The reason for this lie in non-violence. We would defend ourselves when attacked, but never attack ourselves.

We, as Indians would never ever attack our own brothers and sisters within our country, because they are from a different faith, or religion. Yet, it has happened in the past and continues to do so. These are politically motivated attacks. We as Indians, have no issues around whom we live with, where and who is our neighbour. We as Indians, resist and abhor, statements made by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, of Hindutva, “ in this land Hindus have been owners, Parsis and Jews the guests and Muslims and Christians the decoits”. It is a disgraceful statement that could have come from only a genetically challenged and culturally dysfunctional person. In fact, at the grassroots level, people of this country can easily say with pride that we are Indians, who have a little of every religion in us, imbibed through the years of coexistence. For really there is no, true Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain, Sikhs or any other person belonging to any religion here in India, who can say for sure that he is not all of these and more….

That more, is being Indian. Hence, Omar Abdulla’s statement, is the true spirit of India, no doubt.

Speaking of democracy, at the time of Indian independence, noted historian, Ramchandra Guha, in the booklet published by Outlook Publications, Will India Become A Superpower? states, “Back in 1948, doubts were also being cast about the Indian experiment with nationhood. Never before had a new nation not based its unity on a single language, religion, or a common enemy (or, preferably, all of the above). However, all Indians did not have to speak Hindi or be Hindus. ……As an inclusive, plural and non-adversarial model of nationalism, the idea of India had no precedent or imitator. It set itself apart from European nationalism, which was based on a common language and, often, a shared faith and common enemy as well. Thus, the citizens of England were united in the fact that all spoke English and they were mostly Protestant and that many of them disliked France and the French”. – pg 10 -11 Further he goes on to say, “meanwhile through its collective coexistence of different faiths, languages, cultures and cuisines, India is better model for world governance than more homogeneous countries such as China, Japan or the United States. Once, the heterogeneity of India was seen as its great flaw, now, it may justly be celebrated as its greatest strength”.

This is the true fact of being India. Those in minority in India may jump up to remind us that the atrocities done towards their community or the lack of vote bank, proves otherwise. But the fact is that all Indians, irrespective of caste and community, stand up together against the atrocities delivered. We see it as atrocities done with political ill motivation and we do not support such actions.

The recent talk of land being passed on to the Amarnath Yatra Trust is only one such. Why should land belonging to Jammu & Kashmir be given off to Hindu Trusts. This land belongs to them and for thousands of years Kashmiris have been hosts to the yatris and devoted their time and service towards them. And they will continue to do this, even if the service is delivered by humans born as Muslims. What has faith got to do with, practice and support given to fellow worshipers of a different religion? In the Gujarat riots or for that matter, the Bombay riots, hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims opened their doors and their lives for their neighbours, friends and even strangers, and hid them from the ugly face of genocide carried out by bigoted and evil politicians in the garb of Hindus. At a basic level, as humans and as Indians, we are one, we are bhai-bhai.

Hence, the enlightened statement made by Omar Abdulla, on the floor of the Parliament, must go down in history, as one of the most powerful statement ever made on this soil, and in the seat of the highest respect we pay to be Indians. This statement truely mirrors the real face of the Indian heart.

It is no less a statement, that brought tears and joy in the eyes of millions, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehnu made his historic speech on the night of 14 – 15th August, 1947.

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity."

Vande Mataram!

I am Muslim And I am An Indian
Jammu & Kashmir Unrest

Friday, July 25, 2008

About Communication

Recently I received a sharp hit on my knuckles, by the Only One, who is allowed by all means to strike me, whenever. He does it for my own good. This is the third time He is doing so in the last two years that I have started blogging.

The concept of blogging was unknown to me until, quite by chance I met someone at poetry reading and wanted to exchange my writing with her’s. I was given certain links to read her work – poetry and prose. Needless to say I loved what I had just received. A communication between us ensued and finally I opened account in the same blogsite and ever since life has never been the same. However, I was soon to receive a tight slap from the One Above, for getting close to a few commentators on my blog. Having learnt nothing from that I received what I generally like to call, the best way He can teach me a lesson – a bitter experience, after another long ensuing friendship, that started of with fellow-blogger. I thought I had learnt my lesson. But no! Yet again, I did make another mistake and of course I received another sharp hit on my knuckle.

The point I am trying to make here is, as humans, communication is in our genes. We will communicate in one way or the other. As an ex-advertising person, I know the value of communication. I also know, the different forms of communication, tools and methods we use to speak, verbally and quite often through body language. Sample a piece of my own writing to understand what I am talking about. It is from a story I have titled Voice, because, here the protagonist’s house help, anxious to communicate, begins to talk to a visitor in a language, the latter does not understand.

“We left on our errand. When I returned before dusk to the house, I found I was alone with Mami. The drawing room was a picture of old wooden furniture, not antique, just solid wood that is becoming hard to find in the cities today. The furniture was well maintained, getting their polish ones every two years and being dusted by Mami’s able hands every day. I sat on a chair and looked at the TV, which was turned off. I saw a few books at the bottom of the TV Stand. Mami came to the door that connected the drawing room to the adjoining dining room. She stood at the doorway, half her body hidden behind the doorway and the other half visible to me.

" Kaapi wenuma?" ( Do you want coffee?)

I shook my head " Wanda" I said in the little Tamil I knew.

She did not leave the doorway, but continued to remain there. And in the next half-hour, I heard her whole life story in Tamil. She just spoke. She knew no other language except Tamil. I knew only Bengali, English, Hindi and a bit of French. But Tamil? No! I did not speak it nor understand it. I sat half turned towards her and half my body still turned to the TV, occasionally looking at her just for a little while. But she spoke in a voice that was desperate to tell a story. I was an outsider and therefore a person who was not a part of the family. It was safe to talk to me. I was not going to be there all my life. From a few words like " hospital" etc. I could tell she was talking about her husband. Meena manni had told us that her husband had died in the hospital. Except for a useless son, she was alone in the world and she had been with this family for the last forty years. I knew therefore the content of her monologue without understanding the words.

I came from a background of communication. I understood and was ever sensitive to the need for human beings to communicate. I knew there were different types of communication and my professional training had taught me to use these modes and methods to communicate to a larger audience. It had also taught me to know when to speak and when to keep quiet. To be a fine listener and to be able to listen to the gaps between words. Above all, I heard and trusted body language. The body does not lie. That is why, I had maintained this side position when she was speaking. I did not want to confront her with the front view of my body and my direct glance. She also was half hidden behind the doorway, only half-visible to me. In that position, she communicated to me that she was only ready to tell me what she was comfortable to talk about. The other half of her body was an area she had forgotten or had hidden in the deep recesses of her mind. It might have been her childhood, her growing years. If I had changed my seat and gone and sat on a chair facing her completely, I am sure she would have stopped talking. She too did not want to see me at front view…this way I was hidden from her direct view."

What I have never been used to or trained in is the language of blogging for it seems that here the rules are different. In fact, the learning curve in my case has been constantly taking a dip, sadly.

Touch, voice, eye contact are only natural to most communications. Yet, in the blogging world there is a difference. Strangely, if you like someone’s writings or even their blog very much, you might want to get to know them personally. It is only natural, I think. And yet, there is a grave danger. More often than not, the attempt leads to communication breakdown.

My years of training as a communication professional, even my Masters in Business Management with specialization in Human Resources, has only proved one thing – no amount of learning can make me perfect and new grounds need me to learn continuously even though I know, I will never be perfect in it.

Thank God, my Teacher this time is not in the classroom. I won’t have exams, EXAMS, kind of thing.

Only struck on my knuckles!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Devil May Care

In the early eighties, my cousin sister, a highly religious person was given a letter to join a certain spiritual institution, she had been pursuing for a long time to join. Two days before the appointed day, she received a letter from an employer asking her to join their services. She was in a fix but only momentarily. She chose to take the job and not join the Institution. She chose a materialistic life as against the spiritual one, even though all the time she apparently wanted the latter.

Let’s face it. This is not a case in isolation. This is the fact about all of us. We prefer materialism more than we want any other life. And by itself, it is okay. What pains is the fact that we hide behind an armour of spiritualism or anything else, when deep down we care for money more than anything else.

The shameless display of vote rigging that happened at the Parliament yesterday , 22 July, 2008, is a proof of what Indians care about. So far, we had heard of state and general elections being rigged, but the display of money to the tune of Rs. 1 crore as bribe with promise for 8 more after the trust vote, has brought to reality the face of Indian politics at its worst. Despite the derogatory allegations made against the Prime Minister by Lal Krishna Advani that he was “hen-pecked” by Sonia Gandhi and that he could not make a single statement without her permission, despite, the open secret that Amar Singh, the ex-Chief Minister of Utter Pradesh had gone to the US and collected Rs 5,000 crores from the US government, in order to help the Indian Government to bribe the ministers for their vote, despite the fact, that many of those who voted were criminals serving sentences in the jail, the UPA has won the Vote of Trust and will carry on, just because, money spoke louder than anything else.

In every sphere the story is the same. Mountains of trees are cut down in the Himalayas to fill up with concrete jungles of so-called Ashrams. It does not hurt their feelings to cut trees although they say they are religious minded and non-violent. The cash registers jingle at religious institutions in India, especially because they do not declare their earnings or are Trusts, which is an excuse to evade taxes, on the one hand and give tax benefits to donors on the other. In the name of service to mankind, huge amounts of cash often go to the individual pockets of the authorities who own the ashrams or are used to feed, clothe and house an ever increasing number of runaways from Bihar and other parts of the country. Hence, in the name of religion, they keep extending their ashrams to house more and more of these escapists. In this country, not even Christian charity is honoured. In my hometown, Shillong, in Northeast India, a bazaar called National Market, sells foreign goods at exceptionally low prices. Where have all these goods come from? They are goods that have been donated by well-meaning individuals in the name of charity from nations abroad. These goods, albeit second-hand goods, are sold in the market! Outside, mosques and temples in India, huge number of beggars sit, asking for arms. Our generosity may make us drop a coin or two, but suddenly, we find that the beggars are all working in a syndicate and there is a king-pin who actually receives the money collected because, he houses the beggars and feeds them.

And by any chance did you think that NGOs were any better? Sorry, the heads of NGOs are business people who know how to mobilize huge amounts of dollars/pound/Euros to feed their cash boxes. Of the 100% foreign funding, 10% may go towards the real work, 30% on administrative work and the rest goes towards the making of huge bungalows, holiday homes and such other, of the heads of such NGOs.

It’s all over the place. Everywhere! It’s a market place. So what are we pretending about? Let’s stop being hypocrites. Behind, India being called a country with a strong spiritual base and a country with culture there hides the ugly face of greed and politics without principles, religion with a double face, at once saying that the meaning of life is not vain materialism, and in the same breath, showing that that is all that matters. So what does it really matter if a murderer or a thief, a rapist or a shameless, uneducated elected-by-the-people in his constituency, bootlegger or a goonda politician, who won his votes by giving bags full of rice and bottles of cheap liquor, rub shoulders with highly educated Prime Minister of the country, Dr Manmohan Singh? It’s all the same. Everything can be bought. As a nation, we are class less and should be caste to the swine.

We do not even have a free press because even journalism is without principles. Today, the News channels will scream out the greatness of Dr Manmohan Singh, just before Mrs Sonia Gandhi, in wild imitation of her late mother-in-law, begins to take the salutes and garland, and tomorrow, the same journalists will spit on both their faces.

A nation lead by humans without character and principles makes for a nation without integrity.

Devil may care!

Display Of Money In Parliament Is Shameful

Manmohan Takes On L K Advani's Speech
Amar Singh Involved In Bribing BJP MPs

Why CNN-IBN did not telecast trust vote sting