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Gandhiji or Mahatma Gandhi ?

So what does Gandhi mean to the world, to India and specially to us, who are born in India and brought up to almost worship him. We tagged him with the prefix ‘Mahatma’ with has mythic and religious symbolism.

And there lies the problem. We have such a wonderful way to consign a life to a figure to be worshipped on the mantle piece and thereby distancing ourselves from him . No longer do we feel the pangs of guilt of not being able to imbibe values of another human being simply because, after all,  he/she are no longer human beings but Gods to be worshipped, aren’t they ?

After all, just think of the massive corrupt deals being made in rooms and offices where a huge picture of Gandhiji hangs from the wall.

I have struggled a lot to distance myself from the word Mahatma. Not easy when the greatest heroes in my eductaion system were Bapuji and Chacha Nehru.  I have got over Chacha Nehru as I have grown up. Recognizing the incongruity of Panchsheel and Bandung Conference by studying the dictatorial lives of his comrades like Sukarno of Indonesia and Nasser of Egypt. And wondered on what basis Nehru chose his non – aligned friends.

The more I learn about the Partition of India, the more I realize that Chacha Nehru too, was as complicit in that horrendous event as was Jinnah. It was after all, the battle to be the first Prime Minister of India that laid the tragedy of partition at the feet of personal ambition.  The huge public sector projects that ultimately were doomed to be hot beds of inefficiency and corruption. The tragedy of the War with China that Chacha Nehru refused to face up to, despite repeated warnings form his military chiefs. Refusing to believe that his charisma and diplomatic skills were not enough to prevent China from dealing a devastating blow to India’s ill equipped armed forces at the cost of thousand of lives.  Of soldiers sent directly to battle to a terrain and weather that would need months of training to exist in.

So many soldiers just froze to death in their bunkers.

Yet Chacha Nehru did have vision. And used the force of his personality to get his way.  He did see India in its modern traditions long before anyone else did.  He did foresee the need for education and formed the IIT’s that gave rise to the beginnings of pride in being Indian in the modern world and made the world suddenly wake up to modern India.  India and the world saw Nehru as India, and India as Nehru.

The problem was Chacha Nehru too, saw Nehru as India and India as Nehru.  Something his daughter inherited to devastating effect.

It has been less easy for me to drop the mantle of hero worshipping Gandhiji. Yes there are rumors of him sleeping naked with his nieces to prove himself celibate, Stories I think are exaggerations. Yes he was a mule of man. Obstinate to a fault. Like all men like him, including Nelson Mandela, who’s obstinacy destroyed their immediate family.

Yet it was this obstinacy that that brought the British down to their knees. Of course the British were wounded and limping after the war and could no longer hold on to a huge colony like India if it rebelled. But Gandhi used yet unknown tools of political warfare to ferment one of the most famous freedom struggles in the world.

It is said that no one understood the roots of India more than Gandhi.  That’s absolutely true. But no one understood the roots of the great British Empire and world politics more than Gandhi. I will never forget the picture of Gandhi entering the British Parliament in his white Dhoti in a sea of black suits and very British dresses. Being applauded by the very people he was causing Indians to rebel against.

Gandhi has the sharpest political mind of the modern history because he understood the value of myth. He created a mythology that was Gandhi in the world of politics that was mysterious, unfathomable and unshakable. In his own lifetime. That in itself was amazing.

To Indians he created a figure that came right out of the roots of India’s culture. The worship of sacrifice. Of ‘Tyag’. He became the epitome of ‘Tyag’, the giving up of all worldly addictions, material or personal. Whether he deliberately created himself into that myth, or he deeply believed in those values will always be a mystery. Thats what Myths are.

Yes. Gandhi was once a bit of a Anglophile. You can tell by the way he dressed before he gave up Western clothes. He aspired to be at the bar at London. You can tell by the way he wrote his letters, even signing himself off as ‘your sincere friend’ to Hitler!  I will never work out why he did that.

Yes there is a really amazing picture of a very young Gandhi, proudly posing in the clothes of a British soldier as he serves in the British army in the medical corps during the Boer War. Yes, it is possible that the Gandhi the world knows was born of a personal feeling of insult and humiliation by the British in South Africa, that ultimately led to a wider national and international perspective. But that’s the story of all great revolutionaries and freedom fighters.

But try as hard as I can I cannot easily shake of Gandhiji as one the greatest human beings that lived in the 20th century. And a man (not the picture on the mantlepiece) that needs to be studied, understood and learnt from. His perspective and knowledge on India economics are now abundantly clear to us from the mistakes we have made in the last 65 years. Gandhiji always insisted that true India lived in its villages and that economic prosperity and wealth should grow from grass roots by encouraging enterprise and innovation in those grass roots levels.

And today, almost seven decades after independence,  as India struggles to come to terms with its vast inequalities and the world writes reams of books on ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and economic planners struggle with how to encompass a billion people into the new economic order, it will be well worth today, the day of Gandiji’s birth, or Gandhiji Jayanti, to stand up and say :

Gandhiji warned us so.

 

I am a Hindu

I am Hindu, and very proud to be one .. but I have often wrestled with that question. What does it mean to be a Hindu?

 I have spoken to some of the best minds, the most spiritual minds.  I have journeyed to many places in my quest. and I have to come to believe that the best way to describe Hinduism is to say what it is not. For how do you describe a ‘teaching’ that encompasses all possibilities and all of eternity, refusing to describe the infinite in finite terms ? That describes all of life and all thought as both illusion and reality at the same time ? There is no science , no thought, no possibility that Hindu thought does not embrace ? So there is only one way to describe Hinduism for me – although it may mean many things to other people – is that Hinduism is a search, a yearning, to find that which is infinite within ones own self, a yearning to experience that which is Eternal…


…So what is Hinduism not ? It is not centralized, it not an organization, it is not political. It can never be. For every time there has been an attempt to organize Hinduism as a political force, it becomes by nature a finite structured force that bears no relationship to the idea for a search for the infinite.
So to those people that ask why we cannot declare India a Hindu state I ask them to understand and trace back to what a Hindu state is ? And they will soon realize they are looking for an identity. And the very basis of Hinduism negates the idea of identity. For it is a search for ourselves beyond that which is called ‘Identity’.

Which begs the question, why we cannot accept our identity as just Indian ?

That uncertain Act of Creativity 1

And thats a question I am always asked.  What is creativity ? What is the creative act ? What defines you differently from others if you are defining yourself as creative ?

Well .. let me say upfront .. The creative person is not born different.  Every child is creative. They satisfy everything that would define creativity.  They are constantly observing.  They are constantly exploring. They are not taking anything as a given. Everything is new and not prejudiced by experience.

Lets get deeper ..

They do not condition the experience of the now, of this moment by prejudices built upon past experiences.  Nor are they projecting the past into the future. The future is to be explored unfettered by memories ..

And most importantly ..

They will take the next step forward .. not knowing what will happen .. if they fall they will still take the next step forward .. how else will they learn to walk ? They are not afraid to explore the unknown ..

Now you may say they need to learn.  That the skills they develop over time, to depend on the experiences of the past to project the future are mere survival skills .. or they will constantly skid on the proverbial Banana Peel.  Of course.

Yet I could define creative people as those that hold on to that child like quality.  Those that that retain an ability to explore the unknown.  Those that do not allow the past experiences to prejudice their decision making or their exploration of new ideas, of new thoughts. New discoveries or explorations into new horizons.

We do get called dreamers.  We do get called stupid. We do get called impractical ( to the normal world we are).  We fall in love all too easily. We chase thoughts and dreams all too easily and like children we fall over and get hurt all the time. But we still chase dreams for they are bigger than the hurt .. I cant imagine a child not trying to walk if it gets hurt a few times ..

We gloss over the practicalities of life and somehow believe that the Universe ( and indeed God, for those of us that believe in it) is on our side .. even if all practical evidence points to the an interpretation that its not !!

So what makes us different .. what makes us (in other people’s eyes) irresponsible .. ? What makes us revel in uncertainty and be provoked by the adventure of the unknown ?

Enough for today .. let me have your thoughts and I will continue later .. love to you all .. for thats what we creative people hold on to most .. the idea of love .. we search for it all the time ..

 

Shekhar

 

And where do all the discarded phones go? By Eshla

During the launch of iPhone 6, Apple fans lined up outside stories for 2 days, camping out with sleeping bags and energy bars, simply to get their hands on the newer, sleeker version.

While Apple may have sold a record number of 20 million units, the real story is the millions of phones that will be disposed, neglected, or smashed as owners fall in love with the newer, better version.

E-waste is not just a tree-hugger’s problem.  Massive e-waste dumpsites are cropping up around the world – Ghana, China, Vietnam, India.  They’re almost all in the developing world.  That’s because they emit toxic fumes, clogging the lungs of the workers stuck working these hazardous jobs.  They wouldn’t comply with our EPA standards in the US (even though we send tons of it away).  That’s why our “recycled” e-waste ends up in dumpsites overseas.  Few recyclers truly recycle the materials in an environmental fashion.  Why?  Because it’s expensive to do so.  It’s cheaper to burn it, smash it, break it down, and sell it in informal markets.

Every year cell phone manufacturers come out with glitzy new models of their device.  They’re designed to only last a couple years; battery life will begin to wear, and users will become frustrated with inferior performance.  So, what do we do?  Throw it out for a new one.  That’s the intent of these tech companies.

Yet, we could repair those phones.  Your iPhone 4s can be repaired.  Your Samsung Galaxy 4 can be repaired.  Their lives can be extended.  But we choose not to.

Bear in mind, though, that a chip in a smartphone contains 60 chemical elements (no, they’re not eco-friendly parts, in case you’re still wondering).  China alone made 1.18 billion phones in 2012.  The US tossed out over 250 million computer, monitors, TVs, and cell phones in 2010.   Experts estimate that e-waste volumes will reach 65 tons by 2017.  And by then, we’ll have over 10 billion mobile phones connected.

While it sounds abysmal, there a few solutions.  Consumers could repair phones, hold onto them longer and extend their life.  That’s the easiest way, as a consumer, that we could show some love to the planet.

Also, consider donating your phones to organizations such as Hope Phones, which uses old phones to provide maternal health in rural communities: health workers are equipped with these discarded phones to monitor and track patients in the field.  Or support companies such as Rico, a start-up (with a kickstarter campaign online), which is repurposing used smartphones for home security programs that are clunky, expensive, and un-recyclable.

Several factories have cropped up that are using the necessary equipment (and environmental precautions) to breakdown phones.  One of these is ironically in India – a country whose environmental policies have been dismal but is home to Bangalore, one of the biggest IT hubs on the planet.  Just outside of Bangalore, Rohan Gupta runs a state-of-the-art facility where’s not just processing e-waste but refashioning the metals extracted from the waste into watches and “eco-friendly” jewelry.  Inventive, indeed.

As our love with technology grows, we need to remember that it’s not the easiest thing to dispose of.  Would you plant used smartphones into your flower beds or rose garden?  Probably not.

So, why dump them into a trash bin if they can be repurposed, reused, or passed down.

The Earth is a living, breathing entity.  But, it doesn’t use cell phones.  We do.  We shouldn’t dump our junk onto it.  That would be like dumping your trash in your neighbors backyard – they didn’t make it, why should they have to deal with it?

The Silk Route

This post is submitted by reader Jolly Shah

I am about to complete a year in Afghanistan this August. Before I moved here, I had decided to write about the country and my experiences here but I procrastinated until I got this urge today to write. And write first about what- women and Afghanistan! Before my first visit here in 2011, whenever I thought of Afghanistan, the image that came in front of my eyes was of women walking in blue burqas- the special burqas called “shuttle cock” burqas wore by women in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. I am aware that what Muslim women wear has come under scrutiny for all the right and wrong reasons for a while but these Afghan blue burqas, I am intrigued with and I am sure this is case with many of us.

I must admit that there is a lot more to Afghanistan than these images of blue ghostlike figures walking. The country’s history predates ancient silk route and Alexander’s conquest, is a melting pot for South Asia and Central Asia and culturally speaking- melting pot also for Indian subcontinent and Persian cultures. There is a lot more I can go on writing but I will keep that for other articles. The more I am knowing this country, the more I am fascinated and falling in love with it even when I see it more and more as a beautiful country with ugly problems and even uglier geopolitics!

For now, I will go back to my first image of Afghanistan- women in blue burqas. I have not come to terms with it and I do not know if I ever will. Wearing these burqas separate women from their environment and in some ways gives them protection as they become invisible. To me and to many others, they are epitome of suppression of women. And height of suppression would be to deny someone their identity. Few years ago when I joined international charity Oxfam that strived to work globally with one of their aims- Right to an identity. Initially, it did not impress me much, however, the more I lived, the more I learnt about the world, I realised how millions of people, especially women are denied an identity! Coming from India, like most patriarchal societies, so far, your identity was about being someone’s daughter, wife or mother. Old saying in Gujarati even proclaimed women to be source of conflict putting them at par with land and gold; thus nothing more than one of the properties of a man.

Blue Burqas

 

It is interesting to study Afghan culture where honour is the utmost important thing even to the poorest man. The country has endemic domestic violence and violence against girls/women in the most atrocious forms you can think of. However, what I don’t see is the regular harassment on the street or ill-treatment of women in the public that we experience in India on everyday basis. It led me to think how come a culture where violence against women is so prevalent, however, is limited to the four walls only? Ah…women are subject of man’s honour! You may kill them, torture them in private with most heinous crime you can do against women but in public they are symbol of a man’s honour and messing up with it means your generations will keep killing each other for the animosity you will saw by jeopardising a man’s honour and his property! In my genocide special class in Oxford, I remember being told how rape is being used as an instrument of war and it is a man talking to another man! Rape as an act of genocide, where a man is communciating to the other men that your women will bear our children (and not yours)! What makes Afghan situation unique is the lethal combination of Pashtunwali (the Pashtun code) and fundamentalist Islam and the relatively liberal non-pashtuns too follow similar standards for treatment of women partly due to residual effect of Taliban ruling and partly by choice, hence the ubiquitous blue burqas!

A Pakistani friend from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told me that these shuttle cock burqas were widely seen during his mother’s day and now they see it as symbol of dumbness. He added that women wearing shuttlecock burqa are perceived to be so dumb that they can’t even cross road properly. I wanted to know more about it so I asked this friend to bring one for me. Besides my curiosity about it, it is a security/defence tool allowing me to run on the street in event of an attack. Over a social evening, me and our diplomatic guests had good go at trying it on (including one of the ambassadors of a western European country) and having a good laugh but in that process we realised there is barely 2-3 inches of netted space that is your window to the world. Of course you cant see car passing by due to limited vision and your are likely to be seen dumb while crossing road and that too with 2-3 children and some shopping that you are carrying.

And then I got invited to two different Afghan wedding parties for women. I was stunned with what I saw there! Underneath those blue burqas, there are these absolutely stunning women, they have a personality; they have an identity. My own colleagues whom I did not seen before without a hijab were without one and their hair open and flowing with smart make up on just made me feel great about who they are and they too echo similar feelings! One of them who is in her mid-forties told me that when she went to university in Mazar more than 20 years ago, she has a bob cut hair and she wore knee-length skirts! I had to remind myself that I live in a country with beautiful men and women and no doubt the first beauty cream of India was named “Afghan Snow”!

There are lot many interesting things about Afghanista and women in Afghanistan. I hope to tell more and more stories of it in coming days.

Friends of the Kathputli Colony, Delhi

This letter came to me and I thought it was worth  publishing :

Dear Sir

We are writing to you on behalf of the traditional artists at Kathputli Colony, Delhi.

This colony is a beautiful hub of different communities of artists from different states of India who have been living here for more than 50 years. You must be already acquainted with the colony artists as they have performed in your movie “Bandit Queen” and Guddi Didi who even sang for the movie.

This colony is a special heritage site for it is home to puppeteers, street magicians, animal trainers, jugglers, acrobats, dancers, singers, toy makers, sculptors, poets and also non-artists residents who serve the city through their various professions and live in harmony with the art and culture the residents have so meticulously nurtured and continued with over the years.

This colony is now facing the danger of eviction and might be shifted to a transit camp and later into tiny flats where they fear that they shall not be able to continue with their traditional professions and way of life. How would the puppeteers create and store life size puppets in that space? Where would people sculpt? Where would the Ayurveda doctors prepare medicines? How would the acrobat carry huge bamboo poles in high rise apartment lifts? How would they perform and practice in open as they do in their interactive community life now? The colony residents request that they must not be forced to shift into a way of life that would destroy this heritage forever. They ask, can this colony not be redesigned instead as a heritage colony which provides them space to nurture their art forms and perform, to continue with tradition and also serve Tourism?

Secondly, these maestros who enthrall public all around the world in the name of Indian Tradition, do they not deserve respect and support from their own country? Currently their court proceedings are on and they have permission from Lt. Governor to continue staying here for at least a month, but they are still being harassed and threatened to vacate. This is severe blow to their morale and their self-respect. It is setting such a terrible example for their future generations, why should then they even continue with these art forms?

On internet, we have support from around the world, people liking the page, putting up photographs, hardly does this support get converted on ground. We request every person who respects this heritage to demand just and dignified treatment for this colony and humbly request for your support as well.

friendsofkathputlicolony@gmail.com

 

Ocean of Imagination

In this infinite ocean

of imagination

within which exist

infinite ripples

of imagination

 

Each ripple colliding with another

creating infinite ripples

of imagination

 

Ceaseless, eternal

never-ending

no one ripple imagining the whole

yet forever and constantly

changing the whole

 

Out of this imagination

matter forms

out of this imagination

matter is destroyed

 

The big bang

just one more ripple,

The black hole just a ripple

colliding with another

 

And so God said

Let their be light

And there was light ….

A Inspirational Life : Joao Carlos Martins

João Carlos Martins was enjoying a brilliant career as a concert pianist, with performances at prestigious venues such as New York’s 2,800-seater Carnegie Hall, when disaster struck. Asports injury damaged a nerve in his right hand and, at the age of 28, he had to accept that he had lost the ability to play perfectly – even though at an emotional level he still longed to play. He sold all his pianos and reinvented himself, somewhat bizarrely, as a boxing entrepreneur.

While watching the boxers, he was inspired by how they kept fighting despite adversity and hard knocks. He told himself: ‘I am a coward; I gave up too easily and now I’m no longer giving the best of myself’. So he quietly bought back his pianos and began practising again. He found that, by adapting hisstyle of play, he could still produce mesmerising music. After five years, he called his former agent and suggested a comeback. With a feeling of fear and hope, Carnegie Hall was again booked. On the day of the comeback performance, he took a taxi to Carnegie Hall.

The traffic was much worse than usual and the taxi driver said: ‘I have no idea who is playing tonight but he’s surepacking out the whole place!’. That night was the greatest of Martins’ life, as the New York audiences welcomed him back with ovation after ovation. Martins received a recording contract to play all the works of J. S. Bach. But while working on this, disaster struck again. Street thieves mugged him for the sake of his wallet; they hit him over the head with an iron bar. The brain damage affected his playing and forced him to quit.

During a dream he felt that he was told to become a conductor. So, at the age of 64, he took his first lesson in how to conduct an orchestra. His musical talent allowed him to make rapid progress – and he forged yet another career out of adversity. Today, as well as conducting top orchestras, he reaches out to others who are struggling against adversity – to the poor of Brazil who live in slums. Through a Foundation, Martins is aiming to create 1,000 string orchestras throughout the favelas. Martins told at a gathering recently: “Before everything, I love life!”

 

He then showed his love of life and music by playing a wonderfully emotionally piece of music, with the few fingers that still obey the commands of his brain. And as so often before, he received a standing ovation.

CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to
constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:  

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity
and integrity of the Nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of
November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO
OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION

Hrithik Roshan and Paani

Which Director in his right mind would ever give up a chance to work with Hrithik Roshan ?

He has been one of the most exciting actors in Hindi Cinema for a long time.  And a huge star to boot.  Some years ago I predicted he would be the first Indian actor to hit Hollywood big time. Like I mean really, in the A list.  I am surprised that he has not done so. Maybe Hindi films keep him too busy. Maybe he will after the next Krish

And years ago, as I sat down to write Paani, I had one image in mind to play the male lead. Hrithik Roshan. The character I described in the script was completely Hrithik. His manner, his inner world, his conflicts .. were all Hrithik. I sat with AR Rahman and as we composed music together, I always would ask him to imagine Hrithik.

But then the years passed. I got involved with Hollywood. Other projects ensnared me away from the project that was my deepest passion .. Paani.  And as the years passed, and the script kept evolving.. changing.  And Hrithik changed too. He went from being a young man uncertain of himself, a young man looking for his identity in this world, with no understanding of the power, the rebellion inside him that would change his life…..

….to what Hrithik is today. The Super Hero. The man who is the protector, the man who can take on the world single handedly. The man who knows he can take on the world singlehandedly. Hrithik evolved into Krish.

And I realized I had left it too late…..

So while I lost the chance to cast Hrithik in Paani, I hope that he would still agree to be in one of my next films. In Hollywood probably.

For which Director in his right mind would ever give up the chance to work with Hrithik Roshan ?