India prays for rain as the water wars break out

The monsoon is late, the wells are running dry and in the teeming city of Bhopal, water supply is now a deadly issue. Gethin Chamberlain reports
Gethin Chamberlain
THE OBSERVER
Sunday, 12 July 2009
A young man walks across Bhopal’s Upper Lake, which has shrunk to an 8th of its original area.
It was a little after 8pm when the water started flowing through the pipe running beneath the dirt streets of Bhopal’s Sanjay Nagar slum. After days without a drop of water, the Malviya family were the first to reach the hole they had drilled in the pipe, filling what containers they had as quickly as they could. Within minutes, three of them were dead, hacked to death by angry neighbours who accused them of stealing water.
In Bhopal, and across much of northern India, a late monsoon and the driest June for 83 years are exacerbating the effects of a widespread drought and setting neighbour against neighbour in a desperate fight for survival.
India’s vast farming economy is on the verge of crisis. The lack of rain has hit northern areas most, but even in Mumbai, which has experienced heavy rainfall and flooding, authorities were forced to cut the water supply by 30% last week as levels in the lakes serving the city ran perilously low.
Across the country, from Gujarat to Hyderabad, in Andhra Pradesh, the state that claims to be “the rice bowl of India”, special prayers have been held for more rain after cumulative monsoon season figures fell 43% below average.
On Friday, India’s agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, said the country was facing a drought-like situation that was a “matter for concern”, with serious problems developing in states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In Bhopal, which bills itself as the City of Lakes, patience is already at breaking point. The largest lake, the 1,000-year-old, man-made Upper Lake, had reduced in size from 38 sq km to 5 sq km by the start of last week.
The population of 1.8 million has been rationed to 30 minutes of water supply every other day since October. That became one day in three as the monsoon failed to materialise. In nearby Indore the ration is half an hour’s supply every seven days.
The UN has warned for many years that water shortages will become one of the most pressing problems on the planet over the coming decades, with one report estimating that four billion people will be affected by 2050. What is happening in India, which has too many people in places where there is not enough water, is a foretaste of what is to come……

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Money cannot be eaten

“Only after the last tree has been cut down.
Only after the last river has been poisoned.
Only after the last fish has been caught.
Only then will you find that
money cannot be eaten”.
Prophecy of the Cree Native American Tribe
Thank you, ratna

Missing the real Gandhi : from Ratna

This is from an old friend who left a high flying career in advertising to be closer to reality. There are many different opinions on my being in the Talent show, but read on to what she sys later. It’s important and from the heart :
“Watch you every week on India’s Got Talent and you are great. About time you came back to where you belong. Loved the episode where you started dancing when that horrible caricature of Amitabh was on stage sining Jumma Chumma….cracked me up. Incidentally, Colors is a great channel to be on – these guys are doing really different stuff. especially in serials. If you get a chance, please do watch Ballika Vadu…
Even more importantly, your thought about a TV channel for rural India – that is such an incredible idea, Shekhar and you more than anyone can do it …why dont you?
Some thoughts. Have lived for 9 years now in Mysore and a little closer to rural India …a land of ironies where people bathe once a week because there is no water…and the water that they drink it so bad you wouldn’t give it to your animals. People drink a little tea and eat a few handfuls of puffed rice, because that’s all the food that they can afford – other than one frugal meal a day.
You wept when you saw those handicapped kids
Malnutrition haunts and blinds 60,000 Indian kids every year when we have 2000 varieties of greens growing in our country. The irony of it is that just one bowl of greens costing less than a ruppee and a plate of dal chawal and a banana or two a day can save these children. And the greater irony is that we are the world’s largest producers of fruits, vegetables and milk.
The reason why Gandhi disconnected with the rest of the leaders just before we got our independence is because he understood more than anyone did that India is in its villages. We still don’t – so people leave lives of dignity and fresh air in the village to work as maidservants in large cities ….and the irony of it is that we still wonder why our cities are rotting sardine cans ready to burst…
We made Gandhi into the stuff of statues and Gandhi topis when he was – and is – one of the most savvy and contemporary of men, full of humour, his ear firmly to the ground, who could teach the Indian advertising industry a thing or two about brands and the power of symbols and about communication. One of the world’s best known brands is a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, a stick and a dhoti…
But I ramble on…..i hope not too much

Spiritul search a luxury of the rich ?

Seema said ” You have it all hence have the luxury of search for self and soul. Its sad that even discovery to self is a usually a pursuit of the rich and famous because after they have it all they realize that there is still a feeling of emptiness that no amount of money can fill. Whereas, a common man is too busy making both ends meet to indulge in soul searching.”
You are right Seema, when you say ” the rich and the famous …… feel an emptiness that no amount of money can fill”. No one can disagree with that.
But faith too is a means of discovery of the self, as are prayer, ritual and pilgrimages. All are yearnings to find that part of you that is not wedded to the material. One that can transcend life and death. and all those yearnings are certainly not a preserve of the rich and famous. But I also agree, if you are idle, then your search can become an indulgence.
I have been grappling with these issues since I was 10, and perhaps before. I never saw Mathematics as I was taught it, but as a play of numbers where the answers would have to come before the problem. I always failed ! I could never comprehend Physics in a world that could not explain the concept of ‘forever’ and ‘infinity’ to me. I am still doing that, through faliure and success, through constant ups and downs of wealth and relative poverty. This search has been a constant.
Your question has got me thinking. Is this blog an indulgence – an idle indulgence ? Some of my friends think so too – but to me, if I could not afford a computer, I would search out people that have the same questions and talk to them. Through this blog I can reach out to many at the same time, and see what everyone else says.
I dream of day when I can just walk way into the Himlayas and forever wander looking for those reclusive spirits that have spent a lifetime searching for their selves. I guess that is an indulgence, but would that yearning not exist in what you call a ‘common man’ ? Do ‘common people’ as you call them, not go in search, even to the local temple ?

Pebbles in a pool of stillness

Deepak R wrote the following piece, and does anyone have answers ?
“Shekhar, you started your blog’site’ with something so simple and smelling fresh:
‘I exist because you imagine I do’.
Where did that come from ? One could have pretty much stopped with at that. And it would not matter.
However words keep appearing on the windscreen of your experience. There is a need to put them out for the imagined outer world. A need to bounce them off. To see how they would bounce back. To constantly throw pebbles into the pool of stillness and watch the ripples. People coming here are keen to throw a few of their pebbles in as well. There are some that observe and comment on the ripples and some who see the stillness against which they appear.
Why this need?. It seems, after all, the people have the need to sustain the imagination that ‘you exist’, is it not Shekhar. This intimate and torrid love affair with ideas, words on the blog,in the mind, can it end, no denying it is most enjoyable!! But to whom? Who is hell bent on stamping his existence through these imprints ? Who is he reporting the success or failure of his effort to ?”

Fim Design and narrative : Elizabeth

My last post sounds more complex than it is. Theory always does, and theory comes for me in hindsight often as I look back at my films and wonder ‘what was going in my mind when I made those decisions’. ?
The central focus in Elizabeth was Power. The PLOT conflict was between Elizabeth and her Catholic detractors, in their struggle for Power. The PSYCHOLOGICAL conflict was between Elizabeth’s desire be in love and therefore retain innocence, as against the need to have power to survive, and therefore to be ruthless. The MYTHIC conflict was about whether it was possible to be Divine and Human at the same time. Focusing on interpretations of Virginity as a fact, or as a political/mythic statement. Virginity was explored not only as a political need, but as a Mythic idea of Elizabeth’s desire to be (perhaps) a representation of the Virgin Mary.
The Design of the film is complex as it covers lighting, costumes, colors, camera choreography and the architectural design of the film.
The Architectural design of the film was telling another story, almost contradictory to Elizabeth’s rise to Power. By constantly showing Elizabeth as a tiny individual in relationship to the immense stone architecture, it contradicted her rise to Power, often through the very high angle shots of the stone arches in the places that I shot in. The attempt was to introduce the idea that their is greater Power operating beyond the human conflict going on in the plot. I called it Destiny but it could go by many other names. All the antagonists and the protagonists were ultimately equal in Death and subject to their Destiny.
The Costume design showed Elizabeth’s gradual denial of her sexuality through the elaborateness of her costumes – which became more and more ostentatious even as they covered more and more of her skin and body, while all the time she was struggling to stay the young princess in love.
The Make up design too. For example in the last shot of the film where Elizabeth had her face painted in white, was about the loss of individuality through merging into the mythic icon that Elizabeth had become/ turned herself into. But at the same time emerged as one of the most powerful individuals in History. What was she at the end then ? A Myth, an Individual ? an Icon ? Or all at the same time ?. And was this of her own volition, or was she, like everyone else, just a product of the forces of Destiny ?
Constant contradiction and search for possibilities in every aspect.

Film Design in relationship to Film Narrative

Peter asked :we are concerned with and focused on the role of design in relation to narrative. Every great director is a genius with narrative, that’s a given. This issue in relation to any filmmaker would be – what is their relationship to design, and to a cross-media discussion that might exclude conventional linear film narrative, and therefore force a different discussion of world-building
From Shekhar :Peter, we are the stories we tell ourselves. We are our own Mythology. And stories are us being thrown into moral conflict at many levels. Political, plot, psychological and mythological. And the most effective stories are those in which we are so achingly close to finding resolution and therefore harmony within the conflict, but the moment we find that harmony we are confronted by another conflict –
But isn’t all art and poetry and music also the yearning for harmony in conflicting words, notes or colours ? And greatest artist provoking us in and out of that harmony, causing us to shed tears of discovery and emotion.
So what’s different in design ? Design of a film must add another dimension to a film, but also create conflict and encourage us to search for harmony in that conflict. Within the broader vision of the film, but at the same time adding another dimension to the plot. Sometimes even in conflict with the plot but not in conflict with the central conflict of the film.
And if that’s for something as immense as a film, is it not the same for a design of a pendant or even a chair ?
If there is no conflict, their is no curiosity. But if there is no suggestions of harmony, there is no beauty or joy. But constant harmony will be boring, so the conflict must be provoked every time u sense he design.

Harmony and disharmony

For those that define Harmony as the natural state of existence, or a state that we should aspire to, I have a question. :
Does the Universe not exist in constant battle between contradictory forces of Harmony and Disharmony ? Like the sunspots of the Sun, the Universe too tends to explode out of itself and then is pulled back by a contradictory force ?
Would the Universe and everything that existed in it not be completely dead and non creative if there was a continuous stable non moving state of Harmony ? And the same would go for us, in any form you may decide to see ourselves. Our consciousness, our soul, or our ‘five senses self’. The one law of creativity, of existence, of consciousness, of life itself, all that exists, or potentially exists, does so between extreme contradictions.
After all, Good can only be described in the context of Evil and vice versa. So what is that state that is one of complete acceptance (oops – here we go again in that word) which is neither good nor evil, nor moral or immoral, nor active or inactive, that is neither violent nor non- violent ? That has form but no recognizable form ? A state that defies all adjectives, nouns or verbs we can think of , a state that exists without context with anything else, that is complete within it self yet completely infinite and incomplete ?
For those that claim to have found that state which is often described as ‘nirvana (Hinduism) , or ‘shunyata’ (Buddhism) , or the eternal life (Islam and Christianity), I assume have encompassed the forces of contradiction and disharmony within themselves, battling neither, so experience themselves as the Universe and Eternity themselves. They are neither one nor the other, but part of a stillness that allows the battle to rage within. Knowing it to be an eternal battle, but able to smile upon it.
For me, I am still part of the battle, but learning that being buffeted by contradiction and giving into the contradictory forces is just the first step – the step that gives into the unknown without resistance. Or atleast active resistance, for the mind and the ego still rebels. The first step is to accept Chaos as the natural order of things, before reaching and yearning for that which is called ‘enlightenment’ or inner stillness, or whatever word and religion or philosophy chooses to use.
So forgive me if I question those that seem to emphatically KNOW. I don’t. I yearn to experience, and wonder at people that say they know. Is it mere knowledge ? Or is it experience ? Is it intellectual or is it emotional ? The only people I meet that seem to be completely comfortable with contradiction (or duality as it is commonly called) are children , who have not yet been taught to separate completely that which is imagined and that which sensed.
I see everything I write here as huge question mark. A search and questioning, and sharing that yearning with others.

James Baldwin on Michael Jackson

James Baldwin, writing in an essay in 1985 in his essay Here Be Dragons, where he says :
“The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael.”And he goes on to say, “Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated—in the main, abominably—because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.”

Micheal Jackson’s Angelic Spirit

Did Micheal jackson live in his human self or his spirit self ?
Without the energy of his spirit, it could not be possible that every human being on this planet knew his music, his dance. It did not matter that you were in innner Mangolia, or a potential suicide bomber in the Gaza Strip, or an Israeli soldier, or an kid from the most remote rural India. Everyone knew MJ, every one knew his song, and everyone knew his dance.
In judging the show “India’s Got Talent” I was amazed at the amount of young people from small town and rural India that did Micheal Jackson impersonations and called him their Guru. In fact the most brilliant one was an 11 year old adivasi boy, who claimed that Micheal Jackson’s spirit entered him when he danced.
The few times I met MJ through my friend Deepak Chopra (they were good friends), I met an extremely humble man. One who made me feel like he was my fan rather than the other way round. He reminded me of a few others that I met, who’s spirits were obviously uncomfortable with the limitations of their bodies, the spirits were dying to soar and to be Universal. Heath Ledger and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan were like that. Spirits not wanting to be limited by the body. All died young. Like Angels.
And what is it about us that we cannot handle strong spirits. Do we have to crucify them ? I saw the agony the Micheal Jackson had to endure in last years accused of crimes against children based not on proof but on flawed accusations.
When Angels appear amongst us, we are compelled to crucify them.