The so called ‘Negro’ Village in Gujarat

In Sasan Gir in Gujarat, we saw this ‘Peacock Dance’. We were astonished at the style and the beat of the dance, which felt completely African. The body structure of the men performing the dance did not feel Indian either. It felt like a troop of dancers that flew in from a country in Africa. I was told that the dancers came from the ‘Negro Village’. And when went there the next day, we found a village (and then many more) where everyone looked completely African but spoke and were culturally completely Gujarati. They told me they were descended from the people that were brought in by the Nawab of Junagargh, but some said that they had descended from fr earlier times, when the Arab traders brought Abbisynian slaves many many generations ago. The term ‘Negro Village’ is the local term, not mine.

Incredible India : The Great Rann of Kutch

kaveri exulting in the sheer magnitude of the white salt desert of the Great Rann of Kutch. The largest in the world, it covers almost 10,000 sq kilometers. Formed by receeding seas that left the salty marsh land behind, it is amazing to actually see yourself walk on crunchy salt crystals and see just white for as far as the eye can see. According to Wikipedia, this was a navigable stretch of water in Alexander’s time – but to my mind this is probably geologically a far earlier phenomena. Inside there is the largest colony of flamingoes in the world.


I am travelling in Gujarat with my daughter visiting the villages that keep the traditional handicrafts alive from generation to generation, the Rann of Kutch and now in the Gir forests in search of the last of the Asian lions. Many of these things will probably not survive the onslaught of our times by the time she grows up. So I would like her to see where India really grew up.
No fast internet access here – so will post some pictures and more details soon.

Humility, simplicity

he sat here
in all humility
in extreme simplicity
and changed the world
his empty ‘chair’
a symbol now
of the lack of
Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi’s room at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Visited today by my daughter Kaveri and myself. To pay our respects and homage.

Are Indians too desentisized to change anything ?

Austere wrote (to the story of a person being tortured and killed because he refused to give a ‘gift’ for Mayawati’s birthday party) :
“The lack of my own reaction frightens me Too often repeated a story. Happens. Is desensitization a survival skill? I don’t know. But I don’t like it ”
Is Austere right ? I think she has a point. And if he is right, how do we overcome this inertia ? Or is India consigned to the same cess pool of politics for ever ?

Merry Christmas and a cheerful New Year !!

Am in Mumbai at this time and seeing a much more somber Christmas celebrations. The Churches and other places of worship are full, but the hotels and the partying is tentative. But perhaps thats the way it was intended to be ?
This last year has been dramatic. And there are somber lessons to learn. The year started with India being branded as the next great economic power and the stock market flying incredibly high. The year ended with a crash in the economy, a sinking stock market and terror attacks in Mumbai. And we go into a New Year celebration with the pall of nuclear conflict hanging over us. All within a year ?
Yet we go into next year with hope that the lessons of last year will put us on far steadier course, both in our personal and public lives. We understand better now the nature of the world, and look to concentrate on that which is sustainable like, love, relationships, friendship, environment and spirituality.
The changing of the world order with Obama being elected also gives rise to a hopeful new force in world politics and I am sure we look forward to his taking charge. We also hope the India will find a new leader that has the same trust of the people,
Have a great Christmas and New Year everyone

Drunken Cockroach

Does anyone remember the scene in India in Mr India where Sri jumped on the bed in alarm when she saw the cockroach ? And then realizes that unknown to her, the house was crawling with kids ? Well, I needed the cockroach to be very still for the camera as he/she eyed Sri Devi threateningly. Focussing takes a long time and the cockroach needed to be patient. So we got the cockroach drunk !! No kidding, we surrounded the cockroach in a pool of my favorite Old Monk Rum, and the cockroach was soon lolling around like a drunken sailor, giving in to the DP, Baba Azmi’s every demand.
Unbelievable, but hey – talk to anyone on the sets. It was true !

Happy Birthday, Mayawati ji

With the potential nuclear conflict looming at our borders, and our economy spinning out of control, thank God at least one politician had the sense to celebrate their own existence and her own birthday. Who cares that the system of government is collapsing and who cares that the country’s resources – even our fresh water – is being sold to the highest bidder, and who cares that gradually we are slipping back into the poverty ridden state we were 20 years ago in only a few months.
And who cares that politics now is the biggest franchise in India, where seats are ‘leased’ to the highest bidder. Not caring where or how they got the money. Who cares the democracy has become just another form of corporate business in your state, and it’s people trapped in the poverty of democracy. What we really care about is that you had a jolly good birthday party, with a beautiful resplendant white cake and we loved your ever charming beaming smile.
We hear that your goons that beat the engineer to death, for he dared to say no to give you a birthday gift, were singing ‘Hap Hap Happy Birthday” as they kicked him senseless.
Happy Birthday Mayawati ji

Forgotten how to write a letter ? Guest column from Neelesh Misra

“Quick! Help me! I have forgotten to write a letter!”
My wife, who generally does not think much of my slow moving brain until she needs its help, shook me this weekend as she broke a long silence as we watched the TV together.
“Huh?” I said.
“Do you write the date on the left or the right?” she said.
I took several seconds to soak in the deep meaning of what she had just said. I turned around slowly. There she was, cross-legged on the bed under the Rajasthani quilt, a pink letter pad on her knees and a pen in her hands.
I realised that this was some sort of an event which was in the works for half a day. When we had gone out in the evening to New Delhi’s suburb of Noida, she had avoided walking into her favourite stores dragging behind her reluctant husband (as she is prone to), and instead looked for a stationery shop. Stationery? When was the last time we bought stationery or went into a stationery shop? We have so long ago catapulted from stationery to Blackberry. But she wanted to buy stationery. She said she wanted to write a letter. My wife is a television reporter and one of India’s more prominent news anchors. She had received a handwritten letter of appreciation from an 80-year-old gentleman and she wanted to reply with a letter.
As she spent the next thirty minutes trying to write out her six lines, my mind leaped into a beautiful Bermuda Triangle of memory. When was it that I wrote my last handwritten letter? I rummaged through it and found a lot of stuff in the letterbox of my past
Ever since I was in school, letters were everything….

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Slow poisoning of India

When death comes slowly, it does not create sensational news. We need to be vigilant on many fronts, especially on the environment, where corporations knowingly destroy communities and our land for short term profit. This is a difficult video to watch, but it is worth the effort