Tired Hands, Christmas message by Eshla

There was a lady, rather frail and aged, who would wipe the floor of the home that I was staying in. She came daily, in the leisurely hours of the afternoon. As others rested, she squatted on her knobbly knees and gently cleaned the tiles, wiping them with patience and thought. Unlike the others, she wasn’t in a hurry. Rather, she did it methodically, beginning at one end of the flat and ending at the other in broad strokes – as broad as her bony arms would allow.

Her hair was always secure in a neat bun. Her sari was always properly wrapped. Though torn at the edges and sullied by years of squatting on dusty floors, it was wrapped with a certain elegance. She had little decoration on her, if any. Just one thin, threadlike chain that graced her freckled neck.

Much of her looked like it had been overused with little left to give. The arms, especially, seemed as though they’d give way any day. Her skin, tarnished by the intense sun, told stories of countless decades of toil.

Yet, even in such old age, her face expressed certainty and desire to live. Her eyes were alive and grateful. Her smile, hesitant but kind. Her expressions were subtle but firm.

But a certain sadness hung over. After all, she had spent a lifetime doing this work, mastering an art that others had negated. And she’d done it with vigor, knowing that it would provide her shelter, comfort, and food.

I approached her one afternoon, out of curiosity and out of respect, wanting to acknowledge her presence. She shared with me tidbits of her life. Her face lifted when she spoke of her children. She’d had two but they’d migrated to other, bigger cities where work was more abundant to see if they make more for the family. She had little to provide for herself; hence, she kept working into her later years. When I asked her about her work, she responded by saying (in hindi), “Ab to bahut din ho gaye hain. Pasand ya na pasand – kya farek? Roti kilye hai ye sab.” (transl: So many days have passed now. Whether I like it or not – what difference does it make? I work to eat.)

I was silent. I couldn’t offer her much.

It always felt a bit odd to me to have someone of my grandmother’s age, sweeping the floor clean under my feet. But I acknowledged that she had work and thus, she would have food to eat. It would have been worse if she were not employed.

Still, it seemed wrong.

But it wasn’t just because she was of a lower class. Rather, I saw a similar scenario play out in more formal, developed economies where those who had toiled their entire lives had to return to work due to the economic situation.

In a grocery store, one of those mega-sized ones, where you’re likely to get lost in an aisle full of pickles, I saw elderly men and women, standing behind tables, handing out samples. They shifted their weight constantly, leaning on the shelves. Their hands moved slowly, very slowly at times. They spoke to the customers softly, directing them around the store. They engaged with the children more so than the adults. And yet, there was a sadness in them as well as they stood for long hours on their aged bodies.

I hadn’t seen them there before. They were a new addition. Later, I was informed that the recession had eaten up the savings of many seniors and they were forced to go back to the marketplace, looking for work. They didn’t have the skills perhaps for our tech-savvy society. So, they took to simpler jobs, ones that didn’t require extensive training.

But you could tell from their demeanor that they had little desire to be there; rather, they had little energy left in them to be there. The social aspect was nice for them, getting to interact with people of all ages but having to again work on the clock, on their feet, and at long lengths wasn’t appealing.

Two extreme opposite scenarios; one passing out tidbits of food to make a living, the other cleaning crumbs and dust off the floor to make a living. But at the core was a loneliness, a struggle, and a sadness. That too at a time in their lives when they should be reaping the benefits of their arduous years. Why was it that we’d forgotten these faces? In a youth-obsessed society, the elderly don’t feature first. But, still, it just didn’t make sense to me – how can we treat those who had given their lifetimes to hard work and their families with such indifference?

It seems as if we just forgot. And yet, that is the most critical time to remember them, to honor them, and to cherish them. That is the time to enjoy their stories, their insights from life, their memories.

And yet, here they were working away, not out of desire, but of need.

Can we not build a more people-friendly marketplace? It is a naive thought, perhaps, considering the complexities of modern economics. But, ultimately, we are here just momentarily. That is what age quickly reminds us of. And most of us realize that there’s little we can take with us. So, why not share the riches more equitably? Why make exhausted hands work longer – that too to just feed themselves?


from Eshla

When I was younger, in my teens, a friend of mine gave me a letter one holiday season. We were each assigned a secret Santa, someone who’d surprise us with a gift and a little holiday note on the last day of school before Christmas break. One of my dear friends happened to draw my name. So, instead of a bland card with the generic “Happy Holidays,” she decided to write me a letter, recalling all the good times that we’d had together. At the end, she wrote that I had this quality she hadn’t seen in others around her. She said I was tenacious and she wished she had that too. What a lovely compliment.

But, I had no idea what tenacious meant.

So, I politely said thank you, gave her a hug for the note, put it in my bag, and then slipped away to find a dictionary – this was before the era of the Internet. I landed on tenacious. I even tried to pronounce it- sounded funny to me. What on earth could it mean? And then I learned, it meant to have willpower, to persevere, to keep going, to keep trying, to not give up.

Later, when I was in college and had to write letters, expressing my interest to work in a place, do an internship, or apply for a fellowship, I always used one word to describe myself – tenacious.

I was raised in an immigrant household. I didn’t learn tenacity from a dictionary. I saw it in front of me. I saw success and immense failure. I saw good times and very rough times. I knew what it took to put food on the table. I saw sacrifice daily. And I saw tenacity.

That frugality and work ethic stuck with me. I went to college and worked three jobs – two that paid housing and expenses, and the other that helped me inch closer to my dreams. I spent early mornings and afternoons in newsrooms in DC, chasing journalists and producers. I spent evenings sitting through classes on the Cold War. And then spent nights, writing papers, completing assignments, and doing yoga at 2 am to relax. I also had my share of good times with friends. But it was always a humble existence. It was always an existence that knew that this would be the way to a better future, a more secure future, a future of my dreams.

And then I graduated during the pinnacle of the recession. Even with a stellar CV, I found myself entering an economy that didn’t have time, space, or money for me and my classmates. So, I applied to graduate school and, shockingly, got in after a few weeks of submitting my application. But I didn’t have the funds. So I applied to countless scholarships. I got rejected and rejected and rejected. Then, I applied to some more. And finally, found my match. A year later, I found myself walking the streets of London, something I had only dreamed of. Even though I had money in my pocket to catch the bus after class, I would walk. Even though I had money to buy a decent lunch, I’d go for the simple sandwich. Even though, I could have spent on myself a little, I saved. I suppose that frugality resulted from having seen the struggles in my childhood. It was fear that you’d never want to run out.

And in the process of doing all this, I discovered the beauty of service. Perhaps because I grew up in a humble abode, I could relate to the art of service, to giving to those who had less. For me, it became my passion. I enjoyed spending time in rural villages, tending to public health issues. I enjoyed sitting with other young twenty-year-olds, trying to figure out new innovative solutions to serious problems. I enjoyed reading about great leaders who lived big lives on little resources. I enjoyed listening to others stories, learning from their struggles. I enjoyed prodding inefficient organizations and agencies to give more, to do more for their communities.

And yet, while I would spend hours in rural communities, tending to these needs, and coming back home to figure out how to get through silly bureaucracy to get funding for them, I’d run into a middle class, living a life of luxury – far beyond their means. It didn’t matter where I’d look, whether in the so-called rising Asian giants or in the developed world, I saw young people walking around with technology hanging from every pocket, wearing branded t-shirts, shoes, bags, and even socks. And I thought to myself, have we simply exported our bad habits globally?

After all, a generation and a world that had never seen credit cards was now using them – and liberally so. Cities that had deep, cyclical poverty also had families getting bigger homes, more cars to fill all the parking spaces (literally), and more designer wear to compliment their new 21st century lives. I saw bakeries pop up, feeding those already a little too plump with more gluttony. Outside such a shop, a starved man and his family would be sitting, but few looked at him or recognized his presence. I saw globalization benefit thousands in the metros and leave thousands more behind in its shadows. I saw youth that had been granted everything and had little to achieve on their own.

What we had achieved on paper and pencil, they needed an iPhone to do it on. What we achieved by working jobs after school, they expected from their parents. Places we worked so hard to visit by getting scholarships and support, they vacationed in during their holidays with ease.

And I wondered, will this generation have the same work ethic? Will this world have the same tenacity that I learned first-hand? Or has this world’s expectations of a “comfortable” life grown so exponentially that if they don’t slow down, they may just come crumbling down?

As an immigrant, I’ve traveled continents, lived my life in fragments, parts here and parts there. I’ve learned that every society has its flaws. But today, when I see the rise of Asian societies, I worry that perhaps they’ve adopted the bad economical habits that are ravaging the Western world.

We’ve been told repeatedly that one can still live big with less, yet we ignore that advice and indulge our senses. But at the cost of what? To breed a generation that expects luxury but doesn’t know how to achieve it? To breed a generation that doesn’t know struggle, only excess? To breed a generation that isn’t equipped with the tenacity to take on the challenges that life presents?

I hope not. I hope that the mistakes of our economies in the West can be a lesson. A life with less can still be a grand life.

The hungry hands that feed
From Eshla:
When I see my dinner plate, I see stories of injustice.

I love good food as much as anyone else.  And I love rustic food–hearty, soulful, made with care.  The towers of exotic ingredients, piled onto a grand white plate, served at an exorbitant price in a high end restaurant make little sense to me.  For when I see a plate, I don’t just see food, I see the stories behind it – the hands that sowed the seeds, the hands that harvested the crop, the hands that cultivated it with care.  And I think of those hands – did they get their fair share?

One of the great ironies that I’ve never understood is that of farming.  Why is it that those who grow our food have so little to eat themselves?  Why is it that those who feed others often don’t have enough to feed their families?  Why is it that those who harvest that crop don’t get to share it with their family or community?  Rather, the best of it is exported to distant locales, to people who’ve never met that farmer, who’ve never visited his paddy, who’ve never seen his aged feet dipped in the wet earth as he tends to his rice?

Our affinity for global tastes has meant that so much of what’s grown never stays in the community.  Instead, its sifted, packaged, and shipped many miles away to be consumed on foreign plates at unknown dinner tables.  So much of the story is the lost; so much of our connection to the Earth is gone; so much of our understanding of food is connected simply to taste.

If only we understood what goes into growing a bushel of wheat, a sack of potatoes, an acre of vegetables, we would prize it more, give it the love it deserves, and respect the Earth for its offering.  Yet, around the world, in countries rich and poor, I see the well-to-do waste their food.  And I always wonder if they think of the toil, the love, the hardship that went into producing it.  Perhaps, that’s the flaw of our world today.  While we are increasingly interconnected, we are also disconnected.  We don’t know the faces behind our meals.  We don’t the hands behind our produce.  We don’t know the hardship behind each dinner.

Traveling through India, when you get past the globalized metros, where food is in abundance for many, where growing bellies are common, where overeating is the cause of disease, you see another India that still works hard, tilling the Earth, for their daily meal.  During a recent venture to the inner corners of Punjab, I got to see the true beauty of Vaisakhi.  Known as a time to celebrate the harvest, we gather together, cook, eat, and share each other company’s in thanks for another harvest.  But, we do little of the physical work.

The endless fields of gold, shining in the sun, are picturesque.  But look a little closer, and you see a man, elderly, with a thin, sickly figure, chopping away at the stalks of wheat, piling it into stacks, working quickly to beat the rain.  Dark, foreboding clouds are in the distance, with the capacity to ruin that man’s months of labor.  Too much rain and the crop spoils.  It’ll spoil before it even reaches the mill.   So, he works rapidly.  His scrawny body doesn’t seem equipped for this speed and ardor.  But he keeps going.  And I wonder, what fills his plate at the end of the day?  Even if his crop survives the downpours, how much of it will he reap, how much of it will he share with his children?  And yet, here I am, being fed endlessly, paratha after paratha. I certainly don’t mind.  It’s a luxurious feast for me.  But at what cost?

Why is it that we produce enough food to feed each other yet it gets distributed so unevenly?  Why is it that we go to the market and keep looking for lower prices?  How much lower can the prices go?  How much less can we pay for the hard labor of the farmer?  These are complex, contentious questions with even more complicated answers.

Recently, I attended a luncheon held by a group of community leaders.  They were meeting to determine how to distribute their funds to local charities.  Who should get what and how much-  that was their agenda.  One charity they were looking at provided food to the homeless and the needy in the community.  They were quite keen on supporting this cause as it’s the holiday season and everyone deserves a nice meal.  But as they tallied up the numbers, divided up the total, and wrote the checks, they pushed aside their plates to a corner of the table, plates which had half-eaten rolls of bread, small pieces of meat, and forgotten potatoes and vegetables.

Even while doing good deeds, they forgot.  Just cleaning your plate is a good deed.  Just sharing that plate is a good deed.  But, strangely, they forgot.  Or perhaps they don’t realize it.  They’re accustomed to the abundance.  They know it’ll be their tomorrow.

In visiting a school designed for children of the poor in Punjab, I happened to arrive at lunch time.  So, I got a taste of their day – literally.  The children were being served dal and two thin chapatis.  The dal was watery, more liquid, less lentils.  The chapatis were like air for a starved stomach, so light.  And, ironically, both were served on a large thali.   Yet before eating their meal, the children were taught how to say a prayer of thanks.  And they did – with great dignity.  And then they dove in.  After just a few minutes, I saw one child cleaning his plate – licking it literally.  He wanted every morsel.  He couldn’t have been older than 7.  He put the thali at an angle, stationed it in his mouth, and slurped the remaining bits of dal, drinking it carefully to not let any waste. And then he licked the plate.

Just a few metres away from where he sat, the school teachers had put together a little garden, sowing seeds for a few basic vegetables.  The children were taught how to take care of it.  They had labeled the rows, written down when they watered it last, and categorized the vegetables by variety.  They’d done it with their hands.

These were the children of those have little or nothing.  But they knew where their food came from.  And they savored every bite that they received.

Why are we, those who are given such abundance, so disconnected from our bounty?  Why do we not treasure it?  Why do we not allocate enough to the hands that grow it for us?  Why do we waste so much, simply because it doesn’t suit our liking?  Why are there such harsh paradoxes in our world?

These are not easy questions.  But if more of us asked them, we would be more mindful of our meals – of the resources they consume in getting them to the table, of the people whose lives feature on each plate.

As the Buddhist teachings tell us, we ought to be more mindful in our lives.  Be more mindful of what’s presented on your plate.  Eat it with respect, not greed.  Eat it with love, not in haste.  For the hands who grew it, may not have the chance to do the same.

Ban the phone co’s because you don’t like the conversations ?

Just as ‘ Facebook protests’ give rise to democratic protests in Russia against rigging of elections by Mr Putin, the Indian Government seeks to curtail the reach and the voice of individual protest in the world largest democracy.

Had this attempt not come so close to elections in India where the future of the new scion to the Nehru dynasty was at stake. Had this attempt not come at a point where there is a huge loss of faith in the very functioning of India ‘s democratic process. Had this not come so close to the Government’s credibility bring challenged by Anna Hazare’s movement.

Had it not come so close to all these events one might concede more credibility to the Government’s latest threats to Google, Twitter, Orkut and Facebook, as a means of coming to terms with the larger social objectives of our Nation as a whole.

In a flawed electoral system the rise and rise of Social Networking actually brings the nation closer to the intentions our founding fathers built into our constitution. It gives the electorate greater access to a world view. Dispels the ability of political parties to lie and attempt to cage their electorate in ignorance. Allows groups to reach out and create action groups and communities to fight for their rights and express their grievances to the rest of the world across geographies.

It brings the world together in so many more ways than ever possible before. I don’t need to quote Arab Spring and Global Warming as just two of the many social issues that Social Networking has managed to address and change.

So what’s the Government ( not only in India) afraid of ? It’s afraid of the unknown. Social Network is a game changer in the playing out of democracy, and the Government (and Governments all over the world) are caught unawares. All political parties, their elected representatives, whether they sit in opposition or in Government have spent their political lives based on a set of parameters they have come see as sacrosanct. Moral or immoral, those parameters are the only ones they understand. The world has changed beneath their feet.

How do they now fight elections when (in time) 300 million of their electorate does not play by the same rules anymore ? Not only individually but also through their ability to greatly influence each other ? A new breed of politician that understands this, understands how to use Social Networking, and works within it,  will rise.

The current politicians are afraid of that new politician. But the use of Social Networking by Barrack Obama for his fund raising a few years ago actually rang the bells of change loud.

No Government or system has ever been able to stand against the march of technology. Let me take the most simplistic example. Could you take away the microphone at a political rally ? Simplistic as it is, it is a medium of mass communication without which election rally’s in India would not exist.  If you do not like the conversations over the phone, would you penalize the phone company ? Of course where security issues are involved Governments do step in. But to hold the phone company liable would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

For any  ‘Gatekeeper ‘ the ability of the individual to communicate and share content with each other at a mass level is scary. If its true of Music Companies, Hollywood Studios and  major Corporations, it is true of Governments. Their very role as a gatekeeper of people’s expressions and ideas and lives is questioned. Companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook are successful because they are not ‘Gatekeepers’.  They are ‘Platformers’.  The 100 billion dollar valuation for Facebook exists because they do not ‘gatekeep’ your communications.  If they did, the companies would not exist.

Yes there are video’s posted, or content posted on the Internet that are immoral and against the law. That encourage racial conflict.  But I believe the platforming companies are pretty good about removing such content.  All you have to do is complain and if there are enough complaints then that content will be taken off. You only have to look at how quickly the Internet companies and Governments all over respond to child pornography on the net.  (least in India actually)  But hey ! if there is something against a politician (say a video) and that gets 10 million odd hits in a week, and thousands of comments, does that not say something about how the community feels ?  To try and stop that is completely undemocratic , is it not ?

One last thing.  Censorship on the Internet is only possible if you shut the Internet down.  Google, Facebook and Twitter are only vulnerable because of their size and desire for valuation. Take them down and thousands of alternate sites for platforming content will sprout up.  Take them down and ten thousand will sprout up.  People have found the power to express themselves and will not give it up easily.  The growing community of hackers, some still in their teens, have shown that no Government or Corporation in the world is able to ‘ban’ them.

The Internet and freedom of expression is here to stay.

My uncle Dev Anand, the man no one knew…

A suite at the Oberoi hotel. Dev Uncle’s film Ishq Ishq Ishq, had just released the night before.

I was the nephew that had, on a whim, given up a really successful career as a chartered accountant and a management consultant in London to be in the movie business. Somehow being from London made me special for him. It was the city he loved most in the world. Ishq Ishq Ishq was my break into movies. Tiny role, but hey, I got to romance Zeenat Aman, who had changed the very perceptions of what it meant to be a modern Indian girl to all of us.

We had shot the film in Nepal over two months. Trekking all over the mountains. It was an amazing adventure. All the way up to Namchi Bazar and then upto Lukla from where you could almost touch the Everest. It spoilt me forever. I thought this was what the rest of my life was going to be. The dizzyness of altitude matched only by the dizzyness of personal adventures. Much better than going to an office on a cold grey winters day in London.

We hardly saw Dev Uncle (every one called him Dev Sahib but me). Even Zeenat! Although she had this special way of purring ” Devvv Sahiiib” with a flash of her incredible eyes that told their story immedietly. And his sing song ‘Zeenieee’ would just confirm the story. But her ‘Devvv Sahiiib’ would be up at 4 am every morning ready with make up and announce we were going to be on the move again to another location. He would rally his reluctant troops and before you knew it he was off climbing the mountains to a spot he wanted to shoot from 10 kms climb away. The crew would groan and moan, but follow the leader. He was always the first one there, and would already be in his pitched tent writing the scenes for the next day by the time we got there. He must have been about 55 at that time.

I have many stories of those two months that I will have the courage to tell one day. Nadira, Premnath, Zeenat, Shabana, Kabir Bedi, 12 beautiful models. And of course my own unforgettable adventures. But the one I want to tell today, is the story I will always remember my dear Uncle Dev for.

Dev Anand had put all his own money, almost everything he owned into Ishq Ishq Ishq. Money had no value to him, except to make films. Nothing else interested him really. On this evening he was talking calls from the press and the distributors. As always they started with excited congratulations and jubilations. His face sparked with excitement and joy. But over the next two hours, the tone changed. I could not hear what was being said, but I saw it on his face. His voice going softer. That spark that was Dev Anand dimming. In a couple of hours and a hundred calls later the reality overcame the dream. The film was a disaster on the box office.

Then the calls stopped. No one called and the loneliness of failure hung in the room. Dev Anand has just lost everything. All his money and everything he sold to make his most ambitious project ever. There are few more intimate moments you could share with a courageous man than his coming to terms with complete defeat. He was sad. Reflective.

For all of five minutes. He then looked at me and smiled.

” I just be back ‘Shekharonios’ (thats what he called me) and went into the bedroom of the suite. I should have felt sorry for my first foray out as a (minor) actor flopping, but was too caught up in the incredible drama unfolding in front of me.

Ten minutes Dev Anand emerged. His his eyes were vibrant. His face excited. He was unable to sit down for his excitement. Looked me in the eyes.

” Shekharonios, I just thought of a great plot for my next film !!”

He picked up his register. Took out a pen and started to write. How does a man who just lost of everything come to terms with it so easily? I was left gaping. But knew it was time for me to leave him alone. To write and plan his next film. He never talked about Ishq Ishq again.

Thats the Dev Uncle I knew.

But the Dev Uncle I did not know. The Dev Sahib , the Dev Anand that the world did not know, was the man coming to terms with himself in 10 minutes in that room.

We will never know… maybe thats what true Karm Yogi’s are. People we cannot fathom from our own lesser standards of courage…

I wish I could be a kite
I wish I could be a kite, by Eshla
I crave freedom.

Everywhere,  I look around there are challenges burdening people.  Some are trivial, some are heart-breaking.   Some are losing loved ones to disease, some are struggling to make ends meet, some are trying to hold onto the small family business, and some are simply caught in the mad chase of life, yielding to what we’ve knocked ourselves into thinking is the utopia.

As a writer, I’m constantly selling myself to editors, trying to convince them not only is the idea intriguing, but that I’m the right person for it.  Why would I be the right person for a story?  Because I’ve gotten all the accolades, because I’ve published in so many “leading” publications, because I have the resources and contacts for this kind of story?  Rarely, does passion, love, fervor for the story come into play.  Why can’t I write because I write decently and genuinely love what I write about?  Why so many other pressures?  Why do I have to prove myself constantly?  It’s the endless selling of oneself in today’s world, the endless marketing, the endless chase to the top.  Technology has only helped us do that in many ways – all the social media platforms, I’m advised, are ways to market oneself.  Use them widely and you could be a global “name.”

But they don’t understand.  I don’t want to be a global name.  I just want to write stories that feed my soul.  I just want to do some good.  I want to use my hands to build something.  I want to use these platforms to learn from others.  Can I not be silent and listen to what others are saying?  Must I also chime in?  Must I also constantly bother others?

I have young students in high school come to me, seeking advice on how to get into a particular institution, how to market themselves for different colleges, how to get the top spot at an internship, how to do the “right” activities that will get them into the right school, then the right internship, and then the right job.   I’m exhausted.  I’m exhausted hearing them and I’m exhausted by the chase, by the quest for the ideal.

And yet, that ideal is what’s breaking around me.  Friends in comfortable jobs complain of boredom, stagnation, bureaucracy, lack of creativity, inactivity, and so much more.   Why don’t they leave?  They can’t, they say.  Why not?  You’ll survive on less money, I tell them.  But how can I let go of all these years of hard work, how can I let go of this “title,” that I’ve worked so hard for, they respond, anguished by the thought of even abandoning the so-called “ideal” world.

They’re not bad people, not even greedy really.  They’re just caught in what increasingly we’re told is the right path, the way to succeed.   Eventually, it’s the house, the family, the school tuitions, the bills, the car that begin to burden them and it’s too late.  Their burdens are far too heavy to escape, to fly freely.

So, the cycle of consumerism sets in.  The little purchases fill a void; it’s the tech gizmos, the vacation home, the fancy dinners out, the extra car.   But, why?  Do they really love these things?  I doubt it.  Rather they bring a short moment of excitement, a short excursion from the mundane, the thrilling detour that quickly loses its charm.

I recall the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, the one that endlessly exclaimed, “I’m late. I’m late.  I’m so very late.”  It’s as if we’re all too late, too wound up in what we’re told, chasing something; then, smack, somewhere along the way we realize, that in our tardiness, we’ve lost track of time.  For now, the days have slipped by, the years have too.  We must be content with what we’ve built.  We must make ourselves fit into the box, be it the lifestyle we constructed, the job we took up, the  “dream” that we achieved.

But why not be free?  Why not savor time?  Why not dismiss what we’re told?  Why not put all that energy, fuel, money into something that helps others?  Why not let the chase be for a different cause – for a gentler, kinder, more people-friendly dream?

Why not be a kite once in a while and fly against the wind?  Why not be free from the burdens that we’ve placed on ourselves? Why not get others to join us?

After all, I hear that “kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”  Or so Churchill tells us.

The Speed of Light. Part 1. A never ending short story …

The string of a Sarod. Stretched, The finger feels its angst. Rubs against the string producing a squeaky sound.

Majid’s ‘s eyes squeezed together  concentration. His left fingers gently increasing the tautness of the string. Listening to its internal struggle. Stretch ..

Black empty space. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Is this infinity ? Claustrophobic. The emptiness clawing at you. Not as the Buddha described. Nothingness is like being in a coffin that closes upon you, till you scream. A silent black empty scream.

Majid’s eyes squeeze tighter. His face in a grimace. That one moment. That has to be perfect. No, not courage. But the moment. Catch that moment before it leaves you. Millions and trillions of moments buzzing by in a nano second. Catch one before its gone.

Majid plucks the string. It fights, struggles, unable to let go of its inertia. and then finds it rhythm. Majid’s face responds to the slavery of himself to movement of the string. To the seizing of the moment.  Both he and the string dancing together.

You let out a deep sigh as the note from the string resonates through deep space. Darkness is dispelled. A sigh, and another.

Karima sucks in breath, clutches her mouth. Eyes wide in fear. In wonder. In amazement. And then lets go, a strange deep sound escapes, the letting go of all that is herself. As an exhausted Majid slides off her. Karima cries softly. Majid looks at her. She turns away. Why do they do that ? Majid wonders. Are they able to travel somewhere to a place he does not know?

” Where was Time before the Big Bang ? Was there only Eternity before the Big Bang ?”

“Before the Big Bang there was no Time and no Space. The beginning of the  Universe was the beginning of Time. The Beginning of Space….

(to be continued ..  am in Goa… listening to the water lapping at the beach. The crows trying to drown it out. I should have got up earlier.. before the crows drowned out the sound. But sleep has two interpretations.  That which you feel you need, and that which comes in waves and then pass you by)

wonderful letter from Carlisle
Hi, Shekhar! I found your site surfing thru’ the 498a.wordpress blog.

I find this letter particularly refreshing. It made me go back many years when my (only) son was a pre-teen.

“Son,” I declared over breakfast, “I had a wonderful dream last night. I’d like to share it with you …”. My son, being one of those “No Nonsense, Type-A Personality Scorpio’s”, came back with, “Well, Dad; maybe it’ll stay that way when you wake up!” This threw me in for a loop. Was this a rebellious repartee? Was he being a smartass? Or was that “dream” reality, and breakfast with my kid a passing illusion?

“Do you ever have dreams, Son?”

He looks into his bowl of cereal and mumbles, “Yes, but I don’t like to talk about them!” Hell! I’m not going to let him go this easily so I ask, “Why?” He smiles, “Because it would make people laugh and think I’m weird or something …”. He went on to explain his dreams. They’re all cartoon-type characters … but before his dreams begin, there’s this scrolling screen listing character actors (he in the starring role, of course), Producer, Director , and other credits!! And there’s background music …

“Holy Cow, Son. Keep your dreams to yourself. People will laugh and think you’re weird or something …”. “Thanks for the advice, Dad,” he laughs. “You’re welcome, Son!” I shoot back. “By the way, do you ever dream of Jessica Rabbit?” (Now, THAT might be ‘normal’ in my books!). “No comment!” he shouts over his shoulder as he rushes off to school.

Yes, Shekhar. I’ve also been pondering on “reality” and “dream” since then. Some sage was once quoted as having observed that “We make our own reality”. Could we also direct our dreams? If so, could we choose where we’d want to be? If so, would this be a conscious decision? What is consciousness …? My son served 3 yrs with the US Army “securing” Iraq and watching scores of his comrades and “the enemy” die in an immoral war …

Maybe Jessica Rabbit is real ,and the horror of war and other unpleasantness happening all over the world is really a dream – a nightmare!

I enjoyed the visit and your thoughts are inspirational. Thank you.

peace ?

“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. ”
― Thich Nhat Hanh (thank you cinda)

when we walk
“When we walk like (we are rushing), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh (thank you cinda)