Imagination : by Esha Chhabra

While growing up, I’d never really considered how important it is to be imaginative.   It’s a childhood profession, you could say.   It comes naturally.   Then we hit an age when we’re presented with a scantron of bubble-in options, a template for a CV that we need to create, and Excel.  At that point, our learning has to fit into certain parameters: within that little bubble, within the one page limit, and within a tiny digital graph.  So, what happens to our imagination?

It seems to fade.

Being Asian (as I am) doesn’t help.  The assumption that you’re more apt for engineering or medicine is like a nagging tail.   We have a so-called fondness for numbers apparently.  If you’re Asian, you must be good at math – of course.

Well, then I turned out to be an oddball.  I developed an affinity for words and images instead.  At the age of 12, my dream was to be a professional doodler, which could turn into a career as a cartoonist, if it went well.  And my parents indulged me in that dream.  Unlike others, who may have thought that was ridiculous, they got me drawing books.  When my mother saw me sitting idle, or falling asleep among a pile of school books, she’d suggest, “Why don’t you draw for a bit?”   Over a decade later, little has changed.  She still chuckles at my drawings, tells me to draw more often, and has preserved that notebook.

Perhaps, I should have continued with that path.  Last week, a friend sent me an email with a job listing, titled Doodler.  Ridiculous, I thought.  But then I saw the employer – Google.  Not so funny anymore but actually a possibility.  And truly, Google is hiring a doodler for the images that often appear on their homepage to celebrate holidays and momentous occasions.

As I grew older, as the reading list of books grew longer, the assignments tougher, and jobs took up any spare time as a student in college, that ability to just sit down and pour your imagination onto a blank canvas began to disappear.  Rather, that creative side had to reinvent itself.

My high school history teacher once told me that history is not a timeline; it’s a story.   She threw out the linearity of history.  She made what was dry and ancient, charming, engaging, and at times, even humorous.   That was her imagination at work.  And it helped me develop a love for the social sciences.   Our imaginations can be quite contagious, I learned.

But can this love for the imaginative ever find a place in the real world?  Certainly.

More and more young people today want to work for start-ups where business meets creativity, where what may seem impossible today is reality tomorrow.  Who knew that you could pay for your Starbucks coffee without cash or credit card?  You can.  Just scan your Starbucks card from your smart phone.  Who knew that you could get a treadle pump for under $40 that can help farmers irrigate in the developing world?  Just look at the work of entrepreneur Paul Polak.   Who knew that we’d be talking in just 140 characters in the 21st century?  Perhaps, the folks at Twitter did.

Imagination creates not just fairy tales and children’s books but a new vision for the way we conduct our lives.  Imaginations challenge the norm, push boundaries, and help us progress.

Unfortunately, that imagination is getting sidelined in classrooms, where the emphasis has been on grades and testing for too long, in workplaces, where the prominence of excel sheets and powerpoint presentations has become a daily chore.

We need to encourage more creativity.  Forget the CV for a bit.  Forget the obsession with grades.  Yes, even with a B, your kid can do great things in this world.

If we encourage that brilliant math student to be imaginative as well, he could use those algorithms to innovate.  If we encourage the biology student to be imaginative as well, she could design a new sustainable fuel source for us.  If we encourage that economics buff to be imaginative as well, he could build a new people-friendly business model.   The tools are there.  You just need to reorient them towards the unexpected.  That’s where creativity – at home, in the classroom, and in the workplace- is so essential.

That’s why, last week I found myself, sitting with my mom late at night, rereading Shel Silverstein’s poems for children.  Turns out, they’re just as good for adults, maybe even better.


I’ll take the dream I had last night

And put it in my freezer,

So someday long and far away

When I’m an old grew geezer,

I’ll take it out and thaw it out,

This lovely dream I’ve frozen,

And boil it up and sit me down

And dip my cold toes in.

Is Europe failing it’s Muslims? by Abdul Munim

Ah yes, this one is going to get really acrimonius given what just happened in Norway.  But Abdul has raised some questions of ‘awareness’ and prejudice.  I hope for an informative healthy debate here without people hurling abuse at each other :

“Problems cannot be solved on the same level of awareness which created them – Einstein

A friend sent this quote to me, when I first read it; I could not understand it. I kept pondering my brains out for days but nothing came to me – Last night while watching a debate on European Muslims, it struck me and I would like to believe that I know what Einstein meant now.

Here is how it happened…
I came across a debate on youtube titled “Europe is failing its Muslims” organized by BBC between two very famous scholars – Tariq Ramadan and Douglas Murray – I was hoping to get some valuable insight – but I was very much disappointed. The debate had ended before it even started.

Muslim Scholar Tariq Ramadan (Born & Raised in Sweden) is asked to step on podium to highlight his agenda – He makes introductory remarks, points out the problems Muslims are facing in West and concludes “Europe has failed its Muslims”.

Now, The British Scholar, Douglas Murray steps on podium talks about the violence and terrorism imposed on west by Islam, and ends his conversation by saying “Europe has not failed its Muslims, Its Muslims who has failed Europe”

This is when it struck me… I did more research found a few more relevant debates. But the results were same – HUGE DISSAPOINTMENT.

After listening to a few more scholars on various other topics – I came to realize that most of them have gained wisdom through their knowledge, which gives them slightly different and broader understanding of the worldly issues than an ordinary man (Someone with no or lesser knowledge). They have the knowledge, they have the wisdom, they even have broader understanding of the issues and problems, BUT what almost all of them are missing is HIGHER LEVEL OF AWARENESS. Intellectually they are slightly at the higher end of the pyramid (due to their knowledge). But when it comes to dealing with personal prejudices they are at the same level as any other human being, which is at the bottom ends of the pyramid. (People like Buddha, Einstein, Gandhi, Tao and Lao are an exception)

Now coming back to debate “Europe is failing its Muslims “both the scholars were very sharp and well informed. They had raised some really good questions too. But sadly, they both had one-sided view, their research and view point were partial and biased. They were victim of their own prejudices, so were the audience. Which did not help anyone, instead had drawn more lines.

Only if they had higher level of awareness, they would have been able to understand each other. Only then, instead of quoting “Muslims have failed Europe” or “Europe has failed its Muslims. They would have concluded; “We have failed each other” and that would have been an interesting debate.

Their knowledge and partial wisdom did entertained audience. It also won them appreciation and applauses… but the missing element of AWARENESS, higher, than at which the whole problem was created, failed to engage audience in a meaningful and constructive debate.

We live in a society that is too complex and too dependent on knowledge to guarantee us a social acceptance. Sadly, Knowledge can be perceived in either ways, each of us can create our own version of reality depending on what we want to believe, or how big one’s ego is.

Same thing is happening in our part of the world. When it comes to problems between Pakistan & India, Hiduisam & Islam, our partial and biased understanding mixed with personal prejudices blind folds our intelligence, which keeps the light of awareness from reaching us

Gandhi Jee once said; if you want to change the world Change yourself first (Be the change you want to see in the world)… what did he meant by it? What change he had suggested? How does he want us to change?…. Could it be a change of perception?

Abdul Munim
A 29 years old Pakistani by birth, Muslim by religion, Chinese by profession (Studied & working in China)… And a proud Indian by ethnicity.”

I do not want mercy, I want you to join me.

Sunita Rajkumar sent me this and I was moved by what I read. So relevant to our times

“The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code”

Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine for ‘disrupting’ a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008, had an opportunity to address the court and the judge immediately before his sentence was announced. This is his full statement:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before the court. When I first met Mr. Manross, the sentencing officer who prepared the presentence report, he explained that it was essentially his job to “get to know me.” He said he had to get to know who I really was and why I did what I did in order to decide what kind of sentence was appropriate. I was struck by the fact that he was the first person in this courthouse to call me by my first name, or even really look me in the eye. I appreciate this opportunity to speak openly to you for the first time. I’m not here asking for your mercy, but I am here asking that you know me.

Mr. Huber has leveled a lot of character attacks at me, many of which are contrary to Mr. Manross’s report. While reading Mr Huber’s critiques of my character and my integrity, as well as his assumptions about my motivations, I was reminded that Mr Huber and I have never had a conversation. Over the two and half years of this prosecution, he has never asked my any of the questions that he makes assumptions about in the government’s report. Apparently, Mr. Huber has never considered it his job to get to know me, and yet he is quite willing to disregard the opinions of the one person who does see that as his job.

There are alternating characterizations that Mr Huber would like you to believe about me. In one paragraph, the government claims I “played out the parts of accuser, jury, and judge as he determined the fate of the oil and gas lease auction and its intended participants that day.” In the very next paragraph, they claim “It was not the defendant’s crimes that effected such a change.” Mr Huber would lead you to believe that I’m either a dangerous criminal who holds the oil and gas industry in the palm of my hand, or I’m just an incompetent child who didn’t affect the outcome of anything. As evidenced by the continued back and forth of contradictory arguments in the government’s memorandum, they’re not quite sure which of those extreme caricatures I am, but they are certain that I am nothing in between. Rather than the job of getting to know me, it seems Mr Huber prefers the job of fitting me into whatever extreme characterization is most politically expedient at the moment.

In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar. It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.” Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love. And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future. I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom. The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.” When I sat there on the witness stand, Mr Romney asked me if I ever had any intention of being a bona fide bidder. I responded by asking Mr Romney to clarify what “bona fide bidder” meant in this context. Mr Romney then withdrew the question and moved on to the next subject. On that right there is the entire basis for the government’s repeated attacks on my integrity. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, your honor.

Mr Huber also makes grand assumptions about my level of respect for the rule of law. The government claims a long prison sentence is necessary to counteract the political statements I’ve made and promote a respect for the law. The only evidence provided for my lack of respect for the law is political statements that I’ve made in public forums. Again, the government doesn’t mention my actions in regard to the drastic restrictions that were put upon my defense in this courtroom. My political disagreements with the court about the proper role of a jury in the legal system are probably well known. I’ve given several public speeches and interviews about how the jury system was established and how it has evolved to it’s current state. Outside of this courtroom, I’ve made my views clear that I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny. I even went so far as to organize a book study group that read about the history of jury nullification. Some of the participants in that book group later began passing out leaflets to the public about jury rights, as is their right. Mr Huber was apparently so outraged by this that he made the slanderous accusations that I tried to taint the jury. He didn’t specify the extra number of months that I should spend in prison for the heinous activity of holding a book group at the Unitarian Church and quoting Thomas Jefferson in public, but he says you should have “little tolerance for this behavior.”

But here is the important point that Mr Huber would rather ignore. Despite my strong disagreements with the court about the Constitutional basis for the limits on my defense, while I was in this courtroom I respected the authority of the court. Whether I agreed with them or not, I abided by the restrictions that you put on me and my legal team. I never attempted to “taint” the jury, as Mr Huber claimed, by sharing any of the relevant facts about the auction in question that the court had decided were off limits. I didn’t burst out and tell the jury that I successfully raised the down payment and offered it to the BLM. I didn’t let the jury know that the auction was later reversed because it was illegitimate in the first place. To this day I still think I should have had the right to do so, but disagreement with the law should not be confused with disrespect for the law.

My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr Huber thinks I should be punished for. As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice. In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people. A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year. The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state. When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law. She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail. I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry. Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine. When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.

This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development. A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in the way of this auction. Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels. The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests. The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits. The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing. Moreover, this auction was just three months after the New York Times reported on a major scandal involving Department of the Interior regulators who were taking bribes of sex and drugs from the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating. In 2008, this was the condition of the rule of law, for which Mr Huber says I lacked respect. Just as the legal avenues which people in West Virginia have been pursuing for 30 years, the legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government.

The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code. Read the rest of this entry »

Corporate Slavery by Abdul Munim

Corporate Slaves:— I am Lost in the maze of regional rivalries.

Exploring the current political and social situation of the world is like putting your head into a washing machine. A lot has been written and said on this subject, but none of it makes sense to me.

Role of Media:

In the midst of regional economical rivalries fingers are pointed in all directions, no one seems to know what is going on. Mass media is feeding us with lies, lies and more lies. Shall we just blame the media and get our head out of the washing machine? (I tried, did not work) We can’t blame media for everything. Can we? Aren’t they on the same boat as us? The only difference is that they are self-deceived by their ignorance and our ignorance is influenced by them.

Political Capitalism:

Politics is a very dirty game. Perhaps we should blame politicians & diplomats and get on with our lives. (I tried, failed again) Well, there has always been crooked Politicians in the world. Whenever something goes wrong, our impulsive & collective ignorance leads us to blame them. And the real player and policy makers who fund and control the global political machinery stay hidden behind the scene.

Fears and desires are two sides of same coin:

We live in times where fear plays major role in reflecting and shaping our social values. We have been conditioned to accept fear in our lives. The fear of losing Job, The fear of losing our house, the fear of being rejected by others, the fear of not being able to provide for our family, the fear of not being able to live up to the expectation of others, All these fears is what shapes the course of our lives. We do everything possible to eliminate the fear factor from our lives and to protect our families. We lie for personal benefits. We adopt cunning strategies to compete with competitors. We make false assumptions to impress others. We don’t hesitate to pull someone’s leg for personal gains. We even use others as stepping stones to climb up the corporate ladder.

How our actions are different than a politician? One can debate that the effect of their political crimes is bigger than ours. So does the profits… Bigger the crime, bigger will be the reward. Crooked Political rulers are definitely part of the problem but they are not the problem. They are just sophisticated high level corporate slaves who have no power. They are only puppets being used and controlled by secretive oil companies and intelligence service of regional states.


It all boils down to handful of corporations who control 90% of worlds’ resources. They dominate every aspect of our lives. They own and control the governments (Check out the history of Last 10 American Presidents, They were all corporate executive at some point). They own some of the largest media outlets in the world and rest are influenced by their interests. They decide what we should eat, how we should dress, why we should go for wars and who we should war with. In short, it’s them who shape the reality of our future.


Ant they simply doing what should be done to gain access to regional markets to secure more profits? Aren’t we all competing for power and wealth? How many of us don’t want our nation to be the most powerful nation in the world? How many of us actually realize that we are being conditioned on mass scale? How many of us want to accept that we are crammed into this rat maze only to become corporate tool for totalitarian enslavement.

Change the world by changing yourself:

How often do we think of helping others or about making a real contribution to society? Maybe most of us do a lot of thinking about it, but how many of us actually have the courage to do something about it? Imagine a slave standing up to his master when slavery was considered normal in our society. How would have people reacted in that period? Slave would probably be beaten or slaughtered…. And it will be considered normal. Now, imagine this happening today. NO YOU CAN’T? Slaves don’t exist anymore… Who do you think we are? Yes that’s exactly who we are, modern day corporate slaves. Waking up and standing against this slavery state NEEDS LOTS OF COURAGE. Do we have that courage?

Accept that we have a problem:

In the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have two choices, we can either do something about it by denouncing the corporate enslavement or we can completely accept it. In my case I have no more courage left in me. I have given up to my fears and have accepted corporate slavery. And I know I am not the only one who has surrender to this conscious slavery. I am not the only one who has traded dreams with hopes. I am not the only one who has ceased to live for a better existence in a projected future. Society has programmed us all to submit to our greatest fears disguised in immense desires. It has become human nature to control the weak and take advantage of them. There is simply none to blame but us, our collective ignorance and greed has degraded and destroyed the basic sources of our life and has corrupted humanity.

By Abdul Munim,

Who truly has the smart phone? by Esha Chhabra

He took out two phones, gently placed them on the table. One rang. He stepped away to answer it. In the meantime, the other one rang as well. He held the phone wrapped in his hand as he attended to the first call. Polite and professional, he explained in Urdu, the door-to-door campaign would start promptly at 9 am, the workers had been briefed, and assured his regional coordinator that there would be no delay, no inconsistency. He smiled to me as he spoke, holding the other phone against his chest. “Yes, sir. Yes,” he said with assurance and in English. Click.

“Hanji, kaha ho aap?” (Yes, where are you?) Polite but more assertive this time. The other phone rested against his belly, rubbing against his shirt. He interrogated the health worker on the other end – where was he? What problem had arisen? Did he encounter some resistance in the field? He discussed it with fury, frustration evident on his fatigued face. “Okay, okay, aap kam karo. Mein dekhta hoon.” (Okay, you do your work. Let me see what I can do.)

The other phone slipped back in his ear. Again polite and professional. “Yes, sir. Problem identify ho gaya hai (the problem’s been identified). I’ll go now.” He nodded. His eyes scanned the other phone. He was searching for a contact. He scrolled up and down, pressing with force. The phone had clearly been a part of his immunization campaign for years- scratched at the corners and the screen sullied in the field.

He looked up. “Yes, sir. I’ll call again once I’m there and report.”

And again, he turned to his other mobile, the battered one, to make a call.

Umar is a health worker for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India. He has been at this campaign for over seven years. His task: manage the immunization round, verify that there are no resistant households, attend to the ones that are questioning the vaccine, help orchestrate medical camps, consult with the local politicians and Rotary community, and coordinate with UNICEF and WHO workers, among his many other duties.

So, when I arrived in Aligarh, four hours outside of Delhi, to take part in another immunization round, I was keen to meet with him, get an update. I asked for his number via email and got two options. Which one would be better, I asked?

Both, he said. One in each pocket.

Turns out that this was quite common. Many have multiple phones to save: calls within a network are free or cheaper generally. He, however, had a specific reason for each. Reliance is India’s one of biggest telecomm companies with coverage spanning UP. So, naturally Umar had a Reliance SIM card. The other was with BSNL, the government-sponsored telecomm company. Though weak in coverage, dropping calls often and not as good as the private giants like Reliance and Airtel, BSNL is inexpensive and widely used by the poor. Because Umar routinely speaks with people can only afford the BSNL network, he keeps that one on hand as well.

So, being mindful of his work, he has one in each pocket.

What’s even more striking, though, than the abundance of mobiles, considering that more people in the developing world have access to a mobile than a clean toilet, is what entrepreneurs have been able to do with these phones. With the ability to educate and empower young girls through mobile games, provide telemedicine services, offer a market place of goods, access to loans, and more, they have become a catalyst for development. Even with just SMS-based programs, they have the capacity to rival the most polished “smartphones” in terms of utility.

Much of this innovation is taking place in the most unglamorous of offices – out in the dusty roads of villages, on the farms, in the fishing villages, at the heart of overcrowded slums and amidst populations who have not really been invited into the globalized world.

As I came back to the States and continued to communicate with him, it became apparent to me that even though India had become famous for its technical expertise, brainy computer scientists, and innovative engineers, Internet penetration had yet to reach those at the bottom-of-the-pyramid. His responses were delayed, by weeks, if not months. Many of them just directed me to give him a call to discuss instead. That would be easier, he said; he had to wait at Internet cafes, the prices were too high for him to pay regularly, and the process too tiresome and time-consuming. Even friends, living comfortably in the cities, complained of slow broadband services. Rather, they were glued to their mobiles.

For me, it meant many more late-night calls, trying to whisper but succumbing to loud conversations, as he battled the background noise of horns, traffic, and many others chattering away on their phones, to hear me. We coordinated on how we could use mobiles to identify more polio patients in the field, send their data to a doctor in Delhi, and get them the surgery they needed to walk again. Again, we used the mobile – note down the symptoms, take a few photos, and send it directly to a doctor who’d been doing the service for polio patients for years.

As I started to dabble in this space myself, I consulted the help of others, tried to learn from existing examples, and drew from their stories on how such simple devices, without any apps, without any Internet connection, without any bells and whistles, were able to challenge convention. Individuals who’d never had any contact with technology before used their phone with such ease. In contrast to ladies who lunched in the metros and still failed to send a SMS, village women were using it with confidence to access a marketplace.

Thus, this is a series of vignettes of a growing movement on how the mobile is bringing more people into the modern globalized world. And making us ask, who truly has the smartphone?

Anger : sent in by Abdul Munim

A father threw his 10-month-old son to his death from the 14th floor of an apartment block in Shanghai’s Minhang District yesterday, police said.

Afterwards, the man, surnamed Zhu, tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists. He is recovering from his injuries in hospital.

Neighbors said Zhu, 29, and his wife, Wang, 28, were having “a fierce row” at about 3:40pm. Suddenly, the husband threw the baby out of the window, a witness said.

The mother rushed outside but could do nothing to save her child.

I came across this news by chance. I was stunned surprised, I had literally felt the earth move below me. I momentarily lost the track of time and surrounding. The mental image of the aftermath of the whole situation had affected me so deeply that nothing seemed important to me anymore. I could not concentrate on work for hours. My mind kept creating visual impression of the whole situation. I saw the miserable mother running through hallways screaming, praying & hoping for a miracle. She screamed so loud that all of her neighbors came out. Her screams grew bigger with every step towards her dying son. Finally, she approaches her son and finds him lying in a pool of blood. Clinging to a desperate hope of a miracle she leans down holds him, and wishes it all to be one of those lucid bad dreams which seem real.

By now the poor father snaps out of his anger and realizes what he has done. He realizes that he has gone way over the line and has lost everything to one moment of anger. The shocking realization of his stupidity suffocates him. An unbearable pain of regret hits him like a train. Shocked, Confuse, Depress and victim of his own dilemma, he decides to kill himself. He goes to the kitchen and cuts his wrist.

Anger is a very dangerous state of mind. Anger can easily turn into a brief madness if not dealt with. Above situation is a stunning example of anger taking over. The poor guy lost control, and a momentary anger brought him a life time of regret… uncontrolled anger lead killings have become very common in our society. It’s happening almost in every country… Especially in South Asia.

Question i keep asking myself!!
What causes anger in us and who is responsible for all the anger in our society? Could it be capitalism leading us to an unbalanced society?
Why are there so many people angry about all sorts of things out there? Could there be something terribly wrong with us?

The massacare of 1947… Was it pure hate Or anger taking over ?

I am that

I am
nothing more
but nothing less

I am not
who you think I am
I am not
who I think I am

I am
all that is
and all that is not

I am
neither defined
nor definable
neither finite
nor infinite

I am

that was never born
or ever died

I am
that has no word
to describe

that I am

I just


Tree of Life

Art often becomes a victim of it’s own genre’. Of the very fashion or new trend it created. and then becomes resistant to change. Film does the same. For too many years it has been stuck in ‘meaning’. While meaning is essential to the viewer, surely Art provokes the viewers to explore meanings for themselves. Through the experience of the Art. So does the Artist give meaning before he/she gives experience, or does the experience of Art come before meaning ? Is experience derived from meaning, or is meaning derived from experience ?

I met Terrence Mallick the evening before the film premiered at Cannes. Without realizing who I was speaking to. I said ‘Tree of life’ was the one film I was looking forward to. He said ‘Come armed with patience’.

I did not need to. From the first moment I caught on immediately that the film maker was asking me to experience, and let meaning evolve out of that experience. If not while watching the film, then later the next day. Or the next. He was offering me his experience and asking me to interpret it my way.

And what an amazing experience. From the birth of the Universe, to the human like instinct of the dinosaurs. That amazing shot of the dinosaur at the beach trying to understand it’s wound, caught as it is between being amphibian to reptilian. Did Malick intend that ? I don’t know, but the shot made me cry for the dinosaur, because somehow, the director had burrowed inside my mind to relate human behaviour to evolution. To an understanding of ourselves as we moved to who we are in evolution. To the tree of life.

I actually wish people would not say this is Brad Pitts best performance. It is a terrific performance. But to say that takes away form the film. For that character is not supposed be seen in context of the individual. He is as an integral part of the dynamics of the Big Bang and the incredible moment where the dinosaur considers crushing the the baby dinosaur under it’s giant claws. What was going on in it’s mind when it decided to leave it alone.

And when was the last time I seriously wondered about the imaginative process of a dinosaur ?

And Jessica Chastain, as an embodiment of all that is nurturing in the Universe. That the Universe in itself is nurture. And in nurture lies creation. In creation lies destruction. The acceptance of the death of her child so gently by the film is the acceptance of the nurturing quality of the film.

So beautifully potrayed by the final scene on the beach. Like a final movement in a symphony. That all of life, all of birth, all of death exists in a single moment of eternity.

The Tree of Life is Eternal.

Thank Terrence. Thank you for reminding us that we are stuck in ‘plot’. That for the art of cinema to survive and continue to be meaningful, it must first destroy it’s narrow minded desire for meaning. That like the Universe it needs to die and be reborn to be eternal.

zero budget films

‘How do I become a film maker, I’ve been struggling to do so for so long ?’

How often have I been asked that question.

“is that a Video you are running on your cell phone ?”

“yes ”

“Do you have access to some form of editing system on your computer or on the cell phone ?”


‘Do you know how to upload to youtube or hundred of other similar sites ?”

“Of course,”

“Then do just that, and you are film maker, right ? You’ve just created, edited and distributed your own film for no money”

I see doubt cloud his face. I swear I am not just getting rid of him. It’s a serious, relevant answer.

” You are not asking me the right question, are you ?”

“Means ?”

“You are not asking me how to become a film maker, but asking me how do you become a famous film maker, get a theatrical release, right ?’  

He looks really sheepish, for more often than not, that is what is on people’s mind. For that is the only way they see it.

” It took me 12 years of knocking on people’s doors to make my first film, Masoom. If I had this technology it would have taken me 12 days”

You want to sing. You then want to then be a singer. And then you want to be Lady Gaga. You want a record deal. What happened to just singing for the pleasure of it, for the passion of it ? Especially now as you can sing and put it out there for people to participate in your passion ?  I collaborated with Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale to put my poetry to their music. We just put it out there on SoundCloud and thousands have heard and appreciated. We did it for the joy of it.  At zero cost.

And why don’t we see that simple answer as possibly the right answer ? Because we are stuck in another world. In a world of yesterday. I believe that technology and it’s practical use is more hampered by an addiction to the old ways and culture, rather than technology itself.  Our desires tend to cling to us, even though technology is creating fundamentally different ways for us to express them.

Lets talk film. The 35 mm film when first developed had very low light resolution. So artificial lights were needed to boost illumination. That limitation then became the art of film itself. The art of lighting the face. The art of lighting the set etc. A relationship between silver halide and light. A limitation became an art.  It always does.  Technology often provokes an expression of art,  and the limitations of that technology itself creates the culture of that expression.

On film we rehearse a shot, then the actors leave the set, as the Director of Photography lights the set. Once done then the actors come back on the set and we take the shot. Do you have any idea of how long that takes ?  Other than actors having to recreate the rehearsal again, possibly loosing the absolute passion of the moment ? Digital has changed all that. Even some consumer models are more light sensitive than our eyes. Lars Von Triers and his colleagues started the Dogma 95 movement , which were a bit extreme and the movement has faltered since. It disallowed even music and props. But technology has developed leaps and bounds since then and I really wonder why Hollywood film budgets average out at $ 100 m each.

It’s the old model. Today a child can make a film and put it out there for people to see. And they are. I judge an annual world wide competition called ‘One minute to change the world’. One minute films often shot on cell phones on the environment. Some of the most innovative ones come from kids. Really. I often tell my friends in Hollywood (and myself) that our competition is not from each other. It is from those kids that do not carry the burden of the past and are adapting so fast to new technology and the Internet, that one day the theaters may be empty . Other than a few successes, the box office take is directly proportional to the amount of money spent on marketing. No wonder Hollywood is banking more and more on pre sold franchises and on 3 D.

There is a new model available. Where you make a film by your own passion. Like you paint, or write poetry. Or write a book. It is possible now to make that zero budget film, and put it out there for the world to see. Not every story you write will be zero budget, but hey (I say to myslef) there are stories you would like to create that are possible on a zero budget.

I must practice what I preach. Lets just go out and express our passions.

The power of Mantra’s ?

Always wondered about Mantra’s. When I was a child i was asked to recite the Gayatri Mantra every night with my parents.  I thought it was a prayer more than combinations of sounds created in a rhythm designed to provoke the universe to give in to ‘intention’.  Well .. I guess that is what a prayer is too, except that a lot of research says that the ‘seed’ sounds of the universe, starting with ‘AUM ‘ have the capacity to accelerate ‘intention’ into something far deeper.  Does that mean that Mantra’s can provoke the universe beyond ‘intention’ ? After all, as a child, what intention is contained in the Gayatri Mantra, the true meaning of which I am still grappling with. For if I did manage to experience the true meaning of it, I would not be asking these questions would I ?

I asked my friend Sanjeev Verma, a well known astrologer in Canada on what he believes ‘Beej’ (Seed) Mantra’s are – do we all have a ‘Seed Mantra’ that is aligned to our astrological charts ?  I have a completely open mind still. .  Ah … the age of reason !


“Beej Mantra” is a combination of two words “Beej” and “Mantra”. “Beej” is a seed which when sown grows into a fruitful tree, whereas “Mantra” is an invocation that produces a set of vibration in the surrounding atmosphere. Thus “Beej Mantra” can be defined as sound vibrations which when performed with full faith results into a fountain of Shakti or Powerful energy.

It is an interesting fact to know that in 360 degrees of Cosmic Universe there are 108 sound vibrations which are always active. These vibrations are an active constituent of not only the cosmic universe but also every individual is born with these sound vibrations which we also call as Beej mantras. There can be up to seven of them having the power to affect different aspects of our life like health, wealth, relationships etc. These Beej mantras are different for each Individual. In order to create a harmony between an individual and the cosmic universe one needs to connect with it through these vibrations only. This synchronization with the cosmic universe can take place either through deeper and higher levels of meditation or by knowing our own sound vibrations or Beej mantras and chanting them and becoming one with them.

Beej mantras given or identified are for the purpose of matching cosmic sound vibration and the vibration of the person with which he or she is born. Once we have identified our own sound vibrations and we start chanting that sound over and again, each sound goes in the cosmic universe and hits at least one of the 108 sound vibrations which is same as itself and harmony takes place. The harmony between the individual and the Cosmic vibrations results in the overall prosperity and well being of an individual, be it in terms of health, wealth, relationships or any other aspect of an individual’s life.

I have noticed that the Beej mantras normally given are matching the mind vibrations only. But there can be Beejas for every aspect of our physical and spiritual existence.

By repeating these Beej Mantars one can create harmony with any aspect of life. Essentially it would tune your vibrations to match the cosmic vibrations to lead a thriving life. I have been researching and experimenting on the Beej Mantras for quite a long time And found them to be extremely effective and life transforming. The best way to find out one’s seed sound or alphabet is by making a birth chart. A Seed Mantra is combination of three words “ OM—your seed sound—Namah.

OM (pronounced AUM) is the most important of all mantras. All mantras generally begin and often also end with OM. OM is the mantra of assent and energizes whatever we say after it. That is why all mantras begin with OM. OM is also the mantra of ascent and causes our energy to rise upward into the infinite. Individual seed sound It both calls the divine down into us and offers our soul upward to the Divine for transformation.

Namah is to bow to the energy of the mantra and thanking it.

There can be up to seven seed mantra for an individual depends on the birth chart. There is one base mantra which is for material and spiritual uplift and there are mantras which are for improving or creating harmony in particular aspect of life like health, wealth, relationships etc.

Sanjeev Verma