Friday, August 29, 2008

chinese wisdom - tamil words

29 august 2008

lao tzu is much respected by many tamils, not just because he is a chinese sage and a radical one at that, and that his works have been translated in tamil too - but because he may have visited tamil nadu in ancient times and had lived with us, and shared his wisdom. some claim that lao tzu and siddhar bogar are the same historical figures, some say they were contemporaries, while some others are satisfied that we were nourished by lao tzu's wisdom too. whatever the story is tamils do have some keys that help unravel and learn from lao tzu.

following is my translation from a tamil work on lao tzu. i chose the tamil version for gaining intent and insights of the master, that are better captured than many english translations.

one who is constantly mindful
merges and integrates
it is hard to chip away at him.
rooted in life's essence
he could become a child
to bring to life tenderness.

to do this
he performs many austerities, constantly cleansing
transforming through discipline and deep intuition
he frees himself from pollution.

one who loves people when governing a nation
will not use coercion.

he will act as a mother bird
closing and opening heaven's doors.

illuminous and white
penetrating all four directions
he shall dwell without much ado.
he initiates
but does not take credit.
he functions
but not for himself.
excels in governance
but does not rule.
this is called deep well-being.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

eagles nest

27 august 2008

che, passed away yesterday. he was readmitted to the hospital after a partial paralysis attack. knowing che, i would say he has transcended and would be walking the paths souls walk after leaving their nest.

a poem for che

the nest that once held u is empty now
your spark has left its one time home

you faced the imminent with grace
you lived life with courage and colors
your feet had touched many a sacred site
your body had embraced many loving souls

now your soul has left the nest you built these past few years
in it you had space for all that life is
you expressed how much you wanted to live
i hope your zeal for Life keeps you amongst us
till the unknown becomes more your home

be well on this new journey
dear che


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

dialogue and diversity - an indigenous perspective

27 august 2008

che often asked me to share more on diversity, and how to communicate to others about valuing it. we lived in a land where histories and policy decisions make life hard for millions of people. in such a world where one is taught to remain ignorant, fear, despise, hate or repress - che always was intent on nurturing diversity. mono-culture is too dull and insult to our vast intelligence and experience, he shared.

i offer some of our 'running-ideas' about diversity. che and i constantly allowed some ideas to run in our mind as part of our spiritual exercise, hence they are part of the field, they are running and one could gallop along them or on them as long as our energy or mind allows us. then when it gets crystallized it could be put on paper or canvas as something emerging out of a quest for understanding. what we discovered was that it does not just result in one piece of writing on a topic, but the knowledge produced comes to be lived for a period of time and when one is mindful of such moments and learnings and experiences such moments offer, one can get ahead of the game.

on diversity and dialogue - an indigenous perspective

diversity is a virtue.

in the natural world, of which we are part of, diversity is self-evident and necessary for a sense of completeness. appreciating, valuing, celebrating, nurturing diversity helps us walk in the path that leads us into a world that is more in balance, rich, peaceful and healthy. however human experience has shown us that it is not a state that we are blessed to experience for long, though there may be several 'big-moments' of sense of balance, harmony, respect, peace and healthy relations that we can experience. and as we do this big dance of life, everything around us changes too, due to human intervention. so we live sometimes in harmony with life around us.

arriving at these 'big-moments' is not an easy path to follow and requires the willingness to come to agreements on some general principles and plans while having room for infinite variations in operationalization of agreements and plans. in this path one is expected to be respectful of peoples, cultures, traditions and norms. this process gets enriched by inter-change of ideas, and nourishment received from such exchanges. the process of explaining the essence of one's beliefs, values, morals, norms by which one lives to another person or group of people is a process of exchange and transformation.

an important part of the above described process is self-definition. self-definition is evolving too, through constant absorption, clarity, information, analysis, political-life, changes in economic conditions, manipulation, beliefs and limits one puts on oneself. so a person in dialogue interacts at many different levels aided by introspection into one's own essence. when peoples or communities enter into dialog the continuous contact, engagement and development of relationship works on smoothening the rough edges and we become like stones that have traveled in rivers - smoother and edgeless. because of the smoothness we are able to see more of the world, interact with more people and because we do not have many sharp edges we hurt each other less in our interactions.

to become smooth we need to take the journey in the river and be willing to allow ourselves to be transformed. this journey is not always pleasant and wonder-filled and will have its share of trashing, falling, colliding, being stuck, submerging, and engaging with all that comes in one's way. yet, that is what it takes to transform a rock. moving from providing solid foundation to seeking new experiences with the Other, so transformation can happen amongst all - is the rewards of such an adventure.

in this journey every thought, attitude, behavior and action is observed by the higher-self that is part of our inner being, that pure and illuminating part of our selves. when one develops the art of observing oneself, being mindful - and all these are put to use to serve a bigger function, to feel part of the whole, and to feel the inter-connectedness. upon arriving at this place from where one can clearly see the connections, the distortions and destruction being caused - one chooses to apply wisdom in the interests of all and generations to come, and uses words that are sweet and respect filled. one is conversing not to put the other in place, it is a conversation about how we can co-exist and respectfully share the space.

when diversity is nurtured and allowed to be there are a million solutions for life and our well-being. and one begins to hear a call from the nature.

stop reading
come dwell in me
experience harmony
come walk in the wilderness, reclaim it
come swim in my rivers, reclaim it
every step you take, is a kiss to the beloved
she knows, your every intent
so be aware, but not afraid
it is her nature to let things be
but when you do walk light and in light
she is most generous and joyful
and opens us to her mysteries.

and such a call is often ignored. cause we struggle to have some of our needs met and have a little more to indulge in some pleasures. yet it is good to start to notice the ties and bonds that are part of ideas that have captured our futures, options and alternatives.

with what have we littered the path we walked to go where we are going?
what all are we sacrificing? for what?
what makes us to remain ignorant of virtues of diversity?

why a rhino for this topic you might wonder. che and i were both deeply disturbed to what is happening to the rhinoceros in karbi anglong and assam. poachers continue to hunt down these magnificient animals (for their clients) for their horns, believed to invigorate mens' libido and other medicinal properties. the one horned rhino is an endangered species. two-thirds of one-horned rhinos live in this region. the kaziranga national park is home to about 1850 of them. this picture was shot at the park in march 2008. che has done a painting on a young rhino, which stumbled into indian national media with its horn ripped off, struggling to get up, and bleeding.

it is not just the one-horned rhino that our rough edges hurt and maim.

it is time to smooth some rough edges, roll around a bit, make new friends and help diversity be.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


jupiter swims high
her luminous self sets in me snowfall of silence
i see her come near and whisper
"galilieo sighted a storm in me three centuries ago
and you can still see it today, and probably for a few hundred years more."

"what is constant, what changes and
what is constant because it is keeps changing?" she asked.

and she quickly added, "and before you start using that brain,
here is another for the back-burner
what has remained constant, what has changed in you and where you swim."

i turned towards her, as my mind worked,
my heart sought, my soul felt.

"being nourished by all relations continues, though many have been erased
out of existence and memory"
"the emptiness that only grace knows how to fill, remains constant"
"religion was then science
now it is a new religion," i share with some certainty

i have a secret to share she whispered.

"vacuum is but a theoretical construct, to help some models make sense
and i am not just talking about theoretical physics," she said smiling.
there is another vacuum being created, it is like a huge storm
it renders history impotent, like making seeds suicidal,
denying the right - to be and become."

"can you elaborate", i ask her.

breaking things down to its functional parts
and relegating inter-relatedness to obscurity is but a beginning
certainty, predictability, security, stability shall soon become guidelines
on how you all shall conduct your affairs
acts of genocides and war crimes shall continue, when required
though they may not be called that
the cost of life will not be the same
and more lives shall become cheap
for inter-relatedness is already broken
being oneself, doing ones own thing
with own resources shall come under attack
ways of life (what you call "culture") will be attacked
the movement for a global village will soon turn
into a movement for a "club for the globally privileged"
no institution shall remain sacred, no structure permanent
for the flood of greed shall sweep away
all that is an impediment for accumulation
anything that serves greed is right
anything that struggles to meet needs will be condemned and blamed
and the biggest crime of it all
you shall be defined by club rules
yes the right to self-definition shall soon come under attack

yet beyond all this there is hope
for i have seen many such cycles in my celestial journey
and connected with many who seek -
a life that is not always orchestrated
a life that is harmony filled nevertheless
because all beings feel connected
and celebrate that enlightenment with joy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

auvaiyar - a tamil woman/poet/sage

i enjoyed shooting this picture on the outskirts of dimapur in 2007. i am not sure if it was movies or calenders that made me associate this scene with grace. and today as i sat reading ancient people who were blessed with grace, i studied Auvaiyar.

Auvaiyar is a legendary Tamil women poet/sage who lived during 300-100 B.C.E. her economy of words to communicate profound wisdom is unparalleled. she directed some of her key works at children hoping to instill in them universal values that help in creating a just, peaceful and harmonious life.

aram seyia virumbu - enjoy giving alms
aaruvathu sinam -
bring down anger
iyalvathu karavael - never stop learning
evathu vilakael -don't prevent charity
udaiyathu vilambael - avoid injurious words
ookamathu kaividael - don't give up persevering
en ezhuthu eghalel - don't despise learning
aerpathu eghalel - accepting alms is despicable
iyamittu un - eat after donating
oppura ozhugu - act virtuously
othuvathu ozhiyael - don't give up prayers

auvaiyar had by the practice of meditation, yoga and receiving grace had found answer to the big question, who am I?

"given me miraculous powers
by your sweet grace, and mukti too;
revealed myself to me,
stilled my mind in tranquil calm.

by His grace beatific; He makes me know my Self.
that art non-dual, eternal, real, pure existence,
pure consciousness and everlasting bliss."

(translation is that of Prof. C. R. Krishnamurthi, in Auvaiyar in Tamil Literature through the Ages)

auvaiyar had one observation to make on divisions within humanity. and it may be safe to assume that problems related to caste was prevalent in her times too. the wisdom she shared was:

saadhi erandozhia verillai needhi vazhuva nerimuraiyin maethinil ittar periyor, itathar izhikulathor pattangilulapadi

there are only two castes
higher castes are ones who are compassionate and giving
lower castes are ones who are not compassionate and giving
that is all there is to say from the realm of unerring ethical living

conflict transformation - studying gandhi, periyar, ambedkar

21 august, hyderabad, 2008

conflict transformation initiatives has a wide spectrum of initiatives and actions. one area of activity involves working in group settings and facilitating a process of learning, unlearning and relearning concepts, tools, cases, and skills.

it would be safe to assume the term 'conflict transformation' is understood differently by different peoples and institutions, just as the concept 'democracy' is understood and practised differently in different settings. within the field of conflict transformation this challenge of having different 'common understandings' of a concept is welcomed and embraced instead of trying to 'manage' these differences first.

in settings where 'democracy' has been a driving force in liberation of people from colonial, imperial, oppressive, dictatorial, feudal, or despotic regimes - participation in struggle to fight for group rights is a historical given. the injustices people endured, how they got organized, actions that they engaged in, challenges they faced, and their eventual liberation from oppression and exploitation is often used as an example for thinking about "structural injustices" and how many non-violent and violent struggles were waged to assert peoples/nations right to swaraj or self-rule.

many important lessons emerged from India's struggle for independence from colonial rule and other anti-colonial struggles. chief among them is that some democratic nation-states behaved like despots abroad. for Mahatma Gandhi the main reason for this phenomenon is greed, arrogance and not practising love and compassion. another reason is the brokenness that happens to peoples, companies, governments who got "enlightened" and saw that they could deny others right to freedoms and rights that they value and will fight to defend. it was a moral degradation that could not be tolerated and Mahatma Gandhi worked a lot to let the river of morality and ethics cleanse politics and economics.

another struggle for independence from "religious bigotry" and "caste-based oppression and discrimination" was waged within the Indian subcontinent, while the movement for independence was on. E.V. Ramasamy and B. R. Ambedkar are two luminous figures among many others who were engaged in social, cultural and political transformation. the former fondly called Periyaar worked hard to change peoples mindsets and empowering them to break free from the chains of religion/caste based injustices that affected peoples social, cultural, economic, political rights and freedoms. Dr. Ambedkar a constitutional expert tried his best to ensure that the Indian constitution does not privilege those who wanted to sustain injustices and resulting privileges based on their understanding of religion, caste and social status. he also embraced Buddhism demonstrating his conviction that Hinduism that was practised and tolerated in his times and times before him - is incompatible with social equality and justice.

while many unjust practices have been suspended due to protest and reform, caste based injustices continue to this day in India, despite its illegality. privilege, once obtained is hard to give up and efforts will be made to justify, obfuscate and mislead, by people who feel entitled to privileges they have inherited, and by the hubris that sets in which makes it difficult to see different perspectives and realities.

the field of conflict transformation can gain strength by paying as much attention to the life and works of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy and Dr. Amdedkar as is paid to Mahatma Gandhi - for they are responsible in bringing about transformation at psychological, political, social, cultural and economic spheres not just at personal or community levels but at structural levels too. why this recommendation from a peace practitioner u may wonder. so let me share why.

structural level changes or systemic level changes are easy to imagine but difficult to comprehend in the absence of case studies. there is no blue-print for conflict transformation and i think there should not be one. people living in different settings, under different conditions need to determine what changes are required to experience greater justice, equality, freedom, respect of rights, dignity and peace. and people interested in conflict transformation work in the Indian subcontinent cannot afford to ignore the works of above mentioned socio-political leaders. studying their life and work will help the process of learning, unlearning and relearning concepts, ideas, approaches, strategies, and actions for positive changes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

7 parts of self - part 1

7 parts of self
(a peace-building tool)

threatened part

this exercise is for those involved or engaged in peace work and working in areas where diversity has become a challenge to deal/live with. following are the instructions for the 1st part of the self - the threatened part. it is best done with a skilled facilitator (in group learning processes) guiding through instruction and drawing attention.

step 1: relax, sit comfortably, be conscious of your breathing, value this turning-in period, observe your thoughts and what the mind is doing, be conscious of your breath, ask yourself this question.

"when was a time when i felt threatened and shaken by imminent danger or death?"

allow the mind to scan, recollect, remember an event or episode where your life was under threat.

then, when you are able to remember, please ask yourself

"how it felt to perceive threat to one's very existence? what was/is the support needed at such a time upon reflection?"

note down how your mind thought through about the danger or threat and the conclusion to which it came on what was the support needed.

step 2: share it with other members of the group and listen to everyone, including self.

step 3: reflect on - what have you learned from the individual reflection and group sharing about the kind of support needed at a time when one feels threatened by imminent danger or threat to life?

step 4: we could imagine about human interventions that would address the need to feel secure, protected and knowledge that the potential for threat has been dealt with, which implies some kind of action.

so what kind of actions will create conditions to feel secure, un-threatened and a sense of ordinary and normal life.

step 5: what are other kinds of threats we have experienced in our lives - threat to rights, land, freedoms, entitlements, language, culture, values... can we imagine or re-imagine how we perceived the threat and actions we engaged in or planned to overcome a undesired situation.

step 6: can we now bring to our collective consciousness histories of people vanquished for resisting, for desiring and living free. can we imagine groups that were erased out of our memories. can we imagine the millions who died in genocides and holocausts, invasions and enslavement.

step 7: can we now understand what that feeling is, to stand at the precipice of existence, when someone has the power to erase you out of existence, because you are different? can we now understand what one feels when one is pursued by a self-righteous and violent crowd that wants to mutilate and gut you?

you could write down any thoughts or feelings that arise now.

step 8: (this could be a group discussion on the following lines) now the final part is to come to some common understanding on how it is in everyone's interest to know, understand and accept the other. and that the other does have a part that feels threatened, is a reality that needs to be dealt with. in such conditions what can all parties do to reduce the threat levels felt and perceived? can we develop more humane responses for we do not want to be either the victims or the oppressors?

step 9: relax. let your mind wind down. be conscious of your breathing... thank each one for their sharing, for insights gained and learning you valued.

king chilli - what lies ahead?

summer 2008, hyderabad

che's rendition of the king chilli. the Guinness Book of World Records 2007 edition states that this chilli which is commonly called as Naga Mircha or Umrok or Bhoot Jalokhia as the hottest chilli in the world.

i've been consuming it since 2000 and i agree with Guinness Book. this chilli has been traditionally cultivated in parts of manipur, nagaland and assam. some say it also grows in some parts of burma and bangladesh.

indigenous peoples who have traditionally been farming, innovating and preserving this legendary chilli are excited about the recognition and trade possibilities. some are also clearly worried about this unique chilli's fate once it begins to be experimented upon, modified genetically to have more shelf life, "improved" otherwise, patented, farmed in other geographic locations that is very different in soil and climate conditions.

freedom from bio-piracy, bio-diversity protection and respect of indigenous peoples knowledge and practices in farming and innovation and not patenting biological life-forms are the key issues facing the people who have been traditionally associated with this chilli.

art & peace - part I

april 2008, hyderabad

che is seen here working on a painting. the 10 day workshop on art & peace produced 3 paintings, and over 20 t-shirts (i will post some pics of them later). che (an artist from manipur and a peace-practitioner) facilitated the workshop.

che and i love turtles. for us turtle represents slowing-down, mindfulness, wisdom and intuition. and we feel these are some essential qualities required while working for peace.

why slowing-down?
cause, transformation requires one to pause, reflect and come to grips with what one is doing and what are the costs and consequences of how one lives.

why mindfulness?
cause, transformation requires one to be conscious always, and watch one's pre-disposition, prejudice, attitude, behavior, speech, writing, action.

why wisdom?
cause, one needs to know whether to do something or not. and to listen to a higher logic, reasoning, and illumination about what all impacts one could expect if one pursues a path and help chose the path that is harmless.

why intuition?
cause, some things we just know is right, even when we cannot fully explain why we feel that way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

reflections on a moonlit night

december 2006, jerusalem

it is time
to untangle tresses and breathe free
lovers unite
and the celestial journey begins
recreation unfolds
dreams find their destination
droplets contain worlds within
countless realities come to life everyday
as the jeweler tests gold
i rub myself to know
what i am made of?
and to my surprise, i found a bit of you

remembering the 'great poet' Bharathi

19 august, 2008

India celebrated 61st anniversary of its independence from colonial British rule on 15th august 2008. i was going through a poetry collection of Bharathiyar (Subramania Bharathi) born in 1882 who lived until he was 39. Bharathi gained national repute and stood at the forefront of the battle against colonization and foreign rule. He stood tall as a courageous voice for freedom from slavery, servitude and oppression. His works contributed to both Tamil and Indian nationalism. He spoke 5 languages in addition to his "mother" Tamil, yes, that is how he saw his relationship with Tamil, as his mother.

He was also a visionary and saw an India that had skilled workers, educated people, women living in freedom from oppression. While being the editor of nationalistic magazines he also took active interest in indian freedom struggle. He participated in the historic Surat Congress where the Indian National Movement split. Bharathiyar along with V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varadachariyaar lent support to the "militant" camp of the Indian National Movement, led by Balagangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo. He edited nationalism inspired weekly, monthly and daily magazines and organized mass celebration of right to self-governance. The colonial British government wanted him arrested and hence he escaped to Pondichery, which was then under French rule. He continued his editorial work and national struggle for independence from Pondichery. He entered British colonized part of India in Cuddalore in 1918 and was arrested. He was released after three weeks in custody and an eventual General Amnesty order of 1920 removed all restrictions on his movement. Between 1918 and 1920 he met with Gandhi and took up editing of a nationalist magazine Swadeshamitran in Madras. He died in 1921.

I am providing below a translation of one his most powerful poem on courage and fearlessness against oppressive colonial rule.

No fear, No fear, no such thing as fear
Even if everyone in the world is against us
No fear, no fear, no such thing as fear
Even when they look down on us and keep us away
No fear, No fear, no such thing as fear
Even when we are forced to beg and eat
No fear, no fear, no such thing as fear
Even when our wealth is drained from us
No fear, No fear, no such thing as fear
Even when the seductress passes glances
No fear, no fear, no such thing as fear
Even when dear friends bring poison and feed it into mouth
No fear, no fear, no such thing as fear
Even when the entire British army comes marching
No fear, no fear, no such thing as fear
Even when the sky splits asunder and falls down on our heads
No fear, no fear, no such thing as fear

Sunday, August 17, 2008

a voice in the wildreness

gaumukh, august 2008

daniel and i are on our way back from gaumukh and proceeding towards gangotri. though it was a peace retreat, the mind does do what is routine. the issue of public good, government, state and privatization did enter my mind a couple of times during the retreat.

after returning from the journey i was able to jot down some thoughts. given below are some thoughts on the role of a government.

on the role of government (a citizen's view)

welfare of the subjects or citizens is the business of a government. unlike corporations, governments have deeper commitments towards its people. corporations are not created to serve and protect the people. to expect it to behave like governments is foolish. the least we can expect from them is that they do not break existing laws, do not violate human and group rights, do not externalize costs onto communities, do not work on chipping away at the state and its powers and do not suppress freedoms.

the government is the instrument that manages a country during its chaotic and normal times, it is they who are expected to respond and bring life to normal, for all. when the government begins serving interests of share-holders and investors mostly, and starts taking models sold to it seriously, and begins self-mutilation it brings misery to lots of people. this misery may be blocked out of public view, and the corporate media may not provide sufficient space for the displaced, dispossessed and marginalized to express their anger, but all reliable statistics indicate despite "enviable" growth rates and manufacturing of billionaires - the country seems to be transforming into a frontier land again that is being captured, bled, drained unjustly. yes, life is good and and there are many achievements to be proud of, but the reality of unjust and unfair practices becoming the norm is a shame.

there may be rewards and perks to "facilitate" predatory economics and this may be the "in" thing to do, if you want to be part of a club that builds fortunes by pillaging, stripping peoples of their rights, and deliberately preventing governments from ensuring fundamental rights and freedoms. no state is pure or perfect, but when it begins to serve private interests over the public, it fails. it is a citizens responsibility to remind the state then, of its roles, responsibilities and duties.

it is the citizen who gives the politician the right to represent. when the politician develops attitude, behaves and acts in ways that is considered by the citizen as irresponsible, anti-people, self-serving and engaged in undermining the rights of citizens, such a politician loses the right to represent the people. using government offices to make private gains by supporting investments that are anti-people, anti-state (in the sense chipping away at the rights, duties and responsibilities of the state) and entrenching predatory economics is offensive and an insult to the intelligence and compassion that we humans are capable of.

Friday, August 15, 2008

view from katra hills

katra hills, jammu 2008

when visiting jammu and kashmir, had an opportunity to climb a mountain on horseback. the view got very spectacular that evening. the play of lights and colors was awesome.

"eternity - can it be grasped in the palm of ones hand?"

seasons bring along its own joy

south bend, spring 2008

"seasons bring along its own joy, some connections become more apparent, some become less visible."

leaves shoots berries gourds mushrooms fruits and silkworms

dimapur, 2007

friends and i had gone shopping. the lunch was at a friends place. it turned out to be a gastronomical adventure. a good one. i had never had such variety in one meal. we had shoots, leaves, mushrooms, berries, gourds, vegetables, fruits, meat, silkworm and bees.

a little bit of everything.

growing up together

ranari, summer 2008

they are just growing up together. it was fun to connect with them.

"trees have tales to tell too. some are locals with long history and some brought in under plantation project. not every tree is "economically viable" and deserve attention from humans. yet they are part of the larger scheme of life. life exists beyond our canvases and models. denying several species of trees their right to exist is like denying rights to one group of brothers and sisters to live or be engaged in their livelihood, doing their thing."

under sheltering skies

ranari, summer 2008

the evening walks to the teashop was a treat to our senses. the exotic wild jasmine dots the path, enticing us to spend some more time with the plant. even after i arrive at the tea shop and wait for freshly brewed tea, the faint recollection of the jasmine scent makes me smile and my heart bloom. there is time for sweetness life has to offer. i am glad for it.

"knowing is a wonderful experience, so is being known, understood and appreciated."

rivers have many stories to tell

by the river bhagirathi, summer 2008

che is seen here listening to the river, seeing and hearing stories it tells.

"when we deeply care, we develop capacity to see much more in a moment. the inter-connectedness is so obvious. yet, we choose to blindfold ourselves to feast on rewards for excesses. the challenge is how to get into such discussions in group settings. so many things come into play, our egos, personalities, insecurities, desires, greed, our histories and memory. how can we embolden each other to walk the road less travelled, but one which offers respect, fairness, justice and dignity."

connecting through music and movie

ranari, village temple, june 2008

the 9 member peace-retreat team performs at the local village temple. daniel is a heavy-metal musician from karbi-anglong. it is an autonomous district in the north east india. he is discovering fusion these days. a wonderful and friendly human being. loves good food, pleasant conversations, jamming, and enlightening discussions.

"harmony requires lots of respect and hard-work"

daniel has recently written an "ode to the rhino".

a rhino got very popular nationally cause its horn was ripped out when it was alive. it stumbled and fell, and got up again, with the whole nation weeping tears and enraged by impunity with which poachers commit atrocities against endangered species. rhino is a gentle giant. daniel moved by this tragedy happening in his land, wrote a beautiful song. it should come out soon. when it does will let you guys have a taste.

"when we walk off the beaten path, many paths open before us. it is not a time to run amok. it is a time to use judgement and ethics, that establishes, renews, nourishes inter-dependence. not as an empty slogan to rally people, but as an exercise of one's spiritual wisdom. machiavelliean politics is but one form of politics, stripped of morality and ethics. power's beastly side always awaits us, with a red carpet - to ride it. it promises wealth, accumulation, celebrity-status, and perhaps a super-hero. talent is rewarded, no doubt. if one is prepared to fool, a bit or big time the fruits to be plucked are so many that one life time seems insufficient to taste all that is offered. yet, the soul observes resistance to this assault on senses. it gets awakened and goes into self-protection mode. sometimes it goes deep within, and sometimes it reaches out. listening to one's inner self is crucial at these times. it is at these times, upon reflection and mindfulness one has easier access to wisdom."

yaadhum oore, yaavarum kelir

gangotri, june 2008

che and i walked around in gangotri. this very pleasing, happy and inviting Shiva blessed us with some moments of solitude, connection, and nourishment.

"yaadhum oore, yaavarum kelir" - to us all towns are same, all people our kin.

these words of ancient Tamils, insight from the siddhar tradition of Tamils was what came to my consciousness when i stood there with arms raised, welcoming, listening, inviting grace.

reflections by a river

peren, nagaland, 2008

"rivers have a right to be free. they have a right not to be violated, converted into a sewage or garbage dump. rivers, rivulets and streams are eco-systems supporting complex life forms. river ain't no commodity, it is part of life-support system of the universe. a river's destruction is an act of self-mutilation. well that is too anthropo-centric. so let me reflect again... destruction of rivers or degrading it, is an act of genocide against complex life-forms and its support systems. profits and accumulation cannot trump over life."

when markets support local livelihood

pallel bazaar - a local market, manipur, 2008

"when markets support local livelihoods, it supports growing of many traditional/local/indigenous food. an opportunity to support more farm-based inputs and keeping away from use of chemicals. manufactured farm inputs when kept to the minimum has the potential to keep the soil alive with complex life forms, rather than turning soil into a salt-dump, which would require more water to cleanse of the salt. and more manufactured inputs would be required as the soil begins to get choked."

"i've heard of peoples and groups able to sustain well with what is produced locally. when it is affordable while being organic, why do we want to pry open that market for manufactured goods. why build storage facilities that allows a new vice, hoarding. food when sold and consumed before it loses its freshness is a right all of us have. we don't need to lose that right, or buy it at a bigger price that benefits some companies. share-holders profit-lines cannot dictate how many rights community stakeholders deserve to exercise, and how many to be robbed of."

"every-citizen counts. being responsible for every citizens right is the affair of state and the people who send representatives to perform the art of state-craft. now we face a situation where leadership has gone over to speculators, contractors and con-artists. a veil called "efficiency " was spun to distract one away from intent. pseudo-science serving market interests end up committing genocide on many genus and species. all for what? or is that a naive question."

custodian of an ancient culture

mirik, darjeeling, summer 2008

"culture under threat resists, survives, gets nourished. the past is not without injustices, nor the present. yet, in the larger course of the river of life, it is fleeting and transforming. one set of rights and freedoms may have come under threat, yet beyond all politics, a culture needs custodians, and traditions are mechanisms that sustain the essence, protect it, for there are some things worth preserving, protecting, promoting."

dome of the rock - jerusalem, 2006

jerusalem, october 2006

on the whole or up close in detail, exquisite...

performing outdoors - at peace retreat 2008

baba phu, guru reuben and momo performing outdoors...

moon is capturing it on video.

what can i say, i love music. listening and watching musical performance this close was a treat for me.

reuben playing a native naga flute

ranari village, june 2008

while on peace retreat, the idea of using cultural status of being musicians and artists was explored. it was also a time for just playing, listening, improvising, appreciating...

here reuben plays a flute he made himself. he learnt how to make this flute from a naga elder in a village.

musicians and peace retreat

ranari village, june 2008

reuben and momo performing outdoors during a peace retreat. momo is playing with small rocks while reuben sings and plays guitar.

playing at the monastery - mirik, darjeeling 2008

mirik, darjeeling 2008

participants of a peace workshop playing at the monastery with young and old.

"being present in the moment can be a very beautiful experience."

mother's gentle touch

outskirts of hyderabad, 2008

moments of bliss...

under buddha's gaze

may 2007, south bend

"mindfulness is a psychological-spiritual exercise that helps deal with the inner demon mara. cultivating mindfulness helps in cleansing, gaining detachment to engage positively, develop capacity to discern and discriminate which actions to pursue and which ones to be watchful over."

"opening the door may take an instant, but to arrive at the right door takes time, efort and patience."

contemporary rendition of a biblical scene

Bethlehem 2006

"a picture does have the capacity to speak a thousand words."

a contemporary Palestinian artist had rendered this version. i was spell-bound by its eloquence.

john the baptist church - near jerusalem

december 2006, jerusalem

i had heard much about John the Baptist from my Christian friends. one of the earliest to recognize Christ, the messiah.

this place has fewer visitors, but offers serenity.

journey towards light

tantur, december 2006

"the journey towards light is programmed in the seed. each day inching towards light", is a phenomenon that this tree taught me.

working for peace and justice is like it sometime...

another version - last supper - at a kurdish restuarant in jerusalem

from december 2006, jerusalem

yael and i went on a night tour around jerusalem during Hanukkah. she took me to this place to eat. a cool place to eat traditional Kurdish food.

again creativity and culture, even if it is pop, can be cool.

another version - last supper - at a restuarant in darjeeling, 2008

darjeeling, 2008

after several days of working in group setting, wanted to be with myself during lunch when on an outing.

as i waited for food to arrive, this painting made me smile.

when culture and creativity mix it can be beautiful too.

made me think of a Kurdish restaurant in Jerusalem. but then, that is another story...

where three kings stood - bethlehem

from december 2006, bethlehem

now a painting depicting the episode of three kings visiting the manger on birth of Christ adorns the space where the kings stood.

the painting helped in orienting the self and let imagination be assisted to connect with the episode and the significance of the place.

this cave is like a womb. a way of life that honours and demands love and compassion from each other was born.

progress need to be made from wrath to compassion, from arrogance to illumination.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

at hebron - with young citizens

from december 2006

with young citizens of occupied hebron

yes, the city is walled under occupation too, another sacred place defiled. yet, one does catch glimpses of pure joy, curiosity, a temporary suspension of grief.

hebron, when i visited was tense, not because of armed action but because of stillness that comes from being overwhelmed and contained.

soul still searches for treading a pilgrims path seeking spiritual nourishment and guidance for working on peace and justice.

i wondered looking into those eyes, "what all have they seen".

bethlehem - manger - christ's birthplace

from dec 2006

i was lucky enough to live close to Bethlehem for a few months. an evening i walked into the church in Bethlehem. walking the modern streets of this part of occupied Palestinian territory i wondered about the reality of living a few days at a site once blessed by God, that now stands surrounded by walls 8 metres tall. felt sad that pilgrimage also entails seeing occupation first hand. three great civilizations that have had their hours of glory and horror embroiled and entangled, unable to break free.

there are many levels of untangling, de-escalating, justice delivering, reconciling, peace building that one hopes for. to watch indignity first hand is a terrible thing in itself. it does not need much imagination to see psychological trauma and its effects on masses of people who live under occupation. victim/survivors turned aggressors behind walls, closely watched by many international agencies and human/group rights defenders. a good place to experience solidarity, compassion, in action.

i came to know that not everyone who goes into Palestine go there for expressing political solidarity with the Palestinian national cause.

some journeys are for nourishing our souls.

yet, the fact that it happens under occupation-condition is impossible to ignore.

the soul and mind battle it out to make sense. how does one process coming to visit a site of a great prophet's birth and feeling that one goes into a sacred space inside a walled city.

defiling of a world heritage site in the name of security is a tragedy continuously in the making.

how to respond to such a travesty? i often wondered.

no answers, just lots of grief...

momo and reuben_peace-retreat_2008_ranari

at ranari, we spent some time outdoors, playing-listening-recording. here reuben plays a folk song. he is also playing guitar and mouth-organ.

momo is a good friend of reuben and is a great drummer and a cultural activist.

it was fun capturing this performance on video as well.

momo and reuben always did reality-testing and not trying to do too many things at a time. cool individuals and good experience in trekking.

"music has a role to play in carrying important messages to lots of people. we as musicians also live in the same state. yes, using our cultural status to share ideas such as climate change has now become inevitable, cause we have now seen it for ourselves, how the glaciers are receding with time."

"it is good to have realistic and realizable expectations rather than being too enthused and wanting to achieve a lot. different things have different pace."

"all must try hard to work toward group goal. they need to give their best for group to succeed."

some words from worthing

june 2008, ranari village, near uttarkashi

moon interviewing worthing a social worker working on student and social issues.

"people engaged in social change need to also take good care of themselves. retreats like these provide those who are working hard for peace and justice to come together, journey together, live together, eat together, and do a bit of group thinking and sharing. it is restful and nourishing to be here at ranari village."

"processes that empower people and make them skilled in facilitating group processes for learning, awareness creating and decision-making is absolutely necessary for working effectively for justice and peace."

a karbi baba - back to gangotri - peace retreat 2008

phuningding also known as phu, embraced life of a baba. he is also a musician and a rock star in northeast.

he often shared:

"we now go back blessed. this experience will give rise to creative expressions in a few months time." we all felt it.

we had pushed our will, body and mind hard to reach gaumukh, yet, there was no sense of exhilaration. just a sense of having been blessed.

a soul nourishing experience this journey was.

shivalinga peak - gaumukh - himalayas - II

as i climbed a bit more towards Kaalu, this view emerged. very fascinating. stimulated deep silence and cleansing.

a wonder created by nature.

has the ability to absorb one's full attention. i later tried to capture its beauty and majesty...

Kaalu - the dog guide and first sighting of Shivalinga peak

daniel and i arrived at gaumukh on 5th morning, assisted ably by our guide a black dog Kaalu. He had a matted tail and took us on a 4 km trek from Bhogvasa to Gaumukh. We later realized he had taken us on smaller trails for a length. he was a very patient guide, always turning around to look if we caught up with him. after gently leading us to this spot, he sat on a small mound of fallen rocks and gazed for many minutes at this Shivalinga peak. it was only then i noticed and climbed. this is what he was gazing at. what a wonder filled sight it was.

when we had began our early morning trek the people with whom we had planned to go stayed back due to bad weather. but we sensed that Kaalu whom we had befriended the previous evening was willing to guide us. we left with him. he had the patience of a sadhu.

i then captured it.

more got revealed as i climbed some more...

glaciersite - gaumukh - himalayas

a 20-km trek on altitude of 4000+ gets you here. a silencing, penetrating, awesome experience awaits one and all. the weather was perfect but it soon turned windy. chill winds sent shivers within. yet the captivating beauty of the place, makes you stay longer. a visual and sensory treat this part of himalayas offer.

reflections at the waterfall

at the waterfall - gangotri - falls 1

che and i had a walk. totally captivated at this particular spot. mesmerized by the colours and deafening sound of the falls. lot of energy in this place. i could not help but think of mortals wanting to dam and profit, or pollute and externalize.

the eagle had visited and shared what it saw.

much blood shall be spilled over water. eco-cide and species-endangering human activities pollutes with impunity. rivers are sacred. i don't share that from any mythical legend perspective. rivers are the life-blood of people. they sustain life in many places. complex life-forms co-exist in areas nourished by rivers. it is a sin to pollute and toxify rivers. abuse of rivers is like predating or poisoning a lactating mothers breast.

water is and will always remain a resource that belongs to the commons. any move against it is counter-revolution with only dominance and profits as its motive, not public good. the sense of entitlements water-exploiting and human rights abusing companies feel is absolutely nauseating. can free market and democracy co-exist i ask myself. will indian politicians push for - 'democracy light' as a favoured option to reap rewards and incentives for making the state more lean and mean. will democracy, freedom, public participation and civil society initiatives for protection of rights be hard hit by "reforms". it is scary to think of state turning more predatory and contractor-driven.

peace retreat - III - 2008 - gangotri-to-gaumukh

june 2008

as we set out on the trek from gangotri to gaumukh a friend captures daniel and moon. the gloriously tall mountains spellbound us. the trek was hard and tiring, the fruits of it, many. being and capturing became the twin obsession for me. what a beautiful word - being. and what an exciting thing to do - being and capturing.

framing and perspectives

yeah, that's me...

"framing and perspectives are two important words that i need to understand in greater depth."

a sunset

a spectacular sunset me and two friends were treated to. tried many words to describe what it felt like. nothing could capture the experience. so, no more ado...

wisdom through friendships

mirik-darjeeling 2008

with some friends, by a small lake in mirik-darjeeling. some thoughts that emerged at a conflict transformation workshop which brought us together:

"peace building needs to apply human intelligence, intellectual honesty, and courage in defending hard won rights, entitlements and freedoms. economic, social, cultural, civil and political life are areas in which people need to experience justice."

"we need to move away from 'forgive and forget' mode to 'remember, take responsibility, transform, and reconcile'. we also need to move from being conscious of doing no harm to 'doing the right thing'. yes, we may not always be clear what the right thing is. but trusting a respectful and participatory process that is inclusive and embraces consensus building as preferred method of arriving at decisions does have potential to effect positive changes."

"practice and scholarship need to supplement. the age of dispassionate observers is over. we are all part of the problem and hence be part of the solution too."

"fear of talking about identity issues is certainly a big block to peace building processes."

"it is good to constantly check which projects gave the vocabulary we are using in the peace field, what those words meant to the sectors that began using them. it is also good to see which words are co-opted and diluted to mean almost anything."

"love and grace - still have place in peace work. so don't lose hope."