Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

28 Dec 2009

My first intentional Christmas celebration lasted 3 days and nights... Had this sudden urge to paint quite early this morning. Rumi's poetry and Gospel readings nourished and helped creativity to unfold... i felt like a flower blooming... the painting above is a product of that unfolding...

Friday, December 11, 2009

December Lotuses

12 Dec 2009

You bloom everyday
In my heart
Feet of God!

Friday, November 6, 2009

kites sharing meal

7 Nov 2009

i hear you call
and that of the prey.
i hear you call again
and your mate descends.

you share, you leave
and something starts to cook in me.

lotus bloom, bud, bloom

7 Nov 2009

waiting has its rewards
i see now...

lotus detail

7 Nov 2009

sun or moon, you bloom
and the guest has something good to drink...

butterfly breakfast

7 Nov 2009

in search of life giving nectar

i wander...

and i found it all around me.

dragonfly resting

7 Nov 2009

morning began as any other morning
yet something is new today...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


28 Oct 2009

Just playing
With light...

night, lotus, me

28 Oct 2009


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Kite Friend

21 Oct 2009

i exist
i am glad we met.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lotus & Bee

21 Oct 2009

Every sight of you
Is a blessing
Every time you unfold
Is a blessing
And when you draw yourself in
There lies a blessing too...


21 Oct 2009

Surprise awaits
When the dawn breaks...
Pushing me deep into a sense of wonder...

Seed, sprout and then a tree
Sexual union and a new life begins
Carrying within the seeds all it needs
To absorb, to become, to give nourishment
That only a pomegranate can...

I wonder then
What am i becoming...

And what do i carry within.

Three Little Birds

21 Oct 2009

mornings are a blessing. new life of a new day, slowly dawns to the music of creation. if we are present and witness, it is a blessing. if we are not present and witnessing, it is a blessing.

for some beings
existence itself
is an act of resistance
we wonder often
when the circle drawn
can include us all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Watching a hornbill collect food up close. Good times.
Posted by Picasa

Burning Erasing

Burning Erasing
Posted by Picasa

What remains unseen

19 May 2009

Wish i was a big bird
Capable of flying across
To have my own point of view, perspective
Un-plugged, un-polluted
To know what the conditions are
And what was done
Who did what?
Where are the witnesses?

And i hope those with conscience who witnesses were
Live to remain to tell the untold stories...
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Speaking Out

19 May 2009

On War Crimes in Sri Lanka

The "War on Terrorists" that was waged during Bush regime, turned to "Humanitarian Operation" during Obama's presidency. The goal of "Pursuing and eliminating LTTE terrorists" changed to "liberating civilians from terrorist controlled areas."

Independent verification of the death of civilians and LTTE military and civil personnel will reveal the number of people killed, cause of death and other facts that need to be noted down for making a case against the government of Sri Lanka and other actors, in the war crimes and crimes against humanity. Going by the weaponry used, locations attacked/bombed, violations of humanitarian laws and norms, or the incapacity to make accurate assessments about scale of humanitarian catastrophe and massacre it had unleashed on Tamil people, the Sri Lankan government is in for some heated episodes of international scrutiny.

War crimes and crimes against humanity may have been tolerated more in the era of "Global War on Terror." Now the architects of such an approach have been mercilessly thrown out of power, not just for the crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, illegal rendering, but also for putting the world at risk economically, a kind of economic extremism that brought about the global meltdown and associated consequences for millions of people around the world.

In such a scenario the Sri Lankan government is unlikely to get away with the crimes it had committed despite the support it has from China and Russia. With the diaspora mobilizations for truth and justice gaining momentum I am sure there will be calls for independent verifications and truth commissions. A lot depends on how GoSL handles the humanitarian catastrophe it had caused, whom it allows in and whom it keeps out, and what it does in covering up. Going by reports coming in from Europe and other sources it looks like Sri Lanka is under a microscope already and cases being built on Rajapakshe brothers and several others for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Legal moves including trying Rajapakshe brothers and senior military leaders outside Sri Lanka is rumored.

Though GoSL claims it has killed LTTE chief Prabhakaran, it is hard to reach such a conclusion with scant evidence.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Looking Ahead - Reforms 2009

17 May 2009

The results of the elections in India will once again convince the international community of the robustness of democracy and voting behavior, resulting in clear verdicts on what will be tolerated and what will not be tolerated any more. The ruling UPA government has now won against anti-incumbency factors and Congress (I) has emerged as the single largest party which requires only few members support to form the government. Congress which had been struggling with the era of coalition politics and wanting to strike on its own as a national party that wants to regain some of the territories it had lost to the communists and communalists. It has done remarkably well on both these areas. By winning half of the seats it contested in Tamil Nadu, it has proved that it is still a force to reckon with in this state. Despite some of the senior leaders losing, the party has scored a decisive win and with Chidambaram returning (though on a very narrow margin) one could expect more of the same in terms of economic and development policies and practices. On the Sri Lankan Tamil issue it may still face problems in Tamil Nadu, as Tamil groups will now begin working on some other strategies to advance the cause for Tamil Eelam or equal rights for Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The reforms specialists with the addition of Shashi Tharoor, are a formidable team and one can only expect that economic reforms will be fast-tracked, deepened and widened. By not having to depend on very "demanding" regional parties or the Leftists and being emboldened by the clear verdict it may now operationlize the reforms packages with much less hurdles. One new area that will receive much focus is the defense related industry. So far, this area did not have much private sector involvement. This is about to change and the military industrial complexes are something to watch out for.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Election Verdict 2009

16 May 2009

The results are showing a definite trend of Congress (I) and its allies coming to power in the centre. However as expected Congress seems to be trailing behind or losing most of the 16 seats in which it contested. Its ally in Tamil Nadu, the DMK has against many adverse conditions and predictions is bound to secure a decent electoral success, winning most of the areas in which it contested. It is clear from the results that the expected "frame-alignment" between Tamil movements and Tamil parties has not been able to translate into sufficient votes to be a force to reckon with in the era of coalition politics at the centre. In Tamil Nadu however the verdict is clear, there is a significant polarization with regional dravidian parties taking in most votes and leaving the national parties with not much hope of gaining political ground in Tamil Nadu.

Ms. Jayalalitha may have sobered up after the shocking verdict that Tamil people have not given her party or her allies mandate to materialize the electoral promise of sending army to liberate Eelam. Tamil movements and parties also need to do some soul searching as to what percentage of votes have they been able to obtain or deny the ruling alliance. What ever be the verdict, it is bound to teach a few lessons to all the parties and actors.

At the Indian level, it is heartening to see the slide down suffered by communal parties. The communists have suffered much too. An emboldened Congress (I) is bound to come to power and i guess we will have more of the same stuff we are used to for five years more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bloodbath and Beyond

12 May 2009

This is May 2009. War crimes and genocidal attacks on Tamils continue in Sri Lanka. Despite the international efforts at turning a blind-eye to these crimes against humanity (on the pretext that this is a "war on terror") and media clampdown & bias, news does actually slip out especially to those who have interest in what is happening in Sri Lanka.

Following the media in India that do cover the issue, one comes to understand that Indian government is being accused of assisting Sri Lankan government in pursuing and decimating LTTE. China is also being accused of supporting the SL government in pursuing this "war on terror" with sufficient supply of weapons. Both India and China are seen to have reached some sort of agreement with Sri Lankan government on economic, military and security matters. With sufficient support from regional "partners" the emboldened President of Sri Lanka had launched an "all-out" offensive to crush the national movement for Tamil Eelam.

This is evident in the propaganda of the Sri Lankan government which seems to be working very hard in waging a psychological operation to "convince" the rest of the world that it is all about "Terrorism" and killing terrorists. The equation is simple, when a national movement decides to take to arms to defend itself against a oppressive state, or struggle and establish some degree of self-rule, it can be criminalized and thus contained.

Because under the new equation there is no need to look deep into grievances, factors that escalated tensions and brought the divide - it is sufficient if international lobbying is succesful and the movement is labeled as a terrorist organization by a few states. Then a consensus among the elite and powerful is enough to pursue this new war on terror which can crush the movement. The outcome is you have less constraints, less responsibility towards power-sharing, less work on structures and systems needed for respectful co-existence, equality and justice - and hence more attractive an option for despots.

Some argue that senior political leaders in the Congress (I) in India seem to be getting impatient with the delay in the decimation of LTTE, before the final phase of the elections in India. Whatever mileage one was to gain by claiming a victory over LTTE is now lost and the world is now witnessing the horrors of crushing a peoples resolve to fight against ethno-centric policies and practices. LTTE is a big part of this ethno-national movement and despite its notoreity for guerilla warfare, resistance struggles, suicide attacks and silencing of political opponents, is considered by many Sri Lankan Tamils (and many Tamils in India and around the world) as the only major group that can effectively fight for them, in their defence for their rights and aspirations.

Despite what media may tell others, especially those in the West, many Tamils in Tamil Nadu feel sympathy towards those fighting for Eelam. As pointed out by Ms. Jayalalitha (former chief-minster) the logic in TamilNadu goes like this, "If Bangladesh can be liberated from Pakistan, why not Eelam from Sri Lanka." Now, politicians are sure to make rhetorical speeches prior to elections, but what about public sentiments. Is polling behaviour a reflection of public sentiments? Well, by 16th May it shall become very clear what many people feel about the Tamil Eelam issue. It can be an opportunity for scholars/practitioners/activists to re-assess our analysis, un-learn a few things and drop a lot of useless baggage that we have been made to carry around.

In fact the last phase of polling is on 13th May and it is quite possible that the Congress may be rooted out in all 16 constituencies that it has fielded candidates in Tamil Nadu. There have been large scale mass-mobilizations in Tamil Nadu against Congress-I and many political observers feel that the Congress and its regional ally DMK shall lose in most places. If this is true, it means a few things. That apart from compelling local issues the Tamil Eelam issue will play a key role in politics in Tamil Nadu. The message seems to be clear: Tamils in Tamil Nadu will vote out any political party (national or regional) that does not sympathize with the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Whether they will make good their threat, and whether sufficient "frame-alignment" has happened within and between Tamil movements and parties in Tamil Nadu is something to be deciphered from the trends revealed by the election results.

The verdict will be out by 16th May 2009. It will be a day when Tamils will come to understand a little bit more about themselves and the rest of the world about Tamils, whatever be the outcome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And the Silence continues

16 Apr 2009

Love thy neighbor.

Opportunities for brotherhood/sisterhood among the different nationalities comprising the island clearly slipped away with policies of parochial nationalism, discrimination and rights violation by state run by certain leaders who fueled Sinhala nationalism that is based on the principle, "By cutting the feet of the neighbors We become taller." There is an old African proverb that cautions the humanity against such a logic. "You don't grow tall by cutting someone's feet". The discriminatory policies and practices soon after the independence that led to the Tamil national movement led to Tamil leaders of different statures and integrity pursue the democratic option of getting into the political process and try to work the system to respond to the grievances of Tamils.

But attempts to work the system made the system move more towards a presidential rather than a parliamentary system. That the parliament floor has made mockery of the democratic and appeals to reason, law, international norms and the humiliation Tamil leaders underwent while attending discussions on the Tamil question, is forgotten. That the government shipped Tamils internally from their place of domicile to the north eastern parts also remains forgotten. Also forgotten is the horrific burning of Jaffna Library (one of the biggest library's in Asia). In the War on Terror approach history is silenced.

The Tamils have tried many means and have been mocked at the response of political system turning more predatory over them. Local and regional political forces have joined the fray and have been active for several years. International attempts to mediate or facilitate a negotiated agreement to the ethnic crisis has all but failed and was dumped unceremoniously recently. On the Tamil side too, dissent has not been tolerated much and democratization process was stifled and LTTE has gained notereity for silencing many Tamil leaders. That LTTE returned from its self-imposed exile from democratic institutions of the Sri Lankan state apparatus by fielding and supporting candidates under the Tamil National Alliance is also silenced.

What is transmitted and re-transmitted is the war on a "terrorist outfit." The silencing of history is an effective project and it is revealed by the silence the pervades on the Tamils issue in Sri Lanka. The current war is an episode in the long time-line of historical antagonism shown towards groups engaged in the Tamil national cause. Only this time some international events have caused a shift in world-view of how national movements are viewed. That LTTE is a big part of it and has climbed to the peak of the Tamil social pyramid that has chosen to wage armed struggle for independence of Eelam is a reality. But the Tamil national movement which will receive major setback with the defeat of LTTE in the current war waged by the Sri Lankan state forces, is sure to think of new strategies to keep the movement and consciousness alive among the next generation of Tamils, there and elsewhere.

My own opinion is that mindset among Tamils is not going to shift much and they are going to find it hard to trust the present composition and attitude of the government to take Tamils' point of view seriously. Sinhala nationals who have been critical have been systematically silenced and it is part of a culture even within mainstream party leaders to engage in brutality against people who dissent. The state has grown more mean over time.

The agency of civilians for several decades now to resist the Sinhala nationalism that had ruined the evolution of the country as a democratic one has slowly been erased out of mainstream representations of the conflict in Sri Lanka and the current war. This erasure will lead to more narrow and less nuanced understanding of the conflict in Sri Lanka and thus lead to misjudgments. Jingoism and military victories are insufficient to rebuild broken relationships. It can lead to suppression, repression, further rights violations and of course coercion, persuasion and seduction. The options are laid out before Tamils and the world. Tamils will of course respond in their struggle to be treated with dignity and respect - and they will know that their movement has suffered a big blow with this war.

This war may produce some learning on how "war on terror" approach can be operationalized in local or regional context. But the lesson most serious players look for is - how to deal with the fact that Tamils have been alienated from the political system and decision-making processes. A demand often made was for transformation of the political system that can deal with the Tamils issue. Such a system is not in place, nor is serious effort taken to think of transforming the system. Peace is not built by silencing.

Here is an article by Arundhati Roy. Well written, well argued.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thirumandiram - Worship of Devotees

12 April 2009

Part of praxis of inter-faith devotion is "how do we engage with people who are devoted, who possess the devotion & discipline that is observable and affective."

In the course of inter-faith encounters, sometimes we do come across people who by their very presence and conduct of their lives, reveal an immense immersion in the spiritual discipline that, the encounter feels like a blessing. The initiative taken to understand the other, sometimes turns into an opportunity to dig deeper into descriptions and prescriptions on how to relate with devotees.

In Thirumandiram in Chapter Seven, under the heading Maheswara Puja (Worship of Devotees) Moolar begins with the following text.

"The offering you give
To the Lord in the temple steepled high
Reaches not His devotees
Who the walking temples noble are;
When you offer things
To the walking temples noble
That sure reaches the Lord
In the temple steepled high."
(Thirumandiram 1857)

A few verses later Moolar asserts:

"Though you a thousand abodes to holy Brahmins give
Though you a thousand temples for the gods build;
None, none is of merit compare
To a day's feed to a holy devotee given;
This be of certain."
(Thirumandiram 1860)

The question that arises then is what is it that makes them so great. What is it that they do that makes them so great. Moolar offers us a clue in the form of a declaration. I wonder if declarations makes us value treasures less.

"In the hearts of the resolute He firm abides;
In the hearts of those who adore, He is in accord comports
Those who held the Primal Lord as their heart's Jewel
And so reckoned Him
How can they part from Him, ever?"
(Thirumandiram 1877)

Encounters between people who practice different faiths happen at different levels, with different objectives and outcomes. As a person who spends more time on process oriented work, it got me thinking, "What if we are somehow able to show half as much respect as described above to the people with whom we engage in inter-faith encounters?" Another challenge thrown up is - How is it possible to keep God away so long?


Friday, February 20, 2009

Genocide, Witness, Memory

21 February 2009

When widespread atrocities occurs in an era that we boast of as characterized by information revolution, actors engaged in genocidal acts, war crimes and crimes against humanity make strategic and tactical choices of how to control the flow of information, its verification, interpretation of events and actions. So for people who have taken moral responsibility to stand as witness or become agents of change the most elementary task is to defy political acts of controlling public knowledge and manufacturing of consent through manipulation of information. It is also important to defy the different denial techniques adopted by the actors, both at home and abroad. Challenging established narratives through independent verification is a fundamental element to ascertain what actually is happening or happened. People who care about justice around the world have engaged in such actions in areas such as Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and such other places. It is only through independent verification that many facts emerge causing much embarrassment to the actors whether they are state or non-state.

However in Sri Lanka it has become very difficult to do independent verification of facts. Yet many people defy the propaganda, repression and intimidation and do bear witness to the most recent genocidal acts carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka on the Tamils in the name of "War Against Terrorism." And when they do defy, counter-measures are taken to silence, discredit or terrorize them. When this happens it is usual to expect the "international community" to put pressure on the actors to adhere to globally agreed upon norms to put an end to atrocities, genocide, crimes against humanity and de-escalate the situation and move towards a negotiated agreement. In cases where history stands witness to serious rights violations, denials, discrimination, repression of dissent and attempts at demographic engineering aimed at perverting democracy, it is quite natural to expect international pressure to have more teeth.

The Government of Sri Lanka has been using the Official Secrets Act, a colonial instrument as yet another means to prevent certain facts from getting to people within the island and internationally. I expect many Tamils and Sinhalese (as well as others living in that tragedy filled island) to bear witness to what happened and is happening and send information to the outside world whether it is done through the internet or just a message in a bottle. For many, existence itself has become an act of resistance in this island. And a word to those who pick up the bottle, please do not destroy the message. Let it be, or let it be shared with others who can act or heed the call.

Here i would like to share one such message i got. Please follow the link to read it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sri Lanka - What's Happening

4 February 2009

Being at a distance makes it hard to write based on one's own observation and analysis of events that are unfolding. However, i feel compelled to write as many friends have been repeatedly asking for my opinion on what is happening there in Sri Lanka.

Though I can share my views and perspectives about what is happening in Sri Lanka from my standpoint as a Tamil from India and as a person who is committed to justice and peace, i feel it would be totally inadequate, shallow and even biased to some extent.

Instead I provide a link to a report published in October 2008 by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna). I have been told by several Sri Lankans (Tamils as well as Sinhalese) that this group has gained much trust worldwide for unbiased reporting of human rights violations and analysis of what is happening in Sri Lanka. I am also adding another link, a self-obituary written by a senior editor of Sunday Leader, before his assassination.

Here are the links: