Friday, December 25, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
“Pakistan was a wholly new invention and it was a reflection of the difficulties besetting the idea of Pakistan that our leading figures declared, very early on, that Islam was the basis of our nationhood.
"Indeed, we made religion a fallback position, seeking refuge in its dialectics when more attention should have been paid to temporal problems. The discontent arising in East Pakistan [now Bangladesh] was proof that temporal problems needed a temporal solution. Today it is the same in Balochistan whose grievances are crying out for something more than the usual palliatives.”
Amir suggests that the fight agaist the Taliban, which Pakistan avoided for so long, is putting the country through a “formative experience” by forcing Pakistanis to recognize that “Talibanism” is alien to Pakistani soil. Amir does not spell this out, but presumably what he means is that not every idea or movement that identifies itself with Islam – rightly or wrongly – is somehow Pakistani, or acceptable to Pakistan. And, conversely, not everything about being Pakistani (or Punjabi, Baluchi, Sindhi etc) is limited to being Muslim.
Read the full article: Reversing 800 years of history, The News International, Sept 25, 2009.
Friday, October 2, 2009
-- Mahatma Gandhi
An apt quote for those of us in a position to help others in the Philippines, Indonesia, Samoa, or anywhere else in the world.Oct 2, 2009 marks Mahatma Gandhi's 140th birth anniversary.
"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth." Albert Einstein on the Mahatma ("great soul")
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Sunday morning dawned bright – and dry – in Manila, but many, many families are still coping with their loss. We cannot bring back their loved ones, but we can at least help them get through the next few difficult days.
For those living in Metro-Manila, the blog PH Best Deals provides useful information that will help them find a centre close to their home to drop off food, medicines, blankets and other relief items.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Here are a couple now:
My encounter with a Filipino mystic
Can the frequency of our brain waves really alter our physical reality?
published in Tickled by Life
Microcredit to End Poverty
published on the website of the Asian Development Bank
And, no, there's no real link between the two stories - except for the author, of course. :)
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Hong Kong-based journalist and human rights reporter N. Jayaram wrote this on June 4, which marked the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown against protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Hong Kong, June 4.
I got back a while ago from Victoria Park, the sprawling open air space in the midst of one of the prime shopping areas of Hong Kong, where more than 150,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil to commemorate those killed on the night of June 3-4, 1989 in Beijing in the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
The turnout was amazing. This was the second time that the Hong Kong people have made me sit up and take notice of their political attitude and their firm support for democratisation and for basic freedoms. The first occasion was on July 1, 2003, when more than half a million people, perhaps more than 600,000, marched to oppose the government's attempt to adopte an anti-sedition bill that would have choked off dissent.
It is said that the numbers were boosted this time, not only because it was to mark 20 years after Tianananmen but also because Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed chief executive, Donald Tsang, recently angered the city's residents by saying critics have to take into account the progress China has made and that his views represented those of the general public.
Whatever the reasons behind the huge numbers who attended today's vigil in none too salubrious conditions following a blisteringly hot and muggy day, the commemoration represents Hong Kong people's aspirations for a greater level of freedom for their 1.4 billion compatriots on the mainland and a profound regret that a great opportunity was missed because of the 1989 massacre.
In many parts of the world, blood has been shed on perhaps more massive scales than on June 4, 1989. But few have been the occasions when the full force of an army that labels itself "The People's" mowed down so many of the people from among whom its ranks were recruited, in order to preserve in power a small elite fattening on capitalist policies while invoking dead communist icons.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Please do join in with your favourite quotation - anything, from anyone/anywhere, that inspires or amuses you. Come share it will us.
Go over to Terataii to see how it works.
Meanwhile, here's my choice for this week:
All that glisters is not gold.
-- Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
This line is often misquoted as:
All that glitters is not gold.
Oh well, it remains as meaningful either way.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Most importantly for India, we can hope for a strong and stable government that brings people together rather than dividing them on the basis of religious or other narrowly-focused group identities. With a respected economist in charge, we can also hope for a government that guides the country through the current global recession with minimum damage and - with any luck - one which even manages to promote continued economic reform and (some) development.
As important as the Congress victory is the defeat of the Hindu fundamentalist BJP and its allies, some of them even more extreme than the BJP. Parties that divide Indians along caste lines have not done well either.
In a surprise outcome, the Communists - who were leading a challenge to the Congress-led alliance - fared badly as well, even in their traditional strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala.
Despite the many ills that have crept into the Congress culture over the decades since it led India to independence in 1947, the party ideology has remained one that celebrates the diversity of India and supports the idea of common development. It has remained a "centrist" party without the idealogical rigidity of the left or the much more dangerous rigidity-cum-divisiveness of the BJP and its allies in the "Sangh parivar" on the right.
Most analysts agree that the people of India have voted for common economic development, and against cultural, ethnic, religious or caste divisiveness. India is nothing without its long history - and present mix - of diverse influences, ideas, ethnicities and cultures. Most Indians, it would seem, are very comfortable with this sense of shared history in a richly diverse land. This election is a celebration of this shared Indian identity as well as an expression of aspirations on the economic front.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Share an inspiring quotation or one that's just fun... Be inspired, amused or motivated by what other bloggers share...
Please join Quotable Thursday over at Terataii with a favourite quotation of your own - either by posting on your own blog and linking to Terataii or by leaving a comment there. Click here to get the details. (You can also link on the heading to this post.)
And now, here's my quote for this week:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Friday, May 8, 2009
It is good to read -- on the Net adn in teh international papers -- that the Pakistani government is finally taking on the Taliban inside Pakistan. Not only because of what that means for the rest of the world -- as the US administration has asserted -- but also because of what it might mean for Pakistan itself.
It has been sad to see that country slowly – and then quite quickly – succumb to the Taliban in certain areas. It has been sad also to talk to Pakistani friends who feel angry but helpless to stop the Talibs or to shake their own government into action.
In the past few days, we have seen the government finally make the decision to stand and fight the Taliban in Swat and perhaps in its neighbouring districts as well. However, one central question remains: how sincere is the Pakistani military in taking on the Taliban?
It dithered for 2 years while the Taliban consolidated gains inside Pakistan. It practically handed over Swat to the Taliban in February. It failed to fight for Buner in April. When the government finally decided to confront the Taliban, first reports said it had sent in paramilitary troops rather than the regular army, which remained massed along the frontier with
In some recent statements, US President Barack Obama has appeared to show more respect for Pakistan’s military than its government. True, the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has shown itself to be a thoroughly ineffectual government. Perhaps worse – Zardari himself was known as Mr. Ten Percent when his late wife, Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minsiter of Pakistan.
However, I hope Mr. Obama has not forgotten recent history:
(i) The Taliban are very largely the creation of the Pakistani military, in particular of its intelligency agency, the ISI. The Taliban were created with US and Saudi money, but with Pakistani training and day-to-day guidance, to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Many of them were indoctrinated in madrassas and refugee camps inside Pakistan under the military rule of Pakistani President General Zia ul-Haq.
(ii) It is true that Zardari’s government more or less handed over Swat to the Taliban on a platter in February, allowing them to take control of the district and impose Sharia (Islamic law). But let us not forget that it was under General Musharraf that the Pakistani government did its first deal in which it ceded government control (though not, ostensibly at least, to the Taliban).
Inside Pakistan, the military is still viewed with suspiscion. In a front page story on Pakistan this morning, the International Herald Tribune (Asia edition) includes this revealing passage:
Still, some of the refugees milling about the tuberculosis hospital [serving as a refugee camp in the city of Mardan] raised doubts about the agenda of the Pakistani Army. Some even echoed the widespread view, commonplace in Washington, that the Pakistani Army, or at least elements of it, had not merely failed to combat the militants but had also colluded to make them stronger.
“In some places the Taliban and the army are a stone’s throw away,” said Mohammed Javed, who fled his job as an armed guard for the aid organization Médecins sans Frontière [Doctors without Borders] in Mingora [town]. “They are just looking at each other, not doing anything. We are ordinary people, and we do not understand.”
“It’s a game,” a man shouted over Mr. Javed. “The Taliban are never killed. Only civilians are.”
Elsewhere in the camp, 50-year-old Mughdi Khan told the IHT correspondent: “We are Muslims; we don’t have much problem with people trying to enforce the religion – it’s when they cut the throats of the policement that people become angry. Yes, they are doing that.”
The police enjoy a better reputation than the army and are seen to be closer to the people. Until recently, it was the police and paramilitary forces that attempted to protect the local people from the atrocities of the Taliban in Swat and the neighbouring district of Buner. The citizens of Buner, with support from the police, themselves fought off the Taliban last year (without any support from the military).
In February this year, the government handed over Swat to the Taliban in a deal that allowed the Taliban to close girls’ schools, impose Sharia (Islamic) law, and publicly flog a 17-year-old woman for going out of her house without a male escort. In April, the Taliban once again attacked the neighbouring district of Buner. This time the people felt unable to resist. The military did not help. And Buner, 110 km from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, fell to the Taliban on April 5.
The Taliban appear to be deeply unpopular with the citizens of
Pakistan is a of course a Muslim-majority nation and in fact a Muslim nation (not always the same thing) – Islam is the state religion and the reason for the creation of Pakistan. But Pakistan is not the Middle East. It is a country located physically in South Asia, with its own history and culture. Pakistani Islam is not the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia.
In recent weeks, some Pakistani journalists and bloggers have also spoken out against the Taliban and their fundamentalist understanding of Islamic society. (See links to some of these stories in the right column of this blog.)
However. I come back to the central question: what of the Pakistani military, which has been probably the most potent force in Pakistan since its earliest years as a nation? Where does the miliatry stand on the question of the Talibanization – or not – of Pakistan?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I've chosen a fun tongue-in-cheek quotation for this week, attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
With all my blogs, I'm not really following that advice myself, am I? Lol. :)
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The large lotus leaves float on the water, but do not get soaked in the water. The leaves are in the water but not of it. Just as we are in this world but not of this world.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
As an awardee, I now get to pick new blogs for this award.
And the winners are....
Inspirations and Creative Thoughts My absolute favourite blog. It absolutely makes my heart smile – on every single visit. It leans heavily towards Sufi (mystic) Islam, but is open to all mystic traditions. One recent post, for example, is about a Hindu mystic of Bangladesh. Another, older post was a Sufi interpretation of a Buddist mantra. Beautiful Sufi poetry too and Sufi teaching stories. Fabulous Sufi music. I totally love this blog.
Awake in This Life A very interesting blog about the spiritual life by a Buddhist blogger. What I like is that it promotes spirituality in everyday living, not in a cloistered hermit-like existence. Makes one stop and think. And smile.
A Psychotherapist's Journey What I like most, I think, is that Linda Appleman Shapiro makes me pause and think about things. Also, she often writes about things that concern me, but that I haven't written about myself. It’s good to see them expressed – and expressed so well. Lastly, I think, I like the fact that she is a strong woman, a feminist, of my own generation, so I can identify with a lot of what she writes.
Sylvia From Over The Hill Love her pictures and love her words. And love taking part in her Abc Wednesdays – such fun!
The Question of the Day Once again, a blog that makes one stop and think. In a totally fun way. Suzanne really comes up with a question every day - amazing how she manages to sustain this.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
This week's letter is L, which stands for love and light.
From my Wandering Pam blog, here's love in the wild:
L is also for lights in the sky:
Otherwise known as orbs, or circles of light:
But now always circular:
(See this older post for more.)
And, finally, L is for lamps. My beautiful capiz shell lamp from the Philippines and my other favourite, bought I think in Hong Kong, which allows me to display my silver Thai monk too.
Read more about capiz here.
And now, love and light to you all. Ciao.
Next Abc: M is for Meditation (on my Terataii blog).
Monday, April 6, 2009
The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says Sri Lanka is the fourth most dangerous country for journalists, after Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan.
Read the full article.
Related older post: And Then They Came For Me.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
"Once again, in less than a month Lahore has been ravaged by terrorists. Who said that Pakistan was a hub of terrorism - we are now the greatest victim of terror and militancy. The residents of Lahore are scared and the vibrant city seems to be enveloped in a mist of uncertainty and fear.
"The Mumbai and later Lahore 3/3 model seems to be in vogue now. Extremely well trained commandos, with sophisticated weapons and not afraid of death are let loose on the society. The media is hysterical as well and following the Indian media’s cue[s] is now a participant and embedded in the so-called operation......."
"What will happen next? Everyone is apprehensive that this is not the end of the story. There are forces - groups, interests and individuals - who are hellbent on destroying Pakistan....."
Read more here.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Excerpts from the article:
"In order to forge an Afghan force that would wage this war [against the Soviet troops who invade Afghanistan in late 1979], the United States needed camps in Pakistan. Pakistan was ruled by General Zia ul-Haq, who had proclaimed two transcendent goals: imposing a "true Islamic order" in his country and building a nuclear bomb.
"He had also just hanged the elected leader he deposed, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This was the man the United States would have to embrace if it wanted Pakistan to support the anti-Soviet rebellion it hoped to foment in Afghanistan. It eagerly did so.
"The United States also accepted Zia's demand that all aid sent to Afghan warlords be channeled through his intelligence agency, the ISI, and that the ISI be given the exclusive right to decide which warlords to support. It chose seven, all of them in varying degrees fundamentalist and anti-Western.
"The ISI also came up with the idea of recruiting Islamic militants from other countries to come to Pakistan and join the anti-Soviet force. Its director, Hamid Gul, later said his agency recruited 50,000 of these militants from 28 countries.
"One was Osama bin Laden. Most of the others — brought to the region as part of a U.S.-sponsored project, then armed and trained with U.S. funds — shared bin Laden's radical anti-Americanism and fundamentalist religious beliefs...."
"One million Afghans died in the decade-long war. Five million fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries. Many found food and shelter at religious schools sponsored by Saudi Arabia, where they were taught the radical Wahhabi brand of Islam. Those schools were the cradle of the Taliban...."
"Jimmy Carter approved the idea of sponsoring anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan poured billions of dollars into it. George H.W. Bush turned his back on Afghanistan, allowing it to degenerate into the chaos from which the Taliban emerged. Bill Clinton refused to confront the looming threat with anything more than an ineffective cruise missile raid on one of bin Laden's camps. George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan, succeeded in toppling the Taliban regime, and then, rather than staying engaged, immediately turned his attention to Iraq."
Read the full article here.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I couldn’t say when I first learnt about Lakshmibai, Rani (Queen) of Jhansi. All I can say with certainty is that I was still in primary school. But she instantly became the heroine of my childhood.
A 23-year-old woman on horseback, sword in hand, her young son strapped to her back, leading an army into battle against a mighty but unjust empire.
What’s not to idolize? Lakshmibai had everything I could possibly want to see in my hero/ine: courage, strength, leadership, a refusal to be bound by convention, and a determination to fight injustice both in her own behalf and on behalf of others.
A woman in 19th century India, taking on the might of the British empire. First politically, then through the legal system, and finally on the field of battle.
Never, in any of the stories, does one detect a note of self-pity for the hardships and injustice life brought her. Neither does she appear to have considered herself constrained in her actions by the fact that she was a woman.
This, briefly, is her story:
Manikarnika, nick-named Manu, was born in 1835 in the northern Indian town of Varanasi. She lost her mother when she was 4. At 14, she married Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, Raja (king) of Jhansi, a man much older than her. At marriage, she was given the name Lakshmibai (a practice that was fairly common in certain communities in India).
At the age of 16, she gave birth to a son, who died in infancy. To ensure that the ailing raja would have a successor, the couple then adopted a son, whom they named Damodar Rao. Lakshmibai lost her husband when she was 18.
Much of India at this time was ruled by the East India Company on behalf of the British crown, but Jhansi was one of the “princely states” still ruled by Indians. However, the Company was extending its influence wherever it could, seizing on any excuse to annex a state. In this case, the British refused to recognize Lakshmibai or her adopted son as a legitimate successor to the king.
Lakshmibai sought legal recourse, appealing to the Directors of the Company in London through a British lawyer. The appeal was rejected and her territory annexed.
No doubt this young widowed woman was now expected to go back to her father’s home, giving up on her kingdom. But Lakshmibai was not about to give up so easily. She began to prepare her people, including the women, to fight for justice.
In 1857, four years after the death of Lakshmibai’s husband, a rebellion by Indian soldiers in the town of Meerut spread quickly through large sections of northern India to reach the court of the last Mughal emperor – now emperor only in name, with the power firmly vested with the British administration.
Lakshmibai reclaimed the leadership of Jhansi and joined the Indian forces fighting Britain. From June 1957 to April 1958, she defended Jhansi against the British. Forced to escape with her life, she then led newly formed battalions in what was now the Great Indian Mutiny (and would later be called the First War of Independence by Indian historians).
In June 1858, at the age of 23, Lakshmibai fell on the battlefield. Her son survived and was pensioned off by the British. The mutiny/war was crushed and power over India passed formally to the British monarch (rather than the East India Company). The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was exiled to Burma (Myanmar), where he wrote heart-rending poetry about his fate and where he eventually died.
Although the mutiny/war saw many atrocities on both the Indian and British sides, Lakshmibai and her troops remained untainted by this disreputable aspect of the rebellion.
The story of Lakshmibai’s courage lived on. Her short life continued to inspire generations of Indians. When Subhash Chandra Bose raised the Indian National Army to fight for independence in 1942, the women’s unit was named after Lakshmibai.
Thinking of her story now, it strikes me that she was a true karma yogin, walking the path of (right) action without thought of its likely outcome. This path teaches us to do what is right, regardless of outcome. As the Bhagavad Gita says: To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction. (Chapter 2, Verse 47)
Friday, March 20, 2009
Lakhdar Brahimi of the International Crisis Group writes in today’s International Herald Tribune that an estimated 150,000 Sri Lankan civilians are in danger of being killed, caught between the military and the LTTE guerrillas. In an article titled "A Slaughter Waiting to Happen," the former special adviser to the U.N. Secretary General writes:
"An estimated 150,000 civilians are now trapped in a tiny pocket of land between Sri Lankan military forces, whose artillery shells regularly fall among them, and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who shoot at them if they try to escape. Food, clean water and medical assistance are all increasingly scarce.
According to U.N. figures, 2,300 civilians have already died and at least 6,500 have been injured since January. Some 500 children have been killed and over 1,400 injured. What happens to the rest of those caught in the middle of the government’s onslaught and the Tigers’ fight to the death depends not only on the two parties but on the international response as well.
The crisis is born of acts by both sides that most probably amount to serious violations of humanitarian law and perhaps to war crimes or crimes against humanity.”
Read Brahimi’s full article here.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
So far so good. But I think I'm not done with IWD yet. I think I'd like to write about other feminine influences in my life, particularly during my early life. So I'm declaring March International Women's Month. Watch out for more posts...
Meanwhile: who were the major feminine influences in your life when you were growing up? Write and tell us.
Alana Roberts, who runs the Womens Blogger Directory, has kindly given me the Sisterhood Award for “always being so caring and supportive of others and for your inspirational posts on all of your blogs” (see Alana's comment on the right side of this blog).
I am honoured and very happy to receive this recognition.
In my Oscar acceptance speech - :) :) - I’d like to say something about my “blogging philosophy.”
I write my blogs to share ideas and events that I think are worth sharing – designed to bring a smile to my readers’ lips; remind them to be kind to themselves and to others; touch their hearts in some way; or offer them different views of health, sprituality and relationship...
I am still learning some of these things myself, but as I look ahead to my 50th birthday, in July, I feel the need also to share that which life has already taught me. This is particularly true of Terataii, my blog on Reiki energy healing, holistic health, and spirituality. My latest blog, Wandering Pam, is more of a "just for fun" blog, with stories from my travels in Asia, Europe and East Africa.
My favourite blogs and bloggers in the Directory
In turn, I would like to award 2 of my fellow members of the Womens Blogger Directory:
Alana Roberts. This is an obvious choice - it is only Alana's ideas, drive and energy that have made this directory possible. Within a short time, the directory has grown to have 95 members who network, support one another, provide feedback and exchange ideas on the directory itself as well as in a Google group. Alana's blogs: Visit Ireland, Blogger Beginner, and Family Food and Recipes.
Vera Marie Badertscher. Vera's wonderful blog combines the two great pleasures of reading and travelling. Her posts inspired me to dig into my own memory and start writing travel stories. Check out Vera's blog, A Traveler’s Library.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
One day after International Women’s Day (March 8), I pay this tribute to the woman who has given me life and unconditional love, my most cherished human values and the best traditions of my Indian heritage.
My mother is loving and kind, yet strong and independent. Tell her a sad story and her heart melts within seconds; but cross her and she will never, ever back down! Her passion, I think, is feeding people.
When I was growing up, she was always there for me, being a full-time mother, wife and home-maker. My earliest memory is of falling off a tonga – a horse-drawn carriage – with my mother. This happened in Kashmir when I was about 2 years old. It is the only memory I have from that age. I guess I remember it because it was scary, or at least a huge shock to the system. Yet it’s also a memory of being protected because I remember sliding off the tonga still in my mother’s lap, with her arms tightly wrapped around me.
From later years, I remember my mother, a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi, telling me to turn the other cheek when my male cousins would hit me. Fortunately for me, my father had a more practical approach to life. He taught me to fight back, not to inflict too much damage on the other person but enough to discourage them from picking on me.
Though I rejected this particular lesson, I imbibed other aspects of my mother’s Gandhian views. She taught me to speak the truth without fear or reservation. So much so that my father says I’m not just truthful but often “brutally frank.” Well, I’m trying to temper the “brutality” without losing the frankness.
I learnt from Mum – and my father – to treat people with respect and courtesy. It did not matter whether they were Hindus, Muslims, or Christians; rich or poor; men or women.
I remember an elderly gentleman moving into our home in Delhi for the entire winter one year. Mum introduced him to me as her “godfather.” He lived in Norway with her older sister’s family, but found the winter there too harsh. So he had come to spend it with us. I loved this man, who told me a story from the Mahabharatha every night. Before he left, he had told me the entire tale, with all its twists and turns, and its myriad sub-plots. Wonderful.
It was only much later I learnt that he had been my grandfather’s housekeeper and had moved to my aunt’s household when she got married to help her run her new home, first in India, then Indonesia, and finally Norway.
Another year Mum’s elderly aunt came down to escape the cold winter in Kashmir. She, too, told me stories, half in Hindi and half in Kashmiri, which I didn’t know too well. Both my parents accorded her the respect due to the oldest member of the family and so I did too.
Our home was an open house to any relative, friend, or friend of a friend who was passing through Delhi. Female guests simply moved into the room I shared with my older sister. Male visitors slept on a thakhat in the living room. People who dropped in to say hello were invariably persuaded to stay on for the next meal.
I didn’t find any of this odd. I thought this was how all families operated and I enjoyed all the comings and goings. The house was open to all my friends too, of course.
Mum has always been a wonderful hostess. Equally, she is a gracious guest. Except for the closest of friends, she would not go to anyone’s home “empty-handed,” as she put it. She kept a stash of gifts to be dipped into as and when required. If she didn’t have an appropriate gift to hand, she would take flowers or fruit. Never, ever, under any circumstances would she go without a gift if it was the first time she was visiting someone’s home. That was an absolute no-no.
She was careful also to never allow her host to feel uncomfortable on our account. When I was in my teens, we had close family friends who lived nearby. Since the relationship was so informal, we would often drop in on each other at short notice. One time, when we had gone over, the lady of the house apologized because she had cooked only a simple vegetarian meal that day. My Mum, with her most innocent look, asked: “What day of the week is it?” When our hostess told her, Mum said, still with that innocent look, “Oh we never eat meat on Tuesdays” (or Thursdays, or whatever it was). This happened at least 3 times before our friend finally caught on!
In our own home, my Mum resolutely refused to teach me to cook or do household chores. I was possibly the only Indian girl of my age back then who couldn’t even make tea. (Actually, I still can’t do it too well.) Girls were generally groomed to be good wives and daughters-in-law in India’s joint family system. My Mum assumed, like others, that I would eventually marry and “settle down.” But, in the meantime, she wanted me to have fun. Enjoy yourself, she’d say to me, there’s no rush to get involved in cooking and housework!
Both my parents considered education to be of great value, both in itself (as knowledge) and in its ability to make one financially independent. Mum wanted her daughters to be well educated and to work before marriage, if not afterwards. I remember her talking about this even when I was really young, perhaps 10 or 12 years old. She felt it was important for a woman to know she was capable of looking after herself even if she wasn’t going to work after marriage. That way, “if anything went wrong,” she’d know she could be financially independent.
(As things turned out, I worked, married, continued to work, and never really “settled down,” happily moving around Asia with my husband.)
My mother, now 83, continues to be a loving presence in my life. She doesn’t cook in her own home any more, but when she visits my husband and me, she makes a special effort to make us a favourite dish once in a while. It’s hard for her to stand for long, so we put a chair for her in the kitchen. Our cook-housekeeper helps her by cleaning and chopping the ingredients, and in other ways too, but Mum directs the process. (Sometimes my parents cook together, but that deserves a post of its own…)
When she’s in her own home in India, with me in the Philippines, we talk often on the phone. She never fails to ask me to give her love to my husband – “and even more to you,” she invariably adds. Then she chuckles and adds: “But don’t tell him I said that.”
Friday, February 27, 2009
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a blog devoted entirely to postcards! Vintage ones from France, with little snippets of information attached to each card. How wonderful. And here I am joining Marie Reed's Postcard Friendship Friday with 2 recently-added cards from my own collection.
This one's an attempt by a small European nation to express with humour its frustration at being mistaken for a much larger country half-way across the world because of the similarity in their names.
The card copies Australian road signs warning of the possibile presence of kangaroos. But the Austrian postcard carries a very different message!
And this is a postcard from Australia -- of a wallaby, which is like a small kangaroo, with a baby peeping out of its pouch. Adorable, isn't it?
Thursday, February 26, 2009
This year, I went with my family to listen to Austrian organist Christian Iwan play the works of Haydn, Kerll and Scarlatti. We sat in the old stone church, which dates back to the early nineteenth century. The walls are made from volcanic stones and the ceiling is bamboo.
For more complex works by Mozart and Bach the organist, and the audience, moved to an auditorium in a newer wing of the church complex so that Iwan could play on a “normal” organ with metal pipes. I guess this means the bamboo has a limited range; but it has its own distinct and beautiful quality of sound. And the old church is the perfect setting for the music.
The bamboo organ has an interesting history. Housed in the St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas, one of the 16 cities that make up Metro-Manila, it is believed to be the only bamboo organ in the world. The organ was built in 1824 by Father Diego Cera, a Spanish missionary and the first parish priest in Las Piñas. It took 8 years to build this unique organ (1816-1824). About 60 years later, in the 1880s, the organ was damaged by a typhoon and an earthquake. The pipes were put away and remained in storage for nearly a hundred years. Then, in 1973, they were shipped to Germany to be repaired. The fully repaired organ returned to Las Piñas 2 years later.
Monday, February 16, 2009
On the contrary, I think globalization doesn’t go far enough. It is restricted to global corporations, global production and global trade. It does not apply half so well to human values or the hearts and minds of people.
While global corporations employ people all over the world, they do not employ them on the basis of “equal pay for equal work.” In fact, one impetus for globalization came from the fact that production costs are lower in countries where workers can be more easily exploited. Even at middle and senior levels, nationality and race is certainly a factor – though not the only one – in compensation packages. At the highest levels, ability and experience appear to be the deciding factors – but probably not the only ones.
Moving on to the second part of my question: why does the concept of globalization leave our hearts cold?
Recently, desperate men from Myanmar’s much-abused Rohingya minority were picked up by the Thai navy attempting to land illegally in Thailand. The Thai navy beat them up, then threw them onto rudimentary boats (little more than rafts) in their injured state, and pushed them out to sea without food or drinking water.
Three boatloads of Rohingya men are still missing, but 6 have been picked up in other Asian countries. One of these countries is Indonesia, where the men have been given medical treatment and temporary shelter. But the Indonesian government said it would send them back to the hell that is their life in Myanmar, where they are not allowed to own property and have no civil or human rights. (The government has now softened this stance in response to pressure from within the country – see below.) Read about the plight of the Rohingyas in a recent reports by the Associated Press and in the International Herald Tribune.
In other words, as a global community, we are happy to exploit low-paid workers for our ends wherever we find them; but we will not extend a helping hand to desperate people if we don’t stand to gain anything from that. Nice.
How can the plight of such desperate men – not to mention the women and children they left behind – not touch our hearts? How many of us have protested in any way against Thailand’s treatment or Indonesia’s (initial) decision to send them back? Or tried to find out how we might be able to help the Rohingya, if not in Myanmar itself, then in neighbouring Bangladesh, where many of them find minimal shelter in very harsh conditions.
So much for hearts. Now for minds. How does the idea of globalization gel with the “us and them” attitude that is so common today throughout the world? Going back to the Rohingya refugees, Muslim organizations – and many ordinary citizens -- in Indonesia have appealed to their government to let the Rohingya men stay.
In response to this and other pressure, the Indonesian government has finally softened its stand and agreed to allow representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to meet the Rohingyas. Still unwilling to allow them to stay in Indonesia, the authorities now appear more willing to discuss resettlement in a third country.
One reason that has been cited for the attitudes both of the Thai authorities and Indonesia’s Muslim organizations is that the Rohingyas are Muslims. This is also cited as a reason for their ill-treatment in their native Myanmar. Thailand and Myanmar are predominantly Buddhist countries; Indonesia is predominantly Muslim.
I think this explanation may be somewhat uncharitable to the Indonesian people, but at least one of the Muslim organizations has pleaded for them because they are “our Muslim brothers.” This is a positive sense of community – but it is nowhere near a global sense of community. One has to wonder how this organization might respond to Buddhist or Christian refugees facing a similar plight?
And what about the Thai authorities? Do they see the superficial differences of race and religion, but not the underlying common humanity that Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad spoke about?
Can we be truly “globalized” if we can’t see that underlying common humanity?
Saturday, February 14, 2009
May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
They have visited us before, but this time is different. Largely because I work from home now, work much less than I used to and, most importantly, do work that I enjoy. So, being around them more, and being happier myself, I’m better able to enjoy their company and learn from the experience of living in a family again, this time as an adult.
Being with my parents for most or all of a day is giving me a clearer picture of myself too – I see, for example, that some days I just seem to wake up impatient, other days I’m relaxed and relate happily and with patience to all those around me. Sometimes I get stressed by work deadlines or other people’s demands on my time; but then, if I stop myself in my tracks and take a few deep breaths, I find myself smiling again. The days I do my meditation, nothing stresses me too much…
Helping my mother regulate her diabetes reminds me to do the things I’m urging upon her: exercise regularly, don’t allow your body to get lazy, eat well and in moderation, meditate, stay calm and happpy…
Helping my parents, both 83, to stay healthy brings me insights I can use in my own healing practice, especially in relation to caring for the elderly. This includes some down-to-earth tips like add a couple of blankets under them for extra padding when you do Reiki; and some more “elevated” ideas :) about leading a meditation session or using transpersonal therapy with older clients.
Because my mother wants to read the Bhagavad Gita with me, all three of us read it together on a regular basis and my husband joins us when he can. This gives me a chance to deepen my own understanding of this ancient Indian spiritual text and to absorb its teachings better. This, combined with the closer look at myself (see para 3 above), means I am better able to apply the teachings to my own life.
Oh and the fun parts. Having friends over more often so that the parents don’t feel isolated – as a result, of course, I’m more social too. I also find myself more open to having families over rather than more formal couples-only get-togethers...
Having lunch with family rather than with colleagues and casual friends (when I worked in an office) or by my lonesome (once I started working from home). Going out to coffee with my parents in the afternoons before getting down to a writing/editing assignment...
The adventure of planning just the right outing for everyone. Something that’s fun for all of us. Where the parents stretch themselves a bit, but don’t have to over-extend themselves by riding up and down escalators all the time, or walking a lot in the warm weather of Manila. If we go to a mall, should I sit them down for a coffee first before taking them to a few shops? Will they enjoy the short walk to that nice restaurant in that pedestrians-only street? And will the nice restaurant be a good enough incentive for the walk to it? Where can we break our journey if we go out of town? Where can we go where we don’t have to negotiate too many steps? Can we seat them in a coffee shop while the husband and I do some more leisurely shopping?
Not having kids, I’ve never really had to think as a family before, only as one of a couple who age-wise and interest-wise are pretty well matched. When I was a kid myself, and lived in a family, I guess my parents did all the planning. I’m quite enjoying doing a major share of it for all of us now.
Yet it strikes me that predominantly Buddhist countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia and Sri Lanka have seen so much violence over the years. Myanmar continues to bear witness to man’s inhumanity to man, and Sri Lanka has gone back to civil strife. Meanwhile, Thailand has shown an inhumane and decidedly un-Buddhist side by beating up hapless Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and pushing them out to sea in rudimentary boats without food or water.
I don’t mean to single out Buddhist countries. I am just sad that even living in the shadow of the Buddha does not make us – and yes, I mean us, the human race – more compassionate.
Nevertheless, these are all beautiful countries with fascinating histories and fabulous temples and Buddha images undoubtedly carved with much devotion as well as immense skill.
One country that has managed to remain peaceful is the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which measures the well-being of its citizens not just through gross domestic product but also a happiness index! Perhaps it is that kind of prioritization that has allowed the country to avoid the violence of the rest of the South Asian region.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Wandering around a village by the edge of the water, we saw quaint cafés, a beautiful courtyard and a rather imposing castle. Just as we got to the castle, a wedding party came out of the castle grounds in merry mood. This was rather nice, of course.
What was more fun to watch was that the bride and groom, each licking on a gelato, then got into a tuk-tuk – well, I’m not sure what they are called it Italy, but you can see for yourself – decorated with flowers (like a “wedding car”).
Their bridesmaid got in the front with the driver and they made off in this three-wheeled contraption amid much waving and laughter.
I heard them speaking English, so (like us) they were obviously foreigners. I don't suppose too many Italians make off in tuk-tuks eating gelati after their weddings. :)
I was inspired to write this short story after visiting A Traveler's Library (see the post Most Romantic Destination).
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
I don’t usually review films, especially those I don’t like, but with all the hype around this one, I felt I had to have my say.
The plus side first – great acting by the kids, good camerawork, very good music.
On the other hand.
The basic premise that anyone close to the big win on a TV show like this would be tortured by police is truly hard to believe. Impossible to believe when it is a young man from the slums. Such a man would instantly become a “poster boy” for the programme, the sponsors and the TV station. Quite possibly he would also be wooed by various political parties! He would certainly be the celebrity of the month, if not of the year. Only someone completely out of touch with reality in India could come up with this idea.
The other basic theme has potential – it would be interesting to see how the questions on the show could relate to the life of a poor boy from the slums. But then every cliché in the book has been pulled out and chucked at the film. As one of my (non-Indian) friends pointed out, it is a story so full of clichés it could have been written by someone who has never been to India. (Amazingly, the film is based on a rather boring book written by an Indian; one really has to wonder about the author’s grip on reality.)
Monday, January 26, 2009
I've only just joined up myself and am not sure how many women bloggers are already in the directory. But it promises to be an interesting place for women bloggers to network and check out other blogs.
So, women bloggers, come check it out.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse (also written as Rajapaksa) has denied any involvement in the killing. Wickrematunge says in his letter: "When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me."
He also says: "I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland."
Amen to that. And may Lasantha Wickrematunge find peace.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Would have been nice to know more, but the picture is still a great symbol of friendship, innocence, and hope for a more peaceful tomorrow.
Do your bit to make that tomorrow a reality – sign this avaaz petition calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza:
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
This year, however, we find ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis, with several countries reeling under war or civil strife, and most of the world facing the threat of terrorist attack. This dampens the enthusiasm for new year resolutions, but I’ll make one anyway, and I hope you’ll join me in it.
A Missing Link…
Looking back at 2008, I find one human quality in terribly short supply around the world: that of feeling connected to one’s fellow human beings. The war atrocities in Africa or the terrorist attacks on Mumbai can only be possible if the perpetrators do not feel a connection with their victims (and, in some situations, the same people might be both perpetrators and victims at different times). You obviously do not wound, torture or kill someone if you can empathize with them, sharing their pain as a fellow human being.
This basic fact is true even when aggression seems justified (at least to the aggressor). The Israeli government appears to believe that its attacks on Gaza are needed to keep the Israeli people safe. This is by no means certain and the logic behind this belief has been questioned by many in recent days.
Can – and should – one group of people buy security at the cost of their neighbours’ lives? The Israeli government logic is based on the fairly widespread belief that the lives of “our own people” – defined by citizenship, religious identity or anything else – are more precious than those of “others.” Military action therefore is not a matter of right and wrong; it does not stem, for example, from a desire to stand up to an evil regime or to prevent wrong-doing. It is simply a question of “us” and “them.”
In recent years, we have seen a good deal of evidence of this rather tribal mentality of “us” and “them” – the shocking attacks of 9/11, Bush’s comment about being either “with us or against us,” umpteen media reports of casualties in Iraq that counted American but not Iraqi lives, etc.
In 2008, this trend moved to its logical conclusion – narrowing the view from “us” to “me” – and the rest of the world be damned. Top executives in global enterprises thought only of immediate profits leading to fat bonuses for themselves, with no thought for the suffering that could – and did – follow for millions around the globe. Après moi, le déluge, as Louis XV so infamously said back in the eighteenth century.
Last year’s milk scandal in China, meanwhile, may appear to be smaller in scale than the global financial crisis if counted purely in terms of the numbers of people and economies affected. But to me it epitomizes the lack of human connectedness which is the basis of our humanity. One must surely be dead to the feelings of one’s fellow human beings before one can poison infant formula. At least six babies lost their lives as a result of the greed of entrepreneurs who mixed the industrial chemical melamine with milk and infant formula to hide the fact that they had diluted the milk (including that in infant formula) with water. An estimated 300,000 – yes, 300,000 – infants became ill, many with kidney stones and other kinds of kidney and liver damage that will lead to lingering ailments.
The Human Connection
What a depressing picture. And in all these cases, the common thread is the inability to imagine the other’s pain.
Which brings me to my resolution.
After a year so short on empathy, I turn to all of the world’s wisdom traditions to find a new year resolution that returns to the fundamentals of human existence. I resolve to live in the awareness that I am connected to all other human beings, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, and all the other divisions we have created in this world…
For inspiration, I turn to this quote from Sufi Master Vilayat Inayat Khan, courtesy the blog Inspirations and Creative Thoughts (http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com/2009/01/human-suffering-lamentation-of-mystic.html):
when one's consciousness is no longer tied
to a particular being
consequently one extends one's consciousness
from the cause of one's being to that of all,