August 3o, 2011

Vikas dropped me off to catch the HoHo bus. For 250 rupees I went to about 8 sites in A/C comfort. For your enjoyment:

Karol Bagh, a beautiful hindu Temple for Lakshmi and Vishnu

Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial and cremated ashes

 

Red Fort: This gigantic fort was built next to a river, which was part of the reason for moving the location of the fort from Agra to Delhi. The river is now a freeway. Every Independence Day the Prime Minister gives an address from the top of the Red Fort.

 

Lotus Temple-Built as a Bahai place of worship, the Lotus Temple temple was beautiful. With 27 lotus petals. Bahai is a religion that encompasses all religions.

Humayun’s Tomb-By the same constructor of the Taj Mahal, except the material used is red sandstone instead of white marble. The grounds are kept very nicely. The building just sort of glows.

 

In the center of town, India Gate was built as a memorial for the fallen soldiers of WWI and the Afghan War.

Up the hill lies the President’s house.


I came home tired but happy!

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Environics Ltd.

This is my 51st post!

Yesterday I also went to a business meeting at Syenergy Environics. The company’s director, Ajay, was a participant in the creative writing workshop. He is very nice and dynamic and his daughter was a workshop participant as well. He knows the Sri Aurobindo Ashram well, as his father is one of the trustees. He liked my writing and asked if I would be interested in helping them with their website and blog. At first I wasn’t sure, as I love the balance of my life right now. Would I want to start working with all of my other projects at the society and for the university? I was flattered, but I’d never thought that I could potentially use my writing skills commercially. I decided to at least meet with Ajay and his staff.

The company does very intriguing work. Here’s the gist: All of our technological contraptions emit a high level of radiation. It may not create cancer, but it very much affects our physical, emotional and psychological well being. Environics Ltd. does testing to evaluate the geopathic stresses that exist in office buildings, factories, houses, schools, airports, etc. and then installs equipment that negates the radiative effects. High density areas are especially at risk. From the October 2008 Financial Express, New Delhi: “Environics corrects energy imbalances and neutralizes negative electromagnetic radiation emanating from the earth’s magnetic grid-lines and other phenomena.”

This technology is so new that this burgeoning industry has had to create words like “environics” and “geopathic” to define it. But there’s no doubt that this technology is the future. During the meeting we decided that I would write a few sample blog posts and copy edit their new web content. They are also interested in having me produce some PR material down the road.  Paaka! (Great!)

Environics also produces microchips that stick onto cell phones and laptops to counteract the radiation emitted. The chips are made of inert programmed material that creates higher frequency waves than are emitted from the device, canceling out the harmful effects. I think. But for how much me and other organizers, busy bodies, and the growing number of children are on the phone, I am definitely concerned about the effects of radio waves on our brains. When I asked, Ajar said that cell phone companies are worried that if they start imbedding this technology in the public’s eye, then they will start getting sued for years of people’s backlogged medical issues. Yeah sure, that’s a great reason to not do the right thing. There still needs to be more testing done on the effects of  mobile radio towers. Testing requires the permission of the companies, which they are wont to give.

Ajay has also written a book called Empower Yourself: New Life Solutions for Health and Well-Being. It provides an overview of the power of colors, symbols, energy, and chakras of the body, synthesizing new technology with the practices of ancient culture.

 

Delhi Haat and Hosts

August 29, 2011

Having lasted twelve days, Anna Hazare’s fast is over, having reached some sort of compromise. I think some of his bill’s components are going to be added to Parliament’s version of the anti-corruption bill.  Last night there was a candlelight celebration, at India Gate in Delhi, attended by thousands. I wish I could have been there. If the fast had lasted another day I would have gone to sit among the peaceful throngs.

^^^^^^^^^^^

I just finished dinner with Arti and Vitsan, Maneesh’s aunt and uncle. They are such wonderful, caring people. “Ratkaana kellyay shukriya!” (Thank you for dinner!) Dinner is made up of the words night + food, literally ‘food of the night.’

I visited a lot of places today. After settling in at the Arora’s house, I hopped on the metro to go to the market Delhi Haat for lunch. It was a bit too touristy for my taste, but the food was pretty good.  Rice, a crispy chapatti, a very bamboo shoot curry, beans, dahl, and tomato and onion. Bon appetit. It is too touristy here, but at least it is quiet, a respite from the smell and fumes of the heavy trafficked-streets.

I’m not really interested in shopping, as anything I buy will feel like another millstone around my neck. Not only do I have to carry it home on the train, but having too much possessions is stressful, it starts to owns you.  Before I moved out of the Campbell Club I went through all of my clothes and got rid of everything that I don’t wear. Not just things I don’t like, but things that I never wear. I gave all of them to St. Vincent DePauls. I don’t really miss them. I do have memories attached to certain articles, but what’s the point of it sitting in your closet when it could be put to good use by someone?

After Delhi Haat I took the metro to a mogul tomb, built in the 17th century. It cost 100 rupees to get in, so I just took photos from the outside and then kept moving.

Next I stopped at Haus Khaz, trying to find the artisan village. I got a bit lost until I saw a sign reading ‘Aurobindo Market’ which intrigued me. I perused the shops and then found a copy of Hindi for Beginners to fill my desire to know all the nerdy details of tenses and syntax.  Did you know there are 400 million people who speak Hindi? Apparently the written language is very phonetically written. Perhaps I will learn to read a bit after all… As with most worthwhile endeavors, the effort of language is its own reward. Today I stopped to ask two uniformed schoolgirls for directions. I thanked them with a confident “shukriya!” to delighted giggles. Tomorrow I’m going on a whirlwind sightseeing bus tour. Photos will be back online!

The Eye and I Creative Writing Workshop

August 27th, 2011

“I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of being forgotten.”

“And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on.” –Blood, Sweat and Tears

 

It’s almost 11 pm but I can’t sleep. My head is buzzing with the processing of the workshop activities and other hilarities of life. Our group of about 15 students is so wonderful. I am one of the younger participants, and the only foreigner. I am joined by many education professionals, teachers, principals, and published authors who are all lovely and have come with open hearts. My elegant and intelligent roommate Rama, currently snoring in the bed next to me, serves as a principal at a fancy residential school in Puree, a town in west India.

The Delhi ashram is a very nice facility, built in the modernist era when everyone thought concrete was God’s gift to humanity. Every room and wing of the ashram guest rooms is built in the shape of a hexagon, after Sri Aurobindo’s symbol. There is a health center, a library, classrooms, and a large, beautiful meditation hall.

It is interesting to see another branch of the Sri Aurobindo ashrams. The dining room is much smaller, and the food has a bit more variety than in Pondy. (They have chai at breakfast!) In Pondy you also need a meal pass to enter, here you just go eat.

Our workshop activities have been a combination of sensory free writes, a group story, object descriptions, and a free write inspired by our favorite song. One activity was meant to get us to stop observing with our minds and use our senses instead. The blindfolded person in the center had to touch the faces of those around her to guess who each one was. Hint: it’s really hard. Our days are punctuated by tea and samosa breaks and lively conversation. It’s going by as quickly as my usual bag of guavas in my backpack. (I love guavas. A source of amusement for my colleagues, I try to explicate that we do not have the yellow fruit in the lush but gelid pacific northwest.)

I have written a lot in the last two days, some good, some that I am unsure where it came from. I will post some after the workshop is over. It has felt wonderful to get to write for no one but myself. Writing blog posts is a different thing, with a consistent theme and audience. Blogging has certainly gotten me in the habit of writing everyday, allowing me to dive into my expression at a deeper level right away. In these activities I lose myself, free to scrawl whatever bubbles to the surface.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be heading to Arti’s house, which is fortuitously in South Delhi as well, only a few subway stops away.  The Divine above has definitely been watching out for me so far.

The Train

August 25, 2011

“A tourist does not know where he has been, a traveler does not know where he is going.”

Today is the second day of my train trip. My lovely friends Rathi and Bini (the inseperable BFFs) went with me to the train station yesterday morning, sending me off.

After being filled with warnings and stories of unclean bathrooms and greasy food vendors, I was expecting the worst. But its actually quite nice here. I am sharing my cabin with a very nice family and a girl who is in her last year at the ashram school. Her name is Piyu and we chatter away in French about everything (ashram students usually speak about 5-10 languages, and everyone knows French). She’s in her last year at the ashram school, and is also going to the Delhi Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a doctor visit. Our cabin has passed the time watching movies, sharing food and playing with the family’s six-year-old daughter. I am very happy here, knowing that the journey is part and parcel to the arrival. Tomorrow we arrive in Delhi (pronounced dul-LEE by the natives) at 4 am. Then I will take a quick rest before the workshop starts at 9 am.

 

A Blast

August 22, 2011

Every Saturday night, Kaushal organizes a movie screening for the society members. This week’s movie was called ‘I am Kalam,’ which was such a wonderful film. I highly, highly recommend it.

I’m not a huge movie person (movies are too long; life’s too short) but this one renewed my appreciate for them. It is one of those movies where you sit with a smile on your face the whole time, and leave feeling like you learned something.

After the movie I spent the night at Venus’ house. There was a brilliant storm that night. Venus and Aishu’s appartment has a wonderful rooftop terrace, with clotheslines for laundry. Venus had wet laundry to hang and so we climbed to the top, despite the wind telling us that it was about to rain. As we ascended in the dark stairwell, the sky flashed lightning. We hung clothes with, I felt a drop, drop, drop, and the sky opened up over Pondicherry. I love the rain here. It reminds me of home, but it is warm and thick, not the nine month gray drizzle of the northwest. The monsoons will be here soon, lasting from October to November.

We let the fat drops give the clothes a second washing. Venus is the only person I know that will hang up laundry during a rainstorm. To run through this rain is to be instantly soaked; it is inescapable. It drags you in, and the only thing visible are the sheets of broken light of the streetlamps below. Dancing through the warm puddles of the tiled rooftop, we celebrated the majestic union before us, where the sky has come to spend time with the sea.

The next morning we got up and went to the market, stopping on the street for a cup of hot chai and then iglis (steamed rice cakes) with spicy chutney. Sunday is shopping day.

We came back from the market and started to make kidney bean dahl, chutney and spiced potatoes for lunch. While Venus was in the bath, I had an interesting altercation in the kitchen. In India they use steam cookers to cook vegetables, rice, and dahl. Venus told me that the cooker would whistle about 5 t0 7 times. Not wanting it to burn, I tried to force the lid off the cooker. Since there was still quite a bit of steam pressure inside, the lid flew off, beans and chilies flying everywhere. I screamed and felt my face and neck on fire, burned by the steam. I ran to the freezer: no ice. Then I noticed a frozen bag of milk and grabbed it (In India milk is sold in plastic bags). Venus emerged from the bath to find dahl everywhere and me quietly sitting at the counter with a pack of old milk held to my face. While she made sure I was ok, we had a good laugh. “I knew I should have told you to not touch the cooker,” she exclaimed. “I didn’t know that you don’t have cookers in America!” With a dismayed giggle I replied, “I’m sorry Venus, I’m an alien, I don’t know how to do anything.” This is true. You get used to it after awhile, but sometimes you get burned.

I am fine now, more traumatized than anything. Ice for a few hours works wonders. Venus made me a sandalwood paste that I let dry on my face. More than 24 hours later, the burns are slightly visible but do not hurt at all.

Lunch was delicious, by the way.

Soothing sandalwood

  • Raw mango chutney with yogurt, chilies, and loads of fresh mint
  • Potatoes with turmeric, chili powder, coriander

Krishna’s Birthday

Today is the god Krishna’s birthday, Krishnashtami. Krishna is a beloved God. It is difficult to explain who is Krishna, as he is a warrior, supreme being, writer, lover, and prankster. It is generally accepted that Krishna was a real person, who was alson an avatar, or prophet, of the God Vishnu. Worship of a deity or hero named Krishna dates back to 4th century BC. He is a favorite subject in theatrical works.

According to the Indian calendar, the day of his birth goes across two days. Each family must decide when to celebrate, the night before, or the morning of. So, following the laws of physics, the north of India celebrates it on the 21st, and the South on the 22nd.

The traditional way to celebrate Krishnashtami is to set out a cradle for Krishna, with baby footprints leading up to it. Then you must sing a lovely lullaby to put Krishna to sleep. The idea is to invite Krishna into your home on the day of his birth. Sound familiar? It’s also common to make sweets, or some sort of special food.

Another tradition that celebrates Krishna’s mischevious side is called dahi handi, or uriadi in Tamil, where young men build a human pyramid, trying to reach a high-hanging pot of butter or curd. This event is very popular in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry’s neighboring region. As a child, Krishna worked herding cows, and would connive to steal butter, thus the significance of the butter-stealing pyramid.

Boy Krishna, the butter thief

Baby Krishna getting a bath

Krishna’s Story

(This is the very, very abridged version. For more, you can google Krishna stories for hours.)

King Kansa, brother of Prince Duvaki, (Krishna’s father) was afraid of a prophesy that proclaimed that he would die at the hand of Duvaki’s child. Thus, the king locked up his own brother and his wife. After Kansa killed the first six of his children, Luckily, Krishna was born and snuck out of the jail to go live with his foster parents.

Krishna was raised with his cow-herder relatives, and then came back to fulfill his true destiny as a prince and warrior. And you guessed it, he killed evil uncle King Kalsa, restoring the proper king on the throne.

Krishna apparently married 16,100 maidens who were held captive by the demon Narakasura. Krishna killed the demon and then married them all. At this time, captive women were degraded in society, and were unable to marry. By marrying them all, Krishna performed a symbolic ceremony to save their honour.

Krishna dictating the Bhagavad Gita to his cousin Arjuna

Krishna is traditionally considered the author of the holy Hindu text, which he dictated from God right before he went into the great battle of the Mahabharata.

According to the Mahabrata tradition, Krishna died abruptly, given his many victories in battle. Krishna retired into the forest and sat under a tree in meditation. While the Mahabharata narrates the story that a hunter named Jara mistook his partly visible left foot for a deer and shot an arrow wounding him mortally. While Krishna’s soul ascended to heaven, his mortal body was cremated by Arjuna.

Happy Krishna Ashtami!

Delhi, ho!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

– St. Augustine

I have been hatching a plot to go to Delhi for a creative writing workshop. Society staff member Harvinder, who used to be an IB school principal before coming to the society, will give the workshop. Now she writes curriculum that incorporates integral education for mainstream schools. Really cool stuff. Harvinder is a fiery, no nonsense poet, teacher and English major herself. The workshop is three days long, and I’ll be staying at the Sri Aurobindo ashram there. Delhi is the society’s Center for Media and Communication Arts, so I’ll be interested in what’s going on there.

After the workshop I’ll be staying with Maneesh’s aunt Arti near Delhi University for a few days. The Taj Mahal is only a day trip away!

I am taking the train almost the whole way. It takes two days to get to Delhi on the train, so I’m leaving on Wednesday. Taking the train is a trip in itself, and I’ll get about 5 whole days of train travel to read, write, and stare wide-eyed out my window.

My last stop will be in the far north, in the Punjab region, in the city of Amritsar. I’m very interested to see the differences between the north and south India, in food, dress, climate, everything. India is so diverse and varied; I love it.  Amritsar is famous for the beautiful Sikh Golden Temple, built on the water. I’m staying with my good friend Shabd’s friend, who is now a teacher at the school they both attended together.

I found this map online. I’m going north, north, north, then coming back on the same track. You can see how how far New Delhi is from Pondi, about 3/4 of the length of the country. Amritsar is on the northwest border, printed very small.

I will be back to Pondi in about two weeks. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post, but I will definitely write about all of my adventures. I will likely find internet every few days then post a lot at one time.

Political Corruption and Update on Anna Hazare

From The Hindu:

The government is now allowing activist Anna Hazare to carry on his fast for two weeks, and then they will ‘review’ the situation. Hazare says the government has not yet attempted to discuss the anti-corruption legislation with him.

Supporters of Hazare are asking why the government had the power to arrest Hazare and then release him two hours later, claiming that this reactive action was illegal, undemocratic and “smacks of dictatorial tendencies.”

Solidarity.

India has a history of corruption from the Prime Minister to the government schoolteachers. Corruption is a difficult thing to curb, as it is much easier to punish the act than it is to prevent it. Nevertheless, accountability is virtually non-existent in India. This bill aims to ameliorate this problem. It is a start to win back the trust of the people. A Lok Pal is an ombudsperson, a referee, a neutral rule-enforcer. This bill would install a lok pal with powers of investigation.

Activists from the Samajwadi Abhiyan (Socialist campaign) protest against Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi and Congress-led UPA government during a demonstration in 2006

(sify.com)

Take a look at this comparison chart to see how much the Lok Pal anti-corruption bill would improve:

Existing System

Lok Pal System Proposed 

No politician or senior officer ever goes to jail despite huge evidence because Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) and CBI directly come under the government. Before starting investigation or prosecution in any case, they have to take permission from the same bosses, against whom the case has to be investigated. Lokpal at centre and Lokayukta at state level will be independent bodies. ACB and CBI will be merged into these bodies. They will have power to initiate investigations and prosecution against any officer or politician without needing anyone’s permission. Investigation should be completed within 1 year and trial to get over in next 1 year. Within two years, the corrupt should go to jail.
No corrupt officer is dismissed from the job because Central Vigilance Commission, which is supposed to dismiss corrupt officers, is only an advisory body. Whenever it advises government to dismiss any senior corrupt officer, its advice is never implemented. Lokpal and Lokayukta will have complete powers to order dismissal of a corrupt officer. CVC and all departmental vigilance will be merged into Lokpal and state vigilance will be merged into Lokayukta.
No action is taken against corrupt judges because permission is required from the Chief Justice of India to even register an FIR against corrupt judges. Lokpal & Lokayukta shall have powers to investigate and prosecute any judge without needing anyone’s permission.
Nowhere to go – People expose corruption but no action is taken on their complaints. Lokpal & Lokayukta will have to enquire into and hear every complaint.
There is so much corruption within CBI and vigilance departments. Their functioning is so secret that it encourages corruption within these agencies. All investigations in Lokpal & Lokayukta shall be transparent. After completion of investigation, all case records shall be open to public.  Complaint against any staff of Lokpal & Lokayukta shall be enquired and punishment announced within two months.
Weak and corrupt people are appointed as heads of anti-corruption agencies. Politicians will have absolutely no say in selections of Chairperson and members of Lokpal & Lokayukta. Selections will take place through a transparent and public participatory process.
Citizens face harassment in government offices. Sometimes they are forced to pay bribes. One can only complaint to senior officers. No action is taken on complaints because senior officers also get their cut. Lokpal & Lokayukta will get public grievances resolved in time bound manner, impose a penalty of Rs 250 per day of delay to be deducted from the salary of guilty officer and award that amount as compensation to the aggrieved citizen.
Nothing in law to recover ill gotten wealth. A corrupt person can come out of jail and enjoy that money. Loss caused to the government due to corruption will be recovered from all accused.
Small punishment for corruption- Punishment for corruption is minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years. Enhanced punishment – The punishment would be minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment.

Do Goldfish Go to Heaven?

Today I got my Ladybird cycle repaired, as my back tire had busted. She is not so happy with me I guess, but I don’t wonder why. Cycling on the roads here is always an adventure, dodging potholes, speed bumps, poop, and bits of trash. And those are the stationary objects.

I also received word from my great friend and ASUO presidential successor Ben Eckstein that one of our office goldfish may not have much time on this earth. Ben and I bought the fish last summer in an attempt to brighten the office, and because I just really love fish. They are so relaxing and low maintenance. Tasty too, I’ve been wanting to cook some fish here… (I currently only get protein through lentils and copious amounts of dairy at the ashram).

Anyway, we have two over-sized goldfish, black, bug-eyed Stu and big, orange Auto. They stand for Student Autonomy. Ben named them. We also adopted some tiny fish at the beginning of fall last year, when a UO welcome event was handing out goldfish as prizes and all of these freshmen were wandering around with plastic bags of fish that they did not know how nor want to take care of. So we adopted six babies, who serve as the tank’s “intern” fish.

lunch time at the ASUO

Amelie,

Since you and I are the original parents of the fish and they are a product of our eternal bond, I wanted to let you know that the fish are not doing great. Stu is probably dying right now, we think he won’t make it to the morning (Consuela and Katie have already cried). We think Auto is alright, but he is really sad for Stu. He even rescued Stu from the filter when Stu just flopped under the filter and was too tired to go on.

 I will keep you posted. Let’s never forget that the fish belong to you and me.

 Love, Ben

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Dear Ben,

Nooo!! That is so sad! Please keep me posted on whether Stu decides to leave his body for another realm. Give my condolences to Auto and the rest. 

 Love, Amelie 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

At the Society beach office there are some beautiful goldfish in the ponds, shyly swimming under the shelter of the lilypads. Stu’s dance with death got me thinking about animals and reincarnation.  Are animals a less evolved soul that will return to the divine world after it leaves its mortal body, or is it a human who has more work to do to improve its karma?

Kaushal says Hindu and Buddhism philosophy states that all matter is trying to attain to the divine, and souls naturally progress into a more and more advanced body. In the material world we have evolution, and thus in the spiritual world as well. Sometimes souls can devolve, but it is very rare, and only in instances where the soul needs to learn something more before it is ready to manifest in a human body. So as long as Stu has learned what he needs to in this life, he will be born as a more evolved organism. If not, than perhaps he will have scales and gills again.

Humans do not realize that we can evolve into something more because we are at the top of the food chain. But that is the core idea behind the work of thousands of years of India’s practice of yoga. Sri Aurobindo believed that man can evolve into a divine being that communes with God, serving as a vehicle for helping humanity. His main goal was to show us that the purpose of people with a higher consciousness, evolved beings, is to spread the divine love of God throughout the world.