Tomtehuset: Santa's House--a special attraction during Christmas time
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sarve Santu Sukhinah: A Wish for the New Year

This prayer is one of the first we learn in schools and remains --till this date, one of my most favorite.  We memorize it by heart, and it awakens every time our heart beats in compassion. 

Om, Sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ
Sarve santu nirāmayāḥ
Sarve bhadrāṇi paśyantu
Mā kashchit duḥkha bhāgbhavet
Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ

Meaning in English

May all be prosperous and happy
May all be free from illness
May all see what is spiritually uplifting
May no one suffer
Om peace, peace, peace

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Aidan Chambers: A Brush with Celebrity

The following post was started in 2012, but as is life, I am just wrapping it up.  Just in time for some nice positive stories for the New Year.

I was talking to a friend/student and she asked me, 'So anything interesting happen?"

Well, no, nothing really.

Yeah, but you meet all these interesting people.  No one on the plane?

''Oh, yeah...I actually.'
She laughed, She knew.

Yeah, I was on my flight from London to Stockholm, and I sat next to this tall gentleman, and started chatting.

At first we only talked about what he was reading. ---P.G. Woodhouse----We talked generally about the weather and life in general.

Then I asked him what he did. 

In very simple terms, and very modestly he said, 'I am a writer'

Really? My eyes went wide.  

And then we talked about this work.  He writes novels for young adults, and has written in general on writing and education as well.

We talked about academic writing and he wrinkled his nose, ‘not my cup of tea’

Ofcourse I am interested in people and their stories.  So, I asked him how he got into writing, did he always want to be a writer, did he ever pursue any other profession.

He told me that he was a Catholic priest and as he grew he disconnected from his faith, it meant less and less because it was restricting to him.  I assume an imaginative mind cannot be put down.  Since I have had a personal issue with monotheistic religions, and absolutely disagree with the rigidity that is imposed by such thinking, I asked him about meditation and other practices in the church.  He stated that the point of meditation was not to meditate and to be free of thoughts, as it is in Asian traditions, where the aim is to go beyond duality (us and others) and find the divinity and vastness within, instead it was only to focus on the idea of divinity prescribed by the church.

I could understand many of the things he shared, from having read Joseph Campbell and other authors who talk about their monotheistic faith falling apart, as they expanded in consciousness. 

He spoke with as much love as anyone can imagine. He had no bitterness or pain as he spoke.  It was as if he was relating a story he had read.  When I realized that, I instantly felt that he had reached his nirvana.  He could not be bound by a limited idea of divinity, and may be that is what led him to delve into the hearts and minds of humans, and being compassionate. 

Why was he flying to Stockholm, I asked. Oh because I have to be at this university for a lecture….

‘Wow, that is where I work’

‘Really,’ he gave a gentle smile.

Yes, if its ok, I would love to attend the lecture.

Sure, it would be nice.

Soon as I got home, I googled him.  He is a well-published, well-read, well established, award winning novelist.  

I sat just being in awe of the fact that I had met and had a personal conversation with him. 

The next day I saw him in the hallway, and he talked to me like I was an old friend.  He held both my hands in his and said, ‘Did you arrive at home ok?¨

Yes, I nodded nervously. ‘I have some work to do, but I will be there for your lecture soon.’

Sure, you’re welcome.

I arrived there a little late for the lecture.  I had gotten a simple gift for him—a handmade folder I bought at an emporium in Delhi.  I thought I would give it to him towards the end of the lecture.

He discussed children’s literature.  The lecture was fascinating. And two years later, I still remember him discussing ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’  And that the shape of the moon in the book would even imply that the story takes places over several days, rather than one day, as many assume.

He was center of attention there, but I waited a while to find him alone so I could hand him that folder.  But he was never alone and I, for some reason felt that it may not be appropriate.  I could not step up to hand him the packet.  However, I did walk up, showed my face through several people who surrounded him, ‘Mr. Chambers, I am going to leave, I have a class shortly’

He again held my hand so warmly, ‘Thankyou for coming.

We exchanged one email after that. But I know that we are busy and emails can end up being trite, and that real relations and friendships happen only over a period of time.

But just meeting him had me feeling giddy for days.

In that short meeting I learnt much, and experienced the warmth of his person. 

At one point, when we were on the plane, I asked him, ‘Does decision making and making grown up decisions become easier with life?¨

He thought for a short while. 

‘I mean are we less concerned about taking wrong decisions as we get older?’

‘No’ he said with a big smile, and no remorse on his face.

He seemed to be in a good place in his life.

Same place I would like to be, when I am his age.


September 2012, Thimphu, Bhutan

I cannot believe that it has been two years since I met her first.  We have exchanged a few emails since.  I met her on my first visit to Thimphu, Bhutan.  She was with a travel group.  We struck up a conversation right away.  She was warm and filled with joy.  Her english was so good and she had so many interesting things to share.

She asked me where I was from, and if I were a 'mixed' person.  Which always makes me say that most of us just look alike, we forget that.  There is not that much difference in the way people look between the extreme dark and light.  IN between many of us could pass for Italians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Columbians etc.  There has been enough mixing of people around.  And it will only continue.

She nodded.  She told me that she had been to India and that she was starting a bed and breakfast in her country--Italy.

I have not had the time to visit the country yet, and really want to go.

But the point of the post is that even though I met her only once and we talked for all of 20 minutes, I still remember her face, the warmth with which she took me.  And at the end of that short conversation extended an invitation to me---

You can come and be my guest!!  And I was a total stranger.

If I have learnt anything from my travel, that is that people are amazing, they have incredibly large hearts.  And media, instead of bringing us together does us a disservice by always focusing on the negative.

So, as we move into a new year, I wanted to put the picture of this lovely, warm woman on my blog to remind me how lucky I have been to meet grand hearts.  

And there is certainly many times more goodness in the world----than the opposite.

Thanks Chantal!!