The Taj

The Taj
The Crown Palace (The Taj Mahal)
Welcome!! Swagat, Dumela, Valkommen, Jee Aayan Noo, Tashreef, Bula, Swasdee, Bienvenido, Tashi Delek. Thanks for joining me.....

Friday, September 19, 2014

Two Hundred Years without a War!

This is a a statue in the town square-- Stora (big) Torget (center/square).  Its the first thing you notice.  A friend of mine had told me that this was considered the ugliest statue in the country (Sweden). What ever it may be, it symbolizes a treaty  between Norway and Sweden, when both countries call an end to the use of arms.  It has been nearly 200 hundred years since the countries have gone to war.  While there is criticism about Sweden being engaged in selling arms to countries in conflict, overall there is an underlying peace in the country that you can feel.  

LIke all countries, it may not be perfect, but it is the only country that I have lived in so far, where they had made 'people' a priority over a generalized way of living.  Commercialization is at its low, there is only one 24 hr McDondald's in the entire country.  Not to mention that McDonald is not that popular.  The first Starbucks was opened this May (2014) at the airport. 

Yes, like all developed countries Sweden was a colonizer too, you can ask the Czech, Norwegians, Finns, Estonians and even some small colonies in Africa.  Yet, it is a country that has took a stance against war and has stood by it (ok, there is a massive arms industry).  But, I must say this is the only country where women are not afraid of having children, because that does not mean a break in their work, instead it means paid leave, while they can spend time with their children and later several years of parental leave and government supported child care.   Also, their being pregnant is not an obstruction to looking for jobs.  I known an Indian woman, raised in the UK who came to Sweden to work and lost sensation in one of her arms in a skating accident.  The company she worked for allowed her to continue with her job, 'we hired you for your brains' they said.  There is a cushioning around people here, that lets them feel human.  Two hundred years without a war and a focus on controlled individuality and collectivity, has allowed people a simplicity and sweetness that I have not seen anywhere else.  
Or, may be, may be I just got lucky and met the best people in the country, so I am always gushing about it.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blue Eyes

First Published on April 9th, 2013.  I am republishing the story.  Simply because I myself had the urge to look at his image today......

His eyes were so captivating!!

The flash from my camera makes his wrist glow.  At first it seemed to me that that it made the light bulb around his neck light up!! Cadiz, Spain. 

It was a very small exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum.  Literally one large room.  I walked in, just out of curiosity.

The sounds from the outside city calmed down.  The security guard told me it was free.  

After the first two photographs that I looked it, this one caught my eye.  So much so that a deep-sigh left me, as if it had been stuck in my chest for a while.  I looked at a couple in the room and nodded my head towards the photograph.  

They thought I was crazy.  

They continued to the other end of the exhibition.  

I stared at it for five to ten minutes.  From several angles.

Then I went up close to read about it.  It was done by an artist called 'something' Edwards.  I apologize, but when I took the picture I was not thinking of putting it on the blog. I just wanted to keep it as a Souvenir, so I did not memorize the name of the artist.

Guess what?  The picture was taken in India.

I wonder if the blue eyes were a reflection of the lights around, or due to the camera's flash.  But the eyes must have been very light to have reflected back with that color.  Or may be he was really blue eyed.  I have seen many children with hazel, amber, or even blue eyes in India.  Those with tanned skin color, as opposed to lighter skin color, look more attractive.  

When I showed the picture to my friend on my camera's viewer, he asked, 'is his ready for boxing?"

"Nope--he is a poor boy, and is wearing and oversized underwear.  If you look closely it has a tear on its left side.  He might be the light boy, boys who set up lights in a market or a wedding before the evening.'

I remember a line from E. M. Forester's 'A Passage to India', when he refers to a very attractive servant in a King's court--'that is how sometimes nature rebels to show human beings that it cares little for its categories and classes.'

This boy was so beautiful, and looked so real that I felt he had started to breathe under my gaze.  It got a bit scary to stare into his 'jheel si nili aakhen' (deep like a blue lake--eyes) and I walked away.  

But I returned.  And saw the couple I had nodded to earlier-- staring it with the same intent as I had done.  I nodded again behind their backs!! 

We didn't speak the same language but our hearts acknowledged the intensity of the picture. 

Art -- a great unifier.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Silence of the Silent Treatment

It is another’s fault if he be ungrateful, but is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man I will oblige a great many that are not so.  --Seneca

A few weeks earlier, a student of mine was sharing something that had affected her deeply.  As most people know, my students often become quite close to me.  That has happened ever since I started teaching, formally at the age of twenty--although I have been teaching as early as ten years of age.  

This student was upset at a sudden cutting off of all contact by a friend who was quite close to her.  She did not know what she had done.  And her friend was not responding to any of her emails or texts or phone calls.

And Image from Navua Village in Fiji, 2006.  Silence, takes us to the vast ocean inside and is an opportunity to connect with our own self. Silence from others hurts as well, but can serve the same purpose.  Cutting off from the outside and going within. 

I think all of us can relate to it. At some point or the other we have been through the same silence, silence as a form of violence.  Hopefully, we do not return that silence to others.  Because if we did, then it would mean that we are going through what our perpetrators are going through as well.


People who inflict physical or emotional violence on others have to be in pain.  Those who are happy (not simply positive, that is a shallow word, without depth--joy and happiness has to show in every act of ours ) and joyful will not do that to others.

There are certain characteristics of joyful people.  They are happy, yes, but they actually glow.  Their presence uplifts others.  They do not take offence easily (a big one).  Are not short tempered.  Do not engage in gossip, have little need to put others down.

And most importantly recognise themselves in others.  And if there is a need for separation or breaking up friendships or bonds, then they will at least have an engaging talk---regardless of the result, explain ....

Cutting off communication is form of violence applied.  It is the oldest trick in the book, let no one in town speak to the one who is a sinner, or committed a crime and that cold shoulder treatment will teach them something.

While we can be in pain while it is going on, the wise thing...the wise thing, the wise thing to do is to obtain distance, if after your urging the person does not seem to respond.

Go within, find a way to connect with self.  Recognize the beauty of life! But more importantly to connect with the life giving aspects of nature, of a community, of our own soul.  From that space to step away, and yet be open if and when the person wants to talk.  But to know that we are taken care of.  There are seven billion people in this world and possibilities for connection are many.

While we hurt at the moment, we must know that the person is not in a happy place either.  Even if they think they do.  

All we can and should do is take care of ourselves.  Yes, it may be a lonely process at the time, but it does bring us to one of the most important things in life.  Remembering our own divinity.

We are such stuff that stars are made of.

If you are anyone you know is going through this, be kind enough to spend time and listen ....but don't forget to leave them with an empowering feeling.  

That all the love and affection and understanding that we seek is within ourselves.