Sunday, 2 November 2008

Pink Socks

I was happily enjoying a beautiful London morning, heading to the tube station on my way to work, listening to Anand (Bliss!).
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And out of nowhere, this bloke appears and greets me. I remove my earphones, and he says he works for Marks & Sparks, and they were carrying out a survey, and would I please tell him what my 3 favourite sock colours were. Just like that, with a perfectly straight face!
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I thought it was a leeetle fishy as he didn't have any ID or chart or anything, and I wondered why on earth would Marks be carrying out surveys on quiet streets at 8 in the morning! But, I was in a good mood and decided to humour him, so I replied. Yes, I actually did :)
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Pink, orange and green.
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AND THEN!!! He asked if I was wearing any!
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And I replied YES! Pink ones! And then I quickly ran away before it got any weirder :)
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How absolutely random. I remember looking at the sky (as if calling out to some great spirit out there) and thinking: where on earth do these people come from!!
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And me being me, I spent a good part of the day wondering what was the the greater message that life was trying to send me... and I was drawing a complete blank, until a friend said:
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Perhaps the lesson would be to take pleasure in the simple things that make you smile - like choosing to wear whacky socks, and thus completely throwing off the survey's previous blue/black/grey bias ;D
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Inspired by this, and armed with my rekindled love of brightly-coloured socks, you can only imagine what my next pair is going to look like! Only this time I might venture into new territory... furry socks? Socks with tinkly bells? Or maybe I'll stick to the traditional kind and just get rainbow socks with bats all over them.
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So many choices, but only two feet.
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The plight of a sock-lover. Sigh.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Kirtan on Wheels in Perak!

Sikhs With A Mission recently organised their latest Kirtan on Wheels – this time to the northern Malaysian state of Perak. The previous one to Penang was almost 2 months ago and we were all quite impatient for the next one!

Members distributing CDs and other material. Check out the Mission logo - 'One God', inspired by Ek Oangkaar.

Kirtan on Wheels is more than your average kirtan tour – the idea is not only to sing kirtan; it is also to share messages that can be applied into Sikh lifestyle. The Gurdwaras we visited this time were all little communities tucked away from the cities; hence there isn’t much exposure to Sikh activities in more developed areas.

Sanggat in meditation

The other great thing about Kirtan on Wheels is that it’s not just the Kirtan Jatha that travels - the Mission hired a coach and welcomed members of the KL sanggat to tag along, to bring together the sanggat from different parts of the country. So we had a very diverse group of people on board – Uncle Jis, Aunty Jis, young families, and a whole battalion of youth, who dominated the back of the bus.

The Kirtan on Wheels group arrives at Gurdwara Sahib Sungai Siput for the 'milni' :p

Walking towards Gurdwara Sahib Changkat Tin. The road was too narrow for our bus! But we enjoyed the walk through the beautiful little village :)
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And true to its name, there was music pretty much all the way up and down – from Kirtan to qawwalis to ghazals – as long as the music is about God or a spiritual experience its welcome! The harmonium and mike travelled up and down the aisle as people took turns singing - it was one heck of a party! My brother, cousins, and some friends were there too so there was plenty of love to go round :). And I know I speak for all of us when I say that we sorely missed Dalip, our beloved Yogi D and Ragi rolled into one. It was truly Sajna Tere Bina :p

The theme is always to bring an element of worship into daily life, but this time we were also addressing an issue that was very relevant to the area we visited: idol/element worship and placing faith in rituals. The message was that just bring all your prayers back to the feet of the Guru!

Sunday programme at Gurdwara Sahib Tanjung Tualang - will all the little cutesy kids right in front.

We visited some of the most beautiful Gurdwaras in Malaysia – my cousins and I were sorely reminded of our own village Gurdwara in Ulu Yam, which has unfortunately lost its charm after that thing called modernisation came to knock on its door. Sigh… It’s really sad that we’re losing so many of our quaint Gurdwaras in Malaysia in a frenzy of tearing down and rebuilding. But before I start embarking on my own little crusade, I’m going to get back to this post :)

The grounds at Gurdwara Sahib Pusing - this Gurdwara has a special place in the hearts of all Malaysians, sanggat regularly comes here with their prayers. This is where we spent the night. Bliss!

Singing our way into Gurdwara Sahib Tanjung Tualang

Off the bus and onto the green, green grass at Gurdwara Sahib Malim Nawar. Suksharan, Manpreet and I were busy scouting for future mini samelan destinations - this one looks perfect!

Lovely little Gurdwaras and their lovely little langgar areas - sigh...!

The sanggat was beautiful in every place; they were warm and welcomed us with such grace that we felt right at home. And they know how to make a god cup of tea! I drank cha at every single stop – mind you that’s 8 cups of cha over 2 days - this is from someone who never drinks tea unless in India :)

This is Cha stop Number 3 :) And I remember the cake. Divine Cake!

See it wasn't just me... Ickle Nimmerta couldn't resist the cha either :)

All in all, it was a weekend well-spent in the arms of Guru’s beloved sanggat. At the sanggat’s request, the Dasmesh Jatha made a second trip there during the Eid break, to continue sharing the Guru’s message.

If anyone is interested to join future Kirtan on Wheels trips you can log on to the Mission website or email mission@khalsa.com.

May Guru bless all those who spread His love!

Monday, 1 September 2008

... and her spirit soared!

I sincerely thought that I would have written about this a lot earlier. When I returned from the States in July, I was itching to write, record, recall, remember anything and everything on my journey in Espanola.
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But the many moments spent in front of the screen always yielded the same result - a beautifully blank page :)

I've learnt that the more profound the experience, the greater the silence that follows. The silence is a result of a simple dilemma: where to start (because the journey began years before I boarded the plane), what to skip over (because even the simple act of opening the tent flap every morning was a blessing), who to leave out (because I could talk for ages even about random hugs and smiles from people who shared my space).

And so I am resigned - trying to write about it is futile, as the only thing I'll succeed in doing is short-changing the reader as I trip and fall over words in a vain attempt to describe a spirit-soaring experience.

Instead I hope my pictures will help me do some of the talking. Here is the the lense through which I lived those few weeks.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29918597@N03/sets/72157607052439459/

Still, feel free to corner me and ask... I LOVE to talk about my time in Espanola (as some have painfully realised :p). Some of my favourite memories are about The Rise Up Minstrel and its Cacti-dodging Adventures, waking the Sun up at Morning Sadhana, The Fuzzy White Lines through the corner of my Eye during Tantric, The Forehead-Floor reunions during my visits to My Solstice Sanctuary, The Beautiful Beanie-Gloves-Shawl-Sunblock Relationship, Prayer Beads dancing through my Mind during Meditations, the Guru speaking to me in Spanish, the All-Night Lullaby that put the Universe to sleep, receiving Amrit for the First Time - again.

And of course, the all-time winner, Ishnaan Seva at Espanola Gurdwara, where Water raced down the Blessed Marble to reach the Golden Temple in my Heart. In those few moments I was truly in Amritsar.

I lived several lifetimes, crossed world-oceans, lost myself, found myself, discovered pain, discovered release, clung on, let go, hugged, laughed, cried. I bow eternally to that time and space, where emotion brewed in a pot and released the aroma of bliss.

I cannot end this post without sending out buckets of love and thanks to wonderful Shanti and Tyaga, for hosting us, feeding us, introducing us to Noah and Meeta, and most importantly, giving our minds and souls a home. Even a soaring spirit needs a santuary to rest in :)

And of course, thank you, Yogi Ji, for helping me pave my way to Guru Ram Das :D

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Lost and Found

I lost my Kara last week.
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It was there one moment, and just like that, gone in the next. I simply could not recall the last time I’d seen it, or how it had come off.
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I spent the first few minutes in denial – it’s always always always been there and I could still feel its weight on my wrist and hear the clink whenever I rested my arm on the table. I’m very organised with my things and losing them unsettles me right to my hair tips. I’d had this Kara for over 12 years, and now it was gone.
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What I wasn’t prepared for was how alone that made me feel.
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We’re brought up to understand the Kara in many different ways; as a symbol of Oneness, a reminder of the Circle of Life and Death, something for God to latch on to, a representation of the connection we have to everything around us...
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At the back of my mind I know all this, but I don’t think I ever consciously lived it. The Kara is one of the first few things our parents stick on us as babies and I guess we get used to it so early that we just don’t think about it much.
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But that day, when I lost it, wow. The feeling of incompletion was just so overwhelming; and the question that kept running through my head was: how will my Guru hold me now?
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It was an experience of being stripped so bare, that no one would ever be able to identify me and I would never belong again. My Kara had become so much a part of my identity, so much a part of me, that without it I became completely invisible.
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That week was full and busy and eventful and exhausting, and yet when I look back, all I seem to remember is that it was the week when I was bare and alone. And when I finally went to Gurdwara on Saturday, I rushed to the stall and grabbed hold of any Kara that would have me. It turned out to be a really cheap-looking, thin and flimsy 3 ringgit Kara, and yet the moment was priceless – suddenly my skin felt like mine again and I… belonged. I regained the lost connection; I was comforted that my Guru would be able to reach out and hold me again.
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And it’s just as they say – sometimes you need to lose something before you can gain something else. By creating a vacuum, you draw in the energy needed to fill the space.
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And the vacuum left by that Kara was filled with the realisation that my Kara went beyond completing my Circle of Life and Death, or connecting me to the rest of creation…
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It was there to complete ME, to make ME whole, to bind MY mind, body and spirit, to unite MY soul with God’s. It was MY circle and it brought me together within myself. God and me, me and God, are one.
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And because of that, He can Never Let Me Go.
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Phew :p

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The One Where She Goes to Espanola...

There are some experiences you know you just have to have - and over the last few years, the 3HO Summer Solstice Celebration has had that pull on me. Come 2008, even Mataji starts itching to go..... and ta-da! A trip is planned and we'll be on our way in just a few hours :)
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So while you wait for me to come back and tell you all about it, enjoy the pictures from my experience at the 2006 Yoga Festival in France – There aren’t that many pictures and admittedly they aren’t that good either… but I was too busy with my soul to worry about worldly things like cameras and the like :)
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The Big Top, where all the group yoga and meditation sessions took place, including Tantric

Yoga in the Big Top

The most fascinating thing about sessions here was that everyone sat in their language groups. Since people come from all over Europe and English may not have been their first language, there were a few translators who would stand up in their little circles and explain what was being said. It was pretty neat to hear the Guru's word being translated into French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian...:)

Sunrise just after morning sadhana

There is nothing like doing sadhana to live music :)

The Gurdwara was packed on the day of the weddings - of course some were just waiting for the prashaad :)

During the lavaan

Getting ready for Tantric

Tessa and my Tantric neighbours during our second day

All Whites! Taking a break in between Tantric

All set for the Happy, Healthy, Holy experience :)
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Love, Peace and Light to all,
Satnam

Monday, 9 June 2008

Of Chocolate and Cinnamon… and Beautiful Cubes of Brown Sugar

Apparently, I am faced with one really big dilemma (amongst others, of course, but this one is a Biggie). Well I can’t say I’m alone in this, for millions others are also afflicted with this awkward reality.
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Our predicament? We are Brown.
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I was at the pharmacy today – arguably a place that should be retailing either items to restore my health, or those that make me feel good. Yet as I browsed along the shelves, I grew increasingly troubled at the frequency at which one word was repeated. From face cream to moisturiser to shower gel, apparently the quickest way to get products off the shelf was to slap on one defining word: ‘whitening’.

This is all the more concerning when you think about the racial make-up of my country, which is approximately 60% Malay, 30% Chinese and 8% Indian – which means that excluding the Chinese, who are already naturally fair, there is 68% of the population being told that they should be having sleepless nights at the thought that their skin isn’t comparable to the colour of chalk.

And I do, seriously, mean chalk. Because those ads are not referring to a healthy fair skin that the other half of the world’s population is blessed with. They are referring to… chalk.

This bugs me for two reasons – first, that I too now am the un-proud owner of whitening moisturiser – because even those of us who do not support such unashamedly confidence-bashing advertising are left with no choices. The ‘whitening’ stamp is now akin to a quality control certificate – if you don’t have it, your product won’t make it to the shelf. This maelstrom, however. will be short-lived – for on my next trip overseas I’m going to hunt down some plain Jane kind of lotion with no references to colour, and I’m going to stack up enough to last me the next 100 years or so. Sigh – the troubles and tribulations of being Brown…… don’t get me started on being left-handed :p

The second bug-me factor is not so easily healed – and here I’m referring to the so, so, so many women out there – especially Indian women, who look in the mirror everyday wishing for a snowfall that will wash away their colour. And naturally, as people are their own worst enemies, these women are not just battling effective advertising, but also pressure from their own families and communities, where the first thing anyone wants to know about someone’s girlfriend/daughter-in-law/newborn baby is: ‘Is she fair?’ And once that question is answered, the Writing is On the Wall dah-lin’, and fate is cast in stone.

This issue is something I can relate to, because when I was in my early teens, my skin colour bothered me too. Brown was nice and all, on someone else. But to be honest I wouldn’t have minded being a shade or two… or three…. Oh alright – the colour of chalk.

You wouldn’t think it if you knew me now though :p – today I am as proud and grateful and content as anything at the way my Creator made me. So I have my imperfections, but who doesn’t, eh? Thank God I grew out of that phase and discovered how much I loved being the colour of the earth and melted chocolate and curled cinnamon sticks!

But my point is that even for someone like me, who grew up in a family where the colour conversation never made it to the dinner table, who was encouraged to spend most of her time under the sun whilst having a non-existent relationship with sun block until recent years, who took no nonsense from anyone, and knew full well that advertising is a money-making sham where people are wheedled into wanting things they could in fact be quite happy without……… even that someone had her faith shaken as a little girl – all because some half-starved, malnourished, chalk-faced model on tellie insisted that she was the definition of beauty and the rest of us should be killing ourselves to look like her.

And so I worry for all those Beautiful Cubes of Brown Sugar scattered across the globe, those for whom colour is the only conversation at the dinner table, sunshine is sin, and fashion magazines the answer to all the world’s problems. For no matter how brightly their personality sparkles, it is simply not given the chance to shine through their dark skin.

And I want to say to them: Your Brownness is not a blemish, it’s a blessing – and no amount of slapping on that muck is going to change your complexion – unless you want to take it up with God directly. So let it rest and go lie in the sun instead! Don’t forget your sun block though – burns are no fun :)

Brown IS beautiful.

And for the record, so is White, Yellow, Black, Red, Beige……and whatever else I’ve missed out. I am being pro-colour, not pro-Brown – this post looks through the Brown glass because that’s what I can relate to, while I hope there are others out there fighting their own little battles for the right and beauty to be whatever colour they are.

Isn’t it ironic that while one end of the globe is obsessed with getting fairer, the other half sunbathes and visits tanning salons to get darker. Why can’t we all just be comfortable in our own skin, literally!

You know, in spite of the fact that God gave the world so much colour, when it comes to people, I hear that He is, in fact, colour blind.

I think it’d be pretty nice if we were too :)

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Britain's Got Madhu!

Sigh... so I know I've been seriously MIA for a while... and I hope the fact that this post is less than 10 lines long (compared to my usually-endless rantings!) is a testament to how busy things have been.
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But here is something that will make you forget all that and just cheer for Madhu :)
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Madhu you da man!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Savage who did not understand

I looooove the Earth. Sometimes I wish She could shrink and I could expand until we are both just the right size for me to give her a great Big Hug :)
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She is to me the simplest example of God’s marvel. Forget the countless stars and galaxies we are told of in science, and also coincidentally (or maybe not!), in Japji. My mind doesn’t even get that far; it just gets stuck when I start thinking of the Earth and how intricate She is.
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Man has rightly bestowed the title ‘Mother’ upon her – for she dotes on us so. She presides over us rain or shine, wind or snow. Man (and beast) has equally found solace in Her arid deserts and vast savannahs, Her dense forests and undulating hills. She is so enbelievably Beautiful and Bountiful - and She smells fabulous, especially right after it rains :)
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But mankind, being mankind, does not always remember to love Her like She does us – and that is exactly the spirit in which Chief Seattle spoke on that day in 1854.
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I first read Chief Seattle’s speech for a school assignment. It is described as ‘one of the most beautiful and profound statements’ ever made on the environment.
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Bear in mind that there is a great deal of controversy on the origins speech; in fact there are debates over its very existence. The version below is actually said to be fraudulent; written by a screenwriter for a movie.
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That may very well be true – it does seem too beautiful to have ever been uttered in real life.
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My suggestion? Forget where it comes from. Take it as poetry from a child of Mother Earth.
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Before you read on, you will have to travel back in time to the 1850s, in America, during the struggle between the White Man and the Native Indian.
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INTRODUCTION
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In 1854, the "Great White Chief" in Washington made an offer for a large area of Indian land and promised a `reservation' for the Indian people.
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Chief Seattle's reply has been described as the most beautiful and profound statement on the environment ever made.
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THIS EARTH IS PRECIOUS
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How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
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ALL SACRED
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Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.
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Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.
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The white man's dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man.
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We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
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The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers.
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The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man--all belong to the same family.
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NOT EASY
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So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy land, he asks much of us.
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The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land.
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But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.
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This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors.
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If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.
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The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.
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KINDNESS
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The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
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We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs.
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The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on.
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He leaves his father's graves behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care.
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His father's grave, and his children's birthright, are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads.
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His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.
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I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways.
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The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.
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There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect's wings.
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But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand.
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The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand.
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The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with the pinion pine.
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PRECIOUS
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The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath--the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath.
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The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes.
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Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.
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But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh.
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And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow's flowers.
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ONE CONDITION
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So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.
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I am a savage and I do not understand any other way.
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I've seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train.
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I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.
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What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit.
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For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.
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THE ASHES
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You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
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Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.
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Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
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This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.
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All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
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Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.
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Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
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Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.
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We may be brothers after all. We shall see.
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One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover, our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white.
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This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator.
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The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
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But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.
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That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.
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Where is the thicket? Gone.
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Where is the eagle? Gone.
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The end of living and the beginning of survival.
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It seems to me, that the 'savage' probably understood it best of all.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

The family that prays together, stays together

The quote above is something my maternal grandparents believe in very strongly. Growing up, every vacation spent at our family home in Ulu Yam included Rehraas (evening prayer) being done together as a family in the living room, right under a frame carrying those very words. (Japji was your own responsibility, and it didn’t matter if you had been chatting until dawn and only woke up at noon – breakfast/ lunch was not served until Japji was done!). This was a pretty amazing feat since we are quite a large family and at any time there would be at least 20 people at home :)
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What may have started as a forced discipline during our adolescence has now grown to a binding knot between us. To us, the grandchildren, prayer is in a way the central theme whenever we go home. It’s really quite nice to have such a beautiful commonness in the family.
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At end-2006, we had a family Akhand Paath (continuous recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib) in our home, and as we loved it so much, we’ve made it an annual family tradition and had our second one recently.
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The Ulu Yam family Akhand Paath operates slightly differently from the norm.
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For one thing, it was Nanaji, our aunts and uncles, and my fellow cousins who read from the Guru - roughly 30 paathis out of a family of almost 50, with ages ranging between 8 and 80 :) As you can imagine, setting the timetable was quite a challenge – we simply had too many paathis!
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agonising over the timetable to make sure everyone had an opportunity to read from the Guru
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Also, we ignore the usual 48-hour tradition – the point here is to take our time and enjoy Baani. In 2006 it took us 67 hours, and this time we’d been practicing a little more so we cropped off 10 hours to make it a nice 57 :) And I’d say it was just nice for everyone to truly enjoy it.
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in the Darbar, we had 2 pothi sahibs and a laptop with the Gurbani computer software, so at any time, there would be a few of us in the Darbar and either following the Paath with a pothi sahib to improve our reading, or following the English translation
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in meditation

Ekjot, our youngest paathi-cousin, warming up with some practice before his turn

our glorious mothers-paathis-chefs taking a break

the eternal Ulu Yam Swing – its been around forever :) Nanaji and the men catching up at tea-time

sleeping in the corridors is an age-old Ulu Yam tradition – even when there are vacant beds we all habitually charge for the floor!

Sharan and Trishvin stumble upon the ideal location for morning nitnem - the kitchen floor :)

on one evening, we headed over to our beautiful little village Gurdwara for an informal kirtan session

I like to think that it is this ‘formula’ for an Akhand Paath that brings it meaning, where the journey matters and not the destination. With everyone making the effort to read the translations, the ritual was transformed to meaningful practice. By keeping it in the family it truly becomes for the family, and with everyone having a hand in something we are reminded of the common roots that bind us.

Coming together like this is a grounding experience. It is this family, with its devotion and its tight knot; this home, with its organised confusion of 50 inhabitants; this village, with its little Gurdwara and vegetable patch, that has shaped so much of who I am.

the family paathis
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Its nice to know that I’m rooted to this place. The roots are strong and go deep; they will not let go and will not let me forget. I may fly high but anytime I need to touch the ground they will find me and hold me safe, until I am ready to spread my wings again. And they will remind me that because we pray together, we will stay together.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Eastenders come to town!

Last weekend we had some really nice company at home – Preetkamal and Gurcharan are friends from London and they bunked with us for a few days.
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Malaysia is just one of their stops; they are in fact on a 6-month backpacking trip round South East Asia!
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Hearing their stories made me so envious – doing something like that is on the top 5 of my wish list, only I want to cover Latin America instead. The longest Surabhi and I were on the road for was a month. This is 6 months! Envy envy pure primal animal-like envy! :)
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Imagine living out of a little backpack containing only the following: minimal clothes, a pillow case, water purification tablets, flip flops, a Lonely Planet guide (God bless Lonely Planet!), waterless hand cleanser, a good luck charm, train timetables, an insurance policy, a digital camera (totally out of place amongst other meagre posessions!) a secondhand book, pepper spray, a youth discount card, and not much else.
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...Sleeping in strange hard/lumpy/springy/saggy alien beds in shared dorms where the women are slappers and the men snore
...Having your passport scrutinised and stamped at a new country every week
...Retracing history through the backdoor alleys of little towns
...Long, long, long dreamy train journeys
...Hauling your backpack around town in blazing heat because your hostel is closed during the siesta hour
...Swapping travel anecdotes (your most prized possesion!) with other skint backpackers
...Learning to say the 3 most important phrases in the local language:
– thank you;
– please; and
– where is the restroom? :p
...Desperately hunting for vegetarian food in the middle of carnivore-ville
...Enduring endless chatter and deafening silences
...Carrying the baggage of time while walking in ancient ruins
...Going into a church to pray because sometimes you simply can’t find a Gurdwara
...Balancing the budget every night and living on bread rolls and sleeping in train stations in order to be able to afford that museum/ opera/ ch√Ęteau/ gallery/ cruise/ walking tour/ train ticket/ tacky souvenir
...Getting lost in sleepy little towns because that part is simply not on your map and where no one understands English/ your version of sign language/ your feeble attempt to vocalise the sentences in your phrasebook
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Did I mention long train journeys? I LOVE long train journeys!
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I have Louis Armstrong in my head...
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Heaven
I’m in Heaven
And my heart beats so
That I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together
Dancing cheek to cheek
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Hmm... maybe the last sentence needs to be adjusted :)
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Anyway back to Preet and Gurcharan :p. So far they’ve been to Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Cambodia as well, and from what I’ve heard they’re having a blast!
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While in Malaysia they also attended the Samelan – which they declare was an incredible experience. Still, wanting to make sure that they would never never ever forget Malaysia, we decided to treat them to some durians! The results were… erm… well. Perhaps you want to hear about that (and many other travel stories) first hand - by visiting their travel blog!
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The next destination is Laos, and they go back to Thailand before heading to their last destination on this trip - India.
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One of my backpacking trips led me to discover what the Empress Sissi of Austria once said: Destinations are only desirable because a journey lies in between.
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So blog-walk with them and enjoy the ride!