and religion again....

So I was talking to a few friends over lunch the other day, and for the first time realized what it must be like to live in fear... There are people who fear to go to a concert because they think they might get attacked by terrorists... they are scared to go to movies because they fear their bodies will get blown into pieces by a bomb blast.. or they hurry in the market! God forbid there might be a suicide bomber around the corner waiting to cast a shadow of death over them...

I don't know if these fears will ever materialize into their destiny! but what a sad existence it is to live like that... Death is the ultimate truth but to live in fear of that is like dying every moment, like living a thousand deaths over and over..... How naive is it; to think that if there was no terrorism there would be no reason to fear death !!

I guess if we could just go back to the times of tyranny! There was no terrorism in the days of good old kings .. but then there was always a possibility of being invaded by another army or your own army if you did not pay taxes... 

Better yet we could all just go to an abandoned Island and there will be no one fighting over the land or religion there .. but then there is always a Tsunami that could knock you out cold...

How about just lock ourselves in a bunker.. yeah that sounds cool, no bomb blasts no tsunamis and no guns .. oh wait but you can not stop a stroke from happening can you? 

That is right there is no safe place for those who live in fear.. Terrorism or no terrorism death is coming but while you are alive live a little people.. Like a wise man once said, "Where I am, death is not..and where death is, I am not!" so why worry ??

Honestly! my take on terrorists, they are people too, that is not to say that I condone their actions ! I just think that for someone to have that much hatred for their own race their has to be a reason.. I have heard stories of girls becoming terrorists after abuse from the soldiers, or little boys wanting to hold a gun after they saw their families being burnt alive.. and then there are those who just in the name of religion want to spread terror... The question is will we get terrorized or will we live like this is our life and no one can terrorize us?

Live like death is but a dream and die like we never lived....that spirit is what terrorists can not break.. 

I grew up in Bombay, a city of dreams a city that never sleeps, a city that does not stop.... good or bad we don't stop.... every morning is yet another opportunity to make that dream come true and every night is yet another possibility to make a new dream.. and that is what we live by.... we have had more then our fair share of terrorist attacks, we have had natural calamities and we are over populated and under served but we choose not to live in fear... we choose to embrace life for all the good things and pray for the bad things to turn into good things....I am thankful to my home city to have given me the faith to believe in the good and a spirit that no one can break.. Oh there is so much more I can write on this subject, perhaps another time...

for now this is all I have to say .. do not fight them but forgive them for they know not the difference between light and shadow, day and night, love and hate....


Religion !

The other day I saw a picture of a muslim woman wearing a burkha, with a little boy holding her hand and the two of them walking on a street of what looked like Bombay or should I say Mumbai. “Well what is so unusual about this picture?” you might ask, what was unique about this picture was that the little boy was dressed as the Hindu God Krishna.

This picture spoke volumes to me and I could not help but want to write about it. May be the little boy had a fancy dress competition at school (Fancy dress competition is the equivalent of Halloween, kind of!) But then I was struck by the awe of what this picture was representing. “UNITY in DIVERSITY”. If only we could accept each other just the way we are and just the way we are not.

The whole Hindu-Muslim battle or for that sake any religion is something that I could never understand.  I am not a Hindu or a Muslim and so may be I don’t understand their point of view in having a fight for religion. But I grew up with both the religions; I have been to Navratri and danced all night long in praise of Hindu Goddess Amba and have fasted for Roja and celebrated Eid. I have been to the famous Siddhivinayak temple to pray to Lord Ganesha and right after that on the same day have visited the famous Haji-Ali-Mosque, with two of my really close friends. (Hindu and Muslim)  We are very similar and very different but isn’t that what being human is, each one of is unique and yet just the same so then it really has nothing to do with the religion does it!

I just can’t quiet understand the whole battle, I just know if the world could just look through that child’s eyes, dressed as a little Krishna holding his mother’s hand and walking through the streets of Bombay, the world would be a better place.


Language an ocean!!

I was 12 when I first realized I had to master English. Well, I was in a girl guide camp and there were girls from different schools from South Bombay and they were mostly from English medium schools. I was not. I went to a wonderful school where the primary medium of instruction was Gujarati.

Gujarati is a language predominantly spoken in Bombay and of-course Gujarat. I am positive if surveys were done it would also be a predominantly spoken language amongst Indians residing in other countries especially UK and USA.

Back to my story, so I was 12 and was chosen to be the group leader for the group of 6 girls. There were about 25 groups and we had a leader's meeting after which we had to brief our groups with the details of the meeting. It was difficult, the months of reading Archies was failing me. I could not tell them the exact details and fumbled a thousand times. I was embarrassed and felt humiliated.

That was when I decided I needed to know the language of survival the language being English...

I was ashamed to be in a vernacular school. Vernacular is the term used for a school that teach in native languages and is mostly used in a derogatory way. Although if you look the word vernacular in a dictionary it only means native or local language. I was upset at my parents for having me go to a school where they only taught Math and Science in English and everything else in a native language.

Over the years I became really good with English. I was the first and only radio jockey on All India Radio FM to deliver programs in Hindi and English ( I started with Gujarati shows on the AM section of All India Radio!) 

I was proud that no one knew I had gone to a Gujarati school and I never told any one, I was still ashamed to be from a VERNACULAR school.

Fast forward, I am in US for my PhD and am fluent in English and am mixing with the regular crowd having completely forgotten the issues I had with English. One day my very good friend commented on how I pronounced V's and W's in a funny way, and I started laughing with her. She laughed as she thought it was cute, I laughed as I was reminded of the small-ness I had carried with myself. I requested her support in correcting my pronunciation. 

In that moment something shifted for me. It was like a bolt of lightening that freed me. I realized English was a language. As any other language it never demanded anything more then communication.

I am now reading Mahatma Gandhi's auto-biography. IN GUJARATI. The language he wrote it in. How fortunate am I that I can read his thoughts in the language he wrote. I thank my parents now. He thought those words in Gujarati and I read them untouched, untranslated and I feel connected to Gandhi and Gujarati in a way I have never before! 

I only wish I had listened to my father earlier and started training myself in Sanskrit I would have probably been a master of Sanskrit and be devouring literature so precious to my Indian soul.

But it is not too late. I start now. Slow and steady. As it is only a language and all it demands is it be used for growth, for expansion, for communication and connection. Nothing more nothing less.



West is going East or is it just the economy?

Yesterday as I got on the subway I noticed a vendor. So what's so special about a vendor? You might ask! This vendor was about 7 years old. Here is his sales pitch, “Hello everyone, I am selling candy. I am not selling candy for a school project or anything. I am selling it so I can make some money and stay out of trouble. Each candy is a dollar. It would be a great help if you would buy candy from me. Any kind of donations is welcome too."

This set me thinking this kid is 7 years old! Is he smart enough to think of the whole idea of buying candy and selling it to the people in subway? While it is possible, I doubt it is the truth! I am afraid there is a family member or someone older involved. I have seen people bring their kids to sing or play music instruments at subway stations. I have also seen people bringing little kids to dance in the train and then ask for donations.

It is easy to think, “Oh! Poor kid let me give him a dollar.” Or “Wow! That kid is so talented! I should give a dollar and support him/her.”

But last night seeing this kid selling candies got me thinking. In India there is a full-blown business of having kids sell stuff in the trains or having them beg. These businesses are run by under world Dons who go to the extent of kidnapping little children and damaging their body parts to get the sympathy card.

I can't help but wonder if this kid selling candy in the subway of NY is a beginning of a road that might be as scary as it is in the East? Or is it just a by-product of a poor Economy!

Family or not a child was out there trying to get a living rather then being a child and that to me is a red flag for this society.


Akira Kurosawa...One Master filmmaker

I have always been fascinated with Akira Kurosawa’s style and technique. I was lucky to see them on the big screen at a film festival a couple of years ago (thanks to a good friend of mine) and now I own a box set of 5 of his movies (thanks to the same friend).

Kurosawa created a 3-D feel around his subjects and positioned them perfectly, at the same time gave attention to the detail of props and the background. It was as if the props were playing a part and had a story of their own.

In many scenes of his movie “Dreams” there were at least a hundred actors in the frame. The synchronization in their movements was out of this world, so was their positioning. It is almost like one of the AD’s had to take a scale and measure the distance between the artists every time they went for a take.

Each of his movie is a master-piece and an inspiration to a ton of other master-pieces.

I have to mention “Sholay” an Indian classic that was inspired by Kurosawa’s "Seven Samurai".  Those of you who are into Bollywood, Sholay is a must watch.  Both are masterpieces and I can write a book about each of them.  Although do not expect the same style. Sholay was all about strong character developments and solid screenplay that was inspired by Seven Samurai. I promise to write a blog on Sholay some time soon.

For now I savor the flavors of these films and enjoy the rest of my weekend.