Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Amrita

Contents

Introduction
Coming to India
Amrita
Time
Birth
God
Marriage
How many people?
Goddess Maya - Mother Earth
Reverence
Chanting
Money
We Hold These Truths...
Mountain High, Valley Low
Romance every which way but real
Life is not a test - it is a space to look in the mirror
Plain stoopid
Kali ...without cause - there is no effect...
Chaos and John Ruskin
Learning

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.

That is a quote by Abraham Lincoln.

How many people?

Malthusian Twaddle
by Ronald Bailey

It turns out that dissenting from the popular dogma that the world is about to be overwhelmed by a population explosion tends to provoke people. Many readers of my column about Real Environmental Racism decided that I might finally see the error of my ways if I would just read Daniel Quinn's novel Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. So I read it.

The book opens with the protagonist responding to this advertisement: "TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." The unnamed protagonist (pretty clearly a stand-in for the author), after some gnashing of teeth, goes to a nondescript office building where he meets Ishmael, the teacher who placed the ad.

The twist? Ishmael is an elderly telepathic gorilla who for years has studied humanity at the behest of a rich benefactor, and is now in a position to offer deep insights about our species from an outsider's objective point of view. And what are these insights? Pure simple-minded Malthusianism.

Badly modeled on Plato's Dialogues, the novel is a series of long conversations between protagonist and ape, during which the gorilla essentially rehashes Thomas Robert Malthus' arguments in his first edition of An Essay on the Principle of Population. "Population," Malthus famously asserted, "when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the difficulty of subsistence."

Ishmael echoes the sentiment: "[A]ny species in the wild will invariably expand to the extent that its food supply expands." In other words, the goal of all species is to convert food into offspring, and more food means more offspring. What's more, "In the natural community, whenever a population's food supply increases, that population increases. As that population increases, its food supply decreases, and as its food supply decreases, that population decreases. This interaction between food populations and feeder populations is what keeps everything in balance."

In the real, non-idealized world, the population of our human ancestors was kept "in balance" (i.e., low) by high mortality rates for infants and mothers. "For hundreds of thousands of years as hunter-gatherers, and subsequently in agrarian societies, our predecessors had an average life expectancy of 25-30 years," Australian epidemiologist Tony McMichael has pointed out. "Most of them died of infectious disease, and many died of malnutrition, starvation and physical trauma." In other words, Ishmael's "balance" is just a euphemism for starvation and disease.

Our supposedly enlightened gorilla calls civilized humanity the "Takers," in contrast to the remaining bands of hunter-gatherers, whom he christens the "Leavers." Modern civilization, he argues, has violated what he calls the "peace-keeping law," which mandates that "you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food." Ishmael illustrates this alleged "law" by claiming, "the lion that comes across a herd of gazelles doesn't massacre them, as an enemy would. It kills one, not to satisfy its hatred of gazelles but to satisfy its hunger." He's implying that lions and other species are "prudent predators," that is, they are careful to preserve a breeding population of its prey species in order to insure the survival of its own species.

But as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has pointed out, the concept of prudent predators is evolutionarily incoherent. Such an arrangement could not remain stable, because a single mutant that became a selfish exploiter would quickly outbreed the "prudent" members of its species. In other words, genetic evolution cannot confer this type of foresight on species—short-term advantage will always out-compete long-term prudence.

Ishmael makes another factual error when he swallows the myth of the noble savage living in harmony with nature. He sagely informs our hero that the American Indians "were looking for ways to achieve settlement that were in accord with they way they'd always lived, ways that left room for the rest of life to go on around them."

Complete twaddle. Those early immigrants from Asia were responsible for killing off the Pleistocene megafauna, such as mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths. Similarly, the primitive people who arrived in Australia some 40,000 years ago devastated that continent's wildlife. Primitive peoples are no worse than other animal predators, just more effective. Despite this history of depredation and disease, Ishmael's advice is that civilization must return in some fashion to the ethos of primitive humanity. How to do that, he leaves up to us.

Fortunately, civilized humanity is solving the problem of long-run prudence by using culture. As our civilization develops, we are becoming better at foreseeing the consequences of our actions, and have built institutions that encourage long-range thinking. Private property is one such vital institution, because it forces people who reap the benefits to bear the costs of using a resource. Private property is a cultural institution that turns people into real "prudent predators." Both coyotes and men eat sheep, but while more coyotes mean fewer sheep, more men mean more sheep. Ishmael's flawed anthropology overlooks the fact that Amerindians, like the Mesopotamians before them, independently invented agriculture and civilized life to overcome the food shortages that plagued their hunter-gatherer ancestors after they ate all the big tasty animals they could catch.

Quinn's dim protagonist makes the telling observation: "The biological community is an economy, isn't it? I mean, if you start taking more for yourself, then there's got to be less for someone else, for something else. Isn't that so?" Ishmael answers, "Yes," thus disappearing along with our protagonist down the usual Malthusian zero-sum rabbit hole.

The fact is, our supposedly resource-plundering civilization is actually creating new resources. Tripling crop productivity over the past 40 years has spared hundreds of millions of acres of wildlands from being plowed down to grow food. Future farming should leave more, not less land for nature.

But still, you may wonder, doesn't wise old Ishmael (and his creator Quinn) have a point? As humanity's food supply has increased, hasn't population burgeoned? The gorilla further argues that food produced by Nebraska farmers is fueling population growth in poor parts of the world. (The question of why each Nebraska farmer doesn't produce a couple dozen children himself and feed his progeny all that excess food goes strangely unaddressed.) In fact, the countries in which people consume the greatest number of calories are precisely the countries with the lowest fertility rates: the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, and so forth.

Ishmael ignores the real demographic trends that contradict his dire thesis. Demographers agree that if current fertility and mortality trends continue, human population should peak by mid-century at around 8 or 9 billion, then begin falling. In fact, the United Nations' low-end population projection foresees humanity's numbers maxing out at less than 8 billion around 2040, and beginning to fall thereafter.

In other words, Ishmael gets it exactly backward: Civilized humanity is actually more prudent than primitive man. If there is such a thing as a "prudent predator," we are it. Unlike other species and our hunter-gatherer forbears, modern man does not just blindly convert food into offspring.

In the end, all that Ishmael proves is that Malthusianism remains a simple, powerful idea that is simply and powerfully wrong.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Goddess Maya - Mother Earth

In 1964, India was reeling from the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. The world watched anxiously to see how the fledgling democracy would handle this crisis of political succession. However, there was an ever greater crisis looming on the horizon--Nehru had tried to fashion India's centralized economy by focusing almost exclusively on heavy industry, while seemingly intractable problems of food shortages and famines had arisen to plague the agriculture sector.

Two consecutive droughts in 1966 and 1967 threatened to bring on famine on a massive scale. The new prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, inherited a country on the brink of a human catastrophe. These developments seemed to confirm the worst fears of biologist Paul Ehrlich, who famously wrote in The Population Bomb, his 1968 bestseller: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," and "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He insisted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."

Little did Ehrlich know that Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of 'crash program' he had declared would never work. Working in Mexico, they had developed a special breed of dwarf wheat that resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties.

C. Subramaniam, then minister of Food and Agriculture in India, came to know of Borlaug's work. It was transparently obvious to him that this was the answer to India's crisis. Acting with great urgency, the Indian government took the plunge, and several chartered Boeing 707s loaded with 16,000 metric tonnes of seeds of the new 'miracle wheat' headed for the eastern skies.

Borlaug's team began teaching local farmers in the region how to cultivate this new strain of wheat properly, in both India and Pakistan. Borlaug's work is credited with sparking what has come to be known as the "Green Revolution" in these countries, defying all predictions and achieving an astounding increase in the production of wheat within the span of a few years.

Since Ehrlich's dire predictions in 1968, India's population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. By 1974 India was self-sufficient in the production of all cereals. Pakistan progressed from harvesting 3.4 million tons of wheat annually when Borlaug arrived to around 18 million today, India from 11 million tons to 60 million.

In the mid-1980s, India even entered the world export market for grains. Soon after Borlaug's success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.

Not only did Ehrlich's predictions of hundreds of millions of deaths in massive famines prove to be false, India fed far more than 200 million more people, and was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971. (Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb.)

According to Gregg Easterbrook writing in The Atlantic, "perhaps more than anyone else, Borlaug is responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were widely predicted. The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths."

It would seem that there is very little in the world today that could be considered of greater consequence than the wide application of ideas and techniques with the potential to elevate masses of humanity that reside on the brink of starvation and death from malnutrition.

Since 1984, Borlaug has turned his attention to the African continent, where starvation remains a most visible threat . He has been involved in Sub-Saharan African programs to revolutionize farming. As a result of his efforts, yields have been at the worst double, nearly always triple, and sometimes quadruple what the traditional practices are producing. African farmers are enthusiastic about these new methods. But almost in keeping with these successes, Borlaug's work has encountered a wall of resistance.

Gregg Easterbrook, when he writes: "Borlaug's mission -- to cause the environment to produce significantly more food -- has come to be seen, at least by some securely affluent commentators, as perhaps better left undone. More food sustains human population growth, which they see as antithetical to the natural world."

According to David Seckler, the director of the International Irrigation Management Institute, "The environmental community in the 1980s went crazy pressuring the donor countries and the big foundations not to support ideas like inorganic fertilizers for Africa." As a result, high-profile yet 'image-sensitive' organizations such as The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and the World Bank, once sponsors of Borlaug's work, have begun disassociating themselves from it.

Support for the International Maize and Wheat Center -- where Borlaug helped to develop the high-yield, low-pesticide dwarf wheat upon which a substantial portion of the world's population now depends for sustenance -- has also dwindled. The net result, according to Easterbrook, is that "although Borlaug's achievements are arguably the greatest that Ford or Rockefeller has ever funded, both foundations have retreated from the last effort of Borlaug's long life: the attempt to bring high-yield agriculture to Africa."

This resistance from environmental groups seems especially ironical, when one considers that in developing nations where population growth is surging, high-yield agriculture holds back the rampant deforestation of wild areas. According to one calculation, India's transition to high-yield farming spared the country from having to plough an additional 100 million acres of virgin land -- an area about equivalent to California.

In the past five years India has been able to slow and perhaps even halt its national deforestation. None of this would have been remotely possible if Indian farmers were still trying to feed the country by growing traditional crops using traditional methods.

Opponents of high-yield agriculture "took the numbers for water pollution caused by fertilizer runoff in the United States and applied them to Africa, which is totally fallacious," David Seckler says. "Chemical-fertilizer use in Africa is so tiny you could increase application for decades before causing the environmental side effects we see here. Meanwhile, Africa is ruining its wildlife habitat with slash-and-burn farming, which many commentators romanticize because it is indigenous."

Borlaug found that some foundation managers and World Bank officials had become hopelessly confused regarding the distinction between pesticides and fertilizer. He says, "The opponents of high-yield for Africa were speaking of the two as if they were the same because they're both made from chemicals, when the scales of toxicity are vastly different. Fertilizer only replaces substances naturally present in the soils anyway."

When asked about the criticisms stemming from fears of the potential hazards of biotechnology and genetically engineered crops, Borlaug comments: "As a matter of fact, Mother Nature has crossed species barriers, and sometimes nature crosses barriers between genera--that is, between unrelated groups of species. Take the case of wheat. It is the result of a natural cross made by Mother Nature long before there was scientific man.

Today's modern red wheat variety is made up of three groups of seven chromosomes, and each of those three groups of seven chromosomes came from a different wild grass. First, Mother Nature crossed two of the grasses, and this cross became the durum wheats, which were the commercial grains of the first civilizations spanning from Sumeria until well into the Roman period. Then Mother Nature crossed that 14-chromosome durum wheat with another wild wheat grass to create what was essentially modern wheat at the time of the Roman Empire.

Durum wheat was fine for making flat Arab bread, but it didn't have elastic gluten. The thing that makes modern wheat different from all of the other cereals is that it has two proteins that give it the doughy quality when it's mixed with water. Durum wheats don't have gluten, and that's why we use them to make spaghetti today.

The second cross of durum wheat with the other wild wheat produced a wheat whose dough could be fermented with yeast to produce a big loaf. So modern bread wheat is the result of crossing three species barriers, a kind of natural genetic engineering."

In response to the sustained campaign against his work, Borlaug has said:

Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.

As Borlaug has pointed out, "Africa, the former Soviet republics, and the cerrado are the last frontiers. After they are in use, the world will have no additional sizable blocks of arable land left to put into production, unless you are willing to level whole forests, which you should not do.

Future food-production increases will have to come from higher yields. And though I have no doubt yields will keep going up, whether they can go up enough to feed the population monster is another matter. Unless progress with agricultural yields remains very strong, the next century will experience sheer human misery that, on a numerical scale, will exceed the worst of everything that has come before."


- From A Better Earth Website

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Reverence

A lot of things can and do cause me frustration in India. I am not used to so much bureaucracy, to so many delays to get simple things done, to so much corruption and to so many double meanings. Interestingly many Indian friends I have here share such frustrations in abundance. Despite all of this, I welcome many things about coming here - in particular those rare individuals who are alive to reverence. Such people are rare anywhere - but in India where there is reverence, it is very real and very powerful. Perhaps far more so than any place I have so far ventured.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Chanting

chanting ... it has wonderful physical
and mental effects

I memorize chants, and
the meaning and then I know the words...

Money

Once there was a rich man who had several sons. He had 1008 gold coins. One day he overheard his sons talking about the money. They were saying how they hoped their father would hurry up and die so that they could get their hands on the money.

The man decided to teach his sons a lesson. He went to see his neighbour and asked him if he might take care of the money after he died. But he made him promise that he would not give the money to his children until they had learned the lesson he intended to teach them. He told the neighbour to direct the children to the farm and to tell them that the money was buried there somewhere. When the man died the neighbour did exactly that.

The sons went to the farm and began to dig - as the neighbour had told them - as instructed - that the money was buried somewhere on the land of the farm. They dug and dug and dug but found nothing.

They began to feel that their father or their neighbour had played some strange trick on them. But they could do nothing about it. Finally one of the brothers said - "We might as well plant some seeds in the ground that we have tilled in our search for the treasure." They planted a thousand and eight pumpkin seeds and from those seeds grew 10 000 pumpkins. They sold the pumpkins and made a profit of 3 gold coins....and so they continued with this for many years. Finally after many years they had stockpiled 1008 gold coins. When they had made this much money the neighbour came to see them and in his hand he carried the 1008 coins that his father had hidden from his sons all these years. The neighbour told the sons the story of how he had overheard them talking about their wish that he would die so that they could have his money.

He said that when they had earned the same amount as their inheritance then they would have earned their inheritance also - because then finally they would know the real value of money. Only people who work can ever really know the value of money. Those, to whom it is just given by virtue of their birth rarely learn it's true value. Because money is nothing but a symbol of our contribution to helping life processes move forward in an orderly way - that is if it is money that is born of love and right livelihood.

The sons decided to give the money their father had earned to charity.

Mountain High, Valley Low

"Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you."

Ain't no mountain high enough
Written & composed by: Nickolas Ashford/Valerie Simpson


Why Climb?

One cannot stay on the summit forever -
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.

What is above knows what is below -
But what is below does not know what is above

One climbs, one sees-
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one's self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

Rene Daumal

Romance every which way but real

Brahmacharya and sexuality

Ramana

Q: Is it better for reaching salvation to be married or celibate?

M: Whatever you think is better. There is no difference. Thoughts must cease and reason disappears. Feeling is the prime factor in meditation, not reason. It ought to come at the right side of the chest, not in the head, because the Heart is there. It must be held tight.

Q: Is marriage a bar to spiritual progress?

M: The householder's life is not a bar, but householders must do their utmost to practice self-control. If a person has a strong desire for the higher life then sexual desire will drop away. When the mind is destroyed the other desires are also destroyed.

Q: How can we root out the sex idea?

M: By rooting out the false idea of the body being the Self. There is no sex in the Self. Be the real Self, then there will be no trouble with sex.

Life is not a test - it is a space to look in the mirror

Life is not a test - it is a space to look in the mirror
Academia can make that impossible if you are not careful

Be careful

Plain stoopid

February 25, 2005 - From Indiatime website
Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me
For the last few weeks, Indian media including major newspapers and television stations have been singing praises of one Saurabh Singh, a village lad who had supposedly topped NASA's International Talent Discovery Exam. But the truth is now out. First of all, NASA gives no such exams. Secondly, Saurabh Singh hadn't appeared for any such talent discovery exam. But the Indian media, hungry for a national hero, grabbed the story, made it into a headline and are now back-paddling fast to correct their storyline.
About 8 years ago, Ramar Pillai, another local lad from India had similarly managed to con the entire national media as well as India's scientific community by claiming that he had manufactured liters of petrol from a plant. The herbal fuel story not only became a national headline, but also managed to make its way into the world's most prestigious science journals. The department of science supposedly had even started to make plans to build a demo plant to manufacture petrol/gasoline out of this plant.
Little has changed over a span of 8 years. In this day and age, when it takes literally seconds to verify any information available on the internet, the Indian media dropped the ball yet again. Fiberoptic networks and satellite links can't do much about stupidity. Can they?

Kali ...without cause - there is no effect...

March 16, 2005 From Indiatime website
The Great Indian Flood of 2010
Lord Rama's ancestor King Bhagiratha is said to have brought the Ganges from heaven to the earth, basically to purify the ashes of his own ancestors. Sadly, Bhagiratha's descendants and their buddies around the planet have been wreaking such havoc with nature for a couple hundred years, that the Goddess Ganges is all set to disapppear back to the heavens.
The latest report by WWF on the health of Himalayan glaciers is not just alarming and scary, but it has the potential to change the history and geography of the Indian subcontinent within the next few years. The report states that the Himalayan glaciers are now receding at a very rapid pace of almost 15 meters per year.
This will initially cause widespread flooding in the region covered by the glaciers (basically the basins of Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus), and will eventually lead to rapidly declining water levels with widespread drought. The implications are catastrophic.
The Himalayan glaciers are the largest body of water outside the polar ice caps and they cover an area of about 3 million hectares. The basin of the Ganges river supplies water to 10 percent of humanity. Even by modest estimates, the glacier area will shrink to less than one-fifth its current size in the next 25 years.
The recent Tsunami disaster brought home the consequences of the inactivity and procrastination on the governmental side. If nothing is done, India and its neighboring countries will face an apocalyptic threat from the vanishing Himalayan glaciers. First, the great flood of 2010 and then the prospect of the great Ganges desert. Long live Bhagiratha!

Chaos and John Ruskin

I spent two weeks in England recently. I went with my mother to John Ruskin's house - ah what a beautiful home and oh what a beautiful mind. I had dreamed of John Ruskin
a few months back - and I mentioned this to my mother "oh you must see his
home in the Lake District" came the reply. So we went - and how beautiful it
was. The Lake District is perhaps England's greatest wild treasure. A
stunning landscape which is perhaps best in the early spring when the lambs
are in playing the fields and the daffodils are emerging. And that is when I
went.

Learning

http://www.goodnewsindia.com/Pages/content/outreach/kalbag.html
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4618720

My spiritual teacher once asked himself that and the only meaningful answer that he could come up with was: "i have learned how to lose." If you can learn that I would say you are a very rich person indeed.

A very healthy looking eighty something year old ayurvedic doctor in Madras once told me, whilst chanting a lot of sanskrit slokas, that we incarnate to learn.

My teacher said he did not like learning. Education is a process of stripping away; a grand lesson in refinement.


Ramana:

The Intellect and Learning

Knowledge implies the result of impressions on one's consciousness.

Doubt or uncertainty is for the mind or intellect and has no place in the perfection of Realization.

Q: Then is all our intellectual progress worth nothing?

M: Whose intellect is progressing? Find out.

Q: How does the intellect help?

M: Only in making one sink the intellect in the ego and the ego in the Self After realization, all intellectual loads are thrown overboard as flotsam. Whose is the intellect? It is man's. Intellect is only an instrument. To reach the Self it must vanish.

Pride of learning and the desire for appreciation are condemned, not the learning itself. Education and learning which lead to the search for Truth and humility are good


The reality of yourself cannot be questioned. The Self is the primal reality The ordinary person unconsciously takes reality to be their true inner reality plus everything which has come into their consciousness as pertaining to themselves
body, etc. This they have to unlearn.



Q: Where are memory and forgetfulness located?

M: In the Chitta (intellect).

People such as inventors searching for new material, make their discoveries in a state of self-forgetfulness. It is in a condition of deep intellectual concentration that this forgetfulness of the ego occurs, and the invention is revealed. This is also a way of developing intuition. Hence a sharpened, concentrated intellect is useful, and even essential in material matters, but the revelation or intuition arises in its own time and one must wait for it.


On Books

Lectures and books are of little benefit and are useful only to point out the way to beginners. The real work is done in meditation. As the Tamil Saint, Tayumanavar, points out in a poem, a person who sits still and silently, can influence a whole country. The force of meditation is infinitely more powerful than speech or writing. One who sits in silence, meditating on the Self, will draw a whole crowd of people to him, without his going out to anyone.

Even books like the Bhagavad Gita, and Light on the Path, must be given up to find the Self by looking within. Even the Gita says, "Meditate on the Self." It does not say, "Meditate upon the book of the Gita. "

I asked Maharshi why his books are in poem and song. He said it was easier for people to learn and remember them in this form.



There is a unity really, but intellect creates differences. Even so, intellect is a power (faculty) of the Self, but the principle which lies behind the intellect cannot be known by the intellect.

Coming to India

I came to India with a huge fishing net. I flung it out into the murky waters of the bay of Bengal, over the subcontinent, over the Asian pacific region, over Europe and America...over this notion and this business proposal....anything to make my home in India, anything to create a self-reliant life that would allow me to explore the mystery that lay behind the maps and the officials and the incense... and I slowly but surely pulled it in, all the time chanting Henry David Thoreau's mantra:

"Simplify, simplify, simplify."



Looking down on it all from 30 000 feet

A few days ago I found myself in a bar called Chez Vous. Chez Vous is run by Belgian Korean adoptees in Itaewon - the international district of Seoul. It used to offer massages in the daytime and be a bar at night. Now it is a just a bar. I guess the owner got worried that the place might be seen in the wrong light. It did not help matters that the massage therapists kept disappearing and stealing the clients as they went.

I went by the place on Korea's big national thanksgiving holiday (Chuseok) and I got talking to a contemporary dancer from Minnesota. The dancer also happened to be a Korean adoptee whom had been raised overseas. I had planned to go that way to check out the Itaewon fesitval, but I discovered the festival was not happening. So I dropped by Chez Vous to say hi to Sebastian from Belgium and I ended up talking a few hours about the subject of identity with the dancer.

Chez Vous was closed that day and was holding a private party for friends; and all the friends happened to be adoptees....adoptees from France, Belgium and Canada and America. All seemed to be looking for some kind of other home in Korea. Korea pulled them there with its alluring mystery and dispenced many a frustration, as well as lots of unexpected questions and answers.

I spent my first 18 years on and off in England. I then moved to South America for a year. Then, it was to Los Angeles, which I called home for much of my twenties. Along the winding path, l have lived in Aberdeen, Scotland for a summer, and that was sandwiched between a spring and winter on a houseboat on the river Thames. More recently I have been living in Paris, the Czech Republic, Spain and Korea. Last year, I spent a month in India.

I am writing this from 30 000 feet - or whatever is the cruising altitude of a modern jet plane trying to make its way somewhere. I am en route to Singapore to visit a person I dreamed about lately....and then I will be travelling on to Chennai, India. Life is quite extraordinary. A wise teacher used to ask me if we ask our finger nails to grow. It was his way of pointing out that not all forces in life are immediately apparent...some sit under the surface, like buried treasure waiting to be discovered. I listen to dreams very carefully. This one had a special resonance. Hence my trip to Singapore.

I am leaving Korea after almost a year there. It is one of the most homogenous societies I have ever lived in and one of the most small-minded and racist. There are many rigid rules in Korea - rules born of an archaic Confucianism that seems to have a firm grip on the Korean mind. Slowly change is coming about.

A few years ago Korea was poor and the country worked damned hard to be where it is today. In general, I found Koreans cunning, (yet there were plenty of wonderful exceptions too). I do not know if they are more argumentative than other cultures. They eat almost everything with hot spices and they drink more alcohol per head than pretty much every other nation; maybe that explains the hot tempers.

Technologically, Korea is second to none really. The subway system is immaculate and the buses are on time and clean.

It is hard not to offend people when you speak in generalities. That does not mean that generalities do not have a certain value. Parisians have a reputation for being rude and arrogant to visitors...Some Indians seem to be quite wary of doing business transactions with other Indians often, whilst they are quite comfortable working with westerners. My friend joked that it was because they get to see themselves when working with another Indian. "It is like looking in the mirror" he said, "what is seen is not always pleasant." All of this may be worthy of bearing in mind...but it should also be remembered that humans are human beings and fear and love are universal possibilities.

We all have a dark side and nations are no different. I try to focus on the positive and look beyond the past and appearances. Even so, suffering fools gladly is not a recipe for happiness in a dysfunctional world.

I have never been comfortable with cliques and never impressed by any brand of nationalism...even Gandhi's brand of nationalism that made an honored place for the rest of the world...leaves me unsettled. Remember the childhood quarrel in the playground where young boys threaten each other with their fathers: "My father could easily take out your father." I have a healthy distaste for group mentalities, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant they might seem.

From soccer hooligans to royal families, the politics of specialness concerns me ...no matter how enticing specialness might seem, it always has an ugly flip side. It is isolating by nature and breeds prejudice.

Differences are not always easy to overlook though. I found eating with Koreans quite difficult. Koreans eat their food with their mouth wide open, which is a tough thing to get used to when you were raised to see such behavior as the height of bad manners. In the Far east, the idea is that by loud open-mouthed chomping you get more flavor from your food.

I remember a renowned teacher once commented that more often than not the greatest teacher comes from our own cultural background and on many levels it makes sense.

I do not mean the kind of "teacher" who challenges you to be more patient and more tolerant. Such a "teacher" can be a sloppy room-mate, an annoying co-worker or a trying family member or some cross-cultural challenges that circumstances force you to face . Such people and circumstances have their place in all our lives.

Here, however,I am speaking specifically of people who challenge us to come upon our essence...who point to new perspectives and share significant questions.

I remember at the age of seventeen I took a boat to Belfast with a friend of mine. I was embarking on a European tour. And in Belfast there was a brother I needed. I needed him because he had something I could come alive in the company of. He had an inquiring mind. It was a catalyst for my own.

Somehow my schooling had never really served up the kind of mind that I really resonated with. I spent much of my childhood alone in the woods collecting leaves and watching birds.

I played on the school hockey team, debated on the debating society, thrived in the science labs, mused in english classes and awkwardly made my way through the french classes. I felt very happy in the art room. My enthusiasm for melody was muted by the stale approach of the music teacher. I was very interested in the religious education we recieved and pondered often the insane history that it pointed to (everyone else just seemed intent on preying on the vulnerabilities of the tender Irish man who taught the class).

I dreamed of going places beyond the stuffy four walls and unfeeling assignments in geography. Math was symmetrical and aloof....but none of all this served me any synthesis. I needed some mystical glue to stick it all together.

My sister is an adoptee. She is half Nigerian. My name means "a gift"...because apparently my parents really tried to have a baby....but it looked impossible until they had fostered two little boys and adopted a little girl. And suddenly my mother was pregnant with me. And I guess, sometimes, when you have given up and the pressure is off, when you learn to relax and drop expectations...gifts happen.

I remember arriving in Belfast. Colin met me and my school friend at the quay where the ship came in. We stayed there a couple of days. He took us around Belfast and he made me realise how little I knew about where I was from. Belfast is full of stories of conflict and Colin knew them well. He knew about the troubles, about the way people spoke about things or did not speak about things. He knew about the way people wore their clothes and who wore what clothes and how they gestured and what it all meant. To hear him talk about this bruised microcosm of the world which he had tried to fathom...I felt like I had finally met a mind that reached for answers that traced important issues to their roots.

Few of us realise how much violence and pain lies knarled and twisted under the surface. Colin identified it in Belfast and in human nature as a whole. I battled with it myself in the trials I went through with my family and as I came of age in an angry world.

Colin was a psychology major. I had been turned down from Oxford University, where I had applied to study evolutionary biology with Richard Dawkins. I did not think it was fair and I did not know what to do. All the other universities - alll of them top notch ones, were offering me places - but I really was perplexed. I did not know. I did not know. I did not like the idea of settling for second best. I still don't. My father was not an easy person to live with at the time...he had a lot of demons to fight inside and it affected me powerfully. I wanted space.

I wanted to go to India. I wanted to go to Tibet. I wanted to go to Nepal. I wanted to know where we came from, where we were going, what was at the heart of life. Somehow distant kingdoms figured in the search before me. I could not explain precisely why.

Physics and chemistry, for all their genius had not the same intensity of allure as biology did. Biology means the study of life processes. I was never comfortable with labels. I had read a wonderful physicist who had turned his mind to biology. I warmed to his bright mind...he couId roam across boundaries others feared to cross. He was not limited by conventions and so his work was highly original.

In my own case, I recognized that I could breathe air, I could follow the whale...I could empathise with all of that....but the star that twinkled so far away and the atom that fused it all, seemed so out of reach...marvellous, yes.... yet they did not captivate me like a seabird or a fern.

I was a born poet. A poet who trusted science, but a poet who wanted answers, who roamed easily. Then I met Malia....I was 17 and she was 15. I got jolted by the power of a hormones and young love. Still, somehow I had to find myself. The space of a different continent, a different life, a different identity called out to me. I eagerly answered the call.

I remember once in the Pacific Ocean I was working on a Whale Research boat. I was barely 18 years old. My head was full of questions. And a young marine biology major with whom I was working turned to me and said, "Nathan, you ask too many questions. You would do better if you gave brain a rest." I lost something I had once thought to be quite precious at that point. I have never regained it.

I lost my feeling that science had all the answers. Perhaps, Vance (the student) was right on one level. My brain needed a rest. But he was dead wrong about the questions. We do not ask enough. Certainly not enough of the right questions.

It is interesting that Colin got married last year. He invited me to the wedding. I have lived such a far-flung and non-conventional life: far-flung from my origins and not traditional in any sense; and the guy who has been the closest to a brother to me invited me to his wedding and I could not make it.

I was still consumed by a journey to track down my identity. I think we all do it. Yet we do it with varying degrees of passion and with varying degrees of seriousness. Colin has been to India and trekked in Ladakh. When we were finishing our European tour he took the train to Budapest to try the blood red wine that Hungary is famous for and I went north and then further north. I travelled across Germany in a day. I traversed Sweden into Norway. I went as far as the train would take me, then I hitchhiked to Hammerfest.

I believe it is the most northerly city in the world. There is a statue of the polar explorer Amundsun in the town square. There were reindeer walking nonchalantly in the street. The Lapplanders (Sami people) in their bright blue and red attire were engaged in their daily lives. I was a stranger in a world that was as foriegn as the moon, and yet I felt at home. It was light almost all the time. It was the height of summer...

Somehow, I got back to Stockhom and took a plane to London Heathrow. I had ran out of money by then and had to hitchhike out of the terminal. I got several lifts...finallly ending up being delivered to my door by a very kind couple of London rogues who were going north.

I did not go to university. I did not go to India. I decided everyone went to India: everyone who wanted mystical answers from a journey. The East had that kind of draw on many westerners. I did not relish being typical and I was not sure whether I would get the best of what India could give me at such a young age....I thought South America would be more accessible and less overwhelming. I did not know what to dedicate myself to and so I put off university.

I knew that a good university education was fitting of my background and birth...but I saw no clear path ahead - everything interested me, nothing was off limits or out of the question. It seemed like the worst thing I could do was specialise. I needed a broad breadth of experience to satiate my appetite for life. I went out and found exactly that.

Yet, I could not see the wood for the trees. I could see the trees were complex...I could see the world was beset with problems - at least the part of the world that man participated in...and I wanted to find my place...but outside of an institution; at least for a while. Around that time my mother gave me a book by Lauree Lee..."As I walked out one midsummer morning." I took the hint....if it was a hint it was a subtle one...but I guess she could see what was coming and knew the poet in me would never stay in one place for long at that time.

I walked out one autumn morning...very, very early with a one-way ticket to the unknown. Malia had been my first girlfriend...it had been a giddy first love that could not hold me in a world so broad. I was romantic, but also adventurous. Those two things gave me a life that taught me many bitter-sweet lessons. I kissed her and that part of my life goodbye for good. I boarded the plane.

I resolved to roam and to try and find some clues. I wrote to the British museum and asked if I might be able to volunteer for any zoologists in Ecuador....I took a job teaching English in the Andes....and figured it might lead somewhere...anywhere that wasn't here - that was all that mattered then. By the time Colin was getting married almost ten years later....I myself had been married then divorced and still I had not found myself. However, I had picked up some insights along the way...from some very diverse - even disparate -relationships.

I have been a nomad for so long. I like it. Colin, in his own way has been one too. When he fell in love he shifted a little and was ready for a building a more stable life story. I supposed he embarked on a different adventure story. There is something spellbinding about coupling with another human being. If you don't get attached...love can enter. I would say that is quite rare though in this world.

We had crossed paths over the years - in America, in London, in my home town...and he was still a brother to me. I had no peer like him. And I missed his wedding. Yet, a series of events in my life had let the cat out of the bag in my quest for meaning. The cat was heading for India and I dutifully followed. Somehow, I knew if there was anyone who would understand, it was him.

I wrote to Coiln and apologised. I remember he had given me prayer beads from Nepal once. They were one of the most beautiful gifts anyone gave me. Like I said, I needed an inquiring mind. I also needed a heart. And Colin was that heart. A brother who I very rarely saw....but whom I clicked with. Someone who understood that strange drive in me that was not bothered about being identifed with a place or a job...but who saw the hypnotic allure of self-inquiry that quietly had me hooked.

I felt free around Colin - because I felt he knew what was driving me. He has a similar drive. I remember walking with him around the ruins of Pompeii once. I saw this goddess. She had dark wavy hair. A dream of a woman. Red cotton dress, dark eyes, warm gypsy olive skin, graceful flowing movements. God she was beautiful. Like an appariton. I think we both saw her. Maybe he was not as captivated as I. But he could empathize with the exotic spell that I was under....and it did not stop with women. It knew nothing of the landscape of an unquestioned life.

Colin showed me Belfast. He showed me the Orange day parade, the cruel ironies of the city, the tough streetwise ways of the people, the way people walked, the way they spoke, the way it all wieved itself into a distinctive tapestry of identity and, in a couple days with him, I felt like a man without a history. I felt no kinship with Liverpool or Cheshire. I could say very little about them by comparison...though I liked the Liverpudlian sense of humor.

I fitted into no community, no church, no belief system. I felt inspired by nature and troubled by history. I could never be English. I have touched down in England over the years for a few days....after forays in hot California deserts and after weathering a cold winter in Eastern Europe, and I see how my body is celtic. It is attuned perfectly with the green, green grass of England. It is part of the rain and the leaves and the rivers of blood that go back centuries. Yet, I am not English.

At the bar in Seoul, the Korean American dancer talked about dancing....about how difficult it is to dance with a partner. How you must let go and let boundaries dissolve. She talked about how identity is a question that has captivated her her whole life. Raised as an Amercian, but always something other at the same time. And now as I travel through the dark night, above and through the clouds....I am reflecting on who I am. An Englishman who is not quite English, who is something other.

I discovered the writings of Jiddu Krishnamurti when I was in my early twenties. He was not long dead. I heard him say "truth is a pathless land"...those words rose from the page and hit me between the eyes. He said that man lives in a nightmare world of images which he pastes together into identities... that the world is busy talking, talking, talking... but that very, very few actuallly communicate. I heard him say that identity was our downfall. And, like Colin, who once said to me on a glacier in Iceland. - "Nathan, you would hate the army, it is all about rules. Rules that have no meaning in your life." (I was musing about what army life might be like...)...what he said resonated and made sense.

Now I am going to India and I just read something Gandhi said - which I said to a customer in a bookshop I worked in in Paris a couple of years ago (I never knew Gandhi had said the same thing though back then). You see Gandhi was once asked: "What do you think of Western Civilisation?" and he replied "Well, I think it would be a good idea." In the bookshop, the question I was asked was a little different. Someone approached me, looking for a particular section in the shop: "I am looking for Western Civilisation." and I responded..."Me too. I have been looking all my life....but I have yet to find it."

What is it that seeks an identity? It seems to be something very significant - the search, I mean. It is a question that brought all those Korean adoptees to Korea, it is something that gave Colin such an amazing feeling for Belfast's history...something that takes me to India over my "brother's" wedding. It seems that the most passionate seekers of an identity...those that scratch beneath the surface of a clothing style or a shared musical taste....are propelled to go deep by a powerful, and sometimes subtle, underlying conflict.

Liverpool and the north-west of England might have produced the Beetles and been a gateway to the New World....but they were not the war zone that Belfast was. And I knew so little about the place that I had grown up in compared to Colin. Conflict drove him to question something that never even concerned me. He had a sense of place and a sense of history amongst people. I had a sense of place in the animal kingdom, in nature...but that was as far as it went. I never felt like I belonged to anything other than the estuary or the wood or the oceans that beckoned me in far away dreams of travel. The hockey team, the county, the country...none of those ever cut it for me. And as for family, I was always the lone black sheep, part of the flock, but a strange undecided representative, almost a species apart. The loved loner connected by art and affection...dislodged by common questions that I could not put down.

I think it took me a while to get really interested in people psychologically. I was fascinated by trees and mushrooms and wading birds and fox prints in the snow. I never saw the allure of the mind...until I arrived in Los Angeles at the age of nineteen fresh from the Amazon jungle. That urban jungle hooked me. I was ready for it by then. Not before. I began to see that on this long journey of life, understanding our thoughts and emotions is the key to understanding the causes of suffering. That insight drives me forward.

Yes, the flower is far brighter than any description or praise we can give it. I agree now with Walt Whitman, who once said...."You should not be to precise about the plants and the animals." (I am paraphrasing his words from memory). I have moved away from my need to catalogue the cosmos, as I set out to do as a young child. I have moved away from the need to be accepted....to find a linear path in a world that has little reason. I hear Krishnamurti when he says: "what does it say about you if you fit into this world....after all the world man has made is a rather sick world." I hear the inspired song that keeps me an outsider looking in....a traveller along the way, someone not easily lured by compromise.

I am not looking for acceptance. Is that what the Korean adoptees who come back to the land of their rivers of blood are seeking? Perhaps. I wonder if it is at all meaningful though. Democracy seems to sell us many illusions. Equality and acceptance are amongst them. Equality is the heart of the democratic ideal. Yet we seem to practice it very badly: surely because of the identities we create or because of those that the world around us projects on to us: we are victimiser and victim both. Do we ever ask what is it that wishes to be accepted?

I am not trying to create an identity for myself. My search is quite different. Michelagnelo was once asked how he created David. "I took away all that was not David." There seems to be wisdom in that line. Real creativity is about discarding what is false and refining what is undistilled and sublime. The only identity that ends our inner conflicts is the one based on honesty.

To be honest you have to have guts. You have to deal with you fear and uncertainty. You have to wander in a pathless land. You need to be actively questioning what freedom is; if freedom is. You need to be disciplined, but not governed by meaningless rules. You need to be open to love, and I suppose, if there is one thing I can say about love,...it is that it destroys all made-up identites, all transitory masks...and it leaves you face to face with the man in the mirror. Naked and without a community - at least a community that is capable of isolation from the whole.

My face has changed over the years. My diet too. My thoughts...my hairstyle, the things I am drawn too...even my accent has transformed itself over and over again. A friend commented - "when you get to India your voice will change." He is dead right. I will be a little more Indian in my speech. It is the chameleon in me. The colors change. Though the colors are surface details, not to be confused with the real issue.

It does seem that the exotic and the unknown are suitable mirrors for a man who is looking for something to stir his soul. I have an Indian friend that celebrates the Eest. He has studied in England and wants to go back to major in law. He likes that he can play cricket there, that the streets are relatively clean and that you are not overloaded with smells and beggars. He wants to live in England, not India. He hates India.

I, on the other hand question Western civilisation. I question India too...I take no sides. I marvel at the science of Copernicus, Gallileo and Newton. I take my hat off to that "western civilsation." I think Freud opened a door that needed to be opened....but I think he did it in a rather convoluted way. I think there is a great hidden story that Freud tuned into in part...a story which most of us hardly ever scratch the surface of. Unwillingness is a very large part of what we confuse ourselves to be. It need not be that way. Yoga (authentic yoga: the yoga that leads beyond the shadowlands of desire) seems to be alive to this. (Are you?)

Civilisation is all these things and the uneasy backbone of civilisation is religion. Religion means "to link back" in Latin. Similarly, yoga means to "link something" in Sanskrit.

Yet, I do not think the Bible does a very good job of linking what needs to be linked..in parts it does, but that does not mean we have the ears to hear it. I do not think Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam necessarily do a good job of it either. I do not feel comfortable with priests that bless battleships or with Popes that sit on pedestals. I think civilisation has been damned by hunger for power....and that hunger is often masked in the robes of piety and I think that is a great, great cause for concern.

I do not see the sense in politicians that talk of peace and who are all along preparing for war. I do not want to be a part of a tribe...because it seems tribes inevtiably clash and fight. My faith is in the individual and in unravelling the mind...My sights are set upon a level of awareness that sees clearly the impact of suffering and appreciates the causes of suffering.

My faith leads me out of the halls of science, out of the smoky dens of bohemia and the stuffy libraries of the intellect,.. away from the blind preachers and the rallies of the protesters and the podiums of the powerful. My faith has me rough-riding on the back of a meaningful question: - "what am I?", the wellspring of all other questions.

This question takes one out of the labarynth of thought. After all, a saint or wise person - the pinnacle of civilisation - does not make a movement or sell a cause or invent a slogan....they just ask "Who am I?" with sufficient humility to discern the sacredness of life. The individual who is alive to such a question is an individual whom you cannot employ or mold. His "me" is very small. He goes beyond identity and finds himself... at home in oneness, and a foriegner everywhere else. He is never apart from anyone, and never with the group.

To him nowhere feels like home: nowhere but the unchartered trail of his inner urgency. For, it is that urgency which brings our questions out of the frame of uncertain possibilities into the realm of sacred meaning; it is that urgency which guides us faithfully every inch of the unchartered way.

That urgency, when it is a living, breathing force gives us permission and bountiful reason to love the beautiful woman and the cruellest murderer. It allows us to feel without imposing judgmental limits. It leads out of the fearful prison of choices to a land where we are one amongst equals...even if those around us do not see the equality, but choose instead to draw swords and run from fear howling. When there is real urgency, the search for identity finally discovers an undiminishing source of sustenance and significance.

It seems that India has always had space for quiet piercing questions....no matter how crampt and corrupt it might appear on the surface, no matter how uncivilised the rest of the world might be. Having said this, I am most conscious of making idols. We all do it - whether it be the body or chairman Mao or Buddha or the age of enlightenment. We like to have things to coat in an aura of specialness. Inevitably though, disappointments follow when things do not match up to our ideals or expectations...cracks appear that become burdens which need to be looked at rather than hidden. There is always going to be disappointment in seeing anywhere as a promised land.

This world is not perfect. It is decidedly screwed up and a mishmash of chaos and order. Somehow, though, many look to dissolve the disorder and find harmony. Even those that don't attempt this, aspire to do so in their hearts. If we can be sober and keep on the track of the authentic and continuously be clear about our limits....I think we can discover the eternal laws in life that are meaningful.

Ultimately, where you are and what you are doing does not matter too much. What matters is whether what you think you are is attuned to what you actually are. Undoing the illusionary divide between our thoughts and reality is the challege of being human. It is the daily work of wisdom.

There is an invisible realm of sorrow. There is an invisible realm of joy. This, we all know instinctively. How many though, ask what it is that dies when the heart stops beating and the blood stops flowing into the brain stem?

Throughout the ages there have been witch-hunts. Man is a suspicious, frightened animal. He wants to control what is beyond his control. A few amongst us seek insight over ignorance, prefering to look dispassionately upon the demons in our humanity.

It is true there is evil in this world and others. Yet, there is no such thing as absolute evil. An exorcism frees an entity of a dark and malignant wound. The light of intelligence forgives the tragedy of our projections. Other forces wait in the wings for an unearthly silence to saturate our hearts...

There is a vital source that is not a part of dreams. Link with that, and the nightmare we sort to invent, vanishes into the emptiness from which it never came and all meaningless identities are lost in the wash.


"You were created by love. Love holds no grievances."

A Course in Miracles

It is said that man can move mountains...that peace is possible...I neither believe nor disbelieve. I only question. I don't settle for verbal answers nor for ideas. I am learning to respect the limits of the body and the mind.

I know that honesty is the same as courage, that self-reliance is indispensable, that happiness is unfathomable without virtue...Is there such a thing as remembering I am not the body nor the mind? Is that the blessing of awakening?

The Great Indian sage Ramana (M) on suffering:

Q: There are great people, public workers, who cannot solve the misery of the world.

M: They are ego-centered, hence the inability. If they remained in the Self, they would be different.

Q: Why did the Self manifest as this miserable world?

M: In order that you might seek It. Your eyes cannot see themselves, but put a mirror in front of them and then, and only then, do they see themselves. Similarly with creation. See yourself first and then see the whole world as the Self.









I have traveled so much in recent years without a firm base - always spending a year here or 6 months there....

Now I have a small, comfortable apartment in Chennai - I have built a jacuzzi in it to deal with the heat. It acts as a sort of commitment weather vane too - it cost a lot and it is my way of making sure I knuckle down and make the most of India and its great wisdom traditions...sort of an anchor, a symbol of warmth and the womb, a space to retire to and nurture myself and friends in the hot blooded pace of an Indian day (or night)....

God

If God Was One of Us Lyrics by Joan Osbourne


If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

And yeah yeah god is great yeah yeah god is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
He's trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if god was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to heaven all alone
Just trying to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

Time

“Time is different in America.”

I dreamt this line. Time IS different in America. You say 3pm – you mean 3pm. Here in India time has a different quality. A friend put it this way – “Here, we move from eternity to eternity…so time has far less value.”
Well, my view is that life is short and that time is a precious commodity not to be abused. It seems the Indian view of eternity sort of overrides that one! Both are clearly worthy sentiments – but not necessarily in sync with one another.


Countless times I am told something wil take 5 minutes here and 5 minutes can be anywhere from 5 minutes to never..



From Asha:

"About Indian punctuality, I am fully aware and fully agree with what you have written. But, I cannot change the society. So, at least I insist on punctuality and for me when I say 1.15 it is nothing but 1.15. Whenever and wherever I go, I always go a few minutes early and never have I gone late. So, not all people are imperfect...most of them are. I think in a country with over one billion population and such low literacy level this cannot be helped. But, the present day generation is getting better. These days, in most of the private sectors, MNCs and foriegn banks - 5 minutes means just 5. However, in most of the nationalised banks and any of the govt dept what you say is absolutely true. its more of a chain reaction, i guess.

let me tell u an incident in an office that i worked some years back. the office starts at 9. I was the secretary there. My boss would be there by quarter to 9. One day I reached office by 9.05 and went into his room by 9.07 and he remarked " you re late by 7 minutes". the next day I went by 8.47 and he said " 13 minutes to 9. you cannot barge into my room before 9". i was shocked. Puncuality is understandable but this was a little crazy, I thought. i did not work there for long. why i am telling you this is, there are some exceptions also. he never used to see or meet anyone who did not come on time and outside his room hung a saying 'BEING PUNCTUAL IS THE FIRST SIGN OF PERFECTIONISM'.....anyways..."

Birth

Marriage Chapter

Nathan Curry wrote:
Having lived now for a while in Asia - I am not too impressed with the
marital process - particularly in places like India and Pakistan....

Have your family gone out and found suitable husbands for you?

Do you get to choose? And if so what sort of choices are acceptable to your
family?

Is this what you mean by me being very lucky and free -whereas you do not
feel that way at all....


From Sarah Hasan:

I guess everything is everywhere, all I can say is that in majority cases it(marriage tradition) wont change that is how it was 100's of yours ago.....and will stay for 100's more...for many people.
Discussing 1% or even less is a waste of time.
Marriage in it self, very rarely has its roots in love...how many Romeo and Juliet and in the subcontinent Laila and Majnu cases do u know of??

I GUESS THAT YOU WILL BE IN INDIA FOR A LONG TIME SO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH,
> >THIS PROCESS (of marriage) WILL STAY THERE FOREVER.......IMPRESSED OR NOT
> >IMPRESSED MEANS NOTHING TO THOSE WHO ARE PART OF THAT CULTURE.

Response:

- I found your response about marriage in the subcontinent cultures
very fatalistic. I know of people who have broken out of the shackles of the
awful system as it is (generally it seems to be a very controlling and
business like advantage - which has clear advantages - but also woeful
conseqeunces) and made a life that somehow pleased them and their family.
But sadly that is limited to people whose parents are 1. dead or 2. very
open minded and liberal.

Introduction

During my early days in India a woman commented to me that to get to know a country the best way was to read the account of an outsider....