Category Archives: India

The Universe is a Friendly Place

Yes I hear you say.. not always.. and you would be right.  But tonight as I came home to my room in Hubli, this was really true for me.  I had been for my first acupuncture treatment – since my last series back in October.

Dr Anand Varma.. what a gem he is.. I wrote of him before .. when I just found him.. and I am back now after such a great result with my knees.. this time I am offering him my cranky neck to have a go at!!  He can stick all the acupuncture needles he likes into me.. I fully trust his long experience and his steady hands.

Today I walked into the clinic and each and every one of the staff welcomed me with big smiles and open hearts.  I felt like a special guest.. I think everyone who goes there gets the special guest treatment ..

I sat down next to a young girl who seems to have cerebral palsy..there with her mother – she is about 12 years old – can’t walk very well but her smile breaks open the heart.  She is in my group.. that is the ones who are scheduled for the 6pm session.  Then after some time on the hard waiting room bench, we were called upstairs.  She and I shared the same cubicle.  The over head fan was on .. as I climbed up onto the high bench and settled in.. waiting for the needles.  Hari Krishna Hari Rama played – over and over the mesmerising chant.. and I was transported.

Finally Dr Varma arrived – replete with new smart phone and all my details and my charts on it to be consulted there and then.  He proudly told me his son advised him on the best way to get set up .. and its working very well.  I joked.. ha I can’t lie to you any more.. its all there at your fingertips.

And so the needles went in.. Hari Krishna continued to play – and I lay back and relaxed.

Half and hour later the nurse came and freed me and my new friend, the young girl on the bench next to me.  I floated out.  And wandered up the laneway in the gathering dusk to find myself an ‘auto’ (rickshaw) – there he was .. and as I started to tell the driver where I wanted to go he cut me off laughing and with a stream of Kannada that I only guessed at – I realised he was the same man who brought me on Friday for my first appointment.

I relaxed in the back of the auto.. feeling safe, feeling cared for, feeling blessed.  This Universe I am in right now .. feels like such a friendly place.  I am incredibly lucky. And I know so many are not .. but for now I simply feel very grateful that I am surrounded by friendly people – I am cared for and I am loved.

 

The Way It Is

I’m not going to say ‘only in India’.. but sometimes that phrase does feel appropriate and today.. well – I had interesting experiences at the carpentry shop!

We are in a big town called Nizamabad – staying at a lodge right in the middle of the market area.  The Deshpande Foundation conference is happening day after tomorrow .. and we have come for that.  I am happy – we have found a lodge which is not only cheap but also clean.  Joy.

So today after lunch downstairs – which got invaded by 12 Indian Ladies having a ‘kitty party’ and making an incredible racket while playing some sort of bingo type numbers game – we headed off through the street markets.  We were on our way to  supervise the building of a wooden model of the bore well recharge process.

The carpenter shop was a small structure filled up with bits of wood, and rough sawdusty chunks of shavings.  Out the front partially on the street lay the beginning of our ‘model’.

I asked Sikandar – ‘Do you have a drawing’ – he looked at me and grinned and said “Yes” but I immediatley knew the drawing was in his head!  He said pointing to the young man who was busy chiselling out a chunk from a board – “I transferred it to his head”.   And so he had.. and the model continued to grow.

I was given a chair and perched there between the shop and the fairly potent drain – played on my phone and watched proceedings.  The ubiquitous chai came – delivered by a small man who when I smiled and thanked him, broke open into a beautiful reply smile.

I caught that one in my head.. not on my camera!

But now its getting too hot.. the sun is sinking and the rays are full into the shop now – so .. the head guy picks up two of the hand made chairs – carts them across the road to a space – plonks them down and invites me and Sikandar to sit there.. across the street in the shade.

The perfect spot to view proceedings.  We sit there watching the passing parade who by the way are also watching us.  The weird foreign lady and her companion – sitting as though in their living room by the side of the busy road.

And the model grew and a couple of hours later it was declared complete and  a success.  Drawings or no drawings – it turned out the way it was planned.  Sikandar and I headed off to find me a new pair of sandals… another story.. for another day.

 

Miracles in Pathoda Village

Pathoda Village in Maharasthra India – has experienced miracles.

And while there yesterday I was privileged to witness three of them.

The first and most astounding happens nightly in a small corrugated iron house in this remote village. Here there is an altar dedicated to the late Satya Sai Baba where there are several big photographs of the holy man. When one of Sai Baba’s photographs suddenly began to produce copious amounts of vibhuti (holy ash) each night, the humble home was dedicated to the Master – and the family moved to another small place nearby. From that time, the small house, little more than a shed – became a shrine to Sai Baba and regular Bhajans (sacred singing) are held there.

Yesterday as we visited on our Road Trip for Water I saw for myself the clear evidence of the vibhuti almost covering the photograph of Sai Baba. There was plenty of it in a bowl as well, placed in front of the photo, freely available to any who wished to connect with it. During the lifetime of Satya Sai Baba this grey powdery holy ash used to fall from his hands.

This was the first miracle.

img_0977-small
Drinking Tea at the Sai Baba Miracle House

The second involves water.

Two years ago – Sankalpa Rural Development Society did some work with recharging the dried up bore wells in the village. This work was funded by the Satya Sai Baba Trust, so also carried the blessing of Sai Baba. Sikandar Meeranayak of SRDS carried out the implementation of his technology together with some labourers and villagers.

p1000023-small
The second bore well sprang to life

They worked on an almost dry bore well within the compound of the local Hindu Mandir (temple) and directed the rooftop rainwater run off through piping to channel it into an existing bore well. The village area has little rain, but what did come went directly into the aquifer below the ground through the bore well recharge. Until that time, the villagers relied on erratic water supply and expensive tanker water during the dry hot summer months.
There are 7000 people in this village – and today 1000 of those people are supplied by this now fully flowing bore well and here is the miracle.. just outside the fence – a second totally dried up bore well suddenly sprang to life – recharged by the very same system from the first bore well.

p1000031-small
Village kids checking the fish in the holding pond

Another nearby bore well was also implemented with a recharge system – but until now the people have had no need to use that water – even though it brims close to the top as there is plenty from the first two which are producing well.

Close by, just outside the village of Bharangou a third bore well next to a small river was also recharged. This was done with the help of a check dam on the stream and is a briliant success giving heaps of water and the recharge has even affected the three nearby bore wells which began to produce much more water than before.

A miracle?  I certainly thought so!

img_0975-small
The miracle baby calf.

And now for the third miracle.

This pure white calf just born appeared as a miracle to me – so sweet – so quiet, so clean. Is it not true that all babies born are miracles in their own right?

Pathoda – the village of miracles!

Evolution – or re-volution cometh – as it must…

I am taking the liberty of offering these words of wisdom from a friend and exceptionally well informed and thoughtful person Vishwanath Srikantaiah.  His writing and photography documenting the situation with the water crisis here in India is profound – please read and comment if you wish.  The facebook link to his photographs which accompany the  original post is here.

farmer-house


He said:

A way of life ends. It does so sometimes subtly, sometimes brutally . Rural India as I see it is in profound crisis. There is great hunger even now. Land reforms never really took off and much of the people are therefore landless labourers and small farmers. Especially in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh , Madhya pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and West Bengal. There is no living to be made in small farming and none whatsoever for landless labourers. NREGA (Government scheme for employing labour in the rural sector) was a salve and just that. The only escape route is the city , de-humanising, brutal and insensitive but all the young men have left , the young women will follow and the children too. Brazil went from 30 – 70 urban rural mix to 80-20 in about 30 years.

China is following perhaps not at the same pace and India too will follow. The industrialization-urbanization-make in India model , the 7.50 % GDP model.
Profound inequity, wealth in the hands of a few, ecological degradation , scarce resources and even scarcer opportunities , great swathes of people are moving – out of Syria, Libya , Yemen , Iraq, Afghanistan to avoid war brought about by either water as a resource running out or too much oil.

In India , the movement is relatively peaceful yet not as brutal. 40 million or thereabouts displaced by dams, mining and so it goes. Then the great dependence on groundwater. 33 million bore-wells pumping out 250 cu.km. of groundwater , reaching depths of 2000 feet . When groundwater runs out , farming is simply impossible. Now the fight over river waters …inexorable the lure of the city and the desperation of the village.
Here are people, technologies and water struggling to remain relevant . In a span of 24 years liberalization of the economy has done what 5000 years of history had not done. The changes are profound and searing . We must get our cities to become more welcoming to the people who will arrive mostly in distress , mostly without a safety net , mostly working in the informal sector, mostly occupying slums .

There are 3 people whose idea of India is under test Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. Gandhiji is losing . It is an Ambedkar victory through and through. (http://www.allresearchjournal.com/archives/2016/vol2issue6/PartF/2-6-32-147.pdf )

Nostalgia is not what it used to be.


When I read his post I cried.

Is that helpful? No – I do not believe so.. but emotion is a real response and frankly unless at some point we feel the situation deeply enough to elicit tears, we are unlikely to act.  As Spiritual Teacher Andrew Harvey has said – out of heartbreak is born: “Sacred Activism – the fusion of the deepest mystical knowledge, peace, strength, and stamina with calm focused and radical action”.

My personal sacred activism takes the form of Service to Mother Earth and in particular that of bringing water.  This work has arisen from heartbreak as I looked around me with clear eyes and began to see what is really happening on our beautiful planet.

The heartbreaks do not stop – they come in waves – and will continue to do so until such time as we wake up and together initiate profound change in the way we treat our world and our neighbours and those who are members of this vast sea of humanity – all who are our brothers and sisters.

There are times when I feel the desperation of how may it ever be possible to stem the tide of the take-over by the corporations and the greedy and the manipulation of our lives at all levels – and I ask that painful question: “Why am I bothering to do what I do? What is the point of these infinitesimal actions against the power and the strength of those who would swallow our freedoms?” –  but deep inside me I know that each small action can initiate a ripple that spreads we know not where.  So I keep on throwing the pebble into the proverbial pond and trust that what I have been asked to do has meaning beyond all that I see.

So too I ask of you – take heart – know that you are only asked to do what is possible – never more – and know also that when you are on purpose and are clear in your actions, your work has meaning and power far beyond that which you see.  Don’t stop, don’t give up – hold the hand of your friends seen and unseen and move forward in gratitude and trust.

Our planet may choose for us – but change will come – the pendulum must swing – the laws of the Universe (and physics) will not allow this state of imbalance and destruction for very much longer.  Stay awake – for the change is close at hand.

Another world is not only possible. She is on her way.  On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.
– Arundhati Roy

P1480211-small

The Gift of Fear

It is said “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

How many times in my life have I had to do that?

It never stops – it doesn’t change, confidence is not a birthright, or something you put on and leave on – it is to be stepped into each time a challenge arises.

The gut butterflies, the unknown possibilities of failure are always there – This morning I want to go to the ISKON temple – but my nervousness is holding me back. The thought of getting on the bus here in Hubli India – and all that entails.

“Will I have the right money on the bus, can I understand the ticket guy when he asks me something? Will I miss the stop? When I get there will there be somewhere for me to sit comfortably?  Will I remember the name of the college stop when I get the bus back?”

I could laugh so loud at myself for these incredibly ridiculous fears that loom so large, but they almost bring tears to my eyes.

How many times in my life, as long as it has already been, have I stopped myself from doing something I set out to do because the butterflies turned into vultures in my stomach?

And how many times have I leapt past the beating of their wings and found the exultation of action?  Such small things sometimes with such profound results.

We may consider that great acts of courage are what builds our character – but what of the small acts – no less significant?  The daily step upon the path which takes us out of our comfort zone and past even the minute but looming mountain in our way – these too build and strengthen us on a daily basis.

Do they become less, do the challenges reduce in size, does the experience of moving beyond change the landscape?  I don’t think so.

But the spirit inside of me knows – “I can do it.”

Once I climbed a rope ladder up the side of a ship in Antarctica.  If I could do that when everything in my being was screaming at me that it was impossible – then today I can step beyond this fear of boarding the local bus in India and being able to arrive safely at my destination.

the bus

So today I tell myself again – feel the fear but do it anyway – the butterflies are my friend – there simply to remind me to tread lightly – to be aware, to know I am in a strange land and it is no time to be on ‘automatic’.

That’s the gift of the fear – it is the gift of staying awake – being present – being in the here and now.  Whether it is climbing a rock face, or boarding a bus to an unknown destination – or bringing your most cherished project to the boss for approval, its all the same thing.

The key is ‘presence’ – being present – given by the gift of fear.