Category Archives: India

Contributing to the Community

I saw a doco about a man who paints on walls.. he painted in Vanuatu and there he contributed to the community. He painted a wall in a very obscure place – far from the tourist walks. He paints big walls in big cities, but this small contribution warmed his heart and here he understood the value of small.

I know a lady her name is Barb – she lives in South Freo.. she is the Queen of her street and she contributes to her community. She welcomes all the newcomers and corrects the spelling on the street signs. She makes a difference.

Sometimes we think we have to do great things – but in fact it is the ‘small things’ that add up to all the community faces joined together in a kaleidoscope of connection.
The street gardens, the soup kitchens, the one who simply refuses the plastic bag and so awakens the check out person to the possibility of a sustainable land. Making a difference.

People say to me.. ‘Oh you are so amazing.. you give up so much to go to India to do your work there.’ And me.. I shrug my shoulders and I am grateful that I am recognised for what I do.. for if I was not .. I would be not telling the truth.. but I know that what I do is no more than what you also do in your own way as you walk in beauty in this world.

For this is what the game is.. what the aim is ..
what the purpose is..
simply to walk in beauty as we do our daily life.

So India.. what is that about for me?
How can I tell you the joys it brings, the difficulty it is to be there sometimes, the special moments – the smile of the old lady where I buy my evening banana – the stares of those who wonder what on earth this old lady is doing in their land.

I often ask myself:  “What am I doing here?”
And the answer is that here is my heart. A split heart I have. One heart – part of it… is embedded deep in my family and my lover and my friends in Fremantle Australia.. but the other part .. somehow an older part – is in India.

I board the plane – leaving from Perth – stop over usually in Kuala Lumpur.. not there yet.. but when the next flight comes – and we are heading to Bangalore – at least half of the passengers are Indian.. and suddenly I am feeling almost home. Home to this place where I don’t even speak the language.. home to this place where I need to change my dress entirely to fit – home to this place – this place of simplicity and complexity and a culture far from my own.

Touch down.. I am back – the smells wash over me, the sound, the chaos, and the knowing that I am home. I haggle with the taxi driver, and I get ripped off anyway because that is par for the course on your first night in India. Ah the over night hotel… fortunately I know this one and it is reasonably clean.. I sleep – I wake to Indian breakfast – spicy dosa and milky tea. And the journey begins.

I will spend the day with my friend in Bangalore -she will feed me delicious food, thinking as she does I must be half starved after being away from proper Indian food for so long.. and tonight board the overnight bus to Hubli.. my place of choice. A dusty and noisy three tier town as they call it.. meaning simply .. ‘not too developed!’ Here are the ‘boys’ I work with .. a very male oriented office.. the NGO .. not for profit – working with farmers .. helping them harvest rainwater to ensure they can remain on their land for another season provided there is some monsoonal rains this year.

It is uncertain times – those who talk of global warming being a myth do not live in rural India. There is no question of it here. Where changing weather patterns are bringing disaster to families – to whole villages left without any water to drink in the long hot dry season. Creating a migration equivalent to those of war torn lands.. a migration to the city in search of elusive jobs.

But that is another story – and yes it is the story I follow with my work – but the day to day of my life in Hubli is that of connection with the young men who are dedicated to this work. The work of the water.

We joke, we laugh, we chatter and we drink chai and in between we write budgets and discuss heatedly how things should or could be done. I try to step back out of my bossy western ways and listen and fit my thoughts together with those of the Indian way.

Sometimes it works, sometimes I help, sometimes the western way tempered with some patience – adds some value and sometimes I have to step right back and re- look at the way I am .. at my impatience and sense of ego! For sometimes that is really what it is.. “I am the one who is working here.. I am the one who can focus and get things done.. you lot simply mess around and don’t really know what you are doing .. and read the paper and talk endlessly on the phone.. but I am the one who is working” … ha ha ha ha…

Yes Shazar .. and they are the ones who started all this.. who know because they are the ones who lived in the village .. who understand what it is to have no water.. who know how it is to be unable to send their children to school for lack of the money for a notebook and pencil. They are the ones who understand the value of community ..
not you..

You who come from the land of more is better – the land where often people will walk past you on the street with their noses down – not a glance for the ‘stranger’. And so once again I step back into my ‘box’ breathe – and thank the forces who have brought me to this land again – for I have been here many lives – but this life it is the time to learn again what is humility – what is gratitude, what is giving, what is true generosity, for this is what India has to share with me.

And finally to understand the value of the small things that are scattered throughout the day stitching this life together to make a difference.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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