Archive for the ‘India’ Category

THE BRITISH RAJ IN INDIA: Symptoms of Colonialism, Yesterday and Today?

Monday, May 11th, 2009

In the wonderful The Story of India from PBS/BBC, a Dr M Mukherjee talks about the shift of British colonialism in the 1850s, after the largest uprising in colonial history [the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857]. The Mughals [Islamic rulers for 350 years of often brutal, sometimes enlightened control—as far as control goes] are out, even the East India Company is out. Around the world, Africa in particular, the European powers are divvying up spoils to support the industrial revolution and Britain’s government has moved India from an indirectly ruled colony to direct rule.

But listen to this language, as Mukharjee explains one of the symptoms of a more pervasive colonial rule, and ask yourself if it doesn’t feel a little like modern times in terms of all-pervasive surveillance. Heck, what I am writing now is saved somewhere, and who knows, possibly monitored–or it would be if it was half interesting or subversive.

Anyway, from Mukharjee:

“From a relatively benign, what we call Orientalist, phase of colonialism, this is now [after 1857] an arrogant Britain, the first country of the Industrial Revolution ruling the world.

And then from the 1850s, the competition worldwide for colonies. Other countries are coming up and competing for colonies.

So therefore there is a great need to have a very systematic ordering of people’s lives, information, and everything related to them.”

I am sure even the British would be jaw-droppingly shocked by the inconceivable amount of “systematic ordering” and “information” of people’s lives that is gathered today by machine, leaving the door-to-door census in the dustbin of history.

So much of what we do, even in our own home now with the computer, is, in a sense, monitored or recorded somewhere. And we don’t seem to care too much. Should we?

In Canada, it’s illegal, or certainly fine-able, for example, to be pulled over in a car and not carrying ID, one’s license foremost. I’m not sure if that matters at all, but to reflect upon it is curious.

One could wonder if the average citizen is being colonized and doesn’t even know it. All I can say is that this “systematic ordering of people’s lives” may just be a fantastic reason to go for a walk in nature instead of the ten thousand other things that are tracked, from phone calls to computer to buying a latte on Visa.

Here’s to freedom and self-governance, on the micro and macro level,

Pete xo

AN ORGANIC FARM IN INDIA: Bio-Fuel, Solar Power, Vegetarian, Cow Dung…

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

What more could you ask for? That must be a pretty sweet vibration, overall, huh? Here’s a little video from a visit we were privileged to have just outside of Mysore. I didn’t know a dung thing about bio-fuel. In fact, my knowledge was in a slurry state.

I left out the fact that they also used cow urine as a natural fertilizer. Here’s to the stupendous, incredible, bountiful Mother Earth.

And may we learn to walk a little softer, and think of the whole thing as family, and I do not mean that at all sentimentally. Sister, brother, somehow, we are on this walk together…

Lots of love to you,

Pete xoxo

REMOVING CORRUPTION IN INDIA: Manipal, Medicine and the MCI

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

For those who are wondering or have written to ask me what happened to the video interview with the president of highly regarded Manipal University, Dr. Ramdas Pai, about corruption, I have taken the piece down.

Why?

I’m not positive I should explain this, but something inside—something to do with integrity—tells me it’s the right thing to do. It’s done in the vital spirit of transparency, which I would imagine, is sought by all who are truly against corruption.

First off, why the interview in the first place?

Well, even though the the inspiration for my advocacy work is more often on behalf of, say, the poor, the marginalized or the truly disenfranchised, I greatly enjoyed Dr. Pai’s candor, and it seemed to me that on some very real level, corruption is corruption—and corruption in the medical system surely bleeds all the way down (if the poor receive any medical treatment at all—witness some 50 million people in the US, let alone India).

The interview itself and the unpaid yet not insignificant work it took to put the five minute piece together was undertaken with the goal of making as many people as possible aware of the alleged corruption that was taking place, and also to bring attention to a person willing to courageously speak out, to take a decisive stand.

Since that time (January 2009), the journey towards full re-recognition of Kasturba Medical College (KMC) Manipal by the Medical Council of India and the Health Ministry via the Indian justice system has supposedly made progress, and Dr. Pai kindly wrote and asked me if, temporarily, I would be willing to take the piece down.

Being that the case is currently sub-judice, the legal team of Dr. Pai thought it could at this time hamper positive inroads being made in a difficult situation, possibly delaying or even jeopardizing the status of the school and medical students threatened by the huge problem of de-recognition. This seemed to me not impossible, and counter to my hopes with the piece. Dr. Pai also thought that with the general elections in full swing, it could encourage vindictive political infighting—which I think almost everybody, everywhere, wishes to avoid.

Like change itself isn’t hard enough with a coalition of 27 political parties and a legal backlog of some 27 million cases!

Thus, knowing my original goal upon interviewing Dr. Pai was to speak out against corruption, not just for my own pride but for the sake of others—I agreed to take the video down.

I also put myself in Dr. Pai’s shoes for a moment (as best I could!), and realized how I would appreciate such a request being fulfilled, were I to ask it—and would hate to be punished for candor.

All that said, my hope is that this particular battle against so-called corruption, if judiciously successful, will not only serve KMC Manipal and its students, but will be in line with the original dreams of the founder of Manipal Education, T.M.A Pai himself.

From Poornima Mohandas’ article called The Pais of Manipal—from village to overseas education:

After graduating, [T.M.A Pai] was set on migrating to Hong Kong to make money but his mother held him back, urging him to serve his people. Thus was born T.M.A. Pai’s vision to eradicate poverty by providing education and health care…

Said differently, may a judicial victory against corruption here be not only for the benefit of one wealthy institution, but used to truly and more deeply help all people, in particularly India’s massive poor, to receive just treatment, both medically and in life.

Mohandas adds:

…what of the original [TMA Pai] vision—to use education to uplift the poor? Every year, the group spends Rs5 crore on scholarships, for the top 5% in every class.

But Ranjan Pai says he has plans to up this to 30-40%—if only to honour his grandfather’s wish.

May a victory against corruption make this truly so. It’s a challenging world. We’ll see if this happens…

Lots of love and integrity, and hope, and greater transparency everywhere it’s needed for deeper justice,

Pete

PS Supposedly Dr T.M.A. Pai was actually cited in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the individual person who has established the most educational institutions, period. Wow. I’m still at zero.

INDIA: Inequalities In The World’s Largest Democracy

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

“India is that place where the common man is perpetually looking for justice. There is no justice here, no justice at all.”
—A cab driver in Hyderabad

India is about to have an election that involves 714 million voters. Isn’t that unbelievable? But all is not celebration. This is a short and interesting op/ed sent to me by my friend Sue, and written by Professor Ananya Mukherjee Reed, York University, Toronto.

An excerpt:

Underneath this fractured polity, lies of course, a deeply exclusionary and unequal material reality. Some 200 million are chronically hungry, more than 90 percent of the workforce have no option but informal work with abysmal wages and no security; 80 percent live under $2 a day; 70 percent depend on agriculture for their livelihood; 182,936 farmers have committed suicide; and so on.

And further:

The wealth of 40 richest Indians have come to equal about 30 percent of its trillion-dollar GDP. Of the 47 Indian companies that have made it to the Forbes List of the Global 2000 this year, the sales of each of the top two equal the GDP of India’s poorest 12 states taken together. In a list of the top 50 economic entities in India—comprising of Indian states and Indian corporations—28 are corporations. Reliance Industries, the corporation that tops the list, has an annual revenue that exceeds the gross domestic product of Kerala by about $2-billion.

All of which makes the statement in the following piece about how something like half of India’s top 1,500 corporations don’t pay any tax at all, all the more ludicrous.

And life goes on, and on, and on—sometimes inconceivably beautifully…

Speaking of Kerala, the men pulling in the nets, among other scenes, are from Kerala. Never forget good fortune, that somehow, as one yogi said, ‘all moments are auspicious’, and try to speak out against injustice, especially where you can make change.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

EVER-BLESSED IN INDIA: No slumdogs, no millionaires, just countless beautiful people

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I just posted a little video for a song called Wide Open—a video filmed on the Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver.

This video, for a song called Ever-blessed, is from footage I took while in South India in December of ’08 into January ’09. India is so much more than slumdogs and millionaires, my god. Not a good person was to be found in that Academy-Award winning film, save the resilient heroes. In my experience in India, we only found good, interesting, beautiful, colourful, hospitable, devoted, generous people—everywhere.

I don’t mean the opposite sort of people don’t exist there—of course they do—but you get my point.

We almost only found people who, regardless of their religion, got along—indeed, took pride in getting along. That is the deeper essence of Hinduism—that we are eternal, and where we have to be, and individual souls (atmas) on a journey. Therefore do not proselytize unless asked.

We met beautiful, emotional, resilient people who stand everyday in the wild, paradoxical madness and beauty of a timeless country, and live with great dignity against sometimes serious odds.

In Alleppey (in Kerala), for example, the rice farmers are right up against rising backwaters on the edge of the man-made banks—probably worsened by global warming. Their livelihood is threatened after thousands of years of cultivation. In many places mere inches of safety keep their houses from being washed away. Yet they carry on with unstoppable belief.

People—sisters and brothers, all atmas—were so open to my beloved and me. So much beauty: the people, the temperature, the urgency to support oneself, the resilience against the modern world and history, the colour, the pure veg food, the endless conversation with the divine (subtle, pleading, devotional, silent), the traditional music, sitars or flutes against a tabla back-drop. Transportive.

And the trip was deeply enriched by my affection for the Vedas, and Hindu metaphysics, and so much teaching from many sources, but in particular from six or seven years of yoga philosophy classes and kirtans with Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi).

Jeffrey, who lectures on the subject all over the world (he’s off to Holland tomorrow), is utterly addicted to the Vedas and a remarkable, unstoppable teacher and mentor. How much fun was it bringing that knowledge into conversation, meditation, and into temples?

In India, after meeting a man named Anantu who ran an organic farm, and was reading a book called The Quantum Enigma, which is the butting up of physics against consciousness, a famous line from quantum theory came to me, and with a few changes, seemed to sum up India:

“Anyone who thinks they understand India, doesn’t understand India.”

That resonates for human nature, and the human journey, too. What a ride. And what a beautiful time we had in south India.

I’ll write more about the trip and the shots in the video later, but for now, here’s a link to the video. I hope you like it.

Lots of love to you,

Pete xoxo

THE INVASION, brought to you by OMISSION, and PEPSI, and so on

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I wrote this awhile ago, but forgot to post it.

THE COMPLETELY FREE PRESS (ie no press at all)

Remember a few years back when journalists were not allowed to venture outside of the protected Green Zone in Baghdad to report on the massacres in Iraq?

Recently [well, a couple of months ago now], the Israeli Defense Forces were not allowing journalists into Gaza, to report on the massacres there.

Months before that, I believe Robert Mugabe wouldn’t let the press into Zimbabwe during the crackdown. Interesting company.

That damn television footage of carnage in Vietnam, paraded across the average American’s dinner time, inciting revolt, changed everything.

I read recently in an article on Gaza this line from legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. It felt important:

“If [a journalist] can do nothing positive, to make the world more livable or less cruel or stupid, he can at least record truly, and that is something no one else will do, and it’s a job that must be done. It is the only revenge that all the bastardized people will ever get: that somebody writes down clearly what happened to them.”

SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL

People with the money or the power can put so much resources into PR, and PR is so undeniably powerful in shaping opinion and manipulating what we buy, both physically and emotionally—including the news.

On one level, it’s curious that in a ‘free market’ we’re allowed to market at all using props outside the product’s inherent use. In other words, using, say, the sexy woman who comes with the Ford Pinto (okay, not the Ford Pinto) or the happy clown who comes with the fast food meal from hell, when clearly (yet not subconsciously clearly, clearly) these props have zero relationship to the products they support.

How strange it is that any war-like group, be it the IDF or the Hamas militarist, or the American military in Iraq, or whoever, can ever be allowed to not let the press into an area, when the press, or a section of the press, would be willing to enter said area.

You’d think that upon hearing this restriction on reporting, and knowing civilians like ourselves are likely being massacred, countries with a so-called ‘free press’ would non-violently rise up in protest—particularly with the massacres our taxes pay for.

In itself, isn’t the forbidding of reporting not a sort of false advertising? A means of spin by omission? Because while that censorship happens, the press continues to report something.

FULL MARX ON THE SEPOY REBELLION

As a note on trivia, or perhaps a trivial note, in 1857 in India, there was what was called the Sepoy Rebellion (the Great Rebellion)—the uprising of Hindu and Muslim soldiers against the British invaders. The British counter-attacked with such total force that, supposedly, Delhi, a city of I think one hundred thousand people at the time, was cleared completely. It was Karl Marx of all folks who, in the New York Daily News, lambasted the British press for a dearth of coverage of British atrocities.

And to punish the British further, Marx wrote Das Kapital, which would-be Marxists actually had to try to slog through, just to be au courant and sexy to free-thinking women at the turn of the century.

Picked up an old dusty copy once. Couldn’t read a page. But I do wonder what ol’ Karl would say about the bail-out today?

Keep lovin’,

Pete

KEEPING YOGA ETERNAL AND UNIVERSAL

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I can’t express how much I agree with the following article called Yoga piracy: India shows who’s the guru:

India is going all out to save yoga—a 2,000-year-old art of righteous living, from western pirates.

Instances of self-styled yoga gurus claiming copyrights to ancient ‘asanas’, especially from the West, is now becoming rampant.

This has made 200 scientists and researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry’s department of Ayush join hands to put on record all known yoga postures and techniques that originated in India.

You would have thought centuries of colonization would have been enough filling of the coffers. Maybe the West is subconsciously bitter they didn’t bludgeon to death the indigenous culture of India altogether—alas, not by a long shot.

You’ll recall that after America invaded Vietnam, the result being 3.4 million deaths in Indochina according to Robert McNamara, and the war finally came to an end, America shortly thereafter imposed a decades-long embargo on that country—evidently for defending themselves.

Similarly, for democratically electing the ‘wrong’ government in Palestine, civilians have been murdered en masse, brutalized ad nauseum, and collectively punished ad infinitum. And this is not an apologetic for their own extremist, and extremely mad leaders.

Just a little solidarity for my sisters and brothers.

But back to beautiful yoga (and more of my sisters and brothers), it must be doubly annoying to Indians and real yogis everywhere when they see Indian ex-pats also copyrighting ‘yoga’ (ie Bikram etc).

Call me Yogi Barely, but that’s got to be bad karma.

We’ll end up having to send a donation for doing a back bend. What about variations on namaste? Are those up for grabs, too?

This should be called Bechtel Yoga. The Bechtel Corporation, for the record, pushed hard to own all the water in Bolivia—even the right to collect rainwater. In return, Bechtel finally got ran out of the country by enraged campesinos, and the first ever indigenous leader, Eva Morales, was elected.

McDownward Dog, anyone?

I’ve got to say, the sight of McDonalds in Bangalore disgusted me. Actually, it disgusts me everywhere else, too. Why isn’t it illegal to simultaneously torture animals, mistreat workers and poison children? Maybe when they’re all together they cancel each other out.

I think the final lines of the Yoga article are wonderfully conclusive:

Experts say yoga has become a $225 billion market in the West, leading to foreign quack yoga instructors claiming patents over `asanas’ at random. Nearly 16.5 million Americans practice yoga and spend about $3 billion a year on yoga classes.

What a world. You know, the asanas make a person more flexible, but a true yogi will only bend so much before, well, let me quote the Bhagavad Gita (4:42): “Armed with yoga, stand and fight.”

The full article is here.

Jai yoga! Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, lots of love, keep the breath calm,

Pete xoxo