Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Climates A Turkish Film

Climates, is a Turkish movie, I saw last week at the film forum. It is directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, he also features as the central character, along with his real life wife Ebru Ceylan. The movie had wonderful scenes of Turkey. Although it was slow and did not have much of a story, the characters grew on one and made it a movie, that was memorable.

Here is a summary from Blogcritics

Climates traces the deteriorating relationship between middle-aged professor Isa (played by Ceylan) and his noticeably younger TV producer girlfriend Bahar (Ceylan’s real-life wife, Ebru Ceylan). There’s not much in common between them, so when Isa suggests they end their relationship he meets little resistance from Bahar. This break leads both of them in new directions, with Isa reconnecting with an old flame while Bahar pursues her career far away from home.

Based on his actions, Isa is portrayed as an unlikeable, selfish character. He decides to leave his girlfriend for no discernible reason other than general ruminations about their age gap and resulting lack of compatibility. He stalks an ex-girlfriend and forces himself on her while concurrently making her eat a nut he dropped on the floor, a questionable scene that gains him no points in his treatment of women. Finally, he stalks Bahar and tries to worm his way back into her life, an act of desperation so laughable that it’s painful to watch. Isa seemingly wants what he doesn’t have until he possesses it, then he doesn’t want it anymore. He shows no capacity for true love or dedication, so why would Bahar want anything to do with him?
Ceylan seems to be far more interested in setting a mood than delivering a powerful story, keeping the scripted lines to a bare minimum and relying on the expressions of his actors and himself to carry the narrative. It’s difficult to discern the true nature of his characters as there’s no backstory or definitive conclusion, just scenes following the aftermath of their breakup. This lack of character development is certain to find fans ready to welcome his minimalist style that relies on viewers to connect the dots, as well as detractors in search of decidedly more substance.

The film was shot throughout Turkey, from metropolitan Istanbul to the sun-drenched Aegean seaside town of Kas to the bitter eastern winter of Dogubayazit, giving viewers a breathtaking glimpse of Turkey’s natural beauty. Ceylan’s languorous shots allow viewers to bask in the varied climates of this largely unknown corner of the world, providing a compelling backdrop to the story. Surprisingly, the film was shot on hi-def video, but it’s clearly a case of video done right as it looks comparable to or better than film, with sharp detail and vibrant color. While the film’s languid pace might not appeal to everyone, the presentation and locations are superb.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Guru Nanak in Meditation

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Sandals Padukas- Nanak left his Kharaun behind at several places from Uch to Bukhara, as a blessing and a reminder of his presence.

Bairagan Mendicants Armrest, armrests like these are placed under the armpit and establish a comfortable positon for meditation, discussion or rest.

Flywisk are made from Yak Tails, and are used for waving over the guru granth sahib. Posted by Picasa

A Palki for the Guru Granth Sahib

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Stringed Instrument Rabab


Music is an integral part of Sikh ritual, prayer and liturgy. A hymn moves through statement, elaboration and synthesis, muscially and poetically. Music becames a vehicle for reaching awareness of the divine. Posted by Picasa

Water Pots


Kamandalu- Mendicants water pot
Bulbula- Spouted Ewer Posted by Picasa

Guru Nanak At Panja Sabib


This composition describes the account of Guru Nanak at Panja Sahib in Hassan Abdal near Rawalpindi. A jealous Muslim Pir is intent on doing away with Nanak by hurling boulders down on him. Guru Nanak at the bottom raises his hand and stops the boulders in their tracks. An impression of his hand is left on one of the boulders. Seated next to him is Mardana, his disciple who watches in amazement. Posted by Picasa

A carpenter at work


The carpenter depicted here is seen as a specialist (kharadia) by his peers. He is shown turning legs for beds and stools on his lathe. Posted by Picasa

A block printer at work


The man's face is marked by dignity and an air of refinement. The way the craftsmen sits on the worktable is well observed. Next to him are a colorful range of dye-soaked pads lying in wooden frames, wood blocks of different sizes and earthen vessels holding water and color. Posted by Picasa

sikh exhibit at Rubin A dyer at work


Drawn by Kehar Singh. The dyer a Muslim is busy at work. The rangrez is celebrated in folk songs for it is to him that maidens ask that their cholis and orhanis be dyed in bright colors of the rainbow. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gurpreet Bhatti's speech at the Cambridge Union

'People do the most terrible things in the most unexpected places'
23rd October, 2006

Back in 2004 the writer Gurpreet Bhatti was at the centre of controversy when her play Behzti was rocked by protests and eventually stopped early. On Thursday last week she delivered a speech at the Cambridge University Union. It was in opposition to the motion: 'This House believes that religion is the opium of the masses', as originally postulated by Karl Marx.

In the article the writer discusses the reaction to her play, her own beliefs in Sikhism, and the importance of understanding religion properly. Her team won the debate. AIM Magazine exclusively publishes the full speech below.

by Gurpreet Bhatti
Writer and Playwright

One of the most prominent banners at the protests against my play Behzti in December 2004 read 'Shame on Sikh Playwright for her Corrupt Imagination.'

These words strike me as being relevant to this debate, because they seem to condemn the idea of mixing faith with that which is uncontrolled and unpredictable, namely one's creativity. Behind the slogan was the desire to control and limit free thought. So is religion just another drug designed to numb and nullify the mind?

A method of social manipulation which provides an escape from reality? Or is religion the route to absolute liberation? Can your faith be true if you are the dissenting voice? I believe it can. And I think Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, and Jesus, amongst others, might agree.

I wrote a play which was deemed by some to be an offensive assault on my religion. At the same time it was described by one critic as 'a fiercely religious play'. The piece explored the flaws of human beings who try but fail to live up to religious ideals. The characters go on living in a society, beset with the cancer of hypocrisy.

I wanted to show that people do the most terrible things in the most unexpected places. And maybe we should thank God they do. Because each time they do, they remind us all of our own humanity, of our own weaknesses and failings. I always endeavour to write with compassion for my subject, but I don't censor myself and I never will.

This compassion, together with a need for interrogation and a spirit of exploration are the elements which drive my writing. And they are sourced directly from my religion. Most of us would agree that nearly all faiths espouse common decent values. Religion in its essence is not the problem here.

The difficulty is that some people subvert these ideals for their own means. A process of fabrication follows. Like the manufacture of a man-made drug. A drug which makes you feel good but sends you insane.

I understand that Marx's quote is often taken out of context. What he meant was that religion is the manifestation of a condition of suffering. But instead of investigating the real causes of suffering, religion like opium works on the mind to generate illusory causes and solutions to this condition.

I would argue that it is possible to substitute any set of beliefs for religion in Marx's quote. Indeed, people misuse many things to divert themselves from reality. Fascism, Stalinism, Marxism itself, New Labour, David Cameron, Big Brother, the Daily Mail, crack cocaine, bacon double cheeseburgers, the Atkins diet, Pilates. The list is endless.

So you see, to isolate religion may be convenient but is incorrect. It is simply the nature of the human condition to explore ways of dealing with whatever feels too painful or complicated. Moreover we look to these things to comprehend why exactly we are here. And to try and make it better.

Perhaps true freedom comes when we accept that we all fail, that our dogmas are inherently fallible and that no thing can give us the perfect answer to this suffering.

To live a life without a spiritual dimension, to not have a connection with a power greater than oneself, even if that is one's conscience, would for me be a life of the greatest suffering.

It's important to acknowledge the significance of Marx's quote, even when cited as a cultural soundbite. It encapsulates a rather easy, lazy argument put forward by some to blame the ills of the world on religion. For example, religion causes wars. Actually it doesn't, people do.

There's no doubt that religion is a malleable entity, and can be used by people to say whatever they like. It is both blamed and championed to suit circumstance and agenda. But why do human beings continue to rely on it? Are they really stupid and unable to think for themselves? Or is there something more profound which offers sustenance and freedom?

The origins of the word religion suggest a reconnection with divinity and all faiths are ultimately concerned with the liberation of the soul. My religion does not offer me any escape or makebelieve solution. Instead it is the foundation of my spiritual life and gives me the tools to confront and deal with reality.

I cannot explain my faith to you in words. It is free and it is true. It is nothing and it is everything. My creativity, which is the thing that feeds my soul, comes from my relationship with the creator.

Religion is not my opium, far from leading me into a drug induced stupor, it keeps me alert and awake and alive. It keeps me fighting and asking questions. In the darkest moments of my life it has taught me valuable lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Most importantly it has shown me that the best way to live life is without fear.

The founders of many religions were revolutionaries, innovators who stood alone and challenged contemporary social and religious mores. The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak, a free spirited radical, who broke the bonds of Hinduism and Islam. Nanak's message emphasises the importance of inward devotion and the irrelevance of outwardly observations such as rituals and pilgrimages.

Nanak said that devotion can only take place through the heart with one's spirit and soul. His teachings denounce the caste system and say that everyone is equal regardless of gender. He highlights the importance of hard work and urges people to defend the rights of all human beings.

Aged 11, Hindu boys of Nanak's caste would start to wear a sacred thread to distinguish them. Nanak refused, he felt people should be distinguished by the their actions and their individual qualities rather than by a thread.

As an adult he visited Mecca. He fell asleep and was awoken by a furious Imam who shouted at him, saying 'Don't you know your feet are facing the house of God'. The Guru answered politely, 'I am sorry. Please turn my feet towards where God is not.'

These simple, beautiful principles promote humility and responsibility. They encourage active, considered participation in one's life and community, and are about as far away from an opium fest as you can get. Perhaps we as followers just need to get back to basics. If you want practical guidance on everyday living, turn to Nanak. If you want quiet meditation, turn to Nanak and if you want to learn about the shortcomings of organised religion, turn to Nanak.

Indeed this aspect of learning is a crucial one. Too many so-called religious people think they know it all. The word Sikh means student and suggests an ongoing relationship with the spirit, which evolves throughout one's life.

Having a faith does not make me better or worse than anyone. Indeed, some of my closest friends are atheists, agnostics and humanists. My religion simply offers a way of living that suits me and helps me deal both with my own flaws and the challenges around me.

There are moments when we cannot bear ourselves. When the empty space within each of us takes over and the human need for transcendence becomes apparent. Some of us seek refuge in drugs, alcohol, television and yes, religion. For a few, this turns into addiction. And of course like anything, religion is subject to abuse.

Too often religions are in the hands of a powerful minority whose self-interest and hypocrisy lead them to manipulate and misguide the majority. (Or is that called being in government, sorry!). Governments indulge these supposed representatives and religion becomes nothing more than a mask for political agenda and repression.

And when great sustaining metaphors become literal facts enforced by clerical committees, then religion has broken down into an instrument of control and is no longer guiding or meaningful. So at its worst organised religion is reduced to an array of rituals and precepts and functions only to keep the individual away from the divine. But this is a human distortion of the truth. So you see, it is not the message which is at fault, but the messenger.

Recently there has been a renewed spotlight on religion and its role in society. Perhaps as our political parties implode there remains the very real need for people to believe in something. This illustrates the failure of our political systems rather than religion itself being some sort of latent menace.

I believe it's vital that people of faith continue to challenge their religions. We have to reclaim the spirit of revolution which inspired great innovators like Guru Nanak. And we must fight against the falsification and diminishing of basic values. We cannot allow our great ideas and ideals to be ringfenced and misused as weapons of suppression and censorship.

I have no regrets and my conscience is clear. Besides, it's none of my business what anyone thinks of me. The only thing I answer to is God.

Religion is the foremost way of linking human beings with the eternal. Its principles encourage us to face our truths, not to get high. It remains enduring and relevant to modern society. So I urge you not to dismiss it as a drug.

While I would join anyone in the battle to combat addiction, if you accept this cynical and depressing motion, you are giving up on humanity and the truth of what religion is. You are accepting that religion is damaged beyond repair and letting those who actively distort our ideals get away with it. So I ask you to oppose the motion and demand that religion be reclaimed by people of faith.

The real culprits we need to beware of, are the fear and spinelessness which permeate our institutions. It is surely better to direct our disdain and combative spirit against these contemporary evils.

Finally I believe that my corrupt imagination alongside my faith is my salvation. Religion is not the opium of the masses, it represents my sustenance, it gives me the strength to go on, to live with myself and to fight for what I believe in.

This speech was first delivered by Gurpreet Bhatti to the Cambridge Union on Thursday 19th October.

This speech is from Aim magazine.

Seby & Neena fall in New York

Veiling, Domestic Violence and the state of the Muslims in India

Asra Nomani discusses the issue of domestic violence, that has been sanctioned by the Koran, in the current issue of Outlook.

When dealing with a "disobedient wife," a Muslim man has a number of options. First, he should remind her of "the importance of following the instructions of the husband in Islam." If that doesn't work, he can "leave the wife's bed." Finally, he may "beat" her, though it must be without "hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost."

Such appalling recommendations, drawn from the book Woman in the Shade of Islam by Saudi scholar Abdul Rahman al-Sheha, are inspired by as authoritative a source as any Muslim could hope to find: a literal reading of the 34th verse of the fourth chapter of the Koran, An-Nisa , or Women. "[A]nd (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them," reads one widely accepted translation.

She challenges Western leaders, like British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who have recently focused on Muslim women's veils as an obstacle to integration in the West. But to her it is 4:34 that poses the much deeper challenge of integration.

Yvonne Ridley on the other hand, talks about how she came to love the veil and contrasts it to the oppression that Western women face.

Some young Muslim feminists consider the hijab and the nikab political symbols, too, a way of rejecting Western excesses such as binge drinking, casual sex and drug use. What is more liberating: being judged on the length of your skirt and the size of your surgically enhanced breasts, or being judged on your character and intelligence? In Islam, superiority is achieved through piety—not beauty, wealth, power, position or sex.

My own feelings about domestic violence are that it unfortunately happens in all communities. I worked with Sakhi for a year, they focus on helping South Asian domestic violence victims. I worked with Sikh and Muslim women, highly educated and illiterate women, rich and poor women. The stories were similar, disempowered men, abusing their wives and mothers to feel better about themselves. But the women, through friends and family had found out that by calling the police they could send their spouse to jail or go to the courts and obtain an order of protection, that would make it a criminal offense for an abuser to threaten, harass, or contact the victim or the children, or comes to her house or apartment or place of employment.

I cannot imagine what must happen to women where the legal system allows women to be beaten. I agree with Asra Nomani that we need to challenge literal approaches to the Koran like 4:34, rather than worry about women veiling. If a woman veils voluntarily, I think it is her decision, but if she is forced to veil, that is unacceptable.

Syeda Hameed discusses the poverty and unemployment of the Indian Muslim community in general, and Malegoan in Maharashtra in particular.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

microcredit / microfinance

The New Yorker has an article on Micro credit and finance. Connie Bruck’s article is Millions for Millions, This years Nobel Peace Prize winner and some high- tech entrepreneurs are competing to provide credit to the world’s poor.

She compares the difference between Micro credit, which is more what Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank prescribes. Micro finance, is what ebay founder, Pierre Omidyar believes in.

Yunus claims that more than 50% of borrowers have risen out of poverty within five years of staying in his program. To graduate from poverty he believes a family must have, a house with a tin roof; clean drinking water; a sanitary latrine; warm clothes for winter and mosquito netting for summer; about seventy five dollars in a savings account; and schooling for the children.

Omidyar subscribes to Micro finance, which helps the poor, but not the poorest. It is about equal access to capital, similar to the ebay model, where buyers and sellers have equal access to information and opportunity.

Micro finance is being transformed into fully commercial profit making sector, the conflict between micro credit and micro finance is between pure do gooders and profit minded do gooders. Maximation of profit is inappropriate when dealing with the poor, according to the micro credit theorists..

Pro Mujer, founded in Bolivia by Carmen Velasco and Lynne Patterson, is a Micro credit N.G.O. based on the Grameen Bank model. It’s client are very poor women. It provides credit for income producing activites but also offers clients training in health care, family planning, child development and self esteem.

The shift towards the profit model began in the 1990's, in Latin America, Accio`n international was formed. They believed that commercial enterprises could tap financial markets for funds needed for their growth.

Jonathan Morduck, an expert in the field of Micro finance, argues that credit alone is not a panacea. He emphasizes the success of groups that combine lending with other initiatives like education and heath care.

Citigroup, the largest banking network in the world launched a micro fiance business division in 2005. Robert Annibale, the divisions global director, talks not about reducing poverty but about financial inclusion. That means retail banking for the poor, which includes not only loans and savings accounts, but also insurance and remittances.

Jamii Bora, was started in 1999 by Ingrid Munro in Kenya. She works with the very poor in the slums of Nairobi, she added housing loans, heath insurance and life insurance to her services. She realized that one of the main causes that clients defaulted on loan repayments, was usually because a family member had been hospitalized. No insurance company would insure her clients so she started an affordable insurance program.

I am glad that the vision of Muhammad Yunus, won the Nobel prize and not Pierre Omidyar’s commercial approach towards credit for the poor.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

how cute am i?

Water Crisis

Interesting article in the New Yorker about the water crisis, the last drop confronting the possibility of a global catastrophe by Michael Specter. Here is an .audio interview.

A person needs fifty liters of water a day, the Indian government provides forty. Americans consume 400-600 liters of water per day. In the slums of new Delhi, women line up early in the morning waiting for water tankers to arrive. The slum residents spend a larger percentage of their income on water, much more than other people, whose homes are connected to municipal pipes.

Delhi gets fewer than 40 days of rain each year. India has to sustain 20% of the worlds population with less than 4% of the worlds water.

When you cannot get enough water from the surface of the water, the only two alternatives are to pray and to dig. In India, Africa and china people are digging for their water. As the population increases, the freshwater reduces, and people begin to dig deeper. If they drill too deep, saltwater and arsenic can seep in.
Diseases like cholera, typhoid, and malaria are caused due to sewage in drains, clean water helps to keep drains clean of sewage.

Most countries subsidize water to its citizens. This makes people not value the water they get, and often waste it. Urbanization causes diet changes, leading to more people eating meat, which requires more water. India by following western eating habits is abandoning native dietary tradition which includes a variety of grains. The indian government promotes crops like rice and wheat which use the most water.

The author seems to suggest that the most effective way to control water is to build dams. Another option are desalination plants, that separate freshwater from salty sea water. For this there are two methods distillation which requires a lot of fuel, to evaporate water and remove salt and impurities. Another method is reverse osmosis, where water is forced at high pressure through a series of tightly wrapped membranes so that water molecules, which are smaller than impurities and salt pass through.

By conserving water and pricing it more realistically we can reduce our needs. Agriculture requires a lot of water, but until the sixties, the California vineyards did not use drip irrigation, now 70% of the vineyards are watered through this system, which applies water directly to the roots of the crops

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mohammed Afzal

Excellent article by Arundhati Roy on the trial of Mohammed Afzal, the accused in the attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001.

Think about it. On the basis of this illegal confession extracted under torture, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were moved to the Pakistan border at huge cost to the public exchequer, and the subcontinent devolved into a game of nuclear brinkmanship in which the whole world was held hostage.
Big Whispered Question: Could it have been the other way around? Did the confession precipitate the war, or did the need for a war precipitate the need for the confession?

Here is a link to a statement of the accused Mohammed Afzal under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Reading this makes it quite clear that Afzal is no great mastermind of planning the attack on Parliament. He comes across as a guy who has been tortured and false confessions extracted to serve the purposes of the case.

Nirmalangshu Mukherji teaches philosophy at Delhi University. He has also written December 13: Terror over Democracy. The book that questions the tactics and cover ups employed by the police to accuse Afzal. Here is a link to his article that questions the role played by special forces in the Kashmir Valley and the Delhi police.

Noting that Mohammed Afzal, the prime accused, was a surrendered militant in regular contact with the State Task Force (STF) in Kashmir, Ramanathan observed,
"a surrendered militant is no longer a militant but one who has chosen to return. The surrendered militant is in the uneasy zone where he is suspect on both sides of the divide. The militants see in him a turncoat. The security forces and the Special Task Force (STF) hold him in their thrall, while viewing him constantly with suspicion." Specifically, "If a person under the watchful eye of the STF could be part of a conspiracy to wage war against the state, how can anything less than a public inquiry do? For this is not about the guilt or innocence of one man, but about how a system works and what it means, to democracy, sovereignty and the security of the state."

These are the questions that need to be asked before Afzal is hung.

(1) Who attacked Parliament and what was the conspiracy?
(2) On what basis did the NDA government take the country close to a nuclear war?
(3) What was the role of the State Task Force (J and K) on surrendered militants?
(4) What was the role of the Special Cell of Delhi Police in conducting the case?
(5) What institutional and legal changes are required to prevent a government from going to war unilaterally without the consent of Parliament as in this case?

It is Afzal's story that gives us a glimpse into what life is really like in the Kashmir Valley. It's only in the Noddy Book version we read about in our newspapers that Security Forces battle Militants and innocent Kashmiris are caught in the cross-fire. In the adult version, Kashmir is a valley awash with militants, renegades, security forces, double-crossers, informers, spooks, blackmailers, blackmailees, extortionists, spies, both Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies, human rights activists, NGOs and unimaginable amounts of unaccounted-for money and weapons.

Happy Diwali

Diwali is celebrated all over India with the lighting of diyas at home to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.

The word "Diwali" is the corruption of the Sanskrit word "Deepavali" -- Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row. It means a row of lights and indeed illumination forms its main attraction. Every home the hut of the poor or the mansion of the rich - is alit with the orange glow of twinkling diyas-small earthen lamps - to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Rangoli patterns are drawn with rice flour outside homes. Rangoli designs combined with floral decorations and fireworks lend picturesness and grandeur to this festival which heralds joy, mirth and happiness in the ensuring year.

President's House

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Rajshtra Pati Bhavan and Parliament

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Rabindra Nath Tagore

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family history 4

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Sujan Singh

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viceroy's last garden party

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family history 2

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family history

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monkeys 2

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guard ,man

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Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life