Monday, August 30, 2010

words of wisdom

on the World Wide Web
chosen by Lama Surya Das

* * * * * * ** *

"Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life."

Tolstoy, from his story The Emperor's Three Questions

-- Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh quotes this in his famous seminal classic book The Miracle of Mindfulness (1975)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Martin Luther King

Charles Blow has a great op-ed piece in the NYT about the nasty, racist and divisive Glenn Beck.

Mitali Saran on Boarding Schools and a return to our atavistic nature

Bombay, meri jawani

Mitali Saran | 2010-08-28 01:10:00

Last weekend, I made a visit to Bombay for the first time in two years, to attend a high school friend’s tenth wedding anniversary. A fair number of alumni from Rishi Valley School (which is in Andhra Pradesh) live in Bombay, and a few of us were coming from out of town to use the occasion as a sort of mini-reunion.

The first thing I’d like to say is that Bombay taxi drivers are great fun to chat with. Not one of them seems to be from Bombay, and they have a lot to say about Raj Thackeray, but they’re really much more interested in why you aren’t married.

"But what will you do in thirty years’ time?" one of them wanted to know.

"And you like being married, do you?" I asked. He conceded that it was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea and dropped me off at the party at Churchgate.

The best thing about class reunions is the certain knowledge that no matter how much everyone has evolved, we will all immediately regress to our high school personas and express love as we used to, viz., "Eh! Bastard."

The next best thing about a class reunion is that you can now drink and eat non-vegetarian food together without getting expelled — Rishi Valley was strictly vegetarian and teetotalling. We have travelled a great distance from sneaking a dried-out chicken leg, flat beer and cigarette on the hostel roof in the dead of night, to chucking flavoured martinis down our gullets while stuffing our faces with meat and dancing badly to ‘The Final Countdown’. You cannot possibly appreciate this distance if you didn’t go to a Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) school, but take my word for it.

Sadly, some of us have travelled an equal but opposite distance from staying up all night to hitting the sack at 10pm, and we’re all a lot fatter, but we’re not going to talk about that anymore.

There’s something Faustian about going to boarding school. No matter how much the paths of your lives have diverged, no matter how little you now have in common, no matter how much you wish so-and-so hadn’t ended up with such-and-such partner, you are bound for life to boarding school classmates in a way you aren’t to day school classmates. You might be a professor of atomic science, or the prince of a sesame seed empire, or a renowned theatre personality, or the founder of a world conquering design firm, or a partner at your own law firm, but your soul belongs to School and its atavistic call, in a way that it doesn’t to college or work.

Unless you went to Doon School, in which case you never had a soul anyway, or Sanawar, in which case you’ve never heard the word ‘atavistic’. All this is because you ate chicken and drank while in school.

Anyway, the atavistic call of boarding school means that when a critical number of people decide it’s time to get together, You Go. When someone is In Town, you All Meet. This is not a complaint. You cannot imagine how wonderful it is to greet people by saying "Eh! Bastard."

So the reunion was great fun, and it was followed by further revelry at a pleasant joint called The Dome, and after that some lame people — who shall remain nameless —crawled home at 10pm, while everyone else partied on until 3am.

Now, back in my nineteen-years-on adult life, I’m back to reality. And that’s definitely the very best thing about school reunions: that they remind you of a time when everything you looked was rose-tinted.

[Mitali Saran is a Delhi-based freelance writer]


Times of India has a story on Haryana's shameful story of incest.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Juan Cole

Juan Cole of informed comment has great articles on the Mosque controversy and the an interview with a friend of the taxi driver who was slashed by a crazy racist.see here

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

misty morning with african pillows

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adding design elements

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aid to artisans Charles Eames

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kids collection

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dolli dressed up

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woodbury apron

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brazil sage

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birds and other wildlife

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pw dakota

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nyigf 2010

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my angel

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geeta with angad and leela

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barimama and mira

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Words of Wisdom for all the world

on the World Wide Web
chosen by Lama Surya Das

* * * * * * ** *

"May the sun bring you energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,

May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.

May you walk gently through the world
and know its beauty and harmony
all the days of your life. "

-Apache Blessing

Pictures from the archive when Mira was born

Check these out...from 3 years ago

Celebrating Delhi

A book based on the lectures organized by The Attic. The introduction is written by my father. A must read for anyone looking for a bit of history, trees, music, language and food of Delhi.


Beautiful Image at 3qd.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

thought for today

Never forget that the greater the difficulties, the greater also our possibilities. It is only those who have great capacities and a big future who meet with the great obstacles and hardships.

- The Mother [p-150, White Roses, Sixth Edition, 1999]

Saturday, August 21, 2010 | Peepli [Live] | Peepli [Live]

A wonderful movie, very authentic, great music and a critical attack on the media and their representatives attitudes, along with the canniving politicians.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sri Aurobindo

It is a mistake to think that by fearing or being unhappy you can progress. Fear is always a feeling to be rejected, because what you fear is just the thing that is likely to come to you: fear attracts the object of fear. Unhappiness weakens the strength and lays one more open to the causes of unhappiness.

- Sri Aurobindo [SABCL, 24:1416]

Shahnaz Rouse

Shahnaz Rouse

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bilingual Kids

Bilingual Kids in Manhattan.

Mosque at Ground Zero

NYT's has a wonderful op-ed piece by William Dalrymple about the proposed mosque near ground zero.

thought for today

Sivananda's Message of the Day for Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let your eyes look wih kindness, your tongue speak with sweetness, your hand touch with softness.

-- Sri Swami Sivananda

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

thought for today

If in spite of all your efforts the horizon sometimes darkens, if hope and joy fade away, if enthusiasm flags, remember that it is a sign that you have drawn away from your psychic being and lost contact with its ideal. In this way you will avoid making the mistake of throwing the blame on the people and things around you and thus quite needlessly increasing your sufferings and your difficulties.

- The Mother [CWMCE, 12:47]

Agha Shahid Ali

At a certain point I lost track of you.
You needed me. You needed to perfect me:
In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the way of my memory.
I am everything you lost. Your perfect enemy.
Your memory gets in the way of my memory: …
There is nothing to forgive. You won’t forgive me.
I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to myself.
There is everything to forgive. You can’t forgive me.
If only somehow you could have been mine, what would not have been possible in the world?

More on Chapati Mystery

Simon Cox on Delhi

There’s Old Delhi, New Delhi—and future Delhi, which is likely to overshadow both. Simon Cox captures life as an expat in a fascinating city ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Summer 2010

I first visited Delhi ten years ago, drawn not by the city but by one of its citizens. I had fallen in love with a Dilliwalli I met at university in America two years before. It was past time I saw her in her “native place”, as Indians put it.

We visited the usual tombs, markets, shrines and gardens, including the domed presidential palace on Raisina Hill that once housed the viceroy. Our trip coincided with a visit by the wives (they were all wives) of the British High Commission. They cooed and fussed, like previous owners checking up on the new landlords. One even looked for dust under the carpet. It was a relief to escape into the palace’s Mughal Gardens, where a tiny Dilliwalla peed on the lawn while his parents smiled helplessly.

Delhi can be grand, but it is rarely solemn. The people can be rude, but never cold. Earlier this year I returned to Raisina Hill to watch India’s military bands beat the retreat, overseen by members of the camel cavalry. After the last bugle was sounded and the last bagpipe squeezed, a switch was flicked, and Delhi’s imposing imperial buildings, strung with bulbs, lit up like a Christmas decoration.

Visitors to Delhi often see a faded glory, like a grand carpet collecting dust. The city is casually littered with history, much of it neglected or buried under the paraphernalia of the present. But Delhi’s past will surely be overshadowed by its future. There are three times as many Indians alive today as there were at Independence in 1947, and Delhi is home to over 16m of them. Over the next three decades India should begin to regain the economic clout it lost over three centuries. To visit Delhi in a mood of nostalgia, then, is to close your eyes to history in the making.

Many people mourn the lost elegance of Old Delhi, the courtly city founded in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan. The decorative flourishes that adorn Old Delhi’s mansions, courtyards and commercial buildings are now obscured by the more formidable geometry of telephone wires, power cords and television cables. But Old Delhi’s decrepitude is deceptive. Those crumbling balustrades and decapitated colonnades conceal a growing prosperity. Stock brokerages sell shares in upcoming IPOs to sari merchants with cash to spare. In the Coronation Building, once Old Delhi’s poshest hotel, the upper rooms now belong to commodity-futures traders, reclining beside their terminals, as they track prices set in Chicago.

Visitors flock to Humayun’s Tomb, a magnificent 16th-century mausoleum second only to the Taj Mahal, and to the haunting Jama Masjid, a mosque built a century later. But Delhi has not stopped building spectacular monuments. In 1994 work began on a 108-foot, bright orange statue of Hanuman, the monkey god, completed 13 years later. Worshippers enter the temple through the screaming mouth of a demon crushed underfoot. At 8.15am, twice a week, Hanuman’s mighty hands rip open his chest, by means of an “automatic electronic mechanism”, to reveal Ram and Sita sitting inside. Its designers lack Shahjahan’s taste. Indeed, they lack any taste at all. But who needs Mughal refinement when you have animatronics?

Delhi’s new prosperity is not a wave sweeping all before it. Instead it courses through the city in rivulets, working around what came before. Indeed, large tracts of the city seem entirely lost to development, trapped in eddies that go nowhere. The city, clogged by more vehicles than Mumbai and Kolkata combined, is full of pastoral enclaves and bucolic interstices, where children play cricket, vagrants slumber, and cows mooch. Walking from my old neighbourhood, Nizamuddin East, to my new one, Jangpura Extension, I once got lost in a socialist arcadia: the staff colony of Hindustan Prefab Limited, one of many sleepy public-sector enterprises left over from a previous era. A monkey clambered on the modest staff homes opposite the CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) building, which proudly boasts a hammer and sickle.

India’s government is good at making time stand still, and for all its commercial hurly-burly, Delhi is still a government town. A bureaucratic mindset extends beyond official corridors into other walks of life, filling a resident’s days with sluggish transactions and self-important people. It takes for ever to settle the bill in many shops and restaurants, presumably because only one or two designated personages are permitted to handle the till. These well-known irritations make me all the more appreciative of Delhi’s many unheralded examples of economy and efficiency. Five minutes from our new flat, an Afghan bakery serves warm, doughy rounds of bread, fished out of a tandoor oven with long prongs. You pay upfront and your rupees, placed on a plank of wood, mark your spot in the queue like coins on the rail of a pool table.

Another example is the kabariwallas, who recycle the old newspapers and magazines I use to line my nest. They pedal around Delhi’s neighbourhoods, announcing their passage with a low cry, as resonant in its own way as the Qawwali singers of Nizamuddin. If I answer his call, the kabariwalla will climb the stairs to my flat, open his jute sack, and relieve me of my Economist and Tehelka back catalogue. At the end of this process a few rupees change hands. I was surprised to discover that he paid me, rather than the other way round. Indeed, as Kaveri Gill explains in her book “Of Poverty and Plastic”, the defining feature of kabari is that the collector pays for it. The term refers only to the “dry”, clean waste handled by castes who steer clear of the “wet” organic and inorganic garbage that others scavenge from municipal dumps browsed by cows, crows and pigs.

The refuse collectors are not the only Dilliwallas rubbing shoulders with a surprising profusion of wildlife. Renowned for its gardens, Delhi sometimes comes closer to a jungle. I remember at the zoo watching an uncaged monkey taunting its captive brethren. Birds of prey, including dark-winged kites and hawks, perch on floodlights and swoop on unsuspecting pedestrians. I once took a boat trip on the slick, black waters of the Yamuna river, and the boat was immediately enveloped by a cloud of Hitchcockian gulls.

Back on dry land, Delhi’s 260,000 feral dogs bark and brawl. Last year, one of them sank its teeth into my wife’s leg. Like many of Delhi’s villains, the mutt enjoyed total immunity, shielded by zealous animal-welfare rules sponsored by Maneka Gandhi, one of Indira Gandhi’s daughters-in-law. In her compassion for strays she surpasses even the Mahatma, who wrote that “perfect, erring mortals as we are, there is no course open to us but the destruction of rabid dogs”.

Ten miles to the south, Delhi’s greenery gives way to rocky scrubland, punctuated by quarries and several lonely lakes. The area is home to the world’s most bashful peacocks, the occasional mongoose, verminous monkeys and amorous Haryana motorbikers, who scratch declarations of love into the bark of a solitary banyan tree. It can be refreshing to find some solitude above and beyond the city, but I long ago concluded that Delhi’s best sights are its people. Lodhi Gardens, for all the beauty of their trees and tombs, work best as a backdrop to the bright bouquets of children, nannies and parents, enjoying picnics or badminton. Even traffic jams are enlivened by young couples holding each other tight as they zip past on their motorbikes.

Every day in Delhi is a pageant of colour, clamour, charm and cruelty. There is no shortage of comings and goings to observe. My only regret is that as a white foreigner there are precious few inconspicuous nooks for you to observe from: you cannot make yourself invisible. People watch me watching. And I always blink first. Over the years, I have found a few spots that allow unobtrusive views of Delhi’s street theatre. I used to escape from Nizamuddin East through a gap in the railings that seal it off from the outside world. I would emerge behind a public toilet opposite the railway station, which bustles with rickshaws, taxis and red-jacketed porters, their copper registration badges tied around their arms. The road past the station leads to a pair of bridges crossing the ganda nallah, or dirty stream. One bridge affords sneaky views of the streetmarket on the other, where I can happily watch people haggling over the price of ginger or a cut of chicken. I can also see one of Delhi’s better-appointed slumlets, where women fetch water, wash their children’s hair, or dry chilies beside the train tracks, as their husbands play cards outside. I can cross the bridge several times before having my fill of this tableau.

Ten years after first visiting Delhi, I am now gearing up to leave. Hong Kong, I am sure, will give me all the anonymity I miss in Delhi. My new office, on the 60th floor, has panoramic views that are hard to find here. I’ll be far less conspicuous, far less visible. But I doubt that Hong Kong will be as watchable.



For opulence, obtrusive security and over-attentive staff, stay at any of Delhi’s five-star hotels. The Imperial and the Aman New Delhi are the classiest.

The Ambassador Hotel is a less expensive alternative, with a jolly café, enviably located close to the Lodhi Gardens. +91 (0)11 24632600

The Manor is a boutique hotel in a residential neighbourhood. The pedestrianised market nearby is a good place to eat street food. +91 (0)9871117968


To enjoy kebabs as Allah intended, make the pilgrimage to Karim’s. The original branch is close to the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. A better-appointed one is in Nizamuddin East, near a Sufi shrine that attracts some of the most plaintive beggars. You can assuage your conscience by buying ten indigent people a meal for 100 rupees at one of the eateries set up for this purpose.

The canteen at Andhra Bhavan, a guest-house for officials from Andhra Pradesh, serves ladlefuls of delicious food on metal trays, with no frills, fuss or choice. This is how socialism would work, if it worked.

Indian Accent at the Manor hotel produces striking variations on familiar Indian themes which look even better than they taste.


Delhi is deeply hostile to pedestrians, who walk only because they have no choice. In Old Delhi, it is better to be in a cycle rickshaw, however medieval it feels, than to be run over by one. The old city is now connected to the new by the sleek Delhi Metro, which has landed like an alien civilisation. Green-and-yellow auto-rickshaws, or black-and-yellow taxis, can take you everywhere, but only after a tiresome round of haggling. Hiring a driver for a day is affordable and means only one negotiation. For scheduled trips—such as airport runs—Meru Cabs (+91 (0)1144224422) have meters, sober drivers and even seatbelts.


Travel by Metro to the Chandni Chowk stop, then get lost in the alleys and dead-ends of Old Delhi, navigating by the minarets of the Jama Masjid. At the mosque, leave your shoes and feel the warm sandstone under your feet. Climbing the minaret will give views of the urban thicket you’ve hacked through. Stretch your legs in the wonderful Lodhi Gardens, home to bashful couples giggling, retired officials and families playing catch. Humayun’s Tomb is one of the few monuments in Delhi that receives the care and attention it deserves. At Hauz Khas village, play hide-and-seek among the tombs, wander around the pond (“Hauz Khas” means royal tank, though it’s now a little stagnant).


Connaught Place is infested with touts and chancers, as well as an infamous character who squirts shit onto people’s shoes. But it also has Wenger’s pastry shop, which offers delicious éclairs to reward anyone deciphering the ordering system (get a ticket, then a receipt, then your cake). Crafts, carpets and trinkets from around India are on sale in relaxed surroundings at Dilli Haat, which charges a small entrance fee. Swankier items are sold at the Santushti Complex, set in a leafy air-force compound by an enterprising group of officers’ wives.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shy Kids From Babble

Always The Quiet Ones
Does my daughter’s shyness need to be fixed?
by Camille Sweeney | November 9, 2009

Like a lot of babies, when my daughter Roxie was still in her first year she had a certain reticence around strangers. At the time, we chalked it up to separation anxiety otherwise known as "please don't pass me to Granny or Grandpa or I'll scream my head off."

We smiled. We made excuses. But it persisted.
Now, at three and a half, Roxie is certainly stimulated by novel experiences, people and situations. But put her in a peer group setting like, say, preschool circle time, and she goes all Chauncey Gardiner — more content to watch than join in.

Or, so it would seem.

As many of her fellow preschoolers merrily belt out "Little Bunny Foo Foo" animated with hand movements, Roxie, who knows all the words and gestures (and performs them with relish at home in front of the mirror), remains silent, hands in her lap. In a free art class offered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, other kids streak by her through the halls of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the ancient New World on the hunt for the fon elephant from the Republic of Benin. Instead, Roxie lags behind with me and the other parents and caregivers required to be there. It's not that she doesn't know where the elephant is (she does) or even that she doesn't enjoy the hunt (she says "it's fun").

But rather than let go and join the others, or even let on she's enjoying it, she walks quietly until she reaches the spot where the bright silver statue stands encased in glass, then remains outside the throng of kids and merely points. There, she says in a whisper.
Is she shy? Slow to warm up? Highly sensitive with a dread of social evaluation? What leads her to hold back in these situations? Is it genetic, environmental? A temporary stage of development? A life-long condition?

What Can You Do?

Clinical psychologists and shyness specialists recommend:

• Do not label your child as "shy," which can erode a child's confidence and make him or her feel more inhibited

• Role-play anxious situations with your child

• Think aloud with your child about strategies to lessen anxieties over trigger situations

• Set up play-dates

• Discuss the issue with your childcare helpers, teachers and activity leaders and make them aware of how they can help

In our Got Talent culture we have come to expect even our youngest children to be high achievers — feisty swimmers, masterful drawers, gregarious preschool socialites. A shy or reticent temperament can dampen our hopes and evokes our own peculiar brand of parental angst. But is it that our child may miss out on some extroverts-only experiences that worries us or is something more primal, more prideful at work? The fear, perhaps, that our child will never shine?

According to a recent major study, 42 percent of American children exhibit shyness and the percentage only increases with age. "Thirty or forty years ago, being shy didn't used to be as negatively stereotyped as it is today," said Lynne Henderson, a former faculty member at Stanford University and director of the Shyness Institute.

In recent years, psychologists have battled as to whether or not shyness is genetic, a reaction to environment, or some combination. Jerome Kagan, a prominent Harvard research psychologist, was the first to identify traits in infancy that predict shyness. He believes temperament is destiny, or at least, shyness is a priori, a point he set out to prove when he began a major longitudinal study in 1986, researching 500 sixteen-week olds. Tracking data including how the babies reacted when given a new toy, he and colleagues determined that the most highly reactive sixteen-week olds, those with the most visible signs of distress and alarm when handed a new toy, proved to be the shyest children when they were interviewed as eleven-year-olds.

But, even if a child is hardwired to be highly sensitive or shy, many experts argue, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a behavioral marker for life on the sidelines.

"Many children will outgrow their strong reticence and reactions," said Dr. Henderson of the Shyness Institute. "About 93 percent of shy children never become problematically shy."

But, early detection of social awkwardness and intervention can make a significant difference later on, she said.

"I've had a lot of parents who say they wished they'd done something sooner," said Nicole Shiloff, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adolescent shyness and social anxiety at the Shyness Clinic in Los Altos, Calif. "Giving a child a way to cope with their shyness or anxiety even really early on just better equips them for later."

A slew of books and online sites address shyness in children, and help parents understand where their child may fall in the spectrum of shy behavior. From a child with social anxiety who may experience profound psychological and physical reactions in a social situation to a child with one or two best friends who may not be in the social fray among peers, but doesn't mind it. Somewhere in the middle are the children who are slow-to-warm up, who may hesitate to join a social situation and take anywhere from two minutes, two weeks, two months or more to participate.

"I find that parents who have their own shyness or anxiety issues may over-identify with a shy child, and internalize that child's anxiety rather than help them develop mechanisms to cope with it," said Dr. Shiloff. There are also the parents who may be just the opposite. "They may be really extroverted and have some difficulty understanding a child who's tempermentally different," she said.
Helpful books and websites for an explanation of shy and shy-like behaviors:

The Encyclopedia of Mental Health - Shyness

The Center for Effective Parenting's Shyness page.

Nuturing the Shy Child by Barbara G. Markway PHd. and Gregory P. Markway PHd., (Thomas Dunne Books, 2004)

The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D., (Workman Publishing Company,

Which, in fact, is the case for Roxie and me.

The good news is there are many practical and easy suggestions of strategies parents, teachers and other caregivers can use not only to soothe a young bashful child, but also empower him or her. Included are tactics borrowed from cognitive behavior therapy that begin to teach even the youngest children how to identify and monitor thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that relate to their shyness. "With young children we tend to work on strategies for the parents," said Dr. Shiloff. "We teach parents for example, the cognitive behavior model of thinking aloud with a shy child to help alleviate some of the stress associated with an event."

For example, she suggested I could talk to Roxie before an activity to prepare her for some of the things that she may be asked to do, like sing along with the group, raise her hand or say her name aloud. Role-playing too can help to build a child's confidence. "Especially with young children who look to their parents for social cues, it's important to model the kind of pro-social behavior you're expecting from your child," said Dr. Shiloff. "And, we recommend getting the teacher involved, maybe even setting up a reward system to reinforce positive social behavior."

Although there is debate among experts over what constitutes social anxiety versus shyness, one thing all the experts agree on is not to label a child as "shy," which only serves to make a child more self-conscious and heighten his or her sense of discomfort.

Recently, Robert Coplan, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa and colleagues, have been at work designing a program they hope can be implemented in schools and other community activities that will challenge and encourage chronically shy preschoolers to become more active participants.

Our goal here is not to change your child, Dr. Coplan wrote of his program in a recent email. "Our goal is to help children develop the necessary coping strategies so that their shyness does not prevent them from doing things in their life that they want to do," he said.

Of course, experts also caution that we must be careful not to pathologize this temperament. After all, Dr. Henderson from the Shyness Institute explained, shyness is a blend of fear and interest.

"To have a shy reaction is a wired response that helps us pause to identify friends and collaborators from predators before we enter the fray," she said. "So shyness can also be a positive attribute," she added.

Dropping Roxie off at preschool one recent morning after a chat about some of the kids she was looking forward to seeing, I witnessed this primitive response in action. The children's day was getting started with a dance party and when we arrived, a little girl (whom Roxie had mentioned) broke from the group of kids and teachers and bounded up to us. "She's my best friend," the girl informed me as she enveloped Roxie in a bear hug. She grabbed Roxie's hand and began to drag her toward the preschool mosh pit. I saw Roxie's moment of hesitation and I found myself holding my breath, beaming a large smile of encouragement. But, without so much as a backward glance, Roxie stepped to the edge of the circle and then into the group with her friend, and cautiously, a little awkwardly, began to dance.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

thought for today

Imagination is a power of formation. In fact, people who have no imagination are not formative from the mental point of view, they cannot give a concrete power to their thought. Imagination is a very powerful means of action. For instance, if you have a pain somewhere and if you imagine that you are making the pain disappear or are removing it or destroying it - all kinds of images like that - well, you succeed perfectly.
There's a story of a person who was losing her hair at a fantastic rate, enough to become bald within a few weeks, and then someone told her, "When you brush your hair, imagine that it is growing and will grow very fast." And always, while brushing her hair, she said, "Oh, my hair is growing! Oh, it will grow very fast...." - And it happened! But what people usually do is to tell themselves, "Ah, all my hair is falling again and I shall become bald, that's certain, it's going to happen!"
And of course it happens!

- The Mother [CWMCE, 9:380]

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Tere bin Laden

This is a really funny, well made movie. The comic timing and the use of Punjabi dialogue makes the jokes even funnier.
A comedy with you-know-who’s name in the title may not be a natural sell in America, but it’s hard to imagine the likable, gently satiric Bollywood film “Tere Bin Laden” (“Without Bin Laden”) ruffling too many feathers.
Written and directed by Abhishek Sharma, the movie is set in Karachi, Pakistan, but was filmed mainly in India. It stars the popular pop singer Ali Zafar as Ali, a journalist whose dream is to go to, yep, America. Ali — he’s “good looking but a jackass,” we’re told in the first song — needs to earn money for a fake passport and hits upon this scheme: to trick an Osama bin Laden look-alike, a goofy fellow he meets at a cock-crowing contest, into making a video that can be sold to the news media.

The video, though, becomes too successful, and the United States panics. Suspecting the video came from Pakistan, it nonetheless attacks Afghanistan because, well, it can. Our hero and his crew are mortified and try to set things right by making another video.

Satire may be the point of “Tere Bin Laden,” but its low-key charm mostly comes from its dotty twist on the let’s-put-on-a-show plot as Ali and his eccentric helpers make their videos. (The film sags when it has to work out the story’s consequences.) And while it mocks the United States as a ham-fisted wielder of power (less sharply than, say, “Team America” did), America also remains Ali’s somewhere-over-the-rainbow place.

Mr. Zafar, handsome and with a deft comic touch, has all the makings of a Bollywood matinee idol, except for one thing: he’s Pakistani, and lead roles in Hindi movies are rare for Pakistani actors. (This may be a Bollywood first.) In any case, the folks back home won’t get a chance to see him shine: “Tere Bin Laden” was banned in Pakistan, where officials feared it might draw terrorist from NYT

The Kids Are Allright

Which is fine: Ms. Cholodenko’s film, which she wrote with Stuart Blumberg, is so canny in its insights and so agile in its negotiation of complex emotions that it deserves to stand on its own. It is outrageously funny without ever exaggerating for comic effect, and heartbreaking with only minimal melodramatic embellishment.

But its originality — the thrilling, vertiginous sense of never having seen anything quite like it before — also arises from the particular circumstances of the family at its heart. There is undeniable novelty to a movie about a lesbian couple whose two teenage children were conceived with the help of an anonymous sperm donor. Families like this are hardly uncommon in the real world, but Ms. Cholodenko (“Laurel Canyon,” “High Art”) and Mr. Blumberg have discovered in this very modern arrangement a way of refreshing the ancient and durable wellsprings of comedy.

“The Kids Are All Right” starts from the premise that gay marriage, an issue of ideological contention and cultural strife, is also an established social fact. Nic and Jules, a couple with two children, a Volvo and a tidy, spacious house in a pleasant suburban stretch of Southern California, are a picture of normalcy.

Which is to say that they are loving, devoted, responsible and a bit of a mess. Some of this is midlife malaise: not quite a crisis, at least not at first. Nic (Annette Bening), an OB-GYN, is the breadwinner and principal worrier. Jules (Julianne Moore), who has dabbled in various careers while taking care of the children, is restless and maybe just a little flaky. They are comfortable with each other, more or less content, but also frustrated, confused, a bit out of sorts. As I said: normal.

Review from the NYT

This is a wonderful family movie, a must see.. | How To Live & Die | How To Live & Die

I’ve lived a reasonably contented life. I’ve often thought about what it is that makes people happy—what one has to do in order to achieve happiness.

First and foremost is good health. If you do not enjoy good health, you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct something from your happiness.

Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores, but it should be enough to provide for comforts, and there should be something to spare for recreation—eating out, going to the movies, travel and holidays in the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be demoralising. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own eyes.

Third, your own home. Rented places can never give you the comfort or security of a home that is yours for keeps. If it has garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, and cultivate a sense of kinship with them.

Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. If you have too many misunderstandings, it robs you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to be quarrelling all the time.

Fifth, stop envying those who have done better than you in life—risen higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others.

Sixth, do not allow people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.

Since I have no faith in God, nor in the day of judgement, nor in reincarnation, I have to come to terms with the complete full stop.

Seventh, cultivate a hobby or two that will fulfil you—gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks, or to meet celebrities, is a criminal waste of time. It’s important to concentrate on something that keeps you occupied meaningfully. I have family members and friends who spend their entire day caring for stray dogs, giving them food and medicines. There are others who run mobile clinics, treating sick people and animals free of charge.
Eighth, every morning and evening devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the mornings, 10 minutes should be spent in keeping the mind absolutely still, and five listing the things you have to do that day. In the evenings, five minutes should be set aside to keep the mind still and 10 to go over the tasks you had intended to do.

Ninth, don’t lose your temper. Try not to be short-tempered, or vengeful. Even when a friend has been rude, just move on.

Above all, when the time comes to go, one should go like a man without any regret or grievance against anyone. Iqbal said it beautifully in a couplet in Persian: “You ask me about the signs of a man of faith? When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips.”

(Excerpted from the forthcoming Absolute Khushwant: The Low-Down on Life, Death & Most Things In-Between (Penguin). The book will be launched on August 16.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Silences- A poem from 2/12/99

I came to college
to suddenly have an identity
thrust upon me

I became an Indian
the "official Indian"
usually the only third world voice in the class

I came here and lost my voice
my earlier voice
cause it didnt belong
just didnt sound so right

I had to adjust to a new identity
and to a person i had to learn and read to became
a voice for the 3rd world - women, children and men

most of whom i never knew
or whose lives i could never lead

my silence became my solitude
my private space
that no questions could probe, dissect or analyze

it became a weapon
that they could not penetrate and hurt
with their racism and ignorance

my silence is my power

Take Back The Street

NEW DELHI — On blogs, Facebook and Twitter last month, hundreds of women across India shared their experiences as “Action Heroes” — facing up to sexual harassment on this country’s sometimes terrifying streets. The event organized by Blank Noise, a community art project that fights the abuse of women in public spaces, focused fresh attention on “eve teasing” — the common euphemism for the hostility and violence women experience on the streets in large parts of India, especially in the more patriarchal north.

In 2006, the then-fledgling Blank Noise, run by Jasmeen Patheja, a young artist, had invited Indian women to emulate the Take Back the Night marches women have staged in other parts of the world to assert their right to walk in public areas without fear. A Reclaim the Night march had been held in 1978 in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in protest of the rape of a woman on the street, but not repeated. And so, 28 years later, here in the Indian capital, a small group of women went out for a walk at 10 p.m.

Two police vans stood by to ensure their safety, for this was not a “normal” thing to do. In northern India, women don’t step out of their homes for a stroll once it gets dark. It’s not safe. It could get one harassed or molested or raped.

“Blank Noise started as an art project,” Ms. Patheja said recently. “I was experiencing street sexual violence every day, and if not every day it was the threat of it that kept me on guard, hyper and alert. Moreover, it wasn’t being taken seriously by those around me — ‘It happens,’ ‘There’s nothing you can do about it,’ ‘It’s only teasing.”’

Since that early, tentative action in 2006, Blank Noise has grown, drawing in women from across India. From Bangalore, where in 2009 a rightist Hindu party attacked “loose” women for daring to go out to pubs; from Mumbai, rocked in 2007 by a mob assault on two women who had talked back to a group of men who were harassing them; from smaller cities like Lucknow and Patna, where “eve teasing” is a way of reinforcing the message that women are not meant to be in public spaces.

Ms. Patheja’s primary weapon is her blog. In a more rural part of northern India, another woman picked up the humble jhadu, the broom found in every Indian household.

Sampath Pal Devi grew up in Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh and, like many of the women in her community, married young — at 12. She witnessed violence against women as an everyday part of life. It was unsafe for women to go to the outdoor bathrooms at night for fear of assault. Domestic violence and beatings were common. At the age of 20, Ms. Sampath Pal fought back, organizing a few women armed with brooms to thrash a notorious wife-beater.

Now in her 40s, she runs the Gulabi Gang. “This country is ruled by men,” she said in her asthma-roughened voice. “No use asking them for help. We women must fight our own battles ourselves.”

Gulabi means “pink” and refers to the color of the saris Ms. Sampath Pal and her band of women wear. The movement has grown from that tiny core of four concerned women to a movement that covers much of rural Uttar Pradesh, one of the most conservative states in India. The brooms have evolved into canes. The Gulabi Gang has thrashed recalcitrant officials and police officers who wouldn’t register cases of domestic violence. It also runs vocational centers that offer practical ways of employment and empowerment for women.

If pink was simply a personal preference of Ms. Sampath Pal, the color was a more pointed choice for Nisha Susan, a journalist in her 30s who started the Pink Chaddi movement. Last year, after Sri Ram Sene, a rightist Hindu party, attacked women in pubs, Ms. Susan began a Facebook group, and the Pink Chaddi movement was born.

Chaddi is slang for underwear, but also for rightist hard-liners. Ms. Susan invited women to send Pramod Muthalik, the head of Sri Ram Sene, pink underwear in protest of his party’s actions and its plans to hold rallies on Valentine’s Day, which it condemns as a foreign holiday that encourages men and women to express their affection in an openly “un-Indian” fashion.

Chaddis poured in from across the country, a deluge of underwear in fuchsia, mauve and rose that forced the hard-liners to cancel their rallies and stop the attacks on women.

Something familiar emerges in the stories the women share, regardless of their ages or class backgrounds. All have experienced fear on the streets, fear when traveling alone. Few use the term “eve teasing” when discussing their own experiences; nothing about sexual harassment has ever felt like “teasing” to them.

This autumn, one of India’s most respected photographers, Gauri Gill, will coordinate an exhibit and Web site called “Transportraits: Women and Mobility in the City.” Working with Jagori, an organization that has drawn up maps of Delhi and other cities marking areas that are safe or dangerous for women, Ms. Gill is asking both men and women to send in photographs and testimonies of their experiences on the streets.

Like most women who have traveled extensively in India, Ms. Gill has experienced her fair share of harassment, even assault.

“We just bury our experiences, we learn how to deal,” she said. “When they asked me to curate this, I thought, I don’t want to be too didactic.”

Instead, she is looking for a more interesting way to tell these collective stories.

“Whatever we’ve gone through, we are relatively privileged because we can speak about it,” she said. “There are so many who don’t have the confidence, or the ability, to even register protest or speak out.”

For Ms. Patheja, the artist behind Blank Noise, breaking the silence has been healing, even empowering.

“Today I think I am far less angry, or aggressive towards the issue, yet am unapologetic about my presence on the street,” she said.

In India, thousands of women like her are becoming Action Heroes. We may not yet be ready to take back the night. But we are making a start on taking back the street.

From the NYT

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Birth of a salesman

Amitava Kumar writes in the Guernica about the life of Lakhani and Rahman- the arms smuggler and his informant. Great writing and insightful analysis of both characters.

Rehman: Whenever you see any crime behind it there’s an informant and when someone is arrested. And when any time someone stops the crime behind it there’s an informant. And the whole world respects him. That—when I say respect that’s what I mean.
I was struck by this exchange, mostly because it showed the informant as the mirror image of the defendant: a man of small means, beset with difficulties, projecting himself onto a grand stage. Each one was a failed man in many ways, a failed man, with more than a touch of desperation, dreaming of success. Both were immigrants, afraid of their perceived worthlessness, worried at the ways in which each plan they had devised had proved ineffectual. Each one tried to impress the other about how he was at home in the West. The two had their origins in enemy countries divided by a border; not once did they talk of their own religious difference or say anything bad about the other’s faith or religion. The two men were worried about their families and both were committed to the cheap art of the hustle. Each believed in making a deal. Each was lying for a cause, if dreaming of a better life can be described as a cause. I wonder whether at any time during their association as business partners, there had been a moment when one of them had seen himself in the other, and whether this recognition had made him flinch.

The Perils of partying late into the night.

Amba Batra Bakshi writes about the party scene in Delhi.

The 2 am crowd is certainly serious about their partying. In Delhi, a typical evening would begin at a friend’s house followed by clubbing and rounded off with a drive to Noida or Gurgaon to get alcohol as late as 6 am. The Gurgaon stretch of NH-8 comes alive past midnight when some of its dhabas dole out techno beats, alcohol, cocaine or Ecstasy to send you the high way. South Delhi’s opulent drawing rooms begin to serve the finest single malt as the first hand of poker is dealt. The really rich and influential head for the very lap of luxury, an exclusive nightclub at Hotel Samrat, a stone’s throw away from the prime minister’s house, where membership is over a lakh per year, and all the privileges extend up to the waking hours.

Monday, August 02, 2010

thought for today

I suggest that every one of you should try - oh! not for long, just for one hour a day - to say nothing but the absolutely indispensable words. Not one more, not one less.
Take one hour of your life, the one which is most convenient for you, and during that time observe yourself closely and say only the absolutely indispensable words.
At the outset, the first difficulty will be to know what is absolutely indispensable and what is not. It is already a study in itself and every day you will do better.
Next, you will see that so long as one says nothing, it is not difficult to remain absolutely silent, but as soon as you begin to speak, always or almost always you say two or three or ten or twenty useless words which it was not at all necessary to say.

- The Mother [CWMCE, 3:259]

the corruption of priviledge

David Cameron