Friday, 28 May 2010

Vande Mataram

India taught me all the important lessons about life - about what it means to be human, about the human condition, human diversity, about the strength and grace of the human spirit. Truly, as the message of Khalil Gibran's Prophet goes, we are all much more than we think we are.

To me, India is the greatest nation on earth - for its sheer human-ness, and its humanity. India taught me what it was like to truly live, and open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to others, and the world. Granted, it is not perfect, but i really think i have learnt much more about being truly human in India than anywhere else in the world - a surreal stroll down the Ganges in Varanasi thinking about life, and death, exploring the back lanes and Vasantha Bhavan menus of Chennai, verdant paddy fields, glittering pools of water and Dravidian temples set amongst them like gemstones in the Indian sun in southern Tamil Nadu, the Gandhi museum in New Delhi and a stroll down Chandni Chowk, tranquil Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab...

A trip for the soul.

Friday, 21 May 2010

I love...

The smell of fresh grass in the rain... the soft rustling of leaves before a rain, especially at night... In the distance there are flashes of lightning...

The night sky - have you ever looked up, and realised that it is not black? In cities, on some days it is a deep purple, on others, just before the rain, a floating band of orange in the skyline...

Piano songs and a fragment of memory. The rain always brings me back to those places where you smell the grass, the fresh flowers, after a cool rain... There was Kandy in Sri Lanka with dreamy, hazy drizzles and the delicate tea-leaf-scented breeze coming in from the surrounding hill country, a rocky road in Olympos off the Mediterranean in Turkey, flash Himalayan downpours in Nepal (at exactly 3 o'clock in the afternoon...), a tropical storm in Tangalla where a mad Englishman and yours truly went for a dip in ferocious foaming seas that  battered us around... well, actually we lounged about in a semi-lagoon while thumbing our noses defiantly at the wild crashing waves that almost reached us (try harder).

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Some of my favourite pictures

the Ghorepani room... Some of the most evocative and memorable shots i took, coming back into "civilization" after a long hike up into the Annapurnas; and down into the South Annapurna Glacier - a menacing, other worldly place, a scar on the trekking map. Where it was glass-sharp jagged rock fragments and silent still green pools of liquid forming little lakes (i didnt want to know how deep) and the distant rumble of rock falls. In the sea of mist scattered solitary tors (i remembered the name from a geography class, 2 years back...) stand in remembrance, of someone, something... I could have been in another world - a post-apocalyptic one, i thought.

It was good to be back in Ghorepani - literally horse-water, where in the past the donkey caravans stopped for water and supplies. I stopped for a bottle of Kukhri rum (not bad for the price) and some chocolates, a welcome change from daily dhaal bhaat tarkari (a good rhyme, isn't it? rice with dhaal and veggies) - which in all honesty, gives you wings for the trek (the best one is in Chommrong, by the way - where the owner also speaks Malay!). Another 5 days or so from Ghorepani and i would make it back to Pokhara - and a supposed bandh (strike) that had just taken place, keeping in mind that i had entered Nepal, through the Sunauli-Maharajganj crossing from India, on the 3rd day of the Republic, where i remember well, back in a hot Varanasi cybercafe the BBC had predicted ominously there would be "bloodshed".

Friday, 14 May 2010


Reflections in the window,
Car lights at night -
Rushing diamonds through the sky

Life, through a train window, 6.50 pm, Singapore city.

In a postmodern moment, my thoughts turn to Katmandu. And then Sri Lanka - Galle, Hambantota... The words forming places, memories... my thoughts rushing by with the train into the night sky... Which once were a part of my life. Outside the window are streaks of lights, blurry diamonds - reflection and object, real and unreal, moving past, moving by...

Then i remember the early days in Southeast Asia, sweet teenage years (where time passes so slowly... you cant wait to grow up) lounging in sunlit backpacker cafes  - too-hot-o'clock, sipping a cold beer, reading a musty secondhand book, or more likely flipping through "the Bible" itself (LP), expecting it to lead us to Paradise... All that feels like a dream right now. And i remember how we strolled down the street in a little seaside town in Turkey by the Mediterranean, sunset...

And I find myself asking - So who the hell am i? A zen koan comes to my mind - what was your original face before you were born? All these, these impossible, simultaneously real-yet-unreal moments would be my answer.

On my iPod, the lilting, melancholic strains of Katmandu by Cat Stevens still makes the hair at the back of my neck stand.  

"and your strange bewildering time, will keep me home..."

Or, as i hear it (and like better): "and your strange bewildering touch, will bring me home..." 

So far away! 

Golden temple, golden light. 
Amritsar, 2008

Varanasi sunrise... A May day, 2008


Sunday, 2 May 2010

Free gold

Golden light in the evening telling me -
that this moment
is all (golden) eternity.

Everything, has its own solution.
(the universe moves on)

pic: Cyclist in golden evening sun by Martien van Asseldonk

Saturday, 1 May 2010

(And it is almost raining again...)

True happiness is appreciative.

But, of course, thats not what the capitalists and advertisers want you to know. For the system, happiness is always to be acquired - through the means they proffer so helpfully, of course. Happiness is then, like chasing money, always one step ahead of you - chasing shadows.

Happiness doesn't have to be acquired. We already have it - what more most of us lucky enough to have our basic needs met - food, water, clothing... It is something to be appreciated, and to be grateful for, and to share.

In any case, a prison cell may have everything - every luxury you could ask for, but it is ultimately still that - a prison cell. How do we get out? Quite simply - the key is with us. We just have to find the key, and the courage to unlock the cell and see the greater truth out there, in truly being human, and truly living a good life - for deep happiness and fulfillment is inextricable from being good, in harmony with yourself, others, and the world.

Isnt such simplicity boring, some may ask? I choose to ask, simplicity, in terms of what?

For this has come to be defined by the capitalist, consumerist system - in material terms.

It is time for us to be clearer in what simplicity actually is: Simple in material wants, but rich in spirit and human-ness. Which is more important? I personally believe true richness and happiness lies in cultivating the spirit, nurturing the soul.

(image from Urban Nature.blogspot)

Harmony. (Rain outside the window)

Is for all and each of us to enjoy, in a crimson end-of-the-work-day sunset caught on the train, in the smell of freshly cut grass, flowers yellow in the sun, birds chirping outside the window, the freshness of rain (washing away world weariness - and making me fashionably late for work...)

These to me, are like heaven-prescribed heartwarming cups of hot chai for the soul (with the scent of cinnamon and vanilla). Priceless - truly.

But we are often too busy to see it, and rush by it. Its like happiness comes knocking gently, and you tell it, no, go away, i'm busy looking for happiness. As a very insightful fridge magnet i once had proclaimed: Men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they rush by it.

For true happiness, to me at least, is not comparative - in the vein of "a happy man is a man who makes a hundred dollars a month more than his wife's sister's husband".

True happiness is appreciative.