Archive for June, 2010

One of the greatest gifts my father gave me — unintentionally — was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity. We had a bit of a rollercoaster life with some really challenging financial periods. He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man. I learned that life will go through changes — up and down and up again. It’s what life does. –   …………………..  reminds me of my father

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Clearly the blue river chimes in its flowing

Under my eye;
Warmly and broadly the south winds are blowing
Over the sky.
One after another the white clouds are fleeting;
Every heart this May morning in joyance is beating
Full merrily;
Yet all things must die.
The stream will cease to flow;
The wind will cease to blow;
The clouds will cease to fleet;
The heart will cease to beat;
For all things must die.
All things must die.
Spring will come never more.
Oh! vanity!
Death waits at the door.
See! our friends are all forsaking
The wine and the merrymaking.
We are call’d — we must go.
Laid low, very low,
In the dark we must lie.
The merry glees are still;
The voice of the bird
Shall no more be heard,
Nor the wind on the hill.
Oh! misery!
Hark! death is calling
While I speak to ye,
The jaw is falling,
The red cheek paling,
The strong limbs failing;
Ice with the warm blood mixing;
The eyeballs fixing.
Nine times goes the passing bell:
Ye merry souls, farewell.
The old earth
Had a birth,
As all men know,
Long ago.
And the old earth must die.
So let the warm winds range,
And the blue wave beat the shore;
For even and morn
Ye will never see
Thro’ eternity.
All things were born.
Ye will come never more,
For all things must die.

Nothing Will Die

By Alfred Lord Tennyson
When will the stream be aweary of flowing
Under my eye?
When will the wind be aweary of blowing
Over the sky?
When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?
When will the heart be aweary of beating?
And nature die?
Never, oh! never, nothing will die;
The stream flows,
The wind blows,
The cloud fleets,
The heart beats,
Nothing will die.

Nothing will die;
All things will change
Thro’ eternity.
‘Tis the world’s winter;
Autumn and summer
Are gone long ago;
Earth is dry to the centre,
But spring, a new comer,
A spring rich and strange,
Shall make the winds blow
Round and round,
Thro’ and thro’,
Here and there,
Till the air
And the ground
Shall be fill’d with life anew.

The world was never made;
It will change, but it will not fade.
So let the wind range;
For even and morn
Ever will be
Thro’ eternity.
Nothing was born;
Nothing will die;
All things will change.

: It may be countless births that a Jivatma has to take before it can attain liberation. Lord Krishna shows us a ladder that can be used for this purpose.

Knowledge of the essential nature of the Supreme Brahman, the Jivatma and the inanimate objects in the world is the first rung of the ladder. But mere knowledge of these truths and even proficiency in arguing their veracity will be of no avail to step ahead to the next rung of the ladder, said Velukkudi Sri Krishnan in a lecture.

These truths have to be internalised and brought into the very way of life of the individual. The basic truth that the Self is imperishable while the body is subject to constant change involving growth and decay — a natural phenomenon that is witnessed all around — has to be deeply imprinted in the individual’s consciousness.

It is very tempting to get carried away by power, wealth, status, intelligence, scholarship, etc., so much so that, our actions are prompted by the feeling that these will continue for ever. We thus spend our life time consolidating these, despite their fleeting nature and fail to strengthen the well-being of the Self that is the indweller in each being.

Knowing the fickle nature of the human mind and its weaknesses, Lord Krishna’s step-by-step recipe of Karma Yoga forms the second rung of the ladder. Its simple and practical formula cuts across all walks of life. Action subsumes thought, word and deed and is unavoidable and compulsory to every one.

The mind of a person who chooses solitude might be filled with worldly thoughts; and one who is in the thick of activity with many people may be mentally in communion with God.

The Lord advises us to get involved in our ordained duties. The emphasis is on the performance of these duties with commitment and detachment. Any contradiction in the two demands is resolved in the advice to dedicate all actions and their fruits to Him.

Jnana Yoga representing the purity of mind — the perfect springboard for striving for liberation — is the third rung of the ladder.

Marcel Proust the great French novelist and philosopher, once said, in reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self…and the recognition by the reader in his own self of what the book says is the proof it its veracity.This is an axiom that underlies not just the best novels but also the ideal reader, who can confirm the best and the worst of his or her life through the experience of reading a good novel.

The offsetting of the cold realities of war with stories of the quirky and plucky members of the book club is essentially a celebration of the written word and its transformational power. This is a book for book lovers, book clubs and for everyone else who needs to reaffirm to themselves the redemptive power of literature.

  • There is still no bar on trying the corporate perpetrators of the Bhopal tragedy, including Warren Anderson.

When it comes to the U.S., international law is the vanishing point of punitive jurisprudence

Crime statistics almost wholly ignore corporate or business crime-

To generate awareness about genetic resources conservation, each year May 22 is observed as the International Day for Biological Diversity. The U.N. has designated 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. Leaders from 170 countries will gather at a U.N. Biodiversity Summit in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010 to adopt a roadmap to stop biodiversity loss.

A tribal village in the Kolli Hills in Tamil Nadu. These villages are leading the way in revitalising the conservation traditions of tribal families, without compromising on their economic well-being.

These villages are leading the way in revitalising the conservation traditions of tribal families, without compromising on their economic well-being.

Biodiversity loss is predominantly related to habitat destruction largely for commercial exploitation, and for alternative uses such as road-building. Invasive alien species and unsustainable development cause genetic erosion. How can we reverse the paradigm and enlist development as an effective instrument to conserve biodiversity?

During the tsunami, mangroves served as speed-breakers and saved people from the waves. He said everyone in the village now understood the symbiotic relationship between mangroves and coastal communities. The mangroves here are now in safe hands.

……………… adding value to primary products and finding niche markets for traditional foodgrains.  Commercialisation thus became the trigger for conservation.

In Biovillages, the conservation and enhancement of natural resources become priority tasks. At the same time, the Biovillage community aims to increase the productivity and profitability of small farms and create livelihood opportunities in the non-farm sector. Habitat conservation is vital to prevent genetic erosion. In a Biovalley, local communities try to link biodiversity, biotechnology and business in a mutually reinforcing manner. A Herbal Biovalley under development in Koraput aims to conserve medicinal plants and local foods and convert them into value-added products based on assured and remunerative market linkages. Such sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity leads to an era of biohappiness. Tribal families in Koraput have formed a “Biohappiness Society.”

REAP THE BENEFITS Pay attention to your  thoughts PHOTO: AP
REAP THE BENEFITS Pay attention to your thoughts PHOTO: AP

PEACE by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

H, that Time could touch a form
That could show what Homer’s age
Bred to be a hero’s wage.
‘Were not all her life but storm,
Would not painters paint a form
Of such noble lines,’ I said,
‘Such a delicate high head,
All that sternness amid charm,
All that sweetness amid strength?’
Ah, but peace that comes at length,
Came when Time had touched her form

Out-Worn heart, in a time out-worn,

Come clear of the nets of wrong and right;

Laugh, heart, again in the grey twilight,
Sigh, heart, again in the dew of the morn.

Your mother Eire is aways young,
Dew ever shining and twilight grey;
Though hope fall from you and love decay,
Burning in fires of a slanderous tongue.

Come, heart, where hill is heaped upon hill:
For there the mystical brotherhood
Of sun and moon and hollow and wood
And river and stream work out their will;

And God stands winding His lonely horn,
And time and the world are ever in flight;
And love is less kind than the grey twilight,
And hope is less dear than the dew of the morn.
William Butler Yeats “I don’t know the formula for success, but certainly know for failure: it is the incapacity to prioritise between our non-negotiable core values and other fluid priorities”.“Stress is not due to workload. Even with tonnes of work if you are never mentally ill, have time for the people whom you love, laugh merrily, and be content with all your decisions, then you can stop reading this book any further,” writes Elisabeth Wilson in her preface of the book: “Stress proof your life – 52 brilliant ideas for taking control”.Three important questions play vital role: (A) How I want to live? (B) How am I living? (C) What am I doing to shift from B to A?

A bad student feels guilty for his lifestyle; however much might he show off outwardly.Real thrill lies in the satisfaction that you are going in a correct path. Life is not measured with the quantity of breaths you take, but with the quantity of moments that take your breath away. – The book with the tempting sketches of the hedonist resting against a tree and drinking cups of heady wine from the hands of a sinuous saki under a full moon, sketches which, in a summer of artistic delusion, I copied on chart paper and hung all over my room.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: One of the most famous and oft-quoted books

Handle with care: At the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Photo: Sally Bair Handle with care: At the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Photo: Sally Bair

The genesis of the plan of the House in Florence by Simone Micheli where he lives together with his wife Roberta and his son Cesar lies its foundations in the concept of modern luxury the Tuscan architect developed after a thorough and targeted thinking. During the “XXX Congreso Colombiano de Arquitectura” ( 30th Colombian Architecture Convention) which took place in Baranquilla (Colombia), Simone Micheli asserted: “ …the new luxury does not mean immobility or habit, but rather freedom and movement. It is a light and stirring thought, at any moment we are able to choose where and how to live and to reinvent the environment we live in. As for architecture the new luxury is related to the idea of regaining the beauties and the truth of our daily life together with our inner feelings. It is more connected with vacuums than with plenums, more with mind than with body. It does not mean opulence but rather transparency.

I am talking about possible places where yours and our histories are echoing in the shape of visual, olfactory, tactile and auditory essence. I am telling you a story which has its roots in the past and in the tastes of exotic places but at the same time it is near and next future oriented. This future I am referring to is not made up of mimesis, emulation but rather it represents the truth and the oneness which envelope and protect us in order to live instead of just surviving in a restless and alienating reality. I am talking about non-places, natural habitats where the deepest and the most genuine personality of each person emerges and where anyone can establish a symbiotic relationship with himself and with the nature which created us. It has visual and inner harmony, it is the mirror of our mood which becomes calmer and stabler. Spirituality and beauty involve us in a aesthetic experience with all that is around us and with all we build with our body and mind. All this leads to the birth of a new place suitable for the inner growth but also for the development of our present or future family which is proud and grateful for having the chance of enjoying the cohesiveness the family is surrounded by. Daily relations and interactions as well will benefit from this cohesiveness by being enriched with passion and enthusiasm.

I aim at making man the main focus of attention by stirring up his senses by means of shapes, images, colours, lights, materials and by creating a scenario hovering among trascendence and immanence, concreteness and abstraction, dream and reality. I am referring to spaces in the world, where man represents a fourth dimension worth studying and to be sensorially satisfied. Moreover, each element in these spaces bring man back to the origins of time when everything was pure and simple. In my opinion the word luxury could go beyond the limits of its meaning. Nowadays living in a luxurious sphere means being able to love and being loved in a genuine and absolute way, it means being surrounded by simplicity and let have our attention drawn by watching a grass blade waving in the wind. It means regaining the truth of life, living by appreciating the beauty of each day and by growing through the intangible physicity.

It means reconsidering, dreaming, starting to love again without asking anything back, giving without having anything back. It means building without destroying, creating processes having a strong ethical sense and capable of becoming generators of healthy beauty. This is how I see luxury, which does not mean opulence and redundancy but rather the essentials, ethical gestures contents oriented, free spaces with scattered basic elements. I wish to create new stories connected with the world of the wonders having no bonds with tradition, I aim at simplifying and improve the life of man by eliminating all the unessential and undesired in the space he lives in”.

Micheli Residence by Simone MicheliMicheli Residence by Simone Micheli

Micheli Residence by Simone Micheli1Micheli Residence by Simone Micheli1

Micheli Residence by Simone Micheli2Micheli Residence by Simone Micheli2


Micheli Residence by Simone Micheli Photo Gallery

A critique of the globalisation concept, this collection of papers — presented at a seminar held by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at the Goa University in 2006 — reflects a morbid obsession of the authors with cataloguing what they see as its malevolent consequences.

As Yogesh Atal succinctly puts it, the conceptual confusion arises from the persisting tendency of viewing the paradigm of development as globalisation, the much-used term signifying different things to different people. Right from the introductory chapter, the refrain is one of indicting globalisation, which in the post-1991 Indian context comprised “a trinity of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, popularly known as LPG.”


The fault-lines indicated by the authors make a litany of woes: the neoliberal economic policies widening the gap between the rich and the poor; the free enterprise imperialist ideology promoting market-oriented capitalistic and privatised economy; and the transformative project of global capitalism turning into a hegemonically negotiated process of economic and cultural flows across borders.

Globalisation not only makes inroads into our economic and political life but invades our social and cultural spheres as well, breeding a culture of consumerism, and ultimately leading to a trivialisation and distortion of local cultures.

Surinder Kumar and Sohan Sharma, in particular, seem to revel in railing at institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO, which are termed the “repositories of neoliberal, free enterprise imperialist ideology.” No doubt, in the current global context, the iniquitous asymmetry of the Bretton Woods institutions is well acknowledged. But the authors here identify them as “the roots of financial enslavement.” Witness also the statement: “As a loan condition, the World Bank group requires the recipient governments to reduce wages, suppress working class rights and demands.” Sherry Sabbarwal argues that globalisation, besides bringing inequality, mass poverty and desolation, has violated the workers’ fundamental right to work.

Murzban Jal endorses the view that the World Bank and the IMF function “as the policemen of the American State which the Indian State readily succumbs to…” In a similar vein, T.R. Sharma says the United States, “the global hegemon,” operates through the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, TRIPS and patenting laws.


Yogesh Atal infuses a sense of moderation into the debate by presenting an erudite appraisal of the globalisation process across the world, a process that was not faulted by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz; according to him, only the way it has been “managed” is faulty. Describing globalisation as “a major turning point in development”, he cites Marshall McLuhan’s view of the concept. To McLuhan, it is a process of making the world a ‘global village’, emphasising the inevitability of interdependence, and the need to tackle various problems — such as environmental pollution, population explosion, violence and crime — and deficits in social development in a way that requires each society to think globally, yet act locally.

To take a balanced view, as Atal points out, the evolving transport and communication technologies have knit the continents together and any attempt to resist or impede the process would be detrimental to public interest. The western paradigm of development has created disenchantment since it engendered serious disparities and falsified many tenets of modernisation. What seems to endure worldwide, no less in Asian cultures including India, is a kind of heterogeneity — modernity juxtaposed with tradition — and “sandwich culture”, a phenomenon that is still evolving. If anything, whatever diffusion is happening has in fact been enriching the cultures.

Countries are becoming heterogeneous in their cultures and plural in their social structures. Like the bamboo, cultures bend, but do not break, when winds of change blow fast and strong. It needs to be realised that globalisation is a process, not an ideological dogma imposed by some agency. As the editor of this volume, Mehta argues in the introductory chapter, we should not shy away from the globalisation process but, as a part of the knowledge society, prepare ourselves to derive maximum advantage from it, even while upholding our values.

Man Booker Prize winner Yann Martel’s second novel, Beatrice and Virgil, is in many ways a book of memory and remembrance. The artful metaphor is our only ally against forgetfulness, he says. Excerpts from an exclusive interview…

Yann Martel’s second novel has been a long time coming. Recently released in Canada and the US, Beatrice and Virgil has received polarised reviews. That it has been trashed as well as praised, he says, is a sign that it has elicited active engagement, not indifference, from the readers. The controversial reception is a sign that it is getting people to think and act, he says from San Francisco where he is on a promotional tour. Excerpts from a telephonic conversation…

Are you planning on coming to India to promote the book here?

I have a nine-month-old son. Before I can promote it — I am not going to Australia, New Zealand — I want to get back and be with my son. So, as much as I would love to return to India, for any reason, not just to promote my books, just to be in India — I haven’t been there for about nine years now — I don’t know when that’ll be. India has changed a lot, I would love to go back and see that.

Lest we forget: Yann Martel. Photo: MACARENA YANEZ

Is this novel about the primacy of the imagination? You think we live in a world where the profusion of facts is working against making sensible meaning out of it?

Reality is a 100 million details. Right now where you are, if you think about it, you are surrounded by 100 million details on which you could focus your attention. Everything, from chemical, scientific details to cultural details to personal emotional details… now some of that has to be lost. Time, you know, is an eraser. It all goes. [We need] something we can hold on to. It’s called history. But even history has hundreds of thousands of details and sometimes it’s overwhelming and it’s hard to get to. The forte of the arts, the forte of the imagination is that it can take some of those details and give them immortality. A painting, a story, a song can float across the ocean of time like a lifeboat. So you can get to the essence of an event and convey it in the form of art. It can be like a suitcase, taking the essential and preparing you for a trip to elsewhere…

Does ‘getting to the essence’ necessarily bring a moral perspective that is lacking in mere facts?

It can be but art isn’t necessarily moral. Art could be immoral too. Art is witness. But in some stories, yes, it can also have a moral edge. It can also, in telling a story, convey certain moral situations. Which is what my novel does at the very end — In “Games for Gustav” are these 12 situations that are morally, existentially difficult. So, yes, it can make a moral situation fresh again…

You dwell at length in the initial stages of the novel about the concrete, everyday circumstances around writing /publishing that are usually glossed over. Is it autobiographical and are you saying that though there is a market built around imagination, it is essential to our being and identity?

I didn’t do it because I wanted it to be autobiographical, it was more because of the idea of a writer who stops writing, whose message has stopped, suited me because I was discussing the Holocaust. And any great horrific event, the Holocaust, war, has a tendency to erase language, to make us at a loss for words. You know, famously, when people encountered the Accounts, their language was full of clichés to do with “there are no words to describe”, “I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.” So, to have a writer who is at a loss for words and then to meet the taxidermist who is also in some ways at a loss for words suited my purpose when discussing the Holocaust…so that’s why I have that theme.

I did indeed have a meeting with my publishers, I did want to do a flip book with them but their argument was different. They were saying, “listen, an essay is a specialised product. A novel is not.” They were afraid the essay would drag down the novel.

You keep coming back to the notion that is art is about joy. The taxidermist is shown as someone who is joyless, cheerless, who plods through his play. “My story has no story. It is based on the fact of murder,” he says at one point. You think the character of the taxidermist is too steretypical, he and the novelist falling easily into opposite sides of a too-easy divide?

Art is joy in a general way. Any art, music, dance, painting, to create at that level is deeply joyful, it involves your whole being. Art and religion are the two ways in which we fully engage with life. In this particular case, I enjoyed wrestling with that subject. I wanted to make the taxidermist ambiguous. He clearly has some sort of a creative impulse, he is working on a play, he is quite rude with the writer. I wanted someone whom we wouldn’t understand why he was doing the things he was doing until the very end and even then we are not sure what his intent was.

And that to me was the parallel of the encounter of the Jews of Europe with the Nazis who did not see it coming. By the time they realised fully what the Nazis’ intents were, it was too late, they couldn’t escape and that’s why so many died.

How has the novel been received?

It’s been very interesting and very polarised. Some critics absolutely hated it. I got absolutely trashed by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and there’s some blogger on the Internet named Edward Champion who absolutely hated it. And then you have reviewers who absolutely loved it. The USA Todaythought it was positively a masterpiece. There were very positive reviews inNewsweek and the LA Times. So it’s been very polarised, which is good. The one thing you don’t want with art is indifference. You don’t want people to shrug. Even when people hate it, they are engaging with it.

Is there some sort of thematic continuity or evolution between Life of Pi and Beatrice and Virgil? If the former was about God, faith and religion, the latter is about imagination and art, isn’t it?

In some ways they are very different books. Yes, they both feature animals but that’s just on the surface. In Life of Pi hopefully the reader loses himself looking at those animals. Forget may be his humanity. In Beatrice and Virgilthose animals are anthropomorphised and are meant to bring us back to our humanity.

And as for the role of the imagination, to me it’s something more immediate like life itself is an interpretation. We cannot choose the reality we live in, but we can choose how we interpret it. In that sense, imagination is not something whimsical, fairy-tale like, I am simply saying that reality is a co-creation, reality is something which is out there but it is also how you take it. To that extent, I suppose there is a similarity between the two novels in the sense that how you represent reality will speak of how you see it, of what that reality is. A person of faith reads transcendendance into the world, sees a divine plan; I suppose it is the same with reading history. You are representing an event that is past, and in that representation there is an element of interpretation, of imaginative reading. In that way there is a thematic link between the two novels.

To me this novel seems to come behind a line of books from the West dealing with the Holocaust. Why this obsession in the West about the Holocaust? There are historical continuities to the Holocaust in the contemporary world like what is happening in Palestine, Gaza today, injustices, perhaps of equal magnitude. Nobody seems to talk about them much…

Well, aside of the politics of West Asia, which poisons everything, just looking in terms of history, the Holocaust still remains unique: every other genocide before and after has to some extent been politically expedient. The Armenians in Turkey were killed because they were in the way of the Turks who were trying to start their nation. Excesses in Gaza were committed because of political enmity between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In both cases you killed people who were in the way, who bothered you but the ones beyond a certain border were irrelevant to you. But the Nazis were obsessed with killing the Jews everywhere, as if they were a disease. That does remain unique. And the reason I think it is still relevant, not a piece of historical arcana from several years ago in the backwaters of Poland, is because what led to the Holocaust is still absolutely contemporary.

The act of hate, the thinking of hatred, the disrespect in the mind of an individual that eventually in Germany led to the Holocaust, that little beginning, that seed of hatred is found everywhere. The Holocaust is not rooted in Auschwitz, in Poland. It is rooted in the human heart. And that applies to India too. There are people in India with holocaustal thinking, for example the BJP, the Shiv Sena, you know, that kind of hatred of the other whom you don’t even know, who is just a construction in your mind to relieve tension, to relieve whatever… that is holocaustal. Now because India is democracy, there is a free press, it is unlikely that there will ever be a genocide but the roots are there…

The thing about this novel is that it is not an orthodox Holocaust novel. There is no history in there, there are no Germans, there is minimal reference to the Holocaust yet it is soaked in it.

So I do choose the Holocaust but not just as a historical artefact, I am looking at what is to me relevant. At the very end, there are 12 more situations where there is no historical colour or detail that put you at the heart of it. And those 12 situations could take place in India. You could be in a line of people about to be executed and you could be holding your grand daughter’s hand and she asks you a question. And what might that question be? What would a child be thinking when it sees people being massacred? That completely fits in with realities in India today. That’s why I think it’s still relevant…