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India, You take my Breath Away… Each Time

Endlessly Still and Dynamic

Endlessly Still and Dynamic

So many trips to the motherland and back… Yet the magic is intact. Maybe it is the glaring contrast between my land of residence and my land of birth. Or maybe it is the infinite shades of color that India hosts – parched dull brown, bursting-with-healthy-vibrance green and everything else in between. Maybe it is the staggering appetite of Indians for love, music, food, heroes and meaning.

In India, my emotions reside right beneath the skin, threatening to burst forth any time. My intellect and emotions are constantly at war with each other. My heart craves comfort, family and coziness. It cares scant for the right/wrong of things. My head desperately tries to stay afloat… on “top of things,” so to speak. “Does it matter? You are on vacation,” a voice inside chants repeatedly. Where do I find my balance?

In the moment? Yes, perhaps. It is easiest to be in the moment – a space of no judgment or bias. Here, in this moment, I can be whoever I want. Wisdom and balance, good sense and right action, intelligence and emotional richness – they all emerge in the right proportions, perfectly timed. In this moment, I need fear nothing. I only need to be. I only need to be available. Like a crystal that simply reflects light as clearly as it can.

So, I continue to polish this crystal, day after day, so that it need fight no emotional/intellectual battles any more. So that it is free to express all colors and shades of the rainbow without fear or labeling or being labeled. Because it is the path of least resistance… to simply be, breathing and present.

 

Thoughts that Meander

As I was finishing up my evening meditation, a whole series of thoughts entered my mind. They were familiar meanderings but this time around, they were clearer, more compact and cogent. I have often tried to evince an interest in Indian politics but each time I venture closer to the subject, I am reminded why it makes me want to run away and hide. Because it leaves me feeling disempowered, helpless, powerless, hopeless. (A minute ago, I had decided that I wouldn't write this post. Why write something that is inherently dismal and depressing? But it looks like the post is writing itself.)

I think that the collective Indian ego must be feeling so bashed up, so completely cheated. Its faith has been robbed, its innocence destroyed. By who? By decades of leaders, many (or most?) of who have been small-minded, petty, corrupt and absolutely unworthy of being even called 'leaders.' And what happens when one's faith is violated? She becomes angry, cynical, pessimistic. She loses faith in herself and in the world. Most Indians today will probably naturally assume that their governance is corrupt. We have not an iota of trust in any of the people who are in power. This makes life challenging for everyone including the few rare leaders who are probably trying their level best to actually do their job.

Lack of faith in oneself causes diffidence and loss of self-confidence. And as the ego diminishes, it vainly tries to assert itself in the most petty of ways. This leads to silly quarrels, weak shows of aggression, belittling others and so on. Haven't we seen that playing out in India as well? Then there are so many villains lurking in the sidelines who are simply waiting for this kind of a situation to take advantage of.

Sigh… a long and heavy sigh.

What is the way out, if there is one? There is one, yes, there is. I guess it involves Indians to remind themselves that the past is gone and that we need to support the folks today who are honestly giving their best to making things work. We need to have cautious faith in public servants, politicians and leaders. We need to regard ourselves fairly, as citizens of a democracy. We have to dump the cynicism and pettiness.

A weak ego always needs the other to feel superior, to sustain itself. A strong ego needs no one; it is strong enough to stand by itself. We need to convert the weak, diffident collective Indian ego to a strong, self-confident one.

Food Choices and Hostility

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Of late, it seems to me that there is this awful hostility brandished between people with different food preferences. You see it a lot on Twitter, and frankly, I don’t get it.

Allow me to present my lack of understanding in context of where I come from – India.

Home to a billion (and more) people, India is a study in contradictions. If my facts serve me right, there are 32 official states in the country, and each one has its unique history, culture, literature, language, customs, folklore, cuisine and cuss words! India’s astounding diversity of population and culture blows my mind every time I ponder over it. Needless to say, most foreign visitors are astounded when they arrive, and they leave exhausted, enthralled, charmed.

Food choices? Don’t even get me started! There is a significant Hindu population in India that is staunchly vegetarian. By the way, in India, ‘vegetarian’ never includes fish. It does not even include eggs. Some Hindus may eat meat and fish but abstain from beef. Then there are others who will eat fish but will not consume any other meat products. The Jains are strictly vegetarian but they have additional guidelines. They don’t eat root vegetables, onion or garlic. Then there is the Muslim community that eats meat but abstains from pork. Folks belonging to the Sikh community may consume meat but they will not serve it during weddings and other auspicious occasions. On the other hand, the Bengali community is one where a baby’s first solid morsel of food is most likely a piece of cooked fish. During the monsoon month of Shravan, many people abstain from meat products. I believe that there is a religious reason for it although I am told that it’s the fish spawning season as well, making it an unsuitable time to consume seafood anyway.

See what I said about India and contradictions? Maybe I am ignorant but I am yet to come across any name calling or hostility or violence in the name of vegetarianism or veganism in India. Diversity in food choice is simply part of the greater diversity that exists in India. Then why fight over it? In any case, it is a personal decision. The consequence of your choice, food related and otherwise, will catch up with you eventually. Today, tomorrow, ten years later, or in a subsequent life time. It is just how Karma operates.

Besides, if being a vegetarian/vegan is really about practising non-violence, then where is the question of anger or hostility? Isn’t that a form of violence?

Soup for the Soul

As I said, it is weird. And completely unnecessary.