Embracing…
… my experiences in India

Nov
19



Harry Potter eat your heart out ๐Ÿ™‚

We went to Nanmangalam Reserve with the Madras Naturalist Society at the weekend and we saw this beautiful Great Horned Owl.

Just goes to show there’s more to Chennai than meets the dusty eye.

Nov
15


Having practiced yoga since 2000, I felt I was ready to become a yoga teacher. I found Dr Hema at the Indian Institute for Yoga in Chennai and decided to take their Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Therapy course.

I graduated as a Yoga Teacher yesterday.

Now I’m asking myself: “What makes a good yoga teacher?”

  • ย Pitching to class to the correct level of the students.
  • Informing students of the benefits of each asana.
  • Incorporating pranayama, asana and dhyana in each class.
  • Cultivating a non-competitive and accepting attitude in students.
  • Enabling and encouraging students to practice out of class.
  • Giving students a pathway whereby they can improve their yoga.

What do you look for in a Yoga Teacher?

Nov
08


The Hollies had a point with this lyric… breathing brings life.

In urban India breathing brings an early death.

Good air quality is not a priority in a country where the infant mortality rate is 68 (UK is 7). However, I think pollution is a causal factor in the poor health of pregnant women and children.

As India experiences rapid development in the software industries, the roads simply can not cope. More Indians are now able to afford to run a car and/or motorbike, but this demand on the roads means congestion of the roads and of our lungs. I hate having to breath in the toxic fumes when I cycle to and from the local shops, it is disgusting.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment someone dies every hour due to air pollution. Breathing toxic fumes causes asthma, irritation to the eyes, lungs and throat and can contribute to development of cancer. No wonder I got ill after my trip to Bangalore at the weekend where the roads are on another level that I have not seen before.

What’s it like for the people that have to live and work on the roads day-in, day-out?

Auto-drivers, road-side stalls, beggars, traffic police are exposed to these toxins for prolonged periods. I believe these people will have shorter lives and more painful deaths than those that don’t have to work under these conditions. Do they realise the risks?

In UK, the answer has been to try and draw people out of their cars and onto public transport, but this isn’t possible in India when the buses are battered, overflowing and some of the biggest polluters themselves.

The one saving grace has been the train line in/out of Chennai. This public transport investment is brilliant. It is electric, off road, over ground (above the smog) and not overcrowded on the whole.

My loathing for petrol burning vehicles has reached an all time high.

Anyone know where I can buy a decent face mask?

Oct
22

Being newly exposed to South India and Hinduism, my understanding of the icons, festivals and rituals is slowly developing. Visiting the Mylapore Trio last week during the Golu-doll-Goddess-worshipping festival of Navarathri helped my understanding deepen a little.

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Navarathri is a 9 day festival that worships three Goddesses (Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi) for three days each. Similar to Christmas decorations in UK, Navarathri decorations are pulled down from the loft on an annual basis, but instead of Christmas trees, people in Tamil Nadu create spectacular stairway presentations depicting various elaborate scenes of Goddesses and womens contributions to society.

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At first glance, I thought that this was Hindu’s ancient answer to feminism, however, all was not what it seemed…

… Amarnath kindly showed me round the Maylapore Trio’s exorbitantly decorated home, during which he pointed out that these Golu dolls were displaying what it means to be a woman. He used adjectives such as docile, humble, domesticated and shy.

I felt my resistance going straight up at this point and this is why.

I struggle a lot with societal expectations about how a woman should behave and because these expectations are so pervasive, I end up adhering to them which causes me great pain and conflict.

For example, by using these adjectives, it is implied that it is not acceptable for a woman to be angry, pissed off or assertive. Whenever I have denied my anger, I have ended up suffering, internalising it and feeling depressed. Maybe that’s why women become ‘docile’ or deadened.

For me, anger is an energy for change which needs to be expressed appropriately to the right person/people at the right time. If I do not do this, my anger becomes a harmful toxin within me.

So I do not agree with the Mylapore Trio’s depiction of what it means to be a woman, but I do salute the recognition and celebration of women.

The hot topic is, how can these traditions and rituals be passed onto the next generation when competing with the lure of materialism and consumerism?

If I consider trends in England, there has been a tremendous deterioration in numbers of church goers (see UK is Losing its Religion). And although I admire the Mylapore Trio’s efforts in keeping their culture alive, I think they’ve got an uphill struggle on their hands.

Spirituality comes from within. I say allow these young people to experience the world of computer games, mobile phones and fast food. Given time, I think they will return to what is true to them, whether that be Hinduism, Buddhism or naturism ๐Ÿ™‚ give them the freedom to decide for themselves.

Oct
16

In South India, millions of Hindu women start their day by painting a prayer called a Kolam on their front porch.

These intricate symmertical designs are drawn with rice flour (food for the ants and crows). If you’ve ever seen one being drawn, you will have been amazed at the speed and precision that these women use. It’s as though they are using a magic white pen! Not one spec of rice dust is out of place.

This welcoming attitude represents one of the differences between my life in England and my life in Chennai.

In England of a morning, people are drinking coffee, rushing out of their doors, spirituality seems forgotten and any small animals/insects encountered on the way are seen as pests.

In Chennai doors are open, people and animals are welcomed in and spirituality is integral to everyones day. Kinda nice don’t you think?

Read more at Wikipedia.

Oct
09

Since attending SearchCamp last weekend I have managed to clarify my position.

I was immersed into a world of marketing, money and profits which is most unfamiliar and uncomfortable for me. It knocked me sideways.

In my morning meditation today, I read a line from Lao Tsu’s Tao te Ching:

He who knows he has enough is rich.

This sums up how I want to live my life.

When I looked around the auditorium on Saturday at SearchCamp, I saw over 400 people spending their weekend discussing how to make more money.

Given the choice between Daddy or more money, I think the children of these guys would have prefered to have their Dad at home last weekend.

Money and power are such a huge distractions, people often miss the very beauty of being alive, being together and being themselves. Money or no money.

During my time in India I am practicing simplifying my life. I am purposefully not busying myself with a million commitments to justify my existence in this world. I am practising the art of being idle, with a little help from Facebook. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It is difficult. I find myself thinking I should be doing more. The protestant work ethic which drives so many of us is very hard to put down.

I have got a wonderful opportunity to just be, to be me without the pressures and responsibilities that go along with a full time career and I’m trying to lean into it.

Oct
08

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As someone new to blogging, I was invited to attend this Unconference.

I was going to try live blogging for the first time, but how can one ‘live blog’ when one doesn’t understand what the f*ck is being said? I was out of my depth.

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OK, so I took some pictures and made some notes… and I found out that what I did understand didn’t actually interest me.

I don’t give a shit about making loads of money, so I guess that’s what separated me from the rest of the crowd.

100_06081.jpg Mahesh Marthy made predictions about the future of Search Engine Optimization.

100_0609.jpg Rajeev Bala revealed how to make lots of money in search, apparently.

100_0620.jpg After lunch, there was a panel debate on whether to facilitate Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in-house or to outsource. Seeing as most of the panelists relied on comapies outsourcing, you can guess how the debate went.

What did I learn?

I learnt that attending an unconference on a topic you don’t understand is very disempowering.

… however, talking to other bloggers during the breaks was useful for me. Lets hope my next unconferenc is more:

a. understandable b. relevant c. fun

Oct
05

My mate Steve has been up to his usual shenanigans in England in the face of the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth. He’s against the war in Iraq.

I’m against the war in Iraq.

60% of the British population think Iraq war is wrong.

He has been doing his best to bring sense to the government that initiated the senseless killing.

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Troops out now!

Oct
04

My employment in England consisted of a wide range of social care jobs and having been in the field for 8 years, I was feeling burnt out.

With the prospect of moving to India in July 2007 for my partner’s research job, I thought I would take the opportunity to try something different, but I didn’t know what that something different was going to be…

…then Facebook came to the rescue!

I was made an offer via Facebook to become a part-time blogger for the Treepu project, which I accepted with some curiosity.

Since September 2007, I have been initiated into the world of blogs, social media and on-line community building by Labsji.

And here I am; learning a lot, making mistakes and enjoying the successes. It has been and continues to be a process of figuring my way through the world of shameless self-promotion, social objects, mashups and link-love ๐Ÿ™‚

On the plus side – I work part-time from home which leaves plenty of time for other activities like mediation and yoga. I am prompted to attend events, form opinions and post them on my blog which has been good brain stimulation for me, it makes sure I don’t get too lazy contemplating cups of tea!

On the down side – It can be lonely work staring at my PC all morning, I’m used to busy working environments, there’s no one nearby to hear my groans of frustration or yelps of excitement.

It certainly is something different, no mention here of setting up care-plans, preparing for government inspections or dealing with the bureaucratic benefit system like I did in the UK.

It suits me for now.

How do you think I’m doing?

Oct
03

2nd October.

An Indian National Holiday to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday.

AID and Youth for Social Change used this public holiday to hold a vigil for the suffering that is currently going on in the farming communities of India.

Farmers in India are in extreme social and economic distress. They are faced with huge inflation and raising input costs but are getting lower prices for their production. This has resulted in farmers accruing unmanageable debts.

Corporations have taken away farmers indigenous seeds and have pushed them to purchase more expensive genetically modified seeds which do not re-seed. Despite promises to act, the Indian Government has completely failed to protect our Farmers’ interests.

Farmers have had nowhere else to turn, no protection, thus have taken their own lives often leaving their families and debts behind them. It is estimated that over 100,000 farmers have taken their own lives in the past ten years.

The problem is not going away, hence the vigil.

Over 100 people assembled on Besant Nagar Beach last night to make their message clear.

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There were a lot of cameras and press swarming around, so hopefully the government will get the message that SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE. Token efforts made by government policies are not enough.

The vigil was well organised and executed. There were talks in English and Tamil on the plight of the farmers. There was a small group of Tamil singers who sang politically motivated songs; I managed to capture some of the sentiments of the songs which included anti-American influences and saying NO to Coca-Cola.

As the sun went down the sobering atmosphere was deepened when a list of 138 names was read out in the centre of the candle lit circle. The names were of farmers who had committed suicide in the past 2 months. This reading made my experience real. It is not just statistics we are talking about here, it’s real people, families and communities that are suffering.

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If 100,000 farmers had died in UK in 10 years, there wouldn’t be any farming left. Just because India’s population is so great, it doesn’t lessen the tragedy that is taking place daily.

What can we do?

  • Boycott Reliance supermarkets who do not practice fair trade.
  • Sign the petition to the Prime Minister of India.
  • Find out more on on AID website.

What would Gandhi do?