Staying Foolish !

Stupid, Foolish and Crazy are some of the words people generally associate with me. I have to admit that they must be right as well, especially when these attributes are spelled out by people who know me for quite some time - parents, relatives and friends. I myself occasionally feel these are the best words to describe myself... the only addition I would have made being 'Lazy'.

Because of all this I rarely argue on this point and rather enjoy the advantages of such labeling. Once you get out of the stereotype of 'normal human being', life becomes much more interesting. You don't have a great image to live up to and hence no need for constant reinvention of your own self! It also reduces a lot of what you generally call 'peer pressure', the need to stand at par with the rest of the pack. Anything you do, even the outright shocking of things, get overlooked and sidelined with the remark 'he's always been like that.. don't pay attention'. Though such labeling might prima facie sound like a bondage and burden, in reality it is the most liberating of experiences. Something like they said in 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas'- he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man!

I am called foolish mostly because of the seemingly impossible and impractical ideas I have about life. If you want to live life a certain way, without breaking the moral code of the society, why should others fret about it? When I tell people that I don't watch television or I don't own a vehicle, the immediate conclusion is that I must be stupid! Any deviation from the so called 'normal' behavior is always termed as perversion and that is understandable.

Staying foolish helps you face life at your own terms. You don't have to constantly adapt to someone else's idea of life and not recognize yourself in the mirror one fine day. Nothing's worth more, than leading life by one's own convictions. But the difficult part is to make others understand your way of living. I got a lesson on this from a dear friend of mine. She was giving a lecture on relationships, after another girl told me that I am worse than a Eunuch and is totally unfit to take up responsibilities. She told me 'At some point in life, every girl wants a certain kind of love, a certain kind of life.. something stable and secure and dependable. They don't want an unguided, uncontrolled missile, which travels dangerously and might explode anytime'. I shamelessly accepted the argument and said 'That is definitely impressive'!

I have been fooled or cheated a couple of times by people whom I trusted the most. I trust everyone till they prove otherwise, as I believe that everyone is basically good. It is also the easiest way to approach life, as you don't have to devise preemptive strategies against everyone you see around. But occasionally I ended up giving my time and energy, to worthless people, that did nothing for me but make me regret ever trusting them, and accepting them into my life. But then that is all right... shit happens all the time.

What if I am rejected and kicked a few times, I am still in love!

Love stories..

Ever noticed that most of the love stories are told from the point of view of ex-lovers. We rarely hear stories which go like "We were madly in love, we are still together, love is beautiful". Instead most of them sound like "those were the best days, we had a great time, but then it all turned upside down.. I still long for a touch, a kiss, a hug.." and so on. Why is it that no great stories are written about 'being in love'? The following are a few of the possibilities I could think of...

- My assumption is wrong. I haven't read enough to reach such a conclusion!
- Being in love is no big story, only when you throw in a few heartbreaks and agony into the mix will you get an interesting story.
- Those in love have no time to write about it, they are busy experiencing it. The ones who screw up has all the time in the world.
- Writers are morons and are too hesitant to commit and always wriggle out of a relationship or get ditched.
- Those who commit easily to a relationship and stay put in it are unimaginative jerks.
- Those who are rejected in love write about it to make pot shots at the other party, before he/she gets their version of the story out.
- Writing about failure is a good way to put it in perspective and learn about the mistakes.
- Writing a story is all you can do when you actually lose it.
- Nobody is interested in reading how someone else is having a good time; stories on breakups and failed relationships are modern day confidence boosters.
- There are far more people who get thrown out of relationships than those who survive in them, so proportionately more stories will come from them.
- It is our habit to whine about spilled milk!

It can also be that we don't realize the worth of love enough to write about it, till we get out of it. Is it because we can't realize the value of things in the absence of a reference point? Unless we pass through the post-love agony, we fail to appreciate the joy of being in love. As someone rightly said, 'All good things in life need to be disturbed, for us to realize their real worth' - money, health, love, sleep.. you name it. It probably has something to do with our inability to comprehend some things, no matter how much we try.. like the chemical reactions at atomic level or gravitational interactions between the galaxies. We as a species is designed to understand things at certain levels, while the rest of the spectrum is beyond our comprehension. Is it why the wise men already phrased it as 'falling' in love and not 'engaging' in love, as we are not making a conscious, informed decision here?

And again, how good is a story without a proper ending? Stories which conclude with statements like 'and they lived happily ever after' are good to listen to, but leave you kind of empty, wanting for more. Continuous tense is a bad choice to end a story according to me, unless you are planning a sequel.

Oktoberfest 2009

It is that time of the year again, when you have another excuse to sit under the open skies in the night, get drunk, and watch live music - Oktoberfest. The 'emperor of good times' had arranged three days of pure fun at Palace grounds with over over 15 bands performing live. Some of the best live acts in India representing different genres of music, some good beer in different flavors and some of the finest babes in different attires or lack of them! What more can you ask for in three days time? There was something for everyone, from acoustic performances to Jazz to Hindi pop to Fusion music to Hard rock and extreme metal.

There was an entry fee this year and that kind of ensured that only people interested in music and beer joined the party. There was a huge expat crowd as well, making the best of the opportunity to have some beer in peace - without the 11 o'clock deadline or the moral police. Ministry of Blues were on to their third or fourth song by the time I reached the venue on Friday night. I had heard a lot about this Blues Rock band from Bangalore and the next few songs made me realize that the press do occasionally say the truth. They were awesome! After MOB, it was Avial on the main stage and the mallu crowd was already in place to support them. In fact, this time the mallu influence was prominent with Avial, Thermal And A Quarter, Evergreen & Motherjane.

A heavy dose of music and a couple of beers can do wonders, that I decided to walk the 6 kilometers back home, at 12 in the night. I know it might sound crazy, but at times there is some fun in this craziness. How can I tell what fun it is to walk the streets in the night, talking to yourself or singing your favorite songs, while a few vehicles drive past without even realizing that you are having a good time. By the time I reached home, I was hungry enough to eat a half-cooked elephant, but all I had at home were a few peanuts. So I had dinner with masala peanuts and black tea.. you can't have the best of everything..right?

All that I did on Saturday before rushing back to the venue was taking a bath and grabbing some snacks to fill my stomach... yes, I woke up by 10 o' clock only. I did not want to miss any of the action, but the bands were not even done with their sound checks by the time I reached there. We were a small group of 10 people sitting and watching the Raghu Dixit Project setting the stage. I don't know whether its the beer, but Raghu decided to play a few songs for the 'early birds'! Anyway it was good to sit under the afternoon sun, sipping some beer and listening to an exclusive concert by RDP. Check out the video below!

You never feel lonely at a place like this and the ten people who came there as strangers were now swinging their body in unison, sharing the beer and the smokes! The first act of the day was an acoustic duo 'Collin & Charles' who played some great songs; Simon & Garfunkel, Carpenters, Don Williams, Bellamy Brothers and what not. It was a shame to see a really low turnout for this one at the indoor stage. The rest of Day 2 rocked with Parachute XVI, Infernal Wrath, RDP and finally KK. I had company by late evening and it was fun dancing with Ron later in the night to DJ-Chico's beats!

On Day 3 of the fest, the lineup was so good and I was sure that I will miss at least one of the shows. Collin & Charles again started off the event with some Cuban, Spanish, Mexican and Italian songs. Evergreen was the next act, one of my new favorites, from Cochin. They play some awesome melodic hard rock and the sound is quite distinct from the 'regular' alternative outfits. I am not sure whether Motherjane performed on the main stage or not, but it didn't really matter as Amit Heri band was performing on the indoor stage. If listening to rock gives you an adrenaline rush, listening to jazz is like pure ecstasy! Amit Heri is the only one Indian artist who has performed in all the major Jazz festivals in the world. His four piece band lived up to the expectations and the small crowd cried for more once they stopped. TAAQ performed on the main stage after this, followed by the much awaited Indian Ocean. Nobody was sure Indian Ocean is going to perform as their drummer, Asheem Chakravarthy, had suffered a serious heart attack a few days back. In spite of this incident, they managed to put together an excellent show.. kudos to the spirit!

After three days of music and fun, the immediate thought that came to my mind was a visit to the church. I had done more sins in the last three days than the rest of my life put together, that I badly needed a confession to clean up the slate! At times, with so much of color around and a little bit of alcohol inside, my eyes and mind act like they have a life of their own.. can't really blame them though!

Click for more pictures of the fest !

Funerals and Tombstones..

Nothing changes life more, than the sight of the waiting bugler just ahead the road. But then it would be too late to turn back and run. I am not a fan of the concept of death, even though most of the times it look like the most logical and only purpose of life. I am not afraid of MY death or worry about when and how that's going to happen. I get pretty disturbed by the death of others. But then, that is quite logical, I need not worry about my own death, as there will be no more 'me' after that!

The weekend started on quite a bad note as I got news that a friend's' sister passed away. She was hospitalized for a while and things were slowly getting better, but that was all probably part of the final act. I was wondering whether I should go and attend the funeral. I hate going to funerals, especially if its a Christian one. They play these eerie songs out there, which actually make me pretty sick and disturbed. The apocalyptic messages conveyed through those lyrics and the melancholic rendering has given me quite a sleepless nights as a child. I always used to think that when someone dies, you should probably let them go, rather than creating this big drama around the event. The idea of elaborate decoration, amplified music and things like videography in a funeral beats me!

Again, what people do to the body after I die, is nothing concerning me, but I would still like to make a quite exit. But here also, the issue is that its the theatrics around others' death that affects me, and I have no right in telling others how they should treat their dead. If people want to remember the dead, why not keep a beautiful picture of the person and leave the body alone once it has done its purpose! I am not sure why I am talking about death all on a sudden.

I remember a related incident which happened a while ago, when I was searching for a short term project as part of my MBA course. When I walked into an interview room, the person who sat across the table asked me "What would I like to be written as my obituary". I did not have a clue what to answer, but managed to spit out a twisted version of something I had read somewhere about what was written on the tombstone of Osho. Had never thought about it before.. neither did anytime after that. Now if you ask me what is the relevance of such a question in an interview - there was no such project available in the company and he was doing the interview just to satisfy the person who referred me there!

Thinking of obituary and tombstones, "Asshole" would be a fitting and apt inscription for mine! But I have to probably think of a beautiful verse that conveys the message more subtly!

I didn't see it coming !

I sulked in the glory of my stupidity
As the sun made a quick retreat to the West

I let madness fill the void inside my head
And only saw pink buffaloes and limbless toads

Now I remember she rarely noticed
when I talked about the fire in the sky

She was married to silence
when I detailed my dreams, my desires

I took her hands in mine
All she did was let me

The blueness I saw in her shallow eyes
was numbness, not reflection of the skies

I saw her singing lullabies
only in dreams she sent in my sleep

All the light I saw, warmth I felt
Were in fact shadows of indifference

Still I never saw it coming
blinded by the darkness of my convictions

Holy Smoke !

Somebody rightly said that all good things in life are either illegal, married or harmful to health.

Smoke pot and get protected by law..? Sounds little Utopian...right..? But don't dismiss the thought before you read this. "We use cannabis religiously and you can, too.".. this is the punch line for "THC-Ministry" aka The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, a religious sect that is 'based on ancient wisdom, modern science and the enlightening and healing properties of cannabis sacrament.'

In their opinion, cannabis or Marijuana is the original sacrament of Hebrew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Rasta and more, and fulfills the prophesies to 'feed all our hungers'! They are closely related to the 'Ras Tafari' movement of the Africa. According to them, cultivating and smoking Marijuana is a part of their religious rituals. They are even protected by law under the 'Freedom of Religion' act in most of the US states!

The story does not end here. Once you join them by filling up a small form and requesting a 'Sanctuary Kit', you will be send necessary Identity cards and legal documents that gives you protection of the law. The identity card proclaims that the cannabis sacrament is MANDATORY in the religion for spiritual receptivity and unity, for healing of the body and the like. You are also provided signs to protect your garden and house against law enforcers. With these documents in possession, you cannot be arrested for either growing or smoking pot.The THC Ministry traces back the usage of Cannabis (as the 'anointment oil' ) to the times of Jesus and claims that it was a major ingredient in this oil. So if Jesus and his disciples used them to heal (and god knows for what else), how can we prevent somebody from using it now..?

Statutory Warning: Whatever you do, wherever you join, cultivating and smoking pot is an offense according to Indian laws (or lack of them)... of course unless you are ready to share the 'spiritual wisdom' you earn with the 'needy'!

Birds, nests and some memories..

After a long long time, I spotted a bird's nest today. I was having tea at the usual place after my morning jog and I saw these small birds chirping and flying out of a bush by the roadside. Out of curiosity I went near, and there was this nice little nest hidden by the leaves. It was woven into a bunch of lantana leaves and the owner, a brown little weaver bird, was standing guard. I didn't want to scare them off and made a quite retreat.

As kids, my sisters and I used to scout for bird nests all around the house. There were quite a few of them in the bushes and small trees nearby. There were exquisite nests made by weavers and bulbuls and the shabby ones made by spotted barn doves. It was a joy to search the nests for eggs or little birdies. Though we just wanted to see the nests, it often scared the birds away. Many a times we found weaver bird nests made inside folded Kanha leaves. The dove's nest were just a handful of twigs laid across two branches of the Cocoa tree. Doves are probably the dumbest of birds who just lay their eggs on this open fragile set of twigs, which they call their nest. A swift wind was enough to roll these egss on to the ground, in case they were not already consumed by crows, snakes or squirrels.

Then there were these small little brown and white birds that used to make their nests so close to the house. We had a climber growing on to the veranda which was their preferred location to build their nests. Year after year they used to come to the same place, repair and rebuild the nests, hatch their young ones and disappear as quietly as they come. At times there were more than 10 young birds doing their flight training around the garden. We also had a few swallows (Plain Martins), who used to build their mud houses on the roof of the first floor verandah. The parents fly in with small bits of clay, which is mixed with saliva and glued together to form these designer nests. We never got to see their kids as the parents were quite possessive and used to keep them inside all the time! A few occasions we found nests shattered after the rain, and brought home the eggs or the helpless chicks, but not an egg hatched or the hatch-lings survived under our care.

Seeing another nest near the house after so long was like going back a few years in the past !

Diwali with Aishwarya & Abhishek !

I celebrated Diwali with 130 kids this year, and to say the least, it was one of the most satisfying days of my life. As we walked into Sishu Mandir last Saturday morning, the kids were sitting in a circle, singing '100 miles'. They moved on to 'Jamaican Farewell' and then to the 'Happy song'. It was such a moving experience to sit there and watch them sing "...Lord I am five hundred miles away from home..." Most of them didn't even have a home!

Sishu Mandir is an orphanage and education institute, doing a wonderful job at bringing some light into the otherwise dark lives of many a kids. They currently takes care of about 150 kids, providing them education, food and the courage to dream about life. It was Jayan who suggested Sishu Mandir while we were talking about celebrating Diwali in some meaningful way. My friend Kapil also joined us. Jayan's wife, mom and two kids completed the gang. We had spoken to Mr. Anand - the person in charge of Sishu Mandir- the day before, who was quite happy to have us with them. We decided to sponsor the day's lunch for the kids and also took with us some sweets and chocolates. As we were sitting with them, having veg biriyani and sambar for lunch, we realized that even this is luxury for them... a welcome break from the usual white rice and curry. As Kapil rightly said later, 'We all complain about the number of side dishes for lunch, while these kids don't complain even when they get no lunch at all'.

After lunch we went and bought some crackers and flowerpots. Some of the elder kids distributed it between all of them. Soon everyone formed their own small groups, bursting the crackers and running around with the flowerpots. There were no complaints as they have long learned to share what they got. Jayan's daughter and son thoroughly enjoyed the commotion and were happily mingling with the kids there. All the kids speaks fluent English and interacts quite well with people. Most of them were girls and it was good to see a lot of them attending school, as they are generally the first to suffer the ill effects of poverty.

It was only when I started talking to some of the kids that I realized how badly life has treated at least a few of them. Abhishek studies in the 3rd standard and his mother is the cook at Sihu Mandir. When I asked about his siblings he told me that two of his brothers are dead. He didn't know the 'hows' and 'whys', but remembers that one of them passed away last February. In spite of the harshness of life, he manages to keep a pleasant smile and sang a few songs in an amazingly beautiful voice. Then there was Aishwarya who was carefully preserving the crackers she got. She had an elder sister at home who does not attend school, and Aishwarya wanted to take the crackers home and share it with her sister. I don't think anyone would have 'taught' these kids how happiness increases when shared, they just know it. As kids we are aware and connected to commonsense and virtues of life, but as we grow up it is all ruined perhaps by the combined effort of situations and society.

I know we could not do anything great for these kids, but the short association was definitely sweet. The kids were really happy that we spent some time with them, the sweets and chocolates didn't really matter. A little recognition and affection is worth much more than any financial help we do. The smiles on their faces as we ran around bursting crackers, were much brighter than the Diwali lights. We have decided to go back to the place and associate ourselves with this effort in whatever way possible.

We spoke at length with Shalini, a social worker associated with the institution, trying to find work for the single moms in and around the place. She is doing a commendable job getting them trained in house keeping from a nearby hotel. So if anyone is in need of house maids in the KR Puram - Marathahalli area, you can get in touch with Shishu Mandir. If you feel like spending a day with these kids or helping them in any other way, do get in touch with Anand @ 9342673812. They would be so excited to see you there, that when you walk out of the place you might feel that the kids gave you more, than what you gave them!

There are definitely a few things that money can't buy.. for others there might be Master card!

More pictures here

Now What ?

Mousetraps, doormats
White trash, poor heart
Give in, fight back
Time's short, breathe fast

Big dreams, short leash
Dried tears, razer sharp
Waking up, moving on
so cruel, feet hurts

No truth, only gain
All chance, by-pass
Be practical, individual
Shoo away, trust's fallacy

Morphine, breaks down
Drown in, crash out
Whacky dreams, fresh wounds
Dark lanes, new friends

Alice's back, rabbit too
Spade laughs, cat purrs
who's first, apple or the bee
Ping pong, bubble bursts

Guitar strings, choir sings
Green light, same notes
I remember, still feels
Round life, square wish

Black bags, open cages
Crossed legs, bruised souls
Light beckons, another day
Fly away, being sucks

Junk Collection

I used to collect anything and everything that looked interesting to me, not necessarily useful.. but just exciting. I made use of few of these, making them less/more beautiful and exciting than they originally were. Most of the stuff I collected just remained on my table or side shelf for a while and then slowly got relocated to a distant corner where they waited for their turn to be thrown out. A lot of them had some special charm which was probably a function of the 'point of time'.. as they looked less interesting with time or in comparison with the newbies on the desk. I don't know whether it was right to throw them off like that.. but it eventually happened with at least a few.

As a kid, I used to have all sorts of things in my room, from bird nests to stones to skeletons of animals. My mom was a worried soul initially, sensing a certain amount of retardation in her son. She almost confirmed it when I painted the fan and refused to remove the cobwebs off it. To preserve the webs, I didn't even use the fan for a while.. a few months only! A decent enough performance in the school, somehow forced my parents to believe that it is just the kid inside me, who is refusing to grow up with the body.

When I started putting my dirty hands and eyes on the virtual world, I continued this habit of mine. I collect all the tit bits that grab my attention as I browse through. Here are a few of them... I can't throw them away yet..!!

Sensible: Geoge Carlin on Religion :
Scariest shit: Russian Sleep Experiment :
Funniest stuff: The Jesus Diary :
Interesting: The Ten Dimensions :

Delayed delivery of blessings

Been talking to a friend of mine the other day on God and religion... my pet topic to bitch about. She was angry at God for consistently neglecting her requests and prayers. She has declared moratorium on God and religious rituals for some time now. Her complaint is that even when she is asking for very small and simple things in life, God seems to pay little attention to them. That's definitely frustrating, when your concept of God is about an all powerful being who takes care of you and can alter things in life once you ask. After all, prayer is not just a time killing activity, right? It is firmly based on the belief that HE will carefully listen to them and take positive action as long as they are benevolent in nature. Makes sense!

I was trying to explain the logic behind these prayer-answer sessions. I knew she wouldn't buy the standard explanation of absence of God. So this is something that I came up with, which wasn't enough to answer her questions but good enough to explain the phenomenon of 'delayed-delivery of blessings' by Him. When there are so many stupid excuses for everything in life these days, I don't think one more really hurts. Whenever you ask for things that are not existing in the 'present', you are unknowingly requesting a deliberate collapse or expansion of 'time'. One of the best definitions of time I have heard is that 'time is the thing which prevents everything from happening at once'. Time being something that is common to everyone and everything, you can just imagine the repercussions of such a time-altering activity on the world at large. Its like the Chaos theory situation of 'a butterfly fluttering its wings at one corner of the world, creating a cyclone at another corner'. The whole world and its beings are connected by such delicate linkages that the action at one point will inevitably result in a reaction at some other. Probably God himself is very much aware of these things and make sure that his actions do not cause unnecessary imbalances..!!

Realizing that I am at my maddest-best, she decided not to contest the theory and we moved on to different topics. Religion has become such a nasty cancer on society these days that you cannot talk for 5 minutes on any subject without mentioning the 'R' word at least once. So it came up again. This time it was some Hindu religious rituals that became victims of our discussion. Hinduism, which was a 'way of living' till recent times, has got some beautiful and meaningful rituals. That is why you find most of the Hindu religious ceremonies so natural and nature-oriented like many of the 'so called pagan' religions. They were all intended to develop a healthy relationship with the surroundings we live in and the things we live with. This way of living was based on the realization that we share the world with others, that even the meek has a unique role to play here, that you need to respect everything - living & non-living - and so on. The basic intention of life was peaceful coexistence. Accepting and respecting things around will automatically take care of the "God' factor... Who was perceived as nothing but the collective conscience of all that we see around.

Only when Hinduism had to transform itself into a religion - perhaps to resist annihilation by more aggressive faiths - that these rituals lost their meaning and people started understanding them literally. This is in stark contrast to the artificial, person-oriented ceremonies in modern religious faiths, their only focus being keeping HIM happy and contented..

Ya he is watching you!

Rage against the Machine

"I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!". Remember Howard Beale's utterance from 'Network'? I felt like opening the windows and screaming the same yesterday, after watching a small documentary on the condition of farmers in certain parts of the Deccan. I felt ashamed at myself for whining about an hour of power outage, a lost girlfriend or the crowd at McDonald... the typical problems in my life! I felt enraged at conveniently ignoring the real world out there and distancing myself from the situations for which I am equally responsible.

A lot of farmers in the Deccan take loans to buy seeds, fertilizers and the like, to cultivate their land. Sometimes a lot of things go wrong, from bad weather to death of farm animals and he ends up having less produce. When he wants to sell, all he gets is the ridiculously low prices offered by cunning middlemen. Unable to even payback the loan and forced to buy food for their living, most of them end up taking more loans from local landlords at high interest rates. The interest rates prevailing in the region will put even the credit card companies to shame. The landlords are clever. They know that these poor farmers will not be able to pay back the loan, so they enter into other kind of agreements. There are farmers who have literally sold their children to these landlords for a few years. The kids are supposed to work at the landlord's house or fields till the landlord feels that the loan money has been retrieved.

I don't know THE solution for problems like these. But I think I am also responsible to react to issues like these. How can I always enjoy the comforts of the society and never give anything back?

Drinking Problem

He used to drink
She asked him why
He said only on game nights
And rainy days

She said, love me, He did
He stopped drinking
She asked him why
He was always drunk
When she's around

She said, leave me, He did
He started drinking
She asked him why
Ever since she left
Its been raining in his mind

She said, are you nuts?
He asked why
Silence prevailed
He quit thinking

Permaculture Workshop with Rico - part 2

The first thing you notice on reaching Ameli's place is the dogs on the roof. She got four dogs - Big B, Fiona, Luna and Neji, and they spend most of the day walking on the tiled roof. Ameli runs a consciousness expansion center called 'Beeja' which was home for us during the workshop. The workshop was structured to have indoor sessions in the first half, hands-on sessions in the afternoon and further discussions in the pre-Dinner session.

Shortly after we reached 'Beeja', Rico started the first session on 'the revolution disguised as gardening'. The topics for day one were Permaculture fundamentals and water. So we talked about flows, nodes, patterns, elements & relationships, water harvesting etc. Rico made each session lively with anecdotes, observations and his twisted sense of humor. We had our lunch at Ameli's neighbor Mala's house. She makes some amazing Coorgi dishes and we were treated to delicacies like tender pumpkin leaves curry and bamboo shoot pickles over the three days. Russel was the timekeeper of the group who ensured that we had lunch, breakfast and tea on time. So at regular intervals, all of us look towards Russel, waiting for his hand to go up, stopping Rico with his trademark smile, saying 'Enough for one session'. That afternoon we built a gray-water treatment system at Ameli's place, creating a small mulch pit and a plant guild around it. We ended day one with a documentary called 'The power of community', the story of how Cuba survived when US and other world countries tried to choke it with sanctions.

Day two started with some Yoga and meditation for those who were interested. I managed to get up by 6 and went for a long walk. Its such a pleasure to walk among the greenery early in the morning. The day's session started after breakfast and we talked about soil, composting, Vermiculture and foliar feeding. We went hunting for useful micro organisms after lunch. Rico showed us how to harvest these 'Effective Microbes' using some stale rice and bamboo, how to segregate the useful ones from the others, and how to cultivate and use them to enhance soil quality and increase productivity. It was interesting to stick our nose into fungi and mold to distinguish the stinky ones from the fragrant ones. It was full moon night and Ameli being the high priestess of some shamanic tradition, had arranged for a drum session and dance in the night. Drum circles are gatherings where people come with their instruments, sit together and play it loud, for the pleasure of playing and listening.

Ameli had a Djembe, a Dholak and a few other drums at her place. Soon all of us gathered on the rooftop. There was fire and all the dogs were also in attendance. Rita and Hanu (Hanuman) also came along. Hanu is an excellent beat boxer who had brought with him a plastic container to provide some effects to his sounds. We had a couple of Morsings also. The setting was perfect with a full moon in the sky, a chill in the air and a nice fire going. We started drumming and soon everybody fastened ghungroos to their feet and started dancing. Ameli and Pooja were doing some kind of classical dance while the others just let their bodies move to the music. It is an amazing feeling to be part of a drum circle.. the sheer energy of the event is mind blowing. In no time we had found our rhythm and were trying out various rhythms at different tempos. Ameli started singing 'Chandamama aa jaa..' in heavily accented Hindi, mixing it with some chants.

Once everyone retired to their rooms after the dance, Prithwi, Ameli, Pooja, Bala and myself decided to have a little more fun. So Hanu showed us how to do the Michael Jackson moonwalk. He dances so elegantly and we thought we all could master the moves quite easily. It was funny as we unsuccessfully tried to mimic every move showed by Hanu. Finally we settled for some less complicated moves and had a good group dance in the main hall. The lights in the hall were creating patterns on the floor and the walls and we decided to do a photo session as a tribute to MJ. So we clicked a few photographs in different MJ poses. We started with Michael and Janet and slowly moved on to Krishna and Radha. We were so upbeat that time and almost decided to climb the 1000 steps to Chamundi hills in the middle of the night. But somehow better sense prevailed and we dropped the plan and decided to catch some sleep.

The next day morning Bala woke me up by 5:30. We had plans to visit Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and Kaveri river in the morning. I checked with my roomie, Russel, who preferred a little more sleep after the late partying. So Prithwi, Bala, Pooja and myself started by 6.. we had to get back by 8:30 for breakfast. There was no boat service at Ranganthittu as Kaveri was flooded. We spotted a few cormorants, river terns, snake birds, herons and a lot of Black Ibises. The big guys - Open billed and Painted storks - were missing, and so were the spoon bills, the stone plovers and the pelicans. Without wasting much time we visited Kaveri and got back to 'Beeja' just in time for breakfast. Rico started his session on plants, talking about creating micro climates, building guilds & windbreaks. We tried our hands at making seedballs in the afternoon. By evening, Rico concluded the workshop with a commentary on the economic system, what he calls 'Rico's rant on money'.

As we traveled back to Bangalore, I was happy about three days well spent, in company of some amazing people. I hope I will be able to sustain the inspiration and excitement!

Permaculture Workshop with Rico - part 1

Yet another long weekend was just around the corner and for a change there were so many plans floating around. I had almost decided to spend three days at Kodaikanal when I came across this blog posting about Rico's permaculture workshop at Mysore. I decided to try my luck and called up Ameli and to my surprise there was a vacancy! I dropped out of the Kodai trip and confirmed my participation. Thats how I met Pooja, Roopa and Deepak as we traveled together to Mysore that Friday morning. I am glad that I took the decision, the experience was "fantabulacious" for lack of a better word.

Rico is a Permaculture evangelist who travels across India teaching people the beauty of permanent and sustainable agriculture, and in his own words "consciously trying to be culturally appropriate, and not even coming closer". An individual driven by passion, who spends seven months an year at Darjeeling and south India, far away from him home at New Mexico. An excellent communicator who talks about the beauty of fire, US economic system and the fun of sniffing around for the urinal in an Indian city, in the same animated way, the trademark 'Rico-Dance'. He is equally proud of his Mac and spares no opportunity to lash out at the inefficiencies of PC and the ruthless capitalism that it symbolizes.

The group was small but had some terrific people from across the globe. Deepak owns a software company which works in the M-commerce space and also owns a piece of land in Coorg. Roopa is a yoga instructor who is in the process of setting up a yoga school in her waterfront property at Srirangapatnam. Pooja is an architect who works on eco-friendly projects who carries around a Canon EOS 350D wherever she goes. Russel is from New Zealand, a retired carpenter who is but busy with his garden in California. Yara is from Brazil, who is on her trip to discover India, currently learning yoga and flute at Mysore. Bala is an architect, who works for a software company, and is about to start his project of developing an eco-friendly village. Nayana is a doctor by profession, but has found her passion in working on her farm at Srirangapatnam. Lee is from Manchester, but considers Mexico his home, when he is not traveling to India or Thailand, learning yoga and meditation. Prithwi is from Pune, passionate about agriculture, educated at Purdue, having his own farm for the last 16 years, a visiting professor at B-Schools and also running a consultancy business. Ameli is a US national, practitioner of various alternate healing therapies, who is settled in a beautiful property in Mysore, where we all gathered for the workshop.

In short, I was the only one who had nothing hands-own to do with agriculture or land.. all I have is a bunch of dreams. But it was such a pleasure to be with such passionate people, listening to their experiences, basking in the realization that my ideas weren't that Utopian and impractical after all. Its a great inspiration to see and interact with some people who have already walked the path.

So when Rico started the session that morning with the statement "Teaching is a fallacy", I knew things are only gonna get better from there.

JOB or WORK..?

What makes life interesting? A difficult question to answer, but mostly its these small things that keep happening 'everyday' that make it less boring and exciting. We spend almost 70% of our day's time at work, and that makes 'work' an important factor that makes or breaks life... That's too much of a time to put up with a boring job or compromise on the fun factor of it. This is exactly the reason why I am super excited about my job. Though I too have my days of tension and time lines & targets to meet, work has fortunately turned out to be so much of fun. What else should I say when I am getting paid for learning more bout music... forget about exploring and listening to new music and obscure artists. Getting to interact with legendary and upcoming artists is always the bonus... performance incentive..!!

I grew up on a healthy diet of Beatles, Boney M, Eagles, Jim Reeves and Cliff Richards. I am forever indebted to my Dad for introducing me to these legendary artists who still remain my favorites, though the list has undergone some inorganic growth thereafter. The beautiful music they made was more than enough to plug me permanently to this amazing phenomena. My admiration and interest in music was very much alive from that day, though I never thought it is going to play a bigger part in my life. When I chose to play Drums as a kid, it was more out of passion than any intention to make a living out of music. Probably I thought of giving a good accompaniment to my Dad who used to play the guitar and the Harmonica. But then came career aspirations and active music life took a back seat. But when an opportunity came up to switch jobs and take up something to do with music, I did not think twice and here I am.. as happy as the time when I played my first song on Dad's Hohner ..!!

I am with a team, working towards bringing the different stakeholders of the music industry to a common platform - the artists, music lovers, the taste-makers and the facilitators. I get to interact with musicians who range from legendary rock stars to proponents of obscure(for me) styles like Trip Hop and Soukous. I had my share of exciting experiences - right from talking to the members of the Rock band that was next only to the Beatles in the 70s, to working with Grammy award winners. That's enough to take me through everyday.. making work interesting, not a slog. I know there is no great 'philo' in all this, just the fun of doing something you like.

That brings up an interesting point.. can all jobs be made interesting by finding people who enjoy doing that..? Matching up right job with right people can ideally bring about such a situation where everyone is happy. But can we find people for all sort of profiles?... people who genuinely love to go out in the sun and sell things.. or those who love to keep accounts, just to name some. I am not talking about making profiles exciting by attaching a hefty pay packet to it, thereby 'motivating' people to take them up. It all sounds too much like a Utopian concept..!!

The law of disproportionate distribution (whatever heck that is..!!) will make sure that there wont be enough of 'ideal' profiles/talent, forcing people/profiles to settle for the second best preferences, making the situation no different from what it is today.

mmmm... not a ground breaking proposition, I agree.

I, Me, Myself..

I always write about people and things around me and make fun of them, in an effective attempt to make myself comfortable amidst all the silly & stupid things I do all the time. It at times also help to learn at somebody else's expense - learning from own mistakes is advisable, but learning from others' is less costly.. rite..? That's probably why we should listen more to what the elders say - not necessarily because they are right.. but chances are that they might have made lots of mistakes already.

I very well know that I am more horrible and stupid than most people I see around... making 'me' a pretty pointless topic to write about. But some of the great stories are written about such characters.. so what's the harm in trying? Excess amount of exxxagerrration and flattttering regretted...!!

I would call myself the patron saint of all those who believe in "Do-it-tomorrow-if at all-possible".. a 'lazy bum' in short. I feel the world can learn a lot more from me on how to push things to tomorrow and then to 'tommoorrooww' and probably one more day after that. I always end up in trouble because of this.. ultimately escaping unscathed most of the times, only because HE seems to have a liking to my way of doing things. (Alternate explanations like 'I am surrounded by dumber people' are plausible but not entertained due to fear of legal action) I am a firm follower of the 'If its yellow, let it mellow.. if its brown, flush it down' philosophy, as put forward by Dustin Hoffman in 'Meet The Fockers'. Why do something today, when you can always do it tomorrow? The coffee & dessert may not taste so good tomorrow, always have them today... everything else can wait!

This new year - like the last four new years - I took a resolution to bring in some financial discipline into my life. The ambition was pretty modest, start borrowing money from the third week of the month instead of the 'usual' second week. And this year - like the last four years - I successfully broke the resolution. So does that mean that I know how to 'use' my money effectively while others generally keep it in their bank, only to loan to people like me? Smart argument.. right? In fact my existence is totally dependent on these 'feel-good' settings I create.

Before the scales dip towards labeling me 'Idiot of the century' or so, let me tell you there are few (ok.. about 1 or 2) good things about me. I can act busyness to perfection (seriously).. I do that all the time. Some people at office used to think that I am some important guy who is always busy with work or conference calls... till 'Pandora' stopped offering its music to people outside the US. But that was for a very short time.. about 4 days, till I got used to 'Playlist'. I attributed the lull to technical issues.. that almost covered it.

I come to office eaaarly in the morning, and people appreciate me for my commitment to job. I haven't really bothered to tell everyone that breakfast at office canteen is cheaper. They also see me leaving office pretty late in the evening.. and if thats not commitment, nothing is. But do they know that my apartment (I call it apartment, my landlord calls it 'garage'.. how unromantic!) isn't air conditioned, I don't get free coffee there and English Premier League matches are only on Wednesdays and weekends...? Taking uninformed decisions is not my problem.. is it..?

Enough of self-bashing or self-adoration for one day. Its always good to learn at someone else's expense..
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