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All / Coexistence & Harmony

Hi, I won’t be sharing any posts between February 24 and March 26, 2019. However, before I shut down and go offline, I thought I will share a deeply insightful excerpt from Prof. Yuval Noah Harari’s most recent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. I have highlighted parts that I feel are important. I read this excerpt the second time while typing it here, and it was then that I understood its full significance.

Living in a box – from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Prof Yuval Noah Harari.

One theme that science fiction has explored with far greater insight concerns the danger of technology being used to manipulate and control human beings. The Matrix depicts a world in which almost all humans are imprisoned in cyberspace, and everything they experience is shaped by a master algorithm. The Truman Show focuses on a single individual who is the unwitting star of a reality TV show…However, both movies — despite their brilliance — in the end recoil from the full implications of their scenarios. They assume that the humans trapped within the matrix have an authentic self, which remains untouched by the technological manipulations, and that beyond the matrix awaits an authentic reality, which the heroes can access if they only try hard enough. The matrix is just an artificial barrier separating your inner authentic self from the outer authentic world.

...The current technological and scientific revolution implies not that authentic individuals and authentic realities can be manipulated by algorithms and TV cameras, but rather that authenticity is a myth.
People are afraid of being trapped inside a box, but they don’t realise that they are already trapped inside a box– their brain — which is locked within a bigger box — human society with its myriad functions. When you escape the matrix the only thing you discover is a bigger matrix. When the peasants and workers (in Russia) revolted against the tsar in 1917, they ended up with Stalin; and when you begin to explore the manifold ways the human world manipulates you, in the end you realise that your core identity is a complex illusion created by neural networks. People fear that being trapped inside a box, they will miss out on all the wonders of the world..But in truth everything you will ever experience in life is within your own body and your own mind.

…Pain is pain, fear is fear, and love is love — even in the matrix. It doesn’t matter if the fear you feel is inspired by a collection of atoms in the outside world or by electric signals manipulated by a computer. The fear is still real. So if you want to explore the reality of your mind, you can do that inside the matrix as well as outside it.

Get those gloves on, or send an email.

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All / Coexistence & Harmony / Getting Started

Ever looked at decomposed material in a plastic bag? It’s sand that is all that it is. With no trace of what it previously was—your favourite chocolate, milk, or prosciutto (vacuum packed, sealed, and imported from Italy)—except from what is still visible on the packaging.

Packaged food contributes to our experience of pleasure and our habit of convenience (packaged food is not about hunger or nutrition, so please let us not justify our greed), and what remains of it merges with sand. But plastic fills the sea, unable to decompose (or to swim), carried by the waves onto the shore, lodged in sand, and trapped between rocks. Many hands come together to dislodge it, gather it, and send it away to be buried in landfills. Still, there is always more.

Plastic waste cleanup mumbai, india
Get those gloves on.

Will it ever be completely clean? Not till the spewing stops. While we do things to cut the flow—consciously reduce our pleasure-seeking habits, carry our own bamboo straws, bottles, and bags—there is a lot that is already circulating that needs to be removed from the sea and the shore. We can’t protect the soil from landfills, and the air from incinerated plastic (not yet), but we can clean up the shoreline, with hope that the ocean will be free of plastic waste, and the sand will have ripples and patterns once again.

We can get those gloves on, or we can request Amazon for no air-fillers, and plastic in our packaging, especially where there is no risk of damage.

Email Amazon’s customer service team at (International), or (India) and make a request for an option to choose plastic-free packaging before you confirm an order. They are open to suggestions and feedback.

Amazon chat screenshot
A big applause to Amazon for trying to build a customer-friendly company.

Here’s an example email you can use asking Amazon to add the feature.


My name is _________. The email address attached to my Amazon account is __________.
I am requesting that Amazon add a feature that gives me the option to choose plastic-free packaging before confirming an order.

Thank you.

Acknowledgement and an important fact.Thank you for the idea.
Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose. Normally, plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills. But plastic bags we use in our everyday life take 10-1000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more. –

Here I am. I am here.

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All / Between the lines / Coexistence & Harmony
Hopscotch by @priyadarshini.ravichandran for
Safe travels home.

The adage, home is where the heart is, sits in the corner looking worse for wear, tired of being verbalised each time our modern mobile world considers the word home.

Topophilia, the feeling-link between person and place may be why the adage resonates with us, but it helps little in establishing where home is in a global world.

Our biologically based, emotional response (Topophilia) to a place is hinged on how accepted we feel, and whether we feel safe and secure. The feeling that creates this link is not a magical and continuous connection. It is a series of subconscious responses to the range of experiences in a place.

An immigrant’s home is where there is more opportunity and financial security, and a refugee’s home is where there is no fear and more hope. Where’s the heart in this reality?

The heart as a symbol might work well in propaganda (I heart/love New York), and to make us pledge our loyalty (hand over your heart), but reality relies on presence and commitment—an active stand, where we are cognisant of our role in creating home, no matter where it is.

Home is where I am!

Inspiration and Information Sources

Elementary when understood.

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All / Coexistence & Harmony

If all life is matter and all living organisms share the same molecules, then what causes individual distinction?

In 1957, biochemist John Kendrew figured out the atomic structure of myoglobin, an oxygen-storing protein found in muscle cells. He studied and modelled the myoglobin molecule in sperm whale, which is identical to the molecule in human bodies. Yet another evidence of sameness.

As professor of structural biology Stephen Curry notes, “That’s one of the clever and unappreciated things about structural biology: it reveals similarities at the molecular level that testify to the evolutionary unity of all living things, at a level even deeper than correspondences between DNA sequences.”

Distinction may quite possibly be an interpretation. What happens when we view distinction as the interplay of elements—space, air, fire, water, and earth? Does distinction and personal physicality become a collective configuration, an arrangement of the elements in relation to each other?

Elemental by nature and elementary when understood.

photo elementary when understood
Interplay of elements: The roots reach for the water inside the earth, covered by leaves that were made dry by the tropical heat (fire), and that floated in air till they lay rest on the ground, in the emptiness of space, where all resides.
photo elementary when understood
Collective configuration: Moments past and present converge in the vastness as witness to the warmth of the sun, the shade of trees, the promise of dried leaves, and the quiet stillness of air.

information sources:

With you

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All / Coexistence & Harmony

Riding high, sprinting ahead, all is well, the journey merry. And then there comes a day, a time, a phase, when the rush ebbs, the legs tire, the heart sinks, and the terrain gets rough. In both seasons, at both times, we walk not alone.

…strictly held by none, (she) is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,

Robert Frost’s words from the poem The Silken Tent are a veritable reminder of life’s most forgotten characteristic—endlessly connected.

In figuring out the distribution for Kyo and Obi, I am witnessing the wonder of human connectivity. In this endless game of chain tag there are no teams, just players. Come play. You’re it!

I am interrupting the photo series to announce that Kyo and Obi is now available at INR 670, for delivery in India. Order it here, or find out where you can buy the book. As the support grows so will the outlets.

Thank you Farhad Bomanjee, Kala Ghoda Cafe
Thank you Jitendra Bhatia, Vasundhara Bookshop

Order a copy of Kyo and Obi for delivery in India, or buy the book at a store.

Book Sleeve Front - Kyo and Obi. Express your joy. Read it, share it, pass it on, we are only printing a small number.
Express your joy. Read it, share it, pass it on – book sleeve, front.
Front cover - Kyo and Obi. This story is for every one of us who has discovered and has yet to discover that being true to your self is the most important thing in friendship.
This story is for… – front cover.
Title Page - Kyo and Obi. Concept and Story - Neha Mundhra. Design and Illustrations - Divya George
Kyo and Obi – title page.
Obi giving dot hugs. Looking for a friend. Inner Page - Kyo and Obi
It takes more than dot hugs to find a friend.
Printed with joy on 100% recycled, sun dried cotton paper, using soy-based inks. Hand bound by differently-abled people. 
Book sleeve back - Kyo and Obi.
Printed with joy on 100% recycled, sun dried cotton paper, using soy-based inks. Hand bound by differently-abled people.

Waiting to be found.

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All / Coexistence & Harmony

Ever wondered what to look for when looking for harmony?

There is no ubiquitous description of harmony. It doesn’t come wrapped in shape and form, yet our sense of being knows its presence.

It’s not in the trees. It’s in the way we watch their stillness and movement.
It’s not in streams. It’s in the way we listen to their murmur and silence.
It’s not in soil. It’s in the way we sniff its scent and odour.
It’s not in fruit. It’s in the way we respond to its taste and texture.
It’s not in the breeze. It’s in the way we feel its touch and absence.

Harmony has little to do with the object, and everything to do with the way in which we learn to experience it.

To remind us of what harmony looks like in our everyday world, photographer Priyadarshini Ravichandran, from Pondicherry India, used her lens and her vision. She photographed a special series on the topic for

Harmony is not in the grand, it is in the subtle—that is the nature of the harmonious state, and that is the perspective she chose. I will be sharing a series of photo blogs to show you what she has captured. Here’s one to begin with.

Road called Harmony.

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say.
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The road goes ever on, Fellowship of the Ring

Long stitch – a good choice

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All / Coexistence & Harmony

Choices that are good on the whole are good for you. There’s never a compromise, if we only wait and watch.  

Binding – the process of bringing different pieces together to create a unified whole. This process like all processes involves choices and implications.

A book and a life are both the outcome of binding. Best therefore, to thoughtfully reflect on how we choose to bind.

For Kyo and Obi the choice was not between adhesive binding—the standard glued books and staple binding. We chose a third more traditional and natural option, that is, hand binding with recycled cotton thread.  

Glue is made from synthetic polymers, which can biodegrade given the right conditions. Who was going to make sure that the right conditions existed? Besides I would rather reduce, if possible, the plastic particles being added to water and soil.

Staples involve mining for zinc and iron ore. That immediately ruled out this option. More deforestation should no longer be considered!

While all choices come with implications, we were glad that hand binding with recycled cotton thread only meant longer time and more expense. The wait has been worth it. Kyo and Obi has been hand-bound by differently abled people, again thanks to our print and paper partner, Punarbhavaa.

Readers (Please) Digest.

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All / Between the lines

Ink blog post 7

INK – The word brings to mind the smell of fresh print on paper, or for those of us who go back further, it’s a reminder of fountain pens and ink bottles. Paper without ink would have little value. And history without ink would be an object of memory.

Ink has helped create humanity’s multiple narratives—the words that should never have been heard were scripted and retained, and the words that have preserved our humanness were transcribed and shared.

The binary reality is in ink’s application and in ink’s production. Colourant or pigment and vehicle are the two components that make ink. Today colourants are mostly inorganic pigments, chemically composed, and vehicles are synthetic, petroleum-based resins, which in 2500. B.C., when the Egyptians and the Chinese developed ink, were lampblack, tree sap, and gum.

Cuttlefish gave us one of the earliest inks, a brown-black dye, from the smokescreen created to confuse its enemies. Saffron, turmeric, and weld gave us a yellow dye. Scarlet came from an Arabian insect called Kermes, and the dye cochineal, which gave us crimson, was extracted from a beetle.

We cloaked ourselves in colours of purity, royalty, fecundity, prosperity, obtained from nature’s offspring and humanity’s benefactors.


Ink and Dye from Kermes, an arabian insect.

And then…

synthetic age banners

Printing methods evolved from woodblock and movable types, and substrates other than cloth—paper, vinyl, plastic films—came into existence. The synthetic era had arrived and it has sustained.

Printers Ink, which was first introduced in 1864, is now a mix of petroleum-based chemicals and solvents.

I tried my best to find an eco alternative in India. I wanted to use ink that was free of hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds to make biodegradability an organic, natural reality. I got far, but didn’t succeed.

The book is biodegradable, because the paper is – it’s made from recycled cotton fibre. My paper and print partner (Punarbhavaa) has used ink with a soybean base, but they can’t vouch for the ink’s chemical composition. Ink manufacturers do not reveal the facts, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Soybean Association grant inks with a 20 percent soybean oil base the status of soy inks.

That’s fine, because I have learned that EnNatura, a startup in New Delhi India, has made biodegradable inks using non-edible vegetable oils. I am hopeful there will be a second book, printed on Punarbhavaa paper using EnNatura’s inks.

For this book, I suggest you recycle it, or send it back to us to recycle, helping us complete the process—from Paper to Print and back to Paper.

I will share our mailing address in one of the following posts.


Information sources:

Look, that’s a tree

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All / Paperless Post

So often we fail to see, and someday soon they may no longer be, so look now—that’s a tree.

Callery Pear, Manhattan

In his beautiful and informative book The Songs of Trees, David George Haskell, biologist and author, visits a dozen different trees around the world, from the Amazonian forests to the streets of New York City. He shares insights and facts that remind us of how our lives are intertwined with the lives of trees.

This excerpt from the chapter on the Callery Pear in Manhattan, set in a banal surrounding, an urban sidewalk, illustrates with simplicity and grace the influence of trees in our everyday lives.

“Trees also diversify human experience by changing the weather, in small ways on the sidewalk and at the much larger scale of the whole city. On an afternoon in late July, I rest a thermometer on the pavement under the tree: eighty degrees Fahrenheit, twenty-seven degrees Celsius. A few paces away, where no leaves cast their shade, the surface temperature is ninety-six degrees Fahrenheit, thirty-six degrees Celsius…The newsstand vendors affirm the thermometer’s testimony: in Manhattan’s summer, shade is welcome.“

“Combined, New York City’s five million trees yearly remove an estimated two thousand tons of air pollutants, in addition to more than forty thousand tons of carbon dioxide.”

Yet we forget that air conditioning only cools the air; it does not purify it.

Planting trees is redeeming—if you’re also consuming thoughtfully—but protecting and preserving trees is a biological imperative, selfsame as care for the self.

“(All) life has a contradictory, creative duality in its nature: it is atom or network; it is neither and both,” explains Haskell, “The human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory.”

Maybe stepping into a tree’s shade will remind us of how interconnected we are.

We are thankful to Punarbhavaa, our paper and print partner, located in Tamil Nadu, in South India. Punarbhavaa has made the paper for this book from waste and recycled cotton fibre, without wood pulp. They are helping us keep our commitment to Respect, Care, and Include. Their pledge
 to the environment is exceptional, and it reflects in their processes.

paperless post 5

Paper being dried naturally, in the sun.

paperless post 2

Scraps of waste cotton to be recycled.

paperless post 3

Converting cotton fibre into pulp, with Tapioca.

paperless post 4

Pressing and making paper, without wood pulp.

paperless post 6

Rows of paper sun-bathing.

paperless post 1

Punarbhavaa’s solar-powered production facility.