So special

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Have you seen a Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean–wait there’s more–Chinese and Tibetan temple co-exist? In Bodh Gaya, Bihar (India), they do. Spread over 249 square kilometres is the village of Bodh Gaya, where Siddhartha Gautama practiced meditation under the Bodhi or Bo Tree (ancient fig tree), till he acquired complete freedom from all fetters–to live in enlightenment as the Buddha, and help others acquire their freedom.

These temples are clustered close to the Bo Tree. I call them Temples Without Borders: unprecedented, isn’t it?

So special
Many branches, same roots.
Image credit: Wikipedia

If we remove the modifiers–state names–we are left with temple as a descriptor. And a temple is no more than a form of architecture, religious and emotional associations apart. What happens when we do this with people? Remove the nationality, and all we have is 7.7 billion humans. And a human is no more than an anthropoid. Where then is the distinction? Is it in you and I? Both are a common noun.

To a year as common as you and I: no nationality, no distinction. Welcome 2020.

Sound of silence

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All / Between the lines / Coexistence & Harmony

When words lead, truth recedes.
When words follow, truth precedes.
And we hear the sound of silence.

After a month of silence, and negligible eye-contact with fellow humans, the first thing that struck me, like a gong in a quiet room, is the reverberation of words in the body: Words are formed in the brain, and yet their vibrations are felt in the body. Caring and thoughtful words are accompanied by gentle vibrations, and harsh, condescending, and angry words are accompanied by bothersome and uncomfortable vibrations.

What comes first the words or the vibrations? I realised that vibrations lead to words. But these vibrations can’t be heard; they can only be sensed—in silence. Words that tell inspiring stories and words that create negativity, fear, and hatred, have the same source: vibrations. When we start to sense these vibrations, we can choose the kind of words we would like to use.

Walk, to bring to a stop.

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All / Between the lines / Coexistence & Harmony

On the second Sunday of September 2019, I woke up, made two placards and walked to a park near my home, with my mother. A friend joined us there, and we circled the 2 kilometre (approx.1.24-mile) circumference of the park, expecting to join a large gathering of people, coming together to remind the government of the need to preserve 2,700 trees, and the life that depends on them.

To me this initiative wasn’t about Us and Them: the ones who care and the ones who do not. To choose between ecological preservation and scientific progress has always seemed foolish. I am acutely aware of my own fragility and the privilege and responsibility of having a cognitive presence in an organic ecosystem. To hand over both the privilege and the responsibility to corporations and the government, would be an act of ignorance, and a dishonour to my freedom. And so I circled the park, holding the placards with my friend and my mother, trying to locate the others. One joined us and then another, and that was it. We were five cognitive beings, coping with our fragility, and walking silently, because how could we not. 

Five is not a crowd, not in a city of nearly 19 million people, yet we drew attention. People walked up to us and asked what we were campaigning for. They wished us good luck and told us not to feel dejected even if we were a mere handful, because like them, others would notice, become aware, and would pledge their support and solidarity.

I thought of Gandhi, and the power of the salt march—Gandhi and a few companions walked 241-miles to the coast of the Arabian Sea, to nonviolently oppose the salt tax. This act of Satyagraha—revealing truth and opposing injustice through nonviolence—gathered thousands of supporters and transformed the status quo.

Trees in a forest don’t need us to survive. We need them. We are part of the biodiversity—the life—that depends on them. Forests are critical for the planet’s survival, and one large tree for the survival of four people. A large tree in a neighbourhood can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for four humans—that may be you and your family.

A metro alone won’t take care of the air pollution problem, but trees do! Choice isn’t involved, perception is.

(A report in Science, and an interview in National Geographic calls forests our life support system)

A rare specimen, it survived mass extinction
Take a stand.
Visit us to see a tree. Once it stood in a forest.
Living trees make great street art.

She trembled.

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Her waters came to us—they quenched our thirst and brightened our homes.
Her bones warmed our hearths.
We expected more.

She began to shiver.
Seas soared. Winds howled.
Trees shuddered, birds became silent, animals paused.
We expected more.

Upside down.
Silent Skies.

What could we do, we were too far away to feel her shiver—Our senses numbed by high-rises and virtual worlds.

But those that could feel, ached. They covered her so she would be warm. The covers were insufficient; she had a large body, and she had given birth too many times.

Her nutrients she had given to her offspring. Now was her turn to receive. We her progeny—her offspring—had forgotten reciprocity. We were busy chasing ungraspable desires. We were digging her soils, and creeping through her crust. She rumbled.

She rumbled often.
One day (as all things must).
Some day (because it is inevitable).
Soon (triggered by our actions).
Sooner than soon (the warning is out).
She will quake.

High-rises will tumble. Virtual worlds will go dim and dark. Seas will rise and soil will fall under. Too bad we took her for granted.

What’s in-sight?

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Sanchi Stupa, a UNESCO Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh was part of the Middle kingdoms of India, but that’s not why I went there. It is the oldest man made stone structure in India and probably one of the oldest in the world, built in 3rd century BCE. That’s not what took me there either.

Unesco Heritage Site
What’s in(sight)?

When I read that in 1850, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham, respected for his meticulous work, had excavated from one of the three Stupas the relics of Sariputta and Mahamoggallana, the two chief disciples of the last Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, I had an instant wish to go there and meditate. The relics were sold to the Victoria and Albert museum, and were returned to India in 1949. The journey of the relics is outlined in The Wire, by researcher and professor of history, Shashank Sinha. Here’s the link for your interest.

A weekend trip, over which a friend and I sat at the Stupa, while many footsteps crossed us by: some paused and commented, some didn’t miss a step and ignored us, and some hesitated and fell silent as soon as they saw us. It felt like the world around us moved, while we did not participate in its motion. We were not engaged in life’s stream and yet were part of it.

I heard a man’s voice say that there is hope of finding buried treasures at some of India’s ancient monuments, but what can one hope to find here, in these barren stone structures that have episodes from the life of the last Buddha etched on them.

I had the answer but my eyes were closed, and I was too busy looking within, at the immense treasure that lay therein. Come sit, take a look, and know for yourself–said Gautama Buddha. Because treasures are passed on, what’s buried is what is plundered and decayed.

Relics of Sariputta and Mahamoggallana
Inspiration inscribed.
Photo credit: Shashank Sinha

When you need a friend.

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Hello Umang Tiwari.

When my feisty, multi-linguist, revolutionary aunt, Laxmi Krishnan, who is a retired English teacher and who at seventy can do the half-split like a teenager, told me about 16-year old Umang, I was both touched and joyful. Umang has had severe learning difficulties since he was a child. He finds it effortful to do sums, write sentences correctly, and to remember names, and yet when my aunt showed him my book (Kyo and Obi), and started telling him about its making and production, he asked for my address, so that he can write me a letter. He said, in Hindi, “This is very creative, please give me her address. I will write to her”.

Lucky Aunty (Laxmi Krishnan) is going to read Kyo and Obi to him and will try and explain its message about self-acceptance—a slight challenge since Umang speaks Hindi. That said, he is trying to learn English, and makes brave attempts at it. Hope that reading Kyo and Obi will be a fun attempt, Umang.

Umang’s condition was diagnosed only a year back, and he continues to go through the rigours of formal education that is challenging to his intellect and demeaning to his self-esteem. The Indian Right to Education Act had a no-detention policy that only recently got revoked.

Umang is being read to
More than words.

An isolated teenage boy, who has faced neglect and ridicule for his intellectual incapacity, Umang might be inspired (or so I hope) by Obi’s journey of self-transformation: A journey in which an undeveloped identity matures into an accepting sense of self.

Like Obi who found a friend, his only friend in Kyo, and could go through the process of self-transformation because of Kyo’s patient and loving presence, Umang too has a compassionate friend—one among his few—in 70-year old Lucky Aunty.

That’s all it takes. Thank you Lucky Aunty.
Good luck Umang. I look forward to your letter.

Umang and Laxmi Krishnan with Kyo and Obi
That’s all it takes. Thank you.

Against the grain.

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If you had to choose between a foolish mind and a manipulative mind, which one would you pick? I, for certain, would pick the foolish mind. It is easier for a fool to accept guidance and gain wisdom than for a manipulative mind to come out of its dark recesses and develop humility.

This is what the democratic vote has come to. Majority of us are under-informed and biased voters, choosing between fools and charlatans.  

When the democratic system silences opinions, instills hate and fear, and promotes individuals over virtues and qualities of leadership, then trouble has arrived!

What if representing democracy was to be the responsibility of a qualified group of people—not chosen by the people, for the people, and not chosen because of their allegiance to a party or a set of views—Chosen, however, for their virtues, emotional maturity, and service to the global ecosystem* through their particular sphere of knowledge?
(ecosystem: a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. Not Silicon Valley’s definition: a complex network or interconnected system )*

Intelligent by Design

And chosen based on intelligent sieving of empirical data gathered over time using biometrics, social media, national identification cards, and brain scans—A good application of intelligence gathering mechanisms to supersede human bias.

The data can belong to a global intelligence system and not to a particular nation or to an intergovernmental organisation (aka. UN). How do you protect the data from hackers? Simple. Develop superior autonomous intelligence to protect data-fed intelligence: Because, it is easier to develop intelligence than to develop our own strength of character.

Inspiration Sources:
Prof.Yuval Noah Harari- panel discussion at the WEF 2018
Conversations with a friend: Neesha Noronha, community developer, and an active aspirant to idealistic social structures.


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All / Between the lines / Coexistence & Harmony

Ever tried to continuously remain aware of something that happens at its own pace, and in its own nature?

Just this Sunday, April 7, 2019, I watched 31 children take time out of their summer break to be aware of their breath—in its own nature—without meddling, altering, and controlling. For four hours (with short, intermittent breaks) they sat and they tried to do what few adults attempt. They “unselfed” effort.

In this “unselfing” is when conceit, anxiety, and worry start to relax their grip on the mind.

When we are not trying to meddle with something, there is no conceit. When we are not trying to alter the way it occurs, there is little to be anxious about. When we are not trying to control the outcome, and are focused only on our actions, worry has no cause to visit. (They move together, and when one ceases to exist, the other two disappear).

Outside the glass house.

Consider our attitude towards climate change: If we, the people, focused only on our actions then worry would disappear. Without worry and a constant concern for outcomes, we would reduce dread and strife, and would stop meddling with nature. The less we meddle, the more likely we are to live as part of a larger ecosystem, instead of as self-appointed guardians of the natural order—Stepping outside the glass house.

The war cry lead by conceit, anxiety, and worry might become a symphony conducted by care, respect, and inclusiveness. It needs a small shift, the shift in our focus, that’s where we went wrong the first time around.


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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. –