India: Walking into the Jet Age

According to geologists, the landmass that is now India moved northward for tens of millions of years, eventually slamming into the southern part of Asia. It may look like a puzzle piece that’s right where it’s supposed to be, but the truth is, India and its people have always struggled to fit in. Surrounded on three sides by water and walled in by the towering Himalayas, India is a world unto itself. With a long and complex history, it strains to hold onto its rich culture, even as it assumes key roles in the developing global economy.

Priya Dubey Sah and Charles Gulotta collaborated on this post. It is an effort to shine a small light on this beautiful land, home to one out of every seven people.

* * *

CG: For many in the West, India is still a place of mystery. With a population of well over a billion, it is a land of extreme poverty, ancient wisdom, polytheistic religions, spicy food, torrential rain, meditation, violence, abundance, and waste. Oh, and the Taj Mahal. But for a growing number of Westerners, those images are being largely replaced by outsourced jobs, and feelings of resentment about that recent development. Does India have a self-image that can be pinned down in words? And if so, how does it differ from the way Indians are perceived by other nations?

PDS: Some might like to add snake charmers, elephant and monkey gods, beef-less existence, sadhus and swindlers, heat, suffering, bright colours, and leery men. The list is endless, much as it is stereotypical. But regardless of the things on this list, India is a difficult subject to define. The mystique lies in all of these things as well as some deeper, less definable traits that have supported its people in rising above the overwhelming number of problems and quirks. And becoming accomplished enough to steal away jobs.

By that very premise, it may be not easy for the Indians themselves to define India and their being. We who have grown up here and inherited the terrific duality — brilliance and corruptibility — see our country as you would perhaps see yours. For us, it is a place that feeds us, nurtures our being, and sutures our wounds (sometimes after having caused them).

How do you paint an entity that has incorporated thousands of years, multiple invasions, several languages, religions, and sub-cultures in it? Especially when none of that is extinct. I suppose the key lies in understanding and accepting the entity just the way it is. It is a land where everyone and everything has a right to flourish; and, believe it or not, there is room for more. Provided you are equally willing to share it with a billion more of your kind and some multiple trillion flies and other so-called gifts of nature. And leave everyone to fend for themselves in this glorious soup.

Champa, Indian frangipani

India, and indeed Indians, is like that prodigal child, who has been told many times that it is not good enough, that there are better toys around than the ones on its lap. This child is now a confused one, who likes its home but is drawn by the lights outside. In its confusion, it makes mistakes and is further reduced in its own and others’ esteem. This leaves a strange craving for appreciation of its goodness.

CG: For a long time, Westerners thought of India as a spiritual place. Its religions were exotic and obscure, accessible, but for the most part localized. The typical symbols — Gandhi, the Taj Mahal, the Ganges — all represented something exalted and non-threatening. It was almost as though India itself offered the perfect balance to the West’s industrial, materialistic, aggressive society. Then, as you said, the child began to look around and see more attractive toys, and there were choices to be made. But don’t all nations go through the same kinds of evolution? Japan, for example, became an economic superpower without abandoning its history or its culture. Is it more difficult for India to do the same?

PDS: You are right, evolution is a part of everyday existence. Our evolution has been slow, but definite. It may seem that the defunct acceleration is because of a confusing choice between the local ethos and temptations from abroad, but that is not the case. The intrinsic preferences of an average Indian remain the same, but the way they display them may have changed with time. If, for instance, you see a Bengali girl who has been working in Dallas for a number of years, there is a possibility of her appearing ‘less’ Indian. That is probably because of her desire to be accepted in the general milieu. The same could happen to a girl moving from Hawaii to New York City.

The people living within this country are learning to respect their modern achievements, which, if studied closely, are more than just excelling in tech-support jobs. While more and more youngsters are following modern style statements, they still prefer dancing to Bollywood songs, traditional marriages are still carried out, sons and daughters still enjoy visiting parents and in-laws. More or less, that is.

Pipal leaf, Ficus religiosa

And Ganga is still the ultimate destination for washing away sins and sorrows. (Some concerted research in this area will probably help answer a common question: “With so much squalor and poverty, how do they manage to smile?”)

Could it be that the West is now choosing to see Indians only as people who are no longer limited to this region, but a community on the move? People who dress up in tuxedos and cocktail dresses, but look different? Non-violent recluses who come from the land of Mahatma Gandhi, but swamp the Silicon Valley with curry? Perhaps that is what has taken that obscure exotica out of the image. We are still the same people — with more confidence, and an ancient value system with modern masala added to it. We are much like Japan and other countries from this continent, with one difference: some of them have peaked their economic graph. We are trudging along on the bullock cart, but getting there.

CG: The United States, Canada, and India were all once ruled by Britain, and all won independence. Is there any feeling of common bond among those three nations? Do Indians feel ignored, or in some ways not treated as equals?

PDS: I do not think Indians have ever noticed the connection. Of course, I speak for the literate majority. The illiterate minority (which is probably larger than the population of Germany) is more worried about the water canal that hasn’t arrived in the village yet, or the corrupt police officer in charge of the slum they live in. There is so much going on here, so many concerns and triumphs, that there is no room for feeling ignored or seeking equality.

CG: People everywhere wish certain things were different about the country in which they live. This isn’t a sign of disloyalty, but rather of intense love and patriotism. What do Indians wish were different about India?

PDS: Many things. We wish for a clean, green country. We’d like to attain goals, make them visible, and hear the ovation. We’d like to remove the ills our society has created over generations — the dowry system, the caste system, female infanticide, raging corruption. You will notice that I have not listed poverty, even though it is, arguably, the worst ill of all. The fact is that the corruption we have at all levels is the root cause of a large part of the economic suffering. Our farmers produce the best wheat and rice in the world, enough to feed our entire population twice over. But people still die of hunger. And the grains lie wasting in warehouses, because some betel-chewing babu wants to bring home a BMW. It’s sad but true that corruption will always exist in this world. But once the corruption is minimised, we should see happier, healthier homes.

Neel Kamal, water lily

CG: How will the corruption be reduced? Are India’s people turning up the heat?

PDS: There is so much to do. Public opinion is becoming more proactive, rather than merely accusatory. Things will be done. In a frustratingly slow speed, but done nevertheless. The news exposes new scams everyday. That is not because we are an exceptionally unscrupulous people, but because money guzzling is no longer tolerated. Thankfully, television talk shows that invite officials to face the common man’s questions have designed their studios without furniture. Otherwise, the frustration of a society wronged and the resulting heated discussions would lead to a lot of chairs being broken on the heads of those officials. Such is our passion. Our democracy may well be a sterling example of what can go wrong if people have too much power!

Since we’re discussing our wish list, and you mentioned turning up the heat, let me tell you one more thing. If it’s at all possible to tweak global warming, we would like to bribe whoever is willing to listen to somehow ease up on our “kill me, God!” humidity. Hopefully, we might all breathe a little easier that way.


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51 thoughts on “India: Walking into the Jet Age”

  1. Priya, I am Charles’ favorite sister (ok, yeah, I’m his only one), and I really enjoyed this post! You are an excellent writer and I have a different perspective on India now. I am going to read some of your other posts and I’m sure I will love them, too. Any friend of my brother’s is a friend of mine.
    Thanks for sharing your talent with the rest of us!
    Jackie

    1. Good to see you here, Jac.

      I am happy that you enjoyed this post and that it helped shift the angle of your view a bit, or the focus.

      Since I am mentioning all that made me happy, let me also say that it delights me to know that you think I am talented. Thank you and I hope to see you here again! Have a lovely time.

  2. What a creative manner in which to have India expose herself ! 🙂

    I have become friends with a few Indians on Face Book and love being able to learn more about foods, attitudes, history, beliefs, etc.. When I read the comments of their friends, I delight in their exchanges. The photographs they share are incredible. I would love to share some of the meals they photograph.

    I am very touched – when they know I am on a thread, they add links so I can research what they are talking about.

    That is the kind of inclusion and respect that the whole world could benefit from!!

    1. It is always an interesting discovery to know a country through its people, their daily exchanges and discussions, rather than the news and books and movies. Your Facebook friends will be able to show you what Bollywood and cookery books couldn’t dream of accomplishing! I saw this link posted on my friend’s wall a few days back. Just a little something with a little pride thrown in!

      http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/album.php?aid=272973&id=540157510&fbid=487850667510

      The pictures you’d like to share will benefit all of us. I hope you can find a way of letting us see them too.

      Thanks, Amy, for appreciating.

  3. India is a fascinating country. So many people, so much variety. Imagine what could happen if all her creative energies and passions were unleashed.

    Your description of corruption and its impact on people is touching. It is so sad when one class of people suffers because another class of people is selfish, foolish and malicious. It happens all over the world and it always saddens me to hear about it. Imagine what our world would be like–what we as human beings could accomplish–if corruption were eliminated. Stunning to think!

    I read a book a few years ago called The Dhandho Investor. I found it very interesting that a group of people named Patel from the state of Gujarat in India have had such an impact in America. It was particularly interesting to me because I grew up in a relatively small town in Indiana, and yet I grew up less than a mile from a motel owned by the Patel family (and went to school with their daughter).

    Thanks for such an interesting post.

    1. ” Imagine what our world would be like–what we as human beings could accomplish–if corruption were eliminated.” It is indeed a world worth contemplating about, Kevin. No greed is what I think about often. That itself will be such a giant step towards a more wholesome world. Wishful thinking though it may be, but I won’t be surprised to see humans eventually seeing the importance of being ‘human’ and making the attempt a higher priority than decelerating global warming. (Which will happen as a natural consequence anyway).

      The Patels are a phenomenon. Their keen determination and astute sense and have taken them places. And, now, after reading your comment, it is even more obvious!

      Thank you for visiting, reading, and commenting, Kevin. I am honoured. I have read your blog and have high regard for your dedication.

    1. Thank you, Damyanti. This post would never have seen the light of day without Charles. In fact, without his having shown interest, there wouldn’ t have been this post at all! These thoughts and beliefs would’ve remained in my head, like they probably are in yours. Most of us have this terrific sense of belonging and annoyance, don’t we? It feels so good to let it all out, once in a while.

  4. Delightful – both the interviewer and interviewee deftly brought me into the world that Priya knows and loves. We average, less-traveled citizens of the world could find the world much less scary and foreign if we could have this kind of sharing on a regular basis. Loved it. Well done.

    1. Thank you, SD. This is something we should all be doing, I suppose. Sharing our worlds through our blogs. There is so much to learn, so many things to discover that’ll make us all realise that a reason to feel a sense of camaraderie may possibly exist, despite the vast differences in our worlds.

  5. Fascinating post, Priya and Charles. I’ve never visited India other than in my imagination through the stories and photos of the many Indian people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my life. It does seem to be a rather mysterious place, but your words ring true that no matter where we are from, how we look or how we dress, we all desire and need the most basic of things like food, clean water, hope, education and opportunities. We all have our horror stories, as well as our greatest contributions to the world. (I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a sunset as gorgeous as the picture you’ve posted, though.)

    1. You are quite right about the beauty of this sunrise, Jessica. It is indeed beautiful. But then, as we all have the same sun everywhere, the beauty remains the same, only the foreground changes!

      Accept my thanks for your comment and the interest you seem to have about India. I hope that with time the apprehension-inducing mysteries reduce for you and India turns into just another exciting mystery. For mystery it always will remain — one is unlikely to unravel all its layers!

  6. Hi Priya,

    I grew up in Singapore (though I now live in the U.S.) and half of my family is Indian (I’m Chinese on my mother’s side). But at the age of 32 I have still not been to India, even though I’ve been all around the world. I think it’s the kind of trip that I keep putting off until I feel I can do it “justice,” whatever that means; your discourse here makes me want more than ever to get over that mental hurdle and visit sooner rather than later. Thank you for collaborating with Charles on this lucid, loving glimpse into some important pieces of India’s character.

    1. Hi Meera,

      I am glad that this post has nudged you closer towards the decision to visit. It must be a difficult leap to take. But if you have the intention, and have been carrying it for some time, you will.

      What part of India is your Indian side of the world from?

      I visited your blog. It has fascinated me so much, I’ll have to gather my senses back before I visit it again and read again! Your words ooze wisdom and awareness.

  7. Priya, this is an excellent post! Well done (and also well done to Charles). I’m so glad you wrote it, as it gives another window into an India I don’t know. There is a kind of India I know, but from afar as, having lived all but the last few years of my life in London, I was surrounded by many relocated Indians who’d moved to England. But it’s strange you know, it’s like seeing a people who are displaced and out of their element. Each wave of immigrant brings its own culture – or elements of that culture – with it, and some of that takes hold, but it’s still only a partial glimpse into their world, their nation, their identity. So, you’ve achieved something here: you’ve filled out some of my own partial view with a lot of your own. It makes the view more complete, don’t you think?

    Do this again sometime soon, please. Add more posts to this (as I know you will). You’re bringing your inner self as well as worlds that are hidden from others, to colourful life.
    🙂

    1. That was the idea, Val. To try to fit in the missing pieces. But, strangely, I do not know what more to add! It is such an overwhelming topic, I get carried away in different directions and then left with a sense of utter confusion of what to say, which path to walk on. Tell me. What would you like to know about? I’ll try to fill in the gaps.

      1. For me it’s just a sort of day to day thing, you know? Kind of wanting to know how my country (though ‘my’ country is a bit wavery currently as I was from England and now live in the neighbouring but rather different Wales) is different from yours on a day to day basis.

        I suppose I’d like to know more of the details rather than the big picture. Experiences of day to day life so that I can make comparisons, see differences, similarities. But really, in time, that will come about naturally by my continuing to read your posts because you reveal your country in your personal posts without even really knowing it.
        🙂

  8. Wow — what a really lovely, insightful and fascinating piece! I love the Q & A format, and I really was fascinated… would love to know what you think about the microfinance media inquiry that is going on now and apparently shutting down a lot of the microfinance ventures — a friend of mine here is deeply involved in that and has been for years, and he is really upset that public opinion seems to be turning against these vehicles to get money to the poor. Thanks so much for your writing!

    1. Reading this compliment coming from you, Betty, I blush, I must confess. Thank you.

      Microfinancing has been facing the same problems as the other things are. The ones dealing with it have found a way to pocket in the money themselves. Let me find out a bit more, and, maybe write a post on it. Any which way, I’ll keep you updated. Or at least give an unadulterated feedback from this end!

  9. What a fascinating and thought-provoking post, Priya and Charles. One of the sad things about Canada–and Canadian media–is that we consider ourselves very open to and knowledgeable about other cultures but the media constantly tells stories that reinforce stereotypes about those cultures. So I’m certain many Canadians have an image of India that is, if not entirely inaccurate then at least only representative of a small portion of the Indian experience (does that make sense?). Then, we view the country through that same lens. This post is an excellent way of showing a side of India that many people in North America have no idea about.

    Thanks for sharing that. I look forward to reading more posts about India.

    1. It is much like anything else, Heidi. We tend to believe the regular run-of-the-mill sources of information. In many cases, it isn’t really all that important to know the accurate information about other people. And as far as the media is concerned, it is the same everywhere. If we take the current example, Canadian media is not the only one projecting India and Indians as the Next Weird Thing! 🙂

      Thanks for the appreciation, Heidi. I hope to provide you more information to help you understand us better.

    1. I agree that the complexity exists everywhere, Thomas. India is just a typical example.

      Thank you for the kind words! I hope to see you more here.

  10. I don’t know much about India, so that was very enlightening. It does seem such a fascinating, mysterious place to those like me who haven’t been there. My son’s girlfriend is Indian (well her parents are). I have to ask because this has me curious…is it typical to eat dinner late…like 9pm there (because her family does)? Are we Americans just eating too early because I’m starving by 6pm and if I had to wait until 9 I don’t think I’d make it. 🙂

    1. I’m no expert either but most of the Indian people I know (I’ve lived in the US, Japan and NZ and known Indians in each place) plus my observations on visits to India is that they do eat late. Ten pm isn’t unusual. When I was in India in December there was an article in the paper saying that late dinners were a potential cause of obesity because you end up snacking in the afternoon and evening and also you don’t digest your food as well if you go right to sleep.

      1. Melinda and Thomas, Indian meal times are another example of an idiotic mix of the three cultures — Mughal, British, Indian. Before being influenced by the Mughals, a typical Indian household ate twice a day — a morning meal and another at sundown. The urban routine of the Mughal cities involved merrymaking in the evenings, usually pushing the evening meals towards late evenings. Then came the British, who liked their supper, but also liked to get invited to Indian homes for a post-supper drinks-and-dinner do. Things have slowly metamorphosed into breakfast, lunch, dinner in most homes, barring a few sensible ones. Love for food and night life has won, I guess. I know people who sit at the dinner table somewhere around 10.30 – 11.00. (They all have the typical Indian spindly frame, Thomas. I suppose obesity must require more than just late hours to flourish. Perhaps a lot of pampering thrown in).
        And Melinda, I have a feeling your son’s daughter-in-law and her family will have retained some compassion, despite the ungodly hours. They won’t let you suffer unrescued! Just tell them.

  11. What a fabulous post this is. I love the collaboration. I love that two people, who met through the blogosphere (I assume this is the case,) can share with the rest of the world their efforts to understand each other’s circumstances. We all benefit from seeing beyond traditional hyperbole.

    Charles asks thoughtful, yet direct questions and Priya answers them honestly and eloquently. I love her comment: “Indians “see our country as you would perhaps see yours.” I also appreciate her metaphor of Indian as the prodigal child.

    “It’s sad but true that corruption will always exist in this world. But once the corruption is minimised, we should see happier, healthier homes.” Yes, we see the same phenomena of poor food distribution and price fixing here in the States, as well in many other countries around the world. I think Priya has a blessedly more optimistic view on this problem that I have. I hope she’s right.

    Charles asks how India is tackling corruption. This is a wonderful question. It made me wonder how I’d answer that, were it directed to me and about the United States. I really don’t know!
    The image above the last paragraph is stunning and perfectly placed. If someone ever manages to ease up the “kill me, God!” humidity in India, I’m coming for a visit!
    Thanks Charles and Priya for this wonderful discussion.

    1. Dear Linda,

      Your comment comes at a time when I am (and indeed most in my country are) struggling to rise up and do something to alleviate a situation that has got exacerbated due to our own faults. We put up with too much. The following link shows a part of what is going on in an attempt to right the wrongs. Don’t miss the video on the right.
      http://www.dandimarch2.org/

      After having read you comment over and over again, I feel humbled at the thought of having been a vehicle to create some sort of awareness among people who having nothing but the ‘traditional hyperbole’ to guide them. Thank you. And, though I have thanked Charles, I still can’t express my gratitude enough to him for having convinced me to go ahead with this.

      1. And, I’ll make sure that the corruption removal procedures are not potent enough to remove the possibility of bribing someone to remove the said humidity. I’d love to see you here!

  12. Priya, this was a privilege for me, and I thank you for the experience. Your complex and thoughtful responses to my simplistic questions took me by surprise every time. I also wanted to point out, since you won’t, that the photographs were all taken by you. The result is a post that informs through words and images, but most of all, through your passion for India.

    1. If we continue thanking each other like this, we’ll find it difficult to take out time for another such post!

      Thank you, anyway.

  13. I enjoyed this post, and it was so much more than the normal interview because of the depth of both the questions and the answers. In a way, what you wish for your country is what most of us wish for ours, only your entrenchment is harder because India is so big and its traditions are so long. Thanks for this insight, to both ofyou.

  14. I am sorry that it took me so long to get a chance to read this…but I now see truth in the phrase “better late than never”. I regret to admit that I have allowed pop culture and the media to mold my ideas on India. I have always associated India with the obvious: the Taj Mahal, Bollywood, bright colored saris, delicious food, and extreme poverty. However, having spent the past six months in a foreign country, and reading your interview, I have come to learn that you don’t ever really know what a place is like until you experience it for yourself. We all have our own preconceived notions on what different countries, and their inhabitants, are like: “France is romantic”, “Chinese people are all smart”, “India is overwhelmed by poverty”, etc. It’s often easy to forget that we are all just people, with similar hopes, dreams, and feelings. Thank you for reminding me of this, and providing me with a much more realistic glimpse into India than I have ever had the opportunity to have. I hope I will have the opportunity to experience “your” India one day.

    1. I don’t know why I put “your” in quotation marks. I hope that didn’t come across in a sarcastic or rude way. I simply meant that I hope to see India one day for myself, particularly as you see it. Not through the eyes of a foreigner, but as someone who appreciates India for all of its beauty, and for its reality. I meant it in a good way, and I hope it didn’t come across as negative.

      1. Thank you Allison, for visiting, reading, and responding beautifully. The quotations marks, in fact, are the highlight of your comment, because, like you say, they show your willingness to see my country from my perspective. It isn’t an easy task, mind you. (You will have to bear all the Ugh! things with a someday-things-will-be-better-so-today-let-me-dance-to-Bollywood attitude!)

        That said, it is not easy to get over stereotypes. Period. The idea is to try to see the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. That eases up a lot of pressure on both the sides. “Why in the world do the Indians eat with their hands?” Rather than “How in the world do these people eat with their hands?” Or, “Why is female infanticide still a problem?” Or “Why do these foolish people oil their hair in scorching heat?” The questions, I know, will be endless. 🙂

  15. After my long lovely vacation in South Africa I’m still trying to catch up with my reading so am only now able to read this great post. Bravo Priya and Charles, what a great idea to share your conversation on a blog so we can all learn about modern India. Priya I love the:
    “With so much squalor and poverty, how do they manage to smile?”, and
    “We are trudging along on the bullock cart, but getting there.”

    And I think your picture’s fantastic -is it a sunset?

    Possibly because I have relatives from India I’m always hungry to learn more about it, but talking of hungry we went to two homes for dinner in South Africa and they both made us curry and rice, and the way they serve it in South Africa is to pass around little bowls of sliced bananas, dessicated coconut, chutney, chopped onions and tomatoes which one then sprinkles on top of the meat and rice. I wonder whether that’s an Indian custom or whether the South Africans have taken it from Malaysia (there’s a large Malay population in the country)

    1. Thank you for appreciating this post, Rosie. It is very special.

      It is a sunrise, actually. Taken last year in a city in Central India.

      I am not sure about this style of serving a salad. It may have been taken from the Malay tradition. India is such a diversely cultural place, this type of salad may come from Kerala or Goa or Andhra Pradesh. Banana and coconut in any form is quite the omnipresent ingredient in their cuisine, especially in the Malayali (from Kerala) dishes. Wherever it comes from, it sounds tasty! I might even like eating it without the rice and meat.

  16. I am reading this post in the light of what’s been happening in our country recently. I think corruption is at the heart of a lot of our problems. We have allowed it to eat into parts of our adult lives at more points than we would like. We all are either taught or learn by experience to live with the ‘chalta hai’ attitude and I simply hate that. Inspite of the question I am often faced with from myself & others, ‘what can <em?I do alone?’, I am sure a lot of people were/ are glad that one Anna Hazare had enough courage to become the face for the fight against corruption. We have the Jan Lokpal Bill now, but I am still not very hopeful of it wiping out corruption at some point in the future. Perhaps, it is just the skeptic in me.

    1. Sometimes scepticism is a good thing, AIT. It mostly is, if you ask me. If we were all sceptical about the solutions we choose for the betterment of our country and mixed that with some genuine desire to make a change, we would all still be living in the proverbial Sone ki Chidiya (The Golden Bird) we’ve been told our country once was. But then, for us, sab chalta hai (everything is acceptable).

      I was reading an airline’s monthly issue on a flight back home a few days back. It talks of the almost virginal states of the North-East. Among the articles, I found a small mention of a village close to Shillong. It boasts of being the cleanest village in Asia. It’s not always been the case, though. Like any other Indian settlement, it reeked of garbage, abuse and apathy until just a few years back. Until the villagers all said, “No more.” I wish we could all take a leaf from their book and do rather than complain….

  17. Absolutely, I agree.. do rather than complain!

    Unfortunately for me, skepticism is eating up my life now. I have been fighting the ‘chalta hai’ attitude ever since I was a student in school. But it has been 20 years and not much has changed. Sure, we have more cars per family, more malls to go to and all the glam stuff that we used to go abroad for. Then, why hasn’t the quality of life improved for our lot? This is all very superficial, I feel. The main reason why it is unfortunate for me, because it hits me right at home. Everytime I decide to take a stand on something (..that happens so often that it has become a part of most of our lives), I am told to stop fighting and learn to live with it. Well, I haven’t learned to live with it in the past 20 years neither has my fighting it done any good. I do not know how to live anymore. I am like a fish in the water who has forgotten to swim.. gasping for air.

    P.S. – Have you ever wondered why is it that people at the threshold of life become the face of such movements? Is it that at that age, one feels safe in the knowledge that they have nothing to lose anymore? I wonder..

    1. Learning to live with it is an easy way out. Since most of us are either lazy or cowards or both, we tend to follow this advice religiously. And most also like to dole this “wisdom” out to those who dare. It is up to you to listen to this and buckle, or say, “I know better.”

      Breathing light is important, AIT. And swimming, too. The funny thing is, even though we think we’ve forgotten to breathe and swim, the fact is that we’re probably just forgetting to “do” it.

      About Anna Hazare and the faces of such movements, and their ages: I do not know. And I haven’t thought about it either. Perhaps more than the thought of having nothing to lose, they have put behind too many attachments and ambitions? Vanaprastha, I hope you remember from the childhood stories we’ve heard, is for people who have successfully completed all that ashram phases. A human’s offering to beings and universe “outside” of him/her begins only thereafter. Perhaps this it the answer to your question?

      Much love.

      1. I remember Vanprastha. This is supposed to be the fourth and last stage; starting at age 60, am I correct? I am forgetting names of the earlier 3.

        You are right, at this stage of life, one is expected to free themselves of everything material to be able to lead a saintly life with the ultimate goal of Moksha. But now that I stop and think for a moment, I realise both my parents & in-laws are at this stage. And this is when they started spending on material things for themselves; instead of the opposite. All their lives, they kept their temptations within bounds to save for their children’s future. And now, when all the children can independently take care of themselves, they have taken to materialism; holidays abroad, the biggest flatscreen TV, the dream SUV. I also have to admit that we encouraged them to splurge. After all, why do you work your a** off the whole life?

        Just a tad conflicting.. what the scriptures preach and what actually happens.

        1. It is the third and penultimate stage after Brahmacharya and Grihastha. Sanyasa is the last stage.

          Vanaprastha is actually about limiting the material usage, in order to ease the transition into Sanyasa, should the person choose to get into the final stage.

          Scriptures give a possible ideal solution that may, or may not, make a person enjoy life in its simplicity. But then, nothing can really be laid down as law, can it? To each his own. I’d like holidays abroad at any stage of my life. Perhaps even stop saving for whatever purpose! And that would give me tremendous bliss. In Grihastha, or in Vanaprastha.

          1. Hey, I’d like them tomorrow, if someone up there is listening !

            You are right, nothing in life can or should be laid down as law. And people shouldn’t be judged by the choices they make. Thank you for telling me the names of the earlier stages. This conversation with you has sparked something in me. It maybe the beginning of a post. 🙂

          2. I look forward to reading it.

            PS: Someone up there is listening. He/She better, and then hurry in helping out. There’s an entire world to explore.

  18. Hi Priya ,

    This is a lovely post , I couldn’t agree more with you on this . I have recently been transferred to London and it is pretty shocking to see how ignorant people here are about India . It is predominantly thought as the land of ‘Chicken tikka masala ‘ the birthplace of the muligtawny soup and Sachin Tendulkar . I have personally invited dozens to come visit India and explore the rich heritage and culture . But sadly , there are very few takers . Honestly , I couldn’t blame them . With the levels of corruption and red tapism in our country, I am not surprised people are scared to come here . I hope things change and we realize the potential we have .

    Please do take some time out to read my blog . I am new to blogging and would really appreciate some feedback (good/bad/ugly ) .
    URL : http://roughnotebook.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/page-2-masala-chai-to-twinings-tea/

    Thanks,

    Rajat

    1. Rajat, it is not for us to try to attract anyone. It is for us to become naturally attractive. That will take a lot of doing, no?

      Have fun in London! Your blog shows you are, already.

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