Monday, October 15, 2007

zen cup of tea

The following was found on:

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he could restrain himself no longer. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup", Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Flowery Cabs in New York City

The other day, as I was crossing Queens Boulevard to get back to work after a quick coffee break, I was stopped short by the sight of a beautifully decorated taxicab. It reminded me of how intricately the trucks and rickshaws are decorated in India. Another stranger was also pulled up short in admiration of the flowers boldly painted on the hood and back of the taxi. We wondered aloud to each other if perhaps the cab driver himself had taken a brush to his vehicle... I was inpired as well as mystified. This demanded that a photo be taken. As I pulled out my camera and took the picture you see here, the proud owner of the vehicle arrived, joyful that his taxi was the center of so much admiration. He explained that the flowers are actually made of paper and then glued onto the surface of the car, and that they were drawn by children with disabilities. The taxi driver, Mr. Deep Mangli, (pictured sitting on his cab) was also excited to share with me, as an aside, that he is a Punjabi Poet and Performer and if interested you can read all about his poetic activities at his website: (One of those only in New York moments...)

In the meantime, stop and enjoy the flowering cabs, which, according to The Gothamist, will be around through December 2007, as part of the Gardens in Transit program! Apparently, according to one commenter on the recent Gothamist article, the kids who participated in this project
"... got a huge kick out of the fact that their work was going to be on the city
cabs. In actuality, the by-laws had to be changed for this one time project
because the NYC yellow cab is an iconic symbol and can't be altered. They are
doing it this once and the law says that they can't be changed from any color
but yellow for the next 100 years."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Disturbing news

So I get a forward from a former colleague at Mills College in California. At first I didn't open it, because, hey it was a forward. It could wait. But in the end I'm glad I did, though it did contain very disturbing news. One of their music professors, Nalini Ghuman, has been barred from re-entering the country for the past year. For no discernible reason! Not only that, but her immigration attorney is unable to make any headway into finding out the reason behind her being barred from the country by the State Department. It seems that there is a great possibility that, despite Mills College's attempts at helping her, that she may just have to seek employment outside of the country, and leave her job, despite the fact that her employer wants her here, despite the fact that she has been a resident of the U.S. for at least 10 years, despite the fact that she has done nothing wrong. What is this country coming to?

Here is an article from the New York Times describing this in further detail. Here is a quote from that article, speculating as to the possible reason for blocking her re-entry:

Ms. Ghuman is certainly not alone in her frustration. Academic and civil
liberties groups point to other foreign scholars who have been denied entry
without explanation at an airport, or refused a visa when they applied. A
pending lawsuit by the
American Civil Liberties Union contends that the Bush administration is using heightened security measures to keep foreign scholars out on ideological grounds in violation of the First Amendment rights of American scholars to hear them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

looking serious while tabling for the RC

another Red Cross foto...

smiling at work

smiling at work
Originally uploaded by IndianGirl
me in my Red Cross regalia, after doing a Disaster Preparedness Presentation...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rana and Betsy make a heartwarming speech at their rehearsal dinner... while looking handsome and lovely.

Don't they look happy?

It was an honor to be invited to Betsy and Rana's rehearsal dinner. It was a beautiful night for a courtyard dinner at a French restaurant in San Francisco, celebrating the love of friends.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I was cutting a mango.
Or, to be more accurate, was about to cut a mango.
I hadn't eaten much yesterday, just a salad for dinner.
So was hungry at 1 a.m. and thought, why not a mango?

The mango was cold and ready. The white cutting board was awaiting the press of the slice.

My father walked up to me, and said, Bhaipal Bapuji marigaya. Bhailal Bapuji died.


Things are stiff between my father and me these days, but still, the pain. Hug. We share tears; his staying deep inside the mine of his reddened eyes. Mine spilling out.

Thoughts of the old man with the scratchy voice who was perpetually sick, but perpetually hanging on, like tough leather shoestring, like stubborn sticky cobweb.

Thoughts of the old man sitting in the little room in the house on the hill. The half cousin of the family.

Thoughts of how I used him for a caricature in my monologue. Because he urged me to marry.

Thoughts of how he was the last link to the old Unava - the old village which I will never visit again.

The mango stayed green and perfect and whole and wet on the white clean cutting board.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Being Sita?

When I was growing up in New Jersey, I had the privilege of attending a Saturday School where we were trained in the lore of ancient India, specifically Hindu India. I thank my lucky stars that, while the school was quite religious and pious in its focus, it never, Never followed the lead of such blind Hindutva-based, fanatical organizations as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Instead it based its teachings on the rather more all-embracing teachings of the 19th century Hindu mystic, Shri Ramakrishna.

I don't intend to get into the whole history of Saturday School here, but just to talk of one incident; actually, not even an incident, really... more like a moment.

Our Saturday School teachers tried to instill in us a deep-seated sense of morality and good character. To this end, they taught us the meaning of portions of the Vedas, the Gita, and also the grand old stories from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Not only were we taught the actual stories and shlokas (verses) but these were explained and elaborated upon in long discussions. In many senses, especially in the early years, this school really mimicked the old form of spiritual education in India - the gurukul.

Another way that values were instilled in us was through memorization. We were given excerpts of speeches and writings by great people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Rabrinath Tagore, Saradamani Devi (the wife of Shri Ramakrishna) and so on. Our teachers called these excerpts "paragraphs" and each of us was often assigned a paragraph to memorize and recite at upcoming events, such as our (practically named) Annual Function, or other such gatherings.

Swami Vivekananda being a prolific speech-maker, most of the paragraphs were by him. I remember there was a very strong, bold one called "What We Want" because the starting line was, "What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel." "What We Want" was a much-coveted paragraph. See now, this is the thing, the heart of the matter. There were fun paragraphs, and there were not-so--fun paragraphs. We tended to like the ones that were rythmic and lyrical.... "What We Want" fell into that category, because we could apply a staccato, forceful rhythm to the words, "What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel..."

But then there were other paragraphs which were not memorable, but rather boring. We would dread being assigned one of these, as not only did they not lend themselves to the rhythms we liked, but they were difficult to stamp into the memory, leading to a lot of stumbling when reciting.

One time, our school was invited to another such school's event in New York City... Our teachers chose several students to recite some of the key paragraphs... One by one the paragraphs were assigned, and soon, there were only two paragraphs left... and two of us students left - my classmate Manish, a boy around my age, and I. The two paragraphs left were Swami Vivekananda's "Sita, India's Ideal" (hereafter referred to as SII) and the other was Rabrinath Tagore's "Let My Country Awake." (hereafter referred to as LMCA)

I prayed that I'd be assigned to LMCA, as I abhorred SII. The little budding feminist that I was, I didn't know exactly why I rebelled at the thought of Sita being my ideal, but rebel I did. So I rejoiced when I was assigned to LMCA. This was the creme de la creme of paragraphs, being a sublime poem rather than a paragraph.

I can't say I really understood either "paragraph" very well... (See below for the texts of both.) It's just that in the case of SII, it galled me that girls and women were exhorted to "Be Sita," while there was no mention of boys being required to do anything, as if all of India depended on girls to be obedient and ever-suffering.

While in the case of LMCA, it was the beauty of the words, the cadence, the concepts of freedom and truth that appealed to me. I surely had no clue as to what I wanted my country to awake to, or awake from. Come to think of it, I wasn't quite sure which country was my country - India or the U.S. - and yet Rabrinath Tagore's "paragraph" seduced my inner writer with its simple poetry.

To be fair, SII was also quite poetic, in retrospect, and strong in its rhetoric, which would have appealed to me if it were not for the sense of unfairness that raged within when I heard it. "Why do girls have to be stupid Sita," I remember thinking, rather bitterly, "and not boys?!"

Well. Life isn't always fair, and one of the teachers realized that the last paragraph to be assigned--SII-- and the last kid -- Manish, a boy -- didn't quite match. It would be a bit awkward to have that paragraph emanate from a boy's mouth, even though it was originally uttered by a man. (!!) And so... much to my chagrin, the paragraphs were reassigned. And I was, after all, assigned to my much-hated paragraph.

This may be somewhat of a non sequitor, but....
Recently, I read a book of short stories -- Shielding Her Modesty by Sita Bhaskar -- about whom I 'll be blogging shortly. I must say, that if I am to be like Sita, please let me be like Sita Bhaskar, who writes like a modern-day and less inhibited version of the great R.K. Narayan with a bit of her own unique spice and humor thrown in.

Sita, India's Ideal
Rama and Sita are the ideals of the Indian nation. All children, especially girls, worship Sita. The height of a woman's ambition is to be like Sita, the pure, the devoted, the all-suffering!

Sita is typical of India — the idealised India. The question is not whether she ever lived, whether the story is history or not, we know that the ideal is there. There is no other story that has so permeated the whole nation, so entered into its very life, and has so tingled in every drop of blood of the race, as this ideal of Sita.

Sita is the name in India for everything that is good, pure and holy — everything that in woman we call womanly. If a priest has to bless a woman he says, "Be Sita!" If he blesses a child, he says "Be Sita!" They are all children of Sita, and are struggling to be Sita, the patient, the all-suffering...
-Swami Vivekananda
NOTE: The above is an excerpt from a much longer speech. If you would like to read the speech in its entirety, go to this link and scroll down for a bit.

Let My Country Awake

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

-Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, June 18, 2007

am listening to...

as I try to sleep, but I cannot... i am listening to Pari Mahal, one of my favorite pieces by the group Ghazal…

it’s so beautiful, I can’t stand it. it aches.
it’s the sweet tender playful part of every love affair.

it’s sunlight glinting through water passing through your hands as you smile.

it’s a dance of the heart and sarangi and melody.

it’s the question.
it’s the laughing answer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Art present brings back memories of Art past... and perhaps inspires Art future?

Today I attended (and was the volunteer bartender for) the SAWCC Slide Slam -- a slide show by several SAWCC artists who showed their work on an LCD projector and each spoke about her work for about 10 minutes... It was an inspiring art show and talk... something new for me... Bringing the process of art alive with talk of narrative, theory, and process. The artists featured were Yamini Nayar, Jaishri Abhichandini, Chitra Ganesh, Sa'dia Rehman, Swati Khurana, Rina Banerjee.

I was especially struck by Jaishri's explanation of the emotional impact of participating in P.S.1's Emergency Room exhibition earlier this year. The artists were given a set of elaborate rules to abide by in creating their pieces for this exhibit~ but in short they were to create, for thirty days, art that responded to or was inspired by something that was current in the media on each day. They had to work quickly, as each piece needed to completed within a very short time frame. The day that Sadam Hussain was executed, she chose to do a painting of his face after his neck had snapped, and when she described the visceral reaction she had initially, but then the need to acclimate herself enough to the YouTube video to be able to paint the image... well. That brought home to me that art doesn't have to be this esoteric "out there" thing that people "out there" do. Nor does it have to be a solely decorative process. She said that while this particular project had many limitations, one thing she gained was learning to create simple images, simple projects that could be read and experienced directly, and weren't unnecessarily abtruse.

Having the opportunity to hear the artists' thoughts on their work in a cozy, low pressure setting helped the audience better understand even the more abstract pieces that took more understanding of the deep meanings that the artist was gleaning from her environment in creating the piece.


Being immersed in the world of art, and not just art in a museum, but art given context and narrative by its creators brought me back to the times in my life when visual art was quite at the forefront of my mind... There have been many times like this, from the time in high school (and beyond) when I used to regularly stay up till one, two, or three in the morning, just to draw and redraw and redraw obsessive self-portraits... It wasn't so much that I was obsessed with myself, (though which teenager isn't, really?) as that I was obsessed with drawing faces... and mine was the only face I could with regularity get to sit long enough so that I could draw it.

Another time in my life when visual art was central was during the Notre Dame years... Actually, specifically the year 1998. I took an oil painting class with Charlie Strong. One of the assignments he gave us got me fascinated with the dichotomy of dark and light... What he did was to take photographs of each of us, in a relatively dark room, but with one very strong, unidirectional light source focused on one side of our faces... this produced striking effect of light and shadow, which were a delight to me... He asked us to use these as reference for our paintings.

I reveled in exploring the various nuances of light and dark, and the way colors changed in how they looked in different light. Also added to my challenge during this time was the fact that, in my cheapness, I only bought four cans of oil paint -- blue, red, yellow, and black. No white. So the paintings from this time were quite dramatic, both because of the dark/light contrast that was so pronounced, and also because I had very few colors to play with... (Although, i must admit, I did occasionally beg some white paint from a classmate. But the rare white stroke in the paintings from this time just seems to emphasize all the more how little white is there, with no white diluting the other colors at all...)

Another thing that led to the paintings' dramatic overtones was the circumstances under which they were painted... In those days, I used to work till 9 or 10 at night at the college, as I was one who could better concentrate after my coworkers left work... and then at about 10 or 11, I would go off to the art studio (having begged the security guard to let me in) and then paint to my heart's content. The thing that kept my energy up, besides being in my twenties, was that I kept a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan cd there in my locker... and at that midnight hour, with no witness, I'd paint and sing, and dance and paint... it is hard to describe without waxing silly-- it was at the same time a soul stirring and soul soothing experience. NFAK would transport me to a trancelike state as I slip-slid around in my flats on the dusty art studio floor.... It helped that the studio was huge, cavernous, with walls of stone that were two feet thick, giving me the sense of being in a protected fortress, free to dance to my heart's content and paint to my soul's exhaustion... Finally, when I was done for the night, it would often be well past three in the morning...

and then, contentedly I'd drive home.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Something is Better than Nothing

Well, you know me... It's always been either the best of times or the worst of times with me, especially when it comes to fitness. Either I was on the cross-country team, running at least 8 miles a day, or in Chennai dancing several hours a day, or doing Absolutely Nothing and watching my muscles rot. Nothing in between for me... I either wanted it all, or nothing would do. No middle ground. Or so it seems...

But actually, when I look back, I realize there have been times in between when I have strived for some equilibrium. There was the time in ninety seven ('98?), when Elaine and I would go down to Ocean Beach in SF most mornings, or least four out of every seven, to walk and run. (She ran, I walked.) And then that slowly built up to the point at which I started to run, at least half of the time. But then, what happened? I don't know... I moved, she moved. My enthusiasm waned with the loss of my workout partner. That shouldn't have been the case, but sadly, it was.

And of late, I've been hitting the gym at the regular rate of about once a week. A laughable proposition, perhaps, but hey, it jives with my new philosophy (thanks, Anil!) of Something is Better than Nothing. That's the mantra I've been chanting to myself (well, actually more like muttering) as I do my forlorn once-weekly trip to the gym.

Well... As I ponder health in general and heart-health in particular, I realize that the something part has got to be stepped up, to be a bit more substantial. A something more, if you will.

And that's where the brilliant Couch to 5K plan comes in. I plan to try essay this audaciously simple schedule for getting me back in heart-healthy shape.

I look to you, my friends, to remind me, to ask me, to tease me, to inspire me, from time to time, with the question, "How's the Couch to 5K going for you? Did you do it this week? Did you do it today?"

Better yet, join me in my quest to run 5K, and share your progress with me. We'll all be the better for it. Let me know via this blog or by email if you'd like to join and share our progress... Or, just bug me... I'll look forward to it.

After all this Something is a Whole lot better than alot of Nothing.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

today... (Saturday the 6th)

i had a truly interesting (in a positive way) experience… at the suggestion of a friend, I decided to go to the Brooklyn Museum’s monthly event, First Saturday… apparently Target has sponsored free entry and happenings every First Saturday of the month at the Booklyn Museum. How cool is that?

So today I was treated to two amazing exhibits:

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005,


Ron Mueck’s amazing, lifelike sculptures

Oh, and before all that, I wandered around Astoria Park (a 15 minute walk away from my new place) around sunset time and enjoyed the tail end of today’s freakishly warm weather… in fact, as I was walking down my street this older gentleman pointed to the front yard of a nearby house—“Plants!” he said, “plants are coming up!!” We admired the brave shoots together at the same time as feeling sorry for them that they got fooled into popping up before their time… What underlined the freakishness of it is that that particular yard still had its Christmas display up….