Archive for January, 2007

Onward Journey

For all of you who ask “where in the world are you???” – here is our tentative itinerary for the remainder of our stay in India. The first part of our onward journey could be titled: Wedding Circuit II (with a side trip to the AIDS conference). The second part: Friends Without Borders II. The third: Betsy and Zing’s First Trip to India. And the fourth: Sad to be Leaving India – See You in Six Months.

Do let us know if our paths might cross – we’d love to see you!

29 January 2007

10:00 – Car share from Pondicherry to Chennai
15:15 – Indian Airlines Flight 672 from Chennai to Mumbai
16:55 – Arrive Mumbai

3 February 2007

12:00 – Misha Bhatt’s wedding, Lord Ayyappa Samaj Hall, Guregaon (W), Mumbai

4 February 2007

07:00 – Indian Airlines Flight 806 from Mumbai to Varanasi
11:20 – Arrive Varanasi for International AIDS conference

6 February 2007

15:40 – Indian Airlines Flight 805 from Varanasi to Delhi
16:66 – Arrive New Delhi

7 – 9 February 2007

Samihita Kaw’s wedding events

10 – 14 February 2007

Ahmedabad – prepare for phase II of Friends Without Borders project

15 February – 15 March 2007

Travel within Pakistan for Friends Without Borders project

15 -23 March 2007


24-28 March 2007

Edayar and Cochin, Kerala, with Betsy and Kebe Jacobs

29-31 March 2007

Madurai with Betsy and Zing

1 – 5 April 2007

Pondicherry with Betsy and Zing

Mid – late April 2007

Depart for the U.S.

Beyond The Call on PBS 23 January 2007

Beyond the Call

Beyond the Call“, Adrian Belic‘s latest documentary on the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work delivered by Ed Artis, Jim Laws, and Walt Ratterman of Knightsbridge International, will be shown on PBS’s Independent Lens tomorrow, 23 January 2007.

For those of you who missed the world-wide film festival showings and theatrical releases in San Francisco and Chicago – here’s your chance to see this inspirational film from the comforts of your home.  Check local listings for the time in your area.

Works + Conversations Joins the Gift Economy

Works + Conversations

I am thrilled to see that Works + Conversations, a beautiful print art journal, has joined Tsunamika and Seva Cafe as part of the gift economy.

Richard is the editor of a grassroots magazine, called ‘Works and Conversations’, that creatively profiles unsuspecting everyday heroes: a flutist who became homeless for the love of music, a sculptor who tends to the public park daily, a young Desert Storm veteran who repents wartime by making ceramic cups as silent gifts for all who take it. Stories that really stir your soul.

Read the story of Nipun‘s meeting with Richard Whittaker, the editor of Works + Conversations, and the conversation that led to Richard’s decision to gift the magazine.

Dancing Sutra

Sutra Dancer

This post is a bit more than a month late, but I want to pay tribute to Ramli Ibrahim and the Sutra Dance Theatre of Malaysia, the most brilliant interpreters of traditional Indian Odissi dance I have seen. Their program, “Dancing Sutra”, was performed under a majestic neem tree in the outskirts of Pondicherry on 19 December, 2006.

The programme:

Mangala Charanam
Two celestial dancers descend from their heavenly abode to dance the invocatory Mangala Charanam for the delectation of the Gods and mortals. Hari Haro, the powerful composite personification of both Shiva and Vishnu are specially invoked. Then they give their blessings to the audience.

Sutra Dancers - 2

Taken from Jayadeva’s Gita Govanda, the Dasavatar is based on the Hindu belief that when there is an imbalance of good and evil, Krishna (manifestation of Vishnu, the Preserver) will incarnate himself through one of his previous 9 incarnations as The Fish, The Turtle, The Boar, The Man-Lion, The Dwarf, Parasurama the Warrior Priest, Rama, Balarama and Buddha. The last Kalki who will finally dissolve the universe is yet to come.

Sutra Dancers - 3

Kadamba Bane Bansi
The spirit of Radha, forever pining for her Krishna, appears. In the mango grove, Radha is restless and tortured by love. Her resistance finally melts when she hears Krishna’s flute. She begs Lalita, her confidante, to take her immediately to the cause of her anguish, Krishna. But Krishna, the master of tricks and illusion, is not totally blameless for the frequent quarrels with Radha. Having sported and enjoyed himself with the other gopis, he returns guiltily to Radha, who is naturally angry and unforgiving.

Sutra Dancers - 4

Aditya Archana
From ancient times, Surya has always been the object of worship. Emerging from the primordial waters, he sits on a lotus in his golden chariot drawn by seven horses, representing the seven colors, and driven by his charioteer, Aruna. Surya is not only regarded as the source of light and knowledge, but that of the worlds. Thus, he is known as Aditya.

Sutra Dancers - 5

Tsunamika Thrives


She is a child of the tsunami that devastated the coast of Tamil Nadu on 26 December 2004. She is made up of bits and pieces of leftover cloth and thread. She is a living symbol of hope and unconditional love. Her name is Tsunamika.

Tsunamika was born in February 2005 during a handicraft workshop held by the Upasana Design Studio to help teach lifelong skills to the fisherwomen in 7 of the 19 villages (comprising 5,000 families and 11,000 people) in and around Auroville, an intentional community on the coast of Tamil Nadu, that were affected by the tsunami.

Today, she provides an income for over 180 fisherwomen, who earn between Rs. 750 to 2,500 (U.S.$ 17 to 56) – women who have gained confidence, self-respect, leadership skills, and freedom; women who have an intense relationship with Tsunamika and a deep connection to the people who receive her.

Tsunamika now comes in several guises – pin, hair clip, book mark, key chain, pencil decoration, paper clip, and rakhi. She is used by teachers, school children, NGOs and corporations in 50 countries. But she is never sold.

Tsunamika is a gift, and a beautiful example of the gift economy in action. The thousands of people who are touched by her volunteer their time and talents, give donations to keep the project going, find innovative ways to use her, and tell her story.

Small Steps

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tzu

Uma Prajapati, Manoj Pavitran, and the other designers at Upasana Design Studio, working with designers at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai, have created an amazing campaign to reduce pollution caused by “throw away” plastic bags: Small Steps for better living.


The idea?  Carry a compact shopping bag with you anytime, any day, everywhere.  Designers that they are, they have designed a bag that is light-weight yet strong, extremely compact, and fashionable enough for any hipster.  The bag currently comes as a shopping bag or a backpack, in it’s own little pouch which can be slipped into a purse or clipped onto a belt loop with a mini carabiner.

The first production of bags will arrive at Upasana on 25 January 2007.

If you are given a chance to do something for your country, would you?

Be the change – take a small step – say NO to plastic bags.

First Information Report (FIR)

FIR Number: 0009

FIR Date: 08/01/2007

Police Station: Madivala Traffic PS

District: Bangalore City

State: Karnataka

Act: Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section: 279 337

First Information Content: The original report of the complaint is herewith enclosed:

To: Sub Inspector of Police, Madivala Traffic Police Station, Bangalore

Respected Sir,

On 8/1/07 at about 12:39 pm we were travelin on Hosur Road at Hosa Road junction towards Infosys on motorcycle (license number KA-06-R-4138) when a bus (license number TN-30-B-7221) truck us from behind and dragged us for eight meters, resulting in injury to our persons and damage to the motorcycle. Upon stopping, the illegal driver immediately switched seats with the licensed driver of the bus. This occured on the left shoulder of the road and was witnessed by M.S. Shivapa, HCP #3381, who made note of the incident. Both the driver and driver’s assistant fled the scene immediately and were not caught.

We respectfully request that the authorities take the necessary actions against the drivers and the bus company according to the law.

Thanking you,

Mark Jacobs and Yoo-Mi Lee

Postscript: Both vehicles involved in the accident were taken to the Madivala Traffic Police Station. By the time we got to the station in order to file the complaint, the Vehicle Inspector had already been paid off by the owner of the bus.

Happy Pongal


We are breaking from tradition this year, and spending the Pongal holidays in Pondicherry, as opposed to Madurai. No kolam in front of our doorstep; no sugarcane stalks gracing our entryway; no painted and decorated cows; and no sweet pongal. Krishnans and the rest of the Aravind Eye Hospital family – I miss you!

Selling sugarcane stalks door to door

Pongal is a four-day harvest festival celebrated in South India (in Karnataka, Pongal is known as Sankaranti). Elaborate, multicolored kolams replace the simpler, everyday white rice flour designs. A string of fresh mango leaves is hung over the front door. Legend has it that on the second day of Pongal, Lord Shiva performed a miracle where a stone image of an elephant ate a piece of sugarcane. On the third day, cattle, which have myriad uses for farmers, are celebrated.

Sweet Pongal
Sweet rice pongal cooked in an earthenware pot over a wood fire

Pongal is also the name of a rice dish which can be sweet or savory. During the Pongal festival, sweet pongal (rice, moong dal (split yellow lentils), jaggery (raw sugar made from sugarcane), dry fruit, and milk) is cooked in a new earthenware pot on an open fire and allowed to boil over, signifying plenty and prosperity. Fresh tumeric and ginger are tied to the pot.  The pongal is offered to Surya (sun god) and eaten as prasad.

Cow Eating Pongal
First serving of pongal fed to a cow

Sandy and “Symbiosis”

Sandy Chiang landed on our rooftop yesterday afternoon. I didn’t know she was coming to see us until she was already in Pondicherry, having taken a flight at the crack of dawn from Ahmedabad (where she spent a typically amazing week at Manav Sadhna) to Chennai, then a four hour bus ride to Pondicherry. She is here for a few days before heading to Taiwan for a month on a secret mission to collect stories from her relatives for a bilingual tribute to her parents while they are still alive.

I lost no time in putting her to work.  Since Sandy speaks Taiwanese and Mandarin, and has done a lot of translations for Reverend Heng Sure and the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, I took her to the BookBox office to see if they needed any help in translation or narration.  Indeed, they needed a Mandarin translator for several stories.  It seemed to me that there was about a week’s worth of work.  I felt a little guilty after leaving her in the clutches of the the BookBox staff, hoping that I hadn’t overloaded her with work.  After all, she’d come to Pondicherry to hang out with us and eat South Indian food.

Sandy showed up for lunch two hours later, having completed the available work – editing four stories:  Symbiosis, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Tucket the Bucket, and Little Star of Bethlehem (not yet available for download).  A good thing too, since it turned out that Souvenir Travels was able to find her a direct flight to Taiwan from Chennai (as opposed to Delhi or Mumbai), but the only available flight is tomorrow night.

Four meals (Sandy is a passionate (and compassionate) eater), two hours of service, a walking tour of the heritage buildings in Pondicherry (led by INTACH), and she’s off to savor the tastes of Taiwan.

Open to Sky

January 4, 2007

Sitting over another late lunch the day we get to Baroda, I ask Puru: “Did you see one toilet in Alang or Bhavnagar?” I ask because I’m still annoyed that I had to “hold it” from 8 am the day before to 3 am this morning. Even around midnight, dismantling the three enormous spotlights that Devendra-da had purchased for the Ashram sports ground, there were men hanging around the streets of Bhavnagar. I had to wait until we got to the loading area of South Indian Transport before I could go in relative privacy, behind one of the small buildings that serve as offices for the transport companies, while all the men were either busy loading the truck or watching the loading.

Puru is surprised by the question. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have asked at one of the khaddas (open plots that serve as warehouse and showroom for the traders of Alang – literally, “holes” in Hindi).”

“You think they have toilets at the khaddas? No chance. Did you see one?”

“There must be. These traders have tons of money – they’re lakhpattis or crorepattis (the Rupee equivalent of millionaires and billionaires).”

“No, there are none.”

“But Hemalbhai must have one. He’s not like Maheshbhai, who only cares about money. Hemalbhai is a decent man.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t have one.”

“He must. I’m going to call him right now.”

After the initial pleasantries, Puru asks the question: “Excuse me, Hemalbhai, but I just want to confirm something. Are there any toilets in Alang?”

The look on Puru’s face is priceless. “Really? Then what do men do and what do women do?”

I catch some of Puru’s side of the Hindi conversation: “OTS?” “Open to sky?” And I know I have sealed the implicit bet. And women? “There must be a bush somewhere.”


Blog Stats

  • 243,340 hits