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Following the Bombay bombings and shootings I have decided to do a piece on the terrorism as I have witnessed it. This is not intended to offend anyone, but is snippits of conversations, observations and my point of view.

 

My experience to the terrorism in Mumbai was first hearing on the news that there was a shooting at Leopolds, a bar made famous for its existence in the novel Shantaram and frequented by Westener types. My initial thoughts were that it was because of their over inflated prices, but as the following day progressed on a bus journey to AgraI heard further snippits of information. A bomb, thousands dead, a hotel burnt to the ground, death, death, death, the truth difficult to fathom. Later, I switched on the television to the media circus happening on every channel, repeated images of fire in the Taj, cars driving and someone shooting, pundits with pundit points of view. The truth difficult to fathom.

 

It was really happening, It was happening live, but my head said why are there not more images. My indoctrination to MTV style media was fueling my desire for more images, facts, fire, death and destruction. I wanted the truth, a truth for me to fathom.

 

I found myself checking the lock on my room and considering if I should place a chair in front of it or grand piano if I had one. I planned an escape root through an air vent at the back of my room. If anything went down here, I would be prepared.

 

But I was in Agra, why would anything happen here, you don’t get more Muslim than the Taj Mahaul. Also, I was in a fleapit of a hotel, no terrorist in their right mind would attack here. So my basic guideline on safety in a terrorist prolific world is – be in hearing distance of the call to prayer and don’t pay more than 300 ruppees a night. I returned back to the repeated images, I was an addict, consume, consume, consume. Switch off the television before it destroys your mind. Switch off the television before it destroys your mind. Something was telling me to switch off the television, the reasons I was unsure. I switched the television off, my mind already destroyed.

 

After it was all over I wanted a viewpoint, a perspective from the people, the common man, the word on the street. Many people just shook their heads, eyes down “Terrible, a terrible thing that has happened”, “Bomb Pakistan to oblivion” was another subtle response.

 

Many Muslims seemed more interested in conspiracy theories, than accepting that it could be a fellow Muslim that did this “It is the CIA, they want to provoke India to attack Pakistan, they hate Muslims”. One Muslim chap told me that “99.9 % of Americans, Westeners and Jews were evil” I asked him what about me, he said  I was ok. I guess that made me the .1 % of the holier than thou, I was honored. He must have been honored. I hope you feel honored.

 

And then there was a Hindu guy in a bar, drunk on cheap whiskey. He said “I am Hindu, Hinduism is a tolerant religion, I am tolerant, but I hate those Muslims and blacks.” I told him that maybe he should look the word tolerant up in a dictionary. He got a little upset and told me that I was a coward because I would not go out in the street and punch a Muslim in the face. Well if not going out and randomly attacking some innocent man is cowardice then I am as yellow as they come.

 

Propaganda has been filling my text and email inboxes. messages from Bombay police warning about false bomb threats and lovely messages stating that we must hold together as a nation. These people know how volatile India and its cities can be, particularly Bombay. They don’t want the riots that have happened in previous years to start again.

 

So how does a country exist with such volatile feelings boiling under the surface. Well the fact is that there are a lot of examples of the people, and worse, than the above in India, millions, but there are also millions more that understand acceptance. It is a society that has evolved with huge social differences, different religions, different gods, different castes. It is a society of differences. And with differences comes conflict. But one thing holds it all together Mother India.

 

While I was visiting the Liberation museum in Bangladesh I came across the following quote, located above the door as you exit. I don’t know who made it, but I feel it is a poignant message in this modern, terrorist ridden age.

 

“Let us remove hatred and prejudice from the world and let it begin with me.”

 

Please forward onto those who may most benefit………those that preach hate, those that hide behind the guise of their religion (All religions) and use it to justify their actions, those that cannot think for themselves.

 

I see that Leopolds are open again and not removing the bullet holes. Apparently they are doing this out of the need to remember…..and are not using it to milk more Westener types. Can’t say I blame them.

 

Peace.

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Linking Road is the Oxford Streetof Mumbai. It is set within the well to do area of Bandra,  and similarly to Oxford Streetit is full of complete and utter crap. Adidas and Nike labels and low quality replicas of Adidas and Nike labels proliferate like the plague. Sitting on a bench, a fiberglass Ronald Macdonald lures in the modern Indian youth as if he were a bag of sweet wielding phaedophile outside an all boys Catholic school.

 

Now I can justify to myself for going in many ways: I want to compare what it is like to the UK MacDonalds; I have eaten curry every day, twice or 3 times a day; one needs to experience all manifestations of the culture; a press gang whacked me over the head and dragged me in; I am a naïve Catholic boy. But, you would not believe me, so i fess up, I don’t mind a MacDonalds from time to time. There I said it, i will burn, i will burn.

 

Anyway, I’m in, and there is not a flippin’ burger in site. Instead of the limp beef burgers, that  bear no resemblance to their advertisements there are limp chicken burgers that bear no resemblance to their advertisements. The chips are the same though and fortunately the coke is coke and not some hybrid adaptation. Mind you coke is coke wherever you are in the world. Change is good, but sometimes what you know is the best.

 

Sitting in my formica wonderland I peer out of the window and watch a holy cow stroll down the middle of the road like a tart from some Northern English town, with a tiny skirt and new stilettos. I look at the cow, then at my burger, then back to the cow and I am sure he is laughing at the fiberglass clown perv. and thinking 70% Hindus in the country….my arse is safe here.

 

Every civilization has a unique way of looking at the world. A cluster of ideas which define the goal of human existence, the ways to reach this goal, the errors to be avoided and the obstacles to be expected on the way. This view defines central human experiences and answers questions as to what is good and what is evil, what is real and what is unreal, what is the essential nature of men and women and the world they exist in, what is their connection to nature, other human beings and to the cosmos. What is god, and should that cow be in my burger.

 

Three interlinked elements comprise a major part of this Hindu world view; moksha, dharma and karma, with this trinity forming a large part of the Indian psyche.

 

Moksha – the goal of life

 

Self-realisation, transcendence, salvation, a release from the world – Hindus see moksha as the goal for life. This ‘ultimate’ reality is considered beyond human comprehension, conceptual thought and the mind by many gurus, but is considered as the highest goal and meaning of human life.

 

Hindus see life as a combination of the tragic and romantic. Tragic in that it is pervaded by ambiguities and uncertainties where man has little choice but to bear the burden of unanswerable questions, inescapable conflicts and incomprehensible afflictions of fate. But within this journey is the romantic, and the seeker if he withstands the perils of the road will be rewarded by exaltation beyond normal human experience, an ultimate reality.

 

One of the manifestations of this understanding is the feeling of hope, even in the most dismal of living standards. The Indian mind tends to convert even the smallest ray into a blazing light. Clutching at straws many millions live in slums and an absolute poverty and are happy because they live with the possession of hope for a better future.

 

Furthermore, being connected to a higher reality, the divinity immanent within each human being , gives a feeling of self worth that comes from a pre conscious conviction of ones metaphysical significance. However bad life is, by being connected to this ultimate reality ones self esteem is nourished and stands against life’s despairs and inequalities.

 

Dharma

 

If Moksha is the goal of life, then dharma can be seen as law, moral duty, conformity with the truth of things, the means through which man approaches the desired goal.

 

Years ago every person knew that it was not what you did that was important for spiritual progress, but whether you acted in conformity with your dharma.  Whether you were a shoemaker, priest, housewife, prostitute or doctor all were considered equally good and equally right if it was consistent with your dharma.

 

Dharma, is being vigorously challenged by modern india, as it embraces Western ideals. Individual choice, material rewards and human aspirations as opposed to spiritual activity have led to social envy, greed and selfishness. Dharma is crumbling under modernity.

 

It does sound different – “My dharma in life is to be a shoemaker and provide the best shoes I can, so that i may provide shelter, feed and clothe my family, to perform this i am on route to achieving moksha” as opposed to “My dharma in life is to work in a call centre for British Gas and buy real Adidas trainers and hang out at Mac Donalds eating limp chicken burgers that bear no resemblance to the advertisement, to perform this I am on route to becoming obese and soulless, but at least my feet look cool”. 

 

Karma

 

The third essential idea of the Hindu world view is Karma. An opinion may go thus “even at time of death a man should wish to do good deeds and wish to be reborn in a place where he can do good deeds again. After many lives of good deeds (living in dharma) a man will attain moksha. If he does evil deeds, his form changes till he falls lower, till he becomes a jar (an innanimate thing). So karma can be seen as the cycles of birth and death in which an individual soul progresses or regresses through various levels of existence; and the control of this movement by the karma of the individual soul, the balance of right and wrong actions that accompany the individual from one birth to another.

 

This can allow Indians to accept the inevitable dissapointments that afflict even the most fortunate of lives but it can also lead to denial. I perform an action now, because of  actions from a past life.

 

 

So to consider this in context I look at the holy cow walking down the road. Its soul must be heading towards moksha to be experiencing the existence as a holy cow, which incidentally is supposed to be holy, because it contains all the gods.  Its current dharma, well that one seems easy, it just needs to wander around and be holy and not get itself trapped in the christian area and its karma, well I don’t know where it came from or where it is going, but it sure isn’t going to be eaten here, not for a few years yet anyway.

 

Now kfc over the road………Are there holy chickens?

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend saw the end of the Ganpati festival. Thousands of people followed processions around Chowpatty and Yuhu beaches in Mumbai. There was no chance in getting anywhere fast.

The idols were led down to the beach and then after various, more or less, vigorous rituals immersed and left in the sea.

This is one of the greatest festivals in the world…. though if I were to question the blatant abuse of the environment, as thousands of idols made from non bio degradable and poisonous substances are just left in the sea, would that make me a real party pooper.

India has far bigger problems, but maybe the festivals are the perfect opportunity to encourage a better understanding of human impact. Lets face it communication of an ideal is what the festivals were designed for in the first instance.

Click link to see the aftermath.

http://www.ultrabrown.com/posts/the-…of-kurukshetra

Click image for more from the festival.

The first time that I traveled to India I was surprised to see the swastika. It is everywhere, on religious sites, flower arrangements, and in people’s homes. Was India full of neo Nazis was my initial thought. Is this where they all came, when they ran away from Germany. But somehow the thought of Hans settling down to become a bratwurst and sauerkraut wallah did not seem to gel.

It wasn’t till I was in Jew Town in Cochin, where I saw a company called Swastika Spices that I realised something was afoot.

Swastika actually comes from a Sanskrit word and its existence dates back to the Neolithic period of India’s existence. It is a mark to signify good luck or “That which is associated with well being”*

In antiquity the symbol was extensively used by the Indo-Aryans, Persians, Hitties, Celts and Greeks. And is today a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Mithraism.

No Nazis here

No Nazis here

In Hinduism the symbol comes to represent the two forms of the god Brahma. Facing right it represents the evolution of the universe, and facing left its involution. It also signifies stability and groundness and is considered extremely holy by all Hindus. The Hindu god Ganesha is often shown sitting on a lotus flower on a bed of swastikas. The symbol adorns temples, signs, altars and any iconography that is sacred.

So how did the symbol get into the hands of the Nazis? Well in the 19th century the archaeologist Heirich Schliemann discovered the symbol at the site of Troy and associated it with the ancient migrations of proto-indo-Europeans. He connected it with similar markings found on pots from ancient Germany. He theorized that the swastika was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors”.

The swastika became a symbol of “Aryan” identity. Unfortunately Adolph Hitler adopted the symbol and its meaning now came to represent Nazism, fascism, white supremacy and the Holocaust. A far distance from the good luck charm. Well that is if you are not a Nazis.

A search on wikipidia has a wealth of information on the symbol and its meaning in different cultures. I for one still find it hard to look at the symbol and and not connect it to the Nazis. I am sure Mr. Hitler new what he was doing when he chose the swastika but unfortunately he has tainted its existence for ever in the West.

I noticed in a recent film here “Mumbai Meri Jaan”, about the train bombings in Mumbai, that one of the characters was wearing a swastika T shirt. The character also happened to be a Hindu who was xenophobic and anti Muslim. I hope this is not the sign of change for the swastika in the East.

If the semiotics surrounding the symbolism of the swastika takes on this Western fascist role – well there may be a few peace loving temples looking for plasterers. I would love to carry a swastika as a good luck charm, or maybe tattooed on my forehead, but trying to explain this to everyone I ever meet in my Western life would be just too dull. Maybe I will stick to a rabbit’s foot.

* Ref: Wikipedia

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