Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Autistic Lover ;)

Hopelessly, increasingly,
Falling in love with
Endearing manners of
Seemingly self-absorbed
Barely communicative,
Unavailable, but still
Present, God!

So, sitting with some music like this & this and similar others, in NYC where its cold, cloudy and depressing. I can't wait to start for India tomorrow ... feeling as if I am on an Indian railway station and the train is late :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

A long awaited transition!

Expecting to reach India next week... How I yearn for this transition.
What am I looking for... well a final leap of fool-of-faith... a conscious creation of everything from scratch. But how? Oh I don't know... but I am hoping for a culmination of all what I have been, lived through, learned, believed, stood up for ... everything! There is a feeling as if every drop of my existence lived till date for this phase... a sense of celebration for burning all bridges ... a mad joy about things to come :)
But may be, its just a sense of home coming for someone without a home :))

Monday, December 19, 2011

B 2 B 2 B

Went to Big Sur yesterday. An area I wanted to visit for long due to Human-Potential Movement. Although Esalen, which was the center of it all seems to have become a money-generating business nowadays (somehow I never got sold on this idea of minting money from whatever is best in human life). Any way, it was nice... the location is awesome, the nature is bountiful, there is little reason to complain.

Next destination is Boston to visit a friend. Suddenly wondering, if it was a good idea in the first place. Something old and buried came haunting back :( Though my friend is a wonderful woman and her family is amazing ... She just told me her hubby baked a Tiramisu cake for my visit :) Some party time with them for Jewish new year ! (Update: That was the most delicious cake I have ever had :)

A little bit of X-mas and a little more of NYC , then I'm in Bangalore. The last day of the year.
A city where I stayed for 6 years... now it feels hard to stay even for 24 hrs. Though it would get tiring, I take a bus to Pondy. A new year, a new phase of life deserves a more blessed space. During this transition, probably I can bury something old after saying last good-byes, and make every effort to burn all the bridges - to nowhere.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good-bye poetries

In every new place,
a little part of me
pitches a tent,
builds a comfort zone.


Every-day, office-lunch, and
three American grand-mothers,
gave sunny warmth of
Indian winter afternoons.

A doc on Delhi

How bad planning has lead to a world of urban poverty in cities bursting at the seams... they have worst of all the possible worlds!


world views and poetries ...

I sometimes wonder whether the kind of world-view which exists in sufi poetries exists elsewhere. I have not found it often, guess it is influenced by what is valued/celebrated in a particular culture... self offering and devotion... These poetries have a kind of poetically intense love language and meaning, which only befits divine as the beloved.
This a beautiful poetry I re-discovered after 4-5 yr. (What happened to me in between?). Here is an attempt to convey its meaning...

If your heart desires so, be the glass or the chalice,
Better to become the wine, the tavern.

Being wine or tavern, be a story of intoxication
Becoming a story of intoxication, be forgetful of ur identity.

Be forgetful of your existence, become a story of intoxication,
But better than this being and becoming, become a 'madman'.

Even better than becoming a madman, 'be' a madman,
But even better than being a madman, become the dust of the beloved's door.

What is this dust but the kohl in the eyes of 'people of heart'
Be the coolness in the heart of flame, the light in the heart of moth.

Learn from the heart (of the poet) how to burn,
why to burn at every flame,
Become that moth who burns in one's own inner fire.

ji chahe to sheesha ban ja, jee chahe paimana ban ja

sheesha paimana kya banna, may ban ja maikhana ban ja
may ban kar, maykhana ban kar, masti ka afsana ban ja
masti ka afsana ban kar, hasti se begana ban ja
hasti se begana hona, masti ka afsana banna
is hone se, is banne se, achha hai dewana ban ja
deewana ban jane se bhi, deewana hona achha hai
deewana hone se achha, khake dare janana ban ja
kahk-e dare janana kya hai ahle dil ki aank ka surma,
shamma ke dil ki thandak ban ja noore dile parwana ban ja
seekh zahin ke dil se jalna, kahe ko har shamma pe jalna
apni aagmein khud jal jaye tu aisa parwana ban ja.
(-Baba Zaheen Shah)

Sung by Abida Parveen in Raqs-e-Bismil (apparently it means the dance of the wounded).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back to India :)

Yesterday was my last day in the fellowship!
It was a wonderful year of learning, and bonding with an amazing lab!

However, now there is a sense of freedom. Time to consciously avoid getting into something too soon ...and take a break, be free and un-cluttered.

Hmm ... now what!

A little travel and then India.
I would have loved to avoid B'glore ... However now when I can't help it, let me make some lemonades ;) I can do things there I have thought about for long. A 10-days silent meditation retreat, a workshop on story-telling and a little bit of visit to museums and national parks. That should make the difference. Then a little bit of time at home and the real stuff should start ...
My subjective world needs a fresh lease of life with solid time in nature and doing creative stuff!
Even Psychology needs to be a little more creative and culturally sensible :)
Well... lets see!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Education and alternatives ?

I have grown up in a regular educational system, with only saving grace being my parents' limitations in either being available or being able to give inputs. But beyond questioning the variations in the quality of 'regular' education, I never thought of alternatives to mainstream educational system. Only till I met a few people... first a friend who had worked with Krishnamurti Foundation (a pathbreaking philosopher, almost literally) as a teacher. And then met my informal mentor, who had established a school for alternative training of teachers, based on Sri Aurobindo & Mother's philosophy. There might have been a few other influences, but the later was the strongest.

This exposure had an interesting effect on me, initially I became quite defensive. I responded, 'well, I have turned out ok-enough, even though from a regular education'. I hated the idea that I missed out something so crucial, while I was growing up. Learning being a passion, it was one of the the most important aspect of my life. Thus, emotionally this was deeply disturbing and to avoid cognitive dissonance I tried to justify the business-as-usual education system.

Slowly I came to terms with the idea of alternative education, as I started understanding the repercussions of the current mainstream education system. It also happened along with changes in my studentship status. Now I understand, sooner or later it is not what degrees you have, but the person you are, which will matter most. More and more people around the world are realizing this and taking different paths & finding newer balances, from trusting alternative schools, to open schooling to completely un-schooling their kids.

Currently my main issue with the mainstream education is same as that with the mainstream psychology, (or possibly most other social/human sciences, and may be beyond). These fields have a basic flaw in translation from theory to application. Theories are limited in nature and have multiple external influences and biases. Further, all studies are limited, and when these limited observations in time and location are applied, they lead to flawed situations. However, by the time these theories change, a generation might have grown up under constraints of faulty methods/ situations.
For example, psychology theories for long have been dominated by ideas of instincts conditioning etc, which discount the better aspects of human nature. Such predominantly negative framework might go on to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such ideas lead to an education and economic system where competition and greed is built within.
While in recent years there is lot more research suggesting an in-built altruistic nature in humans, which actually might get dampened with external reward for doing the right thing. Now what happens to the institutions of the world? They stay same (or might change very slowly, erring on the optimistic side), even though the underlying theories have changed much earlier. There are lot of nice concepts like this, such as flow, intrinsic rewards, psychological needs etc, but not really applied in a run-of-the-mill organization/ institution.

This makes me more cynical when it comes to environment- we take it for granted. We do not pay for environmental services/ products, and thus the most polluting and unsustainable practices go on to make cheapest economic sense, while these in fact are the costliest in long term/ environmentally. Anything worth having, personally or on a societal level, doesn't have economic viability. On the other hand, the no-cost means to well-being and health are not encouraged, because there is no vested interest behind and it doesn't pay!

Coming back to education, those thinking within the system-box believe, education leads to employment and thus brings people out of poverty. This model works when there is huge variation in education, however with universal education, it flops (in US, 21 percent of homes headed by a college graduate lack economic security) because it doesn't look at wealth distribution. As they have started acknowledging, "In the past, threats to economic security were supposedly clear -- dropping out of high school, being a single parent or having a large family. In today's economy, we cannot assume we know who lacks security".

I guess, this is the right time to not only question the basic assumptions we hold about how the world works or should work, but also the time to find successful, sustainable, alternative models to be implemented as the mainstream model... anyone out there with similar thinking ?
I hallucinate some other voices ... even if delusional- may our tribe increase! :)

(PS: ok ok... there are few leaps of logic here, but I'm too sleepy to explain every step ... so good night! :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Painting my poetries...

I have been in a little creative mood... so here it goes ...
Some old poems and some relatively new photographs clicked while I visited some places.

The first one is my favorite poem, written with a deep sincere call to Divine.
I still won't mind a little conversation with Her/him/It. Nothing beats it, ever! Honestly, all my plans/attempts to simplify my life in the bare minimalistic way & de-clutter it, is actually in the service of this one goal.
(Pic taken in Hollywood, Florida. Will someone tell me what is that glow in the cloud- is it a response to my call :)

This is another of my very spontaneous poems.
Most of my poetries are simply coming down of a pre-formed poetry from somewhere else. I only tinker with it later. If I try to fit any of the mainstream theories of intuition, problem solving etc. to this process, it will be dishonest. There is something more to the mystery of creating a poetry, just like making babies :)
(Pic taken in Miami, Florida. There is a fun in going about exploring a new place all alone. Although sometimes there is no other choice :)

This one is some forest near St. louis. I was randomly going about the city on Thanksgiving day, in the hope of seeing some festival crowd (like in India) so that I can share vicarious joy. But alas rarely any human body on the streets. Thankfully a friend suddenly offered to drive to a nearby bird sanctuary and we got some lovely colors of setting sun (though we found the place closed).
Though I never thought I will do so, I have fallen in love with US and the people here, I will truly miss the place :)

Here is a morning in hollywood, Florida. I was following this bird in her flight, when suddenly this unknown lady entered the picture (I have many other pics of this bird to prove it :). Picture seemed perfect, especially for this poem. Though I had to debate for long if I should post it. Well.. I guess this lady won't have an issues with it. (If someone thinks its objectionable, I will respectfully remove it).

If it is hard to read, the original poems are here, here, here & here (though I have done a little bit of editing).

What is wrong with the poverty discourse?

Often I get struck with the way poverty discourse shape up in our world. On one hand, it is well-known, how poverty can effect every aspect of human life. On the other hand, intervention programs about poverty-alleviation are often completely off the mark, not only at national level, but also at international levels. At best, they are extremely short sighted.

In brief, my main issue with poverty intervention programs is that, they polarize the discussions and keep it extremely narrow. It gets all about money, as if people above-poverty-level are having great quality of life. It misses the point that money is just a means. What humans need is not money for its own sake, but because it might improve access to products and services. In the end what is money, an exchange of one's own effort, for someone else's efforts? But people who can change this discourse are invested in keeping the current world 'as-it-is', the status quo of the institutions while anyone who might be sane-enough, never reaches the power of decision making.

How about focusing on lives worth living, in livable communities ?
Health - how about preventive and promotive health for a change? Instead of pouring all resources into the sexiest disease of the month or the year?
Education - Some of the elite groups are moving towards un-schooling, forget about imprisoning kids into a drab environment for long long hours. How about improving quality of education, with the local community resources? An education which can teach kids skills of living, and how to be a better human being - From how to build house, how to grow crop, how to cook, how to make friends, how to be kind and compassionate, regulate emotions, how to problem solve, how to reflect?
Housing? building safe and sensible space of living?
Building communities?
Art? Culture?
The list can go long ...
But it boils down to how to live sustainably, meaningfully?

Not only our GDP doesn't count this, but also our discussion is lop sided and doomed sooner or later... Well, may be the sooner it is, the better!!! When is the Euro economic bomb blasting?

(PS: It is interesting to note, on one hand many of the developing wold economies like India were forced opened, almost arm-twisted, by the developed world countries, especially US. On the other hand, the same globalization has finally lead to a situation in the same developed countries, where the regular population is now sick of globalization and (almost) ready to go local & buy swadeshi!) Strange ways of world moves... isn't it ? ;)

Friday, October 28, 2011

God comes to us...

In spite of being an introvert, my life for long has been spread pretty widely, sometimes possibly thinly too. Often I would keep in touch with long gone people, because I would cherish everyone. I will have new additions because of changing places and circumstances of my life.

But then I finally learned to let go, and celebrate the blessings I had. The jewels which often get covered amidst all the frenzied connectivities. And I started finding my real soul family. I have a few amazingly good friends, as gifts of life, some other great friends and then a lovely family.

And then I have Vi.
If God ever comes to us in form of a friend, philosopher, guide, it has to be you. If there was one blessing in my life, it has to be you. It takes a village to bring up a child, but even just one soul-presence is all that matters, is all the blessings one can have. When I think of you, I know God does care, Mother is around and all is well.
You have pulled me back from 'walking too close to the cliff', 'falling into gutter' and many other such adventures. I don't know how people having too many blessings manage, my heart sometimes burst into tears of gratitude, when I think of you.
With deep love and appreciation for all what you are...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bury the past...

Talking to one of my closest friend (lets call him Vi) I was wondering about my life.
Vi has seen me over many many years and has been that solid presence in my life in spite of differences and not-talking-days :)

I was wondering how much I keep growing as a person and how when I look back a few years down the line, I marvel 'How did I... '
How did I survive some lousy environments, how did I manage to invest my identity into it, how did I manage to fall into so many holes and puddles, and still am standing here perfectly alright. how did I this.. or that...
I guess miracles do happen!

Sometimes we have outgrown our old self, learned and integrated whatever was required and then become a completely newer, a better person that it is difficult to even connect with the person we were or the people and places we happened to live. If there is an attempt, it is very disturbing, distressing. Guess that is why past is synonymous with ghost in Hindi, 'bhoot'.
Vi told me that the best is to close the door to it, ...
I think it is apt to say, bury the past!

In this context, I would also like to mention, against Western/mainstream Psychology's usual focus on 'past', eastern world-view often focuses on 'pure potentials', as the basic narrative is different. Western Psychology's narrative is about self- ego, while eastern Psychology's narrative is further deeper, a divine-self, moving towards which we need to shed our ego.
Only recently this ideas that- ego has its pitfalls, is increasingly being recognized in Western Psychology.
(I am learning from my training as well as my experiences & contemplation that there is lot of goodness in Eastern spiritual philosophy/psychology/ worldview, and we need to bring it into the mainstream for common good).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Impoverished public discourses

On one hand, internet has given freedom to multiple voices, a space to be say what one wants to, and also be heard... On the other hand, it is rather disconcerting to see the level of our public discourses. Often it is not only impoverished in content, but also in its language.

Take any article with some bit of emotions involved, and invariably you will find off-the-mark comments. But it really makes you think what is happening when the comments are full of abuses (as I found in some of the facebook posts of India Against Corruption).

I am also not too sure if this is more in the Hindi belt, because that is the only regional language I know. But the poor quality of comments in Hindi almost makes me forget that the language has the potential of raising ones' consciousness to a fire like quality.Watch ... this ... (Look at the glowing eyes of these kids, ... I am tempted to say if I had a son I would have brought him up like this, with courage, strength and honor, divinity glowing within... and not a mere consumer, which is such a waste of human spirit!!!).

However I wonder, with some more efforts like this, in few years hopefully, the negative aspects of life and society would be better placed ... everyone would be having food and water and cloth, and housing, and health and sanitation too... the government schemes would be working for the public welfare. Then what! ...

What are we going to do about the quality of our thinking, stimulus for our happiness, directions of our efforts ?
What are we going to do about the quality of our thinking when every tiny bit of left-over space around any intelligent article in most of the media pages are covered with something related to sex and celebrities.
What are we going to do about the well-being and emotional health of the people, when hot bodies are the best way to make consumers believe that something will make them happy ?
What are we going to do about the direction of our efforts, when the entertainment industry leaves only this much energy in the couch-potatoes to engage in arm-chair activism ?

It all ends up with the question, does our planet has the ability to survive, if all our best mental efforts are spend for increasing the production of goods we do not need, stimulate the desire to own things which do not have any intrinsic value and feel-good factor, and our efforts are focused on having more and more?

There is this inherent limitation, which asks us to stop and question what are we doing? This is cheapening of human life!

Thankfully we do not have the technology to invade another planet in the service of these goals. Otherwise we were certainly doomed to forever living a life, not worth living!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


A very interesting idea from the famous Indian treatise on performing arts, Bharat's 'Natya Shastra' is that:
Where the hand goes, the gaze follows.
Where the eyes turn, there goes the mind.
Where the mind goes, there comes bhava,
And where the bhava comes, there also will be rasa.

Similarly we can say, where goes the words, attention follows, and there goes the Consciousness.

Some of the pictorial languages such as Chinese & Japanese have this amazing ability to reach to the root of the matter, while expressing it in a single pictogram. I am in love with Sanskrit for this reason, a single word such as 'Shantakaram' immediately engages me with the idea of not only Vishnu, but also a 'form of peace' or 'peace in a form state as contrary to formlessness'. Or like 'Sundaram' is Krishna or Rama, but also absolute beauty. What better to contemplate on, than absolute peace or beauty.

This gets all the more interesting when such kind of word-attention-consciousness process goes far enough leading to long lasting structural changes in the brain and cellular changes in the body. And some studies report beyond its effect on intra-personal and inter-personal world, it even influences the physical world not only at Quantum level but also at concrete bio-chemical levels. (Though, due to my professional training background, I'm better able to comment on the intra-personal & inter-personal worlds, which in any case influences the material world at every level by its actions, and motives behind those actions).

This was the conversation with a friend, about how the pure Consciousness at the mental level is the 'Observer, the Witness', and at the vital level is 'pure emotion of joy', and at the level of physical is 'pure happiness of Existence' in itself, without any need or requirements.

However, growing up on stimulus-response or stimulus-organism-response theories of emotions, I used to get stuck at 'Rasa'. Conceptually it gets difficult to understand, in a world dominated with distractions. Further, even though I would have felt pure emotions, intellectually it was difficult to fit into my training in Western Psychology.
Now I'm increasingly able to appreciate why some Indian psychologists (and my most vocal friend from Europe) have been dead against Western paradigms.

Well, gradually I'm getting some grasp over this entire map of Consciousness, which seemed sooo very unreachable, earlier. At this rate may be, someday, we can even write a chapter each on these levels, for the benefit of others like my earlier self. Can't wait to reach back my real home, that place of absolute joy and freedom :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Season of falling leaves and golden sun

It is amazingly beautiful to watch leaves turning from green to light green, yellow, orange, red, brown, ... falling off... it looks more beautiful with the evening sun. It looks almost fragile in its beauty ... for a different light a different stroke of color and the beauty will be gone.
There is a sense of it being very transient, which adds a poignant feel to it... it almost made me tearful.

In India the season of falling leaves used to have a completely different existential feel to it. It had a celebratory feeling, a sense of destruction before new creation, a kind of eternity. As another friend agreed that it used to be associated with a crisp cold windy beginning to winters. And for some trees it used to be associated with the time just after Holi, around Spring time. (as far as my childhood memory goes, it used to happen around April- the exam season).

I'm glad I had someone to reach out to ... who reminded me how 'Dawn' (Usha) in ancient Vedic literature was associated with eternity, where every morning is a complete fresh start, all new! I wish we all are able to do that... start afresh every morning.

I surely need a fresh dawn like this, a different world with a different paradigm, where the system encourages joy, goodness, truth, beauty, creativity, perfection, thinking in newer ways... where its not all about a culture of mindlessness and money. Where people are nice, sweet, good, respectful, honor self and others, just because it is their natural self and they are just being themselves... not because they see it a way to mask their manipulation of others.
Instead of a culture of shallow skill-based interactions, there is a world of consciousness based connections. It will also bring back that concrete trust that, all is well... :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Death of modern economy- hopefully!

I have always found the idea of making money out of money completely insane and unnatural... even Aristotle thought so :)

Watch this ...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swkq2E8mswI
(this one is not only a horror-story, but disgusting because of the level of baser instincts given a free ride- greed, power, cheating, impulsiveness, etc etc... Gives a sense of what low levels these guys can stoop... My goodness! I could not watch it at one go.. but had to take breaks every now and then, because of its shock value... saddest part was.. its all true... and there are people who are entangled in it all... the octopus like grip it had on the world, over people is still not yet over).

And here is a video that 'the party is over'... finally! Hooray!!!

Insane, but if this system doesn't end, it will destroy all of us! It has already lowered the arguments where the protestors are being labeled as 'jealous' of the rich and powerful!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The majestic idea of pure Purusha

I have been reading and contemplating the Vedic psychology-cosmology from Sri Aurobindo's perspective, especially after reading an article by a very dear friend, which was game changer for me.

Today I got some clarity on Purusha, the pure Consciousness (note the capital C) on 3 levels, mental where it is pure observer, vital where it is pure joy and physical where is it pure existence and being.

My Goodness ... I suddenly remembered all those times when I had this pure joy of existence, just plain being... the feel of sun and air on skin, the colors of leaves, the sound of wind...

Ever noticed a lot of spiritual movies/ pictures use the same heightened intensity of senses, especially bright colors. (watched 'What the bleep..' today).

But on second though, there must be a specific reason on theoretical level, why these moments are especially associated with time in nature, especially the physical purusha... I can see a connection though not able to express it properly.

Well... I'm inspired to make a movie about it ... though the cameras are really really costly... I'm debating ;)

Yes ... We can...

Yes, once again I am having that non-external-object-related, lump-in-the-throat kind of joy much of the time, being high, a sense of grander view of the cosmos, a little extra sprinkle of magic in life.
But apart from that I'm also catching a sense of time-for-the-revolution fever. There is a sense that I was always wanting to be part of a change movement and this is what is the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist.
Some time back a friend posted this and I could not hold myself back from expressing what I have been mulling over lately... (I have researched a bit on this issue for 2 academic articles and I was horrified with the implications of this growing trend in India and the world. Now I'm also part of a group developing therapy for obesity issues using mindfulness and that lead to newer insights at the micro human level... how the culture of consumption has made people mindless in a very cliched way. I have been thinking of writing it all together ... so good to see your article...
It might seem senseless to say this, but I'm glad to see the global recession and how it is changing the world forever... the revolution of 'capture wall-street' going in US nowadays has its heart at the right place, for how long can people make money out of money, in thin air. The castle of the cards had to fall some day or other, better now when some say we still have a few years before 'point of no-return', otherwise it would be practically a mutual suicide. I'm also glad because the failure of this system in terms of a global recession with no end in sight means that this experiment has lost the moral ground. With that it has lost the ground for arrogant assumption that 'this is the way to be', and has to be replicated in every community around the world. Now there has to be space for more voices, more reflective criticisms, a focus on solutions, a way to find and try sustainable alternative systems ...
Just now I went for a walk where I found this article pasted on the windows of a shop... you might like not only this article but also this website... http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/95/revolution-america.html).

Not only there are voices which support the revolution (like an interesting article by someone I met long back) but there are some creative ideas emerging too ... such as use of alternative money in Greece, or a call to start utopian projects in Europe.

These are amazing times to be alive, if we can contribute a little (think of a way without blinkers) to make this world a better place.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ex- Protestant Ethics ;)

Long, long time back we studied an interesting theory about place of 'work' as an idea in western cultures, along with other theories of motivation, especially achievement. The theory was called Protestant Ethics by Max Weber.

Here was the idea that, for protestants, work was almost like worship...
quoting from wiki:

"The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in sociology, economics andhistory, attributable to the work of Max Weber. It is based upon the notion that the Calvinist emphasis on the necessity for hard work as a component of a person's calling and worldly success is a visible sign or result (not a cause) of personal salvation.
It is argued that Protestants beginning with Martin Luther had reconceptualised worldly work as a duty which benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Thus, the Catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to work diligently as a sign of grace. Whereas Catholicism teaches that good works are required of Catholics to be saved (viewing salvation as a future event), the reformers taught that good works were only a consequence of an already-received salvation.
However, the Calvinist and Lutheran theologians taught that only those who were predestined to be saved would be saved, by grace alone through faith in Jesus alone. Since it was impossible to know if one was predestined (since one might not receive the "grace of perseverance," and one's conversion might be only lip-service), the notion developed that it might be possible to discern that a person was elect (predestined) by observing their way of life. Hard work and frugality were thought to be two important consequences of being one of the elect; thus, Protestants were attracted to these qualities, seeking to be obedient to God to whom they owed their salvation.

This is so funny because although I have noticed something similar in some people, but I never connected it to this theory, which I had really enjoyed in my social psychology classes. I guess clinical side had over-powered me in between, before 'total liberation' happened :) This is also funny that some of the people who visibly continue these behaviors would cringe to think of a religious basis to their charity and workaholism.

Unlike many other ideas which I get nowadays, this was not at all dangled within ;)
This came up in a conversation with a very interesting American scientist, when I asked what he thinks of the emotional reactions of many Americans to capitalism, apart from it being a known comfort zone invested with one's identity in a particular world-view, ... if there was something more... and after thinking for a moment he mentioned, it might be due to protestant ethics (which he too had studied in college much earlier than I did).

And although the theory has been criticized, some people do fit the bill. Though for how long things will stay same, i do not know, especially in the ever changing economic-political-psychological-spiritual world.

And this reminds me of the 'Hindu ethics' or what was called a 'Hindu rate of (economic) growth', one which is lazy and slow. With increasing growth rate in India, I'm afraid we now are beyond this point and it won't be too long before it would be re-named as... 'Saraswati ethics' for diligently working and 'Lakshmi ethics' for wealth creation. Ah! all-flexi theories of modern world.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


This gets interesting... I was almost going to shut down this blog again, thinking it as a distraction on the path, that this message was delivered in my mail box (by Tricycle magazine)...

"Richard Baker Roshi once told of a dream he had: He was trying to find the answer to a question, and the telephone rang. He ignored the phone and focused instead on the question. On the thirtieth ring he picked up the phone, and the answer came to him through the receiver. What he had labeled a distraction was really the point."

Hmm... I will take this with a pinch of salt! ;)

missing ?

The bright sunlight with slightly cold feel to it, the sound of the wind passing through the leaves... feels like home. Because of this, or in spite of this I have been missing India more than ever.

It is Navratris, the nine special days of worshiping the divine feminine power. The power of universal Mother, the power of creation and preservation. The mythology of her visiting mere mortals... or mere mortals remembering her with big fan-fare. But then for many that was never the point. I have always found people of same clan, the ones who feel its sacredness, beyond din and noise and all the marketing gimmicks.
O Mother...

The saving grace is, today we will have a senior Lama visiting us (a small group practitioners of one of the oldest esoteric Tibbetian Buddhism). I should look towards what is great in life...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Being me!

My housemate suggested, I should watch 'Wake up Sid' movie... her next statement was more interesting... she said I should watch it because the Konkona Sen's character was like me, a very independent woman.
This reminded me a long pattern in my life. Some years back someone sent me the book 'Zahir' because he thought the main protagonist is like me. Independent and relational.
However some people find it hard to understand this balance... usually those who are on an extreme themselves. It takes a lot more strength to be independent, and still cherish relationships, not as means to one's own need gratification but in itself.

Life path

The Way is shaped by use,

But then the shape is lost.

Do not hold fast to shapes

But let sensation flow into the world

As a river courses down to the sea.

(Tao Te Ching)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Curse or Love?

Yesterday I learned that the wish 'may you live in interesting times' is considered to be a well known curse. Some say it has Chinese origins and is one of 3 curses of increasing severity, the highest being 'may your wishes get fulfilled' (some of our wishes are no doubt interesting, just imagine what if they were fulfilled... shudder :)

When people are insensitive, or hurtful, my wish for them take some form of, '...may you reach some kind of understanding about your behavior, learn in life and regret'. It feels close to 'living in interesting times'.

But what if the times are interesting in general? (not the kind of Hollywood movies... I have a theory about them... but here I'm talking of the reality bites).
Although as a planet we have been extremely lucky, but we have enough reasons to start thinking that our luck has run out. Ask any environmentalist (heard about a book called 'Revenge of Gaia' by one of the most respected environmentalists).
Yesterday I was also watching discovery channel's video on 2012. And although they dismissed most of the doomsday theories, some of the major environmental disasters are always waiting to happen, from super-quakes to super-tsunamis. The accompanying scenes about such possibilities (though borrowed from some movie) were impactful ... almost like hundreds of thousand times more destructive than what happened in 9/11 ... the naked dance of death around. Sheer unbelievable horror...
In such times of universal dissolution no other wish arose, except 'I send love to you'.
Guess, that is why they give three cheers to love!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Krrazy Karma Connections ;)

There are times in life when we have amusing patterns with a particular city.

I have one since last one and half year, with a city... let us call it B. I remember the date too when it all started, and how, on 'that' fateful morning. It certainly went on to be chaotic! After many events ... the latest is missing connecting flight there, then making a great friend at my next (interesting) destination who turns out to be from B and then invitation to visiting her in B, and a plan unfolds...

Then there was another city in my long travel itinerary to India. But then I got a dream command to visit a particular temple, which I 'googled' to find out was near this one city. And when I dismissed this idea as unrealistic, someone in the corridors of a conference in Florida advised me how to reach there. In the end, visibly the trip was less than spectacular, almost a wash out ... although there was something more here too...

Though there are too many interesting aspects to both of these stories, but overall what I am left with is an idea that, one should take all serendipities and intuitions with a pinch of salt. Even if one decides to follow them, don't go ahead thinking it will be all goody-goody-happily-ever-after ride.

Sometimes they can be a cosmic trap to lure you into a practical joke (if cosmos is in any way engaged with the third speck of dust from a little star called sun) and sometimes they are just plain 'karma' waiting to catch up with you around the corner !!!

(I dare the universe to change my cynicism, although it certainly makes life very, very interesting, only if some of it was not so painful ;)
haha... I'm just teasing the universe, although I believe (and have found it true) whatever happens is good, although sometimes it could have been better... A note to universe with love :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

An advice ...

A dear friend wrote to me recently with an amazingly simple but profound advice...

'U got to find that level where you can laugh it off...
laugh at yourself for having expected the blind to lead you, the heartless to love you and the deaf to hear you!'

Why do we take ourselves so seriously that we can't laugh every event off?
There was a time when I was not so invested in myself (at least most of the time of any particular day). Growing up brought a lot more of information, a bit of knowledge and little wisdom. Nowadays I increasingly struggle to be less and less invested in my own ego, beliefs, ideas, learnings and my identity.

The latest experiment I'm doing is to remain mindful of the entire trail of ongoing thoughts and ruminations, and make two heaps of them with respect to time - past and future; have been or going to be.

Wow what a clutter I get!!!

Haiku ? :)

Will this be categorized even as pseudo-haiku ? ;)

Here comes climate change delegates
from those offices with no windows, keeping
summer, winter, spring, autumn- away.

or should it be like ..

windowless offices, keeping
spring-autumn away
send environment-delegates, annually.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn of my life

Autumn red,
Bleeding color of destruction,
Before nature gets busy
In a new creation.
This autumn
A little more will shed,
Skin of memories- a little
Battered, a little faded.
No rusting chains cherished
I will drop the deadweight
Of desires & heartache.
Spread my branches,
Leap in madness.
Bonds no longer binding
Out of earth, I will pull my roots
And walk away.
This autumn
There will be lot more
Happening. Celebrate-
For me, I turn
a new Leaf.

Fuel to fire

There is an interesting metaphor in traditional Indian religio-philosophy ... 'offerings to the fire'. It can be literally true, or might mean offering the best within oneself, or all of oneself, to something higher... a higher aim, a loftier goal.

At this moment our world desperately needs dedicated one-focused work towards change for better. A kind of higher calling, for which a lot of us have to similarly become the fuel in the fire. The sentiment is that it needs super human abilities to balance diverse needs of family and larger society. Even within the demands of family and career I have seen some of my friends going crazy.

There also seems to be an archetype of lone-sage in Indian world view. It gives a lot of moral strength and community support. There is a general understanding that people are often corrupt in the service of their spouses and children. So, the few without them would more likely to be committed. Some where it must be true, because behind some of the best and revolutionary work in India, there are people who are alone, on the go, working tirelessly and without a family.

After all this rambling, which is somewhere related to what has been going on in my mind, here is the funny part... someone must have played joke by subscribing me to 'Two Mangoes', a south Indian dating site. I got mail in my university ID, can't believe people can be so stupid in their concern for me ;)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who are you?

I noticed some regular visitors from specific locations on this blog (which I have re-activated only a few day back). The feelings I had could be summed up in this quote:

Its so curious... one can resist tears and behave very well in the hardest hours of grief... but then ... someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer ... and everything collapses.

- Colette

(This made me write: there is a lot on these pages to know me. I would like to know you 'Dear Visitor'. Honestly it gets unnerving to have a one-sided-intimacy, so any friendly hello is most welcome. Just to re-assure you, I'm generally considered to be a very non-threatening, friendly person... and who knows, we might end up sharing common interests, or even go on to become the best of friends (it has really happened in the past once, although one of my smiling photograph was also there on the blog then ;)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Arrogance of the modernity...

Many people do not give a second thought to the fact that there were sustainable indigenous systems of health, education, employment etc which flourished for long in various countries before the advent of colonial rule. These might have some invaluable lessons for our current civilization ideologically torn over the same issues.

I'm reminded of Gandhi who said in 1931 at the Round Table Conference at Chatham House:

"I say without fear of my figures being challenged successfully, that today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago, and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished. The village schools were not good enough for the British administrator, so he came out with his program. Every school must have so much paraphernalia, building, and so forth. Well, there were no such schools at all. There are statistics left by a British administrator which show that, in places where they have carried out a survey, ancient schools have gone by the board, because there was no recognition for these schools, and the schools established after the European pattern were too expensive for the people, and therefore they could not possibly overtake the thing. I defy anybody to fulfill a program of compulsory primary education of these masses inside of a century. This very poor country of mine is ill-able to sustain such an expensive method of education. Our state would revive the old village schoolmaster and dot every village with a school both for boys and girls."


And yes.. how funny to notice, only as we age all those cliches start containing more than a grain of truth. Did their holding capacity increase over the years ;)

Musings on cognitive frameworks...

For our inner world it is so important to keep a respectful distance with every belief 'system'. The moment something is organized, something gets muddled up. This larger framework is something none can give us, and should not give us. It has to be experiential, no matter how true sounding a framework is. This is something each human has to do, for oneself- finally, ultimately.

At the maximum, one can be taught facts- history, geography etc (even about facts one should always leave a hairline of doubt, ... just in case), but for the larger framework the old cliche about experience stands true (almost).
One can only 'experience' the larger truths, but when they are put into words they get falsified ... mainly because of the limitations of our language. And I also think because of the limits of our current frameworks.
Isn't it a good democratic system where at least some aspect of one's life is left to oneself ... like living itself. None can do it for us.

Cognitive labeling helps in managing the information, but it takes away the richness inherent in any reality. How will we fare if we think of any issue like a garden, (of flowers or weeds... take your pick) and then see what all different flowers/ aspects emerge here.

Guess then multiple contradictory aspects won't get so distressing... but make a beautiful whole :)

instant connection

Read somewhere "Getting someone to like you is not hard. It is either easy or impossible."

This was a light bulb moment... so close to reality.
Many times its hard to please some people (guess that is why dogs are so popular as pets, they give you the gift of being pleased with you, no matter how stupid you may sound ;).

On the other hand, we too either dismiss someone instantly, or take a liking for a person immediately. There are fewer in-between connections.

One of the most important learning (which comes gradually) is that we need to be aware of this tendency and moderate it. That is when we start getting wiser...

Re-reading a lovely poem

By Thich Nhat Hanh

Alone again,
I will go on with bent head,
knowing all love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon will continue to shine.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Traditional vs. liberated ideology can be the most devastating of the wars ever played, even when inside a home, within a couple's relationship, especially with some gender dynamics thrown into this ego-battle.

Rumi again

Have been in a little angry phase and Rumi comes to my rescue with an unconditionality ... and now I know I will cross this unpleasantness by tomorrow.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

About life & living

This is a quote I found on one on my old posts from a very famous book (Dibs in search of self) on child play therapy:

"Perhaps there is more understanding and beauty in life when the glaring sunlight is softened by the patterns of shadows. Perhaps there is more depth in a relationship that has weathered some storms. Experience that never disappoints or saddens or stirs up feeling is a bland experience with little challenge or variation in color.
Perhaps when we experience confidence and faith and hope that we see materialise before our eyes, this builds up within us a feeling of inner strength, courage and security...... We are all personalities that grow and develop as a result of all our experiences, relationships, thoughts and emotions. We are the sum total of all the parts that go into the making of life."

Ain't it beautiful? There are a couple of more quotes here

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Change agents...

Sometime back I had written how people would not like to label themselves as poor, how life at that level is multi-dimensional and how an 'outsider' simplistic perspective dehumanizes it all.

And here is an article suggesting similar gap in the "development's universalising discourse and those of people in the rest of the world who see things differently" (We are not poor).
(And then here is an interesting view on poverty as a career from a development economist).

Guess nobody likes being an object of inquiry in a detached manner, none would like to be the guinea pig on whom income generation projects are conducted in an impersonal manner. (as none would like to have uninvited therapist comments about their lives, although unconditional acceptance and regard is another matter).

Some of the successful community interventions about 'change for better' have 'relationship' as one of their most important change agent. Who wants an 'uninvested outsider' trying to change them without understanding how it is to live like 'one of them'.

And once someone is an insider, s/he will be evaluated and only then put on a pedestal as a leader... one has to have that quality within to rise up to the occasion. It is not for the cowards or opportunists.

I am fascinated by the change process going on in India, behind which there is a small group of committed people, who in turn is inspiring another larger group of people invested in the process. It has been heart warming for even the most objective people who had the tendency to sit on the fences and give ongoing commentaries about the status of affairs.

It feels good to be part of a generation awakening... seriously!

'Do no harm'... were you ever taught this?: Ethical poverty of poverty-professionals

It is another era, another century, still the dominant western discourse travels far and wide. Altruistic white dudes, paradoxically made of 'selfish genes' from a morally neutral world, still find ways to have some guilt-sans-religion (was it original sin in secular form?) about privilege and tour distant lands (some call it development tourism).

A cosmology of heroic 'battles with poverty' seems more attractive as well as morally superior, to the heroic adventures of finding new land or capturing them. While making great stories to tell back home.
All the time developing an underdeveloped world, paying loads of money from landladies to auto-wallas, to distant NGOs ... and in case this is non-sustainable and one gets broke monetary, one can always start entertaining the idea of making mobile-porn, to earn to serve. For sex is just a biological need and can even make social service sustainable, no moral hitches for exploiting lower rungs of Maslow's hierarchy, while we climb it higher. On some level everything is sold like that... after all people do buy it!
Guess, philanthropy always works in cycles, earning while creating some problems, spending while solving some other!

This is all well done with academic cultural sensitivity by reading the right books and attending the right trainings: keep away from ex-pats (but stay in its presiding deity's temple, till she throws you out for crossing some of her sacred rules :).
What else, wear local, take up local language class even if you sleep thru it all. Add some more like follow movies, cheer the local cricket team with others, and explore exotic food and women. And yes one has to come across humble - 'sweetness personified'. It is another matter, this happens while writing papers about amazingly irrelevant trials, building networks and CVs.

Women, well, following local rules of sleeping were not part of the course on how not to live and eat as neo-colonials. What can they do if not date here when here, though temporarily. Play by their own rules of the games, on unequal level, for who cares if others don't even know 'its all a game'. Not only treat others as objects for one's own need fulfillment, but wear 'caring' only till one is urged into dishonesty by another convenient & attractive option. And then show one's true colors- of icy coldness & calculated rudeness, by voices of common-sense dissent.

They say in a market economy one 'makes an exit/ leaves' a service provider when one is not satisfied. But with people we don't do that, we voices our concerns, we negotiate. Treating people like shops and restaurants is repulsive.

So, all in all, sometimes we have to come to terms with such hidden dark dimensions of people whom we collectively adore. World still shocks me into awakening by its horror stories...
(guess this is all about growing-up... delayed milestones ... retarded though!).

(Interestingly, my amazing lab of white & black mothers, loving & protective, are often so concerned that there should be no damage to the kid who entered their world, when she goes back to her own mom. So, I do wonder was it really about being 'white', or about being 'altruistic poverty professional', or about being an 'insensitive technocrat', or about being a 'dude' which is so damaging in 'another' world).

(some interesting stuff here and this is hilarious)

(PS: I acknowledge this post is a little mean, a little unfair... a little unlike me also, but what the hell, it was therapeutic, and subjectively true ;)

Friday, July 29, 2011


Rise rise...
O fire in the belly
Burning all desires,
Longings, hopes and dreams,
Plans of future, memories of past.
Every time it anchors in a corner of your heart
Un-hook it slowly, respectfully
Return it back.
Don't say, 'its just human'...
To ask for a little comfort, a home
To return, a place to keep your head
Just being human is too little,
Your destiny to expand
Not just a woman in love
But a loving soul,
not just a selected few
But the entire creation.
your natural way to exist.
Connect beyond the limits
of a body, of an identity.
Rise O soul arise...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I have been getting more and more interested in Consciousness studies, both experientially and philosophically. Feels like coming to another full circle.

Was reading an article where this was quoted... and found it so very apt!
In the days when an idea could be silenced by showing that it was contrary to religion, theology was the greatest single source of fallacies. Today, when any human thought can be discredited by branding it as unscientific, the power previously exercised by theology has passed over to science; hence science has become in its turn the greatest single source of error.
Michael Polanyi

So true. The science can often become another excuse to crush alternative explorations, replacing old ways to do that.

And here is another...
Science has won precision at the cost of remaining on a plane of secondary problems, leaving intact the decisive and ultimate questions.
Krishna Chaitanya

Yeah! I agree. My experiences and contemplation also brings me to the same conclusion. Our inquiries often take the least resistant path. We invest meaning in what can be measured, because we are not able to measure that which is inherently meaningful.
Many more thoughts....

Listen (by Shailaja Patel, Migritude)

A friend sent me this piece from 'Migritude' - by Shailaja Patel- saying its a piece from an amazing poem – the book is difficult to read without moving you to tears. And something rings so true in this ...

my father speaks Urdu,
language of dancing peacocks,
rosewater fountains-
even its curses are beautiful.
He speaks Hindi,
suave and melodic,
earthy Punjabi,
salty-rich as saag paneer,
coastal Swahili laced with Arabic.
He speaks Gujarati,
solid ancestral pride.
Five languages,
five different worlds.
Yet English
before white men
who think their flat, cold spiky words
make the only reality.

You can see more of her work here, it is not just poetry it is a rare combo of history, poetry and performance. http://www.shailja.com/work/migritude.html

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


This is interesting glimpse of human potential... Discovery channel's 5-part videos of a meditating boy in Nepal. Also interesting to note is the difference between the world views, about truth / fake - of the local lay public and the media / medical science.


But may be one can read a bit about the different positions on mind and knowledge, before watching the videos in a purely skeptical manner ...

Further, this looks like a good book, I myself need to get one and read it :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We grieve, for a long long time
In so many way.

Sometimes, we silently get up, from that
Coffee table, where we had our last conversation
Walk out, walk away
For ever. Die to the past
Never to enter the same universe again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A few pink roses...

My day started a little off-mark by mailing a 'not so loving' comment to a loved one, though it got better as the day progressed. Had a long phone call with one of my closest friend, talking about the ways of life and how when we live authentically, we make ourselves unfortified and utterly vulnerable. Its awesome, its divine in an Utopian world but in our current modern world it also attracts people to feed on such intensity, such innocent vulnerability.

Reflected later, how with each blow in life, things are getting better spiritually. I 'come to see' the truth in many spiritual lessons ... about unity of the world, of humanity, of goodness & compassion not limited to only one area of life, some people, some location, under some limitations. Its both personal and impersonal, and it can never be otherwise. They make mistakes who are good to family and not to non-family, but they are also equally mistaken who care for distant, impersonal humanity, but do not care for people around them.

After all this, in the evening I was walking with a friend when I noticed a few roadside rose-bushes. I was simply amazed ... few days earlier there were only green covered buds everywhere. And now suddenly everything has blossomed beautifully. There were red ones and then there were a bunch of pink rose bushes. (We could not hold ourselves from picking a few, hoping this was not called stealing ;) I muttered 'I can offer them to my altar' and then added 'this decreases the guilt of plucking these beautiful flowers' ;)
Since I was also carrying a camera, we took a few pics... even some wearing those flowers :)

When we parted, I got a bus and all the way back I got contemplative. Holding those few pink roses in the cup of my hands I wondered about the beautiful fragility of them, of life. How much I miss such softer moments, in the dense world of cognition. Guess mental health field is as soft as science can get, and still at the moment I am amidst theories, research, numbers, rationality, papers, presentations, deadlines, conferences, outcomes, social contribution, success, what not. Harshness of world doesn't enter the bareness of these 'here & now' moments of holding these flowers. I was in complete awe, ... love and peace filled me.

And suddenly an African-American man entered the bus, on a wheel/ mobile chair, with oxygen pipes etc. He appreciatively looked at the flowers and asked me if I am a mother and I have kids. When I said no, he commented someone would really love me, gestured that he is moved to tears and said a prayer and made a cross and gave a reverential kiss in the air. What a moment!
I asked him if he would like to have them, he said 'no they are yours' (He thought I got them as gift... truly they were gifts of nature). I told him I have picked them from the road side and gave him the largest rose out of the four I had. He was soooo happy, almost like a child. After thinking a lot, he fixed it in the front of his mobile chair and also showed me, bringing a smile to my face. Soon after when he got down the bus, he left with some blessings for me, while I had prayers for his health in my heart.
My day was made! My God, what else can I ask for in life ... those moments were full of awe, wonder, contemplation, love, peace, compassion, sharing, innocence, joy ... they are truly sacred flowers to bring such moments !!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pity or Compassion

I came across some interesting thoughts on the difference between compassion and pity, both for self and for others. These two motivations would differ in people who might be trying to develop the world/ do social work out of sheer pity, and not really compassion. I feel the actual impact too might differ.

There is an idea that pity is an outpouring of empathy so strong that you may be tempted to help more out of the need to ease your own sense of guilt or obligation than real compassion.The central character in pity is YOU. YOU feel bad because of whatever the problem may be, and by helping you make yourself feel better.

In pity one sees the other person as being needy in some way. And thus the pity cycle may go on like pity-contempt-guilt-more pity. Some also say that in pity, you respond out of a sense of objective justice. while in compassion, you respond due to an internal, personal love for the affected.

Even when the other person has asked for help, it still makes the other person feel inferior and the first one a hero or martyr. On the other hand people usually dislike a 'do-gooder' who treats others as a means for self fulfillment in some way. Fulfillment of meaning or a profession? Guess pity will bring a lot of resistance from anyone who observes the dynamics.

(A friend of mine used to joke, her dad advised her to join social work course because it has good career prospect. The more there is problem in the world the more this career will be in demand in the market!)

Further it gets challenging and draining for the 'do-gooder' too.

Guess that is why in Buddhism Pity is considered as the ‘near enemy’ of compassion.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is money the only problem?

Yesterday I was having a conversation with an Indian friend. She grew up in a poor family but never considered herself as poor. She commented, if an American comes to her parents place today, he/she will consider them as poor. She had an interesting and passionate opinion on 'insider-outsider perspective', coming from an anthropologist.

This exactly has been my experience too, and so has been of many of my other friends. Looking back some of the places we lived in would even be considered as 'slums'. But our focus was not so much on our finances, or lack of it. Well, there were times when it was an annoying issue, may be on the day when I would not be able to join a picnic for Rs 10 (or was it 20), and insensitive Sister my class teacher made fun of me in front of the whole class, saying look she is so poor.

But then it was not all consuming. Adults make it so, I guess. We didn't have terms for calling ourselves poor, or have self-pity for that. We were busy in our little joys and happiness. The unique gifts we had in ourselves, our family members, our circumstances.

Some of the things definitely need to change everywhere, there is no denial about it. Yes good education was the best thing to be available, along with a set of not-so-pushy parents. Reading was enjoyable, play was good, arts was fun, watching the big tree near my house was best. Most of us would have felt bitter if an outsider had come offering some help, making us so aware that money is our problem. More than money our live's well-being or quality of life was determined by something else.
I think we all need to broaden our vision... what is a good life!