Friday, September 30, 2011

A mothers last song - I love you!


This is a true story of Mother’s Sacrifice during the China Earthquake.

After the Earthquake had subsided, when the rescuers reached the ruins of a young woman’s house, they saw her dead body through the cracks. But her pose was somehow strange that she knelt on her knees like a person was worshiping; her body was leaning forward, and her two hands were supporting by an object. The collapsed house had crashed her back and her head.

With so many difficulties, the leader of the rescuer team put his hand through a narrow gap on the wall to reach the woman’s body. He was hoping that this woman could be still alive. However, the cold and stiff body told him that she had passed away for sure.

He and the rest of the team left this house and were going to search the next collapsed building. For some reasons, the team leader was driven by a compelling force to go back to the ruin house of the dead woman. Again, he knelt down and used his had through the narrow cracks to search the little space under the dead body. Suddenly, he screamed with excitement, "A child! There is a child!"

The whole team worked together; carefully they removed the piles of ruined objects around the dead woman. There was a 3 months old little boy wrapped in a flowery blanket under his mother’s dead body. Obviously, the woman had made an ultimate sacrifice for saving her son. When her house was falling, she used her body to make a cover to protect her son. The little boy was still sleeping peacefully when the team leader picked him up.

The medical doctor came quickly to exam the little boy. After he opened the blanket, he saw a cell phone inside the blanket. There was a text message on the screen. It said, "If you can survive, you must remember that I love you." This cell phone was passing around from one hand to another. Every body that read the message wept. "If you can survive, you must remember that I love you." Such is the mother’s love for her child!!

Listening to Jenn Bostic today ...

This is why we sing ...



Even a good for nothing, is good for something ...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Wangari Maathai came to our house

[This is a real story from this week]
*****************************************

She hurried into my room. As if there had been an earthquake and I hadn't found out busy looking at my computer screen in the office.

"Papa. Come fast. A hummingbird has come to meet us."

"What do you mean?"

"Hurry hurry ... It might fly away. A bird came inside the house and ... " she went on breathless.

I didn't understand the optimism of the announcement. Last time we had a bird in the house we were glad our handy man was in commission to fix some plumbing and we had given him the extra duty of relieving a bird from Jania's room. It was getting dark outside as the evening was flying into night. And I thought we had a nightmare on our hands: there was a bird in our house flying nowhere.

I held her hand. And she hopped me out of my office which stands outside our house, peaceful in obeisance to my tendencies. And she was exactly the opposite. If you can imagine a human flying, that was her rushing across the courtyard into our house. She was as excited as a dove freed from her cage. Sometimes flying is what peace needs.

As I closed the door behind me, I saw her disappear into the family room where we have a big sliding door. That door must have been open; that is how this bird came in. And when I saw all of them, I was relieved.

There was my wife and son, standing quietly. My son was holding ... yes holding ... a hummingbird in his hands and my wife with her mobile phone trying to take a picture of our son with our surprise guest.

I was amazed at how calm the hummingbird was. And it was a baby hummingbird. It probably was a few weeks old because birds get to full size pretty quickly.

"This is unbelievable Shilpy. How did she get here?"

"I don't know. When I came in, I heard this weird fluttering sound and saw her on the glass window trying to fly through it."

I was wondering how she caught her. But I didn't want to ask any more questions and miss the opportunity to take a couple of pictures myself. By that time, Jania said she wanted to hold the hummingbird. He had spent enough time with her so my son acquiesced.

In the process of transferring her, she took flight and again rammed against the window, high up, and started the fluttering game again. My wife took a few jumps to get it back, but it was clear she would have to use her old technique. This is how I got to know what she did.

She took a small kitchen towel and threw at her against window. And softly brought both the towel and the bird back down. And handed her over to Jania. And the smile on Jania's face was worth remembering. Here is the picture I took with my cellphone:


After a few pictures we decided to safely guide the bird out into the open again.

I don't think this was any ordinary hummingbird that came into our house. This morning I was reading about Wangari Maathai, the nobel prize winning extraordinary woman from Kenya. I didn't know her well and heard she was inspiring; so I googled her in search of a singspiration. The first video that came up on the search was one where she was telling story about a hummingbird.



The hummingbird in that story carries water drop after drop to extinguish a fire burning the forest while the bigger animals are scared to move. Wangari said that she aspires to be the hummingbird from that story of the jungle which is on fire. "I might not be able to save the earth. But I will do the best I can." There was my singspiration flying away into the night.

That night I told an altered version of this story to Jania at bedtime. The hummingbird in my story, inspired all the other animals to get together and help get rid of the fire.

The purpose of the singing hummingbird is to inspire others to sing. Singing takes you somewhere even if the world has stopped in fright. That is why the hummingbird comes into our house. That is why Wangari Maathai came to this world. Singing takes you somewhere; somewhere is better than nowhere.

[The End]
**************************

This week's Indie Ink Challenge came from Billy Flynn, who gave me this prompt: "When you are going nowhere, anywhere is a better place to be". I challenged femmefauxpas with the prompt "Elegance comes from simplicity".

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wangari Maathai Quotes - Singing with trees


It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.
- Wangari Maathai

“All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet.”
Wangari Maathai quote



“It’s really amazing. You plant a seed; it germinates and looking so fragile, and within a very short time it becomes a huge tree. It gives you shade and if it’s a fruit tree it gives you fruit… to build and transforms lives… We want to see many Africans planting trees. There is absolutely no excuse to stop desertification because this is something that is doable and cheap


“It is very important for young people not to be afraid of engaging in areas that are not common to the youth. Get involved in local activities, get involved in local initiatives, be involved in leadership positions because you can’t learn unless you are involved. And if you make mistakes that is alright too because we all make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. You gain confidence from learning, failing and rising again.”

“The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. You cannot sustain the economy if you don’t take care of the environment because we know that the resources that we use whether it is oil, energy, land … all of these are the basis in which development happens. And development is what we say generates a good economy and puts money in our pockets. If we cannot sustain the environment, we can’t not sustain ourselves.”

“We’re constantly being bombarded by problems that we face and sometimes we can get completely overwhelmed. [But] we should always feel like a hummingbird. I may feel insignificant, but I don’t want to be like the other animals watching the planet go down the drain. I’ll be a hummingbird, I’ll do the best I can.”

“It is a bit sad that we have a government in this country that is actually overseeing the destruction of the forest…there comes a time when humanity is called upon to shift to a new level of consciousness… You raise your consciousness to a level where u feel that you must do the right thing. We see governments mistreating its citizens to the fullest.. who is going to question when the law keeper breaks the law?”


African women in general need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.
Wangari Maathai

I am working to make sure we don't only protect the environment, we also improve governance.
Wangari Maathai

In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.
Wangari Maathai

It is important to nurture any new ideas and initiatives which can make a difference for Africa.
Wangari Maathai

It's a matter of life and death for this country. The Kenyan forests are facing extinction and it is a man-made problem.
Wangari Maathai


Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys from time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that.
Wangari Maathai

There's a general culture in this country to cut all the trees. It makes me so angry because everyone is cutting and no one is planting.
Wangari Maathai

We are very fond of blaming the poor for destroying the environment. But often it is the powerful, including governments, that are responsible.
Wangari Maathai

We need to promote development that does not destroy our environment.
Wangari Maathai

Women are responsible for their children, they cannot sit back, waste time and see them starve.
Wangari Maathai

“We can work together for a better world with men and women of goodwill, those who radiate the intrinsic goodness of humankind.”
Wangari Maathai quote



“It is important to nurture any new ideas and initiatives which can make a difference for Africa.”
Wangari Maathai quote


“The privilege of a higher education, especially outside Africa, broadened my original horizon and encouraged me to focus on the environment, women and development in order to improve the quality of life of people in my country in particular and in the African region in general.”
Wangari Maathai quote



“Why has there been so much secrecy about AIDS? When you ask where did the virus come from, it raises a lot of flags. That makes me suspicious.”
Wangari Maathai quote


“All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet.”
Wangari Maathai quote

“African women in general need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”
Wangari Maathai quote

“Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys from time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that.”
Wangari Maathai quote

“When you have the environment degraded, it is always so that we are going to fight over the few resources that are left.”
Wangari Maathai quote


“You must not deal only with the symptoms. You have to get to the root causes by promoting environmental rehabilitation and empowering people to do things for themselves. What is done for the people without involving them cannot be sustained.”
Wangari Maathai quote

“We are very fond of blaming the poor for destroying the environment. But often it is the powerful, including governments, that are responsible.”
Wangari Maathai quote



Jyon Jal Meh Jal Aye Khataana
Tyon Jyoti Sang Jyot Samaana
– Guru Arjan Dev

Like water flows in water,
Light merges into light


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Working Moms, My Wife and Maya Angelou

Shilpy, my wife, just came back from a PTA organization committee in our kids' school. She told me that all the people who had come to the meeting were female. And all the moms who had come were working moms. All of them had gone to work early so they could come to this PTA meeting. Non of the stay-at-home moms had come to the PTA meeting.

They started talking about why it was that the PTA meeting was full of working moms. Where had all the stay-at-home moms gone? One person brought it up and they all discovered that they all felt slightly guilty that they were not there for the kids during the day. That is why they are all shown up there so they could make a difference in their kids' education and at the same time be part of the community.

Oftentimes I feel that Shilpy does a lot of work. She does work at the office, at home and takes care of most of the kids activities. I am lucky to work from home and help out as well; but she goes out of the way to be part of the kids' lives.

Tomorrow she will be coming home early from work as she is organizing a "movie night" at the school's auditorium. I will be going there to perhaps to sit and enjoy the movie with the kids. And she will be taking care of popcorn or drinks. I am sure.

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
... The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.
~Maya Angelou

Winning Like Gandhi Takes Persistence

[The following is a true story from this week]

I am so relieved he is watching TV now.  I know I don't sound like a good parent saying that, but right now I am liking this moment.  I am somewhat tickled that Mahatma Gandhi can make a difference in our lives. Only minutes ago, he was howling at the top of his lungs:  "It was the worst day of my life!"

When he came back from school, I heard him. It was as if a satellite had fallen upon unawares. Quickly descending the flight of stairs I reached him standing between the powder room and the front door. All the people that loved him surrounded him ... me, his grandparents, his sister, and his nanny.  All concerned. Looking at him.

"What happened, Gobind." 

"They were all laughing. I don't want to talk about it."  More crying followed.

"But what did you say that made them laugh. They probably liked it; that's why they laughed"

"No they were laughing at me. It's too embarrasing" And then the sobs continued.

Without wasting any more time, I dragged him upstairs.  I thought he would talk more if it was just me and him.  Locking the door behind me even as his sister banged on it for some time.  "Jania, I just need to talk to him alone." I told her.  She was quiet soon.

I read him the poem I used to love growing up. 

"When I was at the party,"
Said Betty, aged just four,
"A little girl fell off her chair
Right down upon the floor;
And all the other little girls
Began to laugh, but me---
I didn't laugh a single bit,"
Said Betty seriously.

"Why not?" her Mother asked her,
Full of delight to find
That Betty---bless her little heart!---
Had been so sweetly kind.
"Why didn't you laugh, my darling?
Or don't you like to tell?"
"I didn't laugh," said Betty,
"Cause it was me who fell."


Then I remembered.  He probably had his speech today.  He had been talking about this speech he had to make to qualify as a "Class representative."

"Is this about your speech?"

He looked up with moist eyes, "Yes."

And then he burst out. "I was speaking and everyone started laughing. And I didn't finish my speech. I took my name off the list. I am never making a speech ever again."

"But what did you say that was so funny?"

"It was not funny. I said I will take all the blame for you guys. I will always be there when you need me. And then they started laughing."

I thought about it. He basically made an emotional speech, and 8 year olds found that quite funny. Especially coming from him, who is normally very jovial. I told him that I was proud of what said. That would have been enough because he started to smile. But I thought I needed a one-two punch. So I shared with him what I have learned from Gandhi, that I remind myself when I am alone despite being right:

"Gobind, if Gandhi had stopped because he feared people laughing at him, we would not be Mahatma, he would not be a great soul. He used to say, 'They ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight. Then you win'."

He thought about it for a moment and said, "People laughed at Gandhi too!" He said he would stand for election again next year.

Mahatma's truth indeed lives on despite dying moments of despair. We shared a fleeting smile. And intending to pounce on this loving moment he asked, "Can I watch TV now?"


[End]

This week's Indie Ink Challenge came from Billy Flynn, who gave me this prompt: "In time we hate that which we fear - William Shakespear". I challenged Liz Culver with the prompt "The rose that grew from a crack in the concrete".

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Organizations with a heart

My angels that sing today are these institutions that support families and children who are affected by congenital heart defects like tetralogy of fallot.

http://www.mlhrichmond.org/index.htm
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/tetralogy_of_fallot/
http://www.kidswithheart.org/
http://www.campdelcorazon.org/

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Today's interview with Jania, my daughter

(Just so I can practice my interviewing skills)

Photo by Shivpreet Singh

Q: Who are you?
Ans: My name is Jania.

Q: Where are you sitting?
Ans: I came back from school and I am sitting in Papa's office right now.

Q: What are you doing?
Ans: We are having what we call "Papa fun."  Today we decided to write a story about what happened at school.

Q: What did you learn in school?
Ans: Today I learned to write inside the lines. And then I interviewed two friends.

Q: Why did you interview friends?
Ans: I needed to know what to draw.  We got this picture and we had to color.  The first one was Summer. The second one was "Krishy"

Q: What is Krishy???
Ans: He is one of the kindergartners.  Sometimes I play with him at recess.

Q: Who else do you play with at recess?
Mikayla.  She is not in my class, but she used to be in my pre-school.

Q: What else do you want to write about?
Today I saw some small T-shirts at school. They were decorated very nicely. You should have come to my class.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Some Firsts at the Hayward Gurdwara



Posted: 01 Sep 2011 05:59 AM PDT


Although I have done fusion music in private gatherings, and for long done it on recordings, yesterday was one of the first times we tried fusion music in the Hayward Gurudwara. (For those who do not know what a Gurudwara is, it is the “door of the guru” — the place of worship for disciples of my dear Guru Nanak)

And I say the royal “we” because it was also the first time that I played with a guitarist called Chris Pais. Chris is a mechanical engineer who works for FuelCells, Inc. I recently met him and he, like me, wants to play for the love of it.

We sang Malhar: “My heart is drenched when it thunders and my Guru’s words shower upon me. The music was loud; and people were not used to listening to it. Still, no one come at us with sharp objects; so I am encouraged that Gurudwaras might accept fusion music. After all Guru Nanak was the most popular fusion musician of his time; he didn’t have Gurudwaras to sing so he made the world his Gurudwara.

It was fun introducing Chris to the Gurudwara norms … he took off his shoes to get into the Gurudwara and covered his head with a scarf that was available outside. We had tea in the beginning; the program, as usual (unlike Indian norms) was very punctual and we had to abruptly end our tea break because we were up to sing. I gave an explanation of Malhar (Mian Ki Malhar versus the traditional Malhar). When I looked up to him at the end of our singing and asked if he was OK if we would donate the “tips” back for the community. He readily said yes. Then we had langar or the “community feast.” On the menu was a mixed vegetable, cholay, daal, dahi, kheer, jalebi and pakoras. Oh, langar is sooo good!
Chris was right. We should have taken a photograph of all the firsts. Looking forward to more live performances with Chris and fusion music.

The Envoy - Jane Hirshfield


The body-village has nine gates; the Tenth Gate remains hidden. - Guru Nanak (Pg. 1031)

There are openings in our lives of which we know nothing. - Jane Hirshfield


The Envoy
- Jane Hirshfield

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don't know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something -- terror? happiness? grief? --
entered and then left my body.

No knowing how it came in.
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.

Some Firsts at the Hayward Gurudwara

Although I have done fusion music in private gatherings, and for long done it on recordings, yesterday was one of the first times we tried fusion music in the Hayward Gurudwara. (For those who do not know what a Gurudwara is, it is the "door of the guru" -- the place of worship for disciples of my dear Guru Nanak)

And I say the royal "we" because it was also the first time that I played with a guitarist called Chris Pais. Chris is a mechanical engineer who works for FuelCells, Inc. I recently met him and he, like me, wants to play for the love of it.

We sang Malhar: "My heart is drenched when it thunders and my Guru's words shower upon me. The music was loud; and people were not used to listening to it. Still, no one come at us with sharp objects; so I am encouraged that Gurudwaras might accept fusion music. After all Guru Nanak was the most popular fusion musician of his time; he didn't have Gurudwaras to sing so he made the world his Gurudwara.

It was fun introducing Chris to the Gurudwara norms ... he took off his shoes to get into the Gurudwara and covered his head with a scarf that was available outside. We had tea in the beginning; the program, as usual (unlike Indian norms) was very punctual and we had to abruptly end our tea break because we were up to sing. I gave an explanation of Malhar (Mian Ki Malhar versus the traditional Malhar). When I looked up to him at the end of our singing and asked if he was OK if we would donate the "tips" back for the community. He readily said yes. Then we had langar or the "community feast." On the menu was a mixed vegetable, cholay, daal, dahi, kheer, jalebi and pakoras. Oh, langar is sooo good!

Chris was right. We should have taken a photograph of all the firsts. Looking forward to more live performances with Chris and fusion music.