Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why I Study (give me a kiss)

alright i know you are all eagerly awaiting a post. I taught a seminar on 70s tv shows yesterday, we were watching and dissecting "Barney Miller" show from 1975. I got pulled into some wine after and long conversations. I am in the midst of finals, I am sorry I told you that because remember this blog is not about me, it is about my life and my relationship to it, to undertstand it, observe, revel in its abusrdity and beauty though i mention the exams things only because it is related to what this post is about. I wrote this to understand why I study and what it means. I know people study for different reasons, and the predominant reason is to get a job and survive, I respect that, though I am in the other camp. What camp that is I don't know. Here is an idea with my post on studying. Peace.


In the process of studying I realize who I am and what I value. What becomes illuminating is the process and how I choose to engage myself with it. There is a difference in whether I see this process as a burden or strengthener, whether I see the exam as an enemy or teacher. The best metaphor is athletic, of building, strengthening myself to function at a harmonious level. I remember my father in times like this as he stressed to me the importance of loving what one does. The importance of discipline, a routine and how even if one is unable to focus one must make the time to sit down, do one's duty. The act of studying was elevated to the spiritual.

I enjoy what I study and see its grander purpose and meaning in my life. It makes a difference what one studies as at times a forced discipline is used to do things one does not want to do or understand. Krisnamurti cynically noted "Discipline is evoked in order to get you to do things you don't want to do" I agree to an extent though discipline also paves the way and provides you with the opportunity to experience something new. I remember the first time I started running, how difficult it was and my inclination was to stop, give up and yet I had George, my best friend push me on, he said" you will see you will see, keep at it and you will hit a new world" and discipline is what brings you into that new world and thats the power of teachers. They give you the strenght to work hard, remind you whats at the end of this, reassure you that it gets better, guide you through the mud, help you in reflection, questioning, understanding the purpose and process without becoming arrogant and overly skeptical. A teacher-student relationship still has to be based on being humble and accepting that someone has something in our best interests. It challenges our faith in the goodness of humanity and only with a strong faith are we able to accept what one has to offer, other wise excessive questioning lead one to an incapability unable to grasping only that which can be understood through submission. I must allow to myself to simulatanously submit and have faith in my ability to be who I am, free, independent and clear. I need to build that as well.

Rather than fear as a motivator one must work to reduce stress and do things in an unrushed manner. Be systematic, like the sun and all of nature. Work hard and be not afraid to become dull and dim, you will only becoming more brilliant, like a diamond slowly polished and cleaned to be set in the mid day sun.

Cuba showed me the relationship between art and discipline. The best artists I met were fully dedicated with heart and soul, blood, sweat and tears to what they did. and they approached it as a doctor would a patient, a worker in his factory, they had the same dignity and they lacked all affectation, and bohemian astetic, it wasn't done for rebellion, it was done as a skill, it was given worth and dignity, they were not otstrasized, they very exemplified, given merit and importance. It changed the concept of what it means to be an artist and one of the most fasinating aspects of the revolution.

Monday, January 22, 2007


As my words dance and come together in harmony I lose track of the fact
that I write, I create, I express, and that this is an exercise and a
meditation. I've kept a diary since I was 18, the idea first struck me
when I saw Doogie Howser do it on a TV show. You know that show about
the precocious genius young doctor who tackled questions of life, death
and suffering at the tender age of 17, as an MD. Every show ended with
Doogie writing of his day on his computer before going to sleep. if I
remember correctly he was encouraged to do it by his father who said
that Doogie would only realize later it's importance. As far back as I
can remember I wanted to be great. I read the biographies of great men
and consistently I was struck by how seriously they took themselves and
their work - whatever it was. They consistently believed they were a
part of something important and had the capacity to understand their
place in history. As evidence of this they always kept a diary and
wrote long beautiful poetic letters to family and loved ones. As I was
head off to NYU I knew my moment had arrived. I felt New York, my
youth and the world all come together, I took the first step, i started
writing. I have 10 years worth of diaries now, through my university
years, on deep philosophical theories, parts of screenplays, and then
subsequently through my work and travels in sub-saharan Africa, my work
in education in the inner-city in new york, my political campaigns
through 40 states (with anarchists!), my new age guruness in ecuador,
my human rights work in Colombia and most recently shaking hands with
Fidel on may day in Havana. Its been a long strange trip baby and now
I am in italy and it feels like my life is only now just begining.
Italy is where i will turn 30. Where I will begin anew. Its the
perfect place to be 30 because most italian men at this age are still
living with their mother. The perfect rythym for me.

As you all know I am not a big fan of technology, computers and the
internet, especially the internet. It is over-rated and touted as a
revolution when it's really the new TV. I don't deny its revolutionary
impact - possible only if one is media literate and bright enough to
use it well. Most of us are not and waste time in front of this screen
when we need to be amongst the mountains, the bees and the sycamore
trees. That said, i do use this medium and try to use it as
intelligently as possible. Blogs have always fascinated me and I know
that if done well make a big difference in making democracy livelier
and vibrant. Thus i will make regular updates every friday. Some will
be profound and long, others will be short and innocuous, but it will
happen and work to develop a consistency and dialogue to ideas that
have deep importance to living in 2007. Its taken me awhile to
understand the importance of e-writing ( i am slow) and this year the
blog world will have a gaboworld. Here is to a gaboworld.

As a special something though it can be its own entry a little somthing
I wrote about that four letter word, love.

The opposite of love is not hate but fear.

The more I love another the happier they become. If they are not used
to love they become addicted to my love. Eventually my capacity to
love deeply comes back to haunt me in the form of guilt, emotional
blackmail and a feeling of inadequacy. The passions wane and the
others then take it personal, unable to accept that the magic is gone
they blame themselves. Insecurity sets in, an acceptance of the truth,
that things are different, become hard to grasp. We keep wanting more
and more. Though the more we want the less we are able to reach it
because the love we had arose out of surprise, a lack of desire and
expectation. It happened upon us and I have the faith that it can
happen again, that the capacity to love is limitless though not
permanent. 5 minutes and 500 years all amount to the same proof of its
possibility, though how long it lasts and if that should concern us is
perhaps the big question. That time is relative is easily forgotten
when what we cherish ends. An ending is an ending and it comes to soon
or too late. If 3 minutes seem short to you ask a boxer what 3 minutes
are like for him in the ring. Every moment has in it, eternity.

At its heart love entails suffering. It is why most people are averse
to it and are unable to do it because in this day and age forget
suffering people don't want to even be uncomfortable. Because it hurts
to love and will continue to hurt, otherwise it would not be love it
would be pleasure. Love versus pleasure, have you ever thought about
the difference? Pleasure is abound but to truly love someone entails
that one is ready to suffer. If we are courageous enough to confront
suffering we will be on the threshold of what it means to live and
love. Or perhaps a possibility of living, because life can have many
meanings of which love is one. One can also choose fear, hate, anger,
obsession to fill that void in life and life will accordingly shift to
what you choose to be and live. It is the vehicle and you are the
driver with your values, priorities and judgements. Is love just that
good warm feeling as your lover looks into your eyes, caresses your
hair and says "I love you". It has to be more than mere escape and a
need for security.

Love is when someone loves and accepts the most difficult in a person,
allows themselves to be challenged, to change, to understand oneself
though the existence of another.

That is love for me. What is love for you?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Who is sovereign now?

(complimentary aperitivo and wine, prizes,)

Who is sovereign now?

This Friday Newspaper Seminar is teaming up with BC journal to apply
this years theme of "sovereignty and how it is defined in the 21st
century" to current events (for a full text of the theme and how to
submit go to: . The idea is to get you
to understand the applicability of the theme to a wide variety of
topics and to illustrate how many of the papers you are currently
writing can easily be tailored to fit submission criteria. The BC
journal staff will be on hand to field all your questions about
submissions and getting involved on many levels, as an editor, referee,
production, layout, fundraising and PR amongst other things. There
will as an added bonus:

FREE APeritvo - which means FREE WINE and FREE food, the food is going
to be special from the southern italian region of Puglia, provided by
"terra da sole" a gourmet wholesome eatery.

ok, before you get really excited keep your thinking caps on, we got
work to do, this is our last seminar and lets make the magic happen one
more time. Below are the readings I suggest you do, of all the pieces,
and they are all good, the highlight is the Eliot Cohen piece, who also
is a SAIS DC Director and professor of Strategic Studies.

Of the many things I have read on Iraq this past year this seems to be
the most clear and logical. Though professor Cohen one could argue, is
part of the reason we are in the mess to begin with, as he was an
staunch supporter of the war from its inception. The piece raises very
pertinent and interesting questions with regards to sovereignty. Cohen
argues, after the botched handling of Saddam Hussein's Execution, that
the United States for the time being needs to take a stronger role in
Iraq and says "Quite possibly, Prime Minister Maliki will refuse, on
the grounds of sovereignty and national pride, to allow Americans equal
control over Iraqi personnel policy. We should respond that when Iraq
is truly sovereign and standing on its own, we withdraw our advisers
and the joint board ceases to operate. In the meantime, we're not
potted plants. It is our advisers that force the ministries in Baghdad
to pay the Iraqi soldiers. It is our advisers on patrol risking their
lives and dying to reassure the Iraqi forces that they can prevail. As
long as we run equal risk, we deserve equal say in the selection of
competent leaders." I find all this talk of sovereignty amusing given
that it wasn't much of a concern on March 19, 2003. Read this article,
as we will use it as a launching point for the discussion and relate it
to the BC journal theme.

This next article is Kofi Annan's farewell speech. He calls for the
world to intervene and perhaps over-ride Sovereignty in the name of
human rights. Troubling, perplexing, controversial, it is a call for a
new world order (if we aren't there already). Its a type of left-wing

Climate change could well be the great sovereignty issue of the 21st
century, precisely because it is such a new and vexing problem.
Countries have warred over resources many times before, but consider
this (factoid from Al Gore's film): 40% of the world's population (in
India and China, mainly) rely on the melting snow from the Himalayas to
fill their rivers and supply them with drinking water. You think
conflict ain't going to break out if there ain't enough snow to feed
the Ganges, Yangtze, and other such rivers? The following article (from
today's Herald Tribune) touches on climate change/global warming
issues, on Europe's increasing energy dependence on Russia (raising the
vexing sovereignty issues an earlier article mentioned), and on
concerted action by that great incubator of post-sovereignty, the EU:

And finally and article about African politics. Does one proposed
intervention negate another? Wouldn't they both tend to violate
international legal norms? On the rarely-cited Somali-South African
connection (from Johannesburg's leading daily -- also interesting
because of African Union implications, although they're not mentioned
in this article -- what good might the AU be able to do in various
African conflicts, such as Darfur?):

That is that. I know it is long and you have a lot to read. if you
have to read just one, read the eliot cohen piece and the BC journal
staff will use the other articles to highlight how to apply the theme
to various issues and to get you motivated and prepared to submit. The
wine will flow, we will celebrate the end of the seminar for the
semester. Its been a wild ride. Join me one more time before finals
to get your news on, look forward to facilitating a lively discussion.

Peace, Love and Justice,


Saturday, January 06, 2007


The last post started a flurry of activity and response to the blog. I
have over the past month been in conversation with the founders of
INDICORPS, Sonal and Anand Shah. Its been an enlightening process and
so as to not leave the process hanging, to have closure, I feel
ethically obliged to share some of the fruits of our discussions.

INDICORPS according to Sonal and Anand has no affiliations with VHP.
According to them the websites and other allegations are false and a
ploy for sensationalism. Though I am sure this depends on what your
definition of affiliation is and whether having contact, working with a
group such as VHP qualifies as affiliation. Just to make the record
clear, though I cannot post their replies to me, I do want to share
what I wrote them. If you have any further questions on the matter you
can contact them, as they are friendly and ready to answer any
questions you may have on this. you can get their info at their
website, or contact or They have been through, detailed and diligent
with their replies and their willingness for dialogue has been
remarkable. This has been an important and constructive process for
everyone involved.

Before I share my letters to them (which you can use as reference with
any questions you may have for them) I want to cite one of the
responses to the original post which I feel best sums up the dilemma.
Its from a friend of mine who does work for a prestigious NGO in

"I read the post and the comments. It's far from a clean cut issue, but
I couldn't be part of anything even partially funded by the RSS and
then cheered on by privileged NRIs. Maybe that's my own prejudice. I
hold the RSS morally equivalent to the KKK, Hamas or the IRA. Doesn't
matter how much control they have in Indicorps and if they just
contribute funding. A truly non-political and non-sectarian
organization has to be beyond reproach and keep well clear of this kind
of affiliation. Especially on the Indian subcontinent. If you propose
to work for progressive development you have to live by the rules
you've set out for yourself, even if it comes at the cost of
"progress". Otherwise, like so many development programs, you've just
taken a big gulp of the poverty industry Kool Aid.

Doesn't matter if they also build schools and hospitals. These are the
kinds of arguments used by totalitarians the world over. And I don't
buy any of that "it's fashionable to bash Hindus and brand them as
fascists" shit Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The RSS and their ilk
are fanatics, and I would argue they are fascists too, they are a hate
group, and I don't buy that "we don't hate anyone, we just love
ourselves" shit either. Or the argument from Sonal Shah's brother about
including the RSS/VHP because "diversity" is essential to progress.
We're not talking about academic debates. It's one thing to defend
their right of free speech, which I would support, but another to
accept their support and be part of their activities.

Even though there's always bound to be wildly divergent interests in a
consortium of donors or benefactors, there are plenty of alternatives
that aren't so morally compromised. Which is perhaps to your point
about the Peace Corps. Arguably it might well be impossible to find any
organization (commercial or non-profit) that is absolutely beyond
reproach, but publicly accepting an award from Narendra Modi when they
could have refused makes them unacceptable to me."

Now on to my first original letter to INDICORPS below, followed by a
follow up letter after.

Dear Sonal:  

First off a hearty thank you for your response.  It is an honor to
receive an email from you as I have heard much about you and remember
clearly when you were india abroad's person of the year.  I remember
having a tremendous sense of admiration for someone with privilege who
actually wanted to do something for the community.  I am indian, like
you, having spent the first 7 years of my life in Delhi and when I came
to new york it was a shock to see the level of assimilation and
emphasis on achievement though not on service and community action.
Your award and your having started Indicorps is a start in the right

Sonal, relax, I want to express that I am not going to approach you in
attack mode as many of the more radical elements of the diaspora do. I
feel many of them are out of touch with the realities of india and
don't realize the complexities and nuances that come with doing
development work.  I agree that one has to make alliances and we cannot
be divided, there is too much at stake, and somehow we must be
inclusive though also make the dialogue inclusive and reflective.  I
sincerely hope that this whole process doesn't offend you and most of
all that you view it positively, as it indicates for me the vibrancy of
our democracy for it is much better to have a battle of ideas than the
other more unsavory options.  So peace, love and understanding come
from here.  This is a long preface and its to ensure that my respect
and admiration come through even if my ideas and criticisms are
incongruent with yours.  We need to work TOGETHER on this and think
this through because it is a complex and important issue. We cannot
let the positive force which is Indicorps to be over-shadowed by
divisive ideology.  In that I am in agreement as my exposure to DRUM in
New York has exposed me to a destructiveness and cruelty that comes
from the desi left.

So lets start talk openly and without defensiveness, let me share some
of my thoughts and then perhaps I can get your feelings and thoughts as
well.  I will be as clear and brief as possible to get to the crux of
the issue so here goes.  Some questions to start with.

What are your thoughts on the VHP and RSS?

Can we agree that there goals and motives for india are not to be
supported?  If you wikipedia VHP it mentions their desire for a Hindu
nation.Do you believe that?  What are your opinions on the human rights
watch reports about their involvement with the ayodya temple riots and
the gujarat pogrom?  There seems to sufficient evidence and
controversy.  Do you understand the hostility and uncomfort this can

That being said, if you admit or at the very least can understand the
problem then we can move on to the second point which is your alleged
leadership positions within VHP.  Its one thing to be affiliated and
quite another to have a leadership position within the VHP. And let me
be clear that it is not your work which is under question.  I will
assume that everything you do is positive and good (which according to
my sources it is) as indicorps doesn't seem to be aligned politically
with VHP or RSS.  But what causes an uncomfort and where I am found
with an ethical quandary is that if it is true that you do or have had
leadership positions with the VHP, a group that is documented to have
had human rights abuses and has a questionable charter, should that

And as if you say you have affiliations with christian and muslim
groups, does that entail leadership positions as well, to the same
degree as VHP?  Is anyone else is in the Indicorps(in a leadership
position, vice president,E-board, etc) in a leadership position on a
pro nationalist muslim or christian organization?

Its one thing to have meetings and contact with VHP, I find that
necessary and it wouldn't be as bothersome if some of your family were
members( i am sure I have family members a part of them as well!) its
quite another thing when a founder and immediate family are part of the
structure. Thats where the conflict of interest and ethical problems

We can start from here.  I want to express again my respect for you and
do not want this to be divisive.  We all have good intentions though
thats not enough.  I want to work with you on this because regardless,
our paths will cross because we both have similar goals and visions for
India's future.  My Mother, family, sister all live in delhi and after
SAIS I will be based in Delhi.  We will see each other and I bet we
probably already know similar people.  So lets work together and be
clear with our ideas and then if we differ lets still keep some love in
our hearts as we are few, the majority of indian-americans don't care
and we need to work together to make them care so please let me know
how you feel.

P.S.  Anand also wrote me, please forward this to him and you both can
reply if you choose, as I will write him separately as well.

all the best,



The next letter is a response to the first letter. Though i won't post
her reply ( I don't have her permission) I will share my letter in
which you can make out the nature of the debate.


Dear Sonal,

I want to thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt note. I read it
over carefully, many times and it made me reflect on our situation, the
human situation, the personal and the political. When I received
Anand's reply I felt it was institutional jargon and in a way a legal
defense, a play with words rather than plain sincerity to what I see is
a process in working together to understand a dilemma. Your letter
really made me think and I whole heartedly agree with your assessment
about working and understanding all factions of society - even the ones
we may not agree with. I agree. I also agree with your point about
believing the truth based on what we may think are credible sources and
having to question further before we determine what we feel is the
"truth". Point well taken and my questions directed towards you were
meant to quickly get to the heart of the matter and if their directness
seemed leading or confrontational, please excuse me. The issue for me
was your alleged affiliation with the VHP. There are ethical concerns
in where Indicorps gets its funding and the level of its cooperation
with VHP, RSS and other groups with documented links to human rights
abuses. It is not their religiousness that bothers me, as that is
their right, it is the links to human rights abuses and a charter which
can go against what Indicorps stands for. The issue is not working
with groups we don't agree with, the issue is strong affiliations,
funding, a lack of political savvy, which in Indicorps attempt to be
all inclusive and non-judgmental comes across as collusion and
legitimization of groups which have been involved in atrocities. It's
a fine line, all this, very difficult to delineate but its worth it to
reflect on.

Indicorps is non-political though lets not confuse that with amoral.
There is a marked difference between the two as being non-political
doesn't mean one does not take a stance. And lets also not confuse
non-political with apolitical. I wish it was so easy, to live,
operate, work and do development work in india without being aware of
the political context. That would be naive and in the end you face up
to understand that politics is in everything we do (or choose not to
do) and you can choose to ignore it though it will in the end over
shadow all your great work and professionalism. And that is a reality,
whether it is right or wrong, whether it is the truth or not,
intentions will not matter if you are not careful and conscious with
your actions. You can choose to accept an award by Nardender Modi, but
it should be done knowing it has consequences (as does not accepting)
and you can also collect money from the VHP and have them list you on
their website, though again it needs to be done consciously and the
repercussions and cost benefit needs to be calculated in advance.

I didn't in anyway go looking for the dirt on Indicorps. It was
something that consistently kept being mentioned to me from people from
broad political spectrums. It wasn't in anyway leftist extremists that
Anand may have in mind. The VHP, RSS issue is in no way criticized
just by the fringe left. It is something that has consistently been
written and talked about since their inceptions. I am not saying
Indicorps needs to run a campaign against them or not work with them,
you are inevitably going to have to interact with them to get anything
done in India, but I ask that you be very very careful in your
interactions. Of which it is safe to say you were not. Having your
name printed as "national coordinator" on the website and accepting an
award from Narender modi doesn't mean I liken them to you. It shows me
your political naivete or worse that you didn't think it mattered when
it does.

Its about branding, an Indicorps like any other organization needs to
be conscious of that. You can do all the good you want, if you don't
have a strong brand or if your brand is tarnished by faux paxs such as
this than it is unfortunate. And it is not about extremism, trust me I
am no leftist and personally would do what you do for practical reasons
- to get things done. I just would have been subtle and careful with
my relations. And when these accusations are put forth, such as your
affiliation with the VHP, they need to be handled actively rather than
allowing them to float around in cyberspace. It has to be mentioned in
your website, you need to have your lawyer contact the websites that
state this about you and challenge them. It is not a benign issue and
for your work to continue uninhibited in India this needs to be cleared

There are some allegations and issues that one can and should ignore
and we need to pick and choose what to respond to. Perhaps you felt
this issue would just go away, but this is a hot-button issue and will
continue to mire the organization in controversy which would be a
shame, since your intentions, commitments and organization are
exemplary. I have heard great great things about your training's and
the experience and what you do. It is great! That is not enough, you
need to be politically savvy and tackle and accept the political
realities in which you operate. Money, power, great work,
professionalism are just part of it, all of that goes away with
political in-clarity and a marred reputation.

All this said I would have applied for the internship and I do have a
strong interest though this summer I need to be in New Delhi for family
and business reasons (if you recommend any projects or NGOs in Delhi
please let me know). I truly wish this to be a beginning of friendship
between us. I'd like to work together, think together, put our
energies together for India. We need to meet, please don't forget me
when I contact you back in the US and tell Anand I will contact him
when I am in India this summer. Also I am available to talk about any
of these things on the phone if he wants, or if you have any questions.
I am also attaching my resume for your files for any future
opportunities to work together. You may not want anything to do with
me after all this though I feel we need to work together, be honest
with each other, think, reflect and be open. Even if we don't agree,
we can't be divided in this important historical moment for India.
There are not many of us around who choose to do what we do, its a
tough road and I know I can't make it alone so I will look to you for
leadership and guidance. I am still in awe by your achievements and
your involvement of the diaspora has struck a chord with me and other
people. Please let me know if I can ever be of service to you and I am
grateful for all your time and efforts in this matter. It is truly
admirable. All the best.

Peace and Love,


That's that, feel free to comment or post.

A human being is never what he is but the self he seeks - Octavio Paz