Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is the world getting better or worse?

Who doesn't want to make the world a better place? Everyone does but
no one knows exactly how. Most people lose interest because they feel
that their efforts will be in vain. That anything they do will have no
impact. Or they become so involved in the daily struggle that they
lose track of what is best, what is good, what is right - all to
survive, and make it through the day. Is it a luxury now in this world
to care? To care about what? To make the world better, remember.
What does that even mean anymore? Your better may be my worse and if I
ask people randomly "over your lifetime have things gotten better or
worse? What a variety of answers you will get!" And if you ask within
a historical context, "over the past 50 years lets say after World War
2, has the world become a better place?" You will also get a variety
of stories depending who you talk to, an Indian, an African, a German,
a Bosnian, a Colombian, a rich man, a poor man, a woman, a holocaust
survivor, or Roberto Benigni who would say "La Vita E Bella". They
will say yes, no, maybe or perhaps both, that it gets better and it
gets worse. For how can one distinguish between these stories to know
"A Truth"? Is there "A Truth?" If there are many who is right?
Before even thinking of what is right and wrong perhaps it is better to
first listen, observe, understand. For to make the world a better
place first entails understanding all of our stories, our values,
judgments, interpretations, the data, the facts. To make the world
better we first need to understand it. To understand how it works.
What has worked and what hasn’t.

When I reflect on what the Bologna Center is and have to come up with a
simple definition of what it does and what I do here its " To
understand how the world works." I know that is a lofty goal and
perhaps an impossible one, but that is what we try to do here and the
effort, the process, is at times more important than the outcomes.
Because rather than provide you with "A Truth" as studying medicine or
the law might teach you, we are taught here to think for ourselves (and
more importantly to be skeptical), to know the different perspectives,
form an opinion and defend it with gusto. Bologna Center serves as
the center where diverse stories and perspectives can be heard, from
all over the world, where we debate and discuss what "Truth" means to
us. This dialogue this process, helps us understand the world,
combined with our trainings in economics and International Relations
give us the tools to be better informed, to have opinions and ideas.
Because ideas matter, especially in the realm we operate in of
economics, international relations and political philosophy. A quote
from Keynes to put it into context the importance of what goes on here:

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are
right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly
understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men,
who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual
influence are usually just slaves of some defunct economist." - Keynes

So lets get it right, lets at least try, make an effort. Bologna
Center is the living laboratory to try, test out, and figure out what
we believe to be true. It reminds us to care about the world, to
think, reflect on it because much is at stake. Our ideas matter. "Is
the world getting better or worse?" What is your answer? The Bologna
center has been here for over 50 years helping young leaders figure it
out and thanks to your support we will continue to be here, to serve
and make proud and be grateful for all your efforts in this process and
while it may still be difficult to say if the world is getting better
or worse, I can assure you, at the Bologna center “It is getting better
all the time”

Friday, February 16, 2007

Home is where the heart is

Throughout my life when the going gets rough and I don't feel well, I
go to India. I spent my childhood in Delhi and even when living in New
York I would go almost every year as most of my family and sister
reside there. As I have gotten older I have gone less and my life
feels more incomplete for it. India is a world unto itself, cliche but
true. If it was the world, it'd be enough for me. They say it takes
lifetimes to know India and I believe it. The diversity, the colors,
the tragedy, a day there shows you the complete spectrum of
possibilities, of being. Rich or poor, happy or sad, one everyday is
reminded and connected to the sufferings of others. There is no hiding
from it, there is no hiding in general as privacy is a strange concept,
something my Western counterpart has a tough time coming to grips with.
As a child in India or as an Indian child anywhere we become
accustomed to noise and developing an ability to sleep anywhere under
any circumstances. In loud raucous temples, where all - night rituals
are held it is not uncommon to see children sprawled out asleep as the
religious beat goes on and on.

One is forever surrounded by people and it is disturbing though you
feel alive, constantly. They say a great friend is one who feels
comfortable enough to impose himself on you. That is what a friend is,
isn't it? Someone who doesn't hesitate to impose himself on you. I
like that and India is like that in a seductive way. Not only imposing
but offending, abusing, pushing, pulling, making you sweat and scream.
And every other calm place puts me at unease. Thats why I prefer
southern Italy to the north. I can't deal with order and calm.

Being in the place I am from puts my soul at ease even though it
happens to be an insufferable chaos. I feel rejuvenated by the
remembrance of my childhood in Delhi. They are my most vivid memories.
I remember particularly the monsoon seasons. I have been attracted to
rain as far back as I can remember. Of all the weather conditions, the
drama of rain, thunder and lightening has been closest to expressing
how I feel inside. A torment that gives rise to flowers, that makes
the grass and trees grow, that washes away with a power to purify as
well as destroy.

The smell of the earth, where all senses intermingle. That is what I
long for, that is all I need.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Napoli, fear and longing

Sitting in a cafe in Naples I watch 8 men entertain themselves with
loud conversation, gestures and laughter. An old mad man screams at a
beautiful whore with braces who inadvertently makes glances at me, as I
sip my tea and hide behind my book and sunglasses. She has a hard look
to her, which has suffered and survived terrible circumstances and her
smile shows it. It says yes, I made it, I have seen it all, what are
you going to show me?

You ever have that feeling of meeting your death? Knowing that its in
your own hands, that if you so desire you can end it. Some women have
that quality to them as do certain cities and I could feel her (the
city) waiting for me in her tender trap. As she played with her
cellphone I knew she was waiting for me to say something, do anything
to make her feel like a lady. My manhood was beckoned, instead I
focused on ideas, on deep philosophical ideas and theories, thats what
happens. We think books will save us when they just protect us from

There would have been a time when I would have taken her to my room and
caressed her fine long black hair. Instead now I have better things to
do, excuses really, as I am tired, don't know what to look for and
can't recognize beauty in the shape of a whore. I disgust myself. To
not follow desire. I can't think of anything worse. To know that in
this world lies all our pleasure and pain and I just sit. I sit still,
I ignore it, I prefer to follow another desire. The desire to be

There is an apt saying about Naples, which is: see Naples and die. It
is the best way to describe the danger and excitement constantly in the
air here. Its how i felt the first time I went to New orleans, a city
to die in, a place that reeked of death.....and voodoo magic. You feel
that here in Naples, a lost greatness amidst a great sun sea and sky.
As you walk along its streets life and struggle is on you in you it
draws out all that you wanted to hide bursting out - lustful

The tough women with their Mediterranean faces waiting for men with
passion and violence.

This city inspires me to create. Madness and chaos do that, they
spring forth a need to bring life in that which is filled with death.
I attribute Naples madness to the volcano. To be constantly propelled
to explode. What a place to be in.

I have been feeling nostalgic for my father lately. Its been 9 years
now since he left me. I was a boy then and now I am a man, and with
each passing day I see him come closer to me in the mirror. I always
felt he went into my soul, inside me, to live life again, to see to
feel to touch, to hold on to a lover as everything crumbles. To go for
long walks by the sea, listening, listening for sailors.

I read "My ear at his heart - reading my father" by Hanif Kureishi and
I am half way through and I feel as though if it is a book written for
Indian boys and their dead fathers. I am sure others can universalize
it for themselves, though there is such detail about certain rituals
that take my breath away, I never knew someone else has lived through
what I lived through. That exiled Indian fathers feeling. All done
with such heart and creativity. I will leave you with some excerpts of
the sexual act as metaphor for life....

"Where does sex begin and end? Sex is often the memory of sex, as well
as the fantasy and the anticipation."

"She has taught him something useful about excitement, that it is
something to be sustained rather than evacuated"

"The attempt to make an entirely safe environment - coffee without
caffeine, war without killing, sex without contact - can only diminish
life. A world in which people can't die is a world in which people
can't live. What else is there apart from passion and its

Napoli! Napoli! Napoli!

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

Friday, February 02, 2007

Waiting for Godot

I have slowly realized I can't save everyone though I look for everyone
and anyone to save me. I need to carefully pick and choose my battles
keeping the bigger war in mind. I haven't lived like this since I was
15 and decided to take life in my own hands after reading Malcolm X,
where the enemy was the white man and the oppressor the United States
of America. It became clear, and that is what prophets and great men
do, they make clear that which is muddled and confused, they make you
see, often at the cost of nuance and complexity - but the extremism
that is fostered is needed and valuable as process. It provides
guidance in time of solitary confusion. Oh malcolm. You are my king
though you were not entirely logical or correct. There was truth in
your courage and anger. It was a suicide bomb for the mind that made
me think awoke me to the fact that something, something is going on.

In Colombia, I was living an overt war, concrete, tangible, obvious and
that is why people were happy there. They knew that one had to live
and live well because the world was a terrible place. I took that
message easily, as it is Punjabi philosophy, a way of being for all
those who grew up in conflict. It makes you strange though, you
realize that your adaption is a survival mechanism, and after a while
you become dependent on the violence to survive. Many Colombian
scholars allude to a lustful relationship Colombians have to violence.
How any ceasing of it is not psychologically possible, 100s of years of
fighting has become addictive. Safety and security would tear up their
insides if they did not have the outward violence. It's a sick
revelation, and ask anyone who loves Colombia and they know that their
love is tied with the violence. As soon as the violence vanishes
Colombia vanishes and you want to make things better, though you
secretly don't want it to end. Its a sick need. Like many people in
New York on September 11. I had leftist, activist friends who felt it
was a marxist necessity occurring, the coming of the revolution. I was
in Brooklyn with the religious who felt it was the apocalypse, the
coming of christ. What was the difference between the two groups?
Nothing, all harboring a lust for violence, a need to suffer, to have
something move and change because they don't suffer enough. Its sad
when we need tragic events to feel alive.

And my prozac colleagues why does it hurt me so? Because i thought I
was their friend perhaps, or that we were together in how we felt about
the world. Its why when I found out about your antibiotics I was
shocked. That you would think it to be so trivial to not discuss with
me was a bomb. and all the dentist appointments, the creams, what seem
to you as obsessions or a need to control is not that at all. I merge
my soul and body into yours and I need to know what goes into them
because they will go into me. You are pure and beautiful though the
system we are in is not and always looks for conniving ways to fool us
and we can only counter-act that with criticism (not complaining),
dialogue and action. A constant consciousness, a constant observing
and understanding. Note I didn't say analyzing, as that is technical,
and done without a proper spirtual-political-philosopical framework is
meaningless, or worse paralyzing self indulgent madness. I don't want
to analyze the fire before putting it out, i want to put it out with
instinct and then learn. People are so cut off so numb they keep
talking and talking. They don't move with instinct toward the crisis
because they no longer are sensitive and feeling, they are intellectual
about it. And thats what bugs me. Why do these prozac filled people
want to have sex when they can't feel anymore? When one can't feel and
it isn't about pleasure it becomes about power and perversion.

I am categorically against anti-depressive drugs. Hear me out once and
for all lord. let it be on record.

For all you Americans without a culture and all your justifications -
you're wrong. You are being duped by the Big Pharm, the biggest most
corrupt most dangerous threat to health and well-being. Forget about
terrorism, thats peanuts compared to the Agri-Pharm-medical complex
which is to sicken you, make money off you and to keep you alive dead.
"Unborn living, living dead..."

What kind of society do we live in? "It is no measure of health to be
well-adjusted to a profound sick society" - Krishamurti. You cannot
silence me. Till my last days, even if I am persecuted I will tell all
and ask you to have a conversation with me about the irrationality and
absurdities of our world. I propose to have no answers, I just want to
keep having the dialogue. about important matters. I don't want to
numb myself with alcohol and relax with pot, and watch "friends" and
amuse myself to death. I want to fight to live. I want to fight the
good fight. I don't want to get distracted from our grander purpose.
I don't want entertainment. I want to work. You got to work for
peace. for justice. for happiness, for health. Everything is set-up
against you but you can do it. do it do it do it. Awaken, before it
is too late. well, its never too late, because when you die, it will
be like "eraserhead" by david lynch. have you seen that fucking movie.
see it be it use it lose it, everything is gonna be alright but...."No
eternal reward will forgive is for wasting the dawn." break on through
break on through......yeah