Thursday, August 28, 2008

INDICORPS - A Wounded Brand

By far, besides my loyal following, most of the traffic I have received on my blog is due to the Indicorps controversy.  To this day I still get letters asking my opinion, people who had the same doubts I did about the organization, about whether Indicorps is connected with the Hindu right wing.  

All I can say is that whether it is true or not matters less and less as these rumors and doubts continue.  After awhile, it is about what people perceive you to be, there has to be a serious effort to protect your brand.  

I wrote Indicorps and had an extensive dialogue to work hard to clear these myths.  At this point I suggest they either change their name, post a statement on their blog, or higher a PR firm to enhance their reputation.  I don't think it is possible to keep ignoring this issue. 

But why the lingering doubts?  It is not just cyber surfing, I receive emails from people who WORK with them and have a great time but then feel uncomfortable hearing things from respected leaders of other NGOs on the ground.  

There is no problem with any of Indicorps work, it is their supposed affiliations and their at times questionable neutrality.  

To give you a feel of the controversy and to sum simply the problem I am posting my standard reply to a whole host of queries.   

Dear X,

It is murky territory.  They do great work, are extremely professional, but are people who do not want to take a stance or rock the boat.  Personally they are secular and liberal in outlook, but they refuse to criticize and at times for practical reasons will work with and collaborate with known abusers of human rights (Narendra Modi).

They interpret non-political as apolitical, meaning they focus only on their projects and will work with any government to get that work done and also to ensure that they can continue to do the work.  

My biggest gripe was their acceptance of an award from Narendra Modi AFTER the gujarat riots and Sonal Shah's name on the VHP america website as "national coordinator", which is still there by the way

It is up to you.  Your volunteers will have no problem with them, that I can ensure you.  It is about the level of your principles.  

I really like their work and told them to make some clear statements of separation but they felt this would endanger their presence in India.  

That is the story.  How activist do you want your service organization to be?  Its a tough question.  But I suggest you engage them with any thoughts you have as they are very open about this issue.  Sometimes we need to make compromises and you need to decide if this is one of those times.  

with best,


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Civilization and its contents

Bologna, Italy - June 23, 2008

And just like that I'm back in Italy where I belong.  In the beautiful scenery, riding my bicycle through narrow lanes filled with history and tradition.    My soul re-awakens as if emerging from falsehood with greater clarity and over-all happiness in just being.  Not anxious, not trying to force anything, just taking in the surroundings deeply.  When surrounded by immense beauty one can doing nothing and do so much just taking it all in. There isn't the same senseless American need to consume and move; running around like a chicken with its head cut-off. 

In America vitality comes from culture and creativity thus the energy, at times misused.  In italy you're given a head start, everything is combined with the depth of the past; within the active ruins of a once great civilization.  Every morning you wake up knowing through feeling that something great happened here.     

Maybe its greatness lies not in being being ancient but with something much simpler:

"The factor which renders Greece's mountains, villages, and soil buoyant and immaterial is the light.  In Italy the light is soft and feminine, in Ionia extremely gentle and full of oriental yearning, in Egypt think and voluptuous.  In Greece the light in entirely spiritual.  Able to see clearly in this light, man succeeded in imposing order over chaos, in establishing 'cosmos' - and cosmos means harmony." - Kazantzakis 

I wonder who I am at times.  Of what elements I am made of.  New York City and New Delhi though deeply influenced by the African American experience and Latin America and Italy.  

Italy the only place outside my two homes where I have felt at home.  It somehow combines elements of both.  Rational and passionate amidst chaos.  

Why do I forget about Colombia?  I am after all "Gabo".  I went searching for Macondo once and found it just like I imagined.  With the most handsomest drowned man.  But now I've left it behind, happiness there.  My leaving was proof I don't want the easy life.  That I come from great civilization(s) and prefer action to paradise.  Colombia was astoundingly new.  Completely refreshing and liberating to experience a society with no sexual hang-ups.  Passion, dancing, music, all sensually, effortless.  No girl sleeps with a man who does not dance.  

As I am both from Western and Eastern civilization, with both now controlling sexuality to a high degree or at the very least making an issue out of it, I felt respite from those worlds.  For the first time.  I was able to leave the spectrum, the pendulum, completely see things in a new way.  

The East and West define themselves in terms of each other but Latin America is off doing its own thing.  
Speaking of the greatness of civilization, a little "Report to Greco"

"Civilization begins at the moment sport begins"

"As long as life struggles for preservation - to protect itself from its enemies, maintain itself upon the surface of the Earth - civilization cannot be born.  It is born the moment that life satisfies its primary needs and begins to enjoy a little leisure."

"How is this leisure to be used, how apportioned among various social classes, how increased and refined to the utmost?  According to how each race and epoch solves these problems, the worth and substance of its civilization can be judged." - kazantzakis 

This ties in well with Betrand Russell's "In praise of idleness" but let us leave us something till next time, shall we?  And of course I will share more on my experiences in Delhi.  Letters from Delhi.  Peace and Love.