Source-Wall Magazine-Sri Aurobindo Ashram-Delhi-April 2014
It is He in the sun who is ageless and deathless
And into the midnight His shadow is thrown
When darkness was blind and engulfs within darkness
He was seated within it immense and alone
The Indian independence day-August 15 , is also the birthday of one of India’s great modern saints-Sri Aurobindo.
The Philosophical review-Arya-was first published on this day , a hundred years ago.
On this unique anniversary- I see some notes of my “Reading Journal”.
As our reading group has dwindled into a “reading journal” with many choosing to flee the conflict in Tripoli and those remaining not in much a mood to discuss the niceties of Indian literature, I remember the many discussions we had last year-2013-in the framework of Indian literature. In Five sessions we had discussed some nuances.
One session started with Edward Said’s “Orientalism” in which the concept of the West speaking for the silenced subalterns of the Orient is exposed. The summer of 1947 was unlike any other in Indian history, seeing the migration of around 15 million people and murdering of around 1 million. Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech does not address these aspects which were dealt with by writers such as Khushwant Singh in “Train to Pakistan”, Bapsi Sidhwa in “Ice-Candy Man” or Salman Rushdie -”Midnight’s children” in different ways.
DIASPORA AND ASSIMILITATION-A TRIPOLI READING JOURNAL
As we read with uncanny realism works which predict the “Metastases” of the Islamic State, I can hear the shelling from a distance.
Last week, the area of Gutshaal, which was supposed to be largely loyal to the Zintanis was very badly shelled by forces loyal to Misrata. It is said that Zintanis are largely secular and support Gen Hifter’s Operation Dignity, while Misratis are Islamists.
Remembered Virginia Woolf’s line- “He could only marry a particular shade of Christian,” or the works of James Joyce- “Portrait of an Artist as a young man” in which different shades of a faith are spelt out. Communities divided along the lines of faith can have long standing feuds even in the WEIRD countries like Great Britain. Things do not sound very good in a country which has undergone repression by a brutal dictatorship for over four decades.
People are suspicious of each other and do not take things at face value.
WEIRD standing for Western-Educated-Industrialized-Rich-Democratic-countries .
These WEIRD countries got together to make a coalition to spread democracy to Libya in 2011. The metastases in different forms does not make for very nice hearing-both literally- and actually- going by the number of explosions one hears at a distance.
What shade of a Muslim are you? This question probably will make them think a bit before paralyzing the normal life of millions.
A SPLIT PEOPLE
“I have been corrupted by England, I see that now-my children, my wife, they too have been corrupted,” Samad-the character in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is a textural representative of immigrants of various ethnicities, worries about the loss of his ethnic identity and culture through assimilation. The narrator says, “it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the national, scared of infection, penetration, when this is small fry, peanuts , compared to what the immigrant fears-dissolution, disappearance.”
Last fortnight one veteran left by road to Djerba, and then evacuated to Agra. In our many walks and talks together-from Suaani’s Indian camps to walks in Abositta Ferasiya, he had told of how the community will take three years to re-start. That was in October 2011.
“In the first year the workers will return, in the second year the families, in the third year the school will start and rekindle the community.”
I still remember the last celebration we had with a choir from the Indian school singing patriotic songs and the National Anthem. That was January 2014. Now there are evacuations again. Talking to an engineer in health care who has been involved in many projects- now in India- the feel one gets is that his children are not going to be part of the Indian Community school -ICS-Tripoli, for some time now.
So one returns to the “Reading Journal” -the basis of the “Reading Group,” and goes through the textural representative characters
While re-reading Zadie Smith’s I recall a conversation with a Pakistani veteran, who has worked in the police and IT industries, and seen first hand many Arab countries.
“It was the brain and money of the US and Saudis which drove many unemployed poor youth to search for ‘Janat’ while fighting against the Soviets in the 1980s. The Soviet army withdrew, but there is no ‘Janat’ and these former revolutionaries have found themselves in extremist networks which has disturbed the harmony of our country,”
For those unfamiliar with Frantz Fanon- he is author of “The Wretched of the Earth” a classic which Stuart Hall calls “The Bible of Decolonisation”. Fanon’s best hopes for the Algerian revolution were taken hostage and summarily executed, first by a bureaucratized military rule that violated his belief “that an army is never a school for war, but a school for civics. . . ,” and then by the rise of fundamentalist groups like the Islamic Salvation Front.
It would be useful to re-do some definitions to understand and try to reframe Fanon in the present context. Each party seems to be very clear that they are in the right and ready to kill for this. This has been witnessed by many helpless civilians caught in the conflict, who now wonder where is NATO which was supposed to have a mandate to protect civilians.
Episteme- “A world committed to the ideal of episteme is a world of clear and fixed truth, absolute certainty, and stable knowledge.
The only possibility for rhetoric in such a world would be to ‘make truth effective’. . .. A radical gulf is presumed to exist between discovering truth (the province of philosophy or science) and the lesser task of disseminating it (the province of rhetoric).”
(James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)
When faced with such clear and fixed truths, members of the scientific communities, for example doctors who want to keep on serving the population in these dire circumstances come to know how such an orientation is not for seeking Truths but only to try and impose one’s views on others, by force.
There are many who tell that this is the first time this is happening in history. The “Newness of change” has been referred to by writers like Homi Bhabha and Antonio Gramsci
Bhabha further reveals the connections between perceived “New” as is often said in these regions.
“New” national, international, or global emergences create an unsettling sense of transition, as if history is at a turning point; and it is in such incubational moments— Antonio Gramsci’s word for the perceived “newness” of change— that we experience the palimpsestical imprints of past, present, and future in peculiarly contemporary figures of time and meaning.
Are the events happening in our region new? Or is there a link.
SHADES OF IGNORANCE
Source-Wall Magazine-Sri Aurobindo Ashram-Delhi-April 2014
As one listens to the explosions at a distance, one can leave the discussion for experts. For us common people, there are some literary works (mentioned above), some definitions like Episteme and Newness and the voices which we hear on the ground.
On going back to the reading journal, on this Independence day-with no school choir of the community school to lift the spirits- I recall a talk at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Delhi-given in April 2014. While one may not agree with all that the speaker says, the talks do give a useful framework to see things.
Whenever I am in Delhi, I try to attend the 10 am talk in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and try to make notes. These have over the years served me well.
Summarizing Chapter 19 from Life Divine the speaker said
“ Since we move from ignorance to awareness, it is important to know the nature of ignorance”
The main theses of his presentation was that the Absolute made use of its powers to create Vidya and Avidya- so that out of Avidya ignorance can re-emerge into consciousness.
The main ignorance are
1.Ignorance of Absolute
2.Ignorance of Spaceless-Timeless-Space
4.Ignorance of becoming in time-Temporal ignorance
(from a talk in Sri Aurobindo Ashram-Delhi-April 2014.)
VIGNETTES FROM INDIAN SPIRITUAL TRADITION
The many natures of ignorance can form a useful reference point. Hope some friends who believe in bombing their way to democracy will note these. There are also interesting notes on nature of meditation. One which I found particularly useful was the concept of Self-Dynamizing Meditation.
In a question-answer session-The Mother-elaborated about the transforming power of self-dynamizing meditation. She tells that this is a meditation which makes you progress, as opposed to static meditation which is immobile and relatively inert, and which changes nothing in your consciousness or in our way of being. A dynamic meditation is a meditation of transformation.
Generally people do not practice dynamic meditation. When they enter into meditation (or at least what they call ‘meditation’) they enter into a kind of immobility where nothing stirs, and they come out of it exactly as they went in, without any change either in their being or in their consciousness. And the more motionless it is, the happier they are. They could meditate in this way for eternities., it would never change anything in their universe or in themselves.
On being pressed on how it is done, the Mother told that it is the aspiration that should be different, the attitude has to be different. The inner attitude is important. This is the quality which makes it different. One may mediate to reject the ordinary consciousness, or may meditate to enter the inner depths of your being, you may meditate to enter peace, calm and silence (that is what people generally do, but without much success ). But you may also meditate to receive the force of Transformation, to discover the points to be transformed , to trace out the line of progress. And then, you may also meditate for very practical reasons: when you have a difficulty to clear up, a solution to find, when you want help in some action or other. If one wants the meditation to be dynamic, one must have an aspiration for progress and the meditation must be done to help and fulfill the aspiration of progress. Then it becomes dynamic.
The Arya, a monthly review of Pure philosophy was published for the first time on August 15, 1914. The object of this monthly review was stated as two fold
1- A systematic study of the highest problems of existence
2- The formation of a vast synthesis of knowledge harmonizing the divers religious traditions of humanity occidental as well as oriental. It’s method will be that of a realism, at once rational and transcendental. A realism consisting in the unification of intellectual and scientific disciplines with those of intuitive experience.
Having a framework of going into definitions like Episteme, Newness, Orientalism, Ignorance helps us find ways and tools in which we do not let others speak for us the silenced subalterns. Returning to such a “reading journal” can be a useful exercise in self-reflection.
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING
On our Independence Day-2013
WHY READ FANON
Reflections on our Republic day
Exploring Public Domains From Kabir to Safir
Part of efforts of Everyday history and Reading group amongst professional and diaspora in Tripoli region of Libya.
FATHER’S DAY WALK
For a flavour of Indian Diaspora in Malta
Did one more last interview with Dr.Singh.
“Don’t say you understand situation here. No one understands the situation here,” he said, paraphrasing Abu Shafshoofa
Visiting Delhi in April I spent one morning visiting the World Heritage monument-Humayun tomb
Many lovely hours sitting in these lawns, reading and reflecting .
I have some squirrel friends on these lawns with whom I share peanuts.
12th February is the feast of Charlie Andrews, the Christian missionary and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. Viewed by some scholars as the alter-ego of the Mahatma, C F Andrews went on to do things in Fiji and Caribbean which Gandhi himself could not do physically. In Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” there is a scene in which when CF Andrews comes to bid goodbye, Gandhi says-..(paraphrased) –Between us there are no goodbyes. You will always be with me in my heart.
He was an educator and participant in the campaign for Indian independence, and became a close friend and associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He was instrumental in convincing Gandhi to return to India from South Africa, where Gandhi had been a leading light in its Indian civil rights struggle. C. F. Andrews was affectionately dubbed Christ’s Faithful Apostle by Gandhi, based on his initials [C.F.A.] For Andrews’s contributions to the Indian Independence Movement Gandhi and his students at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi named him Deenabandhu, or “Friend of the Poor”.(Wikipedia)
This week we spent some time as Diaspora living in North Africa recalling the formative experiences of Gandhi as a leader of Diaspora in South Africa. Before Gandhi was famously thrown out of the first class compartment in Pietermaritzburg he had argued with the ticket collector that he was the only coloured lawyer in South Africa. Many of Gandhi’s formative experiences as a fighter for Civil Rights for Indian Diaspora in South Africa can well be seen as a dress rehearsal for the struggles he made in India. The Transvaal March was a prelude to the Dandi March.
SIMON OF CYRENE
I remember the priest at the Anglican church of Medina-Father Vasihar once tell us that a man who was from present day Libya was told to help carry the cross when Jesus was being crucified. This is told in Mark Chapter 15, verse 21. Cyrene is the North African Greek time city which is present day Eastern Libya, and is known as Shahat. The Green mountains stretch into the blue Mediterranean and an afternoon walk through the Greek city ruins makes for many stories to come alive. The Indian school in Tripoli has some students who wrote an essay on their impressions on Gandhi, how the diasporic working people are connected to the Atlantic, which has workers (slaves and indentured workers) on the lands bordering the Atlantic. Gandhi returned from South Africa to India, but his message has been followed by other people who have organized for civil rights in the Atlantic region-most famously influencing Martin Luther King (MLK).
Through these discussions on the experiences of Diaspora and famous civil rights organizers like Gandhiji and their influence by Christian missionaries like Charlie Andrews (CFA) we see things in a historical and social framework. This is part of a project of “Tripoli Reading Group” to engage our present day contexts.
Other blogs of interest
-Father Mintoff of Hal-Far , Malta , a Franciscian Order Monk and organizer for immigrants and refugees is inspired by the teachings
OF LETTERS AND PRAYERS
If we do not want the English in India we must pay the price. Tolstoy indicates it.
‘Do not resist evil, but also do not yourselves participate in evil–in the violent deeds of the administration of the law courts, the collection of taxes and, what is more important, of the soldiers, and no one in the world will enslave you’, passionately declares the sage of Yasnaya Polyana.
[19th November, 1909] M. K. GANDHI
The message is in the person, not the words.
Daniel Kehoe-Professor of Communications
Can an Airlines company do its own catering?
I asked this question to my friend who was trying to impress with his different contacts and abilities.
As one could not tell him directly that this is leading us nowhere concrete,(weeks of running around have nothing real to show, except for papers and papers) I asked him this Business model question.
THE AIRLINES COMPANY
When I first came to Libya, I was very impressed by a person who was also owning an airlines company. Over several years and many interactions later, I am not as impressed.
This is a local airlines company which has some Soviet time air planes from former Communist regime countries. The Fall of the Berlin wall brought these to countries who are now undergoing the Arab spring.
The many layers of our interactions I will leave for another time and place, but suffice it to say, these interactions taught me something.
Returning to the original question-Can an Airlines company do its own catering.
On the face of it, the logistics involved in catering will not be as complex as running an airlines.
When this question was put up as a Business group discussion, the answer from young business-graduates was that it is not feasible to try and mix in business which will have its own specifics and challenges.
We are barely able to survive in our own sector-(airlines) and should concentrate on developing our own product.
The answer was- Even if they can do catering, they should not.
Concentrate on your own field.
What product do you develop or market?
Came my next “frustrating” question to this friend of mine, to whom I could not directly tell that we are not getting anywhere.
For a medical professional, the hours wasted can be depressing and irritating. But since we require such persons to go through the local bureaucracies-immigration and financial-one has to keep talking to them.
We put this case study forward in our Department discussion on Product development. As we concentrated on Body imaging, I asked a colleague what was the approach of this businessman.
General Trading – came the answer.
They do not have any specific expertise and are basically agencies to trade goods. We cannot engage in these types of activities due to lack of adequate finances, authorizations and inability/insecurity of whether we will be able to retrieve our payments.
My colleague-an expatriate worker-smiled knowingly
I will repeat the question- Can an Airlines company do its own catering?
The answers will reveal the approach and how much we can develop work
OTHER BLOGS OF INTEREST
Cascade effect in organizations
First Line Managers- Pygmalion Effect.
The past is never the past-
As I remembered the many journeys-conversations of my father to my son, the truth of Faulkner’s assertion became clearer.
Around our Republic day-(India) I re-sent to my sons living in Canada a letter from a series I had written remembering my father-a doctor in the Indian army. Remembering that first post-Independence generation to a generation who is now part of Indian Diaspora was my way of trying to map journeys of a nation and its people. Rather than speeches, let us see how professionals lived, how families experienced the garden-tombs of Delhi.
Going by the writing cues of Christine Royse Niles-Jeff Goins- (write your Eulogy and write something which you know about) this blog tries to combine both
1.Eulogy- I would be remembered as a writer of details-medical Radiology and the many journeys I have mapped in
2.Write something you know of—- I know something about medicine, education and walks..
Some shadows in the garden tombs around Delhi are those of my family
who have walked these for four generations..
Some squirrels with whom we have shared peanuts.
REMEMBERING MY FATHER…AROUND MEDICAL STUDIES AND GARDEN TOMBS OF DELHI
Admission in medical college also introduced me to the garden-monuments of Delhi, the love of which has lasted over the decades. In the initial days of higher studies, the brilliant school students are in for a shock, as most of them are toppers in their school. Higher medical studies are very intense and getting to know the basics of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry of the human body and memorizing it is not easy. In the initial year, I continued staying in Pratap Chowk Delhi cantonment and my father helped me get into the nuances of medicine.
He had a book of anatomy by Grant, which had good illustrations. This book was the one he had studied in his own MBBS days. He also got me a Grey’s anatomy full volume.
“This is the Grey’s anatomy which I had always wanted to buy but did not have the money to buy” he told me gifting me the classic anatomy text and also revealing an intimate family detail. Later on through relatives I came to know that at one phase of his medical studies in AIIMS he had to borrow money from some relatives.
Over the years many such remarks revealed many aspirations of my father.
He saw me read Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine and said, ” This is the Harrison which I wanted to read more thoroughly but did not,” thus revealing the need to go deeper into the basics of a foundational text of Medicine.
“What are the signs of Hyperthyroidism” he would try to jog my memory regarding the link between basic physiology and manifestations of disease.
“What are the steps of surgery of Inguinal hernia,” he would take me through the nuances of Applied anatomy .
Being an anesthetist-like my father- is an interesting job as one has to know the basics of Anatomy, apply it to your work in Applied Anatomy and also physiology, internal medicine and many other subjects which form the intricate and beautiful maze of medicine.
Apart from knowledge , and how to approach higher studies, he instilled the ethos of practicing medicine,
“For you this may be one in a hundred patients, but for the patient it is 100%. Always give your 100% to each and every case you study.” That lesson which he taught and instilled in me, has remained etched in my memory and I have tried to live by that credo.
In my second term in medical college, my parents shifted to Pune, where my father was posted as Senior Advisor. That was the time when I first stayed in hostel. That was 194 Old Boy’s Hostel of MAMC. The room was facing the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg of Delhi, and the garden monuments of Firoz Shah Kotla was nearby and we spent many lovely hours of morning calm there. In lunch time we would feed squirrels. The Ambedkar stadium which hosts football tournaments was close by. I saw many interesting football matches. The Daryaganj Sunday street book sale was another attraction and I got introduced to works of Tolstoy there, and would read them in the lawns of Kotla or India Gate or Raj Ghat.
This was the first time I was living away from the family home. However, in visiting these streets and parks, cultural and civilizational hues of Delhi, I was in a way returning to the same paths which my grandfather (BSB) and father (PNB) had walked and experienced in their own younger days. We are one with the soul of Delhi when we hear the Imam of a mosque call for prayers at Hauz Khas , or sit on the lawns of Qutub Minar, or pray in the Laxmi Narayan Mandir of Mandir Marg, Delhi. Generations of our family have lived, worked, studied, prayed, played, walked in these streets,gardens of Delhi. Delhi is one of the greatest cities of the human civilization, having been capital of India for thousands of years. The legendary Indraprastha of thousands of years ago, to the Mughal rulers like Shah Jahan, to modern times of India’s independence, one can feel many currents in Delhi.
My father had probably prepared me to seek and imbibe these cultural aspects of medicine, Delhi, and life in many conscious and subconscious ways through his examples and words.
* * *
The past is never the past-
As I remembered the many journeys-conversations of my father to my sons, the truth of Faulkner’s assertion became clearer.
“There were worse husbands”
Grace, James Joyce
* * *
Around the time of our Republic day (India) we spent some time reviewing works discussed in our Reading Group.
Our walking-reading book club spends many lovely hours in Abositta Ferasiya. The memoirs of the former Bishop of Scotland- Richard Holloway “Leaving Alexandria” tells his journey and how he became a bishop whom he would have hated when he was twenty years younger.
” There has been a terrible beating up of some Indian camp workers.
What do you make of it?”
We will discuss when we meet, I replied.
“There were worse husbands”
Grace, James Joyce
The story of the drunken fall of Tom Kernan in a bar, his rescue by his friend Mr.Power, bringing Kernan back to his wife- an active practical women of middle age and the subsequent planned retreat in Grace by James Joyce formed the back drop of our discussions this Republic Day.
In previous years, we have discussed around our Republic Day –the Prophet and the Proletariat and the attitude towards women in Islamic society, and Ronald Barthes famous essay on Chaplin Man. Chaplin man is fascinating due to the possibilities he represents. He is still out of the consciousness of the Revolution. Still tied down to bread-winning rather than being a conscious party worker.
Around our Independence day-2013 we went through some major works of fiction which have helped shape Indian identity over the past 65 years-through Partition, Corrupt layers, Emergency, Diaspora experiences.
(the links of these blogs are posted below for interested readers)
“Have a friend with whom you can discuss things,” one veteran, an Anatomy teacher had given this sage advice many years ago. “Life can be very lonely in a foreign country,” he said, gifting me a book from his collection.
Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Steps of God” made me take a journey into knowing the different phases of intelligence. We will discuss the concept of “Devata” as told in Hindu civilization in coming blogs.
The story “Grace” by Joyce starts with a drunken fall. Three friends plan to salvage the life of their friend through a religious retreat. The Protestant origins of Kernan, the Catholic retreat, make an interesting discourse. Where is the Grace in this story? It is definitely not in the drunken fall. Nor is it in the domestic quarrels alluded to by Joyce. Was it in the way the priest was trying to market his sect of belief? Or was it in the sharing of friends.
Kernan, he said, we worship at different altars, he said, but our belief is the same.
On reading the story one finds the grace in the camaraderie of friends.
Grace catches nuances of urban life. These are relevant in any modern city. Life looked back through the lens of experience. The different shades of faith and practice.
As we had arrived a bit early, we sat on the corner facing the Mediterranean and revised Joyce’s story “Grace”. Mr.Suresh, an old-timer at the embassy, originally from Najafgarh area of Outer Delhi was guiding the guests to the hall. He speaks Hindi in an accent which reminds one of route 578 from Safdarjung to Najafgarh, an intimate memory.
The Chaplin-Man, still outside the revolution, tied down in the daily struggles of bread-winning got beaten up in the camp on the outskirts of Tripoli. The positive aspect was that there was some type of security force available after around two hours. They surrounded the camp and brought an end to the incident.
For those interested-also see blog-Notes from an Indian Camp-
The story of the once-Protestant Kernan and his jibes at Catholicism and the comment- We all worship at different altars ..but our belief is the same reminded one of the many debates between socialists of different hues back home in India.
Mumbai, the home to the oldest working class in India, has socialists of many callings and there is a tendency of each group to try and present themselves as the true bearers.
A democrat from UK wished us Happy National day and started talking about “New Libya”.
We heard him out. The code was Silence. However, one of us could not resist asking him his opinion about the recent statements of the Grand Mufti.
It was an interesting evening. ..I became the Bishop I would have hated 20 years ago…The words of Richard Holloway came back to us in many ways.
Other related blogs
On our Republic Day
On our Independence Day-2013
ORIENTALISM -PARTITION NOVELS
DIASPORA AND ASSIMILATION
WHY READ FANON
Around May Day
MUTUAL IMPROVEMENT SOCIETIES
LANGUAGES AND VOICES
HOW I REACHED HERE-MUSINGS IN A LIBYAN CAMP