Two years ago, a fatal New Delhi gang rape inspired mass protests all over in India, but the the legal reforms (which include things like the banning of acid sales) have done very little to protect women, and most of the more programmatic promises (tracking public transportation, more women cops, better lighting in urban areas, etc) have gone largely unimplemented. Feeling discouraged by the purely legalistic approach to rape, New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni decided to fight violence against women on the cultural front—starting from childhood education.
Devineni has produced Priya’s Shakti, a graphic novel available online and in print, featuring a rape survivor protagonist who is aided by a goddess and her faithful tiger steed. The book is currently available in Hindi, English and Marathi, but will be translated into other languages to better serve India’s diverse population. The concept is a masterful utility of traditional values to further humane ends, and I’d argue something aimed at younger readers is going to have the greatest long term effect on culture at-large.
The storyline focuses on Priya, a human woman and ardent devotee of the Goddess Parvati who has experienced a brutal rape and the social stigma and isolation resulting from it. The Goddess Parvati is horrified to learn about the sexual violence that women on Earth face on a daily basis and is determined to change this disturbing reality. Inspired by the Goddess, Priya breaks her silence. She sings a message of women’s empowerment that enraptures thousands and moves them to take action against [gender-based violence] around the world. This project highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged.
The discussion of sexual assault in far-away lands often results in a lot of projection and avoidance of more home-grown violence, but I think we in the US could learn a lot from this project. The anti-rape movement here has only just begun to move beyond telling women “how to not get raped,” but I’ve yet to see a childhood sex education project that instills ideas of bodily autonomy and consent. Then again, I suppose our growing commitment to Abstinence-Only Education kind of precludes talking to kids about how to have mutually agreed upon sex.
George Harrison’s 1966 trip to India was a major catalyst in the development of the Beatles’ sound, and pop music was forever changed by his sitar tutelage under Ravi Shankar. However, all the talk about the musical, spiritual and yoga training tend to obfuscate the real historic legacy of Harrison’s journey—selfies!!! The quiet Beatle captured some really beautiful scenery (as well as his lovely face), using a fisheye lens to clever effect. Frankly, I’m a little surprised Instagram hasn’t pushed for a nostalgic fisheye comeback—who doesn’t like a little psychedelic bulge to their selfie?
An anonymous activist group activist group have taken it upon themselves to try to quash public urination in India. From the evidence presented in this video, I guess it’s a big stinky problem there. The activist group built what’s called The Pissing Tanker which “patrols” Mumbai and when someone is caught in the act of public urination—which is against the law there—the offender gets hosed-down by a strong stream of water. What you might call poetic justice…
The group which also has a twitter account, without a display picture of course, asks others to be aware of them as they will strike when least expected. Their motto is ‘You Stop. We Stop’ and fight public urination ‘one spray at a time’.
Seems like a mild form of vigilante justice. Frequent public pissers in Mumbai would be advised to immediately purchase waterproof iPhone cases…
Hearing stories about traveling on the Hippie Trail from Western Europe to India in the late 1960’s and 1970’s always makes me jealous. I can’t even imagine traveling in a time when Americans weren’t despised in other countries or when violence and terrorism weren’t issues that crossed a young traveler’s mind thousands of miles away from home. When I hear about how beautiful and fun Afghanistan was back then I wonder if any of us will ever be able to see it again without being interrupted by soldiers or the Taliban.
In the late nineteen sixties and early seventies, hundreds of thousands of youngsters from both sides of the North Atlantic took the journey overland from Europe to India, Nepal and beyond. Simultaneously, quite a few travellers from Australia came in via Southeast Asia and made the trip the other way round. From Western Europe the road led through former Yugoslavia, Greece or Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The one-way distance along this so-called ‘Hippie Trail’ was approximately 11.000 km (7.000 miles). An old Volkswagen van was the favourite choice of those who provided their own means of transport. Trains, cheap buses and hitchhiking were the modes of transport open to the others. Along the Trail, specialized budget hotels provided shelter and a place to meet other travellers.
Once a person made it to Turkey, whether by hitchhiking through Europe, driving some questionably competent vehicle, or taking a boat from Marseilles, the Hippie Trail really began. The Magic Bus booking agency used small private bus enterprises picked up travelers in London and Amsterdam to make the overland journey. The place to find travel mates or advice about where to go along the way was the Pudding Shop, a cafe in Istanbul near the Blue Mosque owned by two brothers, Idris and Namak Colpan. One UK bus owner offered to advertise the Pudding Shop on his bus, rechristening it The Pudding Shop Bus. The cafe’s bulletin board was the early DIY version of BIT and Lonely Planet guides.
The trail led through, unbelievably, Iran and its Great Salt Desert, Tehran, and then Afghanistan. Some stayed in Kandahar or Kabul, and others went on to Nepal, Tibet, Bangkok, or to Goa, India, where a hippie commune was set up near a stretch of beach. Kathmandu’s street Jochen Tole is still nicknamed Freak Street thanks to the colorful characters who went through..
The U.S. and Soviet Union had jointly built an amazing, incredibly smooth highway that ran through central Afghanistan. Once in Kabul, there were like-minded hippies everywhere, especially around Chicken Street and the Street of Green Doors. Some hippies did a decent import-export business in handmade Afghani wedding coats, which were fashionable in the UK and Europe in the very late ‘60s. Others were attracted by plentiful drugs like hashish and opium. One way of smuggling hash back through Iran and Turkey was by having it sealed inside a jam tin before heading home, jokingly referred to as “Kandahar jam.”
While other travellers—those who were not “freaks”—quite reasonably refer to the route as “the overland”, there really was a distinct hippie trail. In every major stop along the way there were hotels, restaurants and cafes that catered almost exclusively to the pot-smoking westerners, who networked with each other as they wandered east and west - there were no Lonely Planet guides in those days, and (of course) there was no internet.
This influx of long-haired western youth must have been a curiosity to the locals, who were largely unaccustomed to tourists of any sort back then. But they were generally hospitable, and many found welcome ways to derive extra income. Their experience was caricatured in the 1971 Bollywood movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna, which featured a scene involving chillum-smoking hippies, accompanied by the enormously popular Asha Bosle song “Dum Maro Dum.”
The hippies tended to spend more time interacting with the local population than traditional sightseeing tourists—they had no interest in luxury accommodation, even if they could afford it (which few could), and some would “go native” after a fashion, particularly in India. Of course, they were still tourists really, albeit of a different sort, and hedonism was the primary aim.
This idyllic time ended with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the Iranian Revolution, in addition to civil war in Lebanon and tensions in the Kashmir region. The overland route was closed to Western travelers. Enterprising travel agencies have continued facilitating travel from Europe to Asia, but they have had to be resourceful and come up with alternative routes on a regular basis.
Australians remembering traveling in Afghanistan in the 1970’s, below:
Glenn Beck continues to amaze with his hypocritical rants about Obama. He claims concern for the President’s safety while creating an imaginary scenario in which Obama is beheaded in India. “It’s the classic double-negative: God forbid anything bad happen to the people I so love to hate.”
The audio clip below which was broadcast by The Glenn Beck Show on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 is further evidence that Beck is more toxic than the BP oil spill and just as slimy.
Why is the president putting himself in danger? Why is anyone allowing him to put himself in danger, and if it’s not a danger, why do we have 34 warships? I don’t care if you spend $10 billion to protect the President. Nothing can happen to the president, period. I don’t like the man. He’s the President of the United States nothing can happen to him, so I don’t care how much money you spend, but why is he going there? Why are we spending $2 billion to put him there?”
The 34 warships and $2 billion dollar claim is based on bullshit rumors emanating from an anonymous source in India. Its taken on a life of its own thanks to the right wing press. It simply is not true. Beck insinuates that Obama’s life may be in jeopardy because he has turned his back on his Muslim brothers and sisters. Why else would India hold such danger? Once again, the Obama is Muslim lurks as subtext. Is nutjob Beck suggesting that an American President adopt a bunker mentality when it comes to interacting with one of the most important nations on the planet? Xenophobia as public policy. And what’s with Beck invoking Gandhi in the midst of his twisted tirade? It’s a pious smokescreen disguising hate.
Why do I waste my breath? Because millions and millions of people listen to douchebag Beck and take his word as gospel.
“If fantasizing on the radio about the assassination of the President of the United States sounds sick to you, that’s because it is.”
Followers of Meher Baba have made a holiday out of it. On this day 85 years ago, the Indian-born mystic Baba went voluntarily silent at the age of 31. He would stay that way for 42 years, until he died in 1969. Funnily enough, no-one saw it coming. Born in the cosmopolitan Indian city of Pune to part-Zoroastrian-part-Sufi Persian parents, Baba seemed to have had it going on before his transformation to mysticism, according to Wiki:
His schoolmates nicknamed him “Electricity”. As a boy he formed The Cosmopolitan Club dedicated to remaining informed in world affairs and giving money to charity — money often raised by the boys betting at the horse races. He had an excellent singing voice and was a multi-instrumentalist and poet. Fluent in several languages, he was especially fond of Hafez’s Persian poetry, but also of Shakespeare and Shelley.
Baba’s persona, work and metaphysics enrapture lots of folks in the West, many of whom celebrities ranging from Gary Cooper to Pete Townshend. As you can see below, though a silent man for most of his life, Baba was a chatty bastard.
Dangerous Minds pal, novelist Jonathan Lyons sent us this photo of the perplexing set of instructions stuck to the toilet in the guest house where he is staying in New Delhi. For the most part, I can’t understand any of this, can you?
Reality Sandwich excerpts “Autobiography of a Sadhu” by Rampuri. Balls-to-the-wall crazy like only India can offer.
As he repeated a mantra, Amar Puri Baba slipped the rudraksha bead on the janeu string, over my head.
“My brother, your guru, has given you the gift of rudraksha. This bead, which as you can see, is a seed from a tree, contains the power of discipleship. It is the manifestation of the covenant between humans and the Great God Shiva that the Path of Knowledge would be passed down through the tradition of discipleship. Shiva’s most uncompassionate manifestation, Rudra, shed a tear of compassion for mankind, and this became the Rudraksha tree. It pulls the pranas upward, and can be worn anywhere on the upper body to focus energy, but the one the guru gives you is worn over the heart, where your connection with the guru is established.”
Mangal Bharti concluded the giving of the five gifts by wrapping me in the ochre dhoti, creating little sleeves for my arms as he folded and tied the cloth in the traditional sannyasi way. “This final gift of the five is your protection and sheltering of Mother Earth. You see, it is the color of her soil, ochre, her life-blood. You see how long this fine cloth is when unfolded? It is a flag marking that you are in her hands, and that you are on the Path.”
Arundhati Roy talks with Democracy Now about spending time with Maoist rebels in India. As somebody who’s spent time getting chased and almost killed by Maoist rebels, I’m not exactly sure she’s on point here. While they are fighting for the rights of the poor, they are also, to a large extent, providing a back door for China—and now that they have essentially sold Nepal to China, the buffer zone between India and China—two gigantic nuclear powers—is getting erased. Not good for anybody. In the slightest.
Earlier this month, when Forbes published its annual list of the world’s billionaires, the Indian press reported with some delight that two of their countrymen had made it to the coveted list of the ten richest individuals in the world.
Meanwhile, thousands of Indian paramilitary troops and police are fighting a war against some of its poorest inhabitants living deep in the country’s so-called tribal belt. Indian officials say more than a third of the country, mostly mineral-rich forest land, is partially or completely under the control of Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites. India’s prime minister has called the Maoists the country’s “gravest internal security threat.” According to official figures, nearly 6,000 people have died in the past seven years of fighting, more than half of them civilians. The government’s new paramilitary offensive against the Maoists has been dubbed Operation Green Hunt.
Well, earlier this month, the leader of the Maoist insurgency, Koteswar Rao, or Kishenji, invited the Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy to mediate in peace talks with the government. Soon after, India’s Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai, criticized Roy and others who have publicly called state violence against Maoists, quote, “genocidal.”
Amazing Bibliodyssey post on folk art from India. Loads of folk art depicting trees of various psychological proportions. My favorite is “The Tree of Intoxication,” shown above.
Tara Books from Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India) very kindly sent me a few of their books, not for review, but as thanks following their contacting for some advice. After I saw the books, I asked - would have begged - if it was ok to scan some samples. Illustrations from three books appear below.
I’m afraid these images hardly do proper justice to the textural wonder of the handmade paper and crisp, silkscreened illustrations. The scans themselves could only have been improved by breaking the books which wasn’t even a consideration: these glorious books are treasured works of art that I’ll not be destroying or parting with in this lifetime.
This hilarious video is made by Debbie Glasband who recently volunteered in eastern India for 6 months, working with the tribal people you see in this video. They are indigenous to Koraput, the second poorest district in India. Due to their poverty, illiteracy and status as the bottom of the caste system, they are often taken advantage of by landowners and local officials who deny them their rights, steal what little money they do have and treat them with disdain.
The video stars people from Puki and Nua Kerenga villages, two of many villages that were displaced by hydroelectric dams and mining projects. Forced onto land that is difficult to cultivate, they have resorted to migrant work and borrowing money from landlords in order to survive.
For tribal people who are landless, raising goats is a great alternative source of income. Families who breed goats can earn a good profit selling the kids in the local market. The extra income provides a safety net for families that can be used for things like medicine, food during lean periods and farm equipment.
Some men aspire to be gods, while others just want to shack up with them. The latter is the case for V K Saxena, a 72 retired railway man from India, who has donned bangles, skirt and makeup in imitation of Radha, the goddess lover of Krishna.
Saxena claimed that he felt more spiritual awakening in this form.
America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue to identify as Christian (still, that’s the lowest percentage in American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu?