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lundi 30 mars 2009

Thinking about Mamma Loshen.. Yiddisch


one of the few advantages of driving through large swathes of plain countryside in the USA, in a rented car, is the ability to listen to BBC World Services on their Satellite Radio in the Car. During this past visit, I was able to listen to many documentaries and of course the one on Yiddish touched me particularly.

Then I realized something, just to put it down in words. We, as children, used to refer other jews as MOT, member of our tribe. Now that I am peripherally involved in the resurgence of TRIBAL languages of north American Indians and Kristang of Malacca, Yiddish also fits into the true meaning of a TRIBAL language. For example,

French is spoken by natives of so many countries and as such it brings no symbolic meaning from the person speaking it, whether he is from cameroun or Cambodge… whereas if you meet an UmonHon language speaker, you know for sure that he belongs to the UmonHon tribe, very rarely have others managed to learn the language. Similarly, if one speaks Yiddisch, there is 99.5 % chance that the speaker is Jewish, particularly an Ashkenazi. I have heard of non jews speaking the Language fluently, including some old arabs wo had to learn the language when the Yiddisch speaking settlers came to Israel just after the WWII.

The golden era of Yiddisch from Eastern Europe to New York, ushered in a golden era in literature (which has all but died out, some yiddisch writers remain), music (flourishes as Klezmer music), art, theatre and produced one Nobel Prize in Literature winner. ( Isaac Bashevis Singer). After the WWII there was a tendancy to associate Yiddisch with a defeated people and Hebrew with a successful group of Jews; and in recent memory Yiddish is very strongly associated with SHOAH, the jewish holocaust.. Hopefully there would be a resurgence of the language, since it is an emotional language, in which all feelings concerning birth, marriage, childbirth, life and death can be expressed beautifully. Leave it to the Jews, to mix a rather unpleasant to hear language such as German (OK, I am prejudiced, olav ha shalom!) and mix it with Hebrew and produce such an emotional expressive idion, from teutonic to titanic, you could say.. They say there were six jewish French dialects all gone, the jewish arab and jewish Iranian dialects are almost gone, Ladino is weak.. so all the more important that Yiddisch remains alive.. not for just historical purposes of remembering, but as a tool to express UNIQUELY the jewish experience.. from Buenos Aires to BeerSheva…

vendredi 27 mars 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim

I am a little groggy from my flight from Miami and how nice to receive this photo from my brother Ricardo who is at present in Yerushalayim with his wife and son, Shmulik. it is time for me to welcome Shabbat as well...I am in Paris, so Bread and Wine to say prayers over is no problem!!
I hope my brother would come to Paris on his way home to Portland, Oregon, USA.

Sandra Kennedy.. The Last of three posts

on arriving in Paris, an email from Sandra was waiting with some pictures from her birthday party.. here she is with some good friends and in the bottom picture, you see her with John..
Once again Happy Birthday.. Sandra Kennedy.. we will see each other soon.. LAX SIN MEL LHR.. who knows where else?

dimanche 22 mars 2009

Celebrating Sandra Kennedy's Birthday in South Sioux City Nebraska USA

to celebrate the birthday of our friend Sandra Kennedy, what better occasion than to dine out in the finest restaurant available nearby.. considering that we all live 50 km from the nearest town..
Mihu and her mother Vida and I ate well at Rasberry's rest in South Sioux City in Nebraska tonight. I made sure that there was a bottle of Australian Cab Sav, in this instance by Wolf Blass..
Even if you are very isolated, if you really want to, you can eat well.. and have a wonderful evening in the comfort of the friendships..
Happy Birthday to you, Sandra Kennedy in Melbourne..



It is one of Life’s greatest pleasures, indeed, when out of the mist of time, where memories hide, one small glimmer of a light comes out, bringing with it fragrances of a long forgotten exuberance.

One such thing happened to me today.

I was flying from Miami to Cairns starting my journey in Miami at 11 40 am, on the 1st of April  with Continental Airlines and then connecting with Qantas Airways in Los Angeles..Arriving in Melbourne on the early morning of 3rd...

I am transcribing what I wrote on the plane. I am sitting very comfortably in the lounge of Qantas Airways in Brisbane, where I had spent a delightful year some time ago.

One such thing happened to me today, from the mists of time, something emerged.

Like the Poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote

What all can happen in the course of a day...


Long wait at the LAX airport but the delay was made bearable by the Qantas Lounge, very well stocked with food and drinks and wine from our southern clime, free WI fi and quiet space to work in.

Few minutes before the boarding process began; I walked over to the gate. Looked at the people waiting to board the plane, mostly seated, already tired looking faces. A thought did occur to me, this flight is going to Melbourne, and surely, in the dim past, I may have met one of these people, now indistinguishable to me by the passage of time, and had a drink? I cannot recognize them... so I did no more than a cursory look around, the context of that life has now disappeared.

But it was not to be.

I was one of the first to board, went into the more spacious part of the aircraft. The purser greets us; Tony is his name, looks at my boarding pass and says, Seat 1 K, the best seat on this 747-400 bound for Melbourne.

Comfortably settled into my seat, busying myself with papers, writing materials, reading materials, collected here and there and now a small mound of printed material.

I believe the effect we call LUCK is the LOVE that we have in our lives and the affection we feel for others, and in the infinite mirror that is surrounding us, the LIFE, it is reflected back to us. And then we say we are lucky, instead of saying, we are being loved and we are capable of accepting and giving what we feel as LOVE.

It was a burnt out account executive, a woman, who was now dabbling in Travel Industry who offered to help me to get a ticket to Australia, on that distant cold day in January when I thought I would like to spend a good complement of days in Australia, mainly in Cairns. I wanted to fly to Cairns from Miami, the easiest being to fly to Honolulu and Guam and connect to Cairns. The previous trip to Cairns had been from Japan via Guam on Continental, when a memory of my friendships fomented in Easter Island was still fresh.

This Continental agent, now in her new life, obtained for me, with speed and efficiency on a direct flight to Melbourne, and then to Cairns, rather than the long and drawn and melodramatic Melanesian route through Honolulu and Guam. But there was a catch to this attractive offer, the flight to Australia would be on Qantas and then there is the reward! The seats would be in First Class. I have to accept the offer on the spot, since Qantas was withdrawing this generous offer to Continental in a matter of days. I graciously accepted to fly QF, our national airline, to Australia, on the nonstop 16 hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. And thanked those nebulous forces that had forced that lady, Ms Kay into the travel industry in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I began looking forward to my flight. I would like comfort when I fly, but I am not after luxury. The same goes with accommodation. While travelling through Asia, I don’t like to stay in Guest Houses set up by clever Vietnamese or Burmese for backpackers with less taste and even lesser amount of cash (but I see them spending an enormous amount of money on beer and drinks! With their fellow back packers, but it is their choice to spend balmy Hanoi evenings with fellow Australians or Malaysians). I would prefer to sleep in a proper bed, in places where there are windows to look out and not mosquitoes blood stains, and without staff that are not pretending to be friendly and familiar based on the cheap price paid for the accommodation. Give me Hotel Puri in Malacca any day! I like to fly Business Class (S class my Sephardic brother would say), mainly because of the space it affords. If they can give me two seats, which Continental very often tries to do when they have not already upgraded you to First Class. As long as my elbows and my shoulders are free, I am very happy. But luxury is not something I crave for, but that does not mean I have ignorant of the discretion on quality of life.

I am writing, freely associating my thoughts, and away from what I want to tell you. I was so happy with what happened to me on this flight that my mind and heart, usually surrounded by this magic of living, pardon the pun, literally took flight.

QF (this is the code for Qantas Airways. Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, formed in the early days of Aviation in Australia, which later rose up as a giant as QANTAS, and let me gently remind you this is one of the very few times in the English language, Q is not followed by a U!)

A QF flight attendant comes over, crisp and correct and polite and proper

Would you like a drink?

I wouldn’t mind a flute of champagne, reflecting my newly acquired taste of living in Paris.

A few minutes later,

May I serve the champagne now?

She pours Dom Perignon 1998

Nothing but the best from Qantas!

Comfortable and with a sense of satisfaction of deserving what is being offered, content, I began thinking and thanking the powerful forces of love that are in my life.

We don’t choose who we wish to fall in love with, therein lies the exuberance of living. We can also choose who we would like to consider our family. As we get older we have more family of choice than family of blood.

I feel the strength of love my sister Jackie has for me, the purity of it, the strength of it, and the lack of agenda in her actions. It is the hidden agenda that kills Love in a relationship.

A relationship with no agenda will grow, will grow wildly, and will grow beautifully.

Think of my relationship  with my little sweeties in Cuba, including Claudia, the only daughter I have, who was born before my love blossomed for her island home, here there is no agenda and the love is like a wildfire. I am willing to sacrifice for her, so that she will have a good life ahead of her, of that I am very certain.

Once an agenda enters, emotional or physical or materialistic, the purity of the relationship is damaged and slowly the relationship marches slowly to its death.

The lack of agenda is what propels individuals towards helping others. It is a sign of one’s usefulness...

All these bring me to Sandra Kennedy, the person in the midst of the joy of this flight to Australia.

So the moments roll on, some dreams come true, some are born, you work hard towards to some others, saying Luck has found you.

I was sitting in seat 1 K (you can go to and check out Qantas 747-400 seating arrangements and you will see where I was! If you like), a lady comes over and begins a conversation

Do you remember? We have met each other before, once upon a time in Melbourne or in Singapore!

 I looked at her name tag

Sandra Kennedy

I was a junior doctor then, partying, talking into the night, those were our primary concerns, looking after patients at the teaching hospital was almost like a hobby, we were not given to the self attached importance of the American junior doctors who think the entire world revolves around them. We were humble in that regard and were more interested in cultivating a taste for various vineyards of our state rather than becoming proficient with facts printed in the textbooks! It was a life of splendor, an infatuated earth, a magical life made more magical by our immature frivolity. We wanted to laugh, eager to experience all sorts of love, but were in a society still suffering from the effects of the memories of war and colonial excursions, rather Victorian in taste true to the name of our state. We were on the brink of enlightenment; we lived under this restraint which affected our thinking. Australia was coming out of the 100 years of darkness into a modernity brought by the aftermaths of the war in distant countries (an opening of minds that brought people from Asia to this country), began incorporating a little bit of the culture of those countries, still distant because of the myopia, but Australia opened up never to become a closed society ever again. This was the Melbourne of 1980s. We were then Princes and Princesses.

It was a time of hope and what was taught by that life in Melbourne, in those impressionable days, still stays with me.

May be that is why, when Sandra Kennedy sat in front me, that entire era came back to me, without much prompting.

When people ask me, are you content with your life and the blessings you have received?

I say emphatically, yes, and in a certain order, I think of the incredibly lucky things bestowed upon me

That I am a Jew

That I spent my impressionable years of my life in Australia and still hold Australian nationality

That I work for indigenous peoples

That I am a Medical Anthropologist

That Cuba came into my life

That I am a Medical Doctor

But these are just structural, geographical processes of my life but far more important are the human relationships, large and small, that have passed through my life, and the great loves that remain; this is what I consider the greatest gifts of all in my life.

The countries which have given me such great loves, to begin with Australia, when I lived in Melbourne it was my paradise; London where the study of anthropology was augmented by the cultural and intellectual life for an English speaking person; United States where good friends have to be looked for, but once they find you, they are forever.

Cuba that unfathomable fountain of love and affection, sensuality and seduction and friendships tattooed to ones heart

And an additional gift was the learning what is meant by friendship and relationship taught to me by the Meskwakia, HoCank , UmonHon and Kickapoo Indians.

The memory is vacuum packed and once it is pricked, with Sandra Kennedy sitting in front of me, cavernous space inside Qantas 747 400 about to leave for Melbourne, it flushes out, like a broken dam flooding everything around it, with no boundaries; faces , lives, voices, flowers, forgotten kisses, emotional as precious as embers, all rush out.

Sandra Kennedy from Melbourne, 28 years with Qantas Airways, sees me entering the aircraft that would take both of us to Melbourne, where once we spent pleasant times in the company of our friends, realizes it is me. Waits for the manifest to arrive just to make sure the face from the depth of memories match with the name she remembers as well, from the pleasant cauldron of memories of an unforgettable life in Melbourne.


Moet and Chandon always remind me of a song, Killer Queen...

Tonight’s dinner consisted of

Orecchiette Pasta and Artichoke salad with walnuts and Porcini dressing

Blackened Cajun Salmon with Fresh lime, rice pilaf and Black eyed Beans

Orange and pistachio olive oil cake with grand Marnier mascarpone


The flight left a little late, bid good bye to the shores first seen by European Alvaro Cabral who later on went on to “discover” Brasil and in 15 hours time, I was able to see the etchings of land at the western end of the Pacific, the Australian mainland, once visited by Cook, La Perouse and Bougainville.

I feel that even before this short trip to Australia, it is complete with joy. As Indians would say, what it means, we are too simple to understand and predict.

Sandra Kennedy from Melbourne was the source of this joy on this trip to Australia.

Dr Sudah Yehuda Kovesh Shaheb is an Australian Citizen, lives in Paris where his heart is, goes to Cuba to learn and teach Anthropology where his soul is, works with American Indians who teach him about Life.

3 April 2008

9 25 am Melbourne time, we were just about to come into Tullamarine, Melbourne International Airport

12 25 am in Paris

7 25 am in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

6 25 am in Siem Reap, Cambodia

6 25 pm the day before in Miami and Havana


Someone or other asks, you  drink wine, don’t you? Yes, I answered enthusiastically, thinking of the many grapes that have titillated my taste buds during those days in Melbourne. Australia is a veritable paradise for followers of Bacus..

I left a bottle of 

Dom Perignon 1998 wit my brother Ko Maung Maung in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I must rush back to savour it amidst that smoldering heat and carved stones from eternity

Cullen Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon 2006

Bay of Fires Pinot Gris 2006 from Tasmania were given to MunChing my dearest friend in Kuala Lumpur who promptly gave it away to some of her relatives..

I am proud to be from a country which produces such good wine. No wonder I love Argentina, our sister southern nation, whose Mendoza, like our Barossa Valley, produces many a good drop, especially Malbec.


Once we had retrieved our luggage, she helped me through Quarantine, getting me a green stamp from an official wandering around helping people with their requirements; he asks a few questions and puts the green stamp which allows me exit the area, along with Sandra, without further scrutiny from the Quarantine people who are notorious. She walked with me to the Domestic terminal and got my boarding pass and then we bid good bye.

Knowing very well that we will meet again, she will have a curry dinner at her home, possibly in a new location, shared with her husband of 15 years and renew moments with friends whose memory rolls of our brains.

It is a sign for me that my relationship with Australia will be rekindled again but yet another level.



mercredi 18 mars 2009

Visitors in an afternoon in the HoCank Clinic

This afternoon was a very pleasant afternoon.. I had various visitors some of whom are shown above. Five medical students from the City nearby came over to listen to some earbashing about culture and medicine.

In the Reservation, I feel I am part of the general community in that you know people of all ages and the little ones especially make special efforts to come over to say hello.

To explain to the medical students that a broader general knowledge is necessary to become a wholistic physician, i gave a short quiz to them. You might want to try it as well..


Which place has the highest population density?


  1. Gaza Strip
  2. Singapore
  3. Bangladesh



Who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008?


Can you name Americans who have won nobel prizes in Literature?



What is the political crisis in Madagascar? (not the movie)


Medical History

Angina was first described by………………………….

What is the meaning of the word  Diabetes?.............................................

Who used it for the first time?......................................................................


American Indians

Name some of the best known American Indians?







Meaniing of the word





What percentage of Americans have never travelled?


Additional Question:


Who is healthier?  Mexican Immigrants or Mexicans born in the USA?



mardi 17 mars 2009

Pablo Neruda, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and Indians

there is a line from Pablo Neruda that keeps repeating itself in my head
y sabre acariciar las neuvas flores 
por que tu me ensenaste la ternura..
I am sitting at the end of the day at the clinic of the Indians
what all happens in the course of one day
work is much more social than technical in that with indigenous people technicality will not get you far, but heing human would..
i practise cultural medicine and socializing is a big part of it so that i can figure out what is happening in their bodies for which they consult me and what is happening in their lives which i extract the information of..
I think of Josie Bliss, Pablo's love in the 1920s Rangoon
the gilded pagodas the passion of Josie Bliss
now she lies restlessly on the banks of the river Irrawady
the nostalgia of something passionate lost along the way.
it is such a happy place when indians come to see you, teasing, making fun of you, laughing and sharing.
all in the midst of such poverty and suffering.
An older lady says she bought those shoes in 1950.. the man says he does eat only one meal every two days 
a young girl of 15 weighing twice as muc as me
it is so incongruous that poverty can bring you health, since you dont have money to buy bad food, you dont have a car so you walk..
A nice glass of sauvignon Blanc from marlborough region of Aotearoa..
ah well friends, americans loveable and friendly, go crazy on march 17th donning green and you can see me with a green wig at the clinic. this is the pleasure of working wth Indians.. you really can be yourself.. they teach you to be a human being because they are interested in who you are as a person not what you are as a professional
A bad person can never become a good professional, said one indian..
Avacado and Australia; KL and House of Glass; Schwedagon Pagoda and my Burmese sweeties; Paris and Home are all flickering through my mind.
Knowing me well. long ago the Indians gave me an Indian name
Ke Se Kui Te Pa
the man with his head in the clouds

So from these heights I say hello to all my old and new friends, scattered all over the world..
there is always room for more..

dimanche 15 mars 2009

Tokyo Sonata de Kiyoshi Kurasawa


JAPAO  2008


Watched on a flight from Paris to Madras on 16 fevrier 2009.

Avec Teruyuki Kagawa

Desperation. A senseof failure. Wanting to start all over. Authority vs truth. No one wants to face reality. Individuals hiding form reality. The society hiding from reality.Husband 46 fired fromhis job as an administrative manager, because of outsourcing of his job to China.

Ways of pretending: get dressed. Go to work. No work to go to.soup kitchen with many others pretending to go to work.

The humiliation of a strict society.

While at a job interview, can you demonstrate your talent, asks the recruiter. If you say so, do karaoke..


Wife thinks of this friend of sasaki. Both his friend and his wife gas themselves to death, couldn’t takethe humiliation..

It is the humiliation at  every turn in the society.

A child, asthmatic, tired of classes, classes, classes. A teacher of Japanese, forbids his students to read Manga, he himself reads erotic manga, in the train, solitude and loneliness everywhere.

A talented son, forbidden to play piano who would eventually save the family with his piano.

An older son, no place for him in the Japanese society,  tries all things that are open to him, ends up in Iraq fighting with the insurgents. Bizarre!

A poignant portrayal of a society tat I admire very much. But what Japan has done, the egalitarianism of the society and the strife to succeed at any price and keeping up the face… is it where all the other asian societies are headed?

Like Singapour or malasie ?

Myanmar has one advantage, it is too poor to be proud. In France, I saw people so afraid of the future that they were not able to pay attention to the present.

When the societies are elitist, demanding-in one form or another, Japan in Asia and so totally different from Europe, other asian countries eager to follow the Japanese example.. why do they wish to emulate Japan? In the European countries with their ideas of individual freedom , there is a collective fear of another sort.  Individual vs collective fear, the former in a collective society and the latter in an individual society.

Countries which are too poor, will remain healthy and happy…. With their TVs as their only access to this magical life of Japan, France or USA  or Malasie or Singapour.. For what?


vendredi 13 mars 2009

Bernard Lewis and the future of Arab Freedom..

Historian Bernard Lewis breathes a fresh perspective into the cultural conflict between the Arab and Islamic world and the west. Even as early as 1950, he had thought that the end of this conflict with the west would come from Moslems themselves if they could find a way to modernize themselves, rather than going back into the conservative, non progressive radicalist ideology.

Today I was reading an article by Bernard Lewis, a British Jew, now considered to be most erudite historian of Islam and its people and a doyen of Middle Eastern studies in America and the most influential post war historian of islam and the Middle East…and there are many more accolades.

The article was in March-April Issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS, a very influential monthly of western analysis of what happens around the world. The title of the article is Free at last? The Arab world in the 21st century.

I would like to summarize the article.

Until recently, Arabs (like the Indians in India) have been ruledby outsiders; Europeans and then Ottomans.

After the death of Gamel Abdel Nassr of Egypt, there has not been any great Arab leader and the idea of Pan Arabism has come to an end.

There are sizeable minority of non arab moslems who live in Arab lands who are beginning to clammer for some form of freedom. They include: Kurds in Iraq, Syria and also in Iran and Turkey. Berbers in North Africa.  (Zidane the French football star is of Berber origin, as are a large proportion of so called “ arabs” living in France).

Arab refusal to recognize the existence of Israel for the past sixty years is a serious problem. ( four wars fought, all won by Israel). Some demagogues in Asia (notably Mahathir of Malaysia) also had taken this blind approach, mainly in countries which had converted to Islam. ( A good read is VS Naipaul’s book on The Land of Believers).

The Oil wealth has actually increased Autocracy of rule and actually has decreased economic development.

Over the last quarter of a century, real GDP per capita has fallen throughout the arab world.  1999 GDP of all arab states was 532.2 billion dollars, similar to that of Spain. Today the total non-oil exportsof the entire arab world ( more than 300 million in population) amounts to less than that of Finland( less than 5 million in population).

The number of books translated into Arabic in the entire arab world is 1/5 of books translated into Greek in Greece. The number of books, original or translated, per million people is at a dismal low level, much lower than asia. (the above also applies to Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapour but not to India. The lowest number of books published per million is in Sub Saharan Africa)

In the field of Science and Technology, the news is BAD.

Israel registered 7652 patents in 20 years in the international arena. Egypt 77 Saudi Arabia 171Kuwait 52 Jordan 15 Syria 20

Compare this to South Korea 16 328.

The Arab world also has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.

There is a list published of the 500 best universities in the world which is revised annually. None of the 200 universities in the arab world has made into the list ; not even into the less restrictive Asia Pacific section of the list.

This cannot be attributed to the “imperialists” but to the people themselves.


The primary one is the lack of power of Women.

Only Iraq and Tunisia has some form intellectual freedom given to women, so that they can become judges, journalists, lawyers.

Treatment of Immigrants to the Arab world. We are always talking about the treatment of the  arab immigrants to the west but very seldom we hear about the sad plight of the immigrants to the arab world, such as the south Asians to UAE

The third is the Information Technology and the availability of information which the regimes are unable to control, so that the people with access to information, can gauge their progress within their individual countries and compare their levels of expressions and freedom with those of other countries. ( this may be a factor for Malays also in Malaysia. After 50 years of independence and unequal treatment of the immigrants, they are in no ways better off).


Some important milestones:

1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran

1991 Fall of the Soviet Union

US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan

All these events have given an impetus to the rise of radicalism.

Perhaps this very radicalism that would drive moderate arabs into making peace with Israel, since the threat from their home grown Islamic Militants is far more dangerous than the threats from Israel.

None of the Arab states could be said to represent their peoples consent or participation, but are governed on Loyalty or Obedience and oppression.

Under normal circumstances, opposition parties or groups will have to bow to democratic principles, but religious opposition parties like Hamas or Hizbullah don’t have to.

Lebanon is the only country in the region ( with the glaring exception of Israel) that has had any experience with democracy. Islamic theocracy leads to lesser development in the Islamic world. Democratization as has taken place in Lebanon, with healthy democratic rather than religious opposition parties may be a step ahead.

By choosing to treat themselves, including the intellectuals and women amidst them, and also the foreigners and immigrants, in a more just and equitable manner, perhaps the Arab society would define its place in the history of the 21st century.

Even though I am Jewish, I would very much like to see the Arab and Islamic societies move into the 21st century. The hypocrisy of going back to look for answers when every one is moving forward is metaphorically illustrated by designer veils in Iran and Malay girls wearing fashionable shoes and jeans and then cover their heads..

I also applaud France for limiting public expressions of private faith. School children cannot wear clothes which proclaim their religion, or symbols of the religion. Religion is a private matter and it should be held privately. Fundamentalism in any form is bad, in any religion. The fact that the conservative religious thinkers in the USA of various Christian sects have not produced any great intellectuals shows the probability that blind faith in a religion actually makes you blind.. to what is going around you, especially at a time, we are invited to participate, know, learn and enhance with all the wonderful things that is happening in this world..

jeudi 12 mars 2009

American Indian Faces

When people know that I am associated with native american indains, they usually ask me a slew of questions and i realize that the idea of an american indian is a constructed image in the minds of hte people, especially those who in Asia, for whom there is a very peculiaried view of American Indians.. so I am attaching a few photos I took today of some american Indian children, I had gone to visit them at their pre Kindergarten class..

it is time to go back to Asia.. I spent the entire month of October in Asia and it was just so delightful: India, Cambodia, Malaysia and then I went off to Australia..
I miss the depth of innocence of friendships in Asia, as long as your friends are not imitating others or foreigners and they are being themselves. It is a pleasure to be with any one who is comofortable with who they are...
Called Air France . They are able to offer me a Paris to Madras ticket and I can get a connecting ticket either to Yangon via bangkok or to KL and then on to Yangon. It has to be a short visit. A short visit to Siem Reap woudl also be welcome.. ah well let us see.. Air France also was able to offer me a a ticket ten days later back to Paris...

mardi 10 mars 2009

Ice Snow in the Indian Country

The village where i am now is eerily quiet, nary a vehicle or sound ..This morning, I noticed that the steps in front of the house where I am staying is slicker than usual and after warming up the car drove towards the Clinic. More like Sailing in that the car had no grip of the road and it was swaying. I was so deeply engrossed in listening to BBC world services that i was taken out of reverie only when the car spun around in front of the clinic.. I noticed that two indians in another car were keeping a respectable distance.. they told me later, perhaps spirits will protect you but you are a danger to others..
No one was at the clinic, and the clinic was shut down.. Now the problem of getting back to the house. Someone suggested that i leave the car there and get a ride with them, which i did. The photo shows the darkening skies of the morning and pictures taken of the same scenery at 6 pm, when the mellowing sun had decided to peek out.
Like the Indians say, never take Nature for granted, always listen to its pulse... you can have BBC another day..

lundi 9 mars 2009

Culture of Poverty

The Culture of Poverty

Today is March 9th, 2009 and I am in the richest country. (By their own reckoning and calculations.) But I am amidst a very disadvantaged part of that population. This is not Japan... you would know why if you are to read the just published book,

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Do Better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Allen Lane, 297 pages. In a review, it was written: Within the rich world, where destitution is rare, countries where incomes are more evenly distributed have longer lived citizens and lower rates of obesity, delinquency, depression and teenage pregnancy than richer countries where wealth is more concentrated.

So I am in a rich country, with a distribution of wealth similar to many Latin American countries, but without much destitution...Poverty yes, but not destitution, the kind one would see in SlumDog Millionaire!

I met a 35 year old from the Culture of Poverty today.

What is Culture of Poverty? Anthropologists would immediately recognize this sociological moniker of Oscar Lewis.

The culture of poverty concept is a social theory explaining the cycle of poverty. Based on the concept that the poor have a unique value system, the culture of poverty theory suggests the poor remain in poverty because of their adaptations to the burdens of poverty. (From Wikipedia)

The culture of Poverty is not just about MONEY and income but as many thinkers have pointed out, it is about values which are upheld by the society and also by individuals in that society. Those of us who are travelers would agree with my Meskwaki teacher, who told me... We may be poor, but we have our culture; we don’t mind poverty, we can deal with it, but it is misery that we don’t like. Recent excellent literature in English from India, (Vikas Swarup: Six Suspects; Arvind Adiga: The White Tiger) mould the characters with the motto: it is not just about poverty but Suffering…

Let me tell you about this representative of the culture of poverty. He had a nonchalant way of talking, the friendly way of talking of his people. He is 35 years old. He was happy to see me, having come to get some medications from the Pharmacy. He has not taken any medications (which he receives free of charge) since he left the job because he did not like the rules and regulations and the control the supervisor had over his work habits. (He was the janitor at a Clinic). He had been to the Casino, and had won some money, 1500 USD and has been in a splurging mood, and he and his wife has been out drinking each night and also visiting popular all you can eat restaurants in the vicinity. He looked at his watch and said, can’t wait to leave to go back to the city for some drinks and food.

The nurse opens the door and slips me the result of his blood sugar, it was over 525 mg/dl, a level at which any “normal” person would be suffering enough to be admitted to a hospital. Are you OK, yes, I feel fine…

He then began ranting and raving about his wife’s 18 year old son, who has dropped out of school, and thus depriving himself of a chance to learn a skill, ability to exercise his body by playing football...Now, I am told, he stays in bed during the day, at night gallivants around, with other in his age group..

Where is his father? I asked. His father lives nearby with his new wife and a daughter who is 16 years old. This boy used to live with them, but the father had kicked him out of his house after the boy made the girl (who is the daughter of the wife of his father) pregnant and before he turned 18, he was already a father. Now with no education, no skills, depending upon his mother for his daily expenses, this young boy stare into a future of darkness.

When I was his age, I was working, I was responsible, did the chores around the house, my new friend continued. This kid does not lift a finger, sleeps most of the day, does not prepare food for himself, throws something into the microwave oven and waits for his mother to prepare him something to eat in the evening and give him some money to go out and have fun with his friends.

My friend, to whom I had just administered 10 units of Insulin to bring his high blood sugar down, said... Soon after my sixteenth birthday, my girlfriend who was 16 at that time gave birth to my daughter... I worked hard and always provided for the girl who is now 19...

Words of a soldier of the culture of poverty, who at 35 is already a grandfather (his stepson has a one year old daughter!)...Unemployed and very soon unemployable, with no great skill to offer the society, and his health failing. (Even though he has type 2 Diabetes which affects adults, he has had this diabetes since he was 19 years old and is already beginning to show signs of complications such as early blindness!)…he has already created directly or indirectly another generation to carry on this legacy of poverty... Money, Job will not carry him out of the hole he has dug in the society, the very same society which discriminated against him and he is paying it back by becoming a burden and creating another generation of burden... and he will have the greatest revenge… by dying early... to hit this competitive society where the material production is most valued, he dies and deprives the society of its investment on him, whatever little it was. He will not pay them back and even in his death, he will continue to demand payments for those he had created…

I felt immensely sad. A life without hope. A darkness. And this in the richest country, he has become the measurement of the crimes the society as committed: dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, early death.

“Society prepares the crime, wrote Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian statistician, in 1835, and the guilty person is only the instrument.”

So I present to you, the instrument of the Culture of Poverty.

dimanche 8 mars 2009

Who comes to your Blog and reads them? NEOMETER

Just a few days ago I added this NEOCOUNTER to the blog. I never thought many people would have the time or inclination to read random postings, but it was nice to see that in a few days time, 55 people had visited the site, and more people had looked at the profile.. but what is interesting is that these people were from 24 different countries.. that is the power of Internet, something like this would have been impossible without the internet.. Diversity and Velocity.. this is our world now
By the way i got the neometer from an excellent blog of an armchair traveller who has interesting things about travel and sites and geography at his site

all the best and i would also make an effort to read other people's blogs.. just to show that someone is taking time to read what they write...

Jiddu in India and Rachel in Hong Kong...

A mind which is seeking permanency soon stagnates.. said JKM.

But like moths to the light, we are standing in line to conform. Here he is talking about the mind, but for most of us, we don’t even reach the level of thinking about it..we are trying to preserve our bodies and their integrity, mainly by providing it by comfort, mainly by coveting money, mainly sacrificing everything else.. in the end a life of very little consequence. An absence of life which took up some space, reproduced and left some evidence behind!

I meet people like this in Asia, in the name of Family, they destroy the uniqueness of the individual. They have thought only about money, what to do with it when they have it, and while they don’t how to accumulate it and what is that they must do to accumulate it.. discretion, good taste, enjoying the aesthetics are not part of the picture here..

Why are people so keen to follow this? They are willing to sacrifice themselves and their ideals for this, this idea of a future, where they would be healthy and happy.

In her book, Theatre of the Mind, the Paris based New Zealand Psychiatrist had written, most people are waiting as if the stage is about to open and they would feast on some show, without realizing that their life is the show and they are already on stage, only that they have forgotten their lines.. the scriptwriter without a training has left his job and gone, now the grown up man or woman faces a situation in which they are forced to imitate what the others say, rather than have the courage to think for themselves..

All this while being selfish. Selfish to an extreme. In the end what? If those surrounding you, closer to you cant love you, what about the humanity which you have completely ignored, do you expect them to love you? and are you going to the grave knowing that not many people loved you and that you played no significant part in any ones life, including your own children?

There is something of a connection between Security and Decay, you can achieve security only through some process of corruption and decay. That which has stalled cannot bring you happiness, that which is moving, the mind, which is fluid, which is open, will be happy..

But how many of us have courage to do that? to be free like that?

Written after getting an email from Rachel in Hong Kong who likes Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the lesser appreciated Indian philosophers. This note is  dedicated to her.

samedi 7 mars 2009

Back to the Blue House among the UmonHon

Air France Paris to Miami. a full flight, comfortable and safe flight. a little tedious, 9 h 40 minutes. five minutes for Immigration and less than one minute for Customs at Miami. They are now fingerprinting all non US citizens entering the USA.. 
A nice homecooked Jamaican meal waiting at the home of sister.. delicious.. and then a few short hours of sleep and time to go to the Land of the Indians.. the Indian Country

what all happens in such a short period of time..suddenly the air is different, the food does not taste the same, even the faces are different..
Gone are the fancy cars, well kept houses with tidy lawns... miles of fields now shivering under the cold..and suddenly you arrive at the village of the Indians..
I open the doors of the house where i stay, which we call the Blue House. An Indian patient and his wife had come during my absence and had cleaned the place up.. it was a nice feeling..

The American people in these parts are very friendly.. When I went to rent a car at AVIS the manager says to me, Have not seen you in a while? you would think they have other things to think of rather of worrying about a foreigner coming to their country once in a while.. such is their hospitality, friendliness and they are genuine when they say that..

I am looking forward to the next few days with the Indians, and believe you me, it is just like entering another time and space and i will slowly forget about every thing from that outside world, except of course Paris .. now that i have my homework to do in French...

mercredi 4 mars 2009

Normandie, Friends, Food and Nostalgie

I think of the good friends I have made over the years, how did they enter your life, silently, and then become inevitably etched..some arrive and leave soon enough but some others, will stay, regardless of time and distance.. How different it was for our ancestors, who were born, lived and died within miles of their known world.. We are the generation of travellers, first of all genetic travellers, since many of us carry genes from various parts of the world, we are born into places where our parents were strangers, and we grew up in some other part of the world and then studied, more travels.. Lucky are those of us, who can maintain our cultural identity through all this commotion. Some escape this cultural confusion by saying that they are a citizen of the world, more metaphoric than meanigful.. we all belong somewhere.. and as the poet Pablo Neruda has said.. un alma sin raices es injusticia.. a soul without roots is an injustice.. I have always liked people with strong national identity, who did not let geography or politics sway them into believing something else..
Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Burma all have given me good friends.. just in that part of the world... the largest number of friends are still in Cuba...with the advent of internet, it has become easier to keep in touch ..
The couple who stay in a farm house which was built in 1750s, she is from Normandie and he is a Breton; what a delightful couple. unpretentious. warm and in their presence, you feel yourself glowing.. i was with them this past weekend.. 

it is a wednesday evening in Paris, tomorrow I fly to Miami, yet another change. Liminality it is called in Anthropology...changing worlds, but full of affections..
Two months of 2009: Two Trips to India, this is the second trip to the USA.. just sit back and enjoy..

and of course, this is France, there is always good food, a nice bottle of wine.. just add lustre to the friendship..