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vendredi 31 juillet 2015


Romance in the time of the Monsoon

How can I not think of Gabo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, when I am wandering around this lovely small town of Fort Cochin?
I was watching the sunset, the breeze from the Arabian Sea, the swaying bodies of the local people with their wide smiles, fishermen trying one last time to unload their wares for the day. The tourists are afraid to come because of the monsoon and the pregnant skies are threatening but in the four days I have been here, there has been no rain.
But I did buy an umbrella.
When and how did I fall in love with Fort Cochin?

I have been a traveler all my life and there are towns and cities that just caress your heart, I return to them over and over again where I feel completely at home, regardless of the fact that I am just visiting, but I take ownership of the streets with the abandon of the mindful caretaker. Smile is a must, I remember my good friend Joe of Bogor, and of course here the smiles are returned.
I am completely at ease walking along the streets of Havana, Cuba. I remember falling in love with the village of Baracoa in the eastern end of Cuba; I still can recall that feeling to this day. Miami is a city that offers me comfort, during my travels; it is always good to rest a day or so there. I am happy also that I can get a good cup of Cuban coffee there.
The biggest city that I have fallen in love with and still in love with is London, I am not tired of it nor will I be. Melbourne, Australia would always be special. Suva in Fiji islands soothed my itchy feet during my student days and at one time I thought of living in Honolulu in Hawaii (also liked Hilo).
This year I have discovered Leticia on the Colombian Amazon, Quiberon on the Brittany Coast with its wild coast offers refuge. I loved the British colonial architecture of Rangoon, Malacca in Malaysia always opened a secret or two to me, there I had the chance to study the Greatest Navigator that ever lived, Zheng He/Cheng Ho. I would have loved Hanoi more if only I could communicate with the Vietnamese a little better, in Siem Reap, Cambodia the streets always welcomed me. Who would not welcome a tango in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, walking the same streets of Palermo as Jorge Luis Borges?

I plan to enjoy this romance for a few more days, then a long journey to Mexico where I have to remind myself that I am a Physician, continue being with the Indigenous People of the American Continent.


Elias Josephai 

When and if  this gentleman goes to Israel to join his children, the last of any Jewish lived in knowledge and history would end
A sad personal note for many of us, but in the light of the history of Jews, another chapter has closed.
I remember meeting an Israeli lawyer in Fort Cochin during my early visits, and she asked me, if there are Jews here, what are they doing here? They should be in Israel.
That was what happened in 1950 with the mass exodus of the majority of Jews who inhabited Fort Cochin, Ernakulum, Paroor, Chengamangalam and Mala. Edifices and cemeteries are now historical monuments and with one exception all in the state of neglect. Fortunately there are Hindu, Christian scholars who are interested in the maintenance of the history of Jews in this area. So these ancient edifices, synagogues of peculiar Kerala architecture, might have a second life as memorial to the wonderful history of Jewish People in this part of the world.
I became interested in isolated Jewish communities and as I became an Anthropologist, the reasons for them wanting to be there and their reasons for survival and disappearance. What happened to the Jews of Penang? Rangoon? Batavia? Calcutta? Surat? All of them trading communities were predominantly of immigrant Iraqi Jews of recent vintage.
In my travels, I come across small number of people, claiming their long lost heritage as Marranos or forgotten Jews, or claiming to be Jews through some DNA studies or more commonly claiming to be members of the lost tribe. In fact there are many books written about them. But my interest is historic Jewish communities which have maintained their contact with the Jewish world throughout centuries and carried on the traditions.
We learned a lot about Beta Israel of Ethiopia and the majority of them now live in Israel. There are five other exotic Jewish communities three of which are on the brink of extinction.
The small Jewish community of Indonesia formed during the rule of the Dutch. The synagogue of Surabaya was destroyed by fanatics in 2013, when a government such as Indonesia or Malaysia or Brunei, on the basis of their religion, adopts an antagonistic attitude towards Israel and by its extension to all Jews everywhere, the chances of survival as a community is dimmed; there is a small Jewish community in Manado. These are all recent migrations, possibly from 19th century. In a way this community much resembles the Jewish communities of Singapore and Hong Kong, where merchants settled down, and now during the time of liberation and independence, augmented by Jewish businessmen. While Singapore and Hong Kong lie on the crossroads of world commerce, Surabaya and Manado are more isolated.
The truly exotic Jewish communities are the following three:
The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan
They speak JUHURI, a Farsi based language with Hebrew remnants. Azerbaijan is notable among its Moslem neighbours in that it maintains good relationship with Israel.
The Bukharan Jews of the old silk route of Bukhara. They have migrated to Jerusalem and Bronx in New York but fiercely maintain their style of worship and rituals.
The Jews of Cochin. Many books have been written about them but the outsiders who came to study them did excellent studies on their rituals, music but a good anthropological study was never done and now it is too late.
7 Jews (5 elderly and 2 in their forties) live in Fort Cochin; the community which was vibrant once upon a time has long ceased to be. The synagogue is taken over by the Archeological Commission of India and has become a tourist attraction. A run down skeleton of another synagogue and a cemetery are nearby.
In Ernakulum, there are individuals but with the exception of Elias Josesphai there are no practicing Jews. Elias and his wife Ofra, with their two daughters Avital (Haifa) and Lea (Bombay, hopefully soon Israel) has been the last Jewish family in Cochin for many years. Elias is the only person who can give a coherent history of his people. For telling the truth he has gotten into trouble more than once.
Strangely enough those who migrated from Cochin to Israel seldom return and certainly have not cared for the synagogues and cemeteries left behind. The two synagogue buildings in Ernakulum are in a dilapidated state and we would need the help of our fellow sympathizers if these buildings are to survive,
A Jew cannot exist alone; he needs a community to exist as a Jew. While some individuals of Cochini Jewish origin or Baghdadi Jewish origin may continue to live in India, the illustrious, long, exotic history of the Jewish Community of Cochin is at an end,

As a historical addendum, new research shows that the majority of Jews who settled in the Malabar Coast originated in the Middle East, in what are now Syria and Iraq and Yemen. The migration from Spain or Portugal was minimal. The adoption of Hindu status and caste system as well as European idea of race was introduced much later into the history of Jews here. This was not a Sephardi community but a Mizrahi Jewish community. 

lundi 27 juillet 2015


he was dressed impeccably, waiting for me at 17 boulevard vaugirard, the address of the Montparnasse Station in Paris. His car was clean and shiny. He looked me as I was struggling with my luggage and my jacket on this hot humid parisian day, and we recognized each other immediately, even before we exchanged any words.
I sat in the front, I told him, in this way we can talk our way to the CDG Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, he was pleased. We talked about Amazegh his people, the original people of North Africa (Arabs are not native to that region and conquered that area which they called Maghreb or the West). We talked about the Amazegh (popularly called Berber in the west or Moors in English historically). He was happy to hear that Tariq ben Zayad who conquered Spain was an Amazegh and that Gibraltar is a corruption of Gib el Tariq , meaning the rock of Tariq.. 
When I said I live in Cuba, his eyes lit up. I have been to Cuba five times, I love the Cuban people and their friendliness, he exclaimed. Needless to say our friendship was sealed by this time, and our conversation covered a lot of subjects as we traversed through the beautiful sights of Paris, Palais Royal and Pont Alexandre, then on to the peripherique.. Paris is like a museum, he exclaimed with joy in his eyes. He spoke English very well, he said, more than 95 % of his clients are non french and he said, every one speaks English, to which I added, except the French! He was impressed with the Cuban Health and Education system and that every one was entitled to a good education. I told him that France has a good educational system but it is available to only a few elite people, not democratic enough in its selection. Many of his guests are from the Middle East and he said that the patrons from the Gulf states all spoke English well enough to speak to him in English.
He had a good view of Cuba, as we talked I realied he had a view of Cuba, not as a tourist but he viewed cubans as fellow citizens and not as a tourist views a native population. he wants to come back to cuba for further visits and I gave him my card and told him that it would be my pleasure to invite him for dinner if we coincide in Cuba.
He said that in Cuba, every one embraced him when he told them he was from Algeria. As any Cuban knows, Algerie was the first country that Cuban International Medical Teams went to and I have a photo of Che Guevara arriving at Algers in 1961 begin the cooperation between Cuba and Algeria!
I asked him, what is your name?  he replied ATMAN, i was surprised and asked him to spell it and he did, as above ATMANE. Did you know that ATMAN means SOUL?  I am learning a lot from you, doctor , he smiled and acknowledged. 
We avoided talking politics or religion, he was proud to be Amazegh, and he pointed out, Amazegh means FREE PEOPLE, I am Free he said, to do what i want and how I worship. It is true there are Berber Christians and Berber Jews!
He has to have a broad mind, he meets many clients in his job, he keeps an open view and he has noticed that it pays in the end in that many clients stay with him for days on end, engaging his services through the service company he is employed.
I wanted to show a token of my appreciation and what he said amazed me
Doctor, when you are in another country tomorrow, please look for a family who need money more than I do, please arrange a dinner for them, and I would please me no end. It will be done with my heart.
When was the last time, you heard that from a chauffeur or a taxi driver, especially in this unfriendly city for travellers, Paris? Why cant the french smile like the genuine smile of Atmane, which comes from his heart rather than his outward appearance, in this city which prides itself in keeping up the outside appearance so well ( coutoure, parfume, shoes etc)?

Atmane, my friend, is a credit to his employers, a credit to his people Amazegh and also to his adopted land, France. 
I chuckled with him when I told him the story of trying to get something done at Montparnasse station where no one was friendly and even less spoke English.
He is a proud addition to France and to Europe and to humanity.

lundi 20 juillet 2015


No puedo vivir sin ternura
One cannot live without tenderness
Pablo Neruda once wrote
Sabre acariciar las neuvas flores por que tu me ensenaste la ternura
I shall know how to touch new flowers gently because you taught me tenderness
When I was a recent graduate doctor in Melbourne, so much in love with my profession and a fellow doctor, the words,
I want to whisper my love to the wind to touch your hearing,
Had more than just romantic sensation but I wonder how someone can be a source of such inexhaustible tenderness
I have been in search of it, guided by the above thoughts, as I became conscious of the infinite sweetness of this world, on my way from Miami to Melbourne via London, with my medical diploma tucked under my arms.
If such words synchronized with passion, I knew that paradise existed.

That was and that is the best construction for me, Tenderness with passion with Lovers;
Tenderness with sensuality with friends.
When I found Cuba, I knew a country of tenderness existed. I cannot think of any other country which is tenderer than Cuba. But tenderness can exist among individuals in all parts of the world.
Culture, Country and Expected behavior may modify the tenderness in individuals. Cuba enhances it and many countries such as Malaysia or France may extinguish it
Now you can stop wondering why I love Cuba so much
It is the so called reality that puts out the fire of tenderness. Fears, complexes, inability to be pure, all interfere with it.

I have been asked more than once in my life, your words are so full of tenderness but are they real or carry an agenda of their own?
Recently in Cuba I experienced that familiar feeling of already liking a person before you had met them, only to be asked, why are you so intense about new friendships?
To me, all new friendships deserve intensity and friendships will find their own level of equilibrium. Allow the friendships that freedom to be where it wants to be, do not manipulate it, intentionally or subconsciously.
Give a chance to reality; everything sinks to the lowest level.

Just in one month, I met so many wonderful people, in South Africa, Abu Dhabi, Brasil, Colombia and Cuba. To each of them I extended my arms and a bit of my heart. Some were suspicious but I was the winner with some new friendships, great amount of wisdom added to this universe of affections.
Some are unable to receive or reciprocate affections given without restrictions (Bordes is a nice word in Spanish in this context), but they may have 1000 different reasons. I talked to everyone I met in Medellin-taxi drivers, receptionists, waiters, flight attendants; they all enriched my life and Thank You.

I can say, I believe and offer, Tenderness without Borders.
The treasury, that great bakery in the sky of unending tenderness is still Cuba.

When I arrived in the small village of Quiberon in the Brittany coast, I was greeted with such tenderness that I fell in love once again all over again with the entire world. Such strong innocent feelings can exist-without asking anything in return.

lundi 13 juillet 2015


A message to my Cuban Psychologist and Anthropologist Friends.
1 July 2015 La Habana, Cuba
We, as Psychologists and Anthropologists, have a gap to fill, in the Health Care (distinguish it from Disease Care).
The Doctors and Professors, with Curing World View and who are not versed in the Social Sciences of Healing, think in terms of Objectifying WHAT is happening to a PERSON/BODY down to far simpler relationships within the body. Only when they cannot find an explanation, will they turn to us, social scientists, to help them understand the chaos for them. We, as Psychologists and Anthropologists, are able to seek, find some order within the disorder of the individual because we consider the body of the patient/person to be connected to the Universe- through Family, Work, Social, Political, and Economic and Religious dynamics.
No one exists in a vacuum, as those who objectify would like to think.
We have to bring our message to them.
Two thoughts from an Anthropologist:
Even if you do not have Diabetes, plan your nutrition as if you have Diabetes
As Indians remind me, to be a HEALER (not a CURER), one has to be a good person. A Bad person can never be a Good Doctor/Healer.
medical doctors need to know medical science as well as social sciences such as the Anthropologist, Marc Auge

(the reality of Cuba 2015.. a Persian restaurant with photo of the great Iranian poet Ahmad Shamloo!)
Un mensaje a mis psicólogos y antropólogos cubanos.
01 de julio 2015 La Habana, Cuba
Nosotros, como psicólogos y antropólogos, tenemos un vacío que llenar, en el Cuidadores de la Salud (distinguirla de Atención de Enfermedades).
Los médicos y profesores, con vista biomedical del mundo  y quién no están versados​​en las Ciencias Sociales de la Curación, piensan en términos de objetivar lo que estásucediendo a una PERSONA / BODY hasta relaciones mucho más simples en el cuerpo. Sólo cuando no pueden encontrar una explicación, se volverán a nosotros, los científicos sociales, para ayudarles a comprender el caos para ellos. Nosotros, como psicólogos y antropólogos, son capaces de buscar, encontramos un poco de orden en el desorden de la persona porque consideramos que el cuerpo del paciente / persona a estar conectado a la Universe- a través de la familia, el trabajo, Social, Político y Económico y dinámicas religiosas.
No existe uno en el vacío, como aquellos que objetivar gustaría pensar.
Tenemos que llevar nuestro mensaje a ellos.
Dos pensamientos de un antropólogo:
Incluso si usted no tiene diabetes, su plan de nutrición sera mejor,  piensa  que usted tiene diabetes
Como los indios me recuerdan, ser un sanador (no curandero, los medicos por ejemplo), uno tiene que ser una buena persona. Una persona Mala nunca puede ser un buen doctor/sanador/psicologo/antropologo