It’s the one year anniversary of the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi. The date also marks the night — The Times of India reminds us this morning — when a nine-year-old boy named Raju was assaulted and sodomized in the city, and Razia left her toilet-free home for relief and was attacked. It’s not just the young modern educated girls out carousing with their boyfriends (How dare she. A movie? Out at 9:00 pm?) who are at risk. It’s not just girls. The protests that erupted were in the name of Nirbhaya, the student, but they were also for these two, and for all those whose skins and boundaries have been unwillingly transgressed at the hands of another. [Read more…]
Bengalaru, nestled in the Deccan Plateau in the center of southern India, is known as the Garden City. On Sunday morning, I set aside the work that brings me here, set aside the old name of Bangalore and the new moniker of Garbage City (this IT capital doubled in size in the last ten years, to 8+ million, but never quite got a sanitation system in place. And don’t get me started on the traffic…). Instead, let’s just revel together in the presence of Vijay Thiruvady, who led a group of us on a tour of the Lal Bagh Garden as part of Bangalore Walks. History! Culture! Discovery! Gorgeous, oxygen-producing greenery. I drank and drank of it. [Read more…]
Breyten Breytenbach, in tribute to Ryszard Kapuscinski:
Listen: you must continue traveling because the earth needs to be discovered and remembered again and again, cyclically, creatively, with her season and her sounds, with the warm breath of hospitality, with the healing touch of strangeness…lest it become cold and impenetrable — a barren place of power and politics.
On my way back from Mussoorie, I stopped for a couple of days at Navdanya. Here’s how they describe themselves:
Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 17 states in India.
Navdanya has helped set up 111 community seed banks across the country, trained over 5,00,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country.
Navdanya has also set up a learning center, Bija Vidyapeeth (School of the Seed / Earth University) on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttarakhand, North India. [Read more…]
I stepped into the small shop in Mussoorie to get a bag I’d asked too much of stitched up. The man sat on the floor of the shop, which was not much larger than the strapping SUVs that wrangled their way down the narrow old streets. His wife sat in a chair, stitching by hand. He motioned me to sit on a low bench as his hands reached for black thread, and slipped it it into the spool of the hand-powered, well-oiled sewing machine. His hands moved with a precision born of decades of this motion — gossamer thread, eye of the needle, the smooth movement of cloth under the jabbing point, fingers safe, hand spinning the wheel. As he worked, I looked at the sign taped to the wall above him:
Someone belatedly caught the typo. Made a correction with pen. The tailor was done. He lifted a pair of golden-handled shears that could have cut through armor and with a delicate snip, finished the job. “Kitne?” I asked. “Das rupees,” he answered and I handed him the worn red note worth sixteen cents and gave my thanks to him and his wife and returned to the winding road that led uphill.
It was a pleasure to join Camille Buat and the locals and travelers and students of Landour for a double-talk evening. Camille spoke about the complicated forces at work within the labor movement of the jute industry in 1930s’ Calcutta (sometimes labor won!), and I shared some photos and thoughts on the work-in-progress of Elemental India.
Back in Oregon we called them hikes. Here in the Himalayas, they’re treks. Same movement of body across landscape, listening to breath, feeling legs do their wondrous work, pacing oneself, and simultaneously absorbing your surroundings while not falling off a cliff. Visitors like myself do this for fun… [Read more…]
Just like seaside communities share a feel, their gestalt, made of salt air and sand, here too there is something that has brought back other mountain towns I have known. I flash to visits with Mott in Grenada’s Hermitage village, where behind the chocolate factory, the hill descends into a steep tangle of greenery where we would stumble down to collect callalloo. I am huffing up the hill to a house in Valle de Bravo, soon to discover forests of monarchs. With the wooden call of ravens filtering through dripping evergreens, I am in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Even the ride from Dehradun was a trip into the Rift Valley in Kenya, complete with vendors selling roasted corn-on-the-cob and shacks selling sodas and chips to honeymooners and young men on motorcycles. The shop shacks and homes alike are cleaved to cliffs – the contradictory meaning of cleave made clear here. What can stick fast can also be drawn asunder. It is easy to imagine the damage caused by the flooding in another part of Uttarakhand this past summer, the engineering bravery of all those hillside homes tumbling down with the force of water and gravity. [Read more…]
One of my absolute favorite photojournalists is Ami Vitale. Here she is talking about her work around the world for a short film by MediaStorm, featuring her photography and videoography, as she talks about the power of the lens, the power of the natural world, and the power of people to make change in their lives.
It’s simple. Ten minutes before you plan to bathe, you flip a switch. The light comes on and the water heats up. You wash. You turn the switch off. Geysers, as these small almost-instantaneous-but-not-quite hot water heaters are called in India, are so smart. I don’t keep a kettle simmering all day so that when the urge for a cup of tea strikes, I can have it instantly. (btw, for my tea at home, I use this, one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.) Same idea. Yet this is how we heat water in American homes. It’s the second largest energy expense in the average home, typically accounting for about 18% of the utility bill.
This one in the guest house where I’m staying is particularly cheerful.