Otherwise

Other and wise

There’s so many examples of the negativeness of the ‘other’ in society and politics.

Before the time of virus, people would cross the road to avoid walking by my black dog Lucie. It’s a cross-cultural fear.

Now in the time of virus they’re as likely to walk across the road because of me.

Recently, I was cycling on a local road busy with people doing their early morning exercise walk. A woman on the opposite side of the wide road lifts her Sari to cover her mouth on seeing me, a white foreigner. The Indians walking next to her had not been seen as a risk.

She didn’t know better but at the very least, it’s annoying.

The negative other.

Later that day three young children, sitting astride a wall laughing, smiling giggling, waving to me, a wonderful hello.

Shortly afterwards a man pushing a cycle gave a smile and wave.

The positive other

This took me back fifteen years to my first visit.

I came to India and christened it the land of a billion smiles and then I fell in love with and married Manjula, a woman with a billion smiles.

We find what we look for….

Now Manjula is my guru

I spread her smile with a friendly wave.

We might however at this ‘time of virus’ need to look a little closer to spot the smiling eyes shining above the face mask .

This was my story at today’s meeting of the Mysore Storytelling Network. A great new group for me of mostly young things. 🙂🙃😉

Manjula’s kind

Brain pickings on kindness and grief, because like everything in the world they’re connected.

KINDNESS

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

If you haven’t yet discovered brain pickings do pay it a visit and consider joining its mailing list and offering support.

“Those who experience, not the arts, but nature, may have a similar response, and also those who experience another human being. Do we not know the feeling that overtakes us when we are in the presence of a particular person and, roughly translates as, The fact that this person exists in the world at all, this alone makes this world, and a life in it, meaningful.” Viktor Frankl also from Brain Pickings

Or more on grieving

Grief… happens upon you, it’s bigger than you. There is a humility that you have to step into, where you surrender to being moved through the landscape of grief by grief itself. And it has its own timeframe, it has its own itinerary with you, it has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes. And when it comes, it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to, and it carves you out — it comes in the middle of the night, comes in the middle of the day, comes in the middle of a meeting, comes in the middle of a meal. It arrives — it’s this tremendously forceful arrival and it cannot be resisted without you suffering more… The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility and you let it rock you until it is done with you. And it will be done with you, eventually. And when it is done, it will leave. But to stiffen, to resist, and to fight it is to hurt yourself. Elizabeth Gilbert

Manjula was full of them.

Ideas and jokes that is.

It all did begin as a joke. Justin is leaving Mysore so we’ve craftily fetched a couple of useful items that he can’t take with him.

That’s our first stage.

Manjula’s concerns included what to do with all the stuff I was bringing home. Especially art and books. She reckoned there wasn’t enough room. Wrong!

Second she wanted to give me things to do when I couldn’t lead cycle tours anymore. When I was 75, or so she thought.

Well it all started with Faizan borrowing. Now we have Manjula’s library. She’s left it a bit messy.

There’s also a work area and..

Balcony.

Available for guests and our friends in Mysore

Manjula

we remember our majesty, her specialness, her smile, her love, her everythingness on this the anniversary of her death.

we love you Manjula and feel your warmth as you’re always with us.

Stephen and Lucie

later …… I’m back home now. That wonderful woman has followed me all over Mysore including visiting the ashram where we regularly sponsor the meals. We’ve kept our Distance so as not to put ourselves or anyone else at risk. Manjula was introduced to neighbours she already knew and many more during our journey. There’s no doubt they all know we were married. We creating many smiles and we’re applauded everywhere we went. I’ve lost count of the thumbs up. Today her anniversary, was the day after the curfew and tomorrow there’s a full on lock-down, seems appropriate some how. Thanks for your thoughts and support.
Stephen 

Manjula gives

She always has and always will. Whether it was her love shared through her wonderful cooking, her gifts, sometimes cash when people needed it and most of all her warm personality. It was in Manjula’s nature to love and connect with people here and around the world. Manjula would draw people to her. Her insights, generosity and extraordinarily sensitive to people’s plight was an integral part of her, maybe resulting from the hardships that she experienced throughout her life.

As a celebration of our engagement we gave gifts: she cancelled what was left of the outstanding loan to Vasanth for his auto rickshaw and gave cycles to the driver’s children and to a project that helped trafficked young people.

Her giving has continued through the funding of meals at a local ashram, the benches in our local park. What next?

We’re looking for ways to continue to reflect Manjula’s beautiful personality and her connecting to people. We’ll keep you informed through this site. Do feel free to make your own suggestions of help we can give in Manjula’s name.

Our latest guest Giacomo (aka Siva and his partner Anita) who has visited Manjula and I in Mysore many times have left a donation towards the next projects we support.

 

Manjula gives

again and again and again… meals for the elders at the Ashram, her Clothes for Sowbhagya and Chic, who work for us and the old lady who’s mud house is featured on our cycle tour. A Sari for Vidya who’s expecting her first birthday next week. Thank you Ina for all your help

 

 

People want change

How can they find it?

 In America, four out of five people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 saw an ability to bring about change as his most important quality. That tells us less about Trump than it does about the way that real agents of change, social movements that can truly transform people’s lives, have crumbled.

People need change, although they might deny it, and need to feel they have both purpose and some control over their lives.

Image is from my 50th birthday invite and how life changed a few years afterwards.

So what’s life without it purpose or meaning?

Humans, Frankl suggests, find themselves only through creating meaning in the world. Meaning is not something to be discovered – it is something that humans create. They do so by acting upon the world. “Man does not simply exist,” Frankl wrote, “but always decides what his existence will be”

Check the article here for more info.

I created my change and a new meaning through my muse, my catalyst, my Manjula.

I write this on a reflective journey, realising we can’t control, seeking to add to that meaning and find fulfilment whilst holding my dear to me.