Blog Archives

Chardi Kala – Sikhism Explained

Sunday’s shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin, which resulted in seven deaths and additional injuries, hit close to home for me as many of those who hosted me during my time in India are Sikhs. I also visited the Golden Temple, the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, with my dad when he visited me during my year abroad.

Ignorance and hate motivated Sunday’s killings. In an attempt to support the healing and possibility that stem from this tragedy I have written an article for PolicyMic, an online media forum, about the Sikh faith. Education is a powerful tool in overcoming ignorance and hatred but more important is ACTION. The Sikh community is one which gives generously without being asked. I invite you to think of one thing you can do today, this week, this month, to give to someone near you. If anything I ask you to please share my article with your friends, family, and social networks.

I hope you learn something from this piece and I look forward to your feedback. Act for peace. Be love.

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The Most Difficult Part of Packing – My Books

I knew this moment would come. As the collection of books on the small shelf at the foot of my bed grew throughout the year I had a gnawing sense knowing that one day I would have to part ways with many of them. I am a bookworm. I wore a uniform from first through twelfth grade so I’ve never had a problem with closet space, but if there is one thing I am good at collecting it is books. Even though I successfully downsized my library at home by half last summer I still have two almost entirely full bookcases in my bedroom at my parents’ house. Those books will soon be joined by twenty or more which I am sending home from India. I didn’t have this same problem when I studied abroad in Chile but India, with its very cheap books published in English, is a veritable trap for anyone with my book hoarding vice.

The number of books sent home to Minnesota would have been even greater if I had not sat down a few days ago to the most difficult task of deciding which books I would give away and which I would keep. There is no science to this method. It is an emotional process. I read a lot this year. Books got me through some of the darkest and loneliest moments in the months when I was still adjusting to my life in India. I have always felt like the world makes most sense when I am in a library or bookstore or settled in a comfy chair with a great paperback in my hands. Whenever I walk into my favorite Delhi bookstore – Fact & Fiction in Vasant Vihar – I still feel the same sense of overwhelming relief and at-home-ness that I felt the first time I discovered it one hot and humid August afternoon during my first month in Delhi.

I kept track of the books I read this year in the back of my journal. Between July and now I have read 20 books. Allow me to briefly reflect on my reading list. On the flight over I was reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, a fascinating look into how humans make snap judgments. I satisfied my inner econ junkie and continued the pattern of fun anecdotes with SuperFreakonomics and then took a hiatus from paperbacks to listen to the epic and engaging Fall of Giants audiobook by Ken Follet. I made the questionable choice of reading White Tiger by Aravind Adiga during the deepest throws of my homesickness and frustration with Delhi life. It is a twisted and disturbing picture of poverty and violence in India which didn’t do anything to improve my mood but provided a sort of catharsis.

My reading list brightened up with the arrival of some yummy books from home. I read Wade Davis’ One River on the beach in Goa. Following Davis, a cultural anthropologist, through an account of botanical adventures exploring medicinal plants in the Amazon is still one of the highlights of the year. I fully and unapolagetically acknowledge the extreme nerdiness of that last sentence. The Ice Storm was a fun read, a peek into the disintegration of the American family in the seventies in novel form. I devoured East of Eden in two weeks and from the first few chapters it took its place on my top five favorite books I’ve ever read. Jeffrey Eugenides’ modern multigenerational masterpiece Middlesex would join its ranks a few months later. I enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and was entertained by two lighter novels – The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell and Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips. During my December travels I read Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert’s sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. It was a well researched internal narrative on the history, meaning, and challenges of marriage – not as light as Eat, Pray, Love but a great read nonetheless. I revisited a favorite author, Paolo Coehlo, through his mystical novel Aleph. My friend Nakita gave me White Woman on a Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey, a very interesting novel set amid Trinidad’s political upheaval in the 1950s. After Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (it is incredibly heady but there’s a reason it is a classic) I jumped into another motorcycle book I found at our homestay in Kerala, Dreaming of Jupiter by Ted Simon. A sequel to Jupiter’s Travels, it is the story of Simon’s second around the world motorcycle trip and a fascinating travel read.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals was my first read of the new year and made me a very strict vegetarian for two months. It is an amazing book that I recommend to omnivores and vegetarians alike. You already know I was greatly inspired by Jacqueline Novogratz’s memoir The Blue Sweater and recommend it to everyone.

I most recently finished The Anatomy of Peace, a book by the Arbinger Institute. I read this and another book from Arbinger, Leadership and Self-Deception, as part of the LeaderImpact program I completed in 2010, and recently assisted in Turkey in March. Both are quick reads chock full of incredible insights on our interaction with others, compassion, conflict, purpose, and peace. You guessed it, I strongly recommend these two as well.

In the end I gave away most of the books I read. There is a great warmth that comes with passing a book you’ve thoroughly enjoyed to someone else. The books I’m sending home are my favorites – East of Eden and Middlesex – as well as the many econ-related books I was overly ambitious in purchasing but didn’t find the energy or attention span to read here in India.

Maybe you’ll pick out a few gems from this post to add to your summer reading list. I’m currently savoring The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, recommended by my boss Joe Sertich and my Uncle Mark (via my mom). It’s a winner.

So, Dad, be careful lifting those boxes of stuff I’ve sent home to Minnesota. And Mom, I think there is room in my closet to throw the boxes until I get home. I will do round two of book sorting and stuff-minimizing in June 🙂

I have ten days left in India! I leave on May 15th. I can’t believe it. I vacated my apartment earlier this week, a very emotional process. I am living on campus with my friend Libi. I’m really enjoying getting to experience campus life for the last two weeks of my time here.

Dance Party Diplomacy

Last night I experienced another incredible performance which brought together diplomats, students, and professionals from all over the world to share the beauty of music and culture.  Colombian salsa band La Republica played an energetic concert to the packed Siri Fort Auditorium to celebrate Columbia’s Independence Day.  No more than three numbers into the set, the aisles were filled with dancers as merengue, salsa, and Colombia’s famous cumbia flooded the hall.  At one point the performers were joined on stage by members of a New Delhi salsa school (Monday is Salsa Night at New Delhi’s Urban Club) and the audience was wowed by an Indian couple with salsa moves like I have never seen.  Later, a call-and-response number had the audience shouting “Brothers!  Colombia & India are brothers!”

An article in this morning’s Business Standard, which I encourage you to read, spoke to the partnership and deep respect between Hindu and Muslim artists of India’s traditional Hindu music.  Though a devout Muslim, shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan is revered as one of the finest musicians of the Hindu genre and believed in the holy waters of the Ganges so strongly that he would cleanse his shehnai in Hindu holy city of Varanasi after every trip abroad.  He was known to say: Sur maharaj koi jaat paat nahin jante; Sur maharaj to sabke hain aur kisi ke bhi nahin hain.”  (The gods of music know not caste or creed; they belong to everybody and none.)

Last evening’s performance, which opened with both the Colombian and Indian national anthems, brought two nations together to celebrate the fellowship that blossoms when we kick off pretense and put on our dancing shoes.  One of the reasons I chose to study in India this year was to witness how this populous nation, where language, religion, caste, and creed live side by side, functions as the world’s largest democracy.  Music, I believe, is part of the answer.  In the words of Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzai, “Music makes the people come together.”

I am off to meet Lena and Lesly to continue the hunt for a flat.  I will upload video from last night within the next few days.  Thank you for your comments, keep ’em comin’!

And here, as promised, is the video of the evening’s performance: