The Joy of Giving

The festive season is always a wonderful time where we spend on clothes, sweets and gifts. Exchanging these with our friends and family and gifting something special to our near and dear ones has always been in our culture. It is also that time of the year when we express our thanks to all those who work for us, our housekeeper, our maid, our cook, driver, cleaner and such others  who see that our lives go on smoothly all through the year. It is also that time of the year when all those whom we may not get to see normally like the watchman, postman etc who will come to receive the diwali gift. So it is a season when everyone looks forward to gifts. Employees get sweet boxes or dry fruits, bonus or other such material gifts. What about the homeless, the destitute or those who do not have anyone to care for them. They may be mere numbers in the citizen list but this is also the time when we need to think of such under privileged.

I have been getting many forwards asking people to keep small packets of sweets or clothes which are not very old but which we can give away. These can be kept handy next to our seat in the car or carried in a small bag if we are walking along and we can distribute them to those that always come from the shadows near signals or subways. There is truly something fulfilling when we give with love to the less fortunate in society. I think it is a good move to send such messages on social media and if many likeminded people participate we can bring joy atleast in a few faces.

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Protecting our heritage

I visited a few countries in the last couple of months. During my travel, I found how other countries are protecting their heritage sites and welcoming visitors to their tourist sites. It not only generates income for the country but also helps in popularizing the culture of that particular place. When the visitors go back to their own places they are sure to describe their visit and the facilities available to their friends and relatives. This word of mouth advertisement helps in promoting tourism much more than any pamphlet or agency. What is it that a visitor looks forward to while visiting such places? Cleanliness and hygiene are the two important things that come to my mind. The place should be clean and good rest room facilities should be available. It should be children and elder friendly. If there is provision for the differently abled then that is a huge bonus.

It is here that many places abroad score over our country. India is blessed with a wonderful heritage and culture. Go to any part of the country and every monument you see there speaks so much about the history of the place and its people. But I feel sad when I see these beautiful structures vandalized, people scribbling with nails and pens or other sharp instruments, throwing empty juice cartons or chips covers all over the place and I am filled with revulsion and also sadness. Imagine how a visitor would feel. I feel these are things our schools should be telling the children. We have to inculcate pride in our culture, in our national treasures. Teachers, parents and all of us interested in the future of our nation should make it a point to talk to our children about these things. Swatcch Bharat is not a campaign run on the streets alone. If each one of us takes it to heart and educate people and this includes our children, our workforce, people like our maids and drivers, then the message will go well. It cannot happen in a day. It takes some time but atleast we have made a beginning. People outside are so proud of their treasures, this feeling that it is all ours should be there within each one of us. We have to take responsibility and care for our rivers, beaches, waterbodies and any other natural and manmade tourist spots. I hope you all agree.

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Of Homas and Yagnas

It has been a memorable dassera for me as I got to perform the Chandi Yagna at the Sanatan Hindu Union temple on Vijayadasami day. As I was participating my mind went back to how our religion has so many wonderful events like these to purify our body and uplift our soul. These are meant to help us especially householders and professionals who lead busy lives to pause and think of the divine. The word Ritual itself is from the Latin word ritualis meaning doing something. Since the Vedic times, our religion has stressed the importance of doing rituals as they help in binding the community and giving each one, a sense of belonging. Those days there were no get-togethers and social dos, instead events like these conducted in temples and common places helped people to meet, greet and connect with one another. Rituals appeal to tradition and we have well-defined practices which are passed on to generations. Some rituals have a deeply symbolic significance woven around it. We have family rituals, social rituals and those that are common for an entire group or race or religion.

Homas are those that are performed at home periodically in a small scale like the ganapathy homa, sudarshana homa, ayush homa etc  which are conducted on birthdays and anniversaries for the immediate well-being of the family.

Then there are yagas which are conducted on a large scale in a grand manner in a public place like a temple for the wellbeing of the community. And then there are yagnas like the Athirudra mahayagna which are conducted on an even larger scale for the sake of peace and well-being of the entire world. The Vishnu Sahasranama says that the lord is the yagna, he is the receiver of oblations, he is the one who conducts, he is the one who blesses, thus he is everything. So with this spirit if a yagna is conducted, then the blessings of the lord will definitely be there on all those who are conducting and witnessing these noble events.

Tung, tung, tung, the ringing of the bell for the arathi brought me back to the temple and I looked on enchanted.

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Dashera celebrated with havan 

An excellent opportunity came my way to celebrate Vijaya dashmi by getting a chance to do dashera havan at sanatan hindu union temple today. Truly worth my time and all the efforts. Kudos to the ladies wing for preparing such a delicious food for more than 800 people. 

This time we were fortunate to get up and close with power of Shakti and recite various mantra and perform chandi yagna. I think I have started enjoying the ritualistic side of our religion. It is just too fulfiling and changes the aura of our environment. It also teaches us the lessons of life and how much the environment is important to our life. The complete process of yagna is a celebration of various aspects of our life, nature and our emotions. 

One might consider this as a ritualistic process and religious. But it is actually a call to the external force which is working  above us and purify our body, mind and soul. 

Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Sanman in House of Lords – London

It is my pleasure to share with you that I have received an award called Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Sanman in the House of Lords in London on 30th sept. 2016. The award was honored to me by a well known semi government institute of India based in Delhi.

It is one of the prestigious awards given to the NRIs  in various fields from different parts of the world. I got this award for my contribution to the research and publication of Indian culture and its related books. They also recognized my contribution to various international bodies in the field of peace, resolving conflicts through dialogue, youth empowerment and local women empowerment. I am the first one to receive this award in Kenya. There were more than 30 awardees from various parts of the world.

 

Vegetarianism- Awareness Month

The month of October is observed as Vegetarian Awareness Month after being endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. It is a great way of acknowledging the benefits of vegetarianism to the individual, to our resources, to our environment and above all in bringing compassion to our lives. It is sad that people indulge in cruelty to animals just to fill our plates and pamper our palates. If our movement should succeed then we need to create awareness as many people may not even know what animals go through before they end up as food on the table. That is why this month is also known as Reverence for Life month. By being a vegan we can take this concept one step ahead by promising that we will not use any animal product at all in our lives.

What can each one of us do to promote this concept in our immediate neighborhood among our friends and maybe even family in some instances? Vegetarians should come out and speak about how life-changing the whole experience is. As it is good for nature and animals, we are not burdened with guilt and can feel a lot more light both physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also resolve many diseases like digestion problems, obesity, breathlessness etc. and definitely it keeps us fresh and energetic. For those who want to make the switch but cannot give up non-vegetarian food, there are substitutes from the vegetarian world, which can bring out the same or if not at least equivalent taste. The internet is full of such recipes. Where there is a will, there is a way.

This is a great month as it provides us a chance to sit back and reflect on why we should turn vegetarian. It would be good to read books and articles on vegetarianism as it will give a true picture of what animals go through. My book Veg Safari describes various aspects of vegetarianism which will help in gaining an in depth understanding.

Happy Vegetarian Experience to all my readers!

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Gandhi jayanti celebration in London

It was just a perfect coincidence for me to be in London today on the day of Gandhi Jayanti which is also celebrated as non violence day.

I was bit curious to know what actually people do on this day. To my surprise it was damn serious and sincere efforts by various organisations to acknowledge the contribution of this man called GANDHI in various forms.

I started with first celebration at Euston square garden where high commissioner remained present and gave a short speech on the importance of this day. Than we followed to High commissioner’s office where Modiji’s speech was telecasted live from Delhi where he opened a center specially for NRIs. It followed to the parliement square where patidar samaj concluded peace march. 

I used to read and write a lot about Gandhiji in school days. I remembered his teachings but forgot him in last few years. It was a good feeling to get connected with my favorite topic of essay in school days.

A talk on who is myneighbour by Gandhi Foundation at St. Martin in the fields

I atrended a very inspiriting talk on how to deal with diversity and avoid conflicts by Gandhi Foundation at St Martin- in- the- Fields at Trafalgar Square in London. The talk was initiated by Rowan Williams who is actively involved with various works of Gandhi.

He addressed on how to accept the diversity and avoid conflics arising out of it. It was an wye opening for me to know a completely different shades of empathy, diversity and peace. 

It is surely going to take my reaearch on peace and restoration of peace to the next level.

Few excerpts from the talk

– conflicts arises out of failing to understand the difference

– I have no idea how you feel is definaltely not a good statement 

– Empathy might do wonders id applied positively 

– Accepting the complications of diversity is the only solution

– Deeper sense of all religions and identity and security of that identity is the key issue of today’s world

– Ethical behavior is the roots of the civilization and culture 

– Border disputes, tribalism, civil war- outcome of a rigid mind

– Diversity is not the death of the country

– Deficite of knowledge is growing

– Education system is designed to make people fit into the society as they like

– Collective nervous breakdown can be avoided