Say no to plastic!

 

Sometime back there was a news report which said that a huge whale was washed ashore dead near Kent Beach in the UK. Such reports are becoming more and more common nowadays. I started thinking. Before the gleaming supermarkets and mega malls came up handing over all items in shining plastic bags what did we do? We carried cloth bags and wicker baskets to the market place to collect the vegetables and groceries that we bought. Our parents and their parents followed this method. Life was a lot peaceful. Earth too returned the favor by ensuring that everything was quiet in nature. True they might not have led a life of ease and comfort but they had something more precious, peace and quiet. Nothing was used and thrown, things were reused.

And then of course came the use and throw culture which we are all only too familiar. Convenience at the cost of environment took over. We could just go without planning to buy anything, so did not have to carry any bag with us. And then if something caught our fancy, the obliging shop keeper could always give it to us wrapped in a huge plastic cover which was anyway used by us to put all the waste and oosh, we could just throw it into the garbage dump.

Which brings us to the next point? What happens if all the garbage bags started piling up in the dumps? These land refills have started eating into our urban spaces and now we are choking, literally in our own dirt. This has become a major problem in all the cities of the world especially in the developing countries. We need to act before it is too late.

Why is plastic harmful? Why are they harmful to the environment? Let us find out why-

Studies have shown that Plastic takes 1000 years to decompose into smaller pieces. These then seep down into the soil and release chemicals, which eventually reach the water supply or the underground water tables.

On land, cattle roaming on the streets eat this plastic mistaking it to be fodder and die painful excruciating deaths. Also, this waste builds up in landfills and we have mounds of garbage as no one knows how to dispose them. At sea, juice cans and cola bottles and plastic covers thrown carelessly into the waters by reckless beachgoers kill animals in the water when they eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish.

Manufacturing of plastic bags is harmful to the environment because nonrenewable resources are used (petroleum and natural gas). The manufacturing process itself uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the atmosphere and consumes energy. Also transportation of the billions of plastic bags from the industries to various places means further energy consumption, largely in the form of more petrol and diesel.

Before the problem becomes any worse I think we should move in and act swiftly. Already it is too late but let us wake up atleast now. We can prevent it if all of us come together and act for the sake of our mother earth. Shopkeepers should first be enlisted into the campaign. They should politely stop giving plastic bags and hang notice boards all over the shops asking customers to bring in their own cloth or jute bags. Of course in some places shopkeepers charge for the bags but that is nominal and people do not mind spending on it so it will still encourage the use of plastic bags. We must ensure zero tolerance. Shopkeepers can give away cloth bags for a nominal price.

Another group which can play an important role is the restaurant owners. Disposable, plastic plates and cutlery should be discouraged. If customers want takeaways they can bring their own containers. In recent times, many high profile people in India plan eco friendly weddings and events where they use leaf plates and steel cutlery. Bouquets are wrapped not using fancy plastic streamers, covers and ribbons but using colorful leaves. These people show the way that we can help the environment in our own small way.

While going through various research papers about plastic, I found that we can reuse plastic bottles to build small huts and houses for the under privileged ones. It does the job of bricks and can hold cement or other binding agent for the house. The life of such houses are also long enough as the plastic itself takes years to decompose.

If citizens come together, then we can be the change that we want to see in others.

 

Received Hind Rattan Award in Delhi

Getting an award is always a gratifying feeling.. but when you get it really unexpectedly, it has a different charm. When I got a call from the organizer, I felt a bit out of the place as mostly people in their fifties get awards of any sort. But it still had its own charm and lured me thinking I will be able to connect with people from different parts of the world.

When I reached Delhi I found that most of the people were in their fifties and sixties and I was probably the youngest one. But it didn’t matter  to me. I met quite a few interesting professionals from different fields across the globe. Got a chance to share what I do in my country and with my foundation for the people. I met few like minded women who were really a go-getter like me. Got a very good looking award which is worth flaunting in the drawing room. The organiser, NRI Welfare of India has been doing the same for last 35 years. Many political and high profile government officials were present. Though it had lacked the charm of Modiji’s agenda as I didn’t feel Modi fever there.

I also realized that I have a different connection with Delhi, it just brings some or other good news to me. I think I should often visit Delhi to find out this connection feeling.

Yes the reason of awards also gave me an opportunity to go to Haridwar which was an extra bonus.

An interesting journey to kumbh snana at Haridwar

It is an interesting fact that who doesn’t know what is Kumbh Mela. From Maxico to China, every individual familier with world’s wonders would know what is Kumbh Mela in India.

It was my third kumbh visit at Haridwar this January. Though it is an ardh kumbh- half kumbh which comes after every six years at Haridwar. The city was prepared for the huge crowd and things were well arranged. I reached there by road from Delhi through NH 58 i think. The drive was pleasent and less traffic due to republic day holiday. While reaching near Haridwar, I found Ramdev baba’s research center so thought of checking the place. It wasa huge center with many research centers in inside.

Finally when reached Haridwar, I dipped into the water immediately  and I could feel the hoards of negative energy going out of my body and mind. The freezing cold water was difficult initially but later Gangaji accepted me whole heartedly. The serenity of the place, the belief of millions, the beauty of gangaji, the air of spirituality was visible all over the place. After attending the famous evening ganga arati I felt connected to that divine place and realised why this whole region in considered Dev Bhumi.

On next day went to Rishikesh and famous lakshman zula. Also visited parmarth niketan and other ashrams on the main ghat. Edit

I also went to a town called Massori near Rishikesh. A beautiful town, a center of education, famous for international Doon school where many famous indians have studied. Extremely cold but worth visiting as many beutiful places to see. The most surprising thing was that the restuarent of a famous garden in massori serves only vegetarian food, something I must share with my readers.


  
  
  
   
  

  
  
  

Addressed at an event of Lake Basin College

It is a new beginning of spreading the message of vegetarianism and importance of vegetable farming in the local region on a different platform. When I was invited by Prof. Jack Kamiruka of Lake Basin college, I was puzzled about how the farmers can be connected with the concept of vegetarianism. But when I started understanding the need of the topic, I realized that it has a direct impact on farming and selling the vegetables and grains. Many times, most of the locals end up eating meat is due to non- availability of the vegetables and grains in their respective village.

That is what encouraged me to take this up to speak to the farmers in this forum of Lake Basin Region of Theology wherein the main theme was the Role of the Church as an agent of Change.

After my presentation, I encountered quite a few questions about the protein intake, how to market the crops, how to reach out to end users etc. But the main thing I learned is that the farmers are able to produce but not able to sell directly to the end users. I strongly suggest that our Asian community should be open to buy directly from these farmers and  ensured that they continuously supply the same quality of grains.

I also suggest that we encourage our local farmers to grow the vegetables and grains here within Kisumu region and stop importing from other counties. I feel that we should help these farmers to be independent and we become self sufficient. This will surely create employment as well reduce the cost of living for each of us.

I also recommended to develop a whole sale market wherein these farmers can come together and sell their goods and retailers can directly buy from the wholesalers.

I am really thankful to Prof. Jack for inviting me to speak to the farmers’ and other people of Kisumu.

 

Kenya Vegetarian Club promotes tree plantation

It is the first tree planting drive by Kenya vegetarian club in association with Hindu Council of Kenya Kisumu branch on 17th January 2016. I am so glad to see the participants of various schools in Kisumu. It showed the zeal of the students how much they are eager to learn something new and also respond to the dire condition of mother nature.

The students of various schools like MM Shah School, Muslim Secondary school, Highway Secondary school, St. Theresa School, Kisumu Girls School, Jalaram Academy School, Kisumu Junior Academy and Kisumu Senior Academy whole heartedly participated in the drive. The club wanted to encourage the students to adopt each tree and nurture it in coming years. More than 150 kids came out on a Sunday morning to support the drive with full enthusiasm in all different schools.

Gugu Panesar, the chairperson of Hindu Council of Kenya Kisumu branch shared his views on tree plantation and supported the cause of Vegetarian club. Our team members transferred the trees from Kakamega Forest donated by our friend to all the schools, donated manure and also organised a good team to help the kids to plan the trees.

I also would like to thank Vipulbhai to help me to manage the team and also thankful to all team members who visited the schools while the planting was taking place.

 

 

Vegetable farming in Kisumu county

Here is a new chapter added to the Kenya Vegetable Club. It is a logical next step towards promoting vegetarianism in the region and help locals turn vegetarian for good health, better lifestyle and save nature.

Somehow I get connected with right people at the right time for the right cause. Ms. Atiano Otiano of Mandeleo Ya Wanawake, a local group helping women to become self sufficient in Kisumu county has been instrumental in finding such ladies and reaching out to them. She checked with local farmers who genuinely needed seeds to start their farm. We reached the site through a local rough road into the interior part of the village where the farm was ready.

I could manage to explain the importance of vegetable diet and the importance of vegetable farming to the local farmers who were eager to know more about health, how to save crops, which vegetables to grow, how is the demand of vegetables in Asian community.

During my research I found that many vegetables come from western and other counties to Kisumu and Kisumu alone can’t produce that much Bhoga in the region. It is mostly because of the lack of knowledge and attempt made by people. I am sure through this drive, we will be able to make many farmers start producing the vegetables in the region and will reduce our cost of importing.

Our club donated the seeds of spinach and Sukuma wiki and manure to help these women start farming. I strongly feel that investing in the seeds is better than donating ready food to needy. This seeds would take them a long way and make people independent and self sufficient.

I am really thankful to Alka who came with me as it was a good support to this cause.

Hopefully this drive will get bigger and bigger as time passes and will reach millions of farmers directly and encourage them to grow everything in the region itself.

 

 

Tree planting drive in Kisumu

Tree plantation! a direct gift to mother nature! I am glad to start walking on this path of my life. I always felt that we have cut so many trees to learn absolutely mediocre education through those books made out of these trees. Do we really make any sense to manufacture books by cutting trees? do we actually gain any knowledge from those books in our daily lives? I don’t think so. Except the scriptures, important documents of our lives and research materials for the next generation are the few areas which would require papers. Let’s start cutting down the usage and save the planet.

Please join us for tree planting drive on 17th January at DHT school in Kisumu at 8.30 am. It is organised by Hindu Council of Kenya Kisumu and Kenya Vegetarian Club . We will plant more than 300 trees at various schools around DHT and in the town center. We have encouraged the school kids to adopt those trees and care for them in coming years. You may give your names to Vipulbhai Buch to be part of the team. Let’s give a better future to our kids and involve them in this drive.

please make best use of your Sunday for a better future.

 

tree planting

Vegetarian Christmas Lunch for government officials

I am so pleased to share that our club could manage to plan something more meaningful and direct in approach to help people change to vegetarian diet. Here is a small report of the event we prepared.

Kenya Vegetarian Club arranged for a Christmas lunch for the members of county government of Kisumu to welcome New Year in a healthy way on 29th December at Yacht club of Kisumu. The event was attended by various high profile officials, professionals, NGOs and most importantly County Commissioner of Kisumu Mr. John

I narrated the benefits of vegetarianism to the audience who was really eager to know why and what is the reason of this lunch. When I started explaining the importance of vegetarianism they realized that why it is important. , I narrated how this can be practiced, how to replace meat in your meal, why we should promote vegetable farming and help our farmers to grow more, the medical benefits of this diet, the importance of vegetarianism in religion, help people in grassroots level to change the  diet habits and behavior pattern which we have got for a long time.

The women representative of the county, Ms. Atiano Otiano mastered the ceremony and encouraged women of different county to turn to vegetable farming, start living a healthy life and help the club to grow more in numbers.

The chairman of Hindu Council of Kenya Kisumu branch Mr. Gurdeep Singh Panesar narrated how we can make Kisumu county more green and independent and we can stop importing vegetables from other parts of Kenya.

The National Trustee of Hindu Council of Kenya Mr Ramesh Mehta thanked the audience and ensured the guests can make more benefits out of vegetable farming.

The meeting ended with the practical example of vegetarian food for lunch which was explained during the session.

I am really thankful to Rameshbhai and Gugu for being with me throughout the session. They really helped me to take care of the guests till the end.

Rain water harvesting!

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It is that time of the year where many places in the world receive rains due to the monsoons. In Kenya we have the short rain spells in November unlike the longer spells that we usually get in March- April. Despite all that talk of El Nino and the vagaries of climate, the rain gods are still really kind, otherwise the world would not survive. But where does all this rain water go? No prizes for guessing. Literally down the drain or into the seas! When will people in power wake up and start thinking about the future. Everywhere they seem to be in a hurry to settle old scores or indulge in making hay while the sun shines but precious little is done to plug the problems of the world.

Many cities in India received very heavy rainfall this year and one report stood out amidst all that usual statistics of waterlogged streets and fallen trees and telephone wires. One city received copious rain enough for an entire year’s water supply but alas it all went straight into the Bay of Bengal. Every place faces a drought as this is not an isolated case. When it rains, we are not wise to store it for the difficult days ahead. We waste this precious resource called water without which we cannot live on this earth.

How much water does this world use? To find out the exact figure, two engineers Arjen Hoekstra and Mesfin Mekonnen from the University of Twente in the Netherlands calculated the water footprint of the world’s countries as well as the per capita water consumption in different nations. They found that “overall, the world is using 9,087 billion cubic meters of water per year. China, India and the U.S. consumed the highest annual totals: 1,207 billion, 1,182 billion and 1,053 billion cubic meters, respectively, followed by Brazil at 482 billion. But the water consumed per person in these and other countries varies considerably, due primarily to higher living standards or widespread waste among consumers. The U.S. had the world’s highest per capita water footprint, at 2,842 cubic meters per annum.” Meat consumption accounts for 30 percent of the American figure, and sugar consumption is responsible for another 15 percent, Hoekstra says.

So it is an emerging crisis and we need to pull our socks quickly and do something about conserving water or we will be leaving a parched, dry earth to our children. This will be the result of our selfishness and utter contempt for others. Our ancients were never like this. If you read about the Native African legends or the Native American way of life we understand that they lived a life in harmony with the elements and were grateful for everything that Nature gave them and adjusted their life to its rhythm.

In India, our ancient texts and scriptures revered forests as they protected water catchments. Our ancestors believed that forests were mothers of rivers and therefore they worshipped the sources of these water bodies. Cutting down trees in the name of industrialization and urbanization is taking us nowhere. We need to start adopting water conservation methods in each and every household on an urgent basis. The oldest civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization boasted of advanced water conservation methods. One of the oldest water harvesting systems is found about 130 km from Pune along Naneghat in the Western Ghats. They thought of others too. A large number of tanks were cut in the rocks to provide drinking water to tradesmen who used to travel along this ancient trade route. Each fort in the area had its own water harvesting and storage system in the form of rock-cut cisterns, ponds, tanks and wells that are still in use today. A large number of forts like Raigad had tanks that supplied water. In rain starved Rajasthan houses were built in such a way they had rooftop rain harvesting systems. Rainwater from these rooftops was directed into underground tanks. This system can be seen even today in all the forts, palaces and houses of the region.

Rainwater harvesting helps in improving underground water tables as water seeps in gently, keeping the place moist. This is the need of the hour. Many governments have made it mandatory to install this system in all houses. Awareness should be created in our communities and when this is backed by strong laws, I am sure we can help save atleast a part of the water that would otherwise get lost.

 

I am Malala!

malala

I Am Malala!

I am truly thrilled to share what I think and learned from the movie- I am Malala, contrary to my nature of not thinking much about such things.

I will not go into details about her and why she is being written about as everybody knows that. But I want to share what I learned from this movie.

When the movie started, she narrated, “I am different because my father is different otherwise I would have been married with two kids at the age of 17, because they dared to be different I am different.“ This shows how much influence the parents have got on the kids. They can make their future or break it. Something we all need to know and work towards it.

This little girl had courage to speak about what she thinks in front of media at the age of 14 and also dared the local authorities about the injustice towards women education despite the face that she could be killed to do so, which actually almost happened to her.

She truly inspired me to pursue my vision and mission with more vigor and conviction as no situation, no country, no people can stop you if you have courage to stick to your goal.

I was overwhelmed by what she said, ”One child one book one teacher and one pen can change the world.” As I share the same vision of spreading the spiritual education to people across the world.

My India, my country!

310_Holi-Fire

During my recent trip to the UK, I had the opportunity to visit so many places of interest. I was struck by the pride the English take in showcasing their monuments and priceless treasures. There is a fee for visiting each one of these places and after a guided tour we become so enriched about English history. Glossy brochures are wonderful takeaways that we retain as mementoes of our visit. I was just wondering about the many places that we have in India. If there is a Stonehenge in England, we have wonderful structures where sunlight falls with precision exactly on the same day year after year on a particular spot. At the Gavi Gangadareshwar Temple in Bangalore, the sun’s rays pass through this astronomical wonder and touch the deity as if dipping in obeisance once a year on Makar Sankranthi Day.

The Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, which is believed to have been constructed by Kempe Gowda, who established the city of Bengaluru, is a cave temple, and on Makar Sankranti day, the sun’s rays pass through the window and touch the Shivalinga. Both scientists and scholars are engaged in a study to observe its architectural importance and astronomical significance. This temple was formed by the natural boulders of hillocks and faces the south-west direction. The courtyard is wide and has large-sized monolithic sculptures placed in certain alignments. Shiva’s symbols, the Trishula and the Damaru, are placed on the southern edge of the courtyard.

There are two large circular discs placed parallel to each other known as Suryapana and Chandrapana, with a diameter of 2 m each. Since these are circular and face the east and west, they are identified as symbols of the sun and the moon. It is believed that such discs are not found in any other temple in Karnataka or south India.

Scientists have identified the significance of the Suryapana and Chandrapana monolithic sculptures. According to their study, these were placed for astronomical observations in the medieval period. The shadow of the Dvajastamba falls on the eastern disc for 40 minutes. It is only recently that scholars discovered that the two discs have been installed in alignment to the summer solstice sunset and that explains the significance of the phenomenon on Makar Sankranti. What an amazing foresight these early day scientists had?

What about the Jantar Mantar in Delhi which is also a good example of an astronomical observatory constructed by medieval rulers in India.

london palace

The Castles in UK are so lovely, quiet and neat. People speak about these monuments almost in reverence. That is because from a young age citizens are taught to respect their heritage and they feel everyone not just the government has a role to play in preserving these symbols of culture. India has its fair share of opulent palaces and grand forts. But it is our inland visitors who don’t think twice before dirtying the place or throwing garbage here and there or worse scratching the walls with sharp things. Why is it that our Indians cannot take pride of their rich legacy? Maybe our schools should start educating children on these basic things first.

We have the best of everything but we do not know how to advertise it or use it to raise revenue. Our stepwells and cave structures cannot be found elsewhere. I was reading about Rani ki Vav the other day. It is known as the queen of stepwells as its name indicates. It is an intricately constructed step well situated in the town of Patan in Gujarat, India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in memory of Bhimdev I (AD 1022 to 1063), the son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki dynasty of Anahilwada Patan about 1050 AD by his widowed queen Udayamati and probably completed by Udayamati and Karandev I after his death. A reference to Udayamati building the monument is in Prabandha Chintamani composed by Jain monk Merunga Suri in 1304 AD. The well is a marvel of underground sculpture and splendour with ornate interiors and long flights of steps interspersed with multi-storeyed mandaps or pavilions. The stepwell was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, with the carvings found in pristine condition. The minute and exquisite carving of this vav is one of the finest specimens of its kind. I was filled with wonder when I read about this. We need to publicize these wonders, get people to visit them and most importantly our countrymen should take great pride in all that our country offers.

All about dreams!

blog-dreams

All about dreams

We have always been fascinated by the mysterious and the unknown. There is an element of curiosity within each one of us, wanting to know answers to many things for which we may never get one straight answer. Like the seven blind men describing the elephant, people have an opinion on every matter, sometimes it may be right, sometimes may not be. It is a point of view. You are wondering what I am getting at.

Have you gone to bed and woken up after a terrible nightmare where you feel you have lost the power to scream for help or yell, cannot move your legs and hands, you are paralyzed with fear with some devilish creature about to pounce and devour you. Suddenly you break into a sweat, your breathing becomes so hard and then of course you wake up with a start and a jolt. For a moment you are still unsure where you are. And slowly reality dawns, you come back to your senses and feel the reassuring presence of familiar objects around you. Sounds all too familiar, is it not? All of us go through such experiences sometime or the other. I too became so fascinated with the subject of dreams and started looking up for information on the subject. This is what I found.

There are so many desires that we have each day. To fulfill each one is really impossible or maybe even one life time may not even be enough for this. So maybe we try to fulfill these desires in our dreams where we feel we are actually leading a parallel life. Another interesting explanation I came across was that every day we see so many things, meet so many people and go through so many experiences. All these get recorded in the sub conscious. They are stored in a folder somewhere in the corner of the brain. But the strange thing is that the ones that manifest in our dreams are the ones that stand out, maybe out of fear, anxiety, something we desire so much etc. Another point is that the human brain cannot create original images. The strangers we see in the dreams are likely to be people whom we have bumped into at some point of time in our life. These must have been stored in our sub conscious memory. So all those we see in our dreams should be people we have seen somewhere at sometime may be even in the distant past. What a fascinating thing our brain is to bring out these in the form of images.

What about color, have you checked that out. Do you dream in black and white or in color. Scientists say it can be in both, I hope to remember to check this one next time I get a dream.

So many studies have been carried out on dreams, so I guess it is a universal fascination. One study says we forget 95% of our dreams. We dream during REM periods (which is when we have Rapid Eye Movement in our sleep) which can range anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour long. In the course of one night this happens multiple times. This means we can even have 5 to 7 dreams in one night itself. A very recent study conducted by a group of scientists from Harvard Medical School made quite a stunning revelation. They say that dreams are not any random series of abstract images or sights but they are real events that take place in an alternate universe. These they say can be accessed during dream like states. Now that’s one whale of an idea!

But the most unique kinds of dreams are those that carry a message or give a peek into the future, these border on the para normal. They may hold a key to the future as has been reported. Two weeks before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he dreamt of a funeral at the White House. American novelist Mark Twain dreamt of his brother’s body in a metal coffin, shortly before he was killed in a boating mishap. After the Titanic sank, many people reported that they saw visions of an impending disaster at sea. These are like premonitions.

Yet another kind of dream is where many writers have seen storylines unraveled and sometimes whole content given. The famous poem Kublakhan was written by the poet Coleridge after a dream vision. Mary Shelley also wrote her novel Frankenstein after seeing it in dream. Closer home in India, Buddhakaushika Rishi wrote his great work Rama Raksha Stotra after Lord Shiva commanded him to write the verse in a dream. The sage saw the Lord rendering the entire 38 stanzas in the dream and he wrote it at dawn as soon as he woke up. He says it in the stotra itself, Aadhishtavan yathaa swapne—he says. What a great piece of divinely commanded work.

Indian Scriptures is full of amazing and unbelievable tales. An entire temple in South India was built and consecrated in a dream sequence. A unique temple was built by a great devotee of Lord Siva called Pusala Nayanar. He never believed in idol worship or rituals, but loved the lord dearly. Hence he would worship the lord in his mind performing manasa puja. He desired to create a grand temple for Siva but was too poor to build one. He did not get disheartened as he was used to performing mind puja, so he decided to build a temple also in his mind. Step by step the temple grew in his mind and soon a beautiful structure was ready to be inaugurated all of course in his mind. He chose a holy day for the consecration ceremony and installed the deity with all pomp and splendor.

Coincidentally, the Pallava King Kadavarkon had just completed the construction of a grand Siva temple in the capital city of Kancheepuram in South India and had chosen that very day for consecrating the temple he had built. The lord appeared in his dream and instructed him to postpone the date of consecration as he said that he had to be present at his devotee Pusalar’s newly built temple at the town of Thiruninravur on that particular day. The king had to obey the divine decree but decided to visit the temple that the lord had favored over his own. On reaching the place he could not find any new temple nor did anyone have any idea about its construction. The king went straight to Pusalar’s house and was astonished to learn about the temple the saint had built within his mind. He narrated the lord’s appearance in his dream and his preference for the saint’s labor of love over his grand construction.

Isn’t that an amazing story and should you visit Thiruninravur even today there stands a temple that later Pallava kings built in honor of that great devotee. The lord is worshipped as Hrudayaleeswarar meaning the ‘lord in the devotee’s heart’. Now that is what is called a dream temple!!!!!

Ordinary Men- Extraordinary Lives!

4.Mahatma Gandhi 1930s -There is no path to Peace. Peace is the path

Manjhi- the Mountain Man, a powerful biopic based on the real life of Dasharath Manjhi opened in cinemas nationwide last Friday. Compared to the fanfare that one sees normally for all big ticket movies, this was low key and why not? The man himself was relatively unknown; no one celebrated his life while he was alive. Yet it has taken a bold director to unearth the story of a real life hero and bring it to the knowledge of the world.

Who exactly was this man? He was a poor laborer who lived in Gehalaur village near Gaya in Bihar. He used to travel far everyday in search of work and his loving wife used to bring lunch for him every day. One day as she was crossing the path taking his lunch, she slipped and fell, injuring herself seriously. Now he had a real problem in his hands. The nearest hospital was nearly 55 km away and she died as she could not receive medical attention. What’s new in this story you may ask? For this is a familiar report we always read in the papers almost every day. And we might forget the story as soon as we have finished reading the report. But not Manjhi. He got up like a man possessed and decided that day that he would not let anyone die for want of medical attention if he could help it. But a great mountain stood between his village and the nearest town that could provide medical care and villagers had to circumvent the long distance to reach the hospital. So he single handedly took a chisel and hammer and started carving a road through the mountain. Fellow villagers thought he was a total lunatic. But he did not care. In fact he said ‘When I started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic but that steeled my resolve.’

For 22 long years, he worked with determination and a never say die spirit and the result- he dug up a road that could shorten travel from 55km to 15 km to the town that had a hospital. What an inspiring tale. But he died an unsung hero in 2007 though the Bihar government proposed his name for a Padma award. Another inspiring tale is about the jungle man Jadav Moloi Payeng. He was only 17 when there were floods in his village and he saw thousands of snakes washed dead in the waters. He asked the village elders “what would you do if all of us die one day, like these snakes. They just laughed and smirked but I knew I had to make the planet greener,” He went to the forest officials asking them to plant trees. They mocked at him and said ‘you do it if you want’. That was it. Jadav decided to plant trees. For 30 years he planted bamboo saplings in an area that had been washed away by floods. Today, that same land hosts 1,360 acres of Jungle called Molai Forest, named after him, the man who made this possible single handedly!

These are inspiring tales of ordinary men doing extraordinary things but alas we don’t celebrate these men or their feats. Once, when our former President Dr. Abdul Kalam went to Israel, he saw the newspapers full of inspiring stories and he bemused when will India ever get this kind of culture. Our papers are full of sensational stories of murders, of rapes, of bomb blasts and terror attacks, we have forgotten our real heroes who can inspire and motivate us to do something for others. Recently I saw a Facebook post which was to this effect- Do you think you are too small to make a change, then think of what a tiny mosquito can do inside your blanket when you are fast asleep. I think all of us can, if only we apply ourselves to it, until then, let us raise a toast to the Manjhis and Payengs of the world!

A seminar on Nutritional benefits of vegetarian diet!

Kenya Vegetarian Club and Hindu Council of Kenya Kisumu branch arranged for an interesting talk on the Nutritional Benefits of Vegetarian Diet on 25th October 2015 to celebrate World Vegetarian Day which was in the first week of October.

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The event was well planned by the founder chairperson Mrs Vaishali Kamal Shah of Shrivedant Foundation which runs the Vegetarian Club in Kenya. The event was held at Ram Garhia Singh Sabha, Guru Nanak Darbar Temple in Kisumu.

  

  

Ms Vaishali explained why we should help locals to turn vegetarian. The main emphasis was on the vegetable farming to help local women to be self-sufficient and promote tree planting. She also explained the effects of meat production on environment and what measures we need to take to avoid the same. She narrated how vegetarianism is an integral part of hindu culture and religion for centuries.

Ms Komal Shah explained how and why we should avoid meat, dairy and poultry products. She also shared some tips for healthy lifestyle and supported the idea of promoting vegetarianism in different parts of the society. Mrs Shobhna Shah narrated vegetarianism in Jainism and Mr Balvinder Singh Rupra explained what Sikhism has to say about vegetarianism.

The highlight of the event was the participation of various schools’ students. They brought up many ideas about water conservation, avoid air pollution, cleaning process of the used water, explained the benefits of nutritional food. Every participant was given gifts and there were six winners in different categories of food presentation and the environmental projects. Kisumu Junior and Senior Academy and Jalaram school participated in the exhibition. Sujata Derodra, co convener helped in the arrangements and Ms. Alka Vaghela encouraged students of the school to participate in the exhibition.

More than two hundred people from various communities attended the talk which was also attended by ms Atiano Otiano, the county representative of Kisumu. Hindu Council of Kenya Kisumu branch and Kenya Vegetarian Club have joined hands to plan the massive tree planting project in coming months with Ms Atiano Otiano and her representative of governments.

Temples-Providing leadership, networking and serving as resource center

kibigori Vaishali and Kamal Shah

Temples or Mandir or Devalayam in Sanskrit is the house of god, place of worship and a platform to connect with the inner soul. Temples have been a significant part of Indian culture for thousands of years. It has been a torch, a leading light, a social image of the society and a place to find the solace.

Currently, many famous temples across the world have become a source of income, a sort of business proposition. Many want to come and boast about what they do, make an impact socially, flaunt the riches they have, and beg in front of god to get more and more.

After maintaining Kamleshwar Mahadev Temple for two years successfully, I have made some interesting observations on how to maintain the premises and how to run a temple successfully depending on the location and the available resources.

Location

The location of the temple is the most important aspect to decide as it has to be approachable by all means of transport. Especially on the foreign shore, we don’t have the luxury of walking as we mostly commute in private vehicles or public transports. The serenity, cleanliness, vibration and other vastu related facts needs to be checked as that surely affect the intensity of the prayers. If the temple premise gives you a feeling of a commercial place, you won’t be able to concentrate and become one with god.

Maintenance

After the temple is built, the maintenance of the place is the most important thing, we are mostly ignorant about cleanliness of the temples and hence majority of the temples in India are not visited by urban people. We need to remember that a temple is the house of god and we can’t take it for granted. Maintaining and cleaning the premises with water every day, periodic cleaning of the facades and the outside of the temple, ensuring that people don’t throw garbage anywhere in the premises by keeping dustbins everywhere, spending money on maintaining the toilets are some of the minimum things that have to be done.

We find the sorry state of devotees coming into temples for Prasadam and waste the same in large quantity. That is because we have failed to educate our people on the right and wrong, the basic etiquette of life. With growing number of people in the world dying due to malnutritions we must emphasis on not to waste any food.

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A centre that fulfills many needs

A temple need not serve as a spiritual destination alone. The vast spaces inside the temple along with its mandaps and columns can aid in carrying out so many tasks, in that sense they are not merely sacred spaces but they serve as secular spaces also. When we visit any ancient temple, we can see the celebration of life unabashedly in the many statues, painting or architecture. Love, romance, birth, death, celebrations – all these form the themes of the temple art. Our ancients never divided the spiritual and the mundane into water tight compartments. Every aspect of life was celebrated and no topic was taboo. And that is the reason why the function of the temple extended beyond being a moral guardian of the masses. Since time immemorial, they have been centres around which the arts, community celebrations and economy have flourished. Temples have served as the hub to celebrate events like marriages, birth of a child, annaprashnam or offering the first solid feed to the child, Vidyarambham or initiation into letters, other significant life events, religious festivals, dance and music festivals like the Chidambaram Dance Festival or Konark Festival. Temples also managed lands endowed to it by its devotees upon their death. They would provide employment to the poorest. Some temples had large treasury, with gold and silver coins, and these temples served as banks.

Today we know that the social and ritualistic activities of the temples are the most prominent reasons for people to come and visit the same. Daily prayers, daily rituals, arti of the diety atleast twice a day, offering of food, bathing etc. should be performed without fail. We can use the temple space imaginatively and have programs that attract the youth. We can combine service initiatives with contemporary topics that aim to de-stress lives, offer short term courses that help the participants in personality development, yoga, spiritual entrepreneurship, value based management etc by offering practical solutions. This should be undertaken by traditional temples too as people visit temples not as worshippers alone but would like to seek solutions to real life problems. This would make temples largely relevant and can attract people from all walks of life. There is great potential if only our mandirs were to tap into this missing link.

Other activities like satsang, spiritual talks, celebration of the festivals throughout the year, encouraging youngsters to enlist for social causes should be part of any temple. It not only engages the community but also helps them to grow in their spiritual journey. I also feel that temples should become a center of matrimonial and job opportunities. We have been noticing that it is very difficult to find a suitable partner in any community in today’s hectic life. If the temple committee comes forward to pitch in, it would help our children to find a good partner and settle in life within the Indian and Hindu community.

A good committee makes a huge difference in running a temple successfully. The older group of people needs to invite youngsters to be part of the team. I also recommend we have a teen forum where they organize their own programs to empower youth and encourage them to bring the society together.

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At a time when the social media is shrinking distances, temples can also pitch in by serving as places where socially relevant contemporary issues can be debated; these can be telecast live in the local channels to attract more participants for forthcoming ventures. Temples can also serve as nodal centres where medical camps or screening programs can take place. In our Kamleshwar Mahdev Temple we had a medical camp where local African children were screened and treated.

Education should be a great idea to focus upon not academic or religious education but moral education which is woefully lacking in the regular curriculum these days.  A temple can be an amazing place where these are spoken about on a regular basis, over time there is bound to be some change in the thinking of the masses. Temples are not centres where people visit to do business with the divine, it can be an amazing resource centre where people are taught how to live, that is live right and the onus lies with those who build and steer temples. Children, youth, women, the aged – there are various segments among our Hindu populace that would like to use their weekly visits to temples to pursue more meaningful lives. It requires creativity, commitment and campaign on the part of temple committees to tap into these resources, to focus on inner engineering so that people can learn the art of living well.

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