Saturday, February 26, 2011

What else?


So here we are. After the headline world news event earthquake has visited our city and gone away leaving lives broken and everything else helter skelter. I will not waste my breathe (typing time) talking about the event again. News do that good. What the news don’t talk about is this place that I am at, listening to Zipporah beg for attention in her baby language, soup (of the most unique concoction) boiling on the stove, baking preparations being made and the cloudy sky above the doleful Christchurch houses (that survived the quake) sitting eventlessly. Somewhere in the house Rocket the black cat walks about softly plotting some evil scheme in his cat brain.

A long day in front of us.

We try to be cheerful, and we don’t have to try too hard. We have friends around us. We know our families are safe. We are comfortable, a luxury in these tough times. We have the luxury to be able to make coffee and tea whenever we want.

What else do we need?
The rescue operations are still trying to keep the city as safe as possible and still checking if there are survivors under the rubble. It still goes on. People still don’t have basic amenities at home. There are the noble and bold people who go about and get involved. There are the army people from around the world cordoning the city off. There is the news going on incessantly about updates from the zone.
So what else can I ask for? Will life be rebuilt in this beautiful city? Will businesses come back to bustling levels? Will the river Avon float softly carrying the holiday makers on her back again? Will the churches chime again? Will be parks and gardens be filled with green and flower again?
Who knows. Maybe its still too early to think about such things. Maybe we still need to just get through this for now. And be grateful for what we have as of now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

About Old Bollywood Films & Music

Last night I was watching An Evening In Paris a classic Bollywood film, and it got me wondering why I am so fascinated by films before the 80s from India. I pretty much loathe the films that come out now.

I think the main reason is that Indian films and music during that time were not genre specific. They were a genre in themselves which meant they were free to do anything. And that led to them borrowing influences from almost anything that interested them: French music, American films, Islam sufi singing, Western cowboy themes, Mexican hats and guitars and morphed them together to this very interesting mix that became Bollywood.

As time went on however, there was fresh consciousness for the genre and the industry and some smart ass thought Indian film should become specific and marketable to the outside world. So they needed to find a style of music, fashion, language and so on, so that they serve a niche in the market and audiences know what to expect when they buy into it. So Bollywood became more specialised and outward focussed, thus losing the randomness and the quirkiness that used to be there.

That's my conclusion.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Conversations with Wakerley - Missionaries from the West, About India and the Changing Nature

I was talking to Mr.Wakerley yesterday (Mr.W) at a birthday party. I had a very interesting chat with him. He is an amazing person. Not to sound patronising, because I hate patronising people and things they do. You see, the idea about patronising comes from kings and rulers who 'patronised' artists and musicians and made them live in their courts to entertain them. Fair enough. The artists got fed and got paid for their craft. But to patronise someone you need to be above them, for example, the king was above the status of the artist's to be able to patronise him.

Anyway. I digress all the time.

I was talking about Mr.W. He is an English guy who moved to Christchurch years ago and then about ten years ago, moved to India because he felt God tell him to go there and be a source of help to people who might need it. So he moved there without any ado and landed smack in the middle of Indian heat and craziness and dissent and everything in between.

In Gujarat.

You cannot end up in a more hard core place than Gujarat. The Chief Minister is Narendra Modi, and let me put it this way, he is one of the main reasons why Hindu politics has gone terribly nasty, and the reason why impression of Hindus are screwed. He is also the leader of the Hindu almost-Fascist movement that says unless you're Hindu you are not a true Gujarati (and I am sure he would claim true Indian).

I told Mr.W to move from India and NZ (or vice versa) is like moving from one pole to another. Complete opposites. And I respect him for doing that. I mean I know what the difference is like. If you have been brought up in the more comfortable lifestyle that NZ and England (probably) offer, India will kick your senses out of you. I seriously cannot think of two contrasting nations than India and New Zealand.

Difference NZ & India (among many other things):
1. Indians are go-getters. They need to be. They need to survive, shove and step on other people to get anywhere. They cannot afford to sit around and wait for things to happen. I am not saying Kiwis are that. But the alignment is more in that direction. Delhi-ites argue and go to points of fist fights just to bargain for a little bit of rupees to save, while people in NZ are more complacent and would buy bread from a supermarket that sells them a few dollars more without giving it a thought. And that's not necessarily because Indians are poorer and need the money. No, there are more Indian billionaires hands down than Kiwi billionaires.

2. Indians are assertive and opinionated. Kiwis are not. Except when they are drunk or high in the Holy Spirit. Your voice needs to be heard above the other billion people's voices in India. The Indian press is highly opinionated and full of critical dissent. Kiwi press reads more like a Reader's Digest issue that you might enjoy before nodding to sleep.

These were two glaring points that I talked about with Mr.W. He went there and wanted to do some help to the young children who didn't have homes and were even getting trafficked between states.


Self-efficience and Independence
Here, I recall what the team from Parachute Music and World Vision said when they returned after a major trip to India. The thing that struck them was the mindset of the Indian people where they refused to be helped. It was unlike Rwanda (where Parachute Music also do some work) where they looked intently to the western nations to help them, India was like a proud woman whose dignity refused any helping hand.

I am proud of that attitude. It has led to Indians rising up to help themselves, societies starting up to be a blessing to the fellow men and women. Mr.W also noted that saying he realised he could do nothing being an outsider. The fact that he was white and starkly different made it extremely difficult for him to do anything, whereas the impression was that the western nations have always always been helping the 'third world' nations. The impression was that USA and the west and the 'developed' nations have the 'burden' (in fact it was Rudyard Kipling who used the phrase 'white man's burden') to show the way and bring light to these 'third' world nations.

I am overjoyed to know that India is leading the way in asserting its independence and self respect.

Self doubt and Western Missionaries
So this raises the issue of the role of the trickle of missionaries left over from the West. The amount of missionaries from USA, England, NZ and Australia has dropped the last few decades in India, replaced by missionaries home bred from Nagaland, Mizoram, Kerala and so on.

So what do these 'leftover' missionaries do? What are their roles now? Mr. W felt inadequate sometimes in India too. He felt he wasn't doing much and so sometimes even questioned the calling he knew he got. I am very sure hundreds of American, British, Korean (and so on) faithfuls question themselves especially now that mentalities have changed. I know a few Americans in Varanasi who grapple on to the little they know and have adopted of the Indian culture in their attempt to be relevant to the locals. Perhaps its no longer enough to make little england's and usa's in their mission fields. Maybe they have done their share of service and faithfulness to their individual as well as collective calling. Maybe it has become time for the locals to take over.


A Generation Rising
Like everywhere else in the world, in India there is a generation rising up to take the place. My heart has always been with the missionaries. I know perhaps I am never really called to be one myself (in that specific term of the word), but I have grown up meeting mission teams and missionaries from America to Ireland to Holland to Japan. I have felt the discontent in them when I talk to them, as much as I sense the victories. I have also felt the sense of desperation in them, desperate to help people and to love them as best as they could. I have recognised their love for people. I have also seen their attempts to try and fit in so selflessly into a foreign culture losing their heritage sometimes, forsaking the little pleasures of the world they were brought up in. I remember how excited an American friend became when she found out there was a Baskin Robbins in Shillong. Now I realise it must have been like light from heaven in a dark desert.

And maybe they have done enough. Maybe they have been faithful in inspiring a new generation of people to take the place. Maybe its time for a change. Maybe it is already taking place.

Maybe there are still little pockets where people like Mr.W fit in even if nothing else, just so that he can be a figure that inspires people who can do so much more.

More than the awesome people I sometimes patronise like Andy Warhol, Jimmy Page, Jack White and so on, I respect people who give up their whole lives to be this symbol of faithfulness and sacrifice. They might not have done enough to rid the world of its negativity, but they have done enough for themselves and for the eyes of God.

Concluding
Mr.W told me that he will be visiting Nepal this year. I told him he will love the Nepalis. They are beautiful people, friendly, extremely loyal (in fact the most loyal people I know) and welcoming, a pole apart from the stiff necked Gujaratis that he lives with where he serves.

I told him to go visit Shillong and Darjeeling. He needs to see these places in India where its temperate (even cold) where the alpine trees blow in cold breeze and the mountains roll as far as the eye can see. He needs to meet people who are also doing works among people, meet churches, be encouraged and just hang out with people who will respect him. My father will do just that. My house has always been open to people like him.

After all, my house in Shillong used to be British vacation house (and still is, except that its open for all who are called to serve the people).

Friday, February 11, 2011

OH BID! OH BUY!

PEOPLE CAME IN SWARMING TO SUPPORT THE  NIGHT. C1 WAS HAPPENING. NOT THAT C1 NEVER IS HAPPENING. IT PROBABLY IS THE MOST HAPPENING PLACE IN CHCH. BUT YEAH...

COFFEE WAS THERE FOR PEOPLE TO BUY AND BE HIGH ON.

ANDRE ANDRE. THIS GUY'S OUTTA CONTROL.

ELLY. WITH HER HIPSTER GLASS. THAT MAKES HER A HIPSTER HIP HOP DANCER SUPERSTAR. AND OLIVIA IN THE BACKGROUND. OLIVIA IS ANOTHER ARTIST, SHE JUST HAD AN EXHIBITION BEFORE ME AT THE ARTS CENTRE. SHE DOES GRAPHITTI, VERY COOL.

NADIA PROVIDED MUSIC FOR THE NIGHT. SHE IS A VERY TALENTED SINGER, AND I AM NOT BEING PATRONISING. SHE USED TO WORK IN C1 TOO. IN THE BACK GROUND, JACK PELTER THE FUNNY MAN WHO HELPED OUT WITH THE AUCTION. HE IS A SEMI PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER.

AND VIOLA, THATS ME, CAUGHT IN ACTION. AND SARAH IN THE BACKGROUND, SHE AND ABBY (WHO'S NOT CAUGHT ON CAMERA THIS NIGHT, BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO BUSY RUNNING THINGS) HELPED WITH THE ADMIN STUFF.

ANYWAY. THEY ARE PRETTY OLD PHOTOS. THIS HAPPENED LATE AUGUST 2010 I THINK. THINKING OF DOING IT AGAIN SOON, SOMETHING ON A RELATED NOTE.

If I Try Hard Enough

(Bit by a nippy homesickness this morning, here are a few verses about Shillong and India as I used to know. About small town businesses and worries and discontent and the rain and the hills and the market.)
--
If I listen hard enough, close enough
I think I can hear the rain coming down
Like sheets of white rippled by cold winds
Smell heat escaping concrete

I remember an errand I had to run
Between taxis and banks and offices and bazaars
And the rain would not let go
Nor the issue I was having in mind

My phone had been silent for a long while
And the stereo in the cab blaringly edgy
And I watched souls pass by my window
Souls bent by small town prejudices and practices

Life envelops you at the market
The noise invites you, the colours prick you
It swarms around you like a pack of bees
Heaven-bent on some unknown purpose

If I try hard enough I hear the rains coming
Up the hills, green and moist and lush
I hear echoes of life, bird calls
People call, from shops lit by colourful lights

If I try hard enough I recall fear and demons
And hopes and dreams that grew on me
Living under the drowsing pine wood
And watching the chestnut leaves change colour
season by season

If I try hard enough I can redream my old dreams
And places I used to love so much
Places replaced by time and memory
Places I don't think so much now about

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sickness

The issue of identity comes back to you again and again,
The issue of nationalism, of where you actually belong,
Of where you are from or where your fathers are from.

He says nationalism is an infantile sickness,
The measles of our race.

But you don't do away with it,
Well, you can't.

You can't cook up an identity of your own either,
Because then you lose the depth,
The genuine-ness.
And you become a canvas
That you paint on, that you recreate on
Something out of nothing.

Sounds good in words,
But ridiculous in reality.

Again you cannot be selfish
And wish away the past.

They say the past and your history
Is who you are, you gotta be proud
And accept it. And then another say,
Who you are now is who you are,
And if the one you are now says,
I want to wish away the past,
Then that is being who you are.

Oh bother.

If measles are annoying and bothersome,
Nationalism is an infantile sickness, the measles of our race.

There Is A Wrong Side

Oh
You don't want to get
On the wrong
My wrong side

Your wrong side
Everyone's wrong side

Everyone's got a
Wrong side

Stay away from there

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Blessing Called Discomfort

There is something about discomfort that draws you closer to the spiritual and transcendental. That's why people fast. That's why there is a need to fast. If you're too comfortable, I believe there is a need to intentionally put yourself in discomfort. For our own good. It is a human thing. Humans cannot remember the giver after receiving the gift. That's why we need to remind ourselves again and again of times before we received it. That's why we need to intentionally change into old shoes now and then, again and again, and remember how it used to be to live in it. We need areas of blackness in our lives to accentuate the whites. That's how flawed we are. That's why we fast. Only in lack we are desperate enough.

TO LOOK

TO LOOK AT YOU
PURELY & SIMPLY
TO LOOK AT YOU
JUST AS YOU ARE
NOT ASKING
NOT BEGGING FOR FAVOUR
TO LOOK AT YOU
SIMPLY & PURELY
AS A SOUL WOULD
LOOK AT A VIEW
AND NOT OVERTHINK
NOT LOOK FOR MEANING
OR UNDERSTANDING
TO JUST LOOK
AT YOU
SIMPLY & PURELY
LOOK