Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Shining India

(photos  I  took  of  malls  in  Lucknow)

While India  teeters under  the  burden  of  poverty, economic upheaval,mismanagement of  natural  resources and  corruption  in  every  strata  of  society  But spaces  in  burgeoning  cities and  SEZ (special  economic  zones)  give  no  indication  of  it. This  is   the  India  of  the  well heeled, upward mobile, successful and  powerful.

In  India  power  is  associated  with  money and the  right  connections. And  I  have  nothing   against  this  minority  group because  I  wish to  join  them.

I  visited   some  of  these  palaces   of progress  for  entertainment  value (I do  so here  also) trying  to  to  feel  disdain  for  the  highly  priced merchandise, like  a  small  Body Shop  bar  of  soap which cost  Rupees 145 (I can  buy  5  soaps  with   that  amount  of  money). I  feign allergy  to expensive  skin  care products...I  won' t  tell  you  what   excuses  I  conjure  up for  other  things.

In India  the  disparity  between  the rich  and poor is  fathomless.
I try  not  to  be  in awe  of   the  well   manicured   green  lawns  on  the  other  side  of   the  fence but  rather  be  content  with  the  herbaceous  thickets   on  my  side.

God  has given  me  a  unique opportunity  this  week.  Starting   tomorrow I  have  volunteered to   teach  a women 's   class with  my   friend , Diana. We  will  be training a  group  of  ladies  who  come  from  rural  areas. Having  a few  hours  with   them  for  4  to  5  days depending  on  how  much  material we  can  cover  each  day.

Diana  and I  have  gone  through the  teaching  materials together. I  got  up  at  4 am  to  start  my   preparation. I  am  really  looking   forward  to   it. We  are  helping  at  a  newly formed  Bible  School.

Please   pray  for  us  .

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sunday Blessings- Aradhna- Adoration

A   couple of  years    ago  I  discovered  the  Indo-American band  called Aradhna (worship  in  Hindi). It  is  a  fusion of  Classical  Indian  and  Western  music. The  lyrics  are  in Hindi and  some  Sanskrit (our  ancient language) . They  have  also  songs   in  Nepali. Some  members  of  this band  grew up  in  India - so  our language, culture  and  music   was  second  nature   to   them.

The  video I  am  posting here  is   based  on  the  Beattitudes - the  teaching of  Jesus  from  Matthew 6. The  music   and video  will  bring  you  closer  to  India

Matthew 5
New King James Version (NKJV)

The Beatitudes

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them
3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

For they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they shall be called sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It is impossible to listen to Aradhna without a sense that something much deeper is brooding under the music. Spirituality is such an easy term to throw around when speaking about a thing you can’t explain but nonetheless feel. It’s a term that breeds ambiguity and at times, misunderstanding. Nonetheless it is a word that is necessary in describing the formation and subsequent work of Aradhna. After all, the name of the band is the spiritually charged Hindi term that means “adoration.” Popular music is often made to settle into the nooks and crannies of our daily humdrum, like an elixir against the pain of human existence. We drink it in and feel a bit better but we don’t expect it to change anything beyond our emotional state. Aradhna is a band with higher aspirations, making music that is centered around spiritual enlightenment and transformation while keeping ethnic integrity intact.

We live in an an age where cross-cultural musical projects are a dime a dozen, and all too often they result in a half-baked, watered-down muddle of eclectic instruments banging into each other. The sitar was introduced to rock and roll way before many of us were born. World music has been around long enough to go in and out of style many times over. Western attempts at eastern music is an arena where many more fail than succeed. It’s a road that is fraught with cultural and aesthetic baggage that ensnares all but a few who have managed to produce something worth listening to. Aradhna is among the few who have created a new and enduring sound out of diverse musical traditions of North India and North America.

Somehow, Aradhna has been able to glide past the subterfuge of globalization and establish itself as a band that is genuinely interested in creating cross-cultural dialogue through the arts. They are the real deal and they sing in a bunch of languages and people from all over the world are listening to their music.
Aradhna’s front man Chris Hale writes, “…my passion in life is to build bridges between cultures. A good bridge builder has a strong foundation on his own side and then builds a strong foundation on the other side, and then he crosses over.” Strong foundations are indeed one of the defining characteristics of Aradhna’s founding members. Chris Hale, an American, spent his childhood and adolescence in South Asia, where he gained fluency in Nepali and Hindi. It was in these formative years that Chris began to study the sitar and develop a love for bhajans, the classical devotional genre of India, and particularly of Hindus. In 1991 Chris formed the rock fusion band Olio and toured all across India for 6 years before releasing their first Hindi album Naam Leo Re (1997). Later that year, American guitarist and vocalist Pete Hicks returned to India, the land of his birth, to join the band in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Olio concluded its final tour in 1999 and soon after Hale and Hicks reunited in London. Soon the two friends began a new collaboration that would evolve into Aradhna.

As soon as Chris and Pete had enough material for an album, they decided to record in the U.S. where they met up with bassist Travis McAfee. The three of them had an instant rapport, as Travis spent part of his childhood traveling to Africa, India, and throughout Southeast Asia.

In the spring of 2000, Deep Jale′ was recorded, which they decided to release in the U.K. over the course of a three-month tour. Aradhna was born, and the ardent response to their album and performances encouraged them to continue arranging traditional bhajans and begin composing songs of their own for their next release Marga Darshan (2002). After performing extensively in India and North America, Aradhna’s touring expanded to the South Asian Diaspora in South Africa, Guyana and Suriname where East Indians have lived for over a century.

During this time Aradhna self-released three more notable records and gained new audiences as diverse as the music itself. From the beginning, Aradhna has chosen to remain independent from the support of the record industry in order to stay true to their artistic vision. As each new offering surpasses the last, their decision to maintain creative control has certainly made for better art and more innovative collaborations with the likes of Ric Hordinski, Naren Budhakar and Jim Feist, among others.

Now Aradhna is releasing their most ambitious and far-reaching project yet, their sixth album Namaste Saté, along with a companion DVD Sau Guna, a collection of music videos filmed in Varanasi, India. The intimate and immense sound of Namaste Saté not only builds upon the best of their preceding albums but deepens the possibilities of cultural and spiritual contextualization in the most winsome and genuine of ways. (Click here for a full write up on the album.) Until you experience their new album and DVD together, you cannot fully appreciate the degree to which Aradhna is achieving its goal to produce a prodigious body of work and build lasting bridges between disparate communities throughout the world. To support the release, the band will be touring extensively throughout the U.S.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I want this Poster on the Wall of My House

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

In Nature 's Lap - Lucknow Zoo

The Zoo is located in the heart of the capital city of Uttar Pradesh. It is being managed as a Trust, by the Zoo Advisory Committee with Forest Secretary to the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh as Chairman, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Uttar Pradesh as Vice Chairman and Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttar Pradesh as Administrator. An officer of the rank of Deputy Conservator of Forests is posted as Director, for over all day-to-day management of the zoo.

The Central Zoo Authority, Govt. of India, categorizes the Lucknow Zoo as a large zoo. It has an area of 71.6 acres. It has two veterinarians who look after the health and general up keep of the zoo inmates. The diet is properly checked, sterilized and supplemented with vitamins from time to time. The animals are regularly checked for diseases and worms and preventive and control measures are adopted accordingly.

The Zoo has one head keeper, keepers and sweepers who work under the supervision of the two veterinarians. The Zoo receives annually around 12-13 lakes visitors of which around 40-50 percent are school children. The Zoo has 447 mammals, 348 birds, 57 reptiles and a total of 97 different species of wild animals. Some prime possessions are the Royal Bengal Tiger, White Tiger, Lion, Wolf, Hoolock Gibbon, Himalayan Black Bear, Indian Rhinoceros, Black buck, Swamp Deer, Barking Deer, Hog Deer, Asiatic Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Common Otters, Hill Mynahs, Giant Squirrels, Great Pied Hornbill, Golden Pheasant, Silver Pheasant etc. The Zoo is successfully breeding Swamp Deer, Black Buck, Hog Deer and Barking Deer, White Tiger, Indian Wolf and several Pheasants.

The Zoo has a newly constructed Nature Interpretation Center where "Touch Table Programmes" are held every Friday for school children. Here, children are given hands-on experience and information about the skins of various animals, eggs of birds/pheasants, tusk of elephants, plaster cast of Tiger pug marks, etc. and also shown one wild life movie. The nature Interpretation Center also houses trophies of various wild animals, a press gallery giving information about the present and past status of the zoo. The site available outside the Nature Interpretation Center is developed as Jurassic Park where different animals/birds, that are extinct or are on the verge of extinction, are displayed in the form of models.

To Provide additional entertainment to the visitors in the Zoo, especially the children, a Toy train was started since 1969. The rolling stock consisting of engine and two coaches is the gift of Railway Board. The train was inaugurated on the Children's Day Nov. 14, 1969 by the then Chief Minister, U. P. the length of the track is 1.5 km. and has crossings and signals. Rides start from Chandrapuri station and this toy train is attracting huge visitors and has proved to be an asset for the zoo over the years.

State Museum, LucknowThe UP state museum
 in Lucknow, once was situated in the historic Choti Chattar Manzil and the Lai Baradari. It moved in 1963 to its new premises, a modern structure in the Prince of Wales Zoological Garden (Lucknow Zoo).

The initial collection centered around the arts of Avadh and objects related to the customs, habits and mythology of India. Gradually, it expanded to include excavated antiquities from Piparahawa, Kapilavastu, where the Buddha grew up. Today, this has evolved into a multipurpose museum with sculpture, bronzes, paintings, natural history and anthropological specimens, coins, textiles and decorative arts. From the vast number of displayed objects, some hundred are rare and of great value. These include an inscribed wine jar bearing the name of Aurangzeb Alamgir (17th century), a jade chamakali with the name Jahangir and the date 1036 AD, a 16th century painting of a scene from the Kalpasutra depicting an elephant rider and a Jain mum, a 16th century copy of the Harivansha in Persian with nine illustrations, rare silver and gold coins, a prehistoric anthropomorphic figure and a fossilised plant. However, what thrill visitors most are the Egyptian mummy and wooden sarcophagus (1000 BC).

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday Blessings - Is Jesus the Only Way?

Is Jesus the Only Way?

Jonathan Dodson » God Worldviews Culture Apologetics

This is the perennial question of our generation: “Is Jesus the only way to God?” Some ask it with disdain: How could anyone assert that Jesus is the only way to God? Others ask it with genuine sense of doubt. Is Jesus the only way to God? Only in books do we find this question asked and addressed so explicitly. So while the question may mark our generation, we are loath to discuss the answer. Why is this question so besetting for our generation? Over the next few posts, I will address this question with honesty and sincerity.

Answering the Question Socially

If the answer is: “Yes, Jesus is the only way to God” a line is drawn where we would rather have things remain fuzzy. Why would we prefer this particular claim to fuzziness? In many cities there are an array of religious beliefs: Mysticism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, just to name a few. The presence of so many different religions in cities leads many people (Christians included) to the conclusion that all religious paths lead to God. Why? When we meet people from various religions who are kind and sincere because of their religious beliefs, it seems arrogant to insist they are wrong. After all, their religion appears to have made them very enjoyable, respectable people. I, for one, have met many people I would consider more generous and sacrificial than some Christians I know.

“What if our generation became known for not only posing great questions but also grappling deeply and sincerely with their answers?

A Theological Decision Based on Social Experience

When people of other faiths rival Christian character, we face a tendency to affirm all religions as valid ways to God. We make a theological decision based on social experience. Rather than investigate the answer to one of the most important questions, we prefer to glaze the question with inch-deep reflections upon the character of people we meet. Understandable…but not wise.

What if our generation became known for not only posing great questions but also grappling deeply and sincerely with their answers? Many Christians claim that belief in Jesus is the only way to God. Others insist there are many ways to God. In the next post, I will explore more on why some people insist there are many paths to God.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The City of Princes (Nawabs)- Lucknow

Lucknow ( Hindi: लखनऊ, Urdu: لکھنؤ, Lakhnau ) is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India. Lucknow is also the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division.

Located in what was historically known as the Awadh region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as the The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.

Today, Lucknow is a vibrant city that is witnessing an economic boom and is among the top ten fastest growing non-major-metropolitan cities of India. It is the second largest city in Uttar Pradesh state. The unique combination of its cultured grace and newly acquired pace is its most promising feature that augurs well for the future.

Located in what was originally known as the Awadh (Oudh) region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city, and flourished as a cultural and artistic capital of North India in the 18th & 19th centuries. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history.Lucknow is popularly known as The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.

Lucknow is placed among the fastest growing cities and now it is metropolitan city of India and is rapidly emerging as a manufacturing, commercial and retailing hub. This unique combination of rich cultural traditions and brisk economic growth provides Lucknow with an aura that refuses to fade away.

Lucknow has Asia's first human DNA bank. This is world's second bank having DNA identification system (DIS) and has been established in the Biotech park under the public private partnership with IQRA Biotech Services.

 Modern Lucknow is a bustling metropolis. Historically, it was a centre of Urdu literature.

Nawab Asaf-Ud-Dowlah (1775-1797)[11]After 1350 AD the Lucknow and parts of Awadh region have been under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, the Nawabs of Awadh, the East India Company and the British Raj. Lucknow has been one of the major centers of Indian rebellion of 1857, participated actively in India's Independence movement, and after Independence has emerged as an important city of North India.

Until 1719, subah of Awadh was a province of the Mughal Empire administered by a Governor appointed by the Emperor. Saadat Khan also called Burhan-ul-Mulk a Persian adventurer was appointed the Nazim of Awadh in 1722 and he established his court in Faizabad[12] near Lucknow.

Awadh was known as the granary of India and was important strategically for the control of the Doab, the fertile plain between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. It was a wealthy kingdom, able to maintain its independence against threats from the Marathas, the British and the Afghans. The third Nawab, Shuja-ud-Daula fell out with the British after aiding Mir Qasim, the fugitive Nawab of Bengal. He was comprehensively defeated in the Battle of Buxar by the East India Company, after which he was forced to pay heavy penalties and cede parts of his territory. The British appointed a resident in 1773, and over time gained control of more territory and authority in the state. They were disinclined to capture Awadh outright, because that would bring them face to face with the Marathas and the remnants of the Mughal Empire.

Many independent kingdoms, such as Awadh, were established when the Mughal empire disintegrated. Awadh’s capital, Lucknow rose to prominence when Asaf-ud-Daula, the fourth nawab, shifted his court here from Faizabad in 1775. The city was also North India’s cultural capital, and its nawabs, best remembered for their refined and extravagnt lifestyles, were patrons of the arts. Under them music and dance flourished, and many monuments were erected.[13] Of the monuments standing today, the Bara Imambara, the Chhota Imambara, and the Rumi Darwaza are notable examples. One of the more lasting contributions by the Nawabs is the syncretic composite culture that has come to be known as the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb.

Nawab Saadat Khan IIIn 1798, the fifth Nawab Wazir Ali Khan alienated both his people and the British, and was forced to abdicate. The British then helped Saadat Ali Khan to the throne. Saadat Ali Khan was a puppet king, who in the treaty of 1801 ceded half of Awadh to the British East India Company and also agreed to disband his troops in favor of a hugely expensive, British-run army. This treaty effectively made the state of Awadh a vassal to the British East India Company, though it notionally continued to be part of the Mughal Empire in name until 1819.

The treaty of 1801 formed an arrangement that was very beneficial to the Company. They were able to use Awadh's vast treasuries, repeatedly digging into them for loans at reduced rates. In addition, the revenues from running Awadh's armed forces brought them useful revenues while it acted as a buffer state. The Nawabs were ceremonial kings, busy with pomp and show but with little influence over matters of state. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the British had grown impatient with the arrangement and wanted direct control of Awadh.

Wajid Ali Shah (1847 - 1856)[11]In 1856 the East India Company first moved its troops to the border, then annexed the state, which was placed under a chief commissioner - Sir Henry Lawrence. Wajid Ali Shah, the then Nawab, was imprisoned, and then exiled by the Company to Calcutta. In the subsequent Revolt of 1857 his 14-year old son Birjis Qadra son of Begum Hazrat Mahal was crowned ruler, and Sir Henry Lawrence killed in the hostilities. Following the rebellion's defeat, Begum Hazrat Mahal and other rebel leaders obtained asylum in Nepal
Those company troops who were recruited from the state, along with some of the nobility of the state, were major players in the events of 1857. The rebels took control of Awadh, and it took the British 18 months to reconquer the region, months which included the famous Siege of Lucknow. Oudh was placed back under a chief commissioner, and was governed as a British province. In 1877 the offices of lieutenant-governor of the North-Western Provinces and chief commissioner of Oudh were combined in the same person; and in 1902, when the new name of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh was introduced, the title of chief commissioner was dropped, though Oudh still retained some marks of its former independence.

The province of Awadh (anglicized to Oudh) was annexed by the East India Company in 1856 under the Doctrine of Lapse and placed under the control of a chief commissioner. In the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the First War of Indian Independence and the Indian Mutiny), the garrison based at the Residency in Lucknow was besieged by rebel forces. The famous Siege of Lucknow was relieved first by forces under the command of Sir Henry Havelock and Sir James Outram, followed by a stronger force under Sir Colin Campbell. Today, the ruins of the Residency, and the picturesque Shaheed Smarak offer reminiscences of Lucknow's role in the stirring events of 1857.

Because of its historical importance, commercial activity, and cultural activity, Lucknow has frequently been a center of political activity, prominent in the independence movement. The Lucknow Pact of 1916 was negotiated there, between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League to support pressuring the Raj for greater autonomy, a marked shift for the Muslim League.

The Khilafat Movement had an active base of support in Lucknow, creating a united platform against the British rule. In the Khilafat Movement Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal, Lucknow actively participated and cooperated with Mahatama Gandhi and Maulana Mohammad Ali.

In 1901, after remaining the capital of Oudh since 1775, Lucknow, with a population of 264,049, was merged in the newly formed United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.[14] However, it became the provincial capital in 1920 when the seat of government was moved from Allahabad. Upon Indian independence in 1947, Lucknow became the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the erstwhile United Provinces

I  have  drawn  the   above  information  from Wikipedia  and  other  sources. Here  are  some  photos  I  took while  in   the  city

The  state  Legislative  Assembly
called   the  Vidhan  Sabha where
laws  are  made and  government  offices
are  situated.

Some  modern  buildings
Posh  shopping  area  called Hazratganj.

Statues  of  political  icons

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Rain washed country side

I  returned  from  Lucknow  late  evening on
August  15th (our  Independence  Day).
It poured  heavily  all  day and  I  missed  the  earlier  buses. Sonia  and I  waited more than 2  hours at  the
bus station , once  I  got  a  seat everything  was  OK.
In  spite  of  rain, I   had  a  lovely  time  with  Sonia and  her family. I  will  post pictures  of  the  places  we  saw. I  was  visiting after a gap  of  10  years, much  has  changed  in that  city.

I  travelled  by  a  very  comfortable AC bus and tried to take photos through  the  closed  windows.

Lucknow is  205 kms (kilometers) from
These  pictures are of  the  River  Ganga flooded
in  the  middle  of  the  monsoon. All  the  low  lying  areas  and  villages  are  submerged.
The  village  roads  were  very  muddy  and  slushy.
While  the  cities  and urban areas  are  developing at  a very  fast  rate and  everywhere you can see signs of wealth, prosperity  and  advancement, the  villages  are  far behind and  neglected.

Before leaving  I  had  made  arrangements  for Mama  and  Aunt  Maya , ensuring  their  comfort and  ease (even Sheeba). Mama  was  very  worried and  kept  calling  me  on my  cell   phone.
On entering  Lucknow we  passed   through
a newly developed area which  is  a  memorial park, I told  her  so. Mom was   puzzled  by  that   and  thought  the  bus  driver  was  taking  us  through a  wrong route. She  rang  up  my  sister  and  brother-in-law and  had  another  person  call  them.  So there  was  a lot  of  telephonic activity during  my  approach to the city.
My  mother was  only satisfied  when  I  told  her that I  had  met Sonia and  Abner  at the bus station.
Up till then my  poor  mother  was  thinking  I  was  lost, kidnapped  or hijacked!
After  all   I  had  left  town after  ten years.