Are we appreciating or idolising our leaders? 

There is significant difference between appreciating and idolising.

When we appreciate, we acknowledge the good in someone as we do it in ourself. We are at same plane. We learn from them. We honour both.

When we idolise, we put the other on a pedestal. We project all our good on to them. We make them demi-gods and rob them of any capacity to err like human. We free ourself from any responsibility to learn or to hold either of us accountable. 

Idolising quickly turns devotees into advocates of the one (or what) they idolise. As if they have an unconscious contract with their idol. 

Appreciation on the other hand, leaves room for inquiry. There is curiosity that’s open to both “how did you do that?” and “what happens if that does not work?”.

In appreciation there is a field of “and“. We see the gold in our leaders and we see their limitations. We see their strengths and their vulnerability. We can praise them and we can criticise them. 

In idolising, we get stuck in an “either-or” field. We assume that one can either support our leaders or be against them. We can’t see their faults and we refuse to hear any criticism of their decisions. There is no place for nuances. It’s all black or white!

Humans and societies evolve when they learn to appreciate the grey. The nuances. The field between and beyond “either-or”. When they can tolerate an alternate view and see the value even if it’s radical to the mainstream. When they are not threatened by criticism. They don’t have to defend. They resort to child-like curiosity, innocence and acceptance. 

Diversity is not merely a threat but an opportunity to learn and integrate. 

While idolising, we glorify our leaders and ignore their shadows. If they also promote the same (as most politicians end up doing), sooner than later, we have disasters, failures and corruption. 

When we are out of the spell of idolising, we fall flat on earth. Feeling cheated, exploited and used. Desperately looking for another pedestal…

from the Sacred Well
(manish srivastava)
24.10.2016

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India- Its time to own our own shit!

This poetry-prose is triggered by recent uprising of dalits (permanently untouchable low castes) as a response to increasing atrocities and injustice they have faced in recent times. Indian society is at another verge of evolution. This is an opportunity for us to clean years of shit that we had conveniently put under our archaic carpets!


It’s time for those
dancing on white marble floors–
To know where our shit goes,
who wipes our streets,
and mops our floors
Cause those who were
systemically condemned
to live in hell,
have awakened
and won’t do it anymore!

It’s time for all of us
to own our own shit!

While we dipped our fingers
in sandalwood with care,
They were neck deep
in our gutters and sewers
While we donned our white kurta
and self-righteous ego
They were stripped of their shirts
And dragged naked in streets…

Now the dirt inside
is staining the white

It’s time for all of us
to own our own shit!

As long there is a task in our mind
that we look down upon
And a part in our psyche
that we shudder to own
Or a longing in our vanity box
Thats too comfortable with low-cost helps…
There will be untouchables!

Untouchability is a social innovation, created by & for, all of us!

Ensuring guaranteed supply of cheap slaves generations after generations!

High castes download it as their birthright. Finding nothing weird in expecting a fellow human being to live on leftovers, forever. Neo-rich and middle-class play another game. On surface they try to look good by giving their used clothes and old electronics to their domestic helps (not very different from skinning dead cattle). However, deep down they also enjoy the convenient and low-cost labour that cleans their shit and supports their life while they pursue their big dreams. Thus they also collude with the existing system that cares nothing about equality, education and progress of dalits.

Lets face it…
Are we providing employment benefits and respect to maids, drivers, cleaners just like employees in business or public organisations?
Can we imagine them sitting on same table for dinner with us?
Why are the jobs like cleaning, sanitation, service, least valued and least compensated?
Why do we strive so hard to gather and show the power and influence but absolve ourselves of any responsibility to change the life of those living in slums and streets? Are we really curious? Or too quick to justify their condition as not our business?

We need to look within..
Each one of us
To shift the paradigm
From our homes, to our streets and the state

(Watch this video and read more below or click on this link)

 

A quarter of India is Untouchable
A quarter of India is systemically oppressed, dehumanised, suppressed–
to serve rest of us,
to clean our shit,
skin our dead cattle,
from generation to generation..
Keeping their mouth shut!

A quarter of India
Is excluded from the GDP growth saga
A quarter of India
Is not counted in great story of Indian compassion and humanity

This quarter of India is 300 million people.
As large as entire population of USA.
This quarter of India is boiling right now
Gathering like a human tsunami
Asking for justice
for generations of atrocities
Calling the facade off our faces

They have thrown the wrench
They are showing the mirror
and awakening the conscience of our country
its another service
This time they are helping us
clean our conscience!

Wake up India!
Its time to clean our own shit

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.sacredwell.in
manish srivastava
03/08/2016

—–

Some references:

Who are dalits? 
An assault on Dalits may have triggered the biggest lower-caste uprising in Gujarat in 30 years
Dalits pledge not to lift animal carcasses in Gujarat
Descent into hell: Mumbai’s dehumanised sewer workers 

 

 

Million Drops of Love

Humanity stands at a new threshold
Rising hatred, sinking hope
For every spark of hatred
Let’s rain million drops of love…

million drops of love

Just before the dawn of new humanity
A massive wave hit the hearts
A relapse of sorts
Intense tribal fear kicked in
The world started walking backwards
Sliding back into their caves
Of nationality, caste, class, religion and race
Whatever be the label
The stone on mouth of each cave read “fear”
Fear of being loved
Fear of being lost in eachother
Fear of breaking the old
And letting the newer and higher emerge
Irrational fear
Beyond all logic and education
Living unchecked in each heart
Only manifested by some lone wolves…
Before we scapegoat them
Let’s look within, our own caves
This is our time…
History of evolution is being created
Each of us stands at the threshold
Of our caves…
Either we step out,
Dissolve the boundaries that divide us
Embrace the other
Co-create a new world
Or we step further in,
Our comfort zones that separate us
Continue the war of “us vs them”
That has destroyed civilisation again and again
The wall that’s reinforced to protect
Also isolates and stifles the one within
The gun that’s fired to eliminate
Also kills the one who holds it
The hatred that justifies righteousness
Burns the one who lives within
Once again, we are in a divine tug of war
manthan within every heart
What would sustain us?
Who will we be at the other end?
What will we tell our children?
It’s our test as humanity…
For every act of violence,
Let’s take million steps of peace…
For every cave that’s closes,
Let’s open million hearts with hope…
For every spark of hatred,
Let’s rain million drops of love…
Manish Srivastava
Sacred Well
18 June 2016
(artwork by Manish on Moleskin app)
 …
rising hate

Provoked

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As I was entering the barber shop, I noticed tension on the street. Generally its a busy street especially after the construction of the Mumbai monorail pillars. Over last 2 days, I have been noticing a new addition. A police van, parked right in between a mosque and a chapel. Policemen dressed in khaki uniform, standing outside the van. I assumed that its either for pre- 15 August security or post- Yakub caution.

As I entered the salon, I was surprised to see an deserted shop with hair scattered all over the floor and chairs standing in a mess. It felt as if the salon was busy few moments ago and suddenly everyone disappeared.

A young man in professional salon uniform followed me and asked me to take a clean seat. He was shivering and disturbed. I asked him if he was okay. He replied in a disturbed tone “mujhe bin baat maar rahe hain (they are hitting me for no reason)” … Then he looked out and ran shouting “malik (owner) has come”.

It’s a nice air conditioned hair cutting salon. I still call it a barber shop. New in this area. The owner has another high end salon near by. While the owner is Muslim, his team is comprised of both Hindu and Muslim boys. I like them. They are stylish, hardworking and professional.

I walked out sensing some tension. Policemen, shopkeepers, young barber and his owner were in a mob. Some intense conversation was on. I learnt from other barbers that a policeman came in the shop and asked for some change for Rs 100/-. The barber at the counter had none. Policeman insisted that barber must give change and soon got angry. He started slapping the young man. The young barber was shocked, angry and deeply hurt.

The owner generally sits in high-end salon. He came rushing to the shop when one of his boys went running to call him for help. He maintained his posture and tried to get his boy out of the skirmish.

Sometime later, I heard policeman say “ok sorry. Now go!”, dismissing the matter. Young barber was still agitated and wanted to explain his truth. At which his boss shouted. “Enough. Sir said sorry. Now go inside.”

He came in even more agitated. Fuming with anger. I was already on chair now with another barber combing my hair. I could see his face in the reflection of the mirror. He saw mine and our eyes met. He burst into a violent mix of rage and tears. “H-H-How can he touch my face. how can he h-hit me? I am trying to make a good living. Struggled so much to come out of all that shit. Got married. I am earning a decent living. And he hit me and got away. Just cause he has a uniform. Just cause he is government. If I was in my old world, I would show me. I would teach him…”

It was heart-breaking to see a young man with nice build and heavy baritone, crying. His ego crushed. His ideals questioned. His boundaries deeply violated.

Two of his protectors had deceived him. The police and his own boss. The law-keeper and the king. He was left vulnerable and alone.

I could sense that owner was also concerned but hid his emotions behind a boss-like sternness. He said to the young barber– “why do you have to get in this mess. I know you are right but now its over. He can’t take out the slap from your face. Water has fallen on ground. You can’t pick up and drink… Cool down… You are supposed to please police men not argue…”

None of this made sense to this young man. None of this was making sense to his colleagues. None of this making sense to the owner either.

Yet the show went on. Barbers were quietly cutting hair. Owner was sitting on cash counter. Our young man was standing, looking blank in the mirror. As if, he could not see his own reflection. The silence, with only sound of scissors cutting, had a piercing quality. With such an unsettled air around us how could they resume the business of grooming. I felt suffocated in the white cloth tucked around my neck and body. I guess all of them felt the same. Young men coming from harsh slum reality to make a career as barbers, were confronted by the barbarianess of the police system.

As they completed my haircut, some more young men gathered around the shop. I learnt that the policemen who hit the barber is considered short-temered and insane by his own colleagues. I looked at the area around police van. There was no shelter or chairs. These policemen were on extra duty, standing, in sun all day due to anticipated communal tension. If I was them, I would have my own pent up frustration. We all know that frustration mixed with power leads to insane aggression.

I wondered, would adding police force on street help? Will they help check the communal tension or aggravate it?

Another little piece of data was sitting on the salon mirror. The policeman happened to be a hindu. The barber was a muslim. And the young men gathering outside the shop, to support the young barber, were not barbers. They didn’t seem trained to groom their barbarianess. They were “provoked!”

 

Manish Srivastava
Aug 9, 2015
(from the sacred well…)

I am Kalam

imageWhen a great soul departs
He must be reborn in our hearts

When a mighty oak falls
It rises again in little mushrooms & moss

Dear Dr. Kalam,
The news of your departure
Hit me right in the core
Perhaps I took you quite for granted…

And yet, I recall you
As my favourite man of contradictions…

An aeronautic engineer,
with a look of a wild artist
A genius nuclear scientist,
and yet a great storyteller to kids
A village boy with humble beginning,
who led world’s largest democracy
An upholder of clear consciousness,
in a country crippled with corruption
A humble, earthy, common man,
whose vision can put you on the wings of fire

In midst of million potential limitations,
how could you be so limitless?
Your life challenges all my excuses to shy away,
from my own greatness

When a great star falls,
It’s dust shines on us all
Like a talisman reminding us
Of our own greatness

I will not mourn a single day
I will raise a toast…

To the Man, the Rocket, the President
To the Great Soul
To the Kalam in me, in you, in us

 

(from the sacred well)

Unfamiliar familiarity

FullSizeRender-1

A rustic old man. Sitting next to me. In the middle seat of the aeroplane boarding at Abu Dhabi airport. His head low, feet tapping, carrying a restless, nervous energy around him.

An elderly lady, similar to his age, was sitting on the window seat. She was getting worried by the restless man. She asked the air hostess for a change of seat.

As I settled in my aisle seat I sensed the restlessness and discomfort that I was edging in the little 3-seat space on this plane.

The old man, grey-haired, unshaven, foul-smell coming from his mouth, looked very different from the way I would define a cultured international traveller. Yet, his rustiness, including his childlike curiosity to gaze at my iPad, was endearing.

I asked him, if he was okay?
He rested his head on the TV screen and said nothing.

An air hostess came by and inquired if he needs any medical attention. I translated the same from English to Hindi for him. He told us that he had an headache but he needs no medicine. Later he shared with me that while he was coming thru the immigration check, his daughter was in a different queue and she is held back. He was getting worried, what if she is in some trouble. I asked the air hostess to make the announcement. Our plane was still boarding.

He got curious seeing me help him, and asked me in Hindi:
“Kya aap Pakistan se hain?” (Are you from Pakistan?)
“Nahi, Mumbai.. India.” (No, I am from Mumbai… India), I replied.
“Musalman (Muslim)?”, he further asked seeking some familiarity.
I was a bit reluctant to disappoint him again and said, “well, I am Hindu”
He responded with some assurance “chalo aap insaan hain, achchhe insaan” (Well, you are a human, a good human)

This short conversation seemed important for him to establish familiarity and relationship, that he could only find at a humanity level. Not national. Not religious.

We continued some conversation. I was assuring him that his daughter might be delayed in the long immigration queue for non-US passport holders at the Abu Dhabi airport. Every time a new passenger would board the plane he would hopefully look for his daughter to enter. And I would look at him to hear his relief. I secretly started chatting a Buddhist chant, that I used to practice few years back, for well being of his daughter. Somehow, I became a member of his family.

In the meanwhile, the elderly lady at the window seat started engaging with us by assuring the old man that the plane would not leave till his daughter is back. They started talking and the old lady exclaimed with a sense of new found familiarity.
“So you are from Pakistan, I thought you are an Indian!”

They spoke for some more time trying to figure out each-other’s native cities, community, caste etc. But their familiarity was short-lived. I could guess that inspite of their same country of origin, they had significant differences. The lady was turning uncomfortable with old man’s inquiry. The old man quickly resorted,
“Sabsi badi baat, aap insaan hain” (biggest thing is that you are human).

Once again, I found in their search for familiarity, they could not find a lot in common except their country and language. Finally, the relatedness was established as a human, beyond caste, class, creed and gender.

Three of us had been through awkward exchanges. While he thought, I might be a Pakistani Muslim, I happened to be an Indian Hindu. While the lady on window seat, expected him to be an Indian Hindu, he happened to be an Pakistani Muslim. Yet in that moment, we three were connected by a deep human emotion. A longing of a father to reunite with his daughter. Inspite of our non-familiarity, we were connecting to eachothers’ emotions like a family.

The old man shared his deepest fear. He was scared– what if his young daughter is abducted from the airport. Such things can happen in the world where he came from. He was shivering and stammering while saying that. His fear was real to him. He also shared that he was suffering from diabetes and the blue lunch box in his lap carried insulin. So far, I thought that this rustic village man was carrying his food in the blue lunch box. I regretted my judgements.

His open-heart sharing touched my heart. I thought of my father, who is quite emotional and rustic like him. I touched his shoulder and assured that “she will come”. Part of me was growing worried too.

Somehow, some other elderly men and women sitting around me started relating to this side of me. A women asked me to guide her to her seat. A man asked my help in opening his water bottle seal. I became aware of my youthfulness and felt valued in helping elders.

Suddenly, the old man next to me jumped in excitement.
“Meri beti aa gayi!” (my daughter has come)
He was half standing, trying to reach out to the aisle, bending over me and extending his hand out. His lips shaking, eyes wet, love evident.
I could see a young beautiful women walking towards us. She was assigned a seat somewhere towards the back of the plane. She looked at her father from distance, showing her hand as if asking him to relax. She looked tired and embarrassed by her fathers emotional expression. As she went pass our seats, she just said, “baad mein sab batati hoon” (will share everything later).

The old man folded back his extended arm trying to cope with the emotional expression that could not meet a response in reciprocation. He then turned to me and shared his gratitude for helping and comforting him. He said that this is father-daughter love and paused for a while. I held his shoulder again and asked him to relax.

This exchange between father and daughter had another quality of unfamiliar familiarity. An old rustic father deeply caring and expressing his love and worry. A young, modern daughter, feeling embarrassed to receive and respond to that love in public. The unmet longing of a parent. The overwhelmed distancing of an adoloscent. A real yet incomplete family.

I looked around the plane as it took off. So many people from all ages. Fathers, daughters, sons, mothers, wives, husbands. In spite of our distinct religious, national & racial identities, we are deeply familiar to each-other in our being as a human… longing for love…

(the sacred well)

Election is over but the leadership void still exists…

First there was naivety,
They ruled us and exploited our resources.
Then there was apathy,
We were aware but powerless…
They thrived on corruption

Then some of us said enough !!!
And gathered the grassroot power of masses…
To challenge their might!

The country got polarised between 2 choices:
At one end were those who vouched for experience, stability, growth
and were okay to live with inauthenticity and corruption.
On the other end were activists of authenticity and honest governance

but lacked experience and political stability.

Between these two, there was a huge void
Both sides exposed the gaps of other
The best conversations from either ended in a compromise
“Well… he is the best choice we have”
“He may not be authentic, open, honest, inclusive but he will help us grow!”
“He may not have experience and stability but he is honest and inclusive!”

We have made a choice
Lets call spade a spade
At best it’s a compromise

When the celebrations
settles in the darkness of the night
And the bones feel the real weight of tired muscles..
When all the fanfare and fanaticism is over
Leaving behind empty stadium with wavering trash…
Then, just before the sun breaks in dawn
Lets wake up…
Wake up to the job yet undone
Wake up to the responsibility that can’t be outsourced
Wake up to the voice that calls for authentic leadership

 

Election is not a elixirleadership void
The leadership void still exists…
Looking at us
Echoing our name
Calling each of us to step in
To be the leader…
Who is committed to serve selflessly
Who is courageous enough to be vulnerable and authentic
And who can hold inclusion, diversity and progress in same breath

Remember, 67 years of exploitation and 100’s of years of slavery
Was build on our own ignorance and fear
It’s time to break these patterns
To reclaim our power back from few representatives
To name the facade in the face
And hold them accountable in service of the nation.
It’s time for us to stand in our own leadership…

The world is watching its largest democracy to lead responsibly
And the ‘one in the mirror’  is calling the authentic leader within you!