CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD On my way out of Cuba, from La Habana, on COPA airlines flight to Panama, I w...
jeudi 30 décembre 2010
I was quite satisfied with the excellent Ble Noir Bretagne crepe I had for dinner and then followed by thoughts on the outlying regions of my heart, I sat down to read an email which arrived from Tehran. It was about Hafez. There is no Persian/Iranian worth his salt who cannot talk about Hafez, a poet eternal and poet for everyday. There are excellent translations and approximations, and a person well versed in the beautiful language, Persian that gave rise to hundreds of years of Poems of love and adoration across deserts and moutains and river plains... can distinguish the one truthful to the original and the others who are just wonderful imitators. but it is better to read Hafez in a shadow than not to read him at all..
Perhaps one should learn Persian to read Hafez in the original.
I thought back to that distant day, on my way home from school in Sweden, I had bought a magazine with four poems translated by Alistair Read of a poet Pablo Neruda.. Little did I know that Pablo would be travelling in my heart for years to come and I, from another antipodean country with winds caressing its shore, coming without hindrance from cold antarctica, would read him first in english and then try to read his original words without understanding.. It remained that way until that star of the Americas, Cuba entered my life and I began to speak Spanish and began to read and understand Pablo in the original... follow his history which is the history of care and tenderness for the suffering of the Continent..
From his Noberl Prize Lecture:
And I believe that poetry is an action, ephemeral or solemn, in which there enter as equal partners solitude and solidarity, emotion and action, the nearness to oneself, the nearness to mankind and to the secret manifestations of nature. And no less strongly I think that all this is sustained - man and his shadow, man and his conduct, man and his poetry - by an ever-wider sense of community, by an effort which will for ever bring together the reality and the dreams in us because it is precisely in this way that poetry unites and mingles them. And therefore I say that I do not know, after so many years, whether the lessons I learned when I crossed a daunting river, when I danced around the skull of an ox, when I bathed my body in the cleansing water from the topmost heights - I do not know whether these lessons welled forth from me in order to be imparted to many others or whether it was all a message which was sent to me by others as a demand or an accusation. I do not know whether I experienced this or created it, I do not know whether it was truth or poetry, something passing or permanent, the poems I experienced in this hour, the experiences which I later put into verse.
I watched a few videos on youtube and was so moved to listen to Alberto Cortez singing Puedo Escribir the poem no 20 and was touched to listen a short video where Atahualpa Yupanqui paid homage to Nuestro Pablo, tu estas en tu chile, gracias por la ternura...
In every corner in the darkest of Latin America, a young man recites his poems... to me it is a check of intellectual character of any american from those climes...
Can you recite a poem by Pablo?
Thank you friends, near and far for this tenderness felt tonight
mercredi 29 décembre 2010
My father was not alone in telling me of the glory that was Burma, even to this day I hear stories from the children of Indians who left Burma soon after Indian Independence or after the 1962 riots? longingly talking about the Burma left behind. Amitav Ghosh the writer who spent some time in Burma also recollects that time fondly. The House of Memories now a restaurant in Yangon housed a teak merchant from Calcutta married into a Burmese family and in his own both Aung San and Subash Chandra Bose were welcomed...
It is nice to think of such a country, a country you can recollect with fondness, my favourite country in all of Asia...Easy for me to get a Burmese visa in Paris and then with daily flights from Kl to Yangon on Air Asia or occasional flights on MH, one can feel the peace of that most preserved of the british colonial cities, Yangon... and offer my prayers to the Galon, as all Sunday borns are obliged to do at the Schwedagon Pagoda..
mardi 28 décembre 2010
So when you think of Kuala Lumpur, an urban spread somewhat in disarray, you are not thinking of the ancient philosophy of Yoga. But it was here that my introduction to Yoga began. The first teacher was Vandana Y from the Yoga Institute in Santa Cruz in Bombay and Pranayama was taught to me by MLY at Seri Kembangan in KL. Also a good correspondence with a teacher of Yoga currently working in UAE kept the flames up.
It is nice to be able to observe Yoga from various points of view, one is the cross cultural view of course, since I am involved in the lives of some north american indian tribes. When Miss Y was teaching the basic philosophy of Yoga I was struck by many similarities between the American Indian world view and Yoga.
Secondly, being an Endocrinologist, I want to know whether there are physiological benefits to some of the specific actions which are common to both cultures: Yog and American Indians.
The first question I asked myself : when is the best time to do Yoga?
The American Indian point of view would be: First thing in the morning, in an empty stomach, as the sun is rising, preferably after attending to your bodily functions and in a clean and natural environment.
Yoga and its philosophy is not about Exercise but there is an element of exercising of the body included in the Asanas or Pranayamas. So it came as no surprise that after a short research I could find that: exercising early in the morning in the fasting state has beneficial effects upon the metabolism of the hormone, Insulin. In fact in Pre Diabetes, this hormone is elevated and Pranayama alone can bring it down to normal levels.
As the Lakota would say: Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related and looking through a broad spectrum, we can also say, things are related to one another.
As my Meskwakia teacher told me earlier on, things have a meaning and relationship, only that the students are not clever enough to understand it. It was a good lesson in humility for a recently qualified Endocrinologist!
mardi 21 décembre 2010
Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older
Age and happiness
Dec 16th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION
ASK people how they feel about getting older, and they will probably reply in the same vein as Maurice Chevalier: “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” Stiffening joints, weakening muscles, fading eyesight and the clouding of memory, coupled with the modern world’s careless contempt for the old, seem a fearful prospect—better than death, perhaps, but not much. Yet mankind is wrong to dread ageing. Life is not a long slow decline from sunlit uplands towards the valley of death. It is, rather, a U-bend.
When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.
Without any great philosophical backing, I had set upon a path in which personal happiness always played a part. Perhaps the fact that being told as a child that I was a happy child set the tone. Soon the restrictive life in Australia and the Medical Profession set me off to find other sources of Happiness and happily enough the American Indians entered my life and more or less helped me plan a division of time and usage of time which balances and brings happiness, such as it did for them before contact with the latter day saints of unhappiness and depression.
It does not take much brains to realize that too much WORK does not bring you happiness, it can wreck your social life and make you a moron before you hit 30 years of age. Too much has been said about Workaholic and that is what it is, a Disease imposed upon you by the society's desire to use you and chuck you out. All of us must work, but enjoying that work is far more important that what lubrication you provide the wheels of corporate fortunes, always remember, the very same people to whom you devote your working hours, will not look after you when you are sick, then you need friends. Always work for people or with people, with whom you are friends as well, in corporate world that is hardly possible.
Relationships are what define you, and you need them at every stage in your life and more so as you get older. Make your own mistakes rather than listening to others telling you to be careful and pessimistic, but make your mistakes early in your life so that you have a long life ahead of you to savour your happiness.
Relationships dont grow out of trees, you need to nurture it with TIME, and now you can see why long working hours and meaningful relationships cant go hand in hand. The greatest gift you can give people of your generation is the gift of TIME, across the continents and social classes and cultures.
Decrease your desires and all of a sudden you would realize that that driving force to work extra hard dissipates a little. Work also gives you a mechanistic way of looking at life, calculating the profit of human interactions. The networking is not for your good, calculated and unhealthy but for the welfare of others, so that your friends can help more people through you or vice versa.
Studs Terkel in his seminal volume on Work had stated based on his ethnographic work that the majority of the people in the western world are not happy with their work, so choose your work carefully, find out what is that you are suited for rather than studying Business adminstration. How many MBAs are languishing in the lower ranks of the corporate society?
I admire people who actually look forward to going to work, who enjoy their work, there is some intrinsic beauty to it. But how many of your "hard working" friends fall into the category.
Money does not buy you happiness (an yiddisch folk wisdom says, but darling, it makes the shopping interesting), most people seem to understand this dictum in the non immigrant West but somehow they dont put it in practice. It is not sensitive to discuss these matters with maids from Cambodia working in malaysia or the Filipina/o indentured labourers all through the world. They are marching to a different tune.. Both Republic of Philippines and Bangladesh among others heavily depend upon these labourer/worker for an income..
Most people want to be happy, but very few are willing to do something about it. They are excellent at making excuses and postponing it.. The facts speak for themselves...
lundi 20 décembre 2010
while the rest of Europe is shivering with cold and covered with snow, Quiberon, un presquile, is a relatively warm place 10 C for this time of the year, no wind, gentle breeze and sun is shining..
No tourists, very few residents and very pleasantly quiet..
I shall wait for 2011 to arrive amidst this peace.
the peace and quiet does not exclude a nice drop of Champagne! This is the best French habit I have picked up since 2006!
KL is a great place to eat.. and Malaysia is the truly Asia.. all other claims are fake...
Paris to Munich to Newark LH
Newark to Miami to Houston to San Francisco CO
San Francisco to Narita ANA
Narita to Singapour UA
Singapour to KL Silk Air
KL to Paris MH
The only unpleasant flight in the whole sequence was the Silk Air from Singapour to KL but it was only 35 minutes flight.
vendredi 17 décembre 2010
Just think, how often have you heard of Culturally Extinct Group coming back to their previous Cultural niveau?
I am waiting for the Minister of Culture of The Republic of Cuba to answer my question to him: Are there any Indian Culture left in Cuba?
Ten years ago his answer was NO. I wonder whether the new flurry of activities from False Tainos of Baracoa has had any impact officially in Cuba.
Two topics interest me:
Wannabee Indians of Rich Westernized countries, such as the newly formed San Antonio Mission Indians of Texas among the array of Wannabee Indians with vague notions of History.
The Lost Tribes of Israel. i am aware of groups in Uganda, Zimbabwe among others. There is a parallel group much like the False Tainos of Baracoa, in some northern states of Mexico and in Iquitos, Peru and Kai Feng in China.. where there were Jews once upon a time and there is an effort to be born again Jews.
It is an academic interest in the context of Cuba and the developing countries.
mercredi 15 décembre 2010
They are one of the 18 groups of Indigenous peoples who inhabited Malaysia before Malays, Chinese and Indians arrived on these shores. Their linguistic connection to Austronesian Languages and MonKhmer languages show their ancient connections to others in the greater Asian Mainland.
Just outside the city of Klang in Malaysia, there is a large island, Carey Island which is home to Mah Meri Orang Asli, one of the many branches of the Senoi group of people. Their language is different from the major groups of Senoi or Temiar. The physiognomy reveals a long admixture with the invading races, such as the Malay. But they have maintained their distinct cultural identity and religious beliefs. Like everywhere else when outsiders come into the territory of the indigenous people, there is a pressure to change religion and Malays are no better than the White colonialists, forcing Islam on to the Orang Asli.
Yet, most of them maintain their ancient belief system and would openly tell you that their moslem names were given to them at school and their real names by which they are known are what they are proud of.
The government is trying to integrate Orang Asli into the mainstream Malay life and thus the Malaysian life. Their villages are tidy and when you meet them there are signs of material wealth among them. The older men are fisherman and strong. there are about 2000 mah meri.
They are good wood carvers. Despite the loss of the habitat of their favourite wood for the ubiquitous palm trees, they manage to create intricate works of art, depicting various members of their spirit pantheon.
I was lucky to meet Samri, an internationally known wood sculptor and his father, Jaukin who is a fisherman. They were very generous to answer our questions and i preferred them to talk and they told a lot of stories about the various animals and how many of the spirits were born in the ancient times.
Samri had been to UNESCO in Paris where he represented Malaysia for an exhibition and recently he went to Shanghai to represent Malaysia at the Expo 2010. Before leaving he said, in the typical fashion of the indigenous people, he would ask the ancestors to protect him and beg spirits to follow him and bring him home safe.
The couple of hours we spent with Samri and his father left us feeling richer and more connected to this land called Malaysia. Having worked all my professional life with Indigenous peoples, I can see the universal cries among them and the ethos of their living, their concern for animals and plants and true to their name, People of the Forest, their concern for the trees and the forest.
I happened to have a replica of Eiffel Tower on my person and Samri was delighted to have it as his own souvenir from his visit to Paris had been lost. For the sake of Cuba, I also gave him a 3 peso coin with the visage of Che and told him a little about this great Cuban who cared for Indigenous people as well of another continent. Samri is universal as many indigenous people are when it comes to the indigenous peoples elsewhere, he had no doubt relating to the North American Indians, to whom he may be distantly related. I would like to hear them speak, perhaps they speak like us, he wistfully added.
here is a story which appeared in the local newspaper about Samri.
Yet another gift to me, from this country, Malaysia, a country which I have come to love..
In one week, I had met an ancient inhabitant of this land, spent time with President of the International Society dedicated to the greatest Admiral, Zheng He who had visited Malacca on his many visits in the 15th centuries and wanted to spread harmony among various peoples.. A small but beneficial meeting was with the Spiderman of Taiping , the local expert on Insects of Malaysia who has a near full collection of Butterflies of peninsular malaysia...
If you look hard enough, you will find interesting people all over the world.. but you have to learn to look without judgement...
dimanche 12 décembre 2010
I have been here one week. The day begins early, wake up and drink at least two glasses of water and then have a shower and get ready for the meditation and breathing exercises, which take about one hour, which passes quickly. The Breathing sessions are conducted by ML, sister of my best friend in Asia, MC. ML explains various forms of breathing and the connections to the general world of living and the body and the connections to the universe and with ease the exercises are carried out.
My BP which has been fluctuating since February of this year. I have done an anthropological observation of what various doctors say about BP, including cardiologists: all suggested, more tests, medications or just ignore it. I was determined to bring it down by non pharmaceutical means.
When i arrived in Singapour after my trip Paris to Miami and Miami to Singapour with various stops, the BP was reading 145/85, which is high for me.
In the one week I have been in KL, my BP has been averaging 120/70 and I attribute this change of 20-25 mm Hg to
a: the way the Yong Sisters have made me feel comfortable and have made sure that my stay is pleasant here in KL. Have gone out of the way to make sure that my breathing exercises and explanations are conducted regularly. ML has cooked meals especially on occasions and then we have gone out out to eat and eaten very well.
So this affection certainly has been a factor in the healing
b: Chakuoka the spiritual leader of the Mexican Kickapoo had spent the morning of the day of my arrival in KL praying for me, requested by my Kickapoo sister, Mena
c: the sacrifice I had to do to be in KL: time away from Paris and its affections, time away from attention to work.
In any case, I am feeling well, a living proof that non western medicine has its role in the maintenance of health. but it has to be done in context and by people who are interested in you as a person and has a relationship with you. Non western cook book type of medicine is no better than the western cook book type of medicine: for this ailment take this medication is very similar to new age yogis saying: for hypertension do this asana..
I plan to bring my experiences back to the Indians in the Rez, so that we can begin to fortify Rez Yoga, and also streghten my relationship with Maestro Pimental in La Habana and promote Yoga in Cuba.
I am writing this from the Historic City of Malacca in Malaysia
lundi 6 décembre 2010
I have a sister, Menacuatucua. Eventhough I do not belong to her tribe (The Traditional Kickapoo who have homes in Eagle Pass, Texas and Nacimiento de los Negros at the foot of Sierra madre Oriental in the state of Coahuila, Mexico) but she has given me a Kikapu name as well, more in jest than ritualistic, Kesekuitepa or the One who walks with his head in the Clouds. A meskwaki friend of mine, in the typical fashion of Indian way of looking at the world with less enthusiasm and more cynicism, said to me, as they understand each others languages, yea, it means you are an airhead!
I had gone and visited her tribe many times during my visits to the USA and I am one of the few people outside the tribe who is regularly invited to their traditional homes in Nacimiento. In fact a Kickapoo has to take you there, as even the local Mexicans do not know how to get to this settlement. Mena is the grand daughter of the previous spiritual leader Annico who lived to be over 100 years old and holder of much spiritual power. Upon his return to the world of his ancestors, his son, Chakuoka, took over the reins. He also appears ageless, but most people believe he is in his eighties, but he is always busy at his traditional residence at the foot of the mountains and rarely likes to go out to the Mexican or North American social gatherings. He is, albeit his withdrawn nature, very active in the Indigenous Affairs of Mexico, and at one time was president of that association.
I treasure a photo of him, taken together, when he bought a car for the first time, a vintage 1945 Ford since he had always used a horse for his transportation. (he has a mobile phone at the moment as well!)
Chakuoka and the “new” car he acquired!
I lead a vagabond life, peripatetic life of a traveler but fortunately with a transportable profession like mine, I can work in many countries to take care of the sick people and with my additional training as an Anthropologist, derive enormous pleasure of gaining native wisdom as well as solving every day social problems. I began travelling in the earnest in 1993 (I have always traveled, but not with the same intensity) and it is still going strong.
2009 had been an eventful year for me. Over the years I had learned to deal with stress in my own fashion taking leaves from the wisdom of the Indigenous people who seem to be joyous in face of all the discrimination the European and African descendants put upon them. But the sickness of my sister Jackie in Miami ( she is England born, Jamaican upbringing and married to a catholic Jamaican of Syrian ancestry!) was a challenge medical education and years as a doctor and anthropologist had not prepared me for. But the challenge was met head on and thanks to every power there is on earth, she is well and looking good and free of cancer. The 13 trips I took in that year to Miami from Paris, where I was making adjustments to a lifestyle so different from my previous residence, that of Baracoa and Havana, added to the physical exhaustion of the exhilaration of travelling. Apart from the 13 trips to Miami, there were four trips to Asia. By the time January rolled around, 2010, I knew I needed some detoxification of my external self, but organization of it, I waited for it to happen and my closest friend, Mun Ching and her sister Man Lee organized a ten day detoxification schedule. Pranayama, which are deep breathing exercises; Yoga Asanas which are pertinent to loosening up of the body; home cooked vegetarian chinese meals and home cooked dinners at the home of friends; abstention from alcohol, which in my case is Wine!
Of course no visit to KL is without a visit to the A Cut Above at Bangsar shopping centre where the best pedicurist GS works, and also the hair style Fei Wen can sculpt my unruly hair a little bit. A facial at Guinot by Anna.
I have told you that I needed a detoxification of my outer self, because a detoxification of inner self would be a totally different matter. But what was to follow shows that such divisions are only for curiosity of your intellect, to divide yourself into self and soul; spirit and matter or inner or outer.
My sister Mena, who is mother to Keatu, wrote to me the very same day I was leaving for my detoxification destination which I had kept a sort of secret from anyone. No one would believe that you are spending 26 hours flying time alone plus all the waits and delays at various airports in four different countries so that you can have a pedicure at Bangsar? But very few non-Indians understand the strength and importance of Relationships, the kind I have with my best friend in Asia, MunChing.
This is what Mena, my Kickapoo sister wrote. Remember Kickapoo is her first language, Spanish the second and English a distant third even though in the last twenty years she had to use more English than Spanish.
Sudah You need to take easy on yourself on those trip because those
trip also make us get stress out even if we don't drive our self.
but don't worry i will ask Chakoka do a Kickapoo prayers for you this
will be exclusive for you only.
sometime that is all we need to remember our ancestor to feel better
because even that our great-grandmother are not we us any more they
still care for us just remember all those Kickapoo elderly you make
happy for seen them as patient and not treat the as patients i know
that because they where always asking for you remember that.
You need to take it easy upon yourself on these trips because these trips are stressful even if it is not you who is driving the vehicle.
But don't worry, I will ask Chakuoka to do a Kickapoo prayer for you, this one would be just for you alone. Sometimes this is all we need, to remember our ancestors to feel better, for, even though our great grandmother is no longer among us, they still care for us. Just remember all those Kickapoo elderly people you made them very happy, looking after them but not treating them as patients. I know this is true because they were always asking for you, I remember that.
Usted necesita tomar más fácil para ti en en estos viajes, porque estos viajes son estresantes, incluso si no eres tú quien está conduciendo el vehículo.
Pero no te preocupes, voy a pedir Chakuoka hacer una oración Kickapoo para ti, éste sería sólo para ti solo. A veces esto es todo lo que necesitamos, para recordar a nuestros antepasados a sentirse mejor, ya que, a pesar de nuestra bisabuela ya no está entre nosotros, que aún se preocupan por nosotros. Sólo recuerde a todas aquellas personas mayores Kickapoo hiciste muy feliz, el cuidado de ellos, pero no tratarlos como pacientes. Sé que esto es cierto, porque siempre estaban preguntando por ti, me acuerdo de eso.
Você precisa tomar mais fácil a si mesmo sobre estas viagens, porque essas viagens são estressantes, mesmo se não é você quem está dirigindo o veículo.
Mas não se preocupe, eu vou pedir Chakuoka para fazer uma oração Kickapoo para você, este seria apenas para você sozinho. Às vezes isso é tudo que precisamos, para lembrar os nossos antepassados a se sentir melhor, pois, embora a nossa bisavó não está mais entre nós, eles ainda cuidam de nós. Basta lembrar todas aquelas pessoas idosas Kickapoo você fez muito feliz, cuidando delas, mas não tratá-los como doentes. Eu sei que isto é verdade, porque estavam sempre a perguntar para você, eu lembro disso.
Vous devez prendre vous-même, il est facile sur ces voyages, parce que ces voyages sont stressantes, même si ce n'est pas vous qui est la conduite du véhicule.
Mais ne vous inquiétez pas, je vais demander Chakuoka pour faire une prière Kickapoo pour vous, celui-ci serait pour vous seul. Parfois, c'est tout ce que nous avons besoin, nous souvenir de nos ancêtres à se sentir mieux, car, même si notre arrière grand-mère n'est plus parmi nous, ils ont encore soin de nous. Rappelez-vous toutes ces personnes âgées Kickapoo vous leur avez fait très plaisir, prendre soin d'eux mais pas les traiter comme des patients. Je sais que cela est vrai, car ils ont toujours été pour vous demander, je m'en souviens.
I was truly overwhelmed when i got this email. I was just about to leave San Francisco for the Orient when it came. Yes, my sisters look after me, I thought to myself and once again feeling very grateful to the Spirits.
I wrote back to her immediately
What a beautiful email from you my dear sister. I would greatly appreciate
if you could ask Chakuoka to say a prayer for me. Thank you thank you
When I arrived at Narita airport 11 hours later, her reply was waiting.
hey Bro did you reach your destination yet?
I spoke with Chakoka already his in Hermosillo Sonora Mx. but he say
that he do your ceremony on Sunday Morning and to just wait till the
afternoon (12:00 PM to Eat or Drink) and after that you can feel the
spirits come to you. and he remember you by saying his this the Doctor
that use to to come to Nacimiento see the elderly and treat them with
out lot of toxin (RX) as soon as i say yes he say that not to worry he
will do a combine ceremony (Health well being and Traveling Ceremony)
just stay calm and wait for the spirit to do there work OK
Hey Brother, have you reached your destination yet?
I spoke with Chakuoka already, he is in Hermasillo in Sonora in Mexico. But he said he would do your ceremony on Sunday morning and to just till the afternoon (12 noon to eat or drink) and after than you can feel the spirits come to you. He remembers you, he said, this is the doctor who used to come to Nacimiento take care of the elderly and use to give them Toxins (his term for medications). Yes, I said to him, that is the one. He said, do not worry; I will do a combined ceremony (health, well being as well as for protection while traveling). Just stay calm and wait for he Spirits to do their work. OK?
Hey frère, avez-vous atteint votre destination encore?
J'ai parlé avec Chakuoka déjà, il est en Hermosillo à Sonora au Mexique. Mais il a dit qu'il va faire de votre cérémonie le dimanche matin et à un peu jusqu'à l'après-midi (12 h à manger ou à boire) et après que vous pouvez sentir les esprits viennent à vous. Il se souvient de vous, dit-il, c'est le médecin qui venait de Nacimiento prendre soin des personnes âgées et l'utilisation de leur donner les toxines (son terme pour des médicaments). Oui, lui dis-je, c'est celui-là. Il a dit, ne vous inquiétez pas, je vais faire une cérémonie combinée (santé, bien-être ainsi que pour la protection pendant le voyage). Il suffit de rester calme et d'attendre qu'il Spiritueux de faire leur travail. OK?
Ei irmão, você alcançou seu destino ainda?
Falei com Chakuoka já que ele está no Hermasillo em Sonora, no México. Mas ele disse que vai fazer a cerimônia na manhã de domingo e só até a tarde (12 horas para comer ou beber) e depois do que você pode sentir os espíritos vêm para você. Ele lembra que, segundo ele, este é o médico que costumava ir à Nacimiento cuidar do idoso e uso a dar-lhes Toxinas (seu termo para medicamentos). Sim, eu disse a ele, que é o único. Ele disse, não se preocupe, eu vou fazer uma cerimônia combinado (saúde, bem estar, bem como para a proteção durante a viagem). Basta manter a calma e esperar por ele Espíritos para fazer seu trabalho. OK?
Hola hermano, ¿ha llegado a su destino todavía?
Hablé con Chakuoka ya, él está en Hermosillo en Sonora en México. Sin embargo, dijo que va a hacer su ceremonia de la mañana del domingo y sólo hasta la tarde (doce del mediodía para comer o beber) y después de que usted puede sentir los espíritus vienen a ti. Él se acuerda de ti, dijo, este es el médico que venía a Nacimiento cuidar de los ancianos y el uso que les dan las toxinas (su término para medicamentos). Sí, le dije a él, que es la única. Él dijo, no te preocupes, voy a hacer una ceremonia combinado (salud, bienestar, así como para la protección durante el viaje). Sólo mantener la calma y esperar a que espíritus para hacer su trabajo. ¿De acuerdo?
This is symbolic healing in action, something i very heartily believe in. I told you about my sister Jackie, I realized that my trips to her was more valuable in other than medical terms. The powerful symbols of a relationshp built in the actions.
I did not ask my sister Mena for prayers or a healing ceremony, the highest form of a compliment an Indian can give you. Things have a habit of falling into place. MunChing was disturbed about going back to India before the end of the year to continue her studies in Yoga but now had postponed the voyage until the course begins in February. She feels as if a load has been lifted and feels her already intuitive connection with the native Indians. We all be blessed by this ceremony she wrote to say.
I am sitting at this post modern airport in Singapour. It is truly sad when the best thing you can say about a country is that they have a good airport and a good airline. Singapore requires a comunal healing on a national basis and those in Malaysia who blindly folllow the western materialism without the western depth in their philosophical discourses are bound to the same fate. Here I am sitting in this most modern place with lights, glitter and glamour and I have just flown half way around the world from the richeset country on Earth, pampered by Air Hostesses of the Japanese National Airlines, so that I can sacrifie my apetite, my gustatory indulgences, to drink wáter in the morning, breathe facing the trees as deeply as posible and learn the varous poses which may bring my body malleability and softness. I always remember what Pierre Merrick, my UmonHOn Indian teacher tells me: We really need to sacrifice if we are to please the spirits.
I will not go into the concept of Spirits here, may be another time. I sit here, happy and smiling like a Cheshire cat, in a couple of hours, will take the last of the eight flights since December 1,2010 when I left my French Home with its unique presence in my life.
I am looking forward to the next ten days. Apart from the Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia who has become a friend, I will also meet the four excellent citizens of Bombay and Lucknow, intellectually Sharp and broad as only East Indians can be, giving anyone a run for their neuronal abilities in a contest of words and ideas. They all can cook too. With Carlos, it will be a homage to my adopted country, my beautiful island, Cuba and the excesses of affections I have left behind there.
Thank you for all players who put on this show which is my life, a stage where we act is this entire planet and the scriptwriters are we ourselves, we dont need help from others to make us analyze. I am grateful that all of you share your love with me.. I want you to know that it is returned manyfolds back to you..
Chakuoka with a group of young Kickapoo men in the deserts of Northern Mexico
In the bottom two pictures, you see Keato who is Mena’s Son and in the photo on the right Mena can be seen on the left wearing a traditional Kickapoo woman’s every day dress.
dimanche 28 novembre 2010
When asked to examine a Monk in the Upper Irrawady Region, I had to use all my prowess as an Anthropologist. What does a Monk Eat? When are his eating times? Most Buddhist monks dont eat after 12 noon so you have to find ways of prescribing medications or diet as medication. I have also noticed that more than 95 per cent of the Burmese Monks are thin, even though I did come across some overweight cambodian buddhist monks, i am sure due to some other reason.
I remember reading a very long time ago that rats fed restrictive calorie diet compared to their litter mates who were given free access to food lived much longer and had greater energy to enjoy their caged lives. Ha, you might say, what applies to the rat does not apply to us..Then, what about our brothren the Monkeys? In the above study published in 2006, I think from the National Centre for Primate Research at the University of Wisconsin, the same results bore out, while following two macaque monkeys for over 20 years. Cantu a 25 year old had the human equivalent of 2000 calories per day while his compatriot Owen ate 3000 calories per day.
I thought of the subtle irony of what was presented. (there is an anthropologist who loves Derrida for you). Owen is a very american name even though it is of scottish and celtic origin, it also means Youth (paradoxical here). Cantu as a name continental flair to it. Subtly we can say that they were comparing an American Diet to an European one?
While Cantu had good skin and good hair, the glutton Owen had wrinkles and slack skin and his hair was brittle. Cantu stood erect and had as much energy as he had when he was a little monkey but Owen the Overeater could hardly stand up because of arthritis. Blood tests showed Owen the American had high blood sugar and high triglyceride levels.
Lesson is clear here for the rest of the world.. If you want to live like Americans, you will begin to look like Americans.. But be like Cantu, while enjoying all that America has to offer, live longer and healthier by avoiding the superficial culture of America..
this is a message to my Wannabee Western friends in Asia..
I was made aware of the value of friendships very early in life, when for various reasons, my own family couldnt be with me (then or later in my life) but strong friendships have successfully filled that void. I think of my friends (not social friends but the ones I consider friends and who consider me their friend.
Of the many things I am grateful for in my life, one is that I have never needed the professional services of a Psychoanalyst. There are qualified psychologists and psychoanalysts and there are many New Age Self Realization Gurus who cannot truly help you but can cover your pain for a moment with incense wafting from their shallow words. I have great respect for the ones who truly help other people, like my colleagues, I call them Minas Psicologas at the University of Havana, Cuba who genuinely extend a hand of friendship and professional counsel to those who come across their consulting rooms. I have always wondered what it would be like to go to a Psychiatrist or Psychoanalyst. My encounters with the Western medical men when i did not have any acute medical condition all ended up disastrously disappointing since they were not trained to counsel but only to mend something that was broken and not strengthen something that is not broken. I take care of a lot of people, take care in the truest sense of healing and not just numbers passing through the Consultation rooms. The luxury here is one of time and many of my patients are on anti depressant pills, not given by me to them, but they had acquired it somewhere along the chain of doctors in the system that have seen them as patients.
So when one is battling Depression and in cases where they succeed in overcoming it, I have nothing but the greatest of respects. Here also i maintain my circle of healing philosophy: 25 % medications and western medical men including psychiatrists, 25 % family and other relationships, 25% social responsibility and the rest 25% help from spiritual sources.
I have been very lucky to have extraordinary mentors during my medical career in formation: Dr David K of Albany Medical College, Dr Howard L of University of Miami, Dr Philip G, Dept of Pediatrics; Drs Norman S and Joel G, Opthalmology and Dr Jack M and Dr Dick G, Endocrinologists in Australia..
Dr David K a Psychiatrist told me, after all Psychiatry is a form of paid friendship, insisting that those who have truly good friends do not need the services of the analysts. At a dinner in San Francisco some years ago, I was the only one in the table who did not have an analyst and during my enamoured days in Buenos Aires, every one I had met, professionally and socially had their own analysts..
What has this to do with my upcoming trip to the Far East? Friendships of course. MC has become one of the strongest and most supportive friends I have had, she is about to disappear into the La La Land of Yoga in India for a few months to be trained as a Yoga Teacher, she has all but given up her profession as an Accountant and Finance Officer, CPA and all that. Paris to KL by direct route, Malaysian Airlines fly that route and soon Air Asia would too, is only a 10 hour flight but my flight would take me more than three days!
Today in discussion over Lunch in Paris, I wanted to see who would be the persons I would seek out to clear emotional problems in lieu of a psychoanalyst. Obviously I have someone in Paris, MC in KL of course, my sister in Miami, my brother Yitzhak in Portland, my colleagues in La Habana. (I can think of at least four of them).. So I am stopping albeit briefly to say Hello to some of my friends, not that I need their analytic help at the moment, but letting them know that I have faith in them should that necessity arise...
The greatest gift a friend can give me is their time and thus i go out of my way to give that gift of time to them. I am lucky to be able to travel, so i travel to all parts of the world to be with my friends.
This journey will take me from Paris to Miami, to San Francisco then on to Tokyo and Singapour and finally to KL. The Yong sistes are waiting for me with vegetable soup and Perrier water, Breathing Exercises (Pranayama) and Asanas, 10 days of de toxification from the dust accumulated from this peripatetic life. Before I leave KL I hope to spend one day in Malacca, a connection which gave me the love of the Portugese language and a visit to a tribal village one hour and half from KL.
This is a good month to remember that greatest of Americans, JFK, at least for those of us who live outside the USA..Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country..
We could say the same thing about Friendships:
Ask not a Friend what they can do for you, but tell a Friend what you can do for them.
Like we say in Baracoa, Los novios se pasan, los amigos son para siempre ...
vendredi 26 novembre 2010
While the Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving Day, an important holiday for them, there was nothing in Paris to remind one that such an important holiday of eating and celebrating and family union and shopping was happening across the pond. Then again, most americans won't be even remotely interested or aware of Bastille Day and one such day I happened to be at South Beach and there were no tricolor flying about or champagne corks popping!
Today it was very cold, 0 C and the snow flakes were coming down gently. I was walking along the Quartier Opera, the imposing building of the opera looking down on the avenue and off the avenue near the Metro station Les Quatres Temps is avenue St anne, where one is transported into a street in Japan. Almost all the establishments are Japanese of wannabee Japanese (usually new immigrant chinese or Koreans). All over the world there has been a cry about the mushrooming of Sushi places which disguise themselves as Japanese Restaurants. The ones on this street reminded me of the many small restos i have eaten in Toyama or Takaoka or even remoter villages in Honshu or Hokkaido.
I enjoyed the ambience, went into the marche which was set up as a 7-11 in Japan and the clienele and staff were japanese.
But my destination today was nothing to do with Japan, I was heading to a Cambodian Restaurant in the very same street. When I arrived at 2 30, there were just a few people in the restaurant finishing up their lunch. There were two people and I am sure one of them is the owner, i didnt see a cook unless the two women acted as cooks in between taking orders and mainting order. They had lunch set menus or various dishes one can order up. By looking at the menu one can easily mistake it for a Vietnamese restaurant, I can see why, any restaurant even if it is in Paris, if it just offers Cambodian food, may not survive for too long, so the Lao or Cambodian restaurants offer plenty of Vietnamese cuisine. Today was the first time I saw Pho Phnom Penh, made with Shrimp or Fish and there were some genuine cambodian dishes like the fish soup, amok etc.
I liked the atmosphere, no sales pressure but everything was flowing smoothly along. The older woman, who looked chinese and the other women also looked more chinese than Khmer, were busy attending to the coterie of clients now finishing their lunch. I wanted to eat Amok Fish in Coconut Sauce and in banana leaves with rice. No pressure to buy high priced carbonated water or green tea but they are available. I ate slowly, I saw the workers/owners also eating, a Pho each, or fish soup I couldnt tell. When I was paying the bill, I asked in French, are you Cambodian. Yes and where are you from? Australia, said I. she lights up, many many cambodians go there, she said in her broken english. she was from Kip on the south coast and didnt want to ask questions to bring up bad memories. Last year I went back and the roads and everything is coming back to normal she said.
I thought about my friends in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh... and secretly wished I could return to my brother, Ko Maung Maung's hotel and restaurant, The Mandalay Inn in Siem Reap... When I said good bye to him in October 2008, I told him to guard a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne that Qantas had given me for something or other on my flight over from USA to Australia before traveling on to Malaysia and Cambodia..
The Dom Perignon is still unclaimed....ah well..
jeudi 25 novembre 2010
Jean Baptiste Alphons Karr: His epigrams are frequently quoted, for example "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"—"the more it changes, the more it's the same thing", usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same," (Les Guêpes, January 1849) prompting Michel Foucault to later write "Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same" in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972).
There are many examples of it in the world of politics today, from Barack Obama's Hope which has resulted in almost nothing of a change to Malaysian Politics of Change(want to be a developed country by 2020) and the granddaddy of them all, the Myanmar Junta: who pushed through a Democratic Change.
One example of such a change is the above headline in one of the more popular Sports Journals in Myanmar. It was banned for two weeks, for the above headline. It appears innocent but it is a cleverly hidden message: if you just read the highlighted parts of the sentence below the picture, it expresses joy and hope of the release of the most famous Burmese at the moment Aung Sang Suu Kyi.
In the west, we have such a luxury of self and as Michel Foucault, above, stated: Dont Ask me to remain the same..
mercredi 24 novembre 2010
Malaysia in Cuba
I have had no desire to get in touch with Malaysian Embassy in the past but with my increasing connection to Malaysia, on a whim, I decided to call the embassy offices this morning.
A sweet voice answered, after the usual recorded message. I was surprised at the youthful exuberance of her voice. How is one to explain the motive for this call.
The motive for this call was the involvement of Carlos Amores. Cuban Ambassador in Malaysia in promoting Cuba; the desire of my friend MunChing to assist Cuba in any fashion in her land and my desire to know the students who are here to study Medicine from Malaysia.
As is normal in such a case, she took some details about me and transmitted to either the ambassador or the person in charge of making appointments for the ambassador. I explained that I am an Australian, born in Malacca and that I am involved deeply in Cuba in matters of Health and Anthropology. I am also a friend of Carlos in KL and that I would like to know more about the Cuba Malaysia friendship. Carlos had recently formed a Malaysian Cuba Friendship society and it would be nice to have a reciprocal sentiment from San Cristobal de la Habana.
Her name is Lizbet and she studied English at the Abraham Lincoln Institute which is on the street where I live in Vedado. I was not expecting to meet the ambassador, perhaps on a future visit, this being Friday and the last day of this stay in Cuba.
We had a nice chat, and I thought it would be good to keep in touch with Lizbet since I had an intuitive feeling that I would be more involved with causes of Malaysia in Cuba, even though the nature of which was not clear to me. I gave her my email and told her to write to me. As we said good bye, she asked me for the telephone number in Havana. Within an hour or two, she called to say the Ambassador will see me at 4 pm today at their embassy in Miramar. I thought to myself, what a privilege!
LOCALS now can enjoy a „taste of Cuba with the launch of Friends of Cuba Association Malaysia.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, who was in Kuala Lumpur to call on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, said the association was „well-deserved by Cuba.
„I believe the setting up of the association will contribute to the strengthening of bonds between Malaysians and Cubans
„Cuba places a very high priority in its relations with Malaysia and I am sure that all of this is for the better.
„We deeply rejoice over the achievements of Malaysia and admire your leadership which is in favour of a more democratic world,‚‚ he added.
The other special guest as the launch was Malacca Governor Tun Mohd Khalil Yaacob.
Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia Carlos A. Amores said a membership drive was under way to strengthen the association.
„All those who are our friends, please come together and make our historic friendship stronger.
„Friends of Cuba has already been registered, the pro-tem committee has had a meeting and we are calling upon all our friends to sign up,‚‚ he said at a special presentation of the committee at the La Bomba Latin Restaurant at Starhill Gallery, Bukit Bintang recently.
Amores said Cuba and Malaysia had enjoyed 35 years of diplomatic relations with their leaders travelling in both directions many times.
„All these years, we have built up a close friendship. We are today allies in the Non-Aligned Movement and in the defence of the principles of International Law and the Charter of the United Nations. Malaysia and Cuba support each other in the international fora and share common views in most issues of the international agenda,‚‚ he added.
Pro-tem committee president Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who is Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister, said the launch of the association would enhance bilateral cooperation.
„It will be a platform to foster closer people-to-people ties.
It wouldn‚t surprise me if we came up with a few great ideas to share with the rest of the world,‚‚ he said in his speech.
The other office bearers of the association are Datuk Dr Halim Hamat (vice-president), Nazrin Abdul Wahab (treasurer) and Sharon Faung (secretary), with Prof Tan Sri Dzukifli Abdul Razak, Muthanna Abdullah, Naresh Mohan, Johan Indot, Hazmat Khan, Lim Wei Ling and Herbert Wong as committee members.
The event was also attended by diplomatic heads of mission and personalities from the private sector.
this was a news item in the local Malaysian newspaper published in KL
I had gone to the embassy of Malaysia with great expectations but I remembered what MunChing had once said about the people who represent Malaysia, they are truly not interested in other people.
After comparing the Cuban Embasy in KL and its warm welcome and the Malaysian Embassy in Havana with its frigid reception, I can say this:
The Malaysians and perhaps Asians in general are interested in what Others can do for them, and they are friendly if they can use you in some fashion, there is no genuine interest in the person or the ideas. I didn't particularly want to meet the ambassador, it would have been all right, but I got the telephone call to say the ambassador wanted to see me. And then at the reception I was met by the Third Secretary of the Embasy, a Kampung Malay with obviously little education with a heavy accent with street English, this one and that one, that sort of English talk. He himself said to me: you seem to know so much more Malaysia! They were not really interested in what I had to say. The ambassador, an elderly Chinese with his teenage daughter, rather plump was there, but saw fit to send this Malay representative, a poor example to show off Malaysia to the world. He had genuinely no interest in Cuban Malaysian friendship. After about twenty minutes, I left, disappointed with the only interaction which was not full of energy and enthusiasm during this week in Cuba, the only interaction with a foreigners. Avoid Foreigners in Cuba if possible and especially the Embassy types.
Compare it to the reception at the Cuban Embassy in KL. I am technically more Malaysian than Cuban as my attachment to Cuba is emotional and my attachment to Malaysia, apart from my recent affections are based on being born there.
I have come to the conclusion which I have many times before
Cubans are interested in what they can do for others, Asians and Malaysians are interested in what others can do for them. There are exceptions of course. Cubans who are not generous are not my friends and the Malaysians who are generous are my friends, the best example of which is MunChing.
This is the first time I have made an attempt to go to a foreign embassy in Havana for more than a visa and the disappointment would reinforce my desire to avoid them like a plague, especially the representatives of Asian Countries. This is what I saw when I saw the flag of Cambodia fluttering at the corner opposite when I left the gates of the Malaysian Embassy.
mercredi 17 novembre 2010
Western Medicine is practiced without empathy and understanding of the person, in a totally un-holistic way in all the five countries mentioned.
The Cardiologist in Miami was friendly, the Cardiologist in France was efficient, the Neurologist in Bangalore did a brief exam and the ENT doctor in KL was humourous but dismissed my queries as being not important. No body could help me with information about how to remain healthy, but all of them had a tendency to convey the information that one can expect wear and tear, as one gets older. All of them had cursory advice like: Take care of the nutrition.
Thus the experience with Western Medicine has been a robotic one. It is as if I was a car needing some replacement for worn out parts and the mechanic could take care of it: a CT of the lower back, Stress test, Echocardiogram, MRI of the sinuses.
Objectification of symptoms, mechanization of thought, dismissal of the patient’s explanatory models, and in general a disregard for the knowledge of the patient.
My respect for western medicine is at its lowest level at the moment after the encounter with the Cuban Doctor. Secretly I had hoped that the Cubans with a formation within the society which is far more egalitarian and socialist would have a point of view slightly different from the money driven medical practice of Miami, or the Meat Market Shopping of Manipal Medical Center in Bangalore or controlled National Health Service of France. No, it was not to be. He was overbearing, middle aged and obese, with no bedside manners, and his examination of my limbs took him less than one minute. There was no comforting words but only some paternalistic advice (I did tell him that I knew a fair bit about nutrition and that the advice to take care of my nutrition was a little superficial).
The consultation fees differed by the country regardless of the service or the results.
USA 235 usd France 75 Euros Bangalore 300 INR Cuba 25 cuc and the doctor in KL did not charge me as I was a friend of his faithful patient and the normal charge would have been about 30 usd.
Dissatisfaction at any price!
My connection with Cuba has been in the fields of Psychology and Anthropology and I have been impressed with the quality of their thinking and caring. Cira Garcia is a fee for service system set up in Cuba to serve foreigners and many Caribbean islanders come here since the services are cheap compared to the other alternative, which is Miami. I wish the clinic financial success as there is a need for tertiary advice but my advice to you is:
Doctors are not helpful when your problem is not acute or simple that they need to think about it. They are good at acute situations and vague when it comes to prevention with no interest at all in Health but with all the interest in the world in Disease. Cuban doctors have the same mentality as the western doctors trained in the Cartesian model of division of body and mind.
My friend is a professor of Psychology, can with her comprehension about human feelings; take care of a lot of medical problems even though she is not a medical doctor. When my blood pressure was fluctuating, the cardiologist in Miami suggested that I take medications, while the cardiologist in France did not see the need for medication. The neurologist in Bangalore after seeing that my CT of lower back and Nerve Conduction studies were normal, said in a plain voice, I am not quite sure what to advice you. The humourous ENT physician suggested that my decreased hearing might indicate my decreased desire to hear! The psychologist in Cuba was the first one to alert me, her first question to me was: what has happened in your life in the past year? And then suggested a way to go around the stress of the times and take care of my body thus.
2009 had been an eventful year for me; I had traveled 13 times from Paris to Miami to oversee the medical treatment and the surgical removal of the cancer in the lung of my sister. I was her counselor and translator of the medical world. For those of you who have watched a dear one undergoing chemotherapy with the likes of Taxol or Neulasta (to increase the white cells), and the excruciating pain as well as the general sense of being totally unwell, can understand the stress of being a care provider. In addition, I had to think in terms of prevention of any complications. Since her medications could give her hemorrhagic cystitis, we had to set up alarm to make sure that she emptied her bladder once every three to four hours at night and was well hydrated.
So the psychologist’s advice to me was not to take any medications, but to cut the frequency of my visits to my sister now that she was free of the disease.
I am a Medical Anthropologist and take the doctor-patient relationship seriously and see it much more than just a mechanical transaction the kind a car mechanic has with your car. Every person lives in the context of their lives and no two lives are the same, so this idea that a general consensus exists about the treatment or an algorithm of treatment exists is sheer nonsense. I had written earlier how one has to navigate very carefully through clinical studies done since up to 90 per cent of them are without value outside their contexts.
I am concluding my anthropological study of the observation of doctors practicing western medicine in five different countries: two in the Americas, one in Europe and two in Asia, with the following warnings.
Doctors and Western Medicine, to reiterate what Ivan Illich has said thirty or forty years ago, is dangerous to your health.
Western Medicine is excellent when you are having an acute problem such as multiple fractures after an accident or a myocardial infarction. It is not helpful and actually may harm you if you have a chronic problem such as Hypertension or Diabetes.
Western medicine is incapable of prevention of diseases since the thinking behind the treatment if detrimental to the process of prevention. None of the doctors I talked to were in a position to give advice to prevent diseases whereas they were able to suggest various mechanical resolutions such as CT, Gastroscopy, Sinus Surgery, all invasion of the body. None of the doctors I interviewed were capable of giving any sort of psychological or socially related counseling or advice.
But this is the world we live in, whether it is Cambodia or Cuba. At least in most societies you are not paying for your medical care so you can be a little bit more expansive in your choices. It is in the societies where the medical care is fee for service that the dominance of the western medicine usually quashes the appearance of alternative or complementary medicine. Even the nomenclature Alternative Medicine assumes the supremacy of Western Medicine. I am sure they don't consider Chinese Medicine in China, Alternative?
But great diversity exists in the healing systems all over the world. After the brisk encounter with the mechanistic world of Western Medicine in Cuba, I drove to the house of the longest practicing Yoga teacher in Cuba! Western Medicine is just one part of the spectrum of what is available and I believe that in the care of patients, western medicine including their lackeys Doctors, Nutritionists, Exercise Persons, Pharmaceuticals consist no more than 25 per cent of the efforts necessary to heal the suffering person.
American Indians have taught me that, to achieve a balanced life, there has to be equal attention to many parts in ones life. Using the model I have come to following conclusion:
For a person who is suffering from a chronic condition or illness:
25 % western medicine, including the clinic and Physiotherapy etc, all the western accoutrements
25% has to be family oriented counseling
25% spiritually oriented counseling
25% is the changes in the lives of the patients in understanding the social responsibility of their lives.
Western Medical trained people can take care of you; they are the complimentary medicine to the 75% of the caring. Healing comes from counselors and persons who can educate you about the context in your lives and that is the major part. Western medicine interested in curing plays a minor part.
Was it fifteen years ago? That I walked into a Coffee shop in the Midwestern town of Sioux City, a nondescript place with no great intellectual fountains to speak of… and saw a man reading The Sunday Edition of New York Times! It would be as amazing as finding a local n a Singapore mall wanting to discuss Heidegger with you! New York Times was just not available in the middle part of the country, isolated in every way from the exciting regions of the both coasts.
I went up to him, triggered by the advice a Meskwaki elder had recently given me: Stop looking for people, those who you need to meet will come your way.
Where did you find The Sunday Edition of New York Times, which in my opinion is the best newspaper in the world?
He looked up; a handsome man, made me think of the celluloid hero of that time, Michael Douglas, and said, four examples arrive and if you are early enough you can snatch a copy of it.
Thus began my long-term friendship with Steve A of Sioux City, Iowa on the banks of River Missouri in the middle of the country the Indians call The Turtle Island.
It was for Steve that I was waiting at 10 45 am on this clear day with a fresh, cold breeze blowing, in front of Stony Creek Inn in downtown Sioux City.
I live in a house just four miles from where I was born, this erudite, intellectual and spiritual man told me among the many enlightened tidbits we transfer to each others brain in our intense hour conversations, the last one being in July 2009!
He took me a new Café; we both are aficionados of the cacao drink, Victoria’s, which was welcoming and colourful with good coffee to boot.
I don't know of a single American friend who reads as voraciously as does Steve. He wants to up his yearly pages from 6000 to an ambitious 12000 pages, about one book a week. Also he reads and concentrates on American Literature and thus I am privy to a knowledge denied to a person living abroad and not in contact with American academia in arts. Ann Michaels’ Winter Vault was in the back seat of his car. Excellent writer he said her previous novel the Fugitive pieces was a hard read but this one is Excellent. I made a mental note to go and buy it, as it always happens after a meeting with Steve. As an aside he was the first one to mention to me about Alain de Botton’s book How Proust can change your life and also A sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths. Since then I have gone on to read all the books published by Alain de Botton on work, philosophy, travel and love …
Once again, surrounded by so much decay on an intellectual level with no future rescue possible, in this city, so unattractive physically except for the river, here is a vine with a flower growing to feel the sunshine of the entire world. I have to admire him for it, how he has grown to encompass the world. He is as universal as any one. It is a great pleasure for me to listen to him, learn from him and compare notes on our experiences in the common world we share.
Today we briefly touched on Civility and what Stephan Carter a Black University Professor condescendingly talked to a Sioux City audience who had come to listen to him. Steve was critical, exposing the arrogance of the Yale University Professor. A kind of attitude of what do these yokels know, and throw in Hofstadter’s name but the Yale University professor was no match for the homegrown intellect of Steve with a universal view. The inherent acceptance of inferiority by the Sioux city intelligentsia fro their second rate institutions of higher learning was an affront to this bold man with a courage to match his intellectual and spiritual strength.
I told him about respecting the audience you are addressing. I told him of my humbling experience as an anthropologist (I qualified as an Anthropologist in 1994) on a visit to the Kalahari in 1994. I made a remark that reflected my arrogance: looking around the desert and the lone trees made lonelier by the wind and sun, I mumbled. There is nothing here. The Kalahari Bushman/San elder said to me: We have everything we need here. Such a good lesson for me, that years later I clearly remember it and follow it. Don't expect others to come up to meet you, if you are interested in transferring your knowledge you have to meet people half way or go where they are. As Ronnie Frankenberg my Medical Anthropology teacher had reiterated in his classes: Knowledge to be Knowledge it has to be communicated. If you cannot communicate clearly to the audience or the other person, your knowledge is a selfish one. This reminds me of the trend in America to sequester knowledge away from the common man to the ivory towers of the universities.
We talked about Happiness and what is the concept or desire for Happiness among people living their lives in a place like Sioux City, whether or not they contemplate about it or whether they numb their thought processes with the trappings of a bourgeoisie lifestyle.
He was saying hello to every one who entered the café and he seems to know every one by their name and a brief conversation.
If I were a doctor here in Sioux City, I would be so unhappy that I would think that Suicide would be a better alternative, I stressed the difference in men and I am sure many doctors from Sioux City would not be prepared to fly 6000 miles once a month to come and see a group of underprivileged, medically deserving communities. To each his own, I thought to myself but if there are people who have the time or energy or ability to contemplate what is happening around them, I wonder what would they make of the city they are living in or the life they are leading. As Dalai Lama has repeatedly said material things wont bring happiness to you whereas serving others and helping others would. Perhaps they can start thinking in that direction. I have no respect at all for people who work inordinately long hours to accumulate wealth for their consumption for which they don't have time and have no desire to be help to others and neglect their own spiritual lives.
He began talking about the books he had read recently, including Orhan Pamuk’s recent book. I injected a little bit of tangent to the conversation by telling that Orhan Pamuk is living with his Indian girlfriend, award winning writer Kiran Desai who wrote The Inheritance of Loss.
From Times of India
During a chat in Mumbai, he charmingly admitted, “it’s no secret Kiran is my girlfriend. So let’s get that out of the way before we begin our discussion”. He went on to preempt any further probing of their relationship, saying, “She is a very intelligent and beautiful person and a great writer. India should be proud of her.”
The hour together went so quickly, a lightening of a time, so powerful so intense. When he dropped me off in front of the hotel where I was attending a conference…
What I could say to myself was.
Steve, I am proud to be one of your many friends…. However my flamboyant long overcoat from Turkey may deter your other friends from talking to me in Sioux City, Iowa…where the only friend I have made, the only friend I need to make, is Steve A.
PS My best friend in Asia, an ex Chartered Accountant now about to leave for India from KL to study to become a Yoga Therapist, wrote to me quite recently: Please make an attempt to see Steve A this time you are in Sioux City, Iowa. She had been impressed with him when I introduced Steve to her when she was visiting the Winnebago Reservation for their annual Pow Wow in July 2009