Sometimes all you could do is have patience!

After months of trying to arrange a conversation with the Azim Premji Foundation, I finally was able to meet with the director of Human Resources last week . As a result of that conversation, I will hopefully meet members of their Science Pedagogy Team before I return to the States. Another example of how much you need to exercise patience and understand the reality that everything takes longer in India.  I will not make any conjectures about the future other than stating that I will continue to have conversations with the Foundation for they doing some of the best work in India around teacher education and empowerment.


Playing in PondiCherry/Visit to Chennai

gandi statue

side street in Pundicherry


















Thoughts on Pondicherry: Interesting, town, some picturesque streets, historic churches, hot and humid in June, beaches not accessible for swimming as the geology of the east coast of India has a much more extreme continental shelf, thus no sloping gradual beaches.  Discovered the best European pastries and quiches in India so far, not surprising given the historical French connection.

The music experience: Played for about 30 people on Saturday night, of which 1/2 where musicians   Met an gentleman named Naveen , who plays guitar, harmonica, mandolin , and fiddle who has been enamored with American mountain music and bluegrass for several years but has not had the opportunity to play with others for the very real reason that those folks are hard to find in India.  The equivalent experience would be trying to find a accomplished player of classic Karnatic music in Puget Sound. Given that Naveen is also a worship team band leader, perhaps  there was some divine providence involved in meeting him.  In any case, we  played Sunday afternoon for 2-3 hours and made a great musical connection.  To find a Indian who flat picks American fiddle tunes is rather amazing!  All the  American musical acoustic masters: Edgar Meyers, Mark O’Connor, Daryl Anger, Sam Bush, Russ Brandeberg, Jerry Douglas : Naveen knew of their music. Most folks, even in the States, cannot distinguish between country, country western, bluegrass, and old-timey.  It is all country in the minds of the masses!   I can envision partnering with Naveen if and when I return to India  and putting together a road show on American mountain music.  Pretty cool!

musicians including Naveen ( in the middle) jamming Saturday night

Impressions of Chennai and the train ride back to Bangalore.

I saw only a small part of Chennai, ( a city of 5 million) so I do not claim that my experience captures the essence of the city. Having given that disclaimer, Chennai was about grit, pollution, unpleasant public beaches and sultry, humid weather.  Closest thing that I have had to hard -core inner –city experience in India.

Traveling back to Bangalore, I had a six hour train ride on a non-sleeper car; a train journey that captures how most Indians experience trains.      Train stations portray the staggering numbers that live in India.  Passenger trains, each a kilometer in length, with dozens of cars – every car… overcrowded. Seats made for 2 folks, seat 3-4 by the end of the train ride.  Aisles are full of passengers, beggars, and vendors , all playing their roles. A good reality hit for me and fascinating…and made tolerable by riding for 6 hours during the day and not at night!

More Banjo gigs!

I will be performing at Jaaga this Thursday, ( June 21) for a group of 60 folks who are coming to a talk on Travel opportunities in India. The idea of paying musicians for casual performances, that in the west we refer to as “busking” …. is not an operative behavior in India.  So I am making dozens of my now infamous chocolate chip cookies, selling them for 50 rupees each ( almost the equivalent of a US dollar) to subsidize the performance! Only with the institutionalization of  cookie subsidized banjo performances   can we properly evaluate whether I have come up with a viable economic subsidy model for banjo players 🙂

Yes I am back in India !

June 8, 2012

Hello friends,

I apologize for not updating my blog….no real excuses nor will I even try.

AFter a two month absence from India, I returned on May 3.  I came back with a high degree of determination to try to make something happen knowing I was giving myself about 5 more months to determine if there was enough “grounding” to continue to live in India.

What do I know at this point?  I may have pushed the deadline by choosing to once again return to the states on June 27 with only a one-way ticket. My  primary reason for returning is to attend the American Festival of Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend which I have been going to the last 7-8 years.  I wanted once again to have an immersion experience into traditional music for I always feel my musicality goes up a couple of degrees ever time I attend.   The problem with my current visa status( tourist) is that any time I leave India, I have to be gone for 2 months before I return.

So coming back so soon definitely poses some internal questions about my ultimate intent. I do struggle with being rooted in a daily experience that grounds me in a meaningful purpose full activity.  The same challenge existed in the STATES.

I have been doing some baking for the Jaaga Café.  But Adam Smith was dead on  about how one makes monies in this kind of business.  I need 20 people making cookies before there is the slim possibility that monies could be made.  But I am having fun exploring the commercial side of food!

I have sought to extend myself in the musical realm.  I have a couple of guitar students.  Learning old Creedence Clearwater tunes has been a trip! I have now played for a worship team on 4-5 occasions, primarly with my mandolin.  I have been more intentional about playing at Jaaga Café a couple times a month.  From that exposure,  I was approached by a musican/songwriter heard that I played mandolin and banjo and asked if I wanted to go to Pondicherry ( east coast India, south of Chennai) this weekend. Siddhartha has organized an event called Free Jam for several years and this is a chance to meet several musicians of different nationalities.  Not sure what this will look like exactly, buy I will be playing for  and then jamming with other musicians on Saturday night in the historic  French settlement of what is now called Puducherry. Here is a wikepedia link for Pondichery  if you are want to learn more.  Thus I am off for another venture this weekend which are always fun but questionable for creating that more long term grounding.  I will accept it for what it is J

Sean has successfully sealed the deal with 2  Social Venture Capitalists firms, Koshlas Ventures and Gray Ghost  at a price tag of 1.5 million. This is huge feather in in Sean’s “cap” as Vinod Koshlas( founder of Sun MicroSystems) is highly respected throughout the world as a supporter of innovative social enterprises.  The amount of traffic on his web site has increased by 300-500% since last  year. Astounding growth!  Sean is awesome!  I will post again when I return from Pondicherry.

The London/Wales trip

The London Reunion after 40 years.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What a treat to return to England after a 40  year absence.  I had been in London for the first 5 days and now have traveled westward to the Cotswolds, this ancient  land of rolling hills, Roman walls, sheep farms, rustic villages, and simple beauty uplands.

Reasons to like London

1) About ten years ago,  city officials with a clear public mandate decided that cars and people do not make for a great city. So they penalize cars for entering the city at the rate of 15 pounds a day plus charging exuberant fees for parking.  Guess what, they are hardly any private cars in downtown London. Instead they have a great underground, a vastly improved bus service, hundreds of bicycles, and lots of contented pedestrians and workers walking the streets of London.  Less than 15% of the motorized vehicles  in downtown London are privately owned.

2) Westminster Abby- I got to attend an Evensong service the first day in London and heard the world famous Abby choir. Very cool, spiritual experience.  So much of London has been destroyed by fire, bombings, warfare…but Westminister Abby retains much of its same character from the early 1200s.

You could spend 10 full days in London and not run out of things to do. I saw a musical ( the Wicked), went to the Natural History Museum, the National Art Gallery, the Science Museum, walked and walked, ate great Italian food, mastered the underground routine and in retrospect, feel I have not really done anything in London yet.

Westminster Abby at night

4) London is clean!

5) This is a place where 2000 years of history abounds in the middle of a very modern city.  I like being old enough to appreciate that London conveys that message!

Bangalore is a city of 7 million. London is a city of 7 million. End of similarities!!,  I realize I could go to this place of focusing on the shock value of Bangalore which prevents any kind of objective comparison.  London has and always has had a seedy side.   There is a wide scale acceptance of “cheezy culture, punk culture, absolute relativism. I find the reconfiguration/legitimization in the Western world of prostitution as sex workers to be an exercise in fantasy and denial of reality. And London has plenty of that!  Enough comparisons.

This is how the rest of the trip played out:

Cotswolds: Using a BnB in Cheltenham ( 40 miles west of Oxford) as a base, spend 3 days touring villages that have a history rooted in Celtic tradition/Roman occupation and Normandy occupation.  Landscape is fairly flat with plenty of quaint British village life.  Fun to experience an ancient environment

Wales: Spent 4 days in Wales, again using a BnB  as a base in the historic town of Brecon, northern entry point to the Brecon Beacon National Park. Much more hilly than the Costwolds but the largest peak is still  only 800 meters.  Spent one day hiking and one day mountain biking.   Saw an wonderful concert by a well known British/Welsh folk singer in  St. Marks Cathedral, a church with a 700 year history.

I loved the heartiness and working class feel of this historic town. And lots of folks engaging in hiking and biking.  Wales deserves another visit so I can experience the western coasts !

hiking in Brecon Beacon National Park

view from 600 meters: Brecon Beacon Nationnal Park

Swansea, the second largest city in Wales.

Swansea Castle: remains from 13th century


sail bridge: swansea

I am now in the states / Goa December

For whatever excuses  that are all lame, I have not posted in a month. I arrived in the Phoenix on March 13 after a 10 day holiday in England. and arrived in the Bay area on March 17th.  I will probably be in California until the 27th and then hope to be in Seattle no later than March 29th.  I will return to India on May 2nd.  I am looking forward to being with family and returning to Seattle to connect with everyone again.  I anticipate a lot of emotion but I also am seeking wisdom and sold grounding so that when I return to India , I have greater clarity and openness to God’s purpose. I am posting some pictures, including some previous observations, from my time in Goa, Indian vacation land along the Arabian Sea on the west coast of India, 300 miles south of Mumbai. We were in Goa from Dec 23 to Jan 2nd. These were my observations written shortly after returning.

Here are some pictures from the coastal retreat in the Union of Goa on the west coast of India about 300 miles south of Mumbai. , a small state that has more of a federal status than that of a state. This is where we went after Lovely’s wedding for Christmas and New Years in which we spent almost 10 days. We went during the busiest time of the year, where the 18-24 years old population increases ten fold, maybe twenty fold!  There are certainly some attractive parts to Goa……ocean environment), cute funkiness,  some great restaurants….but I am not sure I would spend that amount of time there again. We were in the center of the action ..Ajuna Beach where  there are some weird cultural things going on with what I would call “cave man dress”, drug culture, really bad electronic music…… but am I sounding like a straight parent!! There is a more pristine part to Goa but you have to travel another hour or so to reach that section. In contrast to Karnataka, the roads are free of potholes, and noticeably less trash.flicker set of Christmas Goa trip

I did spend some time in a Catholic church attending a  Christmas Eve service ( from 11:30pm to 1:30 am) that was in Goan dialect. I did let myself get immersed in that experience and found it meaningful.

I have included some pictures of Old Goa, which highlights the Portuguese and European impact from the 15th century.  The churches were built in honor St. Francis of Aussi.

My visit to Hampi Feb 23-27: Medieval ruins in Karnataka

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trip to Hampi: Feb 23-27th

Hampi is part of a larger and amazing archaeological  site of medieval ruins from the 15th and 16th centuries from located in northern Karnataka, in an area covering almost 700 square Km …almost surreal, in the way that the humans structures of forts, temples, bath houses,  and other architectural forms intersect with the natural surroundings of ancient weathered granite boulders.   As you will see in some of my pictures, the ruins if not under the protection of the federal government then become dwellings for merchants and poor villagers. Like so much of the  India I have experienced so far,  Hampi is both fascinating and bizarre in the same moment.

All evidence suggests that Hampi  during the period of 1400- 1580 was a major metropolitan area in the land of Vijayanagara( medieval name for Karnataka) that commentators from that time claimed rivaled Rome and other major cities in the  world for commerce and trade.  There was a relative period of calm between the Hindu and Muslim populations during this time, which contributed to the prosperity of the Vijayanagara kingdoms and partly explains the integration of both Hindu and Islamic ornamentation in the temples.  Although after 1580, much of his old empire, was pillaged and destroyed by Muslim invaders. Interesting.  Check out the following web site for more information.  wikipedia content regarding Hampi

I did find it disturbing that except for the sites clearly marked as World Heritage sites, where federal museum officers  had a presence, trash was everywhere including on the trails.  I am not sure where the lack of consciousness emanates from but the public disregard for cleanliness by so many interferes with the total appreciation of this amazing testimony to medieval architectural form.

The Rama Temple: Medieval Vijayanagara

Funeral and temple commenoration

Archana uncle

Sanscript professor and students

Archana uncle died 3 weeks ago at the age of 92.  In the Braham tradtion the funeral process, and journey into the spiritual world has many steps that culminates in a series of rituals and ceremonies.  There is a belief that one goes on a 14 days journey after their physical death. I have included some pictures from the final commenoration which is the event that most closely resembles a “western” memorial service.  The women doing the service is a professor in Sandscript. She is accompanied by some of her students , who along with her sang sang some prayers from ancients texts, including from the Baghava Vita.  As explained to me by several India family members, the readings are more philosphical, the nature of life and death, than any grand statement about ultimate purpose.

The other photos document a commemoration that is specific to the Archana’s family. Her great grandparents ( more than 150 years ago) were responsible for building a temple in Malleswaram, the historic neighborhood in Bangalore that Her family has resided in for several generations. Each year there has been a ceremony where the gods visit their house, which takes the form of idols appearing on a cart. The ceremony consisted of poems, songs, lots of fruits and nuts presented to the idols, and then the covert taking of the fruits from the “god.”  For ‘Archana’s parents, this is a huge thing.  Do take note of Sean and I displaying our “flaming” red and pink Indian shirts!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monkey encounters of the worst kind!

monkey in portch

monkey exercising total control

This was a little scene that occurred on our front porch about a week ago. WE were having breakfast/lunch and unknown to us,  a huge white monkey, (somewhat of a fat god-father figure!) plopped himself in the  glass door way to the living room. WE live on the 5th floor which is the same niche that the larger monkeys in Bangalore live in the coconut trees.  You would think Berlin our dog would have sensed that an animal evaded his space.  No!

When we saw the monkey , realizing that he had this open invitation into the kitchen, and every tale of monkey destroying apartment houses running in a our heads like a you tube video, there was this immediate, On My God , we have to do something.  We shook a stick , the monkey made a hostile move towards…. we fled to the kitchen.  Clearly the monkey had control.   For a second he moved away from the porch allowing us to close the glass door.  With the humans beings firmly intimidated, the monkey began to dominate the front porch environment. Eating candles, plants, magnetic toys…and then establishing clear dominance by peeing on the coffee table. That was an arrogant act. The picture captures the futility of humans and dogs,(who never even barked at the monkey), trying to reclaim space that in the larger scheme of things belonged to the monkeys in the first place.

It is interesting that if you “Google” , monkey menace in Bangalore, the government nor the media has much to say.  Most Bangalorians realize that we are in the monkey space and there is not much you can do about it.  The good news is , the monkeys even though local, do not hang in any one place very long.  So there has been no return of the dominant monkey!!