Sunday, July 15, 2007

New continents & people

Fellow blogger Roma has been busy travelling around the world working on a project - here are some excerpts from her travelogue!

...After a harrowing day pursuing tickets to different destinations and nightmarish logistics, I just sat down in silence...and my Quaker journey starting in Oxford floated past me...I am sharing with all you pilgrims...all of you who have upheld me...

Broken, wounded, larcerated I arrived at Oxford on a supposed academic
journey I had no idea of the Spirit-led journey that I would be taken on
I was unevolved, uninitiated in the ways of the spirit
Moving to Canterbury Road was truly pivotal
There was a certain Presence there
And a sense of Being
But I only had glimmerings of this world
At moments in the Silent House in Taize
When silence released me from preparing a face to meet the faces that one
meets I was released into the peace of being and inner sanctum
But these were transient moments
I was too preoccupied trying to survive with a mindnumbing baggage of the
wounded past Pulling me down at every step
And then came the Quaker garden
That was the beginning of liberation
The true inner journey began to be revealed to me later mainly through
Sylvia Button and her mentor Constance Peters
Sylvia presented me with a book called Strenuous Liberty
In those twilight years in St Theosevia’s I scarcely understood what it
That people choose bondage with ease rather than strenuous liberty…
Years later when scarcely a day goes by without my thinking of Sylvia or
feeling her intense spiritual presence in my daily life when I often
experience her interceding on my behalf
I now understand what it was all about
Now that the garden is within me
I now understand that the contemplative life is about joy and abundance and
being thrice as alive as a normal human being

It has been wonderful these past two years of being without work
Without any constraints
When I could have more inner time
And feel that glow within in harmony with a cosmos aglow with Presence

With my new assignment once more has come the tumult of the outside world
The cacophony of untuned voices, the world of barter and exchange
After a long time I find my inner space being invaded by martians

It may be that I am being taken to a higher level of challenge where I have
to retain the inner garden within the busy-ness, cacophony and tumult
Or be led to rejecting busy-ness altogether and moving on to another way of

I am wordless with gratitude for this magnificent journey that has been
given to me

I pray that I am upheld and I can keep the Peace…

Some of you know that I lost my father rather suddenly in Nov 05 and since
then have been in India in Kolkata/Calcutta taking care of my mother who was
clinically depressed...fortunately she's much better now...and my father who
was a very pure soul...somehow his passing away...released me to more being

Recently I was head-hunted and have
been hired to do a global project and some sample countries
from the perspective of its commitment to gender one level I
am excited to do this Consultancy as it's years since I have had a global
conversation, but I am very wary of the political minefield of such
I am also being asked to travel rapidly through places where I have very
cherished friends-but it's an express train of meetings through places-New
York from 20th-28th-and a meeting in Hove (UK) from 5th-8th and then to
Amman, Jordan...

...anyway I
would love to stop at 43 for a bit- a core place in my being...

I normally stay with John Linton in a guest room at Oxford at Plantation
Road-as he had kind of become my godfather-but I fear he may be having eye
surgery in hospital and he can't hear so I can't phone him. I will write to
Wolfson to book me a guest room.

When I think Oxford, I think mainly of you all and feel humble at all the
love I have received


Greetings from Amman-here on a 2 week visit to collect analysis

Arrived safely from Kolkata/Calcutta-memorable flight over blue green
Arabian sea-I flew to Bahrain-looked like a beuatiful sea resort from the
air and then over Lawrence of Arabia land=over the Arabian peninsual which
was surreal
I remember flying over the magnificence of the Sahara -45 mins of an awe
inspiring vastness
Arabian plateau not that kind of experience
but closer tto Amman the sand dunes waved patterns and then the wind had
made lace patterns on the deseert
rtaher like nerve patterns-very intricate
Amman is full of bright light
beaytiful sandstone houses with lots of date palms
I am enjoying the warmth of my Jordanian colleagues
people are so courteous here

we have hectic meetings all day but I love working dor gender and social
development issues
so it's very rewarding and I feel very blessed to use my education for those
who are excluded by society
I am going for the weekend to see a project in Aqaba a sea side resort
and very close to me is the Jordan river where Christ was baptised
and the whole area is so historic
Petra where I have no time to go
goes back before 8000 BC!!
Thinking of each and every one of you with love


Flew from Kolkata to Bahrain via Muscat- After flying over the
blue Arabian sea with emerald green glints on the water, Bahrain looked like
a beautiful seaside resort with picture perfect turquoise blue sea and sandy
beach-the people were fashionably dressed in latest European fashions and
designer labels (the elite women all seem to be blonde and look like
European/Italian film stars) –just managed to board my plane to Amman-the
Gulf air flight from Bahrain to Amman had wonderful music channels-I
especially enjoyed contemporary Arabic music using pop and rock rhythms and
suddenly found myself flying over the Arabian Peninsula-while I have flown
over the Sahara – and marvelled at its vast awe-inspiring presence-almost 25
mins on an international flight-the Sahara is magnificent and has huge
presence-by contrast the Arabian Peninsula is vast but appears as rather
uninspiring stretches of sand-however, just 20 mins prior to landing in
Amman, the desert suddenly appeared interspersed with dark blotches (which I
later understood were occasional farms) and then the desert became a million
little sandy hills forming a pattern brownness which gave way to desertscape
that looked like a laced pattern rather like T.S. Eliot’s poem where he sees
a nerve-like pattern-the desert appeared like a surreal brown dreamscape
like a lace of nerves, in reality, all it was, was intricate wind erosion

In Amman, in our hotel, I rebelled against eating spaghetti bolognaise and
lasagne that is cooked for foreign visitors, luckily my Canadian colleague
is as adventurous as me so at the first opportunity we joined some local
friends and went to taste typical Arabic food in a more vibrant bazaar area
and ate Mansaf (which is cottonwool soft lamb cooked in a yellow pilau like
rice rather similar to my mother’s Yakni pullao and a desert that tasted
like a pancake made of fried cream rather like the Indian shahi tukra, but
completely different from the latter)-I am constantly discovering Indian
indebtedness to the Arab world in language `duniya’, `vasta’ and `mulkin’ to
name some-in handicrafts-a lot of the brass engraving very similar to
Moradabadi work (but who got it from whom?) and of course the fabulous
mosaics, artisanal motifs-Indian cultural heritage owes much to the Arab

June 28th-We flew south to Aqaba- a fashionable seaside resort that people
in Jordan go to as a weekend getaway-after the desertscape just before
landing we saw the azure blue gulf of Aqaba against a series of endless
brown sandy ridges and date palms silhouetted against the coast-we stayed
for one magnificent night in a seaside resort that combined Swiss design and
hospitality with Arabic physical luxury and owing to a misunderstanding I
got upgraded to a VIP suite! I have never lived in such luxury-it was
aesthetically very Scandinavian in its elegant minimalism in design and
emphasis on wood and sandstone and muted colours where elegance is pure,
marked by restraint, as opposed to South Asian or Middle eastern exuberance
in design - every painting was chosen with taste and added to this we got
Jordanian human warmth in hospitality-the Jordanians are very pleasant
people and the ambience in Jordan is of a people who have found a way of
life that might be slower but they are happy and relaxed and that seeps into
any visitor
We had a private beach with a picture postcard view of the gulf rising in
different tones of blue and motor boats raced and yachts bobbed around and
there was a lot of happy Arabic families with lots of children swimming in a
glassy blue calm sea…a huge contrast to the turbulent and rough Bay of
In the evening one of my Jordanian colleagues’ brother who lived in Aqaba
invited us to a lovely restaurant called Ali Baba and I did feel like a five
year old Bengali girl in wonderland as he ordered so many delicacies for
us-the warmth, generosity and hospitality of this part of the world is

We ate delicacies from different salads, baba ganoush, olives, fried
calamari, falafel, meat chops, and then our main course was seafood (prawns,
crabs and cuttlefish) with rice (I of course ordered the rice!!)

In contrast to all this, the whole day we had spent with meetings with a
very fragile Palestinian refugee group –girls, boys, men and women who had
grown enormously in terms of a better understanding of their social
attitudes and leadership thanks to some innovative development programmes
that we are assessing-it was unbelievable to see the energy, vibrance and
creative ideas of adolescent girls and boys and to sit with a bunch of young
teenage leaders (every expressive face I have taken away with me) created in
a most confining of life spaces thanks to some innovative socialization
programmes –I was speechless with admiration-knowing that just over the
border young girls and boys were living in a scenario of armed conflict-I
couldn’t help thinking what if they had had the benefits of these programmes
and learned alternative ways of living eschewing violence…

What a difference progressive socialization makes-to have not just education
but to be trained in critical thinking –that’s what young people need the
world over
It was equally amazing to see middle aged and elder gentlemen from the
refugee camps speaking so reflectively about new attitudes to women, their
wives, sons and daughters after the workshops…it was a very moving
experience…social attitudinal change is never easy to facilitate and when
one witnesses it through the courage and determination of men and women who
are battling with serious life challenges, observing such a process is an
education in itself…the glaring inequality of their lives and the lives of
wealthy holiday makers in Aqaba was very disturbing for all of us…not
dissimilar to the inequalities we see in countries of South Asia-when
inequality is just taken for granted…
The night flight back the next day from Aqaba to Amman with a full desert
moon wraithe-like gliding over a blue black desert sky and miles and miles
of brown, lifeless ridges will be difficult to forget…
Today my first day off work in weeks I visited Bethany, the site by the
river Jordan where Christ was baptised and then to other amazing historic
sites (Petra which is the remains of a whole civilisation from 8000B.C. was
not possible to visit as temperatures here are searing! And the hot desert
winds are …!! )
I was equally moved by the simple waters of Jordan and the wild shrubs and
trees where John the Baptist had escaped to, from the persecution of the
Roman empire living as a hermit eating locusts and honey and where the boy
Christ was baptised-the physical simplicity of the place was very moving-and
more so as it was sandwiched between two militarised zones of Israel and
Jordan on either side of the river
My Jordanian driver, who knew hardly any English, even less about
Christianity or even Christ seemed to me a most Christ like character in his
simple human gestures-he took care of me like a mother hen and in his broken
English and my almost non existent Arabic I tried to make him stop to buy a
quick lunch and juice for both of us on en route-we did stop and eat but he
insisted on paying!!!…I really felt he was the saint in the story, a taxi
driver from Amman who had a value system that others take a lifetime to

This whole experience is one of contrasts-on the way back from Aqaba when I
told a colleagues’ daughter that I was worried about my family and friends
in India as there were floods, she replied: “Isn’t it strange that your
country has so much water and we people pray just for a drop…”

No comments: