Tag Archives: India

A Peck on the Cheek: film

Tamil_TigersA Peck on the Cheek (“Kannathil Muthamittal”) is a 2002 Indian-Tamil film about a girl orphaned due to the Tamil Tiger struggle in Sri Lanka. The girl, adopted by Tamils in India, at nine years-old learns of her history and journeys with her family back to war torn Sri Lanka to find her biological mother.

The film is superb on many levels. My daughter watched it with me and actually liked it, despite having to read the sub-titles. And as always, when watching films, I did some reading up on the Tamil Tigers issue to refresh myself. To the right is a timeline I made to help you get a quick review – click to enlarge. See more of my film reviews here.

Sri_Lanka_languagesSri Lanka has two main linguistic divisions: Tamil (yellow) & Sinhalese (purple). The conflict of these people is ancient — starting in 1215 with an invasion from India by Tamil speakers, the Sinhalese flee south and west. In 1956, just after Independence, the “Sinhalese Only Act” is enforced to preserve Sinhalese power. In 1983 Tamil Tigers fight for Tamil-speakers rights. In 2009, the Tigers were defeated after 26 years of civil war. The divisions still exist (see the map below) with Tamil-speakers being largely Hindu and Sinhalese being Buddhist or Catholic (light purple). Sri Lanka is now one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

Source: Wiki: Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Languages (along with map)


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Indian Trains

Past experiences quietly echo amongst our neurons until they arise to become the cloaked voices of our present hallucinated intuitions.  The subjective bias of our minds may be common sense, but we often underestimate its pervasiveness.  Let me offer a personal example:

I have extensive train experiences, but only in India, China and Japan — not in the USA. And all of my train experiences were 30 years ago when technology was markedly different — both for trains and for her passengers.

My first American train experience was yesterday – an Amtrack ride to Philadelphia where my son and I will catch a plane to Amsterdam.  And as I prepared for our trip, my mind brought back preparatory intuitions based on my train travels in India:  “I need to bring food, safe water, and wear clothes that can get dirty.”  But I chuckled as my past impressions tried to actually appear as accurate present intuitions.  I removed the cloaks of my old memories and those intuitions evaproated.  But let me share those old memories.

Indian Train Experiences

During my first trip to India about 40 years ago.  Since I had little money then, I would usually ride on top of the trains where other poor people stole rides.  At the stations you could tell the freeloaders — they all had little burnt holes in their clothes.  For in those days, the trains where coal-driven and sparks would fall from train’s smoke trail when it came overhead and land on those of us riding on top.  I was suprised at the kindness of other top-riders:  they’d help each other up on top by extending hands and when the smoke was overhead, they’d stamp out the burning sparks on each other’s clothes.

I occasionally scrapped money together to pay for rides inside the trains which, back then, were an amazing cacophany of smells and sounds:  people chatted, chickens squaked and the train itself was uproariously loud.  Indians brought home-cooked heavily spiced aromatic curries and many passageners did not bathe well.  Finally, many Indians would loudly hocker up mucus and belch without hesitation thus adding to the experience.

Our Amtrak Experience

My Boy’s Amtrak View

So as I sat at home planning my trip, I realized I did not have to plan for India.  Indeed, the Amtrack train had wi-fi connections, outlets to charge phones and computers, electronic doors and was very quiet with little odors.  Water would be safe and there was a dining car.  Wow, what luxuries.  And I had money for this trip.  Everything was different from my days in India.

But ironically, the couples sitting both next to us and behind us were Indian.  The older couple behind us spoke little English and he hockered the whole trip while his wife snored.  But the gentleman and his wife next to us were delightful.  He had lived for years in Dubai where he worked as Engineer but was visiting his son in the US.  He and his wife were involved in Ramakrishna Vedantism which had heavily influence my past also.  So we shared stories about Engineering, families, the Middle East and religion.  And in parting, the generously gave me a Vivekanada book on education.

So though I had to resist Indian memories when preparing for our trip.  India was more of a part of the first leg of the journey then I expected — what fun irony.


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India’s Tumultuous Divisions

Dravidian Languages

From my Ramayana Series!

India is a hugely divided country. The most obvious division to outsiders is the religious division between Muslims and Hindus. But a drastically important division, even between Hindus is one of race, geography and language. This is the Aryan-Dravidian divide of North vs South.

  • The South:  The Southerners are typically known as smaller, darker-skinned people who speak dialects of a completely different language family: Dravidian language group
  • The North : The Northerners are typically known as taller, lighter-skinned people who speak dialects from the Indo-Aryan language group whose mother is Sanskrit.

Indo-Aryan Languages

The bitterness between these groups is huge. India’s capital is in the North — Delhi.  And the official national government language is a Northern language: Hindi (and also English) but no Southern languages can are official.  So to get central government jobs, a person must know both Hindi and English (the language of the previous ruling class).

This division is present in India’s Hinduism too. Even in my US town there are two Hindu temples: a Northern temple and a Southern temple. The Northerners have different local gods and holidays. Holi, for instance, is not celebrated by many Southern Indians.

To uninformed Westerners, India appears a monolithic land. But like many countries and religions, with a little inspection, the tumultuous divisions become clear.  My experiences in India were largely from the North.  I have only studied northern languages (Hindi & Urdu) but not  any southern Dravidian languages.  But I recently made some Tamil friends from whom I am learning to look behind my Northern prejudices — both historical and religious.  In the next post I will illustrate how this divide is reflected in the Ramayana – one of Hinduism’s most sacred texts.

PS:  There is a much smaller third group called “The Tribals” or “The Adivasi” in India.  This group had a very large influence on me and I will write about very close Tribal friend later.


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The Ramayana: an index

Ramayana’s Author: Valmiki (HT)

This is an index of my posts related to the Ramayana posts.

Comparative  Studies: Ramayana-Bible

Ramayana & “Science”

  • Rama used Nuclear Weapons:  or so some people think
  • Satellite proves the Ramayana true ! (coming)
  • Curative Herbs in the Ramayana (coming)

Reference Information

Ramayana in Popular Culture

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God and I are Ignored Magicians

Sabio's Hitch across Eurasia

In my youth, I hitchhiked from Europe to India over a 1-year period with no money and went without food for days on end.  One of the things I learned in order to obtain food was to do magic tricks.  After two or three days of not eating, it became easy for me to beg for food after humoring people with my simple childhood slight of hand tricks.  Fortunately, some people, along with a piece of fruit or bread, also taught me one of their favorite tricks and thus both my show and my nutrition slowly improved.

When I do a slight-of-hand disappearing tricks, nobody actually believes they happen.  They all ask to see again so they can see what I really did.  But some of my tricks, if I set them up right for the right audience, get people so amazed that they think I am indeed special and have amazing yogic skills.  These tricks include mind-reading, moving objects from a distance and breaking objects with the slightest of touch.

But what really amazes me over the years, is that even though many people really believe I have these magical powers, they often question no further.  They ask for no teaching to bring them to such a high level of control over nature, they take it all in stride even though they are convinced I have super powers.  It is as if the supernatural bores them.

Likewise, it seems a similar thing that even though people say they really believe the Bible is God’s only true guidance in their lives — his special message to them, they still don’t study it or really read it.  They may read a little, but not as often or as diligently as one would imagine if you believed the Bible was a personal message to you from the creator of the world!

My explanation is that large parts of most believers really don’t believe the whole thing — not my tricks, nor God writing a book.  What do you think?

After discussion in the comments, I thought I’d add this short summary of what I believe in order to explain my above statement:

(1) We have many inconsistent beliefs (for example: Belief in God, doubt in God, no belief in God)
(2) The inconsistent beliefs present at different times depending on our social setting and events
(3) These amount to “Many Selves
(4) Lack of true wonder with Magic and God reveal these co-existing inconsistent beliefs
(5) They do not reveal “laziness”, “stupidity” …
(6) They reveal that we do not have ONE set of beliefs and that we are not who we think we are (and certainly not who we say we are).

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