Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Giants

tall and stupid
they carry on
oh how some wish
they be gone!
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
crushing us all

hour after hour
they stand tall
egos rising above them all
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
crushing us all

the little people
they yell and holla
"they're here to make us great 'n' talla!"
silly, angry little people
stop, look and see
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
crushing us all

stop! stop! pay attention all!
crush the fools
reject it all
don't sing along with those
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
crushing us all

The gates of hate
hold the enemy inside
the closed minds
trap you and hide
it's how the tall
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
crush us all

the giants remain
in spite of our call
stop! stop! these
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
crushing us all

The giants blame the little folk
ain't it all a flipping joke?
laugh'n harder, and louder
stumbling
bumbling fools
brandishing fists
admonishing, astonishing
They've crushed us all

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Invisible...

Introduction: This is a real experience that took place about 4 years ago, but it feels as real today as it did back then. I'm okay now -- Thankfully. I'm lucky. I have a low stress job that I enjoy; good friends; and a man who has stood by me through thick and thin for over 25 years. Churchill's black dog will never ever leave, but he can be kept at bay and even embraced. It's an on-going process keeping the black-dog at bay. Writing and running is my outlet.

No place to Hide

I get dressed donned in my tight denim skirt, denim tight sleeveless vest, leather boots and leather waistcoat, and holiday Christmas glitter nail polish. I'm pleased with my party get up as I look at myself in the full-length mirror, and I feel good -- sort of. But the slim figure, I feel, is slim due to my lack of appetite. A constant nausea -- a sense of loss fills my stomach instead of food. I eat because I must work and get through school. I must make an effort. I walk into the party.

People are laughing, talking, dancing and drinking... I head to the bar -- dutch courage. I often like this environment, but tonight is different. Very different. I feel alienated, aloof and detached. Funny, I've been feeling like this a lot these days. But here I am with no place to hide.

Snap out if I think. So I try. I walk up to two people I know. I walk up, smile (forced) and try to engage. After listening for a while (which feels like an eternity), I stop and glide away. I feel invisible. No, I AM invisible. It's not my imagination. "Have another drink. Maybe you're just not relaxed", says an inner not so convincing voice of the rational.

I try again. It's no good. I'm invisible yet I feel exposed with no place to hide. I leave and the door closes quietly behind me. I feels like it's the only thing that will know I've left.

I can't wait to get back to the apartment. Home hasn't even been that sweet either. My marriage was suffering -- buckling under the weight of depression. I'm working hard to hide my darkness from the light of day. I get to the apartment lobby and in full view of the enormous window exposing myself to the night, I sit and cry... I try to text a friend, but can't see the words I type... I abandon the text. I climb the stairs, enter our apartment, shower and quietly go to bed... My husband doesn't stir. I lay in the dark both metaphorically and literally...

Getting ready is now the best part of a party... But what's the point when I leave feeling worse and more depressed than before. I want to sleep and not wake up. Sad, but true. It's true what they say; loneliness is often felt more in a crowd than alone. All is not lost and I slowly plan to work towards a full recovery.

Another door closes, but stays just a little ajar in my life. I've opened the door to another life... I can now only participate in small groups at best, but really prefer one on one interactions with a close friend or partner. Priorities change. I find solitude in a long distance trail run. It's where I find peace, feel free from anxiety, alone, invisible, and with no place to hide...

The door is always ajar, but I work hard to keep the crack of light and to stop it closing completely. Depression is real, complex and multi-faceted. Don't ever ignore someone, or anyone for that matter. It can slam a door shut...

Adrenoverse
Adrenoverse

India: Palaces and Poverty

As we passed through the Silicon Valley of Delhi, the difference between the shimmering glass towers of Google and the abject poverty of the poor across the freeway was insultingly striking. Here, the 21st Century and the 16th century are merely separated by a freeway.

As we slowed to line up at the toll gates, disheveled figures appeared from nowhere like apparitions gliding up to the windows of waiting trucks, buses, and cars. A figure taps on our car window pointing to a bundle of rags holding a baby. I observe how occupants in the other vehicles react to the now plentiful number of beggars. I'm struck by how the occupants of the cars behave when approached by these beggars. They act oblivious to this spectacle and treat the people as if they are invisible. The scene is wretched and pathetic. We only have large bills -- no small rupees to hand out. I look down and try to avoid eye contact like everyone else. I'm uncomfortable, guilty, and sad. The window-tapping figure eventually moves on to the next car.

At the time, I was ignorant of much of the uncomfortable truth behind the notorious amount of begging in India. According to various human rights organizations and UNICEF, begging is often run by organized crime and it is advised never to give money. This is much easier said than practiced when a young "mother" is pleading for money for milk, but giving is actually the very worst thing you can do because it does nothing but perpetuate the problem of what has been described as human trafficking. Apparently, the babies are often rented out and even drugged to give the listless appearance of the child which often garners more money. The money is then shared between the beggar and the person renting out the baby. This and many other scams are the ugly sides of what is a truly magnificent country. Nevertheless, underlying poverty is the driver of such exploitation of children.

I'm left unable to reconcile this abject poverty with the immeasurable wealth of this country. Corporate giants, temples and palaces adorned with fine marble and gold shine in the faces of the poor and destitute destined to a hash life by no other reason than by accident of birth that places them into a low caste. Although the caste system was outlawed by secular India, the system is firmly ingrained within peoples' minds and still practiced. However, India is evolving and the caste system is heavily criticized among religious reformers. The government has anti-discrimination laws that are designed to protect the lower casts from discrimination.

As we drive through some poor areas, people are cooking on make-shift kerosene stoves, and children running around barefooted (but not unhealthy looking). I observe people at water-pumps at the end of the street washing clothes, bathing and collecting water. Stray cows, goats, boar, pigs and dogs, graze on rubbish from the markets. Nothing goes to waste. We see a bunch of cow dung formed into neat little piles of flattened patties baking in the sun. Our driver explains that cow patties are collected, dried and used for fuel. One has to admire the resourcefulness of people in this country. However, the resourcefulness is borne out of necessity rather than social conscience. Our driver, Sherma explains that the problem of poverty and high birth-rates among the poor is attributed to no access or very little access to education. In the cities, the working and middle-class see education as the single most pressing factor to a "good life."

Our driver continues to explain how people, including himself, work themselves into the ground to secure their children a good education -- often one their parents never had. I feel hopeful that this attitude is how India will continue to evolve and become less economically polarized. Unlike the drive from Delhi to Jaipur, the progressiveness that India aspires to will take far longer. But like the journey to Jaipur, they will get there.

Research:

"Organized begging is one of the most visible forms of human trafficking—and it's largely financed and enabled by good-hearted people who just want to help."

Slate Article: Keep the change

Child Labor and UNICEF in action report

A detailed report of begging by the Delhi government. Stats and figures show at least 20% of child beggars are coerced.

Begging for a Childhood - Analysis of child begging in Delhi

Saturday, January 30, 2016

On the Road - India Style

The first taste of an Indian freeway is just as rich of an experience as seeing any world heritage sight attracting tourists worldwide. The Indian freeway experience is reminiscent of the old arcade games where you dreaded the "GAME OVER" flashing on the screen. For this real life amusement game, hold tight, look to the shrines on the dashboard for luck, and enjoy the ride because this journey is well worth the money.

Outside of the usual cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and beautiful trucks adorned with color, the freeway is shared with oxen, cows, goats and their herders; dogs, and monkeys. Indians are very into car-pooling. It's common to see a whole family on one motorcycle, or a tuk-tuk containing more people than you can see. I think my highest headcount as we passed tuk-tuks was about 15 minus the number of occupants that I couldn't count on the inside. I'm being conservative. Our driver, Rakesh, called them "city buses." Sounds like a nightmare? Not really, because freeway driving is actually easy because there are no rules -- only suggestions. The horns of the trucks play multiple melodies that fill the freeways and roads with the sound of a symphony gone terribly wrong. The trucks expect people to sound their horns when passing them and have the friendly request, "Please sound horn" displayed on the back of their trucks for anyone who finds themselves behind them. How they determine which honk is for whom remains a mystery.

The animal road users seem the smartest. They stay on the hard shoulder with not much prompting from their herders. The less than smart stray cow lays in the middle of a lane on the warm asphalt and relies on the integrity of the drivers to navigate their way around them. Rakesh explained that the bovine road hogs were actually not such dumb beasts after all. Apparently, the air from the traffic whizzing past the cow keeps the flies off them. As the asphalt cools at the end of day, and when there is less traffic on the road, they leave their lane and graze in the nearby fields. He also demonstrated that the ubiquitous stray dog was smarter than the average Indian pedestrian (although I wondered since I saw a few more ex-dogs that didn't quite make their freeway crossing). He explains, "I honk my horn once and the dog stops." Sure enough he honks his horn and a dog looks and stops. "I hold my hand down on my horn and still people will cross!" And sure enough, a group of pedestrians proceeded to cross in spite of the horn. I conceded that the dog is far better at crossing any road in India than myself -- certainly more daring.

Miraculously, the on the road Bedlam seemed to work quite well, or did it? I wondered just how safe India's roads really were and decided to do some research. According to the World Health Organization Global Health Observatory Repository, 2010 data shows that India had 18.9 deaths per 100,000 (decreased since to 16.6/100,000) in 2013. That certainly isn't as high as Dominican Republic (41/100,000) or Venezuela with 37.1/100,000, but much higher than the United Kingdom, with only 3.7/100,000; about five times times less than their old rulers. America can boast 11.7/100,000; not brilliant, but at least it's much less than India. Accidents involving trucks and motorbikes account for 40% of fatalities. On that sober note, things appear to be a little quieter in the country on smaller roads where modes of transit take the form of camels and carts, horse and carts, rickshaws, makeshift vehicles called, Jugaads, motorbikes and trucks. Interestingly, the more primitive form of transit seemed to move faster than Bay-Area rush hour traffic. However, all is never as it seems. Apparently, the majority of accidents do seem to occur on rural roads as many rustic road users have to share the road with much faster vehicles. Best to stay in the fast lane with the odd slumbering cow statistically speaking...

Statistical data and news sources:

Times of India: 16 Deaths per hour on Indian Roads
World Health Organization: Road Safety in India
World Health Organization : Road Safety Status 2015 Country Profiles
Global Health Observatory data repository - Road Traffic Deaths by Country

Saturday, January 9, 2016

That's Paris!

coffee
time
living literary paths
Voltaire facing off Rosseau
under the Louvre
fountains
glass pyramid
the old juxtaposed
reflected in the new
who needs Mona Lisa

that's Paris!

bones of a time long before
lie beneath Paris' floor
"arrete! C'est L'Empire de la morte!"
oh what stories the dead could tell
they'd assure us that they weren't in hell

That's Paris!

windy stair cases
cobbled streets
outdoor markets
what a treat!
aromas
moule frites
baking bread
wining and dining
al fresco
steak tartare in ...
Montmartre

that's Paris!

following the footsteps of Sartre in caf├ęs
making out conversations all day...
waiters bustling inside
outside dinners chattering away
the time... sublime

that's Paris!

following Hemingway in "A Moveable Feast"
finding Wilde in Pere Lachaise 
Jim Morrison's resting place
among the silence of those no more
an unbroken peace of those before
we still adore...

that's Paris!