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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pakistan ambassador breaks new ground celebrating Diwali with Indians

May this trend continue everywhere.

This highlights a major factor in nation(s) building - you take on step forward to nurture goodwill, the other is bound to take a similar step, don't drop if the other does not match... keep doing, some day he or she will.

Honestely, all the Ambassadors can take that initiative and give birth to a new colossal energy. I happen to watch Sahar Show, a poor Pakistani show, unlike many a great shows that I have been watching recently with Yasmeen. I do not watch TV... except a few shows with her. Last evening he was singing Indian Songs as a part of the entertainment, it was very normal for the audience and him... no condescending attitudes but plain normal attitude. .. when you and I, the individuals drop the small barriers and act, merely act as people of goodwill and good faith and not let pettiness come in our way... we can change things.

The fodder for the politicians is hate and anti-India or anti-Pakistan propaganda, because there are a few chamchas who clap for their heroism, as if the idiots fill their belly with it. As the general population we need to be free from ill-will, let the politicians feed of that...

Some 10 years ago, I was in India consular office in Houston with my late wife's passport. Consular General Wangdi gave tremendous respect and had me and Najma sit in his office and got her passport stamped for multiple visits. The assistant who worked on the passport had stories to tell... great stories of how a Pakistani taxi driver took him in the middle of the night to a hospital with his sick daughter and did not charge him..these Ambassadors can count many great stories on both sides... It is time for them to take initiatives and change.. the upper layers will possibly see the goodness. the visionary Moraji Desai saw that and others can see it too.

For those petty fellow Indians, I have had a chance to marry a Mexican girl, an Algerian Girl and a Chinese girl after Najma... fortunately I met this Pakistani Girl whom I married and who is a blessing in my life. A handful of Indians in my town have a problem - may be 9 out of 80,000 Indians and there are six Pakistanis of the 20,000 some Pakistanis who are hateful towards India and me. Are they significant?

Next time one spills hate for India or Pakistan, be blunt and ask them - does this feed your family? Does this make your heart purer? If it is an older man, ask them, if he is ever going to flush out the sewer from his heart? Here is a real good story to read and watch this story. http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2011/08/moment-of-humanity-after-46-years-of.html

We have to continue to do the good, there is hope in it and there is goodness in it for all. Let us become the Ambassadors of peace whether the other also acts good or not.

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Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a thinker committed to cohesives societies and presents pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

Pakistan ambassador breaks new ground celebrating Diwali with Indians in Beijing

BEIJING: India-Pakistan relations sparkled for a while as Pakistani ambassador Masood Khan and his wife, Zohra, took the rare step of participating in Diwali celebrations at the Indian embassy premises here Saturday evening. Khan also waved at artists performing on the stage and the assembled Indians as a gesture of bonhomie.

The move comes soon after Indian ambassador S Jaishankar visited the Pakistani embassy to pay his condolences over the recent demise of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, the wife and mother of two different prime ministers of Pakistan and the mother-in-law of Asif Ali Zardari, the present one.

The Khans stayed for close to two hours and joined Indian ambassador S.Jaishankar for dinner along with Sultan Ahmad Baheri, the ambassador of Afghanistan and Sun Weidong, deputy director general of the department of Asian affairs in the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs. The event took on a diplomatic hue as this is the first time in many years that a Pakistani ambassador has visited the Indian occasion on a festive occasion.

The event attended by Indians living in Beijing included a Bharat Natyam performance by Chinese dancer Jin Shanshan and display of fire crackers, which is usually not allowed outside the embassy premises in Beijing.


Sita: The Original Iron Lady

I am reading about women in history who have had a profound effect on the society. They were model women who gave new meaning to womanhood. Ma Sita is one of the great historical women who have made a difference; the other women are Mother Mary, Bibi Khadija, Asiya, Hazrat Fatima among others. I hope to read about other women as well. Who are your favorite historical women?
Excellent piece by Prof. Shubha Tiwari

Thank You
Mike Ghouse
Committed to a cohesive America

Sita: The Original Iron Lady
by Prof. Shubha Tiwari
Right from my childhood I’ve been trained and tutored to view Sita with tremendous compassion, extreme reverence and even pity. Over the centuries, this is how she has been viewed. Tears and Sita have been inseparable. Talking about her, singing her tale, thinking about her, people usually have wet eyes. One doesn’t have to go far to testify the truth of matter. ‘Ramayana Paath’ is a very common practice in the northern part of our country. Child birth, marriages, house warming ceremonies, any auspicious happening is reason enough for people to call a ‘mandali’ and the ‘paath’ starts. Every mention of Sita is coupled with blocked throats and wet eyes. This response to Sita is infectious. It has been passed to us over the centuries. It’s in our DNA.

To imagine that any piece of writing would be able to change all this would be foolish indeed. Strange as it may sound, there’s nothing exactly pitiable about this woman. Teaching P Lal’s English translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana, I’ve come to a firm conclusion that Sita does not deserve our pity. This kind of a response might be a way of escaping the real issues. It might be something else. I don’t know. But Sita should arouse our admiration, awe, respect, love but certainly not pity.

It’s worth noting at this point that people in India don’t name their daughters after Sita. Daughters can be Gita, after the great sermon of Lord Krishna; they can be Meeta, denoting a vague meaning of friendliness but none of them are Sita. Why? Why don’t we call our daughters Sita? All other goddesses are rewarded by christening of Indian girls after their names - Laxmi, Durga, Devi, Adya, Parvati, Gauri, Uma, Satyabhama, Jaya, Sunayana; even lady angels, ‘apsaras’ like Urvashi and Menaka are favored. But there’s no such condensation for our Sita. Some men dare to take her name necessarily along with that of her husband, Ram – Sitaraman, Sitaramaiya, or simple Sitaram. And yet, no other female figure enjoys the kind of supremacy Sita enjoys. She is worshipped but from afar; she’s not brought near in the form of daughters, sisters, wives, neighbors and so on. I once asked a senior, traditional lady as to why we don’t call our daughter Sita and she told me that since Sita suffered a lot in this world, we don’t name our daughters as Sita. We don’t want our daughter to suffer like her. So seductresses like Urvashi and Menaka would do but not a woman like Sita who stood up for her dignity and successfully stood her ground.

This is a telling tale on Indian mind-set. We don’t accept strong woman. Pleading women, weeping women, seducing women, foolish women, superficial women - you name any brand and we accept them. But we don’t accept strong women. Strength, mental superiority and iron-ness are things we don’t savor in our women. A woman who can control her instincts is a potential threat to male superiority and status quo. Deep down, the male mind fears a woman who does not fall a prey to her instincts. No temptation comes from outside. The enemy lies within us. A woman can be carried away ‘samundar paar’, can be ill treated, all time tested mechanisms, ‘Sam, dam, bhaya, bhed’ can be applied on her; yet she can stand her ground. She can do it with a barrier of a grass blade because walls and veils do not protect a woman’s dignity; her mind does. Mental strength is the only strength.

Ravana says that he is young, handsome, wealthy, powerful and attractive; Sita is a bundle of bewitchment; together they’d walk on the ocean beach. She’d be adorned with the best jewels in the world. Her father’s family would be rewarded with wealth. Hundreds of maids would look after her day and night. What else could she possibly want? What could any woman want?

Ravana at this point is the personification of ‘aasakti’ (indulgence of senses). Valmiki’s description is highly suggestive. Wine, woman, disarranged clothes, and entangled jewels and clothes – all present the heady picture of enjoyment of senses. Ravana is in the celebration of senses. Sita is in the celebration of the soul. He’s looking outside; she’s looking within herself. Here’s a young, beautiful princess, recently married to a very lovable prince. She’s on her honeymoon. Brutally broken from her lover, who’s her husband, she’s asked to submit to another man. Obviously she’s being treated as a commodity. Her feelings do not matter for the man who wants to ravish her as a dish on his much stuffed platter. The will of the male is considered to be supreme. She reverses the order; her will prevails. The male will is defeated. Sometimes, I feel that there can be no stronger feminist symbol than Sita.

Sita, if we look independently is the original ‘satya-agrahi’. Forced to live in Lanka, she refuses to take food, to dress up, in short, to enjoy life. Her mourning becomes her being. She’s seduced. She’s tortured. She’s shown fear. The ‘raakshasis’ around her are instructed to mould her in whatever manner they can. The flame of her pure heart converts people like Trijata even in the land of demons.

Here’s an epic scene from an immortal epic. The two flows of life - ‘tamsik’ (consumption based) and satwik (abstinence based) are there for everyone to see. The presentation is powerful. Sita is slim. She’s beautiful. She’s vulnerable or so she seems to be. She’s lonely. She’s deep in sorrow. Ravana, on the other hand is the king. He’s in his own territory. He’s powerful or so he seems to be. He’s deep in erotic pleasures of life. To top it all, he’s brought Sita to Lanka. He’s relishing the prospect of enjoying her. Here’s a complete contrast. No worldly wisdom can predict that Sita would win and Ravana would lose.

Sita challenges the basic patriarchal mind-set which treats women as pawn for all sorts of reasons – revenge, insult, scoring points, conveying messages, fulfilling long nurtured complexes and so on. There can be more reasons. Why do we have all solid abuses in our country based on women? ‘Your mother’, ‘your sister’ – we all know them only too well. Women are symbols of weakness. Only women have honor; men do not share such useless things. Ravana was also fulfilling his long cherished complex. He was rejected by Sita in her ‘swayambar’ – this might be the reason. His sister was insulted by the brothers, Ram and Laxman – that might be the reason. But his wrath had to fall on a lonely, simple, unarmed, unprotected woman. Sita refuses to pay the price. She refuses to become a prey of his complicated complexes. She reverts the cycle.

I personally feel that her commitment is first and foremost to her own self. Her confidence and dedication emanate from her self-respect. She is fighting for her own, personal, individual dignity; more than for anything else. She’s reversing the canon that fathers, husbands and sons are the keepers of women; women have to follow the dictates of one of the tree categories of men throughout their lives. She crosses the Laxman Rekha only moments after it is made. Plunged into calamity, she’s her own keeper. Her actions say that a woman will decide her own destiny. The will of the woman will matter. No one can force a woman into any act.

The only strange thing in her case is that usually freedom means promiscuity; she has chosen the path less traveled. Sita says that freedom means to go for more than one partner or not to go for more than one partner. Freedom does not necessarily mean getting wild. This is a unique correction on our generally conceived idea of freedom. You ask anyone about the freedom of a married woman and without wasting a second; images of infidelity would start dancing before the eyes, ‘aaj phir jeene ki tammana hai’. We have simply not thought about the freedom to say ‘no’. This is the greatest form of freedom. When you say ‘no’, you’re definitely spelling a specific choice, ‘I want this and not this’. Here’s freedom coupled with discretion and decision.

Sita is in the habit of taking her own decisions. Her words and actions propel the epic. Not only does she take a stand on her choice of a partner, she sets the agenda for Ram. She’s very specific. She spells the exact time limit within which Ram has to come and perform the most important part of his ‘leela’ on earth – public killing of Ravana. Hanuman clearly says that he can carry her back easily but her response is laden with sound reasons – Hanuman’s safety, her own safety, her married status and above everything else resurrection of the stature of Ram. Ram should act only the way that befits him. There’s no other way but public killing of Ravana by Ram. Sita spells the details, the lines which everyone has to follow. Sita’s message is clear. She is not for the short cut. Being born in this less than perfect world, there’s no point in being afraid of miseries or hardships. What matters is the way one deals with challenges. That is the most important thing.
I don’t intend to take away all the weeping associated with Sita in our country. Perhaps it is good for our own catharsis. It cleanses us of many dark and hidden fears. But my own personal perception of this lady is that of a fighter, a truly strong person. Sita and Ram are imbedded in the collective consciousness of our country. What must have started with a young prince killing an evil king has now become the reservoir of all that we wish to see in ourselves. Ram is truth. Ram is righteousness. Ram is beautiful. Sita is purity. Sita is goodness. In this long line, I wish to add a small hyphen - Sita is strength. Sita is the original iron lady.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Diwali - the essence of Diwali

Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and light symbolizes hope and positive energy, it indicates the victory of good over evil; a new beginning; seeing the light at the end of tunnel and light is also a symbol of knowledge as it is an internationally used.

People decorate their homes with lights and Rangoli (explained below). Their surroundings filled with colorful light to enliven the day, to mark the dawn of a new era in one's life.

Although Diwali is a Hindu tradition, people of all faiths in India participate in celebrations - Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others.

My childhood is filled with good memories of Diwali; the sparklers, the food and everything joyous you can imagine.

Happy Diwali to you my friends, may this Diwali bring happiness, serenity and peace to you. Amen!

RANGOLI THEMES (Adapted from various sites)

Those who are experts in art, they can do Rangoli designs on the floor with free hand. Some draw the pattern in a paper and fill it with colors. There are some who draw the outline with chalk and fill it with papers. There are different Rangoli themes with symbols like Swastika, Om, Mangal kalash, Chakra, a lighted Deepak Images Flowers Trees Creepers Birds, Elephants, Dancing figures, Geometric patterns such as circles, semi-circles, triangles, squares and rectangles etc.

Ingredients used in Rangoli traditionally are rice powder and the colors derived from natural dyes from barks of trees, leaves, indigo, etc. were used. Today however, synthetic dyes are used in a range of different colors. Rangoli being mainly a floor art, varied ingredients are used like as follows: Powdered colors, finely grounded rice flour Turmeric Glitters Natural flowers etc. Rangoli can be given a three-dimensional art effect by applying cereals, pulses either in their natural coloring or tinted with natural dyes.

They are beautiful, wonderful creations of art indeed. You can take ideas from these designs and make a beautiful Rangoli this Diwali.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars and conferences. . Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find this article at www.TheGhousediary.com

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Gandhi Walk in Dallas - Gandhi Jayanthi

It was great to go the 3rd Annual Gandhi walk and was an honor meet Mrs. Usha Gokani, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mrs. Gokani shared her delight seeing so many Indians celebrating Gandhi Jayanthi and she spoke well and I really liked what she said – people showing up with no incentives and no luring, but purely to honor the Mahatma. Amir Omar, City of Richardson Councilman also spoke about the significance of Gandhi’s ideals and its applicability in the world today.

Thanks to Prasad Thotakura for facilitating some outstanding guests to the event. I was pleased to hear Jack Godhwani speak so well and of course Shabnam Modgil is our Ms. India. I was happy to see Swati Shah in the role of emcee, she does a great job.

It was good to wear Gandhi T Shirts, whoever was the sponsor, and I thank them. It was good to see the volunteers out there.

The weather was just superb to walk around the Bachman Lake, it was simply beautiful. Thanks to Niranjan Patel (former President of IANT) for picking this venue last year. The first venue was also great where Akram Syed (former President of IANT) initiated the Gandhi walk three years ago.

I was pleased to hear that Mr. Niranjan Patel was dreaming about the event for the last ten years, there are so many Gandhians here. Indeed, I have been dreaming and talking about the event for the last 18 years that began with Asian News Radio and Asian News Magazine.

The only disappointment for me personally was the turn out - where are the Indians? I did not see any of the leadership - AK Mago, Sudhir Parikh, Bhupen Ganatra, Taiyab Kundawala, Dilip Patel, Akram Syed, Sunil Maini, Gopala Pillai, Padmakar Kulkarni, Narendra Shah, Pramod Shah, Nishi Bhatia, Bhatia Saheb, Victor Abraham, Usha Ram, Prabhakar Rao, Jai Muterja, ……. and several others… I am embarrassed that I cannot think of all the names at this moment.

Here is the great news – The Mahatma Gandhi statue is delivered here in Dallas and within the next 3 months, it will be placed in a Garden– that makes us the 11th City in the US to have a Gandhi Statue. Dallas is now the 4th or 5th largest Indian populated city now followed by New York, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas. Some on can correct me as I am not certain about these numbers.

You are welcome to read my annual Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at: http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2011/10/mahatma-gandhi-and-you-on-his-birthday.html

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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Politics, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. Over a thousand articles have been published on the topics and two of his books are poised to be released on Pluralism and Islam. Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find all of his current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mahatma Gandhi and you on Gandhi Jayanthi

Ask yourselves every day – do my words and actions bring solutions? If they do, then you deserve to be congratulated, if they don’t, would you like to make a sincere effort?
There is an immeasurable joy in doing good to fellow beings with no gains to be had. Try it; you will start enjoying the life.

Mahatma Gandhi could have led the life of luxury, he was a lawyer educated in England and worked for a big firm and had all the resources available to him, yet he chose to lead a simple life. He realized early on that none of the wealth goes with you; it is simply your duty to do good. Think about it, indeed, it is the good we do that brings relief, salvation, mukti, moksha, nijaat and nirvana to our own self.

In Hinduism, there is a great aspiration for one – to become Brahma, simply meaning to become a part of the whole and not have barriers between you and the other. It is a formula for building cohesive conflict-less society. A similar call is made by all religious teachings including Islam and Christianity.

The first step in embracing the humanity was to strip one’s ego and become a simple human where the masses can relate with you. He chose the simplest form of clothing and earned the friendship of the Indians at large. Didn’t all the spiritual masters live a simple life?

It is this aspect of “relating” with people and his compelling ideas that became a source of inspiration to Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and several other great souls who successfully brought a change through the strength to peace to the world at large.

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the five humans on the planet who has impacted my life profoundly. He was a messenger of peace; his language nourished reconciliation, and his actions encouraged co-existence. Whether it is the conflict between Hindus or Muslims or with the British Raj, his words mitigated conflicts and directed one's thoughts and actions towards solutions. Throughout the year, I reflect on his work and most certainly on his birthday and on his death anniversary, I write a note about him as my tribute to the great soul, the Mahatma.

He was one of the most powerful leaders we have had in the last two centuries. He did not want anything for himself, nor did he want to control anything or lead any one. All he wanted to do was create a society of mutual respect and co-existence. Everyone always wonders how did he get to make people listen to his message of non-violence? The answer is simple; People knew, he gained nothing from what he does, but instead they gained from his effort. Indeed, those who are un-selfish have invincible moral strength.

Nothing frightens them or cows them down. You will find the same commitment and moral strength in Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Zoroaster, Mahavira, Confucius, Nanak, Baha'u'llah, Mother Teresa and so many other great souls. Muhammad is my other mentor who had all the power on the earth during his life time but lived a simple life, and told his own daughter that she ain't going to get a free pass to God, she has to earn it by doing good deeds, i.e., doing things for other's good. Every one of the above teacher's strength lie in one simple thing: Their sense of justice was strong as a mountain and they were absolutely un-selfish.

Mahatma Gandhi's non-Violence movement is a model that will last for centuries to come. Every great teacher listed above has taught the same message over and over again. The idea is that there is a balance of energy in every human, doing bad things deflates that energy and doing good things recoups it. You may have experienced the elated feeling of having a great day, when you helped someone in dire need.

Non-Violence is a belief that the tyrant is blessed with the same energy, but is not aware of it and we have to help him realize it after enduring the suffering. Fighting out may bear the result for short run, but in the long run, the fighting and the avenging continues. Whereas the non-violence method of achieving the objective is sustainable, justice ultimately brings lasting peace, and non-violence sustains it, violence disturbs the balance.

I have a special connection with the Mahatma, and am making this disclosure for the 3rd time in public. I have met the Mahatma twice in my dreams; first time was way back in 1971 when the Mahatma, the Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University Dr. Narsimaiah and I were talking over a meal and he gave a pat on my back and told me that I have a lot of work to do. Then again in 2005, I saw him smiling at me encouraging me to continue with the work of Pluralism.

My message on this day is watch what you say; does it aggravate the ongoing dialogue and cause the opposing parties dig in? Or does it propel people to work towards solutions. You can apply this formula at your work, home or any situation and see the difference. Be a winner, by making the others a winner too.

Mahatma Gandhi probably would have endorsed my view that, if we can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness to each one of seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. That is the mission of the foundation for pluralism.

Today, October 2nd is Mahatma's birthday, may this day make our leaders think, and believe that there is a greater joy in creating peace. Ask yourselves every day – do my words and action bring solutions? There is an immeasurable joy in doing good, good for others with nothing to gain. Try it; you will start enjoying the life.

If you have a few spare minutes, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pzkSOulo0Q&feature=player_embedded#!

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Politics, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. Over a thousand articles have been published on the topics and two of his books are poised to be released on Pluralism and Islam. Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find all of his current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com

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Below is the text pulled from different sources

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was born on October 2, 1869, died as the Mahatma on January 30, 1948. The man who came to be regarded as the symbol of independent India was greatly revered by his own countrymen. Indians came to call him Mahatma or "the Great Soul." A large number of famous Gandhi quotes contain so much wisdom that they have gained immortality. These famous Gandhi quotes reveal the wisdom of this great man.

Gandhi, the pioneer of non-violence, believed in simplicity. His simple attire became a subject of great contemplation and ridicule in western nations. His compelling ideas braved death and continued to be a source of inspiration and emulation for great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela. Here are some famous words from Gandhi.

· The power of tyrant depends on the willingness of people to obey; if people refuse to obey at whatever cost, the tyrant’s power is ended.

· Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

· Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.

· A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.

· A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

· A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.

· Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation.

· Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

· You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.

· Culture of the mind must be subservient to the heart.

· It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.

· Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

· The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

· An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

· Hate the sin, love the sinner.

· I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.

· Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.

· Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

· Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

· Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.

· The name "Gandhi" is synonymous with peace and non-violence. His epic struggle to bring together the people of India in their search for sovereignty is unparalleled.