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The subject belongs to an inchoate but essential working of the psyche. I will concretize it to explain the point about worship. About a year ago I decided not to wear shoes as a mark of respect when I step on the 6×4 carpet where my harmonium sits. It seemed important to consecrate the area with this gesture and other marks of respect, like covering the harmonium with a nice shawl and to occasionally light incense etc. It seemed important to have a holy space within my living space. This rule was self made, and had a purpose. But it is not easy to conform in the winter when I wear my sheepskin boots and I can’t just slip out of them easily. The other day I said, hell, this is a self made constriction, so I will ignore it. I did, and it didn’t feel right, so I took them off.
So, what did I want to say about this? Perhaps I should talk about the other point and that may help me clarify. All our conceptions of God are filtered through our own, limited sensibilities and can therefore be false. And yet we cannot do without conceptions so it becomes imperative that we remain aware of their limited nature in order not to get stuck in any of them, or to take them deadly seriously (and they can be deadly; the state of the world and religious wars are evidence). We need to take our conceptions very lightly and remind ourselves again and again that God is far, far vaster than any we might hold, and far, far more mysterious than our minds can comprehend. Carl Jung, in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections has a wonderful example of this. When he was a young boy he tortured himself by not allowing himself to give birth to an image that his psyche kept thrusting into his consciousness. When he finally allowed himself to let it birth itself, it was as satisfying as having a huge dump. And here is the image: God, in heaven, is shitting on a church in his town.
I think that God would probably shit upon all our conceptions of Him and Her. They are altogether too small and constricted. And yet . . . for those of us who love to worship, who need concrete little rituals by which to consecrate our praying, it becomes important not to get stuck in the institutions we build around it. By all means remove your shoes if it makes you feel humbler; if it makes you feel your little carpet temple is sacred, special, real; that you do have a physical space you can retreat to in moments of joy and sorrow. But know that God is not confined to your carpet, and would have no trouble shitting on it if you started to think so.

Tried all morning to crawl back into my solitude, but couldn’t. Was tired and walked slowly on my hike up this beautiful mountains which I must leave soon to return to the US, knowing in my heart that wherever I am is right. Even the tiredness and the inability to enter my solitude. After lunch I lay out in the sun, not wanting to read or even talk with anyone, and unable to get up and water the few plants that looked at me thirstily. And it was okay. I might never want to read or write or be obsessive about all the things I need to, ought to, or want to do. But when I did reach for the watering can and began to feed the plants, I slid smoothly into the arms of my solitude, the quiet stillness returning like sunshine and warmth wrapping around my organs, all of them, and specially the heart and the brain. There is such a supreme ALL RIGHTNESS about everything. I move towards a great love and acceptance of myself and my life. All of it. There is not a thing that I am or think or act that is outside of myself, or life, or God. No matter how far I get from my self or from God I am still connected, tethered, bound. No implement exists to cut this bond. Even when I let it go, it stays.

The Snake Who Lost His Hiss
The elders of a village went to the Saint where he was meditating in a cave in the mountains, and complained about Nagarajah, an evil snake that had terrorized the village.
“His hiss can be heard for miles around,” they said. “He bites and swallows our cattle, our dogs, our children, our men, our women. Even the bravest among us have become afraid to venture out into the fields which are dry, parched, uncultivated. Our granaries are depleted and empty. Our numbers are dwindling from death by the snake, and by starvation. Help us, Guru, you alone can subdue and vanquish him. ”
The Saint, realizing the gravity of the situation, descended to the village, and went to the  large, spreading bodhi tree. This used to be the tree under which children played, yogis meditated, and lovers lay in each other’s arms under the moonlight. But no more. Now at its coiling, twisted roots, the snake lived in his burrow.
“Come forth, O Ancient One,” the Saint called, and the snake crept out of his hole,  slithering and undulating, his scales shimmering in the sunlight. He was dark and shining in his majesty, awesome in his length and his beauty. He glided to the Guru, and coiled up meekly at his feet.
“Oi, what is this I hear about you being the scourge of the village? Leave your destructive ways. Be good. Don’t kill needlessly. Stop biting them. Leave them alone,” the Saint said.
Because the snake had good karma, because he could be made conscious of the consequences of his acts, and because he had the sense and the power to obey the Saint, he returned to his burrow, resolved henceforth to leave his evil ways, and be good.
The fields yielded grain, the children came out to play, the lovers loved, the brave came out with their bows and their arrows, and the villagers were once again at peace.
One day, several months later, the Saint passed by the tree in the village, and found the snake coiled near the root of the tree. He was utterly transformed. His scales had fallen off, he looked mangy, emaciated, innocuous, limp. He had sores all over his body. He looked like he was on the verge of death.
“Oi, what happened to you?” the Saint asked.
“This, O Guru, is the fruit of obedience, of being good. I obeyed you, I gave up my evil ways, I let the villagers alone, I stopped biting them, I stopped eating their livestock, and what happened? Look what they did to me. The children come and throw stones at me. Even the rats dance on my head. I haven’t eaten for months. I am simply waiting to be eaten when I die.”
“This is your own fault,” the Saint replied. “I told you not to bite them, but I didn’t tell you not to hiss.”

Finished reading Moorehead’s account of Darwin’s excursions on the Beagle. It is unlikely that evolution has come to an end. Everything is still in flux, including the mind and heart of the human species. The earth in its spiraling gyrations is still going somewhere and has not yet arrived. The paradox is that every moment is at once destination and arrival. Every moment and place, time and space is perfect in its imperfection. Perhaps all our troubles arise from forgetting this, as we tend to do, crawling without vision from moment to moment. We can only see it in moments when grace gives us wings and we can see the pattern from a height.

having suffered from surgi-phobia for years and years, i finally went for shoulder surgery for a sub-acromid impingement in May this year. i was terrified that i wouldn’t be able to write for months, or bathe of dress, that my shoulder would get worse, and on and on. I could write within a week;  bathe after the first few days, and now, three months and a lot of disciplined exercise and stretching later, my upper body, and especially my shoulder, feels strong. The exercise isn’t over, of course. I devote half an hour a day it. As you know, i live in a very remote area in India and don’t have access to a doctor or physical therapy. I am eight hours by car in timespace to the surgeon, and after the surgery, only met him a week later for removal of stitches. He gave me some exercises to do which i was diligent about. I want to share with you my method of stretching my shoulder using geometry.
Using my good, left arm as a model, I first tried to pay attention to all the things i couldn’t do with my right arm. Just noticing. Not forcing it to do what it wasn’t ready to, or despairing. For example, i noticed i couldn’t put my right arm on my hip to make a triangle on my side. The next step was to try to do it without pushing it: leaving it as far as it could go and holding it it there.  I used a timer with my stretching, starting off with as little as I can, say, five seconds, then building up from there to 10, 15, etc. I am not at a minute and a half. Another method of geometry is stretching the arm out in various directions: let’s say, in front of you. this itself may take time to achieve: just holding it out as straight as possible for as long as you can, motivating yourself with the timer. the next step is to move it in small angles in front of you and away from you. Think of your arm as a horizontal pendulum swinging evenly from side to side: no jerky movements, not forcing or pushing anything, especially in the beginning. gentleness, gentleness, gentleness. You can apply this technique while holding your arm in any direction: small arcs, progressing by fractions of degrees to larger ones.
Remember: form is everything. Our bodies are geometric forms: remember that drawing of Leonardo Da Vinci, a human figure with arms and legs extended inside a circle inside a square — supremely symmetrical? Using the image of your navel at the very center of you unfurl your body thus, standing or lying down. Also recall your arm is your wing. when you’re ready, make gentle flying movement with it. In time you’ll take off!

This essay belongs with my posts on THE SHADOW
“Evil” is by far the darkest and heaviest word in the English language. It belongs at the nucleus of a cluster of other words like Devil, Satan, chaos, darkness, death, night, violence, hell, hate. It is an abstract noun, an abstraction that manifests itself in historic, literary and mythic images like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Mr. Hyde, Iago, Caliban. The list is as endless as the list in our pantheon. Evil is the name we have given to all that is negative, and destructive of life, the most sacred and precious of our experiences.
Diametrically opposed to this word is another word, Good, which is at the nucleus of another, and what we think, unrelated cluster of words like God, cosmos, heaven, light, flight, life, day, love, virtue, kindness, selflessness, compassion. It, too, is an abstract noun, embodied in images of angels, saints, heavenly hosts, heroes. Good is everything that is positive, that supports and nurtures life.
We see this division into two opposing tendencies reflected all around and within us. Black and white, night and day, death and life, tomb and womb, chaos and harmony, heaven and hell, fire and ice, war and peace, body and soul, mind and matter. These oppositions are mirrored in the best of our art, which exists because of this contrast, and which is sustained by the contraries of good and evil, silence and sound, stillness and movement, space and form. Physiologically, too, we are sustained by diastole and systole, inspiration and expiration.
Psychologically it manifests within us as conflict between virtue and sin, acceptable, law-abiding behavior, and those emotions that are termed reprehensible by our family, clan, religion. All of these conflicts are reflections of the dual world we inhabit.
The reason why we see this division everywhere is because life, and we along with it, are comprised of and exist because of this duality. They are the warp and the weft of the fabric of existence. Without this distinction and difference, life as we know it would not exist. Life is created, sustained and destroyed and created again by these contraries. Life is the flower of this churning. As William Blake says in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, ‘Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.’
Not only does this duality exist, but it is good that it does. We can say that even evil is good since it is necessary and without it nothing would be. It is this that gives meat to our experiences. Without this contrast we would have nothing to think, feel, write and read about. Without it life as we know it would be boring and insipid. We are fascinated by this contrast. We talk about it, we read all about it. This is what makes news. This is what makes history. This is what fires creation. This is what makes all the characters in literature and in life interesting and worthy of attention and study.
Though in nature, and in an abstract way in humanity in general, we can admit the necessity and even the desirability of evil, of the dark side of experience, when it comes to  ourselves, and to the world and people immediately around us, it is hard for us not to judge, condemn and punish, and even attempt to destroy it. We learn the distinction between these two early in life. We are given models to follow and models to eschew. We learn that one kind of behavior is acceptable, and the other not. One is allowed to be expressed, the other repressed. One is rewarded, the other punished. In most cultures, clans and families, the line between the two is linear and rigid. The thinking is split down the middle, dualistic, with Satan, darkness, evil, night on the one hand, and God, light, good on the other.
It is understandable that we desire good, and condemn evil, since we perceive the latter as being destructive to everything that we value and hold most sacred. It is necessary to our survival to make this distinction, to be for the one and against the other. What we term ‘evil,’ whether it is within, or without us, can destroy us. We can become its victims, or its perpetrators. Both have destructive ends. Dividing the world into good and bad is a way to make sense of the chaos of life. Judging our experience is a way of clarifying and simplifying it. And this becomes necessary when we realize that life as we know it, civilization, society, depends upon this simplification and clarification. To be pro-good and anti-evil gives us a definite direction, one that is creative and bears fruit materially, intellectually, spiritually.
But it is important to understand that too rigid a distinction between good and evil can also destroy us. This preference of one over the other is a purely human trait. Nature is an amalgam of the two. What we term good and evil are both expressions of the one energy that permeates and powers life and existence. We need both of them for our survival and our spiritual progress. In order to become whole, to transcend duality, and fuse them into one, we also need what Blake calls ‘the Demon’s light.’
There is no better example of this than Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I give literary examples instead of actual ones because our evil characters leave behind few words of analysis. Our writers are the ones who catch the pulse of life, all of it. Writers sing life whole.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde embody good and evil. Hyde comes into being because Jekyll has too rigid a definition of good and evil. Dr. Jekyll, the scientist, labors during the day for ‘the furtherance of knowledge and the relief of sorrow and suffering.’ Nine-tenths of his life is a life of effort, virtue and control. His high views, derived from his interpretation of religious values, of what is good and right, make him advance ‘infallibly in one direction, and in one direction only: on the moral side.’ He does not allow himself a ‘certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many,’ but which he finds hard to reconcile with his imperious desire to appear to be good and virtuous. Hence he represses his pleasures with a ‘morbid sense of shame.’
This separation of what Dr. Jekyll considers undesirable pleasures and his moral being causes a deep abyss in his psyche between the two, the good and the evil ‘which divide and compound man’s dual nature.’ The over-exertion of his energies in one direction produces the tension that brings about his tragedy.
Jekyll discovers a chemical concoction that allows him to ‘express the lower elements’ of his soul. He drinks it, and feels strange sensations, ‘something indescribably new, and from their novelty, incredibly sweet.’ He feels younger, lighter, happier in body. Hyde has come into being. Freed from the constraints of his good self, he feels heady, reckless, and delights in ‘the solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul.’ Hyde is cruel, and graduates from small acts of unkindness and cruelty to becoming a murdering monster.
We see the tremendous tension within Dr. Jekyll between his will to subdue the evil part of him, and his desire for a freedom that will allow him to be all that he is. It is his conscious and willful refusal to participate in feelings and pleasures that he perceives as evil that commits him to ‘a profound duplicity in life.’ Because Dr. Jekyll has denied himself, in the moderate doses, the simple pleasures that he considers ‘evil’ or ‘wrong,’ he is propelled into the forbidden zone with a force he cannot control. The tragedy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is caused by too rigid a division between good and evil. By desiring one and repressing the other, by deliberately and consciously preferring the one and avoiding the other, he has in fact made them two literally separate and irreconcilable wholes, further apart than they actually are, and needed to be. Thereafter he plays out the tragedy of the two which leads, predictably, to tremendous suffering and eventual suicide.
When we deny those parts of ourselves that might be termed ‘bad,’ we set up a resistance within ourselves that gathers force and power and ultimately blooms into full-blown evil. Bad is only the beginning of the continuum that ends in evil. Or even if we don’t graduate into evil by this type of thinking and repression, by denying ourselves the ‘bad,’ by trying to excise and destroy it, by trying to be too goody-goody, like Jekyll, and not allowing ourselves the pleasures of life which from a certain strictly puritanical ethic appear evil, we sow the seeds of a great  conflict and sorrow. In believing in good as good and evil as bad, in courting the first and banishing the latter, we are allowing ourselves only half of the experience of life.
What we term good is often only another name for acceptable, and evil is often the label given to that which does not obey procrustean laws and rules. Our societies and our civilization, which are dependent upon obedience and a collective ethic for their survival, often employ too narrow an interpretation of religion, too heavy a reliance on virtue in order to excise parts of our total being, to attenuate our wholeness.
What we term evil or dark is an inextricable part of ourselves.  We are human, we are made of flesh and blood. We have lusts, hungers, needs, mouths and orifices, appetites, to fulfill which we often kill, hurt, maim, eat. To eat is to kill. We are all part ‘evil.’ We live in violent times, and as much as we may condemn, deplore, and disassociate ourselves from the violence, we are a part of it. We contribute to it. We participate in the most forbidden of our appetites, the appetite to kill. We cause it. Every time we pick up the paper and read the gory details about murders and school shootings, we indulge in evil vicariously. Our curiosity about and fascination with it link us to it indissolubly. In Sanskrit the members of an audience of a play are not passive witnesses of the drama, but are sahridyas, of the same heart, as the protagonist.
Something in us will always be propelled towards violence and bloodshed. It haunts us in our dreams, it stares at us from the paper every morning. We cannot exorcize it. We haven’t been able to throughout our history. Evil is here to stay.
Perhaps the greatest fallacy of logic that we commit is the either/or fallacy. It is invariably less a question of either or than and and. Life is an interplay between these two contraries. Without either good or evil we cannot be whole. Our ideas can be very narrow, our vision very limited. The human will with all its striving in the face of chaos, or what appears to be chaos, is often impotent against the great Is. Evil exists despite all our efforts.
It is, of course, very hard for the mind, for our conscience, for that part of ourselves that wants to believe we can and must control ‘evil,’ to accept this premise and this reality. The mind is discontent with it, and is torn between free will and determination, between its ability to change life as it perceives it, cruel, inhumane, ‘red in tooth and claw,’ and accepting the great Is in its entirety. This discontent, too, is, no less than the instinct for evil. And a good thing it is. Acceptance and discontent is part of the duality of our experience, and without these contraries there would be, as William Blake says, no progression.
Without evil we exsanguinate and emasculate ourselves, without good we tend to glory excessively, as Hyde did, in cruelty and blood. A healthy human being acknowledges and accepts within himself both of these elements. Prospero’s reference to Caliban in The Tempest comes to mind: This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine. Even Jekyll feels no repugnance at the image of Hyde, but rather a “leap of welcome. This, too, was myself.” Like the Merlins and the Prosperos, not above revenge and the instinct to defend themselves by borrowing some of the power of evil, we need to accept, embrace, subdue, then let be, and let go our calibans.
The heroes we worship are whole, total beings who embody this marriage of good and evil: King Arthur, Robin Hood, Cuchulain, Siegfried, Shiva, Indra, Ulysses, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, revolutionaries, freedom fighters. Guru Gobind Singh. They, too, had instincts that led them to destroy their enemies. They too judged and condemned, jumped into the battle and fought it tooth and nail on the side of ‘good’.  In order to do so they donned the mantle of evil, employed its energy. They, too, decapitated, disemboweled, destroyed. Without this dark energy we would be entirely at the mercy of the forces of destruction.
But unlike the Hitlers they are heroes because they keep the contraries in balance.Balance is the key here. The East understands this better than the West, for everywhere in the East we find symbols and signs of this balance, this marriage. There is, for example, no word analogous to the abstract noun ‘evil’ in Hindi and Sanskrit. The closest words are ‘bad,’ ‘cruel,’ or ‘destructive.’ There is no concept of a disembodied evil. There are demons, asuras, and they ultimately serve good, and strengthen it. Shakti, energy, and its manifestation in Kali, and Shiva, Mistress and Lord of Dissolution and Destruction, are perceived as positive symbols of an inexpugnable reality, and worshiped. The Chinese word for the dark energy is ‘yang,’ which does not compare with evil. There is no better example of this balance than the yin-yang symbol, the circle containing equal parts of each, each needing and containing the seed of the other, the line separating them not rigid and linear, but wave-like, flowing, merging, almost invisible, as if they were contiguous, touching, like lovers nestling within the confines of the One.
One. The bilateral vision integrated, like Shiva’s third eye, perceiving the indivisible whole: the one circle of the waxing and waning moon; the one globe, as of the earth, containing the contraries in her womb, like twins; the one sphere on whose axis occur the extremities, on whose diameter occur the opposites; the one energy that emanates as two seemingly separate expressions that morph into each other somewhere along the cyclical journey, merge and separate and merge again.
One. And all of it, Good. The word good means, ‘together, in a body, to come or bring together, to unite, join, fit.’ Like William Blake says: “Good and Evil are here both Good and the two contraries Married.”

Since i mentioned the word ‘commitment ‘ in my previous post, I thought i would give you an essay on commitment that i just posted on my WRITING WARRIOR blog. Nothing can be achieved in life without commitment.
Recently I had the occasion to use the word ‘commitment’ while I was writing my own wedding vows. Although I was aware of the dictionary definition of the word, the various contexts in which it may be used, and had even used the word here and there, I was uncertain about what it meant to me, personally. What does it mean, to commit yourself to another, be it a human or God, in a marriage, or marry yourself to a path, like writing?
A relationship with another, and the relationship with writing, both begin almost unconsciously, like life itself in its infancy. You like someone or something, you enjoy an activity without really knowing why. There is an initial attraction, a high, hormones and pheromones and ecstasy, and before you know it, you are hooked. You can’t do without, and soon you are betrothed and then married to the object of your love.
But what begins in a fun, playful way, changes, morphs, declines from its ecstasy, and becomes, like all else in life, a journey with its highs and lows, its joys and its sorrows, its delight and its labor.
The word and the concept of commitment becomes relevant when things are not easy and fun, when there are obstructions, and temptations to abandon the path one has chosen, consciously or unconsciously. When we are young and start our first, joyous encounter with writing, we do not think of commitment. We simply love it and do it.
So commitment implies an element of choosing, or rather choosing the path and the person again consciously precisely in those moments when the journey becomes rough and difficult. Commitment, then, has an element of  will and intention in it although it is primarily a matter of the heart. To choose only with the head doesn’t work as well as choosing with the entire being. And yet, since our entire being is often conflicted, a little bit of intention also helps.
There is an unconditionality about commitment. You persist regardless of the circumstances: in sickness or in health, through fat and thin, in publication and rejection, in success and failure.
The key to commitment is persistence: ‘to hold firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state or undertaking, despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks.’ The most obvious example I can think of a persistent person is our famous knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha, Knight of the Mournful Countenance, warrior par excellence, of whom we shall have occasion to speak later. He has a vision and pursues it obdurately and intrepidly, despite all evidence that it is not commensurate with the Great Out There. Nevertheless, as Tobias Wolf says, “We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.”
Commitment, then, may also involve a certain degree of what might be called holy folly. This type of folly is one of the weapons of the Writing Warrior, allowing her to traverse terrains the wise and the believers in scientific reasoning can barely glimpse. There is a lot of wisdom in this folly.
Commitment is an existential choice, made in the context of unknowing. We don’t know whether our love will last, whether even the love we think we have is ‘true’ love, fully reciprocated, or even directed towards a ‘worthy’ object,  whether our writing will ever have an audience, or one as large as we would like. The Quixotic element of commitment does not accept the common definitions or perceptions of what is ‘true,’ but, in a supremely creative act, creates its own truth and reality, and believes, despite contradictory evidence, that this creative act has a palpable effect on the Reality Out There.
And because of this unknowing (am I right in choosing what I have chosen? Is this the right path for me? Am I any good at it? Dare I compete with all the writers that have gone before? Will I be published in this or that magazine? Will I reach my goal? Will I win this or that award? Will I die in utter obscurity?), commitment is often besieged by an onslaught of doubt, followed by despair. Because we are humans, and because unknowing is our inheritance, such doubt and despair is natural, and to be expected. There is no getting around it, and there is no destroying it once and for all. We can’t even prepare and fortify ourselves against it, for when it comes it crumbles the thickest of walls. It penetrates all shields. We have, ultimately, to accept it and suffer it when it comes. But in time, and with the right attitude, we can mitigate this suffering by not allowing it to cripple and paralyze us, or even if this should happen (for isn’t this one the expressions of true despair?), by knowing that it shall pass, and hope prevail. Commitment does not exclude doubt and despair, but includes it. Doubt is a part of it, but the commitment part says ‘yes’ even to the doubt, and rides it out. Commitment involves courage, the kind of courage that Rollo May, in The Courage to Create, talks about: “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.”
Commitment has to be reaffirmed during/after each bout of despair. I hyphenate during/after because I, personally, cannot do it during the bout. Despair is despair because it seems so total and hopeless each time. But with practice the duration of the despair decreases. I am learning in the midst of my darkest hour, when all is lost and directionless, to affirm my path again, and again. Its passing is affected bya reaffirmation of the commitment, like darkness is dispelled by the lighting of a candle.
And the reaffirmation, the committing of myself, all over again, to writing almost always infuses me with energy, enthusiasm, courage. It endows me with determination and a capacity to overcome obstacles and carry on in a meaningful way, despite failures, rejections, and what may appear to be total defeat.
‘Commitment’ comes from the Latin, mittere: to let go, send off, throw. There is a certain extravagance about this commitment, an element of risk, a degree of dare-devilry, a willingness to abandon yourself to something for the hell or heaven of it, for the love of it, for its own sake. It allows you, in Hamlet’s words, to let go of ‘what is mortal and sure/To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,’ and set sail for mysterious, unknown lands, with trust in your heart and a prayer on your tongue.
UNTIL ONE IS COMMITTED, THERE IS HESITANCY, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred, A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. W. H. MURRAY
Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
We cannot will creativity. But we can will to give ourselves to the encounter with intensity of dedication and commitment.        ROLLO MAY
How far both from muscular heroism and from the soulfully tragic spirit of unselfishness . . . is the plain simple fact that a man has given himself completely to something he finds worth living for.
Commitment needs something else in order to be perpetuated. It needs discipline. This is the perseverance to keep on when things are tough. Adversity is life’s way of testing and perfecting a person. Without that, we would never develop character.
Commitment and discipline – these are two of the most precious words for those who would seek Tao. DENG MING-DAO, Daily Meditations

Tension and stress is an indication that you are not thinking correctly about a situation. they are caused by thoughts. An example. While meditating this morning I was upset that my meditations are never deep enough, that there is too much chatter in my brain, that i do not reach the deep state of alert relaxation that i want out of them. I had to redefine for myself what meditation is all about. Back to the basics, to ground zero. Meditation for me is about simply sitting for a certain amount of time (minimum of twenty minutes for me, though there are days when even five minutes count) to create a quiet space in the mornings before my day begins; this sitting involves another thing for me: keeping a good, relaxed posture by imaging a golden thread from the top of my head to the sky. As if I am held upright by this thread. I go a step further by reminding myself of one of the Sikh banis: prabh dori haath tumharai: the string is in your hands, Lord. Just this simple, basic reminder, helped me to get deeper in my meditation. Even if I hadn’t gotten deeper, i would still have been satisfied with fulfilling my fundamental commitment to meditation.
Tweaking and tuning our thoughts is the key to a joyful existence.

there is nothing to fear here. without honesty with yourself there can be no progress on this journey.

Because I try, in my own inadequate but focused way, to do shadow work. doing shadow work is like spear fishing in dark waters. You have to be very alert to the stirrings of the shadow. you have to watch carefully for the crepuscular movements in your psyche that tell you a big fish, or even a little one, is close, close. Then you have it haul it up from the depths with the hands of your intention and look at it in the light of day. this is not easy and takes years of practice. But begin in your own small way and it will have exponential results. look for those subconscious thoughts/feelings that go on beneath your consciousness as you move through the day, going to your job or driving or just being in your home, and ESPECIALLY IN YOUR DREAMS.

Yes, yes. much wisdom here. What is the point, you might say, of doing any shadow work
(Yes, that’s what the psychologists call it, especially the Jungian variety) if you can’t kill it or even tame or train it?
The only solution lies in befriending it. Embracing it. Loving it. Why? Because it comes loaded with gifts. I have already talked of humility. Even if humility is elusive and fleeting, it is as valuable as even a little bit of sunshine during the monsoons in these high, misted mountains where i live. It comes and goes, but when it comes, and you taste its sweetness, it is unforgettable.
but that was not what i wanted to speak about but befriending the shadow. I’ll tell you some of the gifts — no, just one of the gifts — it brings. When it attacked me three days ago I was wise enough to recognize its silent footsteps (how? I will talk about that, too). as soon as i heard it, I flung open my heart to it. I recalled the Sufi definition of Sufism that I mention in my book, PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE, or RUMI’S TALES FROM THE SILK ROAD (the former name in the Indian publication, the latter in the USA): What is Sufism? A leap in the heart at the coming of sorrow.
why? because humility is in it. Because God is in it. As Guru Nanak says, dukh daroo: sorrow is the antidote, sorrow the tonic.

and humility is the greatest of human virtues. Yes. I think it is the root of all virtues. there can be no love, no compassion, no kindness without humility. It is only when we are humble that we can connect truly with others. It is humility that makes us realize that we are no different from anyone else.
But don’t delude yourself. It is the hardest thing to be humble. A Sufi saying has it: more invisible than an ant’s footprints on a dark rock on the darkest night of all are the workings of the ego.
ever seen THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE with Al Pachino and Keeau Reeves? The ending is magnificent and says what I mean.

Don’t delude yourself. Everyone, everything has an enduring shadow. They are part of the dual world, inner and outer, that we are born into and of which we are made. And there is a deep, spiritual (and material, ecological, economic, historical, philosophical and on and on) reason for its being. And i will only speak of one of these reasons.
Since shadows cannot be banished, they must be embraced.

Again, who knows, but i will tell you about my reasons. I am not saying that once you understand what causes yours you will be able to banish it forever. Far from it. I will address this aspect in another post.
But here are some of my causes.
Tiredness brings out my shadow. When i have been working hard on something and do not let myself rest because i want to do more and more — all in the name of achievement — my shadow springs from behind and brings me low.
illness elicits my shadow. when i am not feeling well but don’t slow down enough to recognize that i am not feeling well and keep going, bang!
when i feel powerful in my creativity and think i am unbeatable, wham!

Instead of giving you an academic definition of a shadow, let me describe my own.
I think that compared with the shadow of a criminal or a murderer, my shadow is quite genial, but it wrecks havoc in my life. It is no less dangerous for me than a murderer is for the victim. when my shadow overtakes and swallows me I am negative about my self, my life, my connections, my family, my work. I see no beauty, though beauty abounds everywhere; I have no peace, though there is no reason for agitation; my tongue buds taste nothing though the food is delicious; God disappears; love disappears. sweetness disappears. And I feel like a carcass left on the shore of the river of life.

I’d had a terrific two weeks — full of creativity, joy, well-being, a sense of my own power — before my shadow overtook and swallowed me three days ago. Yes, swallowed me. I was inside it, looking out of its eyes at my bleak and sorry life, tasting — nothing — through its tongue. All was dark, and even though the sun — rare, rare in the monsoons –shone on my 63rd birthday yesterday, I was in darkness. I had been so happy that i thought i had banished my shadow forever, or better, i did not have a shadow at all!
but you know, we all have shadows. everything that has mass, has a shadow. wherever there is light, there are shadows. the more light, the darker the shadow. sometimes when there is more than one source of light, we cast more shadows. Have you ever noticed your shadow as you walk on a full moon night on a street with street lights? I have seven many shadows both stalking and leading me on.
I can say one thing with certainty — there can be no happiness unless we integrate our shadows into our daily, light-filled lives.
in the coming posts i will explore this topic  further.

For Writers! Check it out! Here’s the introduction to it.
The Writing Warrior: Writing as a Mythic Adventure of the Self in its Quest for Voicebegan as a proposal for a sabbatical  project while Iwas teaching at Grossmont College. I badly needed a vacation fromteaching and thought the project would be simple and easy.
Far from it. I should have known better that a topic such as thiswould be wholly engaging and lengthy. While telling my own, very personal relationship to writing, the project ended up being a Pilgrim’s Progress for writers, showing them how to be in the game of writing for the long haul, deal with and overcome perceived failure and rejection, develop skills to navigate the difficult straits of defeat, bear and survivethe wounds of the competitive marketplace, and move onward andforward on the spiritual path of The Word.
The Writing Warrior is a series of thirty two essays on the creative process with the particular focus on the psychological/spiritual challenges of the art of writing. Unlike most of the other books on writing which deal with the skill of writing, and instruct writers how to write, The Writing Warrior goes to the root, the manner of thinking that ensures success in this endeavor. Most of the time it is not talent that is lacking but an attitude which determines how far along the path of writing the writer travels. “Genius,” as Jean -Paul Sartre has said, “is not a gift but a way a person invents in desperate circumstances.”
The Writing Warrior is for those writers who, in William Faulkner’s eloquent phrase, “have got to have to write,” but who frequently and periodically get discouraged in the highly competitive market place and by the difficulties and vagaries of the process itself. Although it is true, as John Ciardi says, that “any fires that have been put out as a result of the act of criticism should never have been started,” literary history is replete with many of our best who have floundered and despaired in these straits. The Writing Warrior explores and addresses issues surrounding the matrix of what Norman Mailer calls ‘a failure of ego.’ The essays – each flowing from and building upon the previous one – are united by the metaphor of writing as a mythic adventure of the self in which the quest is the quest for voice. The writer’s journey contains all the hardships, excitement, joys, obstacles of any literal and spiritual journey, and calls for all those qualities – commitment, patience, persistence, trust, surrender, faith, fortitude, courage, passion, devotion – which are necessary for those who want to survive and prevail upon this path. In short, the difficult path demands that writers become warriors to deal with the many challenges inherent in this adventure.
Although most writers — a breed of people for whom metaphors are more real than matter — are armchair warriors, their battles are no less important or dangerous for being waged in the crepuscular regions of their psyches, minds, and hearts, and far more complex than any historical war. They are the battleground, the soldiers, the enemies, all in one. They need to have all the attributes of warriors to defeat the multitudinous defeating forces that they encounter on their journey. The Writing Warrior addresses this issue in detail.
The enemy of the warrior is all those internal fears (“I can’t,” “I’m not as good as X Y and Z,” “I’m not important enough to write about my experiences/ thoughts/ feelings,” “Dare I risk being honest?” “Is it safe?” “What will they think?” “Where will this adventure take me?”), and external circumstances – rejections from agents, publishers, magazines, failure to win awards, bad reviews – that dishearten the writer. How we think about ourselves and our abilities has a direct bearing on what we do and how we perform. And this attitude is not something we learn once and for all, but something we must relearn again and again, and at every stage of the process. In other words, the word ‘skill’ in writing applies not so much to a knowledge possessed once and for all time, but to the manner in which we approach any task of writing. Even, and especially, professional writers know the truth of this. As Flannery O’Connor has said, “One thing that is always with the writer — no matter how long he has written or how good he is — is the continuous process of learning how to write.”
The Writing Warrior is a book of mental strategies and the craft (less in the sense of technique as cunning) of writing that can strengthen, encourage, and empower writers. The essays give writers practical advice about how to proceed in the adventure with courage and confidence, to explore questions of creativity for themselves, to raise and answers crucial questions about important subjects such as discipline, the fine balance between paying attention to and ignoring the issue of ‘audience,’ a balance between ‘life’ and ‘art’, play and work, community and solitude.
The following table of contents gives a list of the chapters in the book.
1. The Writer Warrior
2. On Commitment
3. The Quest
4. Knowing the Enemy
5. Defending your territory
6. Reclaiming Your Freedom
7. In the Beginning was the Babble
8. Playing Along the Way
9. Trusting Yourself
10. Knowing Your Process
11. Being Patient
12. Trusting Rest
13. Surrendering to the Process
14.  Discipline
15. On Attention
16. Staying Connected
17.Wresting your Solitude
18. The Balancing Act
19.The Hazards of the Way
20.Being Honest
21. Meeting Your Shadow
22. The Audience Business
23. Forget about Audience
24. Now Go In and Take Over
25. Getting to Know the Critic
26.Killing the Critic
27. Being Your Own best Critic
28.The Whole Failure Thing
29.Defeating Defeat
30.The Power of  Illusions
31.The Warrior As Literary Bandit
32.Buffets and Rewards

If you are reading this blog, kindly leave comments and queries – nothing elaborate, if you don’t feel like it, or elaborate, if you do. Everything is welcome and it would be great if we could start a dialogue here!

JULY 8, 2011
I got my royalty statement from Penguin on PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE.  The book sold 54 copies in 5 months. Sobering. I get no royalties for GANESHA GOES TO LUNCH which was sold by my American publisher to Om books International without my getting a cut of it. The latter is doing well in India, and though   sometimes I want to sue the guy – which I still might do – I take some comfort in the fact that the book is liked and helping people. The feedback and reviews I have got on PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE are also heartening. From such little knots and strings I build a ladder of confidence to continue working steadily. One does need confidence in one self and one’s work. Though some of this is based on the approval and praise of others, most of the time this confidence is blind, persistent, wild. I have such enormous amounts of it that no degree of ‘failure’ can deter me from my path. Besides, I don’t think there is anything called ‘failure.’ I have eliminated the word from my personal dictionary. Even selling ten books a month is a success in my book. I love what I do and love what happens in my art. I have been working on MALINI IN WHIRLWOOD for around 40 years. I have had to struggle and wrestle with my material, go through at least five very different drafts of the story to finally arrive at a point of simplicity that the complex material demands. Though it is still far from over – though I hope the first book in the trilogy will be done sometime within the next year –, and though I can see  the possibility of completion, I know better than to think it is a certainty. More than anything else I have written, MALINI has had a life of its own. It is this book that has finally taught me to surrender to the process – which doesn’t at all imply passivity. I have had to be persistent in the face of enormous difficulty, blindly confident, and wildly hopeful. And I believe the book will be awesome. If I were a publisher, I would grab it up! I haven’t even sent it out yet, and won’t till it is very close to completion. I do not like to be under external deadlines. My only deadlines are self-imposed. I have not a doubt that when it is completed, it will be published. I also believe that it will be very ‘successful,’ whether in my lifetime or not might be the question. I have so much hope that even my own death can’t stop it!
So, I’m back after my shoulder surgery, which was successful beyond belief. I am now buckling down and spending an hour a day on working at stretching and strengthening it. After a busy two weeks in the city of Chandigarh – shopping, shopping, shopping – I am back to our mountain retreat where there is nothing to buy, thank God. I have to stock up in the city. Now I hope I will be here for a couple of months to get some serious work done. And have plenty of down time to watch the rain, stare out of the window, and take long hikes when the rain lets up, like now.

May 11 2011
I’ve never before understood the bumper stickers that say, FEAR GOD.  I have always been a NO FEAR person. I didn’t want to believe in a relationship based on fear. I did not want to worship a God I feared but a God I loved and who loved me.
But this past year several events have started me on a deep, metaphysical fear. Last September a pick up carrying three young men and a bullock was washed down in a landslide a few kilometers from our home here in the village of Ghiyagi. The bullock jumped off and survived while the three men were broken into pieces and had to be cut out of the squashed jeep. One of the men was the only son of someone we know well. The mangled and crushed vehicle still sits on the roadside after eight months as a grisly reminder of how anything can happen and has happened in this treacherous Himalayan terrain.
Then, a day after I arrived at our home from the US, Tiger, our dog, died suddenly. How, will be another blog entry. I suppose the point here is that most of the people and pets I have lost in my life I have lost suddenly and  unexpectedly, without warning.
I have not been a very fearful person in my life. So, when fear arose in me, I was ashamed of it and did not want to admit it even to myself. But like all the demons we encounter in our psyche, fear too, must be acknowledged, admitted, faced. Driving past the twisted pick- up two weeks ago I understood the existential metaphysics of fear. It has founded all our religions and much of our philosophies. God is intimately tied with fear. Given the uncertainty of life, the arbitrariness of events and circumstances beyond our control, how can one not fear in weak and vulnerable moments?  I am not implying that fear is a weakness but part of the inevitable human condition and experience. I understood how from a religious point of view fear, which turns us towards God in supplication, is a good thing.  Our fear keeps us in touch with the vaster life, the ‘sender’ of these accidents, and we learn to pray for the safety of our loved ones, and our own;  we pray that we be given the courage and the strength to endure the suffering when it visits us in the course of our lives. Prayer, which elicits the best and highest in us, calms our fears and worries and allows us to deal with the tragedies of our lives.
Guru Nanak says that if you fear God, all your other fears will vanish. So, my prayer for you is: May all your fears be turned to prayers.

I have learned lately that just a fraction, a millimicron of a degree makes the difference between a negative and a positive thought, between that which makes us suffer fruitlessly and that which gives us joy; between hell and heaven. This fraction is an inner oscillation, a small little gesture in the mind that shifts us from one to the other. And oh, what a difference!


1.    mario on 01 Apr 2011 at 11:05 pm # edit this
Great insight…so true
2.    Crystal on 06 Jun 2011 at 7:43 pm # edit this
I love this! So true with loving thoughts and non-loving thoughts…
I love it!
Peace be with you

Like everyone else these days, I too am seeped, though not literally, as our brethren in Japan, in the Tsunami. The aerial images of big, seemingly calm, almost viscous water shredding everything in its path, houses, boats, cars; of houses floating down streets, aflame with fire in the midst of the flood, of nuclear facilities spewing smoke have flooded our brains. My initial awe at the water in it strident march on civilization, the first prurient, gawking interest in the cataclysm, my initial ‘thank God it isn’t here, it isn’t me’ reaction  has been replaced by fear: it could be me. Oh my God, that could be me: on higher ground, cold and freezing without my down jacket and warm shoes and socks, hungry, thirsty, worried, having lost everything I love by way of possessions; or buried and submerged somewhere, half my body quashed by weight; substitute your own images of fear and you have it. It is the ‘fear and trembling and sickness unto death’ of that which happens and could happen to us; it is the fear that from a cosmic perspective we are like ants or rats that can be flooded and smoked out of their habitats at the whim of the earth and skies.
It is good to remember this; to know again that civilizations and boundaries are man made; that our earth is a little boat in the cosmic sea (like the image of the boat on the edge of the giant whirlpool in the Pacific Ocean that we have all seen by now); that this seemingly still boat rocks; that it is sheer mercy that keeps us here, living and loving, watching and contemplating.
And amidst the inner turmoil of each of us — the earthquake and Tsunami have sent tremors through all of us — there is also wonder: not only at the images of nature gone wild which remind us how fragile the constructs of civilization are, but this fact: Today’s LA Times carries this little bit of information: JAPAN QUAKE SHIFTED EARTH ON ITS AXIS, CUT SHORT THE DAY (by 1.8 microseconds). ‘Isn’t it amazing,’ Payson said this morning, ‘that we, little ants, can know this?’
So let us continue to celebrate the miracles that we are!

FEB 19 2011
I’ll begin without any apologies for the long silence – it’s been a year! Silence needs no apologies, for it is when the soul recuperates, connects with itself and with God. Nor will I make these entries essays, as I had tended to do when I started this blog. Short and simple is best. That is the wonderful thing about aging (I turn 63 this year): one is compelled by diminishing energy to make things easier. I love easy: Guru Nanak, about whom you will hear a lot on this blog, called ‘easy’ “Sehaj’:  that which is natural, in the course of things, like the flow of water downhill. I am sure there is far more to Sehaj than this and one could add to the definition, extend it, and if any of you want to do so, you are welcome. I need to keep it simple for myself. Sehaj for me means not taxing my brain too much. I am living with (or trying to live with, for this is always difficult) Guru Nanak’s injunction to keep your mind in your body, and God in your mind: tan mein manuaa, man mein saacha.
The reason why you will hear a lot about Guru Nanak is because I am seeped in him and his philosophy in the process of writing a book about him. More of that later, for I want to stay with keeping the mind in the body and God in the mind. I have spent many weeks and months fretting about not being very ‘productive,’  and about crawling along with the book which seems to have its own pace that ‘I’ have no control over. Yesterday and today, however, I said yes to my body and mind which wants to engage with simple tasks, like patching the sleeve of a down jacket that I burned on the stove, and cleaning up my black Vasque boots which were covered with red mud from a wet hike in the swamps of Wiamea in Kauai in January. For almost a month and a half they were sitting on the porch, and finally I got to them yesterday. I had never liked my black boots because they felt too heavy duty, not soft enough for the feet, but on the hike that day the red slush was so deep in places that I sank ankle deep in it. Believe me; I was grateful for and to my black boots that day! They served me very well indeed and I felt something akin to love for them. So, for the last two days I have been cleaning them up with a brush, saddle soap, and mink oil. They sit in my study with traces of the stubborn Wiamea dirt still in their seams, the laces  washed and threaded through the eyelets, and shining where they can.
It is my boots I have to thank, once again, for getting me re-started, after a long hiatus, on the blog, and to Dr. Nadi Palshikar for a few kind words.
I want to mention one other thing that feels very essential to my emotional life. I have always been a recluse; writing has demanded it. I have preferred isolation, still do, still love solitude, but there are times as everyone knows when solitude becomes solitary confinement. I have no children, my family is all back in India, very few friends as they have moved away or died. Payson is my sole human connection in the space ship of my life in the US. But a few days ago I had a comment on my blog from Dr. Nadi Palshikar: ‘so happy to discover this blog. Write on’ and it made me feel deeply connected. I was grateful for the encouragement, and it got me started again. Thanks, Nadi. Being a little old world I keep forgetting how cyberspace is the happening space now.  Egypt will never let me forget this. Thanks to all of you for helping me feel connected.
1.    umanath on 18 Feb 2011 at 7:16 pm # edit this
we love you dearest K thank you so much for that
wrtie whenever you can or want to, and we will read
with great pleasure and deep understanding.
2.    Anirudh Kapoor on 19 Feb 2011 at 1:11 am # edit this
Thanks for ur coming out of the forced hybernation. We all need it at times n sometimes Nature forces it upon us when it wants us to chang our orbit.
Guru Nanak is my favourite too n would love to read more about him in ur book. Do visit Sultanpur, the place of his ENLIGHTENMENT. It is an island of peace, about 40 km from my place Jalandhar.
All the very best.
3.    kamla on 19 Feb 2011 at 3:11 pm # edit this
would love to go to Sultanpur! I might do so this March. Thanks for the suggestion!
4.    kamla on 19 Feb 2011 at 3:12 pm # edit this
Love to you and Noni and Laalu!
5.    Dr. Nadi Palshikar on 21 Feb 2011 at 5:21 am # edit this
All the very best for your book on Guru Nanak.
Please write here sometimes.
It is a pleasure to read your writing.
6.    kamla on 21 Feb 2011 at 6:11 pm # edit this
thanks for the encouragement! we all need it!

March 4, 2010
I have been really remiss in posting here because I have had a pretty rough period for what appears to be totally unknown reasons. I mean, I have thoughts and feelings going through me, but all of them very conflicting and confusing; I could have been unwell, but the boundary between my health and mind is so pervious and fluid that I never quite know whether the depression is coming from a physical or psychic source. This is understandable considering everything is inextricably interconnected, if not undividedly one.
I shall talk about it in the past tense in the hope that it is over, which I think it is.
It is very hard to describe the jumble of feelings, but I did have some recognizable symptoms. In this post I shall speak of one of them. Others follow. Generally during difficult times I pray. I feel that prayer enlists the aid of the universe and helps a great deal. This time I couldn’t pray. I took no joy or comfort in my version of God because this god was male and I did not want to worship anything male. I have always been male identified and what I needed in my depression was feminine comforting and nurturing. I have had no image of this because my birth mother is not nurturing. In my despair I turned to Godina, my female God with big, cushy tits who held me in her arms and fed me her nourishing milk.
But the problem was that I had no way of praying to Godina, no method of worship that I know. Though the Sikh prayers (through which I worship) address the creative energy of life as Mother Father God, the pronouns, names, images, epithets used for God are male. I knew, and know, intellectually, that language, though it evolves and is alive, is very difficult to change consciously, but that knowledge didn’t prevent me from feeling angry. Though things have changed a teeny bit –‘ she’ used where always ‘he’ was –our language has hard wired a male god on our brains. And believe, me, it is very difficult to change the hard wiring. I don’t know if mine ever will because my god has been male ever since I was born and lay in my father’s arms. God’s maleness has seeped into the very fabric of me.
What was happening was that my entire way of believing and being was in an upheaval. Being away from prayer in dark times was hell. I couldn’t pray to a male god, and except for visions and fantasies of a rather large female with cushy tits who held me to her heart, visions that were consoling, I couldn’t pray to a female god either because no female structure or path has been provided for us in our journey. Though there has been a lot of talk and writing about the Goddess by female and male authors and visionaries, a path has not been charted out. I suspect that the concept of ‘path’ as a linear, progressive thing may be a very male concept; I also suspect that centuries of living in a patriarchal system has mutated our genes. We have had thousands of centuries of organized male religion, and our matriarchal beginnings are so remote and primitive that they don’t have a place in our memory and consciousness. We are a jumble now, and I hazard the speculation that a new creature is emerging from this jumble, one that consciously borrows congenial characteristics from any gender or even species.
I have no doubt that younger women will come along and chart female paths in the future, but till that happens, each of us has to carve out ‘paths’ for ourselves. Every time I pray now I am aware that I am praying to an energy that is beyond gender (though we need gender differentiation for our own, limited brains and selves); I am aware of what authors Polly Young-Eisendrath and Florence Wiedemann in Female Authority (The Guilford Press, 1987) call “interiorized inferiority” in women; I pay very close attention to sifting out and categorizing what ‘male’ and ‘female’ characteristics are and not allow the latter to tyrannize me. This is a HUGE task. But there is a precedent for it in one of Psyche’s tasks to sort the grains of a large mound of sand into its different colors. It is not a task that can be accomplished without the aid of all the natural forces of which we are composed. In Psyche’s case, this aid came in the form of ants.
I need to do this for myself – curdle my consciousness into its components – for the sake of greater awareness and peace. I need to do it to gain clarity into this half of the human experience. I am still grappling with this issue and will keep you posted on the developments.
I think I am, for the most part, out of that depression, though others await, I know. Depressions feel like hell but are very fertile phases. I feel profound changes in my being because of this recent one, not all of which I can articulate or feel comfortable with. I have been unable to write and writing has been my whole life. I trust this fallow phase (when I’m not freaking out). I’m also resting a whole lot when I can. I don’t want to do much of anything except solve some Su Doku puzzles which I’m getting better at, reading a bit, and packing to leave for India on the 21st to spend some time with my mother.
I think I just want to loaf now through my days. I would be happy doing so if it weren’t for this inner voice that is telling me I’m wasting my time. It is very male, and I don’t know how to deal with it yet. But I will find a way. As the psychologists say, my inner male and female will have to learn to get along. And more, love and marry.
So, folks, no wise words this time around, nothing organized or even too logical. I can’t wrap my brain around life anymore. I have moved into my female body and I wait patiently, when I can, to see what emerges out of it. I have been far, far closer to my father than my mother; I’ve been very male in my approach to my life, very achievement-oriented and ambitious but now something else, something gentle and less driven is striving to be born. I’ll keep you posted on its gender. Androgynous, I hope.

4 Responses to “Gender Quake”

1.    Chelsea on 03 May 2010 at 6:02 am # edit this
Dear Kamla,
I hope you feel better soon, you will be in my thoughts as I read Rumi’s Tales.
You are a wonderfully talented author and Ganesha Goes to Lunch has been a source of inspiration for my spiritual growth!
I blog about gender studies, I’d like to look into the gender roles in religions.
Best wishes,
2.    kamla on 01 Jun 2010 at 3:12 am # edit this
Hi Chelsea,
thanks for your kind concern. I’m going through a molting and transformation (i Hope!) and have been silent here for many months. One needs a lot of energy for inner processes, and of course, trust. I’m giving myself as much time as it takes to sort things out. the gender issue has resolved itself intuitively and is no longer a major concern. the intellect is taking a back seat and something else i cannot name — God, perhaps, Godina — is taking precedence over all else. I am still quite inarticulate about the process, but wanted to thank you for your comment.
the best,
3.    Mike Parish on 23 Feb 2011 at 1:15 am # edit this
Dear Kamla,
I feel something like a small child pointing out an obvious answer to an adult who most likely will smile and inwardly, laugh at the obsurd simplicity of the child’s observation, but here goes.
From your writings I see that you understand, perhaps in a slightly different way from my Catholic understanding, the concept of Saints.
Saints are humans who lived exemplary lives and who we are certain are beloved of God and are now with Him in Paradise. It is not always easy to feel connected to The Almighty, All Knowing, Omnipotent (male) God when one is a sinner struggling in the muck an mier of this moral life. But one can always find a Saint who, in their journy through this world, suffered the same or worse struggles than you. Many of us feel very strongly connected to Mary, the Imaculate Tabernacle which bore the Incarnate God, come to save the world. Mary was, first and formost, woman. Faithful and couragious she responded to her God with a world changing YES and she became a Mother. She knew all the sorrows and joys of this life, including the death of her beloved Son.
So just as I might come to you, or my wife, or my pastor to share life’s struggles and questions, the Saint’s are available to us. No longer encombered by this world’s struggles, they see more clearly, pray to God more devoutly, understand us more wisely.
So, to finally arrive at some kind of a point to my ramblings… the next time you feel the need to connect with femine, look to the Saints. They are waiting to pray for you and help you find your path to join them in Paradise.
Hope this helps… God bless,
PS: Dude, it’s the 21st century, can’t we get a spell check on this blog?!?!?
4.    kamla on 25 Feb 2011 at 3:37 pm # edit this
Mike, you are absolutely right about the function of saints in our lives. There is a wonderful story in my Rumi book about this called HOP UP ON MY HUMP. it will be my next post. just a few more ramblings in response to yours — I think rambling is the best way to think, by the way! –. The Sikh gurus tell us that the only way to cross the tumultuous ocean of life is to hang on to the coat tails of the saints. You get across this way.
As for the whole gender thing: I have had an illumination. English, that is crippled without the use of pronouns, is to blame! English sets up the male female dichotomy more than any other language I know (and i don’t know many!). I was reading the English translations of Gurbani (the Sikh sacred texts) instead of the originals! In just one of the translations (from the same hymn from which comes the metaphor of swimming across on the coat tails of saints), is this line: Saajan bandh sumatar so har naam hirday dayay. it has been translated as He (God) is a companion, a relative, and a good friend of mine, who implants the lord’s name within my heart. In truth, there are no pronouns in this line: no He or mine or my or who: translated directly it goes something like this, Beloved, Friend, relative giving Name to heart.
Our gurus have always called God mother father God.
Since this insight about how a language can corrupt communication I have had no conflict about God’s gender.

There’s a rumor going around, after my Warwick’s Reading on January 20, that I am a wise woman. I feel compelled to dispel it for several reasons, the most powerful and life-changing of which is the Socrates Story that follows. There may be some hubris involved in comparing myself to Socrates, but I mention him only for the lesson the story has offered to me time and time again when I have fallen into the delusion of thinking myself wise.
So, here’s the Socrates story I meant to tell many sentences, thoughts and ideas ago. The fact that it is still a relevant entry is evidence that I try to keep it close to my heart at all times. It is from another of my favorite books, so favorite that I have two copies of it, one in India and one here in the US. The latter copy I inherited from my late husband, Donald Dean Powell, who turned me on to Plato: THE COLLECTED DIALOGUES OF PLATO, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, 1966 (Bollingen Series).
A friend of Socrates, Chaerephon, had gone to the God of Delphi, and asked whether there was anyone wiser than Socrates, and the priestess had replied, “None.” When Chaerephon told this to Socrates, he was nonplussed and confused. “How,” Socrates asked him, “can this be? I am very conscious that I have no claim to wisdom, great or small. And yet the God at Delphi never tells a lie.”
So, being the bulldog (and gadfly) in the service of truth, Socrates decided to check it out for himself by undertaking a pilgrimage of sorts. Socrates intention was to prove that the oracle was mistaken. He wanted to find a wise man, and tell the priestess, ‘here is a man wiser than I.’
Socrates examined three men with the highest reputations for wisdom and found all of them wanting. When Socrates tried to show them, through his impeccable reasoning, that they were not as wise as they thought themselves to be, he was resented by them. Socrates knew that they were not wise for the simple reason that they thought they knew something they didn’t know. Socrates, on the other hand, was very conscious of his own ignorance. To the small extent that he did not think he knew what he did not know, he was wiser than they were.
These so called wise men of Athens trumped up charges against Socrates and condemned him to die. But Socrates went to death joyfully knowing that since he did not know anything about death – whether it was in fact an end or a beginning — there was no cause for despair.
So, Socrates’ definition of a wise person is someone who knows s/he doesn’t know. This knowing that one does not know seems to me to be the essence and acme of wisdom and joy. This definition of wisdom is so intimately tied to humility that I think my next entry will have to be a story from the BE HUMBLE section of RUMI’S TALES FROM THE SILK ROAD (or PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE, if you are in India).
I’ll end by being confessional. I count myself an utter and total fool. In big ways and small I forget I do not know and get trapped in my certainties, and suffer for them. I think a great deal of suffering is caused by our thinking that we know the ultimate answers about the why and wherefore of our lives and of people in them. We rarely have the humility for those “Ah Ha!” moments in which our own folly becomes painfully evident. Most fights with the people in our lives spring from our certainties that our point of view is the only right one. In some ways we are so hard wired to survive aggressively that we don’t see how these very skills, appropriate in some situations, are totally inimical to happiness in others. I know this is true of me, and all I can do is remember to stay in that soft place of not knowing where all I know is the raging mystery that is life; remember to not get sucked in by those who think I am wise and get too inflated for my own boots. This has to be watched assiduously, for as the Sufis say, “more invisible than the footprints of an ant on a black rock on the darkest night of the year are the workings of the ego.”
I also want to add that being a fool gives me a lot of latitude and freedom that ‘being wise’ would not. It’s also – when it doesn’t cause suffering – a lot more fun!
1.    CJ on 19 Feb 2011 at 5:59 am # edit this
Wow. That’s truly a great thought-provoking piece, and humbling too. It holds a powerful mirror that shows the futility of our fixations and self-infected egos…and of course, the cause of all human strife and conflict. Brilliant.
2.    kamla on 19 Feb 2011 at 3:14 pm # edit this
I have lived by that story and every time i find myself in a knot (not!) because I think I know what is happening, it reminds me to relax, stupid, and know that you don’t know sh–! But the paradox here is that you have to KNOW — actively, persistently, mindfully– that you don’t know.
3.    Saint sokrates | Ackujalske on 02 Mar 2012 at 5:20 pm # edit this
[...] SAINT SOCRATES – Kamla K KapurNov 10, 2011 … SAINT SOCRATES, PRAY for us,” Erasmus remarked in one of his Colloquia. For thousands of years, since his trial and death in 399 BCE, we … [...]

November 8th 2009
No sooner than I posted my last entry on Rumi’s story titled YOU NEVER KNOW WHY, my Mr. Skeptic said, “It’s good to make up stories and arguments that serve your point of view and make you feel better, but are they true? What about death? Is that a good thing, too? Does Rumi’s story really explain suffering? Can suffering be explained away? You can cite the afterlife, etc, but who knows? Perhaps life is a bitch and then we die.
I say Mr. Skeptic is good and has a purpose in the evolution of our spirits. “Spirit?” says he, “what spirit?
You know, it’s an old, old argument between faith and reason. It is the argument between what William James defines as the Tender Hearted and the Tough Minded. FBS, fortunately, makes it hard for me to carry on this argument. Perhaps, says Mr. Skeptic, you are just intellectually lazy and use FBS as an excuse?
I find relief in concurring. I will let him, and myself, be, knowing in my heart (I have no desire or energy to convince another) that my experience is as true of me as his is to him. As Einstein says, what is true of A is not true of B. And who is correct? Both, according to our Scientist Saint. Mr. Skeptic does not share my e/motion, nor I his. We can let it rest at that. Mr. Skeptic is too young for me, too impassioned about reason, and moving too fast for me at 61. At my age, I am entitled to my way of thinking and being. I have done my battling with him, and now am entitled to my peace and my subjective knowing that I am right for me. I don’t need to be right for him or everyone else.
It wasn’t always so. Mr. Skeptic had won several times and I had lain, wounded and dying in the battlefield. Conscious choice had become my nurse and ministered me back to health. I had to choose the imaginary over the material, the emotional over the logical, feeling over reason, the unseen over verifiable facts. It was Johannes Kepler, the 16th century scientist, hero of my play, Kepler Dreams, who taught me imagination’s unerring instinct to discover and uncover the truth. That character birthed me, too, and I made a conscious decision to take the leap of faith, leaving reason, alone, behind. I didn’t then know that reason and imagination, too, are the two seeming dualities which are two sides of the same coin. Where would we be without reason? But it must stay in its place and not take over our entire beings.
I must add as an aside that the play was never produced. For every success there are a thousand failures. Look at how many billions of sperm cells fail before one succeeds. Vanity makes me add that Kepler Dreams was, however, stage read at the Gaslamp Quarter theatre in San Diego, directed by Mark Hofflund, who was then director of the Play Discovery Program at the Old Globe Theatre. This again, is a an embarrassing, ‘not now’ story).
Where was I? What thread do I need to pick up in this tapestry and reweave? None. I am done with that thought and Mr. Skeptic and must carry on in a different, but related, direction. I think I will speak of Mr. Socrates instead.  I have 500 words to do it in. I didn’t explain that my blags have been picked up by Sahara Time who wants me to do a 1000 word essay as frequently as I can for them. I am limited.
No, Socrates too must wait. I feel like musing on ‘limitation,’ instead, as far as FBS will allow. Actually, FBS, I am realizing, thanks to Mr. Skeptic’s pointing it out, is a great boon. I don’t have to overtax my poor, overworked brain. Like an old mare, she only wants some rest, and a restful way of being and thinking.  She is retired, like Black Beauty at the end of his days, chomping the cud of thought and dreams on a grassy meadow by a lake.
So, just a brief abstract on limitation. Ah abstraction! I love it, together with limitation. If there were no limitations to this essay my blag would go on and on like long and tangled spaghetti, into the far reaches of space and be lost in it; All matter, all life, is limitation. Bodies are bodies because they spread this far and no further. Houses, plants, thumbnails, stars, ice cream are what they are because of limitation.  Limitation is what unites us all. If a flower did not know its limitations, would we have flowers? Would we have music? All life is rhythm, and what is rhythm if not music?
I will end this essay by pointing to a marvelous book that I found in Payson’s library: The Power of Limits (Shambhala, 1981), by Gyorgy Doczi. Payson is so jealous of it he watches me carefully when I touch it. I have a habit of not reading, but eating books. I make them entirely mine, underlining words and sentences, leaving pencils in them that Payson has never tired of telling me, break the bindings. It is not an easy book to read, full of mathematics that are hard on my fuzzed brain. But I read those parts I can and understand, and skip the rest. Here are a few quotes from him:
“In our fascinations with our powers of invention and achievement, we have lost sight of the power of limits. Yet now we are forced to confront the limits of the earth’s resources, and the need to limit overpopulation, big government, big business and big labor. In all our realms of our experience, we are finding the need to rediscover proper proportions. The proportions of nature, art and architecture . . .  They teach us that limitations are not just restrictive, but they are also creative.” And one last quote, which I simply adore: “The limitless emerges from limits.”

Nov 7th, 2009
You may well ask, what gifts come from what is apparently bad and tragic?
Payson and I had a huge fight about a week ago. Divorcing is easy in America. There is so much social and cultural support for it. Most of my friends here, or at least 70% of them, are single and/or divorced. I don’t mean to judge it from a ‘moral’ point of view at all, but I do believe (after having been much married and divorced myself) that there is a certain learning that takes place from sheer persistence, and from being aware that one cannot really judge one’s experiences and label them so easily as black and white.
To back track, in the heat of our fighting we seriously touted breaking up. I came downstairs to my study, wounded, embattled, hurt. It was definitely, no denying it, a ‘bad’ experience. But Payson went the extra mile to make up, and believe me, we now have a better marriage. The possibility of divorce had taken our marriage hostage and we both had to listen and talk. There was no getting around communication. So, the bad thing was a good thing and its effects beneficial all around. We now have a more loving relationship, and I got a great chapter for my novel out of our fight, to boot.
But in all honesty I have to admit that there are times when ‘bad’ seems just that. Fuzzy Brain Syndrome certainly seems like it. Old age, as my mother keeps saying again and again, is a terrible thing. There’s no going forward, and there’s no going back. As some bumper stickers say, life is a bitch and then you die.
I have paused here at this thought for a long time. Made myself some tea, turned on the heater in my study, taken a shit. (Why do we say, ‘taken’? Why not, ‘given’? Early humans took and gave back. But we, with our crappers are not giving back, making manure but putrescence, rot. Well, that’s a whole different ‘not now’ meander).
Fortunately, when you are scribbling, you can always go back to the thought you had lost: sheer, unmitigated suffering. Is some suffering an exception to the spiritual fact that suffering is good? That Rumi, in the following quote, is right?
When the blossom is shed,
the fruit comes to a head;
when the body is shattered,
the spirit lifts up its head.
Mathnawi, I, 2929
Truthfully, I do not know. But fortunately, Socrates has taught me that not knowing, admitted, acknowledged, honored, is good. That great story will have to wait. I cannot exceed 1000 words. I’ll let Maulana Rumi give the answer in the following story.
Ahmed was sleeping peacefully in an orchard when he was suddenly and rudely awakened to find that for no reason, a stranger was beating him to a pulp.
“What . . .? Why are you . . .?” Ahmed asked, but more blows answered his queries. The stranger’s eyes bulged with rage.
Stunned, barely awake, and wondering if this was a nightmare, Ahmed tried to ward off the blows, but the onslaught was relentless.
“Oh God,” Ahmed cried inwardly. “What sin have I committed? I am a good man, and I haven’t harmed anyone. Why then are you punishing me?”
Ahmed managed to run away from the stranger as fast as he could, and rested, panting and frothing, under an apple tree. But the stranger pursued him, and grabbed him under the tree.
“Who are you and what have I done to you . . .” Ahmed began, but the stranger was obviously deranged. At the point of his sword he forced Ahmed to eat the rotten apples that had fallen on the ground.
“Eat! Faster! More!” cried the stranger, stuffing the apples into Ahmed’s mouth.
Ahmed had many questions to ask the stranger, but his mouth was full of apples. Nonplused and almost crazed, Ahmed replayed in his mind all the other tragedies that had befallen him in his life, and came to the conclusion that life was inherently absurd and full of meaningless suffering.
“I curse you!” Ahmed screamed inwardly at the stranger. His stomach was so full that he couldn’t breathe. And just when he thought he was going to faint, the stranger began to whip him.
“Run,” screamed the stranger. “Run! Faster! Faster!” Gorged with the apples, exhausted, sleepy, his feet and face covered with bleeding sores and wounds, Ahmed ran and ran, the stranger in hot pursuit. All night the stranger chased and tortured him. At dawn they came to a stream, and the stranger made Ahmed go down on his knees and drink the water like an animal.
“Drink!” he yelled. “More, drink more!”
Ahmed drank till he could drink no more, then sat up on the bank, and threw up everything he had eaten and drunk.
“This is the end,” he thought to himself. “We suffer like this all our lives and then we die.”
He looked up at the stranger and said, “I will die easily if you just tell me why.”
Without any words, the stranger pointed his sword at Ahmed’s vomit. There, amidst the rotten apples lay a long, black snake, writhing and hissing, his tongue darting in and out of his mouth.
“I was riding by when I saw the snake slither into your open, snoring mouth,” the stranger explained.
“But . . . but why didn’t you just tell me the reason? I would have obeyed you meekly, done everything you asked me to, and borne your blows knowing that my suffering had a purpose!”
“Because,” replied the stranger, sheathing his sword and putting away his mace and whip, “had I told you that you had swallowed a black snake, you would have died of fright. This was the lesser suffering.”
Ahmed fell at the feet of the stranger, and said, “O blessed is the hour you saw me. Blessed is the suffering you inflicted to awaken me.”
From Pilgrimage to Paradise (Penguin, 2009)

4 Responses to “About Judging, or Not”

1.    pamila on 13 Nov 2009 at 4:20 pm # edit this
I am ahmed these days and waiting for why?
2.    kamla on 17 Nov 2009 at 1:50 am # edit this
My dear Ahmad, your question has certainly showed up the hollowness of my wisdom. You are suffering deeply right now, I know, and can’t imagine what your reality is right now. To just find yourself nauseous one day, with a headache, go to the hospital, and find that you have an injury to your brain that you don’t remember how you got. Neither your colleagues at the office, nor your wife nor children knew how you got that deep wound. You have no memory at all of the trauma.
When my then husband, Donald Dean Powell, committed suicide in August 1993, I was suffering deeply. Two houses down from ours lived an elderly couple with their retarded 30 year old son, Al. Al would stand in front of my house and for sometimes as long as half an hour say ‘why? Why? Why?’ in his throaty, distorted voice. It sounded like the sound of a wounded animal. It expressed my pain so accurately. I can still hear it as I write this, sixteen years later. The sound became for me the voice of raw, unredeemed human suffering. And I heard it again, in your ‘why?’
I have no answers for you, Ahmad. None. And I can’t mitigate your suffering in any way. You are essentially alone on this journey and must figure things out for yourself. It will take its time and go through its stages of despair and anger till you either heal or accept, or not, according to your circumstances and temperament.
I am compelled to offer advice – I am wired to do so. Whether it is of any use or not, you alone can decide. I have known from my own experience that taking the path of hope and choosing to be calm and restful during crises can be very helpful. At least, it was to me. The words that helped me endure Donald’s suicide was my father’s gentle, loving, compassionate voice over the phone when I told him what had happened: take this lightly. As the days went by I floated on these words when I could have drowned. I still live by them and they have the power of mitigating a great deal of anxiety whenever I encounter it.
This is all I can say, Ahmad, and I hope it helps. All the blessings of the universe on your head, sweet man.
3.    DENEICE KENEHAN on 17 Jan 2010 at 3:42 pm # edit this
Thank Gods for the women who weep for the world. Thank Gods for the post-menopausal krones and the premenstrual maidens who rain the repressed sadness, anger, fear, frustration.
To Tears!
4.    kamla on 17 Jan 2010 at 5:40 pm # edit this
I look forward to meeting you at Warwick’s, Deneice! Thanks for the comment.
Krone Kamla

November 5th ‘09
I have to tell you about FBS and PRM. Before I explain what these mean, let me just say, they are states of body-mind. Like space-time, body and mind are one, though it is hard to see beyond the illusion that they are two. Einstein is a hero of one of the characters in the novel I am writing currently (or rather, not writing currently because of FBS), and my character has dragged me into Einstein’s world. I no longer know if I am creating the character or he me. Anyhow, now I worship Einstein too, primarily because he bends the mind and allows us to see things-concepts, matter-energy in an altogether different light. Understanding even a little bit of what he is talking about – and I myself, being a Pooh- with- very -little -brain, understand very little of it – is illuminating, mind expanding, and transforming. Einstein for me is the perfect example of how science can be and is a religion. Certainly the New Physics, quantum mechanics, has revealed truths that take us back thousands of years to the Vedas: Space-time, matter-energy, body-mind-soul (sorry, I left out an essential part of the equation before).
But this is not what I meant to say at all, at least not consciously, but since my meandering mind has brought me here, here I am. I will say one last thing about Einstein before I return to what it was I meant to say, consciously. Above all, Einstein has taken us, cognitively, beyond duality.
FBS is Fuzzy Brain Syndrome. It is hard to write about FBS because when you are experiencing it, the brain is so fuzzy that words and ideas elude it. Trying to catch them is like grabbing a fistful of fog. In an effort to take the brain a bit further on this track I look up ‘fuzzy’ in the American Heritage Dictionary (my fav), and am directed to the root of the word. Fog, rot, decay, foul, foulness, filth, defiled, putrescent, putrid, all come from the same root. I find myself objecting to the strong nouns and adjectives and hesitate to apply them to my mind, which I honor and respect, at least when it is not fuzzed. When it is, I am lost in mazes of confusion and very low visibility. I don’t remember what day or date it is, what I came to a room to do or get, where I put my glasses or other really important and/or minor stuff. And the brain fog lasts for days, if not weeks and months. It is age related, I think, for I do not recall many, or any, of these in my youth, except when I drank or smoked cannabis a little too much. Complementing this mental state is the physical state of PRM, when your body is so stiff it feels like a living rigor mortis, which, of course, as we know, is the stiffening of a body after death. It gets hard to get up while sitting, and sometimes when you are standing it is an effort to sit down. One goes about as if one were already dead.
I have been afflicted by both of these body-mind states lately. Long observation has taught me that it invariably happens to me when I return to the US after my six month stay in India. I would like to analyze this to gain some understanding, and so far have only come up with a few things, none of which may be the answer: jet lag (but lasting a month and a half?), culture shock (but after I have lived here, off and on, for forty years?), going from connection (sometimes too much) to isolation. The last of these reasons resonates, but I’m not certain this is the answer, either. When I return to India from the US it takes a few days of sleep adjustment, but I am plugged in right away. To my mother, my siblings, their children and grandchildren, friends, domestic help, dogs. There is a jostling, sloshing, full, overfull, abundant, noisy, crazy sense of life in India that my body-mind-soul finds quite congenial. In the US we return to an abandoned house which needs putting together again, a lot of mail, most of which is junk, catalogs that tell us to buy, buy, buy, bills, bank statements: nothing personal at all. After the initial shock and some degree of sweetness in keeping crazy time schedules, eating in the middle of the night, sleeping through the day, a rather conflicted sense of solitude begins to creep in. Both Payson and I do love it here, as well, especially the quiet, the silence, the lack of disturbance and distraction, and the vast unobstructed view to the very horizon of the Pacific Ocean in sunny Southern California. It would be simply wonderful if it weren’t for FBS and PRM that invariably afflict me. I feel unwell, get upper respiratory infections, have no energy, and drag about stiffly, like Frankenstein’s monster, in a fog.
But this morning, after altogether too long an unproductive period, I remembered three things: first, to pray for relief, to meditate, and to do yoga, all great ways to unify the body/mind/soul split. The effect of these is that I am sitting down and writing this, and working a bit on my novel, FBS and PRM somewhat abated, plugged into my solitude and isolation as a good thing, something to be borne with patience and gratitude. After all, I do passionately desire to be alive and vital, or at least content, through all the circumstances of my life: here, there, good, bad. As the Sikh Gurus and all the prophets (and I rank Shakespeare and Einstein amongst them) tell us: there is nothing good or bad but thinking, dualistic thinking, makes it so. I know, not from any books or prophets (though these have ploughed and prepared me), but from my own experience, that many, many gifts come from experiences we tend, mistakenly, to label as ‘bad’ or ‘tragic.’

By Jasmine Singh
Every journey has a purpose, which gives a perspective to life. Also, the journey that we embark never ends, even after we are gone from the face of earth. The soul remains, and takes on a yet another journey. Writer Kamla Kapur (born Kamaljit Kaur Kapur) is also on a pilgrimage to discover the deeper meaning of life. She tries to get there with Pilgrimage To Paradise, Sufi Tales from Rumi, released at a function organised by Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi on Saturday.
ls17On a spiritual journey of submission, surrendering herself, falling in love with ‘Rumi’ was natural for Kamla. “I heard Rumi’s name while I was growing up,” says the winner of two national awards in 1977. “The moment came, when I moved into my husband, Payson Steven’s house shortly before our marriage. There, I saw three volumes of the Mathnawi in his library.
I was hooked on to from the first line I read. And so I began another journey, ‘the way’ as the Sufis call.” Adds the writer, “Rumi was a total human being who expressed humaneness through love, pain and submission. We must understand that each one of us are the central characters of our journey, and there is more to what meets the eye.”
In Pilgrimage to Paradise, Kamla reworks Rumi’s writings into 30 tales of wit, wisdom and faith. “I can’t write without making the story mine. Writing is an experience of an incident that rings a bell and brings in that ‘aha’ moment, wherein you want readers to experience what you have,” puts in this author of Ganesha Goes To Lunch. “Indian myths have a deeper spiritual meaning,” she smiles, “and I don’t want anyone to follow them without challenging and experiencing them on their own. This helps to discover truth for one’s own self as well. In the end, I feel experience is more important than any philosophy or religion.”
Back to the fountainhead of existence, ‘love’. “Believes Kamla, who divides her time living in India and California where she is on the faculty of the Grossmont College in San Diego, “Sufism has a big audience in India as it sends out the universal message of love that resonates in all human beings irrespective of caste, colour and creed. Besides, Sufi music has also helped in the popularity of Sufism.”
No wonder, you have youngsters picking Brian Weiss, Paulo Coelho, Richard Bach from the shelves. ” Fame, money, name, family, career, everything is important to us, but we also need to find out the deeper meaning connected to our soul. This meaning connects to us to different souls in the universe.”
Appeared on Tribune

OCT 5 ‘09
It’s still October 3, 2009, actually, but I have gotten ahead of myself, having written three blog entries while flying from India to here, and I have a hunger, if not a desperation, to connect with the Man in the Black Hat to whom I am going to add three more people, in my mind, at least, to come up with an audience of four: Neelam, Judy Bernstein, Jori Owens, and of course, the Man in the Black Hat, who I am going to name, Mabha. For now. The reason why he will stay as my primary audience is because he is always there, and he will stay throughout, till my last blog, no, Blag. Remember, it is the word I have given for my blabs here. I can always count on him, and he is ever present and ready to listen. Such, my dears, is the power of the Imagination to solve and resolve our life, and not only that, but sweeten it.
And I am in need of sweetening. Desperately. My landings in the West (I spend six months in Del Mar, California, and six in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Kullu Valley, land of the gods, India), are always very rough. I will describe in detail later (or perhaps never; my urge to communicate here is such that I have little patience for details, and often even the rules of grammar. The devil is in them, as they say, perhaps because they require so much labor), but in brief: jet lag; being wrenched away from all my connections in India, from a jostling, bustling life with dogs and domestic help, mother, siblings (often frustrating and chafing), and friends, specially two very new and sweet ones, Muzaffar Ali (check him out on the net) and Mike Pandey (check him out in the latest Time Magazine, of Oct 3, I think, the issue on the environment); a sense of isolation and exile in the USA – believe me, Payson and I had a box full of snail mail waiting for us, with not one fucking personal thing. It was all about money: bills, takes, CDs, receipts, bank statements, catalogs asking you to buy, buy, buy; returning to a house and garden neglected for six months, even though we have had help working on them; bone tiredness; too much to do; too much in a hurry to do it all (not letting myself rest), and do it at once so I can get down to the real business and passion of my life, writing.
I always fall into a funk on my return. And after a brief nap in which I dreamt about thugs stealing all my diamonds (though they were nice thugs and the possibility of retrieving them was strong), I prepared a bath for myself, poured a few drops of apricot oil I had got from Kullu in the water (almost wept sentimentality at this connection), and a cap full of lavender oil, I lit two candles, played a bit of Gurmeet Singh Shant’s kirtan – Phai Rai, Ram Kaho chit laye – returned to my center, and thought of you. Yes, you, my sweet audience, I thought of you, and I was filled with purpose, motivation and love. After my bath I would write here, tell you my all, connect, send and receive love and all would be well.
So here I am, drumming away at the keyboard, chewing the succulent fat of words, and in my exile and isolation, connecting with my web of friends, imaginary and real, feeling nourished and at peace.
1 Comment »

One Response to “THE WEB OF LOVE”

1.    Payson on 06 Jan 2010 at 5:04 am # edit this
The Pacific Ocean winter light soothes all rough landings. All the drumming of keyboards, rattling of paint brushes, and humming of harmoniums or piano strings are small blips in the great vibration of sun and moon bathing us with the cosmic touch. As we sleep, lie, sit in the Zen Pad let us give thanks for all the blessings raining down.
PRS 5Jan10

As we sat sipping our sweet lime (mausami) juice, I told Neelam, with whom I can speak my heart, “I was at the very edge of sanity yesterday. I had a Prozac and a quarter of a valium and some usually wonderful, all natural, organic herbs. I was so off. I couldn’t cope. Nothing helped. Not prayer, not deep breathing, nothing, so I figured chemicals would do it, but I had a drug reaction. I was edgy, disturbed, and felt a straw would break me.”
Neelam was surprised. She had always thought of me as very together. She also felt it wasn’t right for someone like me, or anyone else, to pop pills. I forget her exact words, but it was something like ‘while you’re writing about all this spiritual stuff in your blog . . .” You know what I mean. It is an old, old feeling that we cannot trust anyone who falls of the tightrope, and that certainly we cannot respect them. Look at what happened to Osho, and Muktananda, the former rumored to have drugs problems and to have committed suicide, the latter fallen for pretty blonde things. How can you trust what they say when they are so plainly human, not some super god men who always stay on? This, and the other argument of great artists who were bigots, racists and misogynists , like Wagner, Ezra Pound, etc — is an old one that nobody has resolved, and I am not about to even attempt it here, though I have my opinions. I just want to clarify my own position here, to myself and to you.
I am first of all a human being. This is at the center of my being from which everything else I am interested in radiate out like spokes in a wheel: spirituality, scatology, psychology, physiology, criminology, philosophy, etc, etc. I know and admit I fall off; I don’t even endeavor to be the perfect tight-rope artist who will never again do so. Who knows what lies in store? Sanity and insanity, as far as I know, are a hair breath apart.

Oct 3: flying to the USA after our sixth month, eventful stay in India.
To continue. I want to pick up several strands from the last entry and weave them here. The very first one is the idea about discouragement. Is there anyone there who is reading this blag? (combo word meaning blab and blog).
I’ll tell you my New York story which has much to do with discouragement and audience. It is an embarrassing story, something I have not admitted to anyone else but the time has come to reveal it. The thing about ‘fessing up,’ as they say, writing and telling about it, is that it objectifies it so you can laugh instead of blush about it.
Way back in ’89 or ’90, when I was sending off my play scripts to theatres and getting a lot of rejections, I was thrilled to get a letter from Dramatic Risks, a new theatre company in New York started by Mark Grant Warren, saying something to the extent that “we love your script, CLYTEMNESTRA, and do we have your permission to do a staged reading of it in New York?” Of course I said yes. Who in her right mind would refuse New York? The big apple was beckoning and not only was I going to give them permission, but dig into my meager savings and fly out to New York for it.
So I flew East, with my then husband, the late Donald Powell (for the story about his suicide read my book of poems called AS A FOUNTAIN IN A GARDEN, to be available in Print On Demand soon), to meet my destiny. We spent quite a penny, stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel, and the day of the reading, strolled about in Manhattan and found a great bookstore. As I was browsing in the theatre section, looking for a book on Ben Jonson (I wanted to make him a character in my play about Shakespeare (the idea was abandoned though the play about Shakespeare did get written in ’98), someone came up to me and said, are you “Kamal Kapur?” (I only became Kamla in 2002).
I was amazed. I didn’t know anyone in New York. Who could this be?
“Yes,” I said.
“You are the playwright? Clytemnestra?”
“I’ve read your play. It’s great!”
Wow! I was famous even before the reading. New York! New York!
“But how did you know it was me?”
“I was part of the selection committee.”
“But how did you know it was me?”
“You’re in the theatre section, you’re Indian, your play is going to be read this evening,” replied our Sherlock Holmes.
I walked out of the bookstore on air. The anticipation of the evening was thick and heavy. There would be crowds there. Perhaps even overspill; people standing in the isles, perhaps even, as in the old days, beautiful, eager young people sitting on and around the stage. I was on the verge of my career as a playwright taking wing.
The evening came and off we went to the rather large café that had offered itself as the venue for the reading. I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t a theatre, but I knew that great things have humble beginnings, so shrugged it off. The actors, whose movements had been choreographed, walked about the stage, script in hand, reading their parts in a rehearsal. The time for the opening drew closer, but where were the crowds? Where was Sherlock Holmes? Over on a table in a corner sat a lone man in a hat, crumpled over a drink, but present, and observing. Mark looked embarrassed, and the actors, each of whom was also probably hoping for a break – a well-known director in the audience, perhaps, who would gobble them up after the reading. But no, though we delayed the opening a bit, no one else, absolutely no one else showed up. A few bar tenders, a few waitresses, Donald and I, and, of course, the lone man in the hat were the sole audience. He stayed throughout. When the play was over two hours later, he walked up to me, shook my hand, looked straight at me, and walked out without a word.
The narrative ends here. It would be futile to attempt to describe my disappointment and discouragement. We returned to California, and as time passed, a resolution formed inside me. I would always address myself to the man in the hat: an audience of one, as in Coleridge’s The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner, would do for my purposes.
A few days ago I sat across the table from Neelam Mann Singh, dear friend, theatre director, house wife, mother, daughter, socialite, bright, sparky being, at the Taj Hotel In Chandigarh, bidding farewell for the next six months. Neelam had directed Clytemnestra for her theatre group, The Company, in Chandigarh in the 1980’s. “I love your blog,” Neelam said.
So, this entry is for you, my friend, Neelam, my man in the black hat.
By:  Siddhartha Shukla
For the common man, it’s still a distant land full of mysticism and a different kind of spiritualism. Sufism is yet to be decoded by the layman, but in the meantime, Kamla K Kapur has taken an initiative and simplified it a bit. Poet, writer and playwright, Kamla has come up with her new book on Sufi tales of Rumi, the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, poet and writer. The book titled ‘Pilgrimage to Paradise – Sufi Tales from Rumi’ is a simplified account pertaining to the spiritual essence of Sufism. The short stories in the book have been taken from Rumi’s work Masnavi, a six-volume work originally written in Persian.
In town to promote her book, Kamla says, “Rumi was known more as a poet and less as a writer. He dealt with all the aspects of life, not just the ascetic aspect. His manner of story-telling was in the old-style. I have simplified it to make it more accessible to the modern reader.” These days, Rumi is getting increasingly popular in the Western countries as well, and Kamla feels that “books such as these are reminders that we all operate from a central ego system which makes us view the world in our very own way.” When asked about how much her own experience in life had contributed in her writing, she smiles, “There are many strands in a story like the strand of our spiritual journey, our career strand and biographical strand. In my case, the career strand took precedence over the biographical strand.”
Her last book was Ganesha Goes to Lunch, a vivid collection of stories from the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. She plans to complete her trilogy of books on the spiritual aspect of different religions by writing her next book on the Sikh Sakhis. “I wanted to write books on different religions to show the unity behind them,” says Kamla adding that Gurbani was an inspiration for the book on Rumi’s Sufi tales. On the wide appeal of Sufism among the people she feels, “sufism resonates with the heart. It is a bridge between the Islamic and the non-Islamic world.”
Kapur, who also has eleven English plays to her credit, says that she was motivated by her father to take up writing at a young age. It was only in 2006 that she decided to be a ‘full-time’ writer. On her immediate future plans, she said that she would be taking a break, not from writing, but from publishing.

SEPTEMBER 29,  2009
To fulfill my promise to myself to write a minimum of three blog entries a month, I have at least begun the third one before the month is over. I may not complete it this month, but a beginning is made and I am content with myself. It is a fine line I must tread between fulfilling my promise to myself and you without flagellating myself over a few lapses here and there. About treading fine lines . . . I am impressed by high wire acts. Who was that famous artist who not only walked on a wire above the Niagra falls but stopped in the middle to cook himself an omelet and eat it, too? (Please fill in if you remember and know). To get into another digression, I think psychically at least, living well, consciously, with joy, is a high wire act between two abysses. The wonderful thing about metaphors is that though they are indispensable for excavating and conveying truth, they can be abandoned when they no longer serve: unlike the physical feat, here we can and do fall off and away, but can get back on without too much damage if we realize it in time and remember to get back on.
Remember. Re member. Ah, what a marvelous and essential digression this would be! But that is another blog. I’ll wind up this digression with just a brief clip: Memory is the key to wisdom. In Norse mythology, Memir (from whom the word ‘memory comes’), is the giant who guards the well of wisdom. Wotan, or Odin, the primary Norse god, has to give up one eye in order to drink from it. It is a great myth and metaphor which I will pick up again. In Hindu philosophy, “smriti, simran,” words meaning ‘to remember,’ are also synonyms for prayer; when we fall off the wire we have to remember to get back on; when we are mired in despair and darkness, we need to remember light, and presto, it is present. Memory evokes, conjures, recreates, creates. Remember the famous ring of a Chinese emperor (who was it? Please fill in if you know and remember) who told his advisor: give me something that will make me happy when I’m sad, and sad when I am happy. And the advisor gave him a jade ring with the following words inscribed on it to aid his memory: This, too, shall pass. Memory, then, is the key to wisdom. Remember that. It is the only thing that can span the abyss of duality.
But I must explain why I have not written here for so long. The first reason was a slight sense of discouragement – Nobody is reading my blog! What’s the point? I have constantly to fight this monster, Discouragement. It saps my courage to continue. But as soon as I call ‘discouragement’ a ‘monster,’ mythologize it, I can deal with it. It becomes tangible and elicits my hero self. I am reminded that it must be fought. And there are several weapons in my psychic arsenal to aid me in this battle. The very first is the thought: I cannot, will not, absolutely refuse to, think in terms of failure or success till a year has passed. And even after that deadline I hope I will be able to extend the pact with myself for another year, not in the hope of gathering an audience (though that hope is always there,) but because, honestly, I enjoy writing here. It’s like chewing the fat with myself (for those who don’t know the expression, it means talking, generally with a friend, about this and that). My social energy is limited but I do have the human need to get nourishment from this fat. I chew the fat of words with myself.
No, this bog is not complete. There is so much I want to say, to myself, to you, but it will have to wait. Maybe not for long, I hope, but for now. Part of the pleasure of writing here is that other than a self imposed discipline, I don’t have to conform to any rules. I tend to be so very organized and anal about things that I have resolved, here at least, to free myself a bit from well-made writing. Just a little wave, a drift, a meander, will do.

I’m going to do another post because this is a very busy month for me and I want to make sure I fulfill my promise to you and above all, to myself. As I write this I wonder, as a footnote to my last entry, whether this — making a promise to oneself and keeping it – isn’t another technique to deal with procrastination. Loyalty to oneself must precede loyalty to another, or rather, loyalty to oneself is a prerequisite for loyalty to another. It sounds true to me. I know from my own experience that every time I have sacrificed my loyalty to myself I have suffered. I suppose another way to say this is that one’s primary imperative is to stay centered in oneself, to know what your own truth is, and radiate out from it.
Some might call me, mistakenly, I believe, ‘selfish.’ I have known many people who make others their center and find themselves becoming unhappy and lost. Don’t get me wrong. There are many areas and many situations when you have to make another more important than yourself, when you have to put your own needs in abeyance and focus on another. I think we all know what these situations are. And we all know when this is called for, when our humanness demands it. But I know people who place their centers in others and I know this doesn’t work because they are not happy people. They complain a lot, call others ungrateful, even become bitter and withdrawn. If you are being kept from something you want to do, must do, by others, then you have no one to blame but yourself. Taking the blame, recognizing the situation, and changing it, is one step in the right direction.
This is a busy month for me because on the fifteenth of this month is the launch of my new book, PILGIMAGE TO PARADISE. This wouldn’t be a big deal if New Delhi wasn’t a two day journey by car from where Payson (my husband; meet him. I will be speaking of him, too!) and I live in a very remote region of the Himalayas in India. Even that wouldn’t be a big deal if we weren’t battening down the hatches of our home here to leave for the USA, where we live for six months out of every year. There is a lot to do before we leave, packing and planning, and more. Yesterday, for example, I organized the cleaning of the entire pantry, including emptying and washing and drying the storage jars, something that hasn’t been done in over six years, when we finished making this house and moving into it. We have to store stuff because we pack it in from the city (Chandigarh, 8 hours away by car; or Kullu, two hours away, but not everything is available here). We are also busy because Payson’s exhibition of his latest artwork, called Dark Forest, is going to be happening concurrently in Delhi at the American Center. Check out his work at
So you see, this is no time to procrastinate (though one can do it all in an easy tempo). The sword of time hangs over our heads. Perhaps this image could serve as another technique to get going!

One thing that’s happened to me due to falling into a habit of resting whenever I need to – this is harder to do than speak of – is that tasks take longer to complete. The follow up is a little slow. Instead of doing it yesterday – as I was won’t to do – I do it the day, day after tomorrow. Yes, procrastination is, I have come to realize, not the enemy I had always thought it was, but a friend. Okay, I know, I know, everything is relative, relevant only from the perspective and the angle that you are coming from. For those whose bane is procrastination, this idea won’t do (See blow).  It would be too large a shoe for the foot that needs to get off its ass and begin its journey with vigor and vim. But for me procrastination is a boon. I was too much in control, too on top of things. And whenever I lapsed, I felt out of control and chastised myself for it. Deviations were rare and I had become a machine that thought it was in control. Or rather, wanted to be entirely in control, at least as far as time was concerned. Thank the universe that things we want are not always given to us, for in that lacuna between wanting and not getting lies our salvation.
For me procrastinating has become the space/ time in which God works. Jallaludin Rumi, whose stories I have recreated in my new book, PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE, SUFI TALES FROM RUMI (actually this is the Penguin India title; The Mandala, USA, one is RUMI’S TALES FROM THE SILK ROAD, A PILGRIMAGE TO PARADSIE) says:
Believers are the laziest folk
in the two worlds,
because they get their harvest
without plowing
since god is working for them.
§  MATHNAWI, VI, 4886
I have often found that by procrastinating, things I thought I needed to do didn’t need to get done, anyway. This has happened often enough for me to take is as evidence that I am on the right track. If your soul is rebelling against doing something, trust it. But if you feel that procrastinating is something your soul is rebelling against – you always know when you are feeling all clogged up and self-flagellatory (there’s no such word) at the thought of something not done, then I have a wonderful technique to help you out.
Judy Bernstein wrote in response to my previous blog: “I’m a big failure at rest, and I’m eager for your one on procrastination, wondering if you’ll find me a cure or validate it. I’m wondering how I can fail at rest and succeed with procrastination at the same time, they seem in opposition to each other!”
First it is important to know why YOU procrastinate. I know why I do it: I have exaggerated ideas of how much I should get done ALL AT ONCE, how PERFECT it should be when I begin, HOW LONG I should
work on it, etc, that I intimidate myself into inaction. But I have found that when I am procrastinating (beyond fulfilling a need to rest), a simple thought gets me going. I tell myself, I will only work on it for five or ten minutes, max. I won’t expect myself to get it done all at once, or expect that it will be brilliant, I will simply do it, doodle and scribble and get started with some incoherent statements. This resolution to underachieve always puts me in a spirit of relaxation and play. Instead of thinking of it as work, I think of it as play. And over and over again, this technique has worked for me.
I think, also, that several other factors are at play with procrastination, the primary one being lack of trust in oneself and in the universe. Perhaps my next entry shall be on that.
When we trust, things happen magically. This does not at all mean that we don’t work for them in whatever way we can, but that our work becomes something we do not for our self-aggrandizement, but worship. One has to do one’s due diligence, of course. It’s not what one does but HOW one does it that becomes the key here. Guru Nanak , the first Guru of the Sikhs, is big on ‘Sehaj.’ Easy. I like easy. Things are hard only when
·         we are supposed to quit doing it (like me and my teaching job)
·         we are doing it with the wrong attitude
·         we are striving too hard
·         the ego is at the helm, steering the course into ways we WANT to go, instead of the way we need to go.
To get at the truth of yourself, you have to know yourself. And you can know yourself (if that is ever entirely possible – it has been the endeavor of yogis and philosophers of all ages) if you look at yourself honestly. Ask yourself: how important is it for me to do this thing that I am not doing? Am I meant to do this? Can I live with myself without doing it? Can I live without doing it? Can I live happily without doing it? Am I really and truly meant to be doing something else? Do I think I should be doing it because that is what others do? Because that is what others want me to do? Why should I be doing it? How miserable do I want to be? How happy do I want to be? Where does my bliss lie?

Well folks, here goes. Having my own blog is an idea whose time has come. Avnish Katoch had created one for me several years ago, but I never got around to posting anything. Almost immediately after completing GANESHA GOES TO LUNCH: Classics from Mystic India (Mandala, USA, April 2007) I started another book: PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE: Sufi Tales from Rumi, which will be out in September ’09 by both Mandala in the US, and Penguin in India. Though the latter book was completed in January this year, I still didn’t get around to writing for the blog because I have been resting.
My first posting will be a paean to rest. I believe it is the hardest thing to do, and absolutely the most essential – for people of all ages. I will tell you the recent circumstances and details of my rest, by and by, and post an essay I wrote on rest almost ten years ago when I was writing a book titled THE WRITING WARRIOR : How to Turn Failure into Success. My hope is to make you introspect about your own relationship to rest, which I believe is intimately tied to creativity, joy and health.
But first, because this is my first posting, I want to ramble and meander a bit. Rambling and meandering is something I love to do because it is the way our minds work –not in a linear way, like a straight line from point A to point B. Minds work like trees and streams – branching off again and again, bending this way and that, drooping, rising, twisting, turning, and all within perimeters that express and contain.
A word about expectations from me: I want to share my humanness with you, not pose as some Guru who knows it all and has all the answers. I think of myself as primarily a writer whose task it is to expose the entire spectrum of human thoughts and feelings with brutal honesty. So, you will hear about my wisdom as well as my depressions, my knowledge as well as my folly. I think the first premise of wisdom is the acknowledgement of one’s utter and total ignorance in the face of the great mystery that pulses all around and within us, and the second is humility. One cannot go wrong with these.
I have been a workaholic all my life, and doubt that this will change much till the day I die. I love to write, and like all things I love to do, it is easy to over-do. We over-do because of several factors which I will go into later. Most importantly, we fail to listen to our bodies when they send us signals and alarms. In an age when our success is measured by production, it is easy to drive ourselves too hard.
I once read somewhere that the opposite of joy is not depression or anxiety, but rest. I have found that all my ‘negative’ states of mind are caused by tiredness. Observe yourself: are you more positive on the days you are rested? Do you think more tired and destructive thoughts in the evening when your body is asking for rest and relaxation? Your rhythms probably vary from mine, but if you observe your trends you will discover a pattern to them.
(A word about observations before I cease to meander and get on with the agenda – you see, digressions can be very valuable and may contain the meat of the argument. Somebody once gave me a pencil from an observatory with these words printed on it: Have you observed today?It has become one of my mantras. My observation, however, centers not upon the stars, but on my own processes. If you have your lens focused upon what goes on inside you, you will learn a great deal about yourself and the ways of the world. This is a certainty.)
I want to suggest that if you are feeling the lack of joy in your life, depressed and non-creative, it is because your body needs a deep and prolonged rest. I have discovered this to be true of me, over and over and over again. It is not easy to remember this when you are in the throes of a depression and a sense of futility, but not remembering this can lead to more depression, if not disaster. I have to admit that during the last years of my teaching career, I was practically suicidal. I didn’t then realize it was because I was overworked and tired. But after some life style changes – that included retiring before I had intended to, and a long, long period of rest, I recovered and feel at the peak of well-being and creativity.
Of course this thought branches into many others – the question of money, mortality, spirituality, to name just a few, all of which I will go into further if I see that there is some response. Well, actually, I’ve just decided to do this for an entire year — whether there is a response or not!  This is how I have been about my writing long, long before I began to be published and to get an audience. So, in addition to the above branches, I add some more – audience, achievement, success. I will do about a one-page post two or three times a month. More, if the muse moves me and if I have leisure from my current writing project, a novel titledCoherences, and of course, rest, which in my case means not only sleeping a lot when my body calls for it, but gardening, reading, cooking, walking, playing with my dogs, and hustling to get my books out there.
My desire in starting this blog  – even more than getting my books out there – is to help in whatever way I can.
And/or, wait for the next post.

2 Responses to “RESTING”

1.    JoriO on 01 Sep 2009 at 5:24 pm # edit this
Evidently the hardest working “rester” ever encountered. I am looking forward to reading the Rumi stories. Having experenced a reading of “Kepler’s Dreams”, I am sorry ot have missed it in the Gasslamp.
2.    kamla on 04 Sep 2009 at 7:00 am # edit this
Hey, Jori O, is that you? Great to hear from you! Can we get together when we return to Del Mar on 3rd Oct?


Interview on Association for the Study of Ethical Behavior in Literature, St. Francis College, Brooklyn by Dr. Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal.
Kamla Kapur is a sensitive poetic voice, who lives half the year in a remote Kullu Valley in the Himalayas and the other half in California. Her poetry and short stories have been published in the original English and in Hindi and Punjabi translation in several journals and magazines. In 1977, she won the prestigious The Sultan Padamsee Award for Playwriting in English. Her full length play, The Curlew’s Cry, was produced by Yatrik, New Delhi. A Punjabi translation of her play, Clytemnestra was produced by The Company in Chandigarh. Her award-winning Zanana, was produced at the National School of Drama, New Delhi. Seven of her plays were published in Enact, New Delhi.
Since 1985, Ms Kapur has been commuting between the USA and India. Her full length plays, Hamlet’s Father, Kepler Dreams, and Clytemnestra were showcased at the Marin Shakespeare Festival in San Francisco, Gas Lamp Quarter Theatre in San Diego, and Dramatic Risks Theatre Group in New York, respectively. She was selected by the New Mexico Arts Division as the Playwright in Residence for two years. She has recently completed her first novel, The Autobiography of Saint Padma the Whore, a chapter of which was published by in Our Feet Walk The Sky (Aunt Lute Press, Berkeley, California, USA), and a fantasy novel, Malini in Whirlwood.
Ms. Kapur has published two books of poetry: the critically acclaimed, As A Fountain In A Garden (Tarang Press.Del Mar,CA,USA-Hemkunt Publishers Private, Ltd., India, 2005) and Radha Sings (Rolling Drum and Dark Child Press, USA, 1987).
Ms. Kapur was also on the faculty of Grossmont College in San Diego, California for 18 years and taught creative writing courses in play writing, poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, and courses in mythology, Shakespeare, and Women’s Literature. Kamla Kapur was also a freelance writer for The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and The Tribune; she had taught English Literature at Delhi University too. This multi-faceted literary genius talks to Dr.Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal in an illuminating email interview.
NKA: Pain is of paramount importance in As A Fountain In A Garden. For example, the expression “and left me/ here, / with this absence, this gif/ of grief” emotionally presents a glimpse of the seething volcano of grief inside. Has the production of the just-mentioned poetry collection helped you in the release of your emotions of grief, anxiety and pain? I suppose, by the creation of this collection, you must have found some release, as literature is cathartic and therapeutic. What do you say?
KK: I don’t know how I would have survived the experience of my husband’s suicide without processing it through poetry. It’s not to say that people who don’t write poetry don’t survive, or survive well, but without the outlet of poetry I might have fossilized in my grief, or developed a chronic habit of sorrow or even bitterness, and certainly a debilitating regret and guilt. Poetry that is not merely release – crying is also that – is an adventure of the soul in its journey towards itself. It demands an utter honesty of experience and expression without which writing remains only cathartic and does not touch the depth at which it becomes art. The discipline of crafting a poem with patience and honesty gave me the perspective and the detachment to pursue a subject that was very painful for me. Making art in this sense is the highest spiritual activity of humans, for it takes one through suffering beyond it.
NKA: Besides this despair, caused by the husband’s suicide, are there certain other factors too, responsible for poetry in you?
KK: I was writing poetry long before Donald’s suicide. Despair is not the only subject for poetry, though the passion of despair is always strong enough to make poetry well up if one is so inclined. Who can tell what the original impulses for poetry are? It is a mystery, though some causes, superficial at best, can be isolated. From the time I wrote my first poem at the age of sixteen, I loved the intense introspection and inversion, the dialogue with my soul through words that the experience afforded. I think the impulse to make poetry – to express one’s inmost self, to connect and commune with the universe that is bounded within our souls, to give words to the amorphous stuff of our experience and thereby own it in some ways — is common to all human beings, a basic instinct; what distinguishes the poet is the discipline and the life-long dedication to the craft which allows her to express the inexpressible.
I write in many genres but poetry – which goes deeper than any other modes – is nearest to my heart.

NKA: What are the important literary works of Donald? How will you describe him as a poet?

KK: Most of Donald’s work is still in manuscript form, and though he was published in many poetry journals he was never published in book form. He has a long poem called Trace which is as fine as the best of poetry. He combined narrative and lyrics and was very influenced by Ezra Pound, who he considered his poetry Guru.
One day when I have the leisure I want to put a book of his poems into the world. It is the fate of most poets to live and die in obscurity. Unfortunately good poetry requires a highly educated, introspective, sensitized and aware sensibility, which is not very common and getting more so in our busy and fast-paced world. This has always been so, and may never really change.

NKA: How has your association with the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh assisted you in your career as a creative poet? The glittering scenic beauty of the place must have provided your poetic heart with a lot of literary fodder. Please say something.
KK: I wouldn’t say it has helped my career, though it has certainly helped in forming, or rather, in-forming me as a writer. Our home here in the Kullu Valley is a retreat from life in the city which tends to be, whether one likes it or not, anxiety-ridden. We don’t even realize how the noise and the crowds affect our psyches, drain and devitalize us. Being here – we live six months out of every year here in this remote and beautiful valley –, being connected with nature, its beauty and changing moods on a daily basis, helps us (my husband, Payson R. Stevens, is also a writer and an artist) to connect with ourselves more than with people, and allows us a contemplative and reflective life which is always best for creativity, for me especially. Though I have written some poetry here, and hope to write more in the future when my other writing projects are complete, I have in the last two years completed two books, GANESHA GOES TO LUNCH, Classics from Mystic India, and PILGRIMAGE TO PARADISE, Sufi Tales from Rumi. The first book was published in 2007 by Mandala (USA), and the second will be published in 2009 by Mandala and Penguin India. But I must add that I am not dependent on geography for creativity. Given time and solitude, I can write wherever I am.

NKA: You have been commuting between India and USA since 1985. Any special reason for this movement? How has this mobility affected you (positively/ negatively) as a creative writer? Please make a statement.
KK: Till 2006 I was teaching English (Composition, Literature, Creative Writing) in a college in California, and I would come to India very often – sometimes taking a semester off, during my sabbatical, and summer and winter holidays. I reduced my workload to 50% in 2001, and my husband and I began to look for a place to settle in India for half the year. My husband is American and we have up till now not wanted to shift to India permanently. We began work on our house in the Kullu Valley in 2003 and have continued to come here since then. I love this double life that we lead for many reasons, many of them quite personal. But I feel it has brought me into contact with India which is fertile in terms of subject matter. It has allowed me to explore my Indian-ness further. I am currently working on a novel that is set both in India and the USA. The characters are both Indian and Western (though mainly Indian). This double life used to be hard, but in coping with it I have learned some essential lessons – being flexible, being at home wherever I am, being detached from place and, in a way, time. This shunting back and forth has also compressed my time, put boundaries around it, so I am very conscious of its passing, and thus more disciplined about writing.
NKA: As an awakened Indian writer living in the States, what do you think are the major tangling problems faced by Indian Diaspora in USA?
KK: I don’t know how ‘awakened’ I am! Certainly it continues to be my endeavor and my passion. I can only speak for myself, though many books have come out in the subject that I haven’t read. The characters in my current novel are not “Diaspora” characters as such, though they are characters with some of its concerns, especially the concerns of first generation Indians in America: missing India, missing family, missing the “rawnuk,” finding it difficult to cope with a culture that puts so much emphasis on individuality when people in India are more used to communal lives. The subject is immense and would take more time to explicate than I have here.

NKA: What are the major cultural differences between America and India?
KK: Now this is a huge question that I cannot even begin to address in an interview like this. It would take tomes! If I had to isolate just one of the differences (quite arbitrarily), and deal with it very superficially in a paragraph, I would say it has to do with the way family continues to be of prime importance in India while the West, still going through the growing pains of individuality, is moving more and more in the direction of individuation, a journey that Indians haven’t even embarked upon yet. But global capitalization is a unifying force and we are already seeing its effects on family life in India. It is inevitable, though not quite imminent. And with this difference comes a whole host of different ways of living and being.
NKA: As a woman writer, did you feel any problems in your literary career? How will you describe the two cultural groups—Eastern and Western—in their approach towards a female author?
KK: The difficulties in my writing career have had nothing to do with my gender. If anything, this is a very fertile period for women’s voices to be heard. We have female writers whose voices have reached the global stage. My difficulties were entirely my own. I think both cultures are open to female voices, and about time, too.

NKA: In your long career, you have been a teacher, journalist and a creative writer. Out of these, which one is closest to your heart? Or, do you find some inner relationship among these various roles? Please explicate.
KK: I have given up the first two roles to focus on the last. As I get older I have limited energy and time. I had to prioritize. I gave up journalism first, because I did not want to be writing edible, fleeting print. Teaching was far more congenial in that I taught subjects I myself have learned immensely from. But it was time consuming, and now I am happily focusing on writing alone. I am also moving towards more yoga, meditation, and exercise, and reading a lot.

NKA: What will you say about your two novels–The Autobiography of Saint Padma the Whore and Malini in Whirlwood?
KK: The Autobiography of Saint Padma the Whore is the fictional story of a woman=s quest for love and freedom. Spanning three decades, from the 60’s to the 90’s, it moves between India, the USA, and Saudi Arabia. It is loosely structured on the myth of Ulysses and Penelope, less as a parallel than as a contrast. An abyss of time separates Padma and Penelope, yet they share some important connections. While waiting for their mates, both weave tapestries, the former with yarn, and the latter with words; both long for a kind of partner that is truly an equal. Their stories serve as portraits of artists as women.
Malini in Whirlwood is the first volume of a trilogy. Malini, a young girl disenchanted and bored with the normal world, succeeds in becoming a character in a fantastic story book whose author is a magician. She finds herself aboard a magic Red Boat in a place called Whirlwood where the laws of physics do not apply, and time and space are warped. She meets the members of her crew who are strange beings called Fractidians. She doesn’t quite know if they are her allies or her enemies, but each of them, whether negative or positive, teaches her a great deal. Nono teaches her to endure, Thimble the ethic and value of work, Fluff the necessity for fun, Ender hope and courage, and Tozy trust in the sometimes tortuous, meandering paths of her adventures. In the end Malini, transformed by her experiences, returns to the ordinary world, ready to participate in it while maintaining a close connection with the fecund world of fantasy and myth.
NKA: Tell something about Ganesha Goes To Lunch and Radha Sings.
KK: Like myths around the world, Ganesha Goes to Lunch, Classics from Mystic India are traditional Indian stories which offer both a window into a fascinating culture that has endured for thousands of years, and a code for living that can be applied to the modern world. Kamla K. Kapur’s GANESHA GOES TO LUNCH: Classics from Mystic India (Mandala Publishing, $14.95 trade paperback, April 27, 2007), is an offering of 24 insightful tales. “They are reminders from spaceless eternity of the fabric of which we are made. They awaken us, and help us live with, and within, the mystery that is the matrix of our being.”
Six one-page introductions to the sections give easy backgrounds to the major gods in Indian mythology. The myths themselves, recreated and embellished, reveal timeless insights into the human condition. Shiva and Parvati’s wedding shows a love that includes, but transcends the battle of the sexes. Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar demonstrates the strength of the bonds of attachment that even gods can’t escape. Brahma’s entrapment in the web of Maya leads him to free himself with his mind. Krishna’s compassion for a little bird ensures that creation continues even within the destruction of war. Markandeya’s fall out of Vishnu’s mouth into the ocean of chaos, humbles him in the face of the mystery of life. These are a few of the fascinating, immensely readable and instructive tales included in the collection.
Radha Sings are contemporary, semi-erotic poems written from the point of view of a modern Radha to her Krishnas.
NKA: What are your future writing projects?
KK: I am currently in the beginning stages of writing two novels.
The interviewer Dr.Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal is Senior Lecturer in English at Feroze Gandhi College, Rae Bareli, (U.P.), India. His interviews with a number of contemporary literary figures, as well as his research papers, book reviews, articles and poems have appeared in publications, including The Vedic Path, Quest, Pegasus, IJOWLAC, The Journal, Promise, The Raven Chronicles, Yellow Bat Review, Carved in Sand, Turning the Tide, Blue Collar Review, Bridge-in-Making, Confluence, Poetcrit, Kafla Intercontinental, Hyphen and South Asian Review. His book on Stephen Gill is to be published shortly.

Photo/Jon Clark
There is a remote valley in India with thousand-year-old forests redolent with cedar. It is intersected by streams and waterfalls, and surrounded on all sides by the majestic Himalayan Mountains. It is also a place where myth and culture are “alive and well,” according to renowned poet, playwright, novelist and educator Kamla K. Kapur. Kullu Valley is her home for six months out of the year. It is where she found most of the inspiration for her latest book, Ganesha Goes to Lunch, Classics from Mystic India, 24 mythic tales, retold with a modern twist.
Kapur is settled back in her home in Del Mar with her husband, artist and writer Payson Stevens, after her six-month hiatus in the Kullu Valley of India. Since 1985, when they bought the land, the couple has lived half the year in this remote village and half in Del Mar.
Speaking of her book, she says that myths have always been part of her life. She believes that they provide wisdom and solace for those who wish to live life consciously. As a child growing up in India she imbibed the myths and continued to collect and study them as an adult. She chose the myths for this book based on an “instinctive preference.” These were the stories that spoke to her on some deeper level and transcended thousands of years.
“When I started telling them, I realized that they had a lot to teach me.” Kapur’s insights are evident throughout the book, and the reader goes on the spiritual and philosophical journey along side Hindu Gods such as Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Rama and Vishnu.
The collection, published by Mandala, is alive with intricate drawings, and each of the chapters gives a brief introduction to the gods and goddesses.
“Ganesha son of Shiva and Pavati, is the star of Indian mythology. Popular with the masses, he is the big-bellied god with the body of a man and the head of an elephant….Ganesha grants all wishes and removes obstacles to success.”
It is easy to see why Kapur chose the story of this colorful character for the title of the book. Yet the collection is filled with tales of intriguing gods, and playful animals in a reader-friendly format.
Kapur, also well-known for her plays and poetry, published the book in October 2007 and now that she is back in America, will be promoting Ganesha as well as working on some of her other writing projects. As a writer she says, “It’s strange – you are always unconsciously writing all the time. You are plugged in.”
Living in this Kullu valley paradise, she took the first sabbatical of her life. Kapur describes it as life changing. Surrounded by intense nature and her huge Indian family (that she refers to as her clan) Kapur embraced the time to continue her inner journey.?”I simply was – this whole business about being – it transformed me,” she says resting at a local café in Del Mar. “It is really necessary in life to disengage from everything and get in touch with your humanity. I loved it. I don’t think I have ever been this happy in my whole life.”?It is a pleasure to hear and see this woman who represents two cultures, and speaks so respectfully of both. She is at peace equally in her Del Mar gardens as her home in the isolated “valley of the gods.” The diversity of these two cultures seems to have helped her find a balance between the inner and the outer. America, she says, tends to focus more on the outer; they are very success oriented. However, India she describes “is like a huge amniotic sac. You are more in India.”
Kapur plans to do more writing in Del Mar and promote her next book, due out in September 2009, published by Penguin. The subject matter for this book is the great Sufi poet, Rumi.
To see and hear Kamla Kapur read from her book Ganesha Goes to Lunch, drop by the Del Mar Library at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9. The tales are fun and entertaining, and Kapur breathes new life into them. ?Perhaps you will even come away a little wiser. As the god Ganesha teaches when he goes to lunch at a greedy king’s and devours everything in sight, we all need somebody to show us a mirror so we can see our real selves. The Del Mar Library is located at 1309 Camino Del Mar, (between 13th St & 14th St), Del Mar, CA 92014; (858) 755-1666.

wis.gifHere On Earth: Radio Without Borders 
As India accelerates its rapid modernization, its mythic past is still alive and well in a country where disciples of Lord Shiva still walk barefoot, and dreadlocked holy men speed around on bicycles. After three, on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, Jean Feraca and her guest discuss tales from mythic India.
Guest: Kamla Kapur, poet and playwright. Author, “Ganesha Goes to Lunch“.
Here On Earth: Radio Without Borders


By: Nonika Singh
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Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Academy organized the book reading of “Ganesha Goes to Lunch” by the author Kamala K Kapur at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, here today.
“Ganesha Goes to Lunch: Classics from Mystic India” has been published by world famous US based Mandala Publishing. Mr. Ramgopal Bajaj an eminent theatre director was the chief guest on the occasion.
Kamla K. Kapur, born and raised in India and educated in the USA, is a poet, playwright, novelist and educator. The Deccan Herald proclaimed her “a serious poetical voice of our times.” Kamla’s plays, produced in New Delhi, have earned her two Indian National Awards. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in anthologies in the US and in India. She was on the faculty of Grossmont College in San Diego, California, and at Delhi University. Her book “As a Fountain in a Garden” was also released earlier in 2005.
Currently she divides her time between California and Himachal Pradesh, India in the Himalayas, called the “Valley of the Gods” , where she lives with her husband Payson R Stevens, who is an earth scientist and an artist.
Kamla K. Kapur’s book ‘Ganesha Goes to Lunch’ brings for its readers 24 insightful tales from the traditional Indian stories.
“Like myths around the world, the book offers both a window into a fascinating culture that has endured for thousands of years, and a code for living that can be applied to the modern world” says Kamala K Kapur.
“They are reminders from spaceless eternity of the fabric of which we are made. Awaken us, and help us live with, and within, the mystery that is the matrix of our being.” she added.
Chapters introduce provide a comprehensive history of the major gods in Indian mythology. The stories themselves, recreated and embellished, reveal timeless insights into the human condition.
Shiva and Parvati’s wedding portrays a love that includes, but transcends the battle of the sexes. Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar demonstrates the strength of the bonds of attachment that even the gods can not escape. Brahma’s entrapment in the web of Maya leads him to free himself with his mind. Krishna’s compassion for a little bird ensures that creation continues even within the destruction of war. Markandeya’s fall out of Vishnu’s mouth into the ocean of chaos, humbles him in the face of the mystery of life.
The book includes the most fascinating, immensely readable and instructive tales from the ancient Indian history.

By: Seema Sharma

By: S.D. Sharma

Kamla Kapur is a writer and poet who divides her time between San Diego and Himachal Pradesh, in India. Her latest book, Ganesha Goes to Lunch: Classics from Mystic India, attempts to re-tell some of the myths many of us heard in various forms, growing up. We asked Kamla a few questions about her adaptations, as well as the marketing of the book. She suggests that Indian myths “show us a way to transcend the conflict of duality with which most of us our afflicted.”
For more on Ganesha Goes to Lunch, visit its page or check out the publisher’s page, at Mandala.
SAJAforum: What inspired you to write this? The description says the tales are relevant to ‘modern times’. How’s that?
When five of my short stories based on retelling of Indian myths were published inParabola, the Journal of Tradition, Myth and the search for Meaning, I thought about writing this book. Then Raoul Goff, publisher of Mandala Publishing, visited our home, and when I mentioned my concept of the book, he was very interested.
As for the inspiration part: I have always been interested in mythology in general, and Indian mythology in particular, for its artistic, psychological and spiritual potential. Characters in myths are manifestations of human possibility. They are models of how we can be, or live, and what we can become, no matter in what times we live. The myths continue to offer solace and wisdom even now, in this modern age. Myths have the great, practical value of mitigating anxiety, stress, offering archetypal perspectives to alleviate suffering, and reconciling us to life as it is. When my father died in early April, incredulous with grief, I asked my husband, Payson, “is this a dream?” His initial answer of “no,” was followed, after a pause, by, “yes, it’s Vishnu’s dream!” His answer gave a perspective to my grief, and reminded me of the dream-like nature of life and death. In the Hindu view, separation is part of the trick that Maya, the illusion of the world, plays on us. We are just figments of Vishnu’s dream. Even our so-called ‘real’ selves are actors in a dream world where the line between what is real or not is fluid and always in flux. You can’t take the dream too seriously, for it has an end when we awaken.
The greatest of our tragedies and losses is death – the fear of it for ourselves and for those we love. Myths in every culture talk about the eternal regeneration of the self. Vishnu reincarnates again and again, and that is why the faith in individual reincarnation is very strong in India. The myth of the eternal return is counterbalanced by the desire of all holy men to transcend the recurring cycle of birth and death and attain Nirvana, or liberation. And Hindu myths and philosophy teach us how to do this.
Who is it being marketed to?
The book is mainly being marketed in the West, though I am told that Mandala has a healthy market in India as well. Indians may not buy the book thinking it is old hat, but the stories are being told in a new way for a modern audience, and I hope that Indians buy the book as well. There are stories in it that have been told to me verbally which are not found in any texts.
Also, though as an Indian you may be familiar with the images, say, of Shiva of Lakshmi or Ganesha, you may not be aware of the significance, depth and value of the stories. When something is all around you it can also become a cliché, something that you are familiar with in an unconscious sort of way. Though I knew that Ganesha had an elephant’s head, and that Shiva wore a tiger’s skin, I did not know why, or their significance.
Tell me about the process: Which stories did you choose to not include, and why?
I didn’t want to choose stories that were too long – given the crunch for time in almost every country (we have capitalism to thank for it!), most people like short stories with a punch. I picked stories that resonated with me personally. Also, while I was writing them, a friend of mine read some of the stories in manuscript to her young boy, and that reminded me to go easy on the sexual content.
It’s become apparent to me that many of the stories we read or were told as younger children had been sanitized. Sometimes the complexity of certain characters was erased, or violence was made to seem heroic. What are your thoughts on all of this, especially in this era when children’s stories are darker and anticipate that they can absorb more complex realities, like adults.
Because the stories we were told as children we sanitized, or told with a bias and a motive to make us follow the straight and narrow, it is imperative that stories be retold with each generation, to update their relevance, and to broaden their base to include a more expanding consciousness. Complexity of characters must always be maintained and enhanced to reflect all the contradictions of human nature, but in a comprehensible, simple way. Such complexity is inherent in the Hindu pantheon. Because the gods in Hindu mythology are echoes of us (or the other way around), they have many human weaknesses. Both the weaknesses and divinity of the gods reflect humans in all their contrary complexity, and both offer us gifts. Lord Indra, for example, is full of lust, addicted to soma, and goes into fits of rage. Shiva is the god of sexual orgies and also of the ascetic recluses. Vishnu is supremely detached, but he is also very entangled in the affairs of earth. These traits help us to identify with the gods because we are also a mix of these contraries. They also reassure us that despite all our weaknesses, we are also part of the godhood. The stories of the gods and their shortcomings take us through the arc of human error and let us see the consequences of our behavior. There would be no stories without weaknesses. Our weaknesses also have a profound role to play in our evolution. They keep us humble, and as in Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Sumerian myths, pride is the worst of the human weaknesses because arrogance above all keeps us from true knowledge, wisdom, wonder and awe. Weaknesses are the gateways to truth.
I disagree with you about the violence part. Though it is necessary, if one is to live an aware existence, to eschew unnecessary violence and conflict, a great deal of violence is inherent in the very fabric of life, and this is reflected in our art and our stories. Even in our own day many movies show violence in a heroic light. I myself balk at it while realizing its existence in almost all spheres of our life. Violence and death go hand in hand, and there would be no life without death.
The success of Maurice Sendak’s children’s stories, or even the violence inherent in our nursery rhymes, is evidence that children can and do absorb and accept this basic fact far more readily than we adults think. And in a way the stories and rhymes reconcile the children to an ineluctable fact of life. I have taught world mythology to many classes, and even teenagers ‘get’ the myths from all over the planet because they resonate in their souls. Myths from different parts of the world express different parts of ourselves.

Myth has been an important structure of Kamla Kapur’s work, for the author feels Indian myth has become the repository of all our wisdom and solace. “In my work, the myth is transformed to the modern context, it’s instinctive,” explains the author, back home in Chandigarh from Devbhumi in Kullu for a holiday. Kamla is really excited about her latest book, Ganesha Goes to Lunch, which has been published by Mandala Press and comprises the kind of stories which Kamla “always wanted to do, but didn’t have the appropriate space to place them.” Two poetry books, stories, many of which have been published in the journal of myth tradition, a play, novel, Kamla has been writing since she was 13 and the structure of her writing is human — darkness to light. While she was encouraged and inspired to write Ganesha Goes to Lunch by Raoul Goff, the publisher, her abode, Devbhumi, “the earth of the gods,” or more commonly, “Valley of the Gods” has also a lot to with this book taking shape in a short span of about four months.
Stories of Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Krishna…find place in this book, the seeds, explains Kamla had been lying in her and when she devoted herself to the job, they sprouted and she had as many as 24 stories in place! “They have all been drawn from Indian mythology, legends and folktales, and the books also contains some lesser-known myths, two of them which I’d heard just orally. The well-known classics have got a modern twist from me and there has been a lot of restructuring as well,” adds the author, who studied at GCW-11. India, pronounces the author, has an inexhaustible storehouse of mythic stories, with manifold versions of each myth and development of the narrative has been Kamla’s primary focus, along with retaining the essence.
A lot of research has gone into each story, admits Kamla, who read up on everything she could lay her hands on. “There’s been no systematic and methodical selection, the mention of any myth that made me sit up, and stopped me in my track was picked, basic instinct worked here and each story has been a process of self-discovery, they’ve all moved me,” smiles Kamla. Ganesha Goes For Lunch which will be in bookstores in March.

Tribune article by Gayatri Rajwade
Photo by Parvesh Chauhan
Writer-poet Kamla Kapur is back and this time she is gambolling amidst the Gods of the Indian Pantheon!
Emerging As of a Fountain in a Garden, her book of verses written to assuage her anguished soul after the suicide of her husband, poet Donald Dean Powell in 1993, she comes back transformed, retelling Hindu myths this time round.
And no colourless portrayals here, for the Gods speaking in an easy narrative style say so much of the universal truths of humanity, but without the sting of sermons.
‘Ganesh Goes to Lunch’ is Kamla’s ‘chant’ to an ongoing passion in myths and legends. In fact her first book of poetry Radha Sings published in 1987 comprises of Radha talking to Krishna through a series of love songs.
However, this book happened quite by chance. For one, after being in semi-retirement from teaching writing courses at Grossmont College in San Diego in California, she finally resigned to write full-time.
At this time, three stories, one each from Hindu, Sikh and Sufi beliefs, were published by ‘Parabola, A Journal of Myth, Tradition and Search for Meaning’ in New York and Raoul Goff Publisher for Mandala Press read them, met with Kamla and the book was commissioned.
The result is 24 stories, ‘developed from India’s rich and vast ocean of Hindu myths, legends, and folktales and whose timeless quality lends itself to reinterpretation in every age’ writes Kamla in her preface.
“It is easy to see how Indian myth has become the repository of all our wisdom and solace. The gods, like us, are all perishable, yet timeless, like Vishnu asleep on the primeval ocean, appearing and disappearing in his incarnations, like bubbles in the river of time,” she writes.
So what does Kamla bring to these ageless tales? “A lot” she laughs, “The oral3 tradition of mythology means that every story has several different versions and some of them were told to me in just one line. I have given these fables a narrative and a context, developed the characters and have also tried to modernise them,” she explains.
Yes it was difficult because researching these ‘mirages’, in a sense, were not easy since the deadline given by the publishers was just a few months. “What made it tolerable was I enjoyed doing this so much and there was so much I was taught,” she smiles.
In the course of her study she found hundreds of little tales worth telling but selected those she “resonated” with. “There is nothing rational about the process of intuition. It happens sub-consciously and you have to trust it,” she elaborates. But now when Kamla looks back at the book, she sees each aspect, each little learning sparkling like “separate beads but strung together by a single thread.”
Next in this magical series are stories of the ten Sikh Gurus or Janam Sakhis, six stories that have a narrative fibre but which can also be read individually and perhaps a similar book on Sufi tales.
‘My inspiration is the hologram. Where every little bit contains a whole of the same image,” says Kamla. Just like the myths themselves, present everywhere around us, in the names of trees, rivers, villages and temples and within each one of us, as an essence of a higher being.

Times Of India article by By Vandana Shukla
A New York-based publication is coming up with a book on Indian myths, written by city-born poet Kamla K Kapoor.
Chandigarh: The richness of Indian myths, particularly their spiritual and philosophical essence, has baffled the world for ages. Now, they feel the need to understand them. The Hindu myths offer to the world in easily comprehensible narratives what spiritual gurus have been attempting to explain through a complex web of spiritual austerity. New York-based Mandala Publication is coming up with a book on Indian myths, written by Kamla K Kapoor, a city-born poet settled in the US.
Kapoor has lived in the Kullu valley for the last three months, researching and compiling material for the book. “Kullu is called the Dev Bhumi, the land of the gods. I find each myth a repository of wisdom and solace, filled with a new message of hope.” She says her interest in the myths of the land has been intrinsic. “An old journal of myths, traditions and research, ‘Parabola’, published from New York, had already published some of these myths. The publishers of this book had seen that work and approached me to come up with a book on obscure Indian myths retold for a modern audience. The book will hit the market in March 2007,” informs Kamla.
The book of Indian myths, titled ‘Ganesha Goes to Lunch’, contains about 24 myths picked from various sources, primarily from the Ramayana and Mahabharat, Vedas and Purana. Some myths are picked from the ever-evolving oral tradition of Indian mythology. The West’s interest in Indian myths could be explained by the fact that Indian mythology has a unique distinction of using a magical way of looking at life, that gives one a perspective to access life with a strategy that helps one cope with all unbearable pains and miseries with a sense of normality attached.
Since the book’s target audience is the western world, Kapoor has been asked to provide a detailed introduction to all the characters and the source stories. “The stories are short, usually no more than a few pages, and encapsulate some of life’s essential truths. The gods of India in their abodes, humans struggling with life’s problems, and gods and humans interacting, all reveal their lessons” adds Kapoor.
The stories are embellished, and dramatised to reveal their relevance to modern times. Shiva and Parvati’s wedding reveal a love that includes but transcends the battle of the sexes. Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar demonstrates the strength of the bonds of attachment that even gods are not immune to. Brahma’s entrapment in the web of ‘maya’ leads him to learn to free himself with his mind. Krishna’s compassion for a little bird ensures that creation continues even within the destruction of war. Markandeya’s falling out of Vishnu’s mouth and into the ocean of chaos humbles him in the face of the mystery of life. These are a few of the immensely readable and instructive tales included in the collection, adds Kapoor.
“Life is infinitely more marvellous than our day-to-day business and work, money and illness, family and bosses would make it seem. It is precisely the function of myth to thrust us out of the quotidian into the miraculous. One lives life more deeply, with greater peace and joy, when one lives with the enigmas that permeate it. These stories warp our minds, and allow us a perspective on life, on its incredible, enmeshing, magic web of ‘maya’, and the dream-like nature of our experience on this planet”, writes Kapoor in the introduction about ‘Ganesha Goes to Lunch’.
Kapoor has to her credit a number of publications, and her anthologies of poems – ‘Radha Sings’ and ‘As a Fountain in a Garden’ – have received rave reviews, apart from a number of full-length plays.

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