Posts Tagged 'Uma Prajapati'

Understanding the Gift Economy

Iconic Tiffany's Box with Question Mark

I received an interesting assignment a couple weeks ago: write an explanation of the gift economy. Since the request came from my dear friend Nipun Mehta, to whom I can refuse nothing, I agreed; but I knew from the outset how challenging this seemingly straightforward task would be. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously observed about pornography, some things are easy to recognize and yet quite difficult to define.

The essay, now completed, is included in a new online reference, The Dictionary of Ethical Politics, a joint project of Resurgence and openDemocracy.

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Diwali Celebrations at Upasana

Diwali Celebrations at Upasana Design Studio

Diwali, the festival of light, is the biggest holiday of the year in a country that loves its holidays. Technically, it has Hindu roots — marking the homecoming of Ram after kicking some Sri Lankan booty — and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains in variations on a theme of the triumph of good over evil. Practically speaking, it is as secularized as Christmas in America — a disappointing trend in both cases (but that’s another story).

It is not only celebrated widely, but poorly as well.

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Bon Fête Auroville

Auroville 40th Anniversary Bonfire at Matrimandir Garden Amphitheater

This morning, in the hours bridging dawn, Auroville gathered in the garden amphitheater of the Martimandir to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

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Small Steps

Small Steps Reusable Carry Bags

Plastic carry bags, given and taken thoughtlessly at retail establishments around the world, are the purest of pure evil. The represent use of a non-renewable resource (petroleum) and energy to create an absolutely inessential, single-use product, with an active life-span of minutes, which become garbage almost as soon as it has seen the light of day. In India, where most people discard their trash wherever they happen to be standing at the moment, the problem is even worse, with littered bags proliferating in the streets, open-spaces, and waterways like weeds.

What can we do? Take one small step: carry a Small Steps reusable cloth bag for your groceries and other purchases.

Continue reading ‘Small Steps’

Finding Teachers Along the Way

Each of us bears the imprint
of a friend met along the way.
In each the trace of each.
– Primo Levi

In fact, we bear the imprint of every life that intersects with ours – whether or not the people we touch are friends or perfect strangers, whether the interpersonal contact occurred in dramatic fashion or was barely noticeable. But some people teach us lesson that are so profound that we cannot help but think of them as mentors. Here are a few of mine.

Ashish Mehta has taught me the ineffable value of constant awareness. It is the channel through which compassion and thoughtfulness flows. I consider this the most important ethical insight I have ever been shown – and the most difficult to live up to.

David Cavanero taught me to respect the earth and showed me the interconnection of all living things.

Guri Mehta and John Silliphant have shown me the beauty of modesty, and that white-hot brilliance is never negated by soft warmth, quietude, and humility.

My father, if by negative example, showed me that a sharp intellect is valuable, but empty without compassion and kindness. Eric Zakim reminds me of the astonishing potential of intellect wedded to decency, common sense, and groundedness.

My mother taught me that a person who is full of joy and unfettered by self-doubt can do just about anything, and do it far better than they have a right to expect. She, Trishna Shah, and Uma Prajapati have demonstrated that, while moderation and striking “balance” in life is all well-and-fine, undaunted people can almost literally do-it-all, which is even better.

Nipun Mehta and Jayesh Patel taught me that the opportunity to serve is not only found in doing of grand, dramatic philanthropy, or even in the doing of Mother Teresa’s “small things with great love.” It exists in every human interaction.

Roger Sleight showed me that, despite the common wisdom, one could reach the top of the legal profession, representing soulless corporate clients, while growing in humanity and exercising ethical leadership.

Viral Mehta is my paragon of generosity and friendship.

Manoj Pavithran serves as a exemplary reminder that if one surrenders to the magical interconnectedness of the universe, it is impossible to ignore the joy and beauty in every moment.

Rubin Macaya and Phillipe Mollard taught me the joy of fearlessness. This has, perhaps, been the most formative lesson of my life.

Yoo-Mi Lee and my sister Betsy reveal the very limits of human perfection. Every day.  Neither have ever entered a room they did not make a better place by their presence.  I cannot hope to aspire to this; but neither can I be unaffected by it.

There are two common threads in this admittedly incomplete list. First, the people who have mentored me have done so by example, not in a didactic way. Second, either I know way too many people named Mehta or way too few.


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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