Monday, October 8, 2012

Change makers in India.

The day began with an introduction to mindfulness in the Vodka Bar at Claridges. This may be the first time a meditation group has assembled there for a session of relaxed quietness! Despite the incongruity, it was a lovely way to start the day - meditation in a group has its own particular energy that can deepen the experience of solitary practice. At present, I access it too rarely and must make amends on return.

Then it was out into the Delhi traffic - thick,  congested with each vehicle obeying an individual logic through which navigation is achieved (usually) with the application of great skill, fortitude and liberal use of the horn.

My group visited ITC Hotels Group to explore sustainability with Niranjan Khatri and discover a company that appears to be doing many things right - from its use of renewable energy, building supply chains to small scale farmers and employing people with disabilities. Most importantly in aligning sustainability not with corporate social responsibility but within its core business model. I liked the chain's branding as 'responsible luxury' capturing the paradox of consumption but with a genuinely green face (rather than green wash).

The afternoon was spent with Galli Galli Sim Sim which is India's Sesame Street. It began with a discussion of Mitt Romney's Presidential debate intervention promising to eliminate public subsidy for PBS (and thus cripple the characters of Sesame Street) as if this was the most significant area of public expenditure in the US. Let us attack children's educational achievement - all for the cost of buying two or three drones with which to randomly kill people who, fingers crossed, are our enemies (and in the process manufacture many more).

But moving on, I discovered much about developing a multi-media venture in a complex country (with twenty two official languages and such a range of fragile sensibilities) and got to interact with one of the 'stars' - and her puppet handler who was a fabulous young woman who through this work had been inspired to set up her own puppet troop and work with children in conflict ridden Kashmir, helping them articulate their grief at the loss of parents to both militant and police action. Children finding in the interaction with the puppets a safe space to articulate their deepest hopes and fears and give healing narrative to past trauma.

The evening was spent with the homeless and an organization that was both providing delivery of much needed services and advocating for change. I had a memorable encounter with an elderly man who had been a priest in the army and was now homeless. There was an obviously painful back story of generational conflict with his children. The more he assured me that they had agreed to see things differently and were content with the difference the more it sounded as a hard held coping strategy. A story told to make life bearable. It was painfully sad and if I had one criticism (or suggestion) for their work was that as well seeking reconciliation between homeless children and their families, similar work needed to be undertaken with homeless parents and grandparents - to build potential bridges of connection and potential care.

A long day but a very fruitful one. It is deeply refreshing to connect with people who carry a passion and carry it into the heart of the world aiming for liberating change and to be doing it in such different contexts.

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