Thursday, June 29, 2006

Buddha Purnima in Salzburg

I was in Salzburg, Austria in mid-May, to speak at an international congress on city planning. My presentation was on slums in Calcutta. There were also speakers from East London (South Africa), Alleppo (Syria), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Istanbul (Turkey). The presentations were very educative. My presentation was well received; though I was speaking about a depressing subject, that of chronic poverty and the failure of public policy, for the conference participants I seemed to personify hope!

I was also able to share some of my sacred text based songs at Salzburg. Buddha Purnima, the full-moon commemorating Buddha's enlightenment (Taurus full moon) this year fell on Saturday, 13 May, while I was in Salzburg. On Buddha Purnima night, I sang the Buddha's enlightenment exclamation, to the heavens, from the balcony of the palace in Salzburg where our conference was held. Perhaps in response, the full moon emerged from behind clouds and lit up the sky! I also sang the verses by Shantideva and my most recent composition, in Hebrew, from the Book of Psalms, "And he shall be like a tree". My friend from RIMC, Abir Samuel had helped me in learning this. There were some Jewish and Israeli participants, and they confirmed that I had got it right.

Back home after the conference, I received an email from Sonja Prodanovic, a participant from Belgrade, Serbia. She wrote:

"Our daily ongoing politics of disintegration is still shocking to us, even paralyzing personally when one returns back home. We have a new split of our State (Montenegro). Not that we mind, but the daily events are burdened with it all, even after 18 years of our self-induced destruction. The war crimes are fading away and war criminals and the dirty money are becoming development initiators. It is only when one gets out from what is for the majority of the people a totally closed State that one realizes what are the real problems of the World. It was an immense gain to us at the SCUPAD meeting to be able to hear all the case studies of really complex, troublesome cities and communities. Add to that the admiration for your personal work, your dedication and the richness of your soul, and the gift you gave us on the balcony under the moonlight, showing I think to all of us present, the possibility despite the reality of Calcutta life, to find the energy as well for such rich cultural elaboration of personal calmness and purposefulness. When in despair I close my eyes and recall your singing and recitals, remembering the strength of the wisdoms, I say to myself that I should be ashamed of thinking that our troubles are great ones. I have learned at a very late stage of my life what a troublesome world we live in, but equally what wonderful people, yet undiscovered, are around. Thank you for the new discovered experience and enlightenment."

I wrote about this to my friend James Aboud, in Port of Spain, Trinidad (we had been hostel-mates and close buddies in London in 1982-83). He replied: "Singing from the balcony under a moonlit sky in Salzburg. It is the kind of scene that makes me want to plan a murder or start a religion!!" He added: "Did I tell you that I am now a Judge of the High Court? I have the robes, but no wig (sadly, as I need one for my baldness!!). It is very relevant and meaningful work, to be a dispenser of justice. Of course, taking an emergency pee at the side of the road is no longer appropriate behavior."

I wonder whether there are many judges in the world who possess James' erudition, taste and sensibility. He is also a first-rate poet. His second volume of poems Lagahoo Poems was published last year.


Anonymous said...

Hallo I absolutely adore your site. You have beautiful graphics I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog. Great job !
You are certainly on my list to be recommended for sainthood.