The peacock walks majestically in the dry, brown, sparse grass, holding his head high in the magnificence of his plumage, as the peahen hustles around with others of her like, a sociable and busy group. They live here, in this oasis, fast becoming bordered on all sides by rattling roads and gargantuan edifices that will be rabbit-hutch homes for many people some way above the ground that sustains them. Elsewhere, night-time cameras put in place by wildlife experts around the campus of a school on the outskirts of Bangalore capture images of three leopards, two male and one female, who frequent the life-giving jungle that is being slowly squeezed by the constant expansion of the city, and the lake that hosts the flashing kingfishers grows smaller every year.
To live in harmony with nature and with humanity is the spring which nourished the lives of both Rabindranath Tagore and Jiddu Krishnamurti; it became clear as we travelled around India for ten weeks that it was the understanding of this that created so many of the connections of which we had become part over the last twenty-five years. Our visits to India have developed along three paths: in 1990 Maggie and I began to take groups of students from St. Christopher School in Letchworth for three week visits to Rajasthan through contacts with Faith and John Singh of the Anokhi textiles company in Jaipur, and Aruna and Bunker Roy of Barefoot College near Jaipur. In 2002 we paid our first visits to the schools founded or influenced by Krishnamurti; and in 2007 we made our first visit to Santinketan in West Bengal, where Tagore founded schools and a university. Through these visits we have come in contact with people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, different ages, from the affluent to the poor, and from the so-called educated to those who have never been to school. Many of these people have become our friends and others, with whom our meetings have been mere flashes of time, have profoundly affected the way we look at the world and ourselves. A gesture, a look, a smile, a touch, those infinite connections so often go beyond words and take us to that all important space unknown to the rational mind.
Tagore and Krishnamurti were questioners who did not accept the authority of others, nor did they seek to create authority in themselves. During these weeks in India it has become increasingly obvious that there is a global shift towards authoritarianism which has expression on many different levels - politically, economically and socially - with nationalism rearing its ugly, dangerous head and puffed up leaders ranting against their fellow human beings, pouring the poison of fear into the ears of the unsuspecting. The timeless grace of so many of its people, and the wisdom that lies in the eyes of the old who are, even now, held in respect by those who are younger, is slowly being swallowed by ‘development’. The pace of change that we have seen in nearly thirty years of travelling to India has been extraordinary and dramatically visible. However, much of this change has reflected a Western way of life and thus is built on competition and material growth. Ironically, whole scale improvement in the lives of the poor and destitute is not as visible as the blocks of flats, new and ever larger cars, roads in various states of repair and disrepair, and soulless glass shopping malls.
It is with extraordinary gratitude that we have received so much generosity and affection, so much simple human contact that sustains the spirit beyond any material benefit. To see the monkeys, to watch the birds, to walk beneath the broad-leaved jungle trees and smell the breeze washing over the land is to be alive. To avoid being squashed by vehicles of all types and to travel, reaching our destinations in one piece again, makes us grateful; for we quickly learn the sharp lesson that control in life is an illusion and that occasionally acceptance of ‘what is’ is the only route. However, wretched fatalism is often instrumental in handing one’s life to another who is more powerful, hiding under the cloak of passivity, and often creates the sense that all life is cheap. All being well, we intend to return to India and our friends, old, new and yet to be made.
Meanwhile, part of my work is a writing project, which I have alluded to from time to time; I will be using this space to experiment with various themes.