Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dry spell

Who'll start the rain?
Kathmandu, Nepal

The monsoon season has supposedly begun. No big deal. It rains for about an hour, every other day. That just isn't enough rain. Come ON man, this is Asia in the monsoon! It's spozed to be up to our ankles already!

Maybe it's because the chariot festival of Rato Macchendranath was halted for nearly two weeks. Rato ("Red") Macchendranath is one of the local deities propitiated to bring rain and keep the agricultural cycle on track. Every year they drag a skyscraper-like (really, it's about eight storeys high and looks like a giant rolling Christmas tree) contraption around Patan to honour him. This is supposed to mark the beginning of the rainy season. But this year, the makeshift wooden chariot (which is quite a - did I already use the word contraption?) broke down on May 23 and had to be repaired. It just got rolling again yesterday.

All I have to do is cross the border, and I start thinking like a Nepali ("maybe it's because the chariot broke"). I wish it were so simple. In fact, monsoons get shorter and later every year, it seems....throughout the region. Could it be because they're cutting down all the trees in the Tibetan plateau - which happens to be the weather-generator for the entire south Asia region?

No. Must be just a coincidence.....

Well, if you think we're dry now, wait till China dams and
diverts all the rivers that originate up there. That's where all the water in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan comes from. I predict the next world war will be a Water War.

In the meantime, between rainfalls, it's really, really hot - even here, in the temperate Kathmandu Valley. When I say "really hot," I mean, anything above 80F.

Right now, the planets are aligned in a near-perfect row. It's cool, even from the city, to be able to look up and see the Moon, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter all in a row. If we were in the countryside I could probably see Mercury too.

Since the days are hot, I 've been spending a
lot of time on organizing and uploading photos. I did so much in the past six months in India, I almost forget till I look at the photos. Here are just a few. (below)

My friends in the United Arab Emirates say they can't op
en there. Well, at least in Dubai you have really good air conditioning .

50 million missing (photos only of Indian women and girls). Get yours at

I've also spent a lot of time online in my role as Co-Administrator (wheee!) of the 50 Million Missing Project, a photo project to raise awareness of the gender genocide ongoing in India. Because of a traditional preference for sons, Indian couples are using ultrasound to detect the gender of a fetus, then aborting it if it's female. This has resulted in a "skewed sex ratio" of as much as 800-1000 (female to male) in some areas of India.

Here's the link to 50 Million Missing (above). Check it out - there are now nearly 3,000 photos of Indian women and girls, from all communities and wa
lks of life, and some great ongoing discussions of the gender-ratio issue, as well as links to news stories about it.

Okay, here are a few shots from my past 6 months in Buddhist India, and a few you haven't seen before from the Kathmandu Valley.

Young Sri Lankan monks read the sutra of Buddha's first-ever sermon at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, the place where the Buddha first delivered the first sermon. (there has got to be a better way to state that....)

Butter lamps and water offerings at the Kagyu Monlam prayer ceremony, Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Tibetan monks going home after preparing the stupa for the ceremony; Bodh Gaya

Ladakhis in their trademark black robes, walking round the Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath.

Tso Pema, or Rewalsar, in Himachal: site of an ancient Buddhist legend linking the lake to Guru Rinpoche, and home to a number of Tibetan monasteries.

Tiny dancer - these minstrels from Rajasthan had set up shop in Bhaktapur's Taumudhi square, Nepal.


Madhukar said...

Female foeticide one of the worst menaces we are facing, it has reduced male-female ratio to 800 females per 1000 males in northern India. Male dominant living style and high illiteracy rate amongst women is biggest cause of it.


Sirensongs said...

Thanks for responding, madhukar. Please join the 50MM group - we will eventually publish a book and have a travelling photo exhibit - and urge your friends to do so.

francine said...

I have been to Bodh Gaya, to the temple there and to an ashram in Gaya run by Dwark-ji Sundrani, one of the last active disciples of Ghandi. He runs schools for village children in Bodh Gaya. If you are back there, give him my love.