Raj Shekhar Chandola graduated from Delhi University
(Honours History with Philosophy as a Subsidiary Subject), and did
his post-grad work at Lucknow University (Journalism and Mass Communication).
He worked in an advertising agency, a detective agency, a market
survey agency, a film magazine and a city magazine. He was also
a professional magician for a nearly two years. He joined the City
Montessori School (CMS), Lucknow as a peace educator in 1993. CMS
received the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education in 2002, and the Nuclear-Free
Future Special Achievement Award in 2004. It is recognized by the
Guinness Book of World Records as world's largest school, with over
31,000 students. Raj serves there as Head of the World Unity and
Peace Education Department (www.cmseducation.org/wuped),
Coordinator of Indo-Pak Children's Penfriends' Club "Aao Dosti
Karein" (Come Let's be Friends), and Assistant Convener, International
Conference of Chief Justices of the World.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Muscat Morning Meditations
You get up and are surprised to see its not even 5 am and yet the
morning is very bright. The Sun is still not up and you go to the
kitchen balcony to see two pigeons necking next to you on the other
side of the glassed railing. One of them looks like a typical Indian
grey pigeon but the other one is a cross between a grey and a white
with white head and neck and grey wings.
As you light a cigarette, they stop frolicking
and watch you alertly, ready to fly off at first sign of danger.
You lower the light slowly and don't look at them directly, not
wishing to scare them. They keep watching you. As you exhale a stream
of smoke they fly off in panic probably scared of the fire breathing
monster. You watch them with regret.
Then a sparrow flies into the next balcony chasing
a moth. The moth dives and ducks and twists and turns and the sparrow
keeps missing it but finally the moth's luck runs out. The sparrow
sits on the balustrade, its morning breakfast in between its beak.
Your next puff sends it soaring in the sky.
You are on the seventh floor (the maximum allowed
in Oman) and can clearly see the city skyline and soon notice the
two flags of Oman fluttering in the brisk breeze. One is on top
of the Central Bank of Oman and the other on a building about 70
meters away across on the other side of the road. You notice they
are flying in different directions at 90 degrees to each other.
Puzzled you try to figure out what's happening and it takes a while
to realize that the wind is running in some sort of cyclic swirl.
Soon you see that the flag on the opposite side has wrapped itself
around the flag pole. You wonder if that happens often and if it
requires some one to unfurl it somehow.
Inside the kitchen the air is still and you notice
the smoke you are exhaling hangs in midair in distinct layers looking
like evening clouds in the sky. You take a deep puff and blow it
at the center of the clouds. The beam of smoke goes like a rocket
burrowing a hole in the cloud and they starts swirling in all directions
even as some parts form rotating rings while others swirl in different
directions, the whole effect is as if you are watching stars and
galaxies in outer space and you wonder if that's the kick Old Man
in the Heaven is getting watching His creation. Transfixed you repeat
the act again and again till your head spins with all the deep smoking
so early in the morning. The forms and shapes of the smoke remind
you of something you read somewhere, "Just as water can be
solid, liquid or gaseous, consciousness can be seen to be 'frozen'
oas physical matter, 'liquid' as mind and thought, or 'formless'
as pure consciousness."
And then the Golden Orb jumps out from behind
the Muscat hills and the within minutes the air starts heating up.
By the time you finish your first cup of tea and the second cigarette,
you are drenched in sweat and another hot day has begun.
Posted by World Citizen at 7:27 AM
Thursday, May 29, 2008
In High Seas
It's your first time on high seas and you are impressed by the mightiness
of the ocean. The water in the Gulf of Oman is a deep shade of aqua
marine and we are on a glass bottom boat (Oman's only such boat,
informs our guide Rashad Al Wahabi) on a ride to see the dolphins.
The boat, powered by twin Yamaha 225 engines that purr sweetly,
moves fast cutting a foamy path in the water that slowly dissolves
into blue stillness. You are fascinated by the vastness of the ocean
and left gazing at its enormity. It has a meditative affect on the
mind and listening to the drone of the engines and the rhythmic
movement of the boat, one feels it's kind of erotic.
Leaning out of the side of the boat, you notice
the splash being raised by the boat's nose, scything the water.
The Sun is behind your back and you see a rainbow in the white splash
of water. Mesmerized you keep staring at the rainbow and notice
that that rainbow is always in the same place, though only visible
when the splash forms the backdrop. The boat turns a bit, the angle
of the Sun changes and voila! The rainbow is now visible in the
ocean water away from the splash. You point it out to Jas, sitting
next to you, and you both watch in amazement. It's the first time
you are seeing the rainbow in the water and not in the sky. A sense
of awe overwhelms you as you watch in amazement at Nature's beauteous
Then you notice the hills in the distance, lining
the Omani landscape. From far off they look like a herd of elephants
crowding the shores. The movement of the boat creates the illusion
that they are also moving.
You near the Muscat harbour which lies in the
centre of a crescent with flatland in the centre but hills on the
edge. You also see two magnificent looking forts on both ends of
the crescent, relics of the past dominating the present. As the
boat closes in Rashad points to a smaller fort-like structure at
the edge of the hill and says that's where the registry is, that
the staff there is responsible for taking down the name of every
ship that enters or leaves the port, along with the date and time
of its entry and exit. The fort on the right is now headquarters
of the Royal Oman Navy. In the centre stands the massive gold topped
palace of HM Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Rashad informs the Sultan doesn't
live in this palace which is reserved for His Majesty's meetings
with foreign guests visiting Oman.
As you head back out of the harbour and head for
high seas where the dolphins are supposed to be, you notice the
hills, sheared by water, their sides inscribed by cuts and niches
that look like Arabic writings. Amazing!
Out in the seas, you see no dolphins although
a couple of times Rashad says "Look there" but by the
time you turn your head it is the same old peaceful sea, moving
rhythmically. And all of a sudden you come across two giant sea
turtles, one on top of the other and realize you have disturbed
two lovers playing the most ancient of all sports. In a jiffy they
vanish underwater. The image of their startled faces stays with
you for some time.
Then you enter a lagoon and its time for snorkeling
- your first such experience. You put on the gear and dive into
the water. The sea floor is about ten feet below and you can clearly
see the rocks and the numerous fishes amongst them but they are
all grey unlike the ones you see on National Geographic in bright
technicolour of the Tropics. And then you get salty sea water in
your mouth and eyes and as you frantically try to pull the snorkel
away you rub against the boat's sides and the blades of the propeller.
Coming up on the deck you find your legs badly
scratched and bleeding from several places. Captain Yahya takes
out a first aid box and soon alls well. After 45 minutes when every
one is back on boat we move again back to the base. It's a 30 minute
ride and we pass spectacular scenes, the Shangri La Beach resort
and new buildings coming up on the sea shore. We also pass another
construction site where a JCB is pouring big rocks into the sea,
filling it to create land where a huge new hotel is to come up.
The arm of the JCB looks eerily like a giant human hand busy playing
God. You wonder whether you feel good or bad.So much like life's
mysteries, one is left wondering whether to judge or leave judgement
in suspended animation, till the Almighty gives us more knowledge
and wisdom to judge properly.
Posted by World Citizen at 8:48 AM
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
My flight landed at Sultan Qaboos Airport around 10.30 pm and the
30 minute drive to the city was smooth and pleasant; the traffic
swift and silent. The next morning at the office was uneventful
as have been the days since. The pace of work seems decidedly languid
although probably it is because the new colleagues are giving enough
space to me to settle down slowly soaking in the atmosphere and
the tempo of the place.
Oman is quite an amazing country, rather different
from its neighbours. The Omani people seem rather mild mannered
and gentle, tolerant and understanding. Was greatly impressed to
see the hundreds of Neem trees lining the roads; actually made me
wish if only the Indian government was as enlightened and not so
biased towards planting eucalyptus everywhere. The landscaping on
the road sides is particularly impressive.
The landscape is stark and striking, dotted by
bone dry hillocks that are separated by narrow furrows cut by water
ages ago. Some hills seem made of hardened mud, others of limestone,
and yet others of slate and some of granite like hard rock. Having
different colours, they together make up some very picturesque scenarios.
My friend Atulya told that he recently met a German lady, a geologist
who told him that the Omani landscape is absolutely unique in the
world and also that once upon a time these hills were underwater.
Surprisingly (for me at least), one sees no dogs
around though encounters with occasional cats are not uncommon,
particularly around the garbage dumps. Amongst the birds, the only
ones visible are all pigeons. Mosquitoes and insects also cannot
be seen anywhere although I did see two flies in a restaurant.
Posted by World Citizen at 7:36 AM