Saturday, February 6, 2010

Week 9: Nedumkandam

A highlight of this week was the visit to Nedumkandam College in rural Chembalam, Idukki District, Kerala. This college is one of 32 supported by the Muslim Education Society, an organization also responsible for running 72 other educational institutions, 7 Hostels, 3 cultural Centers, and 3 orphanages. In the featured photo above, students & staff at Nedumkandam are pictured following my presentation (one hour plus an hour for questions) on The Green Movement & Gandhi. The event was arranged by the Principal, Dr. A.M. Rasheed, a friend and classmate of Dr. Stany Thomas (my colleague at St. Thomas College who provided transportation to the event -- over 3 hours each way).

My talk was recorded (and I was given a copy, if anyone would like to hear it), and I have agreed to a future interview with Dr. Rasheed to be published in a magazine as well as to to write an article (based on my presentation today) suitable for publication. Put briefly, I supported a thesis that 1) the earth is facing threats to the environment on many fronts as never before, 2) these threats are linked to Globalization which can be seen as a New Colonialism, 3) Gandhian Thought is clearly reflected the 4 pillars of the Green Movement, and 4) the International Green Movement is a major force for a New Independence which may help save life as we know it on this planet.

Kristine and Shaman took a break from listening to me talk, with Shaman staying home in Pala (still recovering from the activity of the Ahmadabad Conference last week), and Kris taking time to visit with Shanty (Stanys wife) and her family who live not far from Nedunkandam College. Without Stany and Shanty many of our experiences in India would either not happen at all, or would have been far less enjoyable. They and their extended families have effectively adopted us and so we have been provided a psychological (and physical) support system which none of us dreamed might have been ours in India. Exhausted after my presentation at Nedunkandam, for example, all urged me to take a nap at the Shanty family home, and I did! Very nice.

Other activities this last week included 3 hours with my Gandhian Thought students at St. Thomas College, 5 hours teaching International Relations to postgraduate students preparing for Government of India Civil Service Exams, and a 2 hour lecture/discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University (scheduled as the first of a Tuesday afternoon lecture series regarding Nonviolence that may continue up to ten weeks -- if there remains an interest). All totaled, I was involved directly in some kind of teaching activity for 12 hours this week (less than my normal 16 at Portland Community College) -- and none required any creating or grading of assignments on my part! While there is work, this really is quite a vacation too!

So that all may not be seen as fun and games, my personal email account at hotmail was hacked this week, with the result that I have not been able to access it since. Far more irritating than that, the hacker sent out a bogus letter appealing for money from those I have previously communicated with from that account. Hopefully the thief received no funds from well meaning friends. It is not easy to clean up such a mess -- and hotmail has thus far been none to speedy in helping this happen.

While Shaman and Kristine choose a somewhat slower activity level than myself, we all seem to be weathering the increasing heat and humidity (with the help of additional table fans) and the mosquitos (with the help of netting at night). Kris went to a doctor located at a hospital only a short walk from our home. The total cost of 2 doctor visits plus prescriptions was under Rs 200 (4-5 dollars) = up to two days wages for a very poor person, but very little for a middle class Indian. The sobering fact is that, unlike in the U.S. where health care remains a privilege, such access is available to every person in India (citizen or foreign visitor) as a matter of Right. Can it be that the economically wealthiest country on the face of the planet may have something to learn from one of the poorest? It is true that India has great economic poverty, but in spiritual values actually put to practice, the U.S. may be seen as more seriously poor.

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