Now we are one year down the road of a declared pandemic, in which so far about 3 million people died. Most of them as we know, because of weak immune systems. Statistically three times less than of pollution related disease during the same period. It makes me wonder, if our world has its priorities straight?
Not that I doubt the virus exists, the atrocities of its presence have been smeared all over me the last year, never to be forgotten, never to be erased. It took my job, my livelihood and washed me into the unforgiving web of justifying my inability to pay taxes. It drove me down a road of despair, I never thought I would experience in this life time. But as they say, an unoccupied mind is a devils workshop and these are my thoughts!
What staggered me the most was the uniformity on the process. Politicians, media and bureaucrats seemed to operate from the same handbook. Within three month phrases like, “Conspiracy theory” and many more were born and declared as evil. They all seemed to have just one purpose, to silence anyone having questions.
We were swamped with endless opinions of pandemic experts, (I wonder what they were doing before), telling us how to behave and shape our lives. Within weeks we were turned into stupid morons, that had to be told everything again and again. In the media Politicians and Bureaucrats were the only occupants of TV and News Networks crying out for the world to unite to fight this evil pandemic, while at the same time crawling back behind their picket fenced borders.
When the pandemic started in China, the Western world gloated on their eating habits, but nobody ran to help. When Italy was hit, part of a united Europe, there were no German doctors, French nurses rushed to the sadly hit northern region. On the contrary neighbouring countries closed borders and offered no assistance. So much for a politically proclaimed European Union!!
When Big Pharma promised the global cure, again it was the race of the rich against the poor. Wealthy countries bullied ahead and took not only their share, but much more than needed. But why was there no talk all along to strengthen our immune system? After all it would have been an obvious thing to do. There were no measures to change our food habits. On the contrary because of restricted movement, people in fact weakened their system even more.
In due course of the past year, human rights were eliminated at a speed never experienced before. I guess they were only privileges anyhow. Humanity segmented itself back into countries, regions, system relevance enterprises and of course as always benefitting the rich over the poor.
Funnily, the arms industry had its best year ever. Guess, we did not really mean it, when we called you brother!
Your futile effort to limit movements, laughter, breathing and sharing life will only increase your fear of dying! Your self imposition of solitude does not work, because you are afraid of being alone! You are afraid of looking at your life, scared to realise that the path you chose was paved with greed solely for material riches. Your illusion to control life and destiny will come to an end, when you stand in face of death. No religion and no material donation will save you.
Before this universe came into existence
When there was no moon, no sun and sky
When there was nothing visibly here
BUT, there was everything, there was you
You, the primordial force, the giver of all
You, that created earth, seasons, elements – life
How could we forget you, in this frenzy of greed?
Murder, war, deceit and hatred we follow
And for what, do we feel liberated and free?
Do we feel to have come closer to humanity as one?
Have these times of need brought us closer together?
Easter – the symbolic act of ultimate forgiveness
Easter – the symbolism of spiritual resurrection
I am sure many of us, have experienced the last year nothing short of being a nightmare. Many of us lost their jobs and face an uncertain future. The travel trade got hit the worst and being in nature a highly specialised and an individual business, it lacked the needed lobbyism to make themselves heard. In most countries, Government support was sluggish or like in my case not forthcoming at all.
Thats when I thought of the plight of the holy cows in India. Indian travellers encounter them in the narrow lanes of the holy city Varanasi and other cities. Those who still remember the city as Benares, know best what I am talking about. But even there, being a cow had its downsides. Fact is, that the status of being holy did not guarantee a healthy daily meal or two. I remember cows entering road side restaurants to eat the carelessly thrown leaf plates from a corner. Maybe it filled their belly, but they suffered from malnutrition and constant tummy problems. Having grown up on a Swiss mountain farm with healthy cows grazing on green pastures. Our cows were loved and we knew them all by name and understood their individual character and temperament. Honestly, I never understood how a culture could term an animal holy and at the same time abuse it. It seemed to serve the same unholy purpose of proclaiming the owners religiousness, kind of like the altar boys to the pedophile catholic priests.
Moreover I learned that these animals are kept home, fed and looked after as long as they gave milk. However the moment they fall off milk, they are forced out on the streets. Owners simply turn their animals into public property and hope that they are looked after.
I just want to add that I met farmers with such love for their land and animals that I was touched to my deepest core.
Imagine a king, so overjoyed that after the conquest of the Gangetic plains he built an entire city and called it Gangaikonda (conquest of the Ganges) Cholapauram and at its centre he built an immense Shiva temple and named it Gangaikondacholisvarar. Rajendra 1, as he was known also built a lake in the town called Cholagangam to mark his victorious expedition. The lake was fed by the Cauvery river, and ceremonial water that had been carried from the Ganga. He shifted his capital from Thanjavur to his newly built town. The city remained the capital of the Chola Empire for a period of 256 years. Rajendra 1’s plan was to built the temple mightier than the one of his father, who built the massive Brihadeshwara temple in Thanjavur. As the story goes, that the respect for his father was too great so he reduced the temples in size, but installed the largest Shiva Lingam into its shrine, after all the Lingam is the centre of worship.
The city is now in ruins, its massive granite blocks and those of the temple walls were used to build a dam to block the river for irrigation. Yet, Gangaikondacholisvarar is one of the most stunning temples in South India. Its outer walls are decorated with the most elaborate carvings depicting episodes from Shaivite mythology. The imposing Nandi statue in front of the temple was built to deflect the morning light into the inner shrine. Many of the beautiful sculptures were brought from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Bengal as war trophies.
The temple is well worth a visit and can be combined with a stopover at the famous Kalamkari Artist Rajmohan
Periyar National Park is located at the heart of the Western Ghats, a mountain range that is older than the mighty Himalayas. The mountain chain of the Western Ghats is rich with geomorphic features of immense importance and unique biophysical and ecological processes. The elevation of this range influences the Indian monsoon weather pattern, moderating the tropical climate of the region. Studies find that the site presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system on the planet. The region also has an exceptionally high level of biodiversity and endemism and is recognised as one of the world’s eight “hotspots” of biological diversity. The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
A valley in the mountains of Kerala
“Out of a calamity history has shown that humans end up at their best”.
Before we enter into this valley in the mountains it is important that we learn a little bit about history first. After the first world war Europe and Britain suffered from a great depression, where poverty and suffering was widespread across the continent. The British during that time were still ruling over vast stretches of land across Asia and Africa. Their way to ease their suffering was simple, they took wealth from their colonies. Europe could not hold peace for long and with the second world war looming, the British pressure on the colonies grew and many countries were completely drained of their resources.
Those who know Kerala would agree that it is not easy to imagine a famine in a stretch of land so rich. Yet the looting of the British left its mark and a famine broke out. While the world decided to explore their barbaric side, the local Government was forced to settle people into uninhabited forests. And so the story of the people in the mountain valley was born. A mix of Christians and Hindus ended up being force settled into a deep, inaccessible and forested valley in the hills of central Kerala. Left alone and forgotten they had to build their lives. For a long time no one cared on how they lived and what they did. India became independent and had its own share of rebuilding to do.
Thanks to my friend Thomas, who introduced me to Annu, who runs a small NGO in the valley, I had a chance to go there and learn of their story.
Annu, my good friend Pratik and myself decided to visit the valley last September. There is nothing but a treacherous and steep Jeep track leading into the valley.
Today there are 80 families, spread in individual houses across the valley and a few small side valleys. From one house we were joined by Ravi, our ever smiling guide. A simple farmer, who decided to take us around. Lunch we were served in the house of Kunju and Molly and tea in some of the other houses we visited during the day.
I had been mentally prepared to meet a few poor souls thrown into a valley among tigers and elephants, that had somehow managed to survive. And of course it was not so. Luckily I have grown accustomed to the lessons of humility India is so generous to hand out. I realised fast that these folks were not part of an indigenous community, accustomed and used to live off the forest. These were educated people ending up in this far off place by fate. The hurdles they had to overcome to make live somewhat bearable were immense. Electricity reached the valley only half a year ago. The jeep track came just a few years ago, making it easier to transport goods into and from the valley. Before the track was built, people carried the few goods they sold to the outside world on their back, mostly Cacao, pepper and a bit of rubber. The forest department even built for some reason a bus stand in the center of the valley, even though there is no way a bus can reach trough that road.
The most amazing fact that struck me throughout the day was, how content these people were with their life. There was a gentleness from within them, as if they had found a special ingredient for harmony and peace. In our talks with Ravi, we realised that they were not at all cut off by whats happening in the outside world. The newspapers they got, were maybe at times a few days old, but who cared, they knew all there was to be known. They had radio with batteries all along and since electricity there are even a few TV’s here and there. Plus so many went out to work, study and trade. Most of them came back after a few years to get married and settle in the valley with less rush and stress. The purity of the food was another reason they came home.
Ravi explained that they never had a doctor. Nobody fell ill anyway, since the food they grew was so pure. No fertiliser, no pesticides, wild honey as sweetener, just all pure and fresh.
The small amount we paid for our visit went into a common pot. Later if it would be more they would collectively decide what to do. Maybe it would be used to improve the school, because they made sure that all the kids at least got the basic education.
When I hinted that maybe tourism would alter their pattern of live, Ravi looked at me again with his bright and gentle eyes and reminded me like a child, that the knew exactly what is out there in the world. According to him this was the place that was safe and gave shelter to people, when out “there” the world fell apart. After all, he said; “how can we teach them how to live, if they do not come and see our way of life”?
The valley can be visited from cgh earth Spice Village resort on prior information. For details please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The legend tells us, that Airavata, Lord Indra’s most beautiful white elephant with four tusks and seven trunks, was cursed by Sage Durvasa for disrespecting him by mistake. Durvasa, a sage known for his temper, presented Lord Indra a garland of heavenly fragrant flowers he had just received from a celestial nymph. Lord Indra, a warrior king, not used to flowers, awkwardly placed them on his elephants head. Airavata, in turn was overwhelmed by the unusual fragrance, tore the garland from his head and trampled it into the dust. Duravsa, angry that his gift had been disrespected cursed the spotless white elephant, who ended up with a severe skin discolouration. Airavata was so distressed about the loss of his beauty that he went and prayed to Shiva for help. Shiva advised him to take a dip in the sacred waters in a healing pond at Darasuram. The elephant got his blemish free white colour back. The pond turned holy and finally to commemorate this healing a temple was built.
Darasuram over time was covered by earth and is only now being rediscovered by the archeological survey of India. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and counted as one of the marvels of South India, the Airatesvara temple, built in the form of a chariot offers intricate carvings throughout the temple. The fabulous workmanship is for once not in neck craning heights and easy to observe. Many fine and wonderful miniature sculptures adorn its walls and pillars, many of them with optical illusions. The temple is said to be the absolute masterpiece of Chola architecture and stone carvings. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It all started at breakfast in Spice Village with 6 jars. Six big jars filled with honey, one of them plain the other five infused with different berries and spices. I was intrigued and wanted to know, where all this honey came from. Hunting for new stories, I already had the forest dweller in mind, climbing a tree, dangling out on branches and cutting the honey comb from staggering heights. But as as stories have their own content, they turn out different and we ended up taking a trip to “Honey Nagar” to meet the man that filled those jars. Together with Hari, the General Manager of Spice Village and our Naturalist Prateesh we set out for a day of learning, I think neither of us was really prepared for.
Mr. T.K. Raju is no ordinary man, he might got out of school early, but his research and contributions about the benefit of keeping bees for pollination have been recognised by many Institutes and government bodies country wide. Mr. Raju showed us around for about 4 hours, introducing us to the complexities of the life of a bee, so we can relish its produce without a second thought.
Did you know that there are 2 type of bees? There are the little black ones and of course the black yellow striped ones we all know from honey jars and cereals. The little black ones, I learned only pollenate the tiny flowers, because from bigger blooms the pollen is too heavy for them to carry. The tiny flowers in turn have high medicinal value and the honey from the little black bees is used mainly in Ayurveda.
The regular bees pollenate mainly the large plantations of Cardamon, Coffee, pepper, pineapple, rubber and other crops. In his research Mr. Raju has proven that plantations that added bees during their flowering time, have a much higher yield and almost no parasites and are able to avoid chemical pesticides. And in any case with Raju’s approach to nature, he only assists farmers with his boxes that go back to organic and sustainable farming. Today, Mr. Raju employs forty families and together they look after 3600 boxes and about 18 million bees.
The beauty of his work and that of his people is that it restores a balance, we lost with monoculture farming and using pesticides and chemical fertilisers. His work and research has proven that by returning a balance in the eco system, dependencies on chemicals can be avoided and nature is able to work it out in her own way.
I was the sweetest guy on the planet that day, eating constantly different kind of pure and flavoured honey, being told about its health benefit of each one of them. Since I lack the refined tastebuds of Pooh bear I even learned to find out, if the substance we consume is the real thing.
Just take a glass of cold water and pour some honey in it. If it mixes with the water it’s NOT honey, if it sinks to the ground, then relish and enjoy.
Honey Nagar can be visited in a comfortable day trip from our Spice Village Resort in Periyar. Honey of Mr. Raju’s enterprise can be bought at Spice Village in Periyar.
“Over the last few years, we have all come to realise that we are increasingly at the mercy of collective patterns. Industrial greed, a reawakening of racism and radicalism is being preached by political figure heads of late. The pollution of our biosphere, rivers and oceans is already affecting us all. Today we have to face the fact, that we are all connected and only if we evolve and integrate into a universal and cosmic mind, this world we live in is going to be safe. Much like the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Today we can no longer be just onlookers, we have to become more responsible in how we eat, dress, travel and structure our lives.”