Saturday, 7 June 2008

Spirituality and Socio-political Activism

Written on Sunday 01/06/08
Taxila, Punjab - Pakistan
Islamabad, Capital Territory - Pakistan
Rawalpindi, Punjab - Pakistan

The previous evening's social setting triggered many a thought about the apparent dichotomy between spiritual endeavour and working for positive change in society. There's plenty of historical precedent to suggest that synchronising the two can bear immense political fruit, I dare say that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi proved as much. Indeed, a prominent feature of advice given to me in this region has been to equip myself spiritually, indicating that while I displayed great energy and drive, endurance and creative vision, a particular void in my character/personality; needed to be filled.

What does irk me at times though is when people totally disown the world and engage in full-time or all-out spirituality. I would describe that as a state of denial, even apathy, lack of courage and tack in tackling injustice, even downright disrespect to one's own faculties bestowed by the Almighty. The Indian sub-continent has a rich heritage of sages, sufis and sadhus of course. I'm enamoured by those who had socio-economic and political relevance and who contextualised their advice based on the 'need of the hour', as opposed to those who preached worldy disassociation.

Soothing and at times intellectually stimulating though such discussions can be, the reality of 'tangibles' has to be addressed. Every single day I feel that I'm starting from scratch, I have to pick myself up, expend yet more time, money and effort on issues that are either easily avoidable or non-existent in that part of the world where I've spent most of my life, namely 'The West'.

Temperamental electricity; hordes of flying insects that still find my skin and blood as succulent as ever despite 3 years and almost 2 months of acclimatisation: In the hope of saving a few rupees of a budget with an uncertain future, means having to hang on the back on passenger vehicles with ten's of kilos of luggage whilst consuming hazardous fumes coming from all directions; jostling with fellow passengers and at times being exposed to their obnoxious under-arm odour (and vice versa); stifling heat, passing open sewers and garbage dumps, dead animals rotting on the 'sidewalk'.........where does it end? When will I make a breakthrough?

Of far greater importance and perspective; for how much longer will the people of Pakistan have to pay for the sins of the power elite?

Most of today is spent on the world-wide web, that great untamable and thus far, benign information monster; which is giving the common citizen of the world much more than what most of their respective governments have given them viz. freedom, opportunity and hope.

I was scheduled to meet a certain Mr. Nazir Geelani this evening (no relation to the Pakistani PM) who originates from the Vale of Kashmir, lives in Britain, is I understand active on the Kashmiri freedom struggle scene, was evicted from 'Azad Kashmir' by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) last year and is currently in Pakistan, presumably busy lobbying for 'the cause'.

There does appear to be plenty of underground dialogue taking place at the moment between the various political stakeholders concerning Kashmir. I'm not privy to much, thus meeting him could've proved insightful. Nevertheless, he didn't return my call so I'll presume he's got 'too much on his plate'.

So have I actually, if I come to think of it. It's just that my plate is full of rock hard stones, accompanied by barely edible yet over-priced flour or rice - mercifully I have a choice -  to be watered down the throat with my least intolerable poison.

Talking in metaphors on a Sunday should be a given.

Today was a lazy day, tomorrow is the resumption of the working day and for me should be a busy day. Whether it will prove to be a fruitful day is....not within my power.

Isn't that the point where and why spirituality is invoked?

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