Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘village’

The Kindness of Strangers

My Forgotten Path Home
41KTXR9-obLA Novel by Tim I Gurung
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This novel is all about the 2015 earthquake in Nepal that killed over 8000 people and injured over 20,000, and, it has very little to do with the earthquake. Mr. Gurung dedicates My Forgotten Path Home to the dead and survivor’s of the quake in the acknowledgments, and the story revolves around May Andrelina Applehouse, who is found in the rubble by an Australian couple, but the essence of the story is about Nepal, its people, and finding a “place” called home.

When May returns to Nepal at age 27, for the first time since leaving at age 3, she discovers that it is not what she had imagined, and finding her birth parents will be much more difficult than she had anticipated. Helping her in her search are Inspector Raj Komartamu and his assistant, Officer Mangale Magar. Even though she is not familiar with anyone or anything, May feels like she is “at home”. The journey begins in Kathmandu (the capital), and then extends to the countryside.

May is amazed with the beauty outside the city. “The morning fogs around the valley had not dissipated, cobwebs of gossamer and the nearby jungle were visible, and birds were still reluctant to fly away from their warm nest.” With the help of her new friends (Raj and Mangale) May looks near and far for her parents, and eventually makes a decision which brings her even closer to the Nepalese and her understanding of what life is like for those in the capital and farming the land in small villages.

My Forgotten Path Home is similar, in some respects, to the storyline for the wonderful film Lion, in which a young orphaned boy in India is adopted by an Australian couple, and then returns as an adult to try to find his mother. Mr. Gurung’s story however, takes place almost entirely in Nepal and feels almost like a personal memoir, though it is not in the least. My favorite aspect of this tale is the genuine kindness and gentleness of all those involved. Everyone treats one another as family, whether they are related biologically or not. This is a novel written with heart, that touches the heart.

The First Treehugger

A tall tale from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

The redwoods in Asia, being especially tall, were a favorite of Abbott Tova. She loved to climb as high as she could and observe life from above. She saw wildlife, people in the village, travelers on the road, and her sisters in the community below. Seeing that her excursions climbing the ancient ones were made in secret, she often witnessed events and scenes that others were not aware of.

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One day, she saw a herd of rampaging river otters approaching the village and was able to scamper down the tree and go warn people of their approach just in time. Many lives were saved. Some thought the Abbott must be clairvoyant for knowing of the approaching otters, not knowing of her climbing feats.

On another day, the Abbott watched a bandit attack a lone farmer on the road and steal his money. She knew who the bandit was and was later able to assist in his capture and testify at his trail, as to what he was wearing that day and at what time it had taken place.

There was the time Abbott Tova saw Sister Kiva sneaking off with Sister Bhakti to make love in the meadow. In that case there was no need to do anything, other than turn her attention elsewhere.

As was the case with Abbott Tova’s ability to remain still and blend in with her surroundings in the garden for hour upon hour, so it was in the trees where she often lost track of time and became so engrossed and selfless that she could feel the sap flowing through her veins and her limbs transferring the sun’s light into energy through her skin.

Without it being called so at the time, Abbott Tova was the first known tree hugger. Her actions gave rise to a long line of environmentalists and forest advocates, including, Pocahontas, Johnny Appleseed, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Chico Mendes, Wangari Maathai, and Julia “Butterfly” Hill. It also gave her a great advantage in “seeing” the future, making predictions, and others believing she was omnipotent, which she would never deny, nor confirm.

More vast and small stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Uganda Village Banking

From FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance)

Celebrating 20 Years of Village Banking in Uganda!

FINCA Uganda, the first FINCA Subsidiary launched on the African continent in 1992 is celebrating 20 years of providing life-changing financial services to both urban and rural clients throughout the country. So it was fitting that, as a show of appreciation, FINCA Uganda returned to communities in which it operates, especially its inaugural community of Jinja, by providing clients and their families with access to free health screenings and hands-on care.

So far about 10 of such events have been carried out at its branches in partnership with AAR Health Services, where they have provided, among other services, voluntary HIV/AIDs testing and counseling, body mass checkups, blood pressure testing, nutrition counseling, family planning methods and HIV/AIDs control measures, as well as general health consultations, all at no cost. The health screenings have been open to FINCA Uganda’s clients and their families as well as to entire communities.

FINCA Uganda’s Marketing Manager, Simon Ahimbisibwe, said that Jinja holds a special place in FINCA Uganda’s history as it was the location of the subsidiary’s first branch.

“At FINCA Uganda, we believe that a healthy body makes for healthy banking; that is why we brought these services to the people free of charge,” Mr. Ahimbisibwe said. “We will continue to engage in such services that impact the lives of our clients positively, especially as these services are sometimes not easily accessed, mainly due to logistical challenges”.

FINCA Uganda currently serves more than 54,400 clients through a wide variety of products and services including Village Bank Group Loans, Solidarity (Small Group) Loans, Individual Loans, Local Currency Loans, Savings, Money Transfers and Insurance. More than 3,000 Village Banking groups can be found throughout its service areas, and loans average $395. FINCA Uganda employs more than 570 men and women who mainly come from the local communities, and is recognized as one of the local financial services industry’s top employers.

FINCA Uganda holds the distinction of being the first Microfinance Deposit Taking Institution (MDI) to be licensed by the Ugandan Central Bank in 2004, and is able to offer services that include savings, loans and money transfers at all of its 27 branches country wide.

FINCA Uganda also holds the distinction as being one of FINCA International’s primary programs to pilot new products and services, and has successfully implemented ATM services, a solar energy loan product, and youth-focused savings programs including Smart Start and StarGirl. Both savings programs target youth aged 10-24, providing education about the importance of savings as well as additional life skills such as soap and candle making and other handicrafts.

Child Marriage

MAYBE SOMEDAY, BUT NOT TODAY
from CARE

Legally, Mukeshwari’s marriage should never even have been a possibility. She was only 15 years old. But Mukeshwari lived in Thuadabri, an isolated rural village where it is traditional to give girls in marriage soon after they reached puberty. And her grandfather insisted. “The boy is good; the family is good,” he said. “This chance may not come again.”

The groom was an older man, a driver living in a nearby village. Mukeshwari agreed that he might be a suitable match, but that was beside the point. “I didn’t want to get married,” she says. “I wanted to go to school.”

Early marriage poses a host of problems for girls like Mukeshwari. Girls who marry young are less likely to finish school and have fewer economic opportunities. They are more likely to undergo physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. They often have little or no control over when they have sex or when they have children. And when they do become pregnant, adolescent girls have a much greater risk of complications and death than older women.

Under other circumstances, Mukeshwari’s parents might have intervened. But her family was poor, and her parents had left to look for work in the neighboring state of Maharashtra. So when she learned that her grandfather had arranged her marriage, she had no one to turn to but her friends – and Parwati Sahu.

Parwati is a CARE-trained volunteer health worker in Thuadabri. Though her primary responsibility and expertise is working with mothers and young children, Parwati and the other health volunteers CARE works with are also trained to be “change agents” – individuals who help transform the way their communities treat women and girls. Parwati had worked with Mukeshwari and other teenage girls in the village to discuss health issues, including family planning and early marriage. She knew right away that Mukeshwari’s marriage was wrong, and that something had to be done to stop it.

Parwati went with Mukeshwari, her friends and other volunteer health workers to confront Mukeshwari’s grandfather. But he was adamant: He had made an agreement with the boy’s mother and he intended to carry it through. So Parwati went to the panchayat, or village council, and presented the case.

Fortunately, Parwati and Mukeshwari had the law on their side. The panchayat voted to stop the marriage until Mukeshwari was at least 18. Faced with the community’s overwhelming decision, her grandfather had to give in.

This was the first time an early marriage had been stopped in Thuadabri, but it won’t be the last. With Parwati’s help, the village formed a committee on early marriage. The committee visits the houses of families with adolescent girls, discussing the problems of marrying young and making sure no early marriages are arranged.

As for Mukeshwari, she’s back in school and happy. “I don’t want to marry anyone right now,” she says. “I want to be a doctor. I’ll come back to Thuadabri and make sure everyone here stays healthy.”

It takes a lot of work, time and investment to become a doctor. But by staying in school, Mukeshwari has kept the opportunity open. With Parwati and the rest of Thuadabri firmly behind her, it is entirely possible she’ll succeed.

Help girls like Mukeshwari escape child marriage >

Weaving a Better Life

Weaving a Better Life for Her Family
from FINCA

The business of weaving is a family affair for Catarina Castro Cac de Lux and her husband. The 30-year-old and her husband have earned their living over the past seven years by weaving beautiful scarves, blankets and fabric for skirts, which they sell in their village of Aldea Pachaj, Patzite, Quiché Guatemala.

While the business has provided the family with a meager income over the years, there was never enough to ensure that their five children—ages 15, 12, 10, 8 and two-and-a-half—had more than small amounts of food with which to nourish their growing bodies. Sending the children to school was also a luxury the family couldn’t afford.

Catarina and her husband knew that if they could purchase another loom, they could increase their production, so Catarina joined the Pachaj Flowers Village Bank group and took out a loan, which she used to purchase a second loom. She was also able to use a portion of her loan to buy thread in bulk, which was not only a wise choice with regard to increasing production, but also a necessity, considering where the Cac de Lux family lives. Once the rainy season sets in, it’s very difficult for the villagers to travel to larger markets to access materials, so Catarina made sure she had adequate supplies on hand to continue production during this particularly challenging time of year.

Catarina is proud to report that, as a result of taking out her Village Bank loan, she and her husband have increased their production two-fold, making it possible for them to continue to work to expand their weaving business. She also says that the increase in income has allowed her to buy a greater variety of foods for her growing family and, best of all, her children are now able to go to the local village school.
Catarina and her husband are very grateful to FINCA for helping them to create a better life for themselves and their children.

You can support Catarina and people like her here >>

Juanita Visits the Commander

Another excerpt from the exquisite novel Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury.

Juanita Visits the Commander

Juanita stood in the General’s Commander’s living room. He was watching the Miss Central Committee Beauty Pageant on TV. As the master of ceremonies read off the names of the five finalists, the Commander picked up a bottle of purple liquid and dropped twenty-five drops of whatever it was into a glass of purified water, stirred it with his thumb and offered it to Juanita. When she declined, he shrugged and drank it himself, shuddering as it slid down his throat.

“Best thing to ward off smallpox,” he said.

He plopped the glass down on the marble-topped table edged in gold leaf and patted the cushion next to him on the sofa. Juanita waited a moment then took a deep breath and sat down beside him even though she didn’t want to.

“Look at those dogs!” the Commander shouted. He was referring to the final five Beauty Pageant contestants.

“Where’s that soap opera actress or that blonde who sells toothpaste in the ads? These are dogs. Peasant dogs. How can you give a prize to ugly women like that?”

He turned and gave Juanita his full attention, looked into her eyes, then down to her lovely full lips then back up to the feathery mustache of delicate fur she had ceased to wax since her husband, the Sergeant, had burned up and died. It was something her mother had insisted she do when it started to flourish at puberty. Her brother had hated her because he hardly had any mustache at all.

The Commander couldn’t take his eyes off Juanita’s upper lip.

“You see,” he boasted, “it is one of my duties to wine and dine whoever wins. She will come to this house for an evening with me and none of those dogs are worthy…”

“Commander…” Juanita interrupted, but he just kept talking.

“… Unlike you, Mrs. Chavez.” The General’s Commander stretched, lifted his arms and moved toward Juanita on the couch. He was totally transfixed by her furry mustache. Juanita moved to the very edge of the cushion as the bathing suit competition continued to blare on TV.

“Commander, I have come to ask…”

“Anything,” the Commander interrupted in a whisper. He began leaning forward, tilting his head closer to hers, completely captivated by the dense, dark growth spreading a hairy frame for her mouth.

“Do you know, Mrs. Chavez, that I have fathered one hundred and eighteen children?” Juanita ignored the remark and continued in a firm voice.

“About my dead husband…”

“How can I be of help?” The Commander interrupted again and smiled.

“I would like to see…” Unable to restrain himself any longer he lifted his hand.

“Excuse me,” he interrupted,” but there is something right there…” The Commander leaning forward further moved his finger toward her mouth, but Juanita didn’t stop talking.

“I would like to see that my husband receives a hero’s…” At that exact moment the Commander’s fingers reached their destination.

“Oh my…” he said, feeling the fuzz.

“Memorial!” Juanita blurted, simultaneously with the touch.

Recoiling reflexively, she said very loudly,”What the hell are you doing?!” This took the Commander by surprise. He wasn’t used to being questioned about anything he wanted to do, but he managed to recover and save face by delicately feathering his fingers, as if he was removing something unseemly from under her nose. He made it seem as if he had saved her a great embarrassment. He even went so far as to drop the imaginary thing into an overflowing beanbag ashtray clinging to the arm of the couch, as he looked Juanita straight in the eye and clucked condescendingly.

“A little something caught in the hair.” Then he leaned back and waited for her to be embarrassed, but he’d miscalculated. Juanita didn’t give a shit. She only cared about getting what she came for, so she stood.

“I want to give my dead husband, Sergeant Alberto Chavez, a military memorial for dying in the line of duty.”

The Commander blinked and tried to recall Chavez. Finally, when he did, the Commander spread his short pudgy arms across the back of the white leather couch. Sergeant Chavez had been a total fuck-up, taken off regular duty because he fell asleep and deserted his men, which was why he’d been relegated to Orphan Patrol, the children’s army and family redistribution. The Commander smiled.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” he said.

All of a sudden his tone was official and he turned back to the contest on TV, taking note of the third finalist’s bathing suit as it crept up her haunch revealing a lot of backside that should have stayed covered.

“What do you mean, not possible?” Juanita wanted to know.

“No real rank,” he replied and kept his focus on the television set.

“What do you mean ‘no real rank?’ He fought for you…”

Her eyes were filling with angry tears as the Commander smiled unkindly. “Maybe that’s what he told you to feel important, but I can verify whatever war stories he boasted were not true.”

“Liar!” Juanita shouted and stamped her foot.

The Commander sighed. This was growing tedious. Then he remembered. “I hear you sent the boy we gave you away.”

“Of course I sent him away. It was all his fault. If I hadn’t been so busy day and night… too busy for my husband…”

“My dear, it wasn’t as if you gave birth to him or nursed him day and night. He was only with you a short time…”

“So what?” Juanita interrupted.

“So, you will be moving out of the casita,” the General’s Commander announced.

Stunned, Juanita stopped her fury and stared at the Commander.

“What?” was all she could manage to say.

“We have to make room for his replacement. Besides, we don’t have casitas for widows. Casitas are for military personnel in the General’s service. We’ve let you stay on a bit longer out of consideration for the circumstances of his death… a terrible shock. But since you don’t have any children and you gave the one you had away… One person to a casita is extravagant… unless of course you’d like to think about some sort of arrangement…”

Before the Commander could continue with the rest of proposition, Juanita turned and stormed out of his living room to the front door which she slammed so hard the General’s portrait fell off the wall and knocked over the flag.

In the living room, the Commander lit another cigarette and waited to see which one of the unfortunate, ‘peasant dogs’ would be crowned Miss Central Committee.

Get your own copy of Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury HERE.

Powerful Roots

From Nation of Change
by Bryan Farrell
7 January 2012

Embracing Tree Huggers: The Powerful Roots of (Un) Armed Environmental Protection

Show the slightest bit of concern for the environment and you get labeled a tree hugger. That’s what poor Newt Gingrich has been dealing with recently, as the other presidential candidates attack his conservative credentials for having once appeared in an adwith Nancy Pelosi in support of renewable energy. Never mind that he has since called the ad the “biggest mistake” of his political career and talked about making Sarah Palin energy secretary. Gingrich will be haunted by the tree hugger label the rest of his life. He might as well grow his hair out, stop showering and start walking around barefoot.

But is that what a tree hugger really is? Just some dazed hippie who goes around giving hugs to trees as way to connect with nature. You might be shocked to learn the real origin of the term.

The first tree huggers were 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism, who, in 1730, died while trying to protect the trees in their village from being turned into the raw material for building a palace. They literally clung to the trees, while being slaughtered by the foresters. But their action led to a royal decree prohibiting the cutting of trees in any Bishnoi village. And now those villages are virtual wooded oases amidst an otherwise desert landscape. Not only that, the Bishnois inspired the Chipko movement (which means “to cling”) that started in the 1970s, when a group of peasant women in Northeast India threw their arms around trees designated to be cut down. Within a few years, this tactic, also known as tree satyagraha, had spread across India, ultimately forcing reforms in forestry and a moratorium on tree felling in Himalayan regions.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Le Ly Hayslip

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. Conversations with Gabriel Constans.

LE LY HAYSLIP

As a child she knew only war. She was threatened with execution and raped by the Viet Cong; imprisoned and tortured by the South Vietnamese; starved near death; forced into the black market to survive; and lived with the grief of losing brothers, father, cousins, neighbors, friends and relatives to the violence that ripped her country apart for decades. Le Ly lived through hell on earth and chose to heal the wounds, work for peace, and with the help of her ancestors, rebuild the land that gave her birth.

Le Ly was the first voice in the West to speak about Vietnam from the eyes of the Vietnamese. Her book, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places gave the people of Vietnam a human face. The adapted movie by Oliver Stone increased awareness of what the war had done to individuals and families in Vietnam and was the beginning of an outpouring of humanitarian work for reconciliation and rebuilding between the two countries. In 1989 Le Ly began The East Meets West Foundation which started programs for displaced children; primary health care for over 150,000 patients; Mother’s Love Clinic, with over 1,000 babies delivered; construction of eight schools in remote districts; built over thirty-eight homes and income-generating projects for families; thirty renovated or new built wells; scholarships for educating children and orphans and; a loan program that’s provided for over one hundred and eighty five needy families.

LE LY: The East West Foundation started in 1987, with one hundred dollars, after I saw the poor people in Vietnam. I could not turn my back and walk away from what I saw. If I did not see it at all it would be different, but after you have been there you see and you feel touched. You can’t lie to yourself and say, “I am not going to do anything.” “Doing something” is not just talking but rolling up your sleeves and working.

When I came back from Vietnam in 1986 I lost my sense of having everything. I just had it with the living style. I owned a restaurant, I had a couple of houses rented out, three children . . . but I got really burned out, so I started to let go. I sold the restaurant and houses and moved into a small home.

I’m not working for anyone, just doing the thing I really wanted to do, to write and tell the story. While I’m doing that everything is coming back to me. The more I’m writing the story the more I’m saying to myself, “How could I not help? I was there, I was one of them!” I am lucky enough to get out and then I went back and they are still there, with things worse then it had been. That is when I really committed myself to do what I can. At that time I didn’t know if the book was going to work but if it did well I committed to myself to have all that money go back to where it is coming from. Without the war in Vietnam, without my life crises, I can’t tell the story, right?

So I make that my commitment and I not only sell the house and sell the restaurant and put the time into working on the book, but I work seven days a week and twenty-four hours on the foundation, then eventually my income from my bank to the foundation account so it can do its work. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I know the principle of what I’m doing.

I recently returned to Vietnam and stayed for almost four months. I saw all the old villages that were leveled by Americans, including my own. I saw the foundation of the house, temple and my school and around it the bamboo and banana trees. The foundation is what they lost. The tree is still growing. The bamboo and the banana tree has sprouted again. The soul of the ancestors is all that remains of foundation and the bomb crater next to the graveyard. I walked through that ghost town with my cousin and he pointed out to me, “Do you remember? Remember who lived here? Remember Uncle so and so lived there? Remember Auntie’s house? Remember the big tree here we use to play on?” You know I’m looking around I feel ghosts. I feel chill in my bones. I’ve been back to Vietnam thirty-six times but never saw these places until then.

I dealt with the refugees from those villages. I helped them with what I can, but after a time I said, “Leave it there.” I went back and saw that they are refugees because they moved lower land people to higher desert land. This land happened to be in my village. They can’t grow anything there. It is sand beach. They cannot survive there. The last thirty years they cannot call it home. They can’t move back because there is land mines and even if there weren’t they having nothing to build with. They fought so hard against the French to save the house, the temple and the ancestor worship places.

That is when I feel my pain. For many years I feel the pain. When I wrote the book I feel the pain of what the war had done to these people. When I work with them and help them, I feel the pain of the poor, the needy, the suffering they have gone through. Now it is a different pain, a different loss. We have fire here in U.S. every now and then. People describe their pain, people feel their losses, and people act or describe the hurt. Vietnamese lost not only one or two houses to fire, we lost the whole village! The places we lived for thousands of years!

Heaven and Earth was the first voice that ever came from the Vietnamese side. Americans wrote about what they did, felt or believed in, but not about Vietnamese. I wanted to describe from Vietnamese experience, how we get from here to there – to be prostitute, refugee, Viet Cong or whatever. I was a young kid, what did I know. So that is the book as a first voice, then the movie and then it was a big impact. It did not do as well as we hoped it would, probably because it was about Vietnam, was from the “other side” and a woman’s story.

I keep going with much help. I’m never alone. I cannot live without spirits. That means knowing that whatever I do, whatever breath I take, whatever words I say . . . they know about it. The spirits have no boundaries. They are like wind. I communicate with my ancestors very clearly. It’s as real as when I talk to you. I have no problem with that. Wherever I live, or work I have to have them with me. Whether you believe it or not is up to you.

They do not control things. I cannot ask you to protect me if I walk out the door and I know somebody is going to kill me. I can’t ask you to protect me because you don’t have any army with you, you don’t have any power. But if I make a call to police they can help me. It is the same with the spirits. I cannot ask my brother or my father to help me when they are just like us, but I can ask my great, great ancestor who was a king, who was an emperor, to protect me. There are good and evil just like there is here, so it depends on how good I do on this plane. If I do all the good work, the high scale side will protect me. You can call it angels or whatever. My thought has to be clear. It has to be peaceful and it has to be clean for them to guide me.

Everybody has choices. The choice they make will help with their energy if they make the right choice. Right now I’m writing about the villages that I visit and all the ghost stories I have been told by the people I’ve been talking to. I feel moved. I feel hurt. I feel pain. At the same time, I feel good because I speak for them. I speak for those who are voiceless. That is helping me and that is when I knew that they are with me. I have to “keep the channel open” and that is what it’s all about, to really keep the flow going through. If I was a hateful person with much anger and condemned the whole world, there also is an entity like that. There are two forces, Yin and Yang. If you have negative flow you have negative flow. It’s like the banking system. If you have positive flow, everything goes smoothly.

People with black, yellow, red, brown, or white skin all have our ancestors. Our ancestors come in all forms. You can call it God, you can call it angel, you can call it whatever. They are there. But we have to take a look at our life here to understand there.

In his death my father taught me how to live. He knew that if he kept living it would draw me back to the village. And with the note they found in his hand we discovered he was going to be killed anyway. One way or another he would die. But the question was where . . . how long? He died so I could be free and wouldn’t go back to the village, so I could go on with my life. But if I am not intuitive enough I may not find the way on the path he provided. I have to walk it carefully.

Every one of us makes that choice. It depends on what we make out of it. Living with the ancestors I have no problems. Living with the real world I have the problems. I know the rules. I know what law I need to obey, spiritual law. That is all I need to know. From Uncle Sam to Uncle Ho, there are many obligations. It is hard. But nothing is impossible.

Many people write about their life, their hatred and their anger. All that does is make some people feel like them so they can put on the uniform, the gun and fight. They start it all over again. That is what I would call negative energy. Every time you think of doing something, energy goes out like a chain link fence, it hooks together. That energy multiplies, bigger and bigger. The other world also has a negative energy that hooks into your negative energy and makes a person down here do things which are harmful. It’s like when you turn on a radio in your house or car and you are looking for these waves. When you tap in with that station they have their own frequency. That is what comes to you the listener, whatever you choose. I would rather tune in to the positive. I like the light that is in me and that energy out there is the same light.

MORE STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION

Rahula, Savarna & Bodhi

Excerpt from the novel Buddha’s Wife.

Historically, Rahula was Yasodhara and Siddhartha’s son. Siddhartha was later known as “The Buddha” or “The Tathagata”.

Chapter Thirteen

“Run! Run!” shouted Rahula, as he picked Bodhi up under his arms and headed towards an impression in the hill. Savarna was close behind. He turned and yelled at Savarna again. “Hurry; they’re getting closer!”

She hitched up her sari and ran alongside her husband and son. The sound was like thunder. Their feet slid and bounced on the ground as it heaved. They plastered themselves against the shallow crevice just as the stampeding elephants ran by, their eyes wild with fright.

They had avoided bandits by following Rampal and Moksa’s advice. They had traveled in numbers and kept to the center of the plains. Now, just as they were about to traverse their last major obstacle, the Aravalli Mountains, some idiot had tried to catch a baby elephant. His attempt had angered the herd. People scattered to safety, but Rahula and his family had found themselves caught in the gigantic mammals’ path with nowhere to turn.

As the last tusked male lumbered by, blowing his trunk, Bodhi coughed violently from the wave of dust. It was so thick they could barely see one another.

“Bodhi.” Savarna covered his mouth and eyes with her sleeve, hoping that would alleviate the irritation. His coughing continued and they tried to comfort him, to no avail. His cough had worsened over the last several days and this was not helping. It was deepening and dangerously persistent.

“What happened?” Rahula exclaimed, after the last elephant had passed.

“We’re lucky,” Savarna reasoned, as her breath returned. “I didn’t think we would make it, did you?”

“I wasn’t sure,” Rahula panted, gasping for air.

They all rubbed their eyes, blinking to wash away the dust and dirt.

“We’ve got to find him a doctor,” Savarna insisted. “It’s getting worse.”

“Yes, I know,” Rahula agreed. “Let’s go back to Kanpur.”

“That’s a two-day journey,” Savarna exclaimed. “We can’t wait that long.”

“I doubt if there’s an herbalist int he village we passed this morning,” Rahula reasoned, “but we can try.”

Carrying his coughing son on his back, Rahula and Savarna backtracked and asked everyone they met if they knew of a healer in the vicinity. Late in the afternoon they came upon a woman washing clothes at the river. Her children were close by. They expected her to reply like all the others, that there was no help in the area.

“Yes,” she said, as she rung out a shirt on the rocks and yelled at one of her kids to stay away from the river’s edge. “Let me finish and I’ll take you to her.”

Rahula and Savarna shared a hopeful glance.

“Here,” Savarna said, “let me help.” She got down on her hands and knees, took a wet sari out of the basket and pushed, twisted and shook it in the wind, then folded it neatly and placed it on top of the other clean clothes in the adjoining basket. The women smiled and quickly completed their task.

“I am Henna,” the woman said, as she picked up her basket and called to her children. “Come. I will take you to my mother.” She looked at Bodhi, who was clinging to his father’s back and coughing. “She can cure anything.” They followed Henna towards the small village.

“Your mother?” Rahula asked.

“Yes,” Henna replied, “my mother.”

“I am Rahula and this is Savarna,” Rahula said. “This bag of rice on my back is our son Bodhi.”

Heena stopped short, as one of her youngest bumped into the back of her legs. “Did you say ‘Bodhi,’ like the tree?”

“Yes,” replied Rahula, “like the tree, strong and wise.”

“The Bodhi tree is the same one under which our Lord Buddha of Gotama awoke to his true nature,” Henna said.

“Yes,” Rahula said sharply, then saw the admonishing look from Savarna. “Yes, so we discovered.”

“Are you followers of the Tathagata?” Henna inquired, as she lifted the basket onto her head.

“No,” Savarna answered, before Rahula said something to offend their guide. “But we have hard of his great deeds and compassionate heart.” Rahula looked away as Savarna came alongside Henna. “Are you a follower of the Tathagata?”

“Yes,” she smiled. “We became disciples after hearing him speak. I was just a little girl, but my mother remembers him well.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence. Rahula wanted to find a remedy for Bodhi’s cough but hated the fact that it might come from a disciple of his father.

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Watch Your Ass & Testify

Excerpt from Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

Watch Your Ass And Testify

In the midst of his conflicts on base, Dr. Leff received a letter from his good friend Dennis Wolter, who wanted him to be the best man at his wedding in March. Dennis had been running the motorcycle shop he and Arnie jointly owned in Cincinnati while Arnie was in Thailand. They had always been like brothers.

Not long after the invitation to the wedding, he received a reply from Senator Fulbright inviting him to speak before the Foreign Relations Committee, whenever he had an opportunity to make it to Washington. He decided to do it all in one trip and was granted a two week leave for the end of March, beginning of April, 1970.

It was soon after being granted leave that the military’s paranoia kicked in. Because of Captain Leff’s views and activities, he was seen by the Air Force as a trouble-maker and threat. They were certain he was smuggling drugs because of his contacts and visits with anti-war personnel and civilians at the base in Korat, and also thought he was the ring leader of a subversive, anti-war movement who was fermenting racial unrest.

“All untrue,” he states, “except for being anti-war. I had smoked marijuana the first few months I’d been in Thailand, but by this time, I had quit altogether. It was too risky in my position. I was a doc and didn’t want to lose control. I also stayed straight because I became aware of the informants.”

Colonel Mellish, the wing commander, had the Special Investigations unit put the captain under surveillance and planted informants in his adjoining bunk. Whenever he returned to the base from spending time at The Bungalow, there was a new man sleeping one cot over.

More than likely, the brass was aware of Leff’s intention to speak before the Fulbright Commission and knew he was gathering information to do so. Intelligence officers had told him of orders they’d received to change captions on reconnaissance photographs from “village” to “communist stronghold,” even though there was no evidence that the village had harbored communists or not. Leff also discovered that the US had Green Berets in Laos who technically were not there. His Air America (CIA) friends gave him photographs of their base in Laos. Fred Branfman had given him his report, including photos, places and names of villages and people who were being killed and maimed by U.S. bombings.

Captain Leff was certain he had enough information to delay, if not stop, the illegal attacks in Laos, if he lived to tell about it.

“I honestly believed my life was in danger,” he says. “The guy that ran the office of special investigation was alcoholic and for $500 he could have had a local guy snuff me out easy as pie. I really believed they might go that far… stranger things had happened.”

CONTINUED IN: PAGING DR. LEFF – PRIDE, PATRIOTISM AND PROTEST.

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