KAVERI – Another courageous Indian woman


She had the face that would have graced the pages of fashion magazines at various times, in the past and future. Depending, of course, on the whims of fashion czars and others who dictate the criteria of beauty at any given time.


Rather too dark, I’m afraid dear, but we could touch up a shade fairer with the right lighting and some makeup. And her body. No, that would never do. Bonily thin, yes, but those muscles, dear, and the feet and hands dear. No, no, they would never ever do. Too bony by far, veins protruding, hands disproportionately large on such tiny wrists, and feet too flat to grace any catwalk.


I am just playing with words though, for Kaveri never had the slightest inclination to grace the glossy pages of magazines. Probably no concept of such a frivolous concept, even here in Tamil Nadu where movies are a religion. She is a heroine, and not alone in her country, by a long shot. Continue reading KAVERI – Another courageous Indian woman


Hanuman’s Grace


The day started badly. The end of April, inland south India. Hot. Very hot. With the temperature shimmering around 40 degrees at nine in the morning, and likely to rise by another five degrees by early afternoon, staying home in the relative cool of my shady garden was definitely the activity of choice.


I had to go to town though, to attend to some unavoidable obligations. Accepting my fate, I jumped on the motorbike and kicked it into life. After riding five metres though, the rear wheel’s wobbling motion assured me I would not be covering the six kilometres to town on that machine. A flat tyre, and no puncture kit to remedy the situation. Oh well, my trusty bicycle would have to suffice. Not without effort, but better than nothing. It was in good condition and I always enjoyed the pedal, even in the sweltering heat. A bit of sweating does no harm after all, and actually is supposed to clean out accumulated toxins.

  Continue reading Hanuman’s Grace




Chikoos are a non-descript fruit; many foreigners would walk past the motley, brown-skinned food without a second thought. Not this gringo; I’d run a mile for a kilo of ripe chikoos.

Though it looks like an unappetising potato, appearances are deceptive. Beneath that thin skin is an exquisite taste sensation – like a cross between a perfect pear, and sweet brown sugar. No fruit salad has ever tasted quite up to scratch without chikoos since I first discovered them.

I may run a mile for chikoos, but I’d definitely think twice before buying a kilo in the midst of a religious procession again. It could cost lives. Continue reading SOME PEOPLE WOULD KILL FOR A CHIKOO



Must be getting soft in the head, old mate, he muttered to the kelpie at his feet. What would she want with a pair of rough diamonds like us?í


Jack tossled the dog’s floppy ears, smiling at the raucous laughter of a kookaburra further up the ridge. The dog, warming to the calloused hand’s ministrations, rolled back onto his master’s laceless boots and implored that the massage include his belly as well.

  Continue reading BROTHER’S WIDOW

Beggars Banquet


Broke in India! It would probably be high on many people’s list of don’t do’s, under any circumstances. But sometimes these things do happen, even to a seasoned traveller, through misfortune, or miscalculation, or a lapse of attention. I can’t pretend that my story had less than all three possibilities.


I was absolutely broke, in India. Well, to be more accurate, I had just four rupees and a few paise – around forty cents – in my wallet, although I had several thousand dollars in traveller’s cheques. My problem was really only temporary, since as soon as the banks would open, my insolvency would be past.

  Continue reading Beggars Banquet


Written in 1985 the year after Indira Gandhi’s assassination


I read today about the continuing bloodshed in the Indian Punjab, at the Golden Temple, holiest shrine of the Sikh community, in Amritsar. The photo showed the bloodied body of a Kalistani militant separatist, shot by commandoes of the Indian army. Another number in the vicious impasse which has claimed so many hundreds of Hindu and Sikh lives, mostly innocent. I thought of Satinder.


We met knee-deep in mud, early one morning in the foothills of the Himalayas, high above the sacred river Ganges. I had begun the day at crack-of-dawn on an over-crowded pilgrim bus; I was heading into the mountains to walk among the icy towering peaks, and to visit various sites of historical and spiritual significance. It was the monsoon season. The bus had rattled along the winding mountain road for barely three quarters of an hour when the driver abruptly braked on a blind corner and halted behind a line of earlier-departed buses. Continue reading SATINDER

We ARE Nature



“I love nature!” The words slip so easily off the tongue, carrying with them a feel-good emotion. Good value.


The problem I have with such a common expression, is that it is a separation mechanism in itself, suggesting that we humans are somehow different from nature. With the questionable exceptions of test tube babies and clones though, we’re all as natural as the birds and the bees, or grasses and trees. So long, I should add, as they haven’t been genetically modified to improve their performance or have similar dubious qualities. Continue reading We ARE Nature




In 1989 I was asked to co-ordinate a reforestation project in south India. Specifically, this was a sacred mountain, Arunachala, recognized as Siva in the form of Light, or Fire. As the legend relates, Shiva, Lord of Destruction and Re-creation, was asked to adjudicate an argument between Vishnu (Lord of Preservation) and Brahma, Lord of Creation as to who had precedence. Having manifest Himself as a column of  the pure light of consciousness, he bade each of them to find His limits; one to seek the lowest point, and the other the highest. Neither apparently was successful, and in their awe of Shiva’s brilliance, they pleaded with Him to take a form less dazzling, which mere mortals could then behold. Shiva agreed, and transformed himself into the form of the mountain, Arunachala, which has been venerated ever since. So runs the tale. Continue reading RECLOTHING THE NAKED SIVA

Permaculture and Spirituality

Dear old Bill would ferociously chew my ear about Spirituality and Permaculture, if he didn’t simply hang me by the balls and be done with me. Silly old sausage. He alluded to it often enough in the Manual, about the integration between all elements and the role people have and potentially could have, in nurturing nature while nurturing themselves. As if Nature and People are somehow disconnected. I believe this is the fundamental problem; the separation that exists between ‘Us’ and ‘It’, implicit even in declarations such as “I love Nature”. Continue reading Permaculture and Spirituality

PERMACULTURE – Self-empowerment in a myriad forms

PERMACULTURE – Self-empowerment in a myriad forms


Is there a significant difference between Permaculture and organic, or ecological, or sustainable agriculture? Yes indeed. Each of these terms may be included as themes in Permaculture, but Permaculture is principally about attitude, rather than technique or technology, or scientific definition. It is a conscious self-empowerment tool through which we can exercise a far greater degree of control over our lives, by taking decisions based on a wholistic understanding of the situation at hand, and applying practical implementation accordingly. At a time when so much of our lives is influenced by fewer and fewer powerful corporate entities, this potential to take personal decisions which achieve more independence from a narrowing path of existence is indeed important and relevant. Continue reading PERMACULTURE – Self-empowerment in a myriad forms