A Call for Wetlands Protection

Today, February 2nd is World Wetlands Day. World Wetland Day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Each year since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have participated in this day. The focus is in raising public awareness of wetland values and their benefits.

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Thol Lake, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are a core part of a Living Landscape – the lives of animals, plants and people depend on their health. Wetlands provide food, water, transport networks, help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events and are places of beauty and inspiration. Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.

To be called a wetland, an area must be filled or soaked with water at least part of the year. The term wetlands is used to define a variety of habitats that include water bodies such as rivers and streams, canals, lakes and ponds, but also habitats that are characterised by permanent or temporarily wet soils. These wet soils, including peatlands, support bogs, fens, swamps, reedbeds, marshes, floodplain meadows and wet woodland. Wetlands also include estuaries and coastal waters. In some wetland habitats water is static, in others it is flowing; some support freshwater, others support brackish or salty waters. These different characteristics support very different and often specially adapted plant and animal species. Wetlands are so dynamic and responsive and because the species they support are sensitive to change, their condition is a good indication of the overall state of our natural environment. One of the key factors that shapes a wetland habitat or a wetland ecosystem is the extent to which these diverse wetlands are connected to each other.

As wetlands are continuously threatened by human activities, this is a day to spread awareness on the importance of wetlands and call on more people to join hands in protecting wetlands.

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Polo Forest, North Gujarat

Why protect Wetlands?

  •  Wetlands function like a sponge, soaking up water that comes in with the tides, or from periodically flooding rivers. In fact, they control floods much more effectively and efficiently than any flood wall.
  • Wetlands are Carbon Sink. Because the soils found in wetlands can store carbon for hundreds of years, they play an important role in fighting climate change.
  • Aids in Sea Level Rise Mitigation. As global warming increases and sea levels rise, wetlands are the first barrier to protecting people living closer the sea and within flood zone area.
  • Recreation and Tourism. Spanning from bird watching, biking, hiking, and kayaking, wetlands provide people with many ways to enjoy nature. In India, we receive migratory birds at our estuaries and wetlands.
  • Wildlife Nursery. Because of its unique location between water and land, salt and freshwater, wetlands shelter a wide range of vulnerable species while serving as a breeding site for many organisms. Without wetlands, a huge number of songbirds, waterfowl, shellfish, and other mammals just wouldn’t exist.
  • Fertile Farm Land. The staple diet of half the world’s population is rice, which grows in wetlands in many parts of the world.

There is an urgent need to restore our wetlands and to help some of our most enigmatic species return and thrive across our wetland landscapes. Biodiversity conservation is a major driver for change across river catchments. It benefits communities and businesses as well as the special species and places that our rivers and streams support. Working with nature can help reduce flood risk and help us cope with drought conditions. But action on the ground to protect and enhance wetlands must be supplemented by more sustainable use of water for both domestic and business purposes and supported by a clear understanding of the wider value to society of wetland habitats. There are many more benefits of wetland that cannot be mentioned. As we celebrate Wetlands today, I call on all global citizens to advocate for the protection of wetlands.

Happy World Wetlands Day to everyone who works to protect global wetlands.

Namaste!

FULL WOLF MOON: Return of the Light

The full moon of January 12, 2017 (17:03 IST) will deliver a powerful shot of positive energy, sparking fresh ideas and turning them into reality. If you’ve been frustrated by the slow pace of creation, take heart, because the momentum is about to pick up. Aided by Mercury’s going direct on January 8, this full moon has the potential to boost personal fortunes and increase prosperity. It’s a fertile period marked by rapid connectivity, so be sure to carve out your vision. then watch as it unfolds in record time.

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PUNARVASU – the twin stars in the constellation of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.

Falling in the area of the sky known as Punarvasu, which means “return of the light,” this full moon brings a much-needed dose of hope and renewal. The ancient fertility goddess Aditi, considered the Vedic mother of creation, is said to reside in Punarvasu. Her name translates as “boundless,” and she represents the field of infinite possibility.

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As the mother of Vishnu, the Hindu creator god, the goddess Aditi is the creator of her own creator. Her regenerative power recalls how all of creation is constantly repeating itself, like the fractal patterns that appear throughout nature.

The moon’s positive force also provides an important counterbalance to the seismic shifts underway right now. The world as we know it is being shaken up and rearranged, causing uncertainty and instability that could sink us, if we give in to fear. Stay in the present, keep breathing, and you’ll find that you can rise above the chaos.

On a personal level, this munificent full moon can encourage the improvement of diet and exercise regimes. It also supports positive communication in relationships and constructive agreements in business. Venus will merge with spiritually-potent Neptune on the day of the full moon, allowing hearts to open and connections to deepen. Visual art and music may also provide exceptional inspiration around this time.

Take heed, though, because while January’s full moon will jump-start the creation process, it may also increase nervous tension and bring about a tendency to over-think things. Since the beginning of the month, Venus and Mars—the feminine and masculine polarities—have been riding the tail of the shadow serpent known as ketu. This has put increased pressure on relationships, and may also have caused economic stresses or unforeseen troubles with vehicles.

On a broader level, the full moon in Punarvasu has the power to inspire community action and innovative plans for the future. This is an ideal time to consider how you might become more involved in social and environmental causes you care about, for example, volunteering at an animal shelter, or writing to your congressperson about climate change.

On this full moon in Punarvasu, set your intentions, be clear about your goals, and let the universe take care of the details.

Namaste!

 

History of our calendar

Its been long time since I have been researching lot about how time is an illusion which is measured by someone’s own perception of the duration of the indefinite and unfolding of events. The perceived time interval between two successive events is referred to as perceived duration. Another person’s perception of time cannot be directly experienced or understood, but it can be objectively studied and inferred through a number of scientific experiments. Time perception is a construction of the brain that is manipulable and distortable under certain circumstances. These temporal illusions help to expose the underlying neural mechanisms of time perception.

In my last post, I talked bit about Pope Gregory XIII, creator of the Gregorian calendar that we use today. Today is Pope Gregory’s birthday so here’s more about him and his calendar.

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Before today’s Gregorian calendar was adopted, the older Julian calendar was used. It was admirably close to the actual length of the year, as it turns out, but the Julian calendar was not so perfect that it didn’t slowly shift off track over the following centuries. But, hundreds of years later, monks were the only ones with any free time for scholarly pursuits – and they were discouraged from thinking about the matter of “secular time” for any reason beyond figuring out when to observe Easter. In the Middle Ages, the study of the measure of time was first viewed as prying too deeply into God’s own affairs – and later thought of as a lowly, mechanical study, unworthy of serious contemplation.

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As a result, it wasn’t until 1582, by which time Caesar’s calendar had drifted a full 10 days off course, that Pope Gregory XIII (1502 – 1585) finally reformed the Julian calendar. Ironically, by the time the Catholic church buckled under the weight of the scientific reasoning that pointed out the error, it had lost much of its power to implement the fix. Protestant tract writers responded to Gregory’s calendar by calling him the “Roman Antichrist” and claiming that its real purpose was to keep true Christians from worshiping on the correct days. The “new” calendar, as we know it today, was not adopted uniformly across Europe until well into the 18th century.

Pope Gregory XIII dedicated his papacy to implementing the recommendations of the Council of Trent. By the time he reformed the Julian calendar in 1582 (using the observations of Christopher Clavius and Johannes Kepler), it had drifted 10 days off course. To this day, most of the world uses his Gregorian calendar.

Has the year always started on 1 January?

In some ways, yes. When Julius Caesar introduced his calendar in 45 B.C.E., he made 1 January the start of the year, and it was always the date on which the Solar Number and the Golden Number were incremented.

However, the church didn’t like the wild parties that took place at the start of the new year, and in C.E. 567 the council of Tours declared that having the year start on 1 January was an ancient mistake that should be abolished.

Through the middle ages various New Year dates were used. If an ancient document refers to year X, it may mean any of 7 different periods in our present system:

1 Mar X to 28/29 Feb X+1
1 Jan X to 31 Dec X
1 Jan X-1 to 31 Dec X-1
25 Mar X-1 to 24 Mar X
25 Mar X to 24 Mar X+1
Saturday before Easter X to Friday before Easter X+1
25 Dec X-1 to 24 Dec X

Choosing the right interpretation of a year number is difficult, so much more as one country might use different systems for religious and civil needs.

The Byzantine Empire used a year starting on 1 Sep, but they didn’t count years since the birth of Christ, instead they counted years since the creation of the world which they dated to 1 September 5509 B.C.E.

Since about 1600 most countries have used 1 January as the first day of the year. Italy and England, however, did not make 1 January official until around 1750.

In England (but not Scotland) three different years were used:

The historical year, which started on 1 January.The liturgical year, which started on the first Sunday in advent.

The civil year, which

from the 7th to the 12th century started on 25 December,
from the 12th century until 1751 started on 25 March,
from 1752 started on 1 January.

It is sometimes claimed that having the year start on 1 January was part of the Gregorian calendar reform. This is not true. This myth has probably started because in 1752 England moved the start of the year to 1 January and also changed to the Gregorian calendar. But in most other countries the two events were not related. Scotland, for example, changed to the Gregorian calendar together with England in 1752, but they moved the start of the year to 1 January in 1600.

Then what about leap years?

If the year started on, for example, 1 March, two months later than our present year, when was the leap day inserted?

When it comes to determining if a year is a leap year, since AD 8 the Julian calendar has always had 48 months between two leap days. So, in a country using a year starting on 1 March, 1439 would have been a leap year, because their February 1439 would correspond to February 1440 in the January-based reckoning.

Why do the 9th thru 12th months have names that mean 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th?

September through December were the seventh through tenth months of a calendar used by the first Romans. Ancient historian and Greek biographer Plutarch, wrote in C.E. 75, about how they became displaced to two positions higher than their names would indicate.

Why does February have only 28 days?

January and February both date from about the time of Rome’s founding. They were added to a calendar that had been divided into ten month-like periods whose lengths varied from 20 to 35 or more days. A winter season was not included, so those period lengths are believed to have been intended to reflect growth stages of crops and cattle.

When introduced, January was given 29 days and put at the beginning of the calendar year. February was given 23 days and put at the end. Then, for an undetermined period shortly after Rome’s founding, months were said to have begun when a new moon was first sighted. At some later time, month lengths were separated from lunations and again became fixed. At that time, February’s original length was extended by five days which gave it a total of 28.

What is the origin of the names of the months?

A lot of languages, including English, use month names based on Latin. Their meaning is listed below. However, some languages (Czech and Polish, for example) use quite different names.

Month Latin Origin
January Januarius Named after the god Janus.
February Februarius Named after Februa, the purification festival.
March Martius Named after the god Mars.
April Aprilis Named either after the goddess Aphrodite or the Latin word aperire, to open.
May Maius Probably named after the goddess Maia.
June Junius Probably named after the goddess Juno.
July Julius Named after Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E. Prior to that time its name was Quintilis from the word quintus, fifth, because it was the 5th month in the old Roman calendar.
August Augustus Named after emperor Augustus in 8 B.C.E. Prior to that time the name was Sextilis from the word sextus, sixth, because it was the 6th month in the old Roman calendar.
September September From the word septem, seven, because it was the 7th month in the old Roman calendar.
October October From the word octo, eight, because it was the 8th month in the old Roman calendar.
November November From the word novem, nine, because it was the 9th month in the old Roman calendar.
December December From the word decem, ten, because it was the 10th month in the old Roman calendar.
So we live our entire life dependent on a calendar which is a construct of human perception. but for me nothing is past and future. as Alan Watts says
““Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever.”
I know perception of time refers to a person’s subjective experience of the passage of time, or the perceived duration of events, which can differ significantly between different individuals and/or in different circumstances. but I am just sharing my opinion/view and everybody is free to share their own. Comments and criticism are always welcome.

Namaste!

Words of Wisdom: Alan Watts

Today is a very special day for me because it’s the birthday of three of my greatest inspirations. Alan Watts, Syd Barrett and John Lilly. Lessons from Alan Watts have shifted my perspective of reality. Music from Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd has changed my life and opened up my soul. I always say Pink Floyd is soundtrack of my life. and John Lilly has taught me a lot about altered states, consciousness and fascinating sensory deprivation tank.

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Alan Watts (Jan 6, 1915 – Nov 16, 1973) was a philosopher known for opening Western minds to Eastern wisdom. He called himself an entertainer, rather than a guru or teacher, and encouraged a dialogue that is increasingly relevant in the spectrum of current events. Intertwined with stunning scholarship, his buoyant humor resounds, linking many of us to the collective unconscious. He had an astonishing and an indescribable way of writing the unwritable.

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Among all the qualities of this great orator and writer, he had an unique gift of expressing complex thoughts in the form of simple and illustrated thoughts. The simple way he exemplified and expressed all his reflections made him and universal philosopher, someone that could be comprehended by the vast majority of the people. Today, 102 years after his birth, I’m sharing some of his quotes that have deeply impacted my understanding of the human experience. Let’s see some of Alan Watts’ magic and awakening quotes.

1. “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” – Alan Watts.

It is no news that we humans take things too seriously. We over think to the point where we become anxious. We over analyze and overvalue things to the point of depression.

If there was something that Mr.Watts wanted us to do is to enjoy life and live it as a joyous dance. We are a tiny spot in an enormous, out-of-our-eyes universe, no need to take things too seriously! Go out and enjoy this beautiful experience!

2. “Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” – Alan Watts.

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This quote makes reference to the reverse effort principle. What Mr.Watts simply wants to say is to don’t force things, don’t create tension. Sometimes things work out better if we let them flow and simply “happen”.

Just as floating in the water, it is not about the effort we put into floating but about letting go! Flow as water!

3. “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” – Alan Watts.

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This quote does much reference to the former one. Trust, as some people wrongly conceive, is not about holding on to things or people, it is about letting go and having faith in the process.

In life, we can’t hold on to fears, over constructed thoughts, or plans. Any of this security searching habits and trust habits will only impede us from moving forward and really enjoying life. Let go and trust the waters!

4.“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.” – Alan Watts.

A common seen reflection in the Eastern philosophies is the thought that life’s essence is the impermanence we find in it, something which is certainly true. Life is all about the process between life and death, creation and destruction, change.

Everything changes every moment. Cells multiply, plants grow, universe expands. Everything which is alive will be in constant motion, and this is the beauty of life. It is always passionate to change and it always brings something new to us! We have to acknowledge this as our nature, for it is!

5. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts.

Mr. Watts made a lot of emphasis on the inefficient word system we use. Words exist thanks to a contrast with other words. Right exists because there is wrong to contrast with.

Alan Watts saw this system of naming meaningless, for there is no bad or good, negative or positive. Ultimately everything is the same, just a different side of the same coin. To live life fully and with no restrictions, we have to acknowledge that any experience is just an experience and a learning process. If we constantly oppose to one side of the coin we will never see life as it really is, a color pallet with many different colors and shades.

6. “No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.” – Alan Watts.

Rigidity is just a synonym of boring, unnatural and narrow vision. In life it is essential to flow as water, this is why so many Eastern philosophers refer to water as a great teacher.

Life is wiggly and spontaneous, being rigid in life will only lead us to a boring, narrow path in life. We won’t enjoy fully and at the end of the curse we will notice that we have wasted all of our time. Be like water!

7. “We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.” – Alan Watts.

One of the greatest problems of society that Alan Watts pointed out is the intense separation between man and nature. Human beings tend to see themselves as aliens that came to Earth.

We have a constant will to change, destroy and manipulate nature. We, forgetting that we are also nature, are subjects to all the consequences of our acts. Global warming, total destruction of our resources, water pollution… There will arrive the moment were all of us notice that we are connected to this world and universe, just as the roots of a tree are connected to earth. We can’t keep going like this! Earth dies, we die!

8. “Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.” – Alan Watts.

Doubtlessly, what makes this world a beautiful experience is, the impermanence and mutability of all things. This world will always have a mysterious and unpredictable way of flow.

Everything is changing and it is necessary that we acknowledge that and live with it. We are organic to this world, an so, we are submit to change too. We cant oppose to our nature, we have to admit and flow with this beautiful dance.

9. “Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.” – Alan Watts.

Alan Watts held a firm point of view were he saw all life as something undefinable and with a sole purpose of experiencing it. He always said that this universe cant be defined by worlds and that the harder we try to do this the more we separate from the real experience.

To live this experience we have to see the object that we point at with our finger, not our finger. In other words, we have to live each experience and not try to define it!

10. “…tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.” – Alan Watts.

Alan Watts was clearly a follower of an Eastern philosophy type of view. Something that any Eastern philosophy pushed on was the fact of living in the present.

It is more than true that only by living in the present we really enjoy all the pleasures of live, and more so, we eliminate any fear of the future, anxiety or depression. Making plans for the future is only useful for those who know how to enjoy this future when it arrives. It is useless to live for a future when we don’t live it when it arrives. Learn to enjoy the now and you will be able to enjoy everything else that comes at you!

11. “Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way” – Alan Watts.

All problems have a solution, problems are soluble in solutions, and solutions are inexhaustible. We have powerful minds which work by creativity and logic, we certainly have the power to create solutions.

Alan Watts, with his positive mindset, had a great ability to pose problems and find their solutions. We all can do this, it takes breathing, calming down and concentrating! Sometimes it is all about how we approach the problem!

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Alan Watts was a prolific writer and speaker. Other than this there are lot of interesting topics but time is limit so I am sharing some links to reference material. Quotes are sourced from audio lectures found on alanwatts.org and alanwatts.com. Hearing his voice and cadence drives his message to a deeper level; I recommend Alan Watts 101 for short animated videos coupled with some of my favorite talks.

In my next post I will talk about Syd Barret and John Lilly. I hope you find it as interesting as I did!

Namaste!

The Ancient Conception of New Year’s Celebrations

On the 1 st January of every year, many countries around the world celebrate the beginning of a new year. But there is nothing new about New Year’s. In fact, festivals and celebrations marking the beginning of the calendar have been around for thousands of years. While some festivities were simply a chance to drink and be merry, many other New Year celebrations were linked to agricultural or astronomical events. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The Phoenicians and Persians began their new year with the spring equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice. The first day of the Chinese New Year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

The Celebration of Akitu in Babylon

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The earliest recorded New Year’s festivity dates back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon, and was deeply intertwined with religion and mythology. For the Babylonians of ancient Mesopotamia, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year and represented the rebirth of the natural world.

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They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. During the Akitu, statues of the gods were paraded through the city streets, and rites were enacted to symbolize their victory over the forces of chaos. Through these rituals the Babylonians believed the world was symbolically cleansed and recreated by the gods in preparation for the new year and the return of spring.

In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: it was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was renewed. One fascinating aspect of the Akitu involved a kind of ritual humiliation endured by the Babylonian king. This peculiar tradition saw the king brought before a statue of the god Marduk, stripped of his royal regalia, slapped and dragged by his ears in the hope of making him cry. If royal tears were shed, it was seen as a sign that Marduk was satisfied and had symbolically extended the king’s rule.

Ancient Roman Celebration of Janus

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The Roman New Year also originally corresponded with the vernal equinox. The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. According to tradition, the calendar was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. However, over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, a solar-based calendar which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today.

As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honour the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of change and beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.

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This idea became tied to the concept of transition from one year to the next. Janus is also known as the god of peace and war. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange. Unlike other roman gods Janus has no connection to Greek influences. Janus was claimed as a distinctive Roman god.

Romans would celebrate January 1st by offering sacrifices to Janus in the hope of gaining good fortune for the New Year, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. This day was seen as setting the stage for the next twelve months, and it was common for friends and neighbours to make a positive start to the year by exchanging well wishes and gifts of figs and honey with one another.

Middle Ages: January 1st Abolished

In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the New Year were considered pagan and unchristian-like, and in 567 AD the Council of Tours abolished January 1st as the beginning of the year, replacing it with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25th or March 25 th, the Feast of the Annunciation, also called “Lady Day”.

The date of January 1 st was also given Christian significance and became known as the Feast of the Circumcision, considered to be the eighth day of Christ’s life counting from December 25th and following the Jewish tradition of circumcision eight days after birth on which the child is formally given his or her name. However, the date of December 25 th for the birth of Jesus is debatable .

Gregorian Calendar: January 1st Restored

In 1582, after reform of the Gregorian calendar, Pope Gregory XIII re-established January 1 st as New Year’s Day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire, and their American colonies, still celebrated the New Year in March.

Pope Gregory XIII dedicated his papacy to implementing the recommendations of the Council of Trent. By the time he reformed the Julian calendar in 1582 (using the observations of Christopher Clavius and Johannes Kepler), it had drifted 10 days off course. To this day, most of the world uses his Gregorian calendar.

My Perception:

So now you know why time has been manipulated by people like you and me over the period of times. I do believe in equinox and solstice. It is nature’s physical equivalent of a spiritual awakening and enlightenment. I do believe in celebrations linked to agricultural or and celestial events. Because it’s not something construct of human perception. It’s a renewal and rebirth of nature. we will see change in the sun and the moon during equinox and solstice. but numerical new year not gonna change anything. everything will remain the same except numbers. and numbers and calendars are manmade concept. that’s why time is an absolute illusion.

Recently I started spreading my knowledge about my perception of time and some people do not agree at all. and that’s fine. NO issues!!! I know perception of time refers to a person’s subjective experience of the passage of time, or the perceived duration of events, which can differ significantly between different individuals and/or in different circumstances. but I am just sharing my opinion/view and everybody is free to share their own. Comments and criticism are always welcome.

Namaste!

Happy New Year!

New year, same old me. but that’s ok because human measurement of time is an illusion and space is relative. Besides, it shouldn’t make a difference if it’s the first of January or the sixteenth of November, the middle of the night or the middle of the day, it shouldn’t impact weather we want to change our lives or not. change is within us. We change our lives with every choice we make, don’t we? We shape our own future constantly. If you believe things will get better in a new year unless you are doing something about it, it will stay the same. So is new year an excuse for being lazy and never changing our life on any other day of the year or is it really the only way human beings can pluck up the courage to change? And new year is just another convention. isn’t it?

We say HAPPY NEW YEAR just because we change one number when we write down the date and year. Anyway we are living in 3 dimentional space and we will have to deal with time. But there’s never been a new year. There’s nothing like that except in our minds. Time is eternal and can not be measured. Time is an abstract concept of human perception and It is fluid. We are living in the same “Present” There’s no yesterday or tomorrow only “Now” Why make a new year resolution when you can fix yourself today. Nothing will change in 2017 unless you change. So let the change and transformation happen in your mind first before it becomes reality. We don’t need new year to be a better person. the whole hypothetical “fresh start” of a new year is just another comforting illusion because the division of time is a manmade concept. But i like it somehow because this is point to look back what you’ve done in the past year. time is an absolute illusion and ultimately only a measure of our decay. this has no relevance to the rest of my life but happy new year to all of you. I wish for Oneness in the world. For peace, love, and Unity.

BSF’s first retreat at Ind-Pak Border Zero Point

 

Recently, I’ve been going through waves of emotions. Soldier in me has risen again after filming a mini documentary at International border of India-Pakistan for two days which happened to be such a thrilling and overwhelming experience. So I wrote this post to capture those feelings of epicness I felt through my assignment. I just wanted to share that feeling with all of you.

In India, we only have one place where border tourism is actually developed, Wagah Border! We all have seen videos of lowering of the flags ceremony by the soldiers of security forces of India and Pakistan. Now, Gujarat is going to be the second place where civilians will be invited to see the border and retreat ceremony by the soldiers of BSF, India’s first line of defense.

Few days back Gujarat govt had announced ‘Seema darshan’ – a ‘border viewing’ program at Nadabet on Indo-Pak border in North Gujarat. During “Seema Darshan” program, BSF will hold retreat ceremony, weapons display, fusion band performance, camel show and bird watching activity. The initiative has been launched jointly by Border Security Force (BSF) and Gujarat Tourism. They are aiming to bring sense of pride and patriotism among youngsters and civilians.

I was assigned to shoot “Seema darshan” programme launch at zero point of Nadabet border by Chief Minister of Gujarat. Nada Bet is located in Banaskantha district, 239 km away from Ahmedabad. International border with Pakistan is 25 km away from Nada Bet. Inauguration was scheduled on 24th of December. I reached Nadabet on 23rd of december, one day before the launch. As i entered the venue, I saw lot of BSF vehicles parked outside and I knew this is going to be an amazing experience.

I wanted to go to border which was 25 km away from that place but I couldn’t find the car and driver around. Also tried to call him but there was no network at all So I spent my day wandering around the venue of retreat ceremony. As I entered the venue, I saw a group of soldiers playing some music and I was wondering I have seen these faces somewhere! ohhh.. This is the same band that I have shot 2 years back. I started filming because I had nothing better to do.
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Some soldiers were rehearsing some dance and parade. I was so lost filming their rehearsal sessions that I couldn’t even realize that I have missed sunset! The moment I realized, but without stopping for a single moment I started chasing the sun, just to capture the last rays of the day but sadly I couldn’t. By the time I reached a place from where I thought I’d be able to shoot, sun already went down beyond the horizon. but I have been able to explore a new place, Helipad!!

Skies were turning dark and I suddenly realized that I was hungry since evening. There was a temple nearby where dinner was being served. So I took a walk. Suddenly something bit my leg and I tried not to freak out because there was soldiers walking by. I was scared because I had heard stories of snakes but I soon realized it’s not snake because I was still alive. On my walk, a guy stopped his car and asked me to join him. I was little tired so I opened the door and sat down inside the car and asked “Where are we headed?” Guy on the driver seat said “Zero Point” and my eyes and smile went so wide.

He introduced himself and I was shocked because he knew who I am and what I am doing here. Small World! before we talk further we were stopped by a checkpoint and I saw BSF soldiers coming towards the car with torch light. “Who is this guy?” BSF soldier asked to the gentleman on the driver seat. Before he ask another question I showed my ID card. They were kind and friendly but they kept looking at me surprisingly probably because of my avatar. Then ensued several minutes of debate and we crossed checkpoint.

It took 30 min from checkpoint to reach zero point. I was excited but I couldn’t explore much because It was night. Looking up at a sky full of stars never fails to put things into perspective and leave me amazed. I went to nearby bunker and started talking with soldiers and we became friends. Then I started collecting their real life stories on my notepad and I could sense a great story to tell. I had to leave because they had this protocol or else I would have stayed there overnight.

Now I am back to where I was. Someone from agency told me we have to go to Radhanpur because they have given us a stay in a hotel in Radhanpur. But I was not ready to leave that place because may be I was touched by the vibes. I thought I would be able to walk around, get dinner and coffee, find a place to sleep and That’s what I did.

I woke up the next morning to a bugle call. It took my back to my school days, I used to play one in the scout band. It was so inspiring! I was so thankful for the blessing of being able to start my day with amazing spirit. Spirit of the brave souls! I felt it was signaling me to get up and equip myself immediately. I quickly grabbed my camera and started marching towards the direction of the sounds of bugle. That was the venue of retreat ceremony where soldiers of the BSF band were rehearsing for the show and there I got some good shots.

I am not sure if you know what bugle call is. So, let me describe because this is very interesting stuff. Bugle call is a short tune, originating as a military signal announcing scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on a military installation, battlefield, or ship. Historically, bugles, drums, and other loud musical instruments were used for clear communication in the noise and confusion of a battlefield. Naval bugle calls were also used to command the crew of many warships (signaling between ships being by way of signal flags.) A defining feature of a bugle call is that it consists only of notes from a single overtone series. This is in fact a requirement if it is to be playable on a bugle or equivalently on a trumpet without moving the valves. (If a bandsman plays calls on a trumpet, for example, one particular key may be favored or even prescribed, such as: all calls to be played with the first valve down.) Bugle calls typically indicated the change in daily routines of camp. Every duty around camp had its own bugle call. Bugle calls also relayed commanders’ orders on the battlefield, signaling the troops to Go Forward, To the Left, To the Right, About, Rally on the Chief, Trot, Gallop, Rise up, Lay down, Commence Firing, Cease Firing, Disperse, and other specific actions. It could be sounded without warning at any time of day or night.

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Back to story, I was filming rehearsal sessions and someone interrupted. That was a transfer order actually! from Retreat to Zero Point. and We were stopped by the same checkpost. but this time It was a day so I could see things around, shoot things actually!!!

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We crossed checkpoint after all the formalities. And wow, I could see we were passing through a barren land. Last night I couldn’t see these beauty because of dark.

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This narrow single line road was not safe as per the guy on the driver seat so he took an alternative way which was…..

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We were only 4-5km away from the international border and I asked driver if he could drop me off there and let me walk the rest of the way border. I knew this was going to be a tough one but this is a lifetime experience. He was surprised but my argument was so convincing, he couldn’t refuse.

I am not breaking any laws but International Border is a very sensitive region and I knew I would have to be discreet as local authorities probably would not approve of what I was doing. Car just passed and disappeared in less than one minute. Now I am out of all the reach. I had no phone reception. I took a deep breathe and looked around. I couldn’t find any humans in my sight. I peed in the middle of the desert while staring at the open, vast expanse of the sky. What an experience!

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As I attempt to walk solo across the desert, I have been almost perpetually out of my comfort zone. I embraced my solitude. The desert is watching me. It is hard to find words for the place. Ancient, vast, timeless, epic, still, spiritual, menacing, consuming, other worldly.. Mars-like?

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Soon I realized there are lots animals and insects around me, It’s not just me. That was amazing feeling but I was little scared of getting bitten by something.

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I walked through the desert, surrounded by nothing but oddly shaped yellow-orange stone structures. Well, this was not at all part of my assignment, but it was very much part of my own nature. I had been pushing myself beyond my limits and doing the best I could. This also seems to tie in with a book I had recently read, Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck. Dweck’s research shows that effectively focusing our attention on and enjoying our effort and what we are learning through an experience actually leads to far greater benefits than if we focus on results. I’m now even more converted to her theory, as my own experience seems to line up with her research.

After walking for a while, I was very exhausted and feeling down so I sat on a rock for a few minutes and ate some chocolates and wafers. (I bought it because I knew you don’t get anything to eat when you’re at Zero Point!), I listened to a couple of good audiobooks and some of my favorite music while I walked. After a while, I saw a pond that wasn’t a mirage but was made of rain water.

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A surreal landscape of water and desert. Overwhelming!

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As I crossed water-field, I saw a BSF base camp and realized border is not so far. Finally!!

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Seema darshan has been launched. The Chief Minister expressed his commitment to extensively develop adventure tourism and border tourism in Gujarat. It was a historic day for Gujarat because civilians were never allowed before at the border. Now visitors with govt approved photo ID card will be able to enjoy this opportunity every weekend (Saturday/Sunday) at noon time. Those who are interested to visit are requested to contact Gujarat Tourism for more details on weekend border tour.

Documentary film is the production which portrays life of the BSF soldiers who are living in difficult conditions to protect our border. Govt. is trying to develop border tourism in Gujarat and I will continue collecting stories, experience and reality of these brave souls. It was such a thrilling experience to be treasured for a lifetime.