Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lenten Reflections: Or why Inter-religious dialogues are a bad idea

Secularism has not meant in India the same thing that it did to countries in Western Europe. In those spaces, notably France, secularism meant restricting the direct say of the Catholic hierarchy over what was constituted as the space of the State. In India secularism has largely meant equal treatment to all religions, or the irrelevance of the individual’s religion to the State in public matters. The Indian State however, also inaugurated a social dimension to accompany this ‘political’ dimension of secularism. This dimension was to promote what we have come to understand as ‘communal harmony’, where Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, can all live as bhai-bhai. Taking stock of the situation around us, we can safely say that this project has by and large not been a success. To sit in for this failure, we refer to those common gustatory experiences at Christmas, Eid or Diwali, where we eat food together, as evidence of communal amity and harmony.

This common gustation probably made sense in the context of the Indian freedom struggle, where to create the Indian, one needed to overcome the barriers of caste and get people to think of themselves, at least in the ‘public sphere’ as Indians. Caste distinctions were (and are) enforced through two methods; restricting the options regarding who one can marry, and secondly by restricting who one could eat and drink with. The first method was largely ignored since it fell within the so-called ‘private sphere’. The second method however most definitely fell within the public sphere, since eating together could bring people together in public, without unduly impacting on the axis on which the whole caste system turns, i.e. the control of access to women’s bodies. Eating together helped mobilize people to fight the British and in that context made sense. Beyond that, our eating together at festivals is now only a token reminder of the caste rules we are breaking when we entertain. In any case this sense of doing the guest a favour by feeding her is also a strong part of Indian hospitality. Why else do we have the famous come-eat-and-go norm at our wedding celebrations?

There is perhaps no clear-cut administrative method to ensure the social grounding of this Indian notion of secularism. However, as citizens of a secular republic we could encourage an ethic of inter-faith dialogue among ourselves to ensure this social grounding. I use faith as a conscious alternative to the phrase religious, since they mean two different things, at least in the context I seek to use them. Religion would refer to the more standard ritual practices of a sect or community, the communal practice of which grants them a definite identity as opposed to others. Faith would be the spirit that animates the individual to engage in these rituals for reasons beyond identifying with the group. Faith would be the spirit that makes the individual desire to transcend the immediate and the material in search of, and in support of, the underlying unity in the world.

It is when we make this distinction that we can engineer changes in the way we understand the inter-religious/faith initiatives that mark our times. The inter-faith dialogue is not a dialogue between two discrete monolithic social groups, say Hindu and Muslim, Muslim and Catholic, but between individuals, and more crucially between the individual and herself, i.e. an intra-personal dialogue. The inter-faith dialogue does not seek to capture practices and outward symbols, but seeks to capture an essence and then bring that essence into the practice of one’s daily life, whether religious or secular.

Allow me to elaborate. As a child growing up in a Catholic community that by and large had not realized the momentous changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, Lent was a time for the outward manifestation of sorrow and mourning. Don’t drink, don’t eat meat, don’t play Holi and don’t watch TV on Good Friday. Lent would have continued for me as a nuisance rather than a spiritually renewing season were it not for my encountering the spirit with which I saw Muslims embrace the month of Ramzan. Ramzan is not the time for long faces and despondency, but a time to joyously embrace. Fasting and the breaking of the fast, the prayers that are actively attended, all these are acts that brings the community together, in what one Catholic theologian has compared to the ‘communion of saints’ that we formally acknowledge in the course of the Creed.

Internalizing this attitude to Lent has subsequently radicalized the manner in which I view Lent. Lent is now a joyous period that allows me the opportunity to reflect, reconcile and spiritually renew myself. It is not as if this aspect of Lent is not emphasized by Catholic teaching. What I seek to emphasize is that my observation of Islamic practice has helped me to come one step closer to ideals within my maternal faith-tradition. Thus I am not required to imitate or replicate Islamic, Hindu or other rituals. I am not even required to participate in them. Inter-faith dialogue requires me only to respect other traditions enough to observe them and see what spirit I can take away from their traditions to enrich my own encounter with life, while not necessarily changing my identity.

Such an approach to dialogue is necessarily individual and cannot be boxed into the bureaucratic requirements of State projects. Despite the accepted common-sense that the State and society are two different entities, all too often, we actively imitate the State. We imitate the structures of the State, the manner in which the State goes about achieving its goals. We make committees and rules and constitutions and formal meetings and in the course of this process the spirit falls by the way side. Thinking of grounding secularism through inter-faith dialogues therefore could possibly be a way forward for us, in these troubled times.

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 27 Feb 2009)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Street-side stalls, No Sidewalks: Foundations for an unsafe and gridlocked Panjim City

There are two parallel processes currently on in the city of Panjim that paints for us a picture of the future of the city. The picture that emerges from these two processes is not very pretty.

The first of the two processes is the evacuation of the street-side stalls (gadas) from various parts of Panjim city. This evacuation of the stalls should not be seen as a bolt out of the blue. It is merely the conclusion of a process that was set in motion approximately half a decade ago when a group of ‘conscientious’ citizens pleaded before the High Court that the presence of these stalls impeded the free and unrestricted access of pedestrians in the city of Panjim. A whole vision was conjured up, one that compared Panjim city to the cities in the more developed parts of the world. It was argued that if we wanted a fair impression of our city, and a respect for the rights of pedestrians, then these stalls would have to be removed. In response to this petition, the stalls were removed from various parts of the city and concentrated in two areas; the first around the park behind the Printing Press and the second on the street by the Masano do Amorim. It is possible that these owners of these stalls thought that their miseries were over, however experience of the operation of the Indian developmental state, clearly indicates that these expectations were clearly foolish. Once you are pushed out of a location, then it is only a matter of time, before you are finished-off completely. This has been the experience of rural communities displaced for developmental projects, and the experience of other communities displaced in urban contexts for ‘the greater good of all’.

There doesn’t seem to have been any serious argument forwarded that the discrete location of these street-side stalls catered to the healthy functioning of the city, as it serviced small needs of homes and offices in the area, and the needs of persons of marginal economic means. The concentration of these stalls in two areas was in fact a displacement from their meaningful context. Setting the owners of these stalls up in the new market complex may address the issue of their livelihood, but what will it do to the economic and social life of the city? Will it force us to travel (not walk) longer distances for the small essentials that these shops sold? Will it kill the activity on our streets thereby creating empty roads that are the perfect setting for criminal and anti-social activity?

Before I move on to the next point, I would like to stress that a main plank of the arguments against these stalls was that they were encroaching on to public space and preventing easy pedestrian access to the side walk on which they were located.

The second process that is unfolding in Panjim city is the covering over of the road-side gutters with cement grilles. This process should normally be welcome, except that the process of covering the gutter, has resulted in the erasure of difference between the road and the side-walk. The two areas, once clearly demarcated by the presence of an open gutter have in many places merged into one single area. The result of this merging is that we already have vehicles encroaching onto the sidewalk, vehicles being parked on the side-walk leaving no space for the humble pedestrian. In addition, it has created the context to create rouge traffic in the city.

If the displacement of the street-side stalls was about the opening up of space for pedestrians, then the second process is clearly operating contrary to this logic. It appears that, as is the case with most Indian cities, Panjim too is giving way to the cancer that is eating up our cities. The road is eating away at the city to create the city as a space for the new deity of our age, the automobile. The logic of the automobile is dictating our decisions, even as we see our cities morphing into spaces that are unlivable thanks to the cancerous growth of the road.

The two processes ongoing in Panjim make sense if we examine the whole issue from a class-sensitive point of view. The persons who initially moved the petition against the street-side carts are not those who normally walk or cycle through the city, they are elites who are more used to driving through the city and making their purchases at either upmarket stores, or at the central market in Panjim. The street-side stall therefore operated only as an eye-sore to them, a place where the lower order gathered. The rhetoric of the pedestrian was therefore merely a tool to mask their cosmetic agenda of creating a pretty view of the city as they drove past. The simultaneous process of the widening of the roads to include the sidewalks only serves to underline the truth of my suggestion. There is a disdain being displayed here for the rights of pedestrians, disabled, children, aged and cyclists, who use the side-walks and rely on boundaries between the road and the side-walk for their safety. The expansion of the road benefits only the automobile owner, who is by and large, a member of the middle class.

The picture that emerges for Panjim city is a city that operates to service the automobile and the classes that can access the automobile. This does not augur well either for the aesthetics of our city, nor for the safety of the denizens of the city. The city would be much better served if the city catered to all segments of the citizenry, catering to them via street-side stalls, central markets and up-market stores. The city would be a much safer place if it were made pedestrian (and disabled person) friendly. The city would be much safer if it encouraged a street-life that ensures a public eye on the streets at almost all times of the day. This public eye is generated through the provision for street-cafes and pedestrian zones. The city would be much healthier if it created a movement-network that encouraged walking, cycling in association with reliable and (disabled) people-friendly public transport, rather than catering to the all(oil)-consuming, pollutant-spewing private automobile.

There is a certain refusal to share that marks our times. In this case a refusal to share public space with the economically and socially marginal. What is unfolding in Panjim is a part of this process. We would all be better served if we stood up in defence of the rights of street-side stalls to discreetly place themselves on our streets. We would be better served if we stood up and demanded that our side-walks be made secure for pedestrians, that segments of roads be marked out for cyclists and for public transport that has right of way. In so many ways Goa is lucky to still have these options before us. If we don’t seize these options now, we will wind up making our cities and towns unsafe and impersonal spaces, full of smog-belching vehicles in grid-lock.

(Published in the Gomantak Times 18th Feb 2009)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cosmopolitanism and Culture: Should the Goan be ashamed of being Cosmopolitan?

It is the events at the Goa Konkani Academy’s commemoration of the adoption of the Official Language Act, on the 4th of February that provides the meat for this week’s ramblings.

The key speaker at the event was Advocate Uday Bhembre who spoke on the Official Language Act in the context of Culture (Asmitai). In the course of his lecture Adv. Bhembre made a rather stunning observation. He referred to an event in Margao sometime ago, when Goans were referred to as being cosmopolitan. Uday baab smiled. The word cosmopolitan at first blush sounds very nice he said. But if you go to look at it, what it really means, is that you have no authentic culture or identity that you can demonstrate to the world as being uniquely your own.

It was now my turn to smile. Clearly the venerable Bhembre had been plucking his fruit from the wrong tree. Most cultural theorists, philosophers and political thinkers would be hard pressed to agree with his understanding of cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism for most of the world means the ability to appreciate the culture of others and relate in a positive manner to these cultures, taking, imbibing adding on to it, enriching one’s own cultural position. In doing so, one’s own cultural position definitely gets changed, but this, it is the firm belief of cosmopolitans, is only a positive accretion, as one moves from being the frog in the well (the Sanskritic kaupamanduk) to being a citizen of the world.

If there is a large global opinion that runs counter to Bhembre’s understanding of the word, why does Bhembre position cosmopolitanism in this manner? The possible answer is that he is probably collapsing the word cosmopolitan with the (British)Indian understanding of Goan culture. For the British-Indian, Goan culture is but the culture of the Goan (Portuguese Indian) natives who took everything they have from the Portuguese. They are therefore cosmopolitan in all that they do, because they don’t really have their own culture.

This British-Indian position is without doubt a violent position that denies the Goan cultural agency. However what is disturbing is that rather than fight this British-Indian (im)position on our own (Goan) terms, Bhembre tries to fight it on British-Indian terms, by rejecting the hybridity of Goan culture (rather than embracing it) and accepting the nationalistic British-Indian position that stresses and celebrates authentic regional cultures, that are united primarily in their derivation from some common Sanskritic mould.

To meet this goal, he reduces the Goan identity to just one feature; Konkani, nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately however, Goan identity is much more than Konkani, and the definition of Konkani is an extremely contested one. In stressing Konkani, and doing so on British-Indian terms (that recognize primarily brahmanical, Sanskritised forms) what he is doing is rejecting the existing hybrid and cosmopolitan bases of Goan-ness. What we should be very clear about though, is that what this rejection does, is to lay the foundations for conflict and discord in Goan society, one such extant conflict being that spawned by the lack of recognition to Konkani in the Roman script and the dialects associated with it.

It is tragic that Bhembre chooses the more regressive of the British-Indian traditions. Within the modern Indian tradition, we have at least two exemplars of cosmopolitanism, Gandhi and Tagore. Gandhi was clearly uncomfortable with the parochialism that marked the building of a nationalist culture. Tagore was similarly uncomfortable with the building of cultural barriers and the celebration of authenticity that guarded itself from contamination. Bhembre has definitely chosen the winning team though, given that both Gandhi and Tagore are something of anomalies in contemporary India.

Bhembre is a suave and sophisticated speaker and if you weren’t listening closely you would miss the violence that is necessarily a part of his rejection of cosmopolitanism. The violence of this project however was clearly sketched out by the side show that Naguesh Karmali put up when invited to speak at the event. Karmali opined that we are a shameless people. The Portuguese came to our land, mangled the names of our villages to such an extent that today we don’t recognize them in Konkani. And yet, so many years after their departure, we have till date not returned them to their original forms.

Original, Mr. Karmali? For me my village is Sancoale, Cuncolim and Divar, there are other names for these villages, but I prefer to use these, since these are the names I use on a daily basis and the names as used by my family. Are you suggesting that my knowledge and the identity from it is wrong? Am I, my self, my being and my life wrong? Can the one life that a human being has, when not causing harm to another, be wrong?

Karmali didn’t just stop there; i.e. in branding a good portion of Goans as ‘wrong’. He went on to suggest that we should emulate places like Karnataka and Gujarat and other places where the names of places have been reverted to their ‘original’ forms. I will not elaborate on the fact that what these changes have done is to legalize intolerance. Only one name is legally permitted for a place, there is no space for a cosmopolitan identity for these places. Thus the beauty of a Bombay in English, Bombaim in Konkani and Mumbai in Marathi, when spoken by the same person is no longer legally permissible. But the violence of the legal world is not the only kind we should be afraid of, since Mr. Karmali seemed to have more corporeal violence in mind. Can we celebrate examples drawn from Gujarat and Karnataka without also knowing that these same changes have laid the foundations for the shocking anti-minority violences in both States? In Gujarat it was the Muslims that bore (and continue to bear) the brunt of this parochialism; in Karnataka, anyone who does not speak Kannada, or looks non-Kannadiga bears the brunt of this politics of authenticity. But then we should not be surprised by Karmali’s statements and proclivities. This is the same man who was at the forefront of the attacks on ‘Portuguese’ street names in Fontainhos a few years ago, and he runs free despite it.

Cosmopolitanism is a welcome cultural marker. It stands against the sectarian visions of nationalism. Those who actively seek to work against it, only lay the foundation for the destruction of our social order.

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 11th Feb 2009)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Palestinians, Jews and Zionists

Christopher Fonseca, the trade unionist, deserves a public commendation for having made history of sorts in our State. Exactly a week ago, he organized a public meeting in solidarity with the Palestinian people at the Institute Menezes Braganza. This public meeting was perhaps the first ever public meeting in Goa on the Palestinian issue and for this alone he deserves credit. However, Comrade Fonseca didn’t just organize a meeting; he organized a meeting which had the hall overflowing with people. For the Palestinian issue to merit such attention in Goa was truly a commendable feat. For all of this, thank you Comrade!

Despite being a by-and-large politically vibrant place, why is it that till date Goa has failed to respond to the Palestinian issue? The answer could perhaps lie in the Indian framework within which we are imbricated. Ever noticed how the Palestinian issue does not figure as much as it does (and should) in the Indian electronic media? At times you would imagine that the Palestinian crisis doesn’t even exist! This happens for good reason. A friend in a prominent national network tells me that they traveled to Israel only when transported there by the Israeli State (guess whose side of the story they presented?) Another friend, in a rival national network cynically pointed out, that ignoring the Palestinian crisis and representing an Israeli point of view made eminent sense. “This way we can do the same thing to Pakistan no?” She’d hit the nail on the head. In many ways India would like to see herself as a subcontinental Israel, since it allows us similar options for belligerence against our neighbours.

This is not the time however for a comparison between Hindutva and Zionism; that should be left for another column. We ought to evaluate now, a statement made at this historic meeting.

Speaking at the meeting Sheik Hassan displayed to the world, the ignorance of the Goan people regarding the politics of the Middle East. Sheik Hassan sought to take the origins of the conflict way back into Biblical times. It was the Jews, he said, who killed the Prophet Jesus Christ. Now the same people are killing the Palestinians. What else can you expect from the Jews? There ought to have been gasps of horror, followed by shocked silence in the hall. Instead the audience sat on, as placid as a calm lake. Clearly both speaker and audience were mired in the same pool of ignorance. What Sheik Hassan spoke at the meeting was clear and distinct anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred. And before we proceed to defend the rights of the Palestinians against the barbaric depredations of the Israeli state, it is imperative that we clear our confused vision, to see what the real issue is, and cleanse ourselves of this pointless Jew hating.

To begin with, the Jews did not kill Christ. If we want to blame a Jewish cast, then we need to possibly blame the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council that included the High Priest before who Christ was first presented. Even within the Sanhedrin though, there was division as to the question of Christ’s ‘guilt’, so we don’t have a clear-cut culpability of the Sanhedrin. You have only to read the Gospels (though the Gospels themselves are not historical documents telling us an objective political truth) to know that the power of life and death rested not in the hands of the Jewish leadership, but in the hands of the representative of Rome, at that time Pontius Pilate. It was Pontius Pilate who sentenced Christ to death, and dramatically evaded responsibility by washing his hands off the blood of Christ. It is the ensuing act by members of the Sanhedrin that is used to pin the guilt of Christ’s death onto the Jews, the scene where the crowd cries out, ‘His blood be on our heads and on the heads of our children’. In time, this scene was blown out of proportion, especially in the course of the European Middle Ages when it was used to justify acts of routine violence against the Jews. It was not a crazed mob that screamed out these words, but a small coterie that went before Pilate. Surely one does not blame an entire community (even then spread out across the world) for the words of a small and insecure elite?

Sheik Hassan picked on the worst kind of rhetoric he could find to rouse the audience to anger, obfuscated the issue, and for this should be roundly condemned. The problem of Palestine did not begin with the Jews of biblical times, it began much closer in time to us. Secondly, it is not the Jews who are to blame, but the Zionists. As I will seek to elaborate at another point of time, Zionists are primarily Jews, but they are in the thrall of a logic that can extend across religions, including even, Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

Zionism is an ideology that seeks to establish a separate state for the Jewish people, and in the course of its evolution, settled on Palestine as the appropriate location. Zionism, emerged in the context of the racist nationalisms that marked the close the Austro-Hapsburg Empire, when various groups banded themselves into racist categories and demanded their own nation-states. Zionism should be seen in this context, as another kind of racist nationalism, quite divorced from the religious tenets of Judaism. In fact, some of the most bitter opponents of the Israeli state and Zionism are segments of the Orthodox Jewish population. It was God they hold, that dispersed the Jewish peoples from Israel, and it is only the Messiah who will establish the Kingdom of Israel again. To attempt to establish an Israeli State therefore, is to go against the wishes of God. These same groups, point to a shared history, and of peaceful coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews prior to the arrival of the Zionists in Palestine. This is a fact; it was only after the arrival of aggressive Zionists, who sough to displace the local Arabs (both Christians and Muslims) that Palestine collapsed into the mess that it has now become. Interestingly, like the key thinkers of Hindutva, most of the founders of Zionism, were not practicing or believing Jews.

However, it is not just religious Jews who oppose the State of Israel, there are other ‘secular’ Jewish voices as well, that oppose the racists and inhuman actions of the Zionist State of Israel. These Jewish voices exist both within the State of Israel, for example the Shministim, the Israeli high school graduates (as young as 18 years of age) who been subjected to repeated jail terms for their principled refusal to serve in the Israeli defence force because of the ongoing Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, the organization ‘Not In Our Name’ and a number of others.

Sheik Hassan’s statements are regrettable, and he would do well to apologize and retract this statement. Unfortunately, his position is one that is shared by a number of Muslims, a position that they would do well to reconsider, since it works to only place them within this absolutely uncritical category of global Muslim. This position leads us nowhere, only to problematic rhetorical positions that eventually paint us into a corner.

Israel is not a Jewish project, it is a Zionist project, all Jews are not Zionist, and not all Zionists Jewish.

(Published in the Gomantak Times 4 Feb 2009)

Panjim and the New Jerusalem: The New Pitched Roofs of Panjim and Urban Design

By the Rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down,
Yea. Yea we wept,
When we remembered Zion.

Growing up in Panjim, at the foot of Altinho in the 1980’s, Panjim was my Zion, Altinho, my Temple Mount. Ever so often a bunch of us kids would climb up to this spot on the hill and gaze down onto Panjim, catch a view of the river and Betim on the other bank. The scape is one that will remain forever in my minds eye. It was a pretty sight, of tiled roofs, a few apartment buildings going down to the river. In which my childish imagination, I would see dhows sail in up the river, from across the Arabian sea. There was a lyrical element to it all.

Fast forward to 2000, I climbed back to this spot from my childhood and gazed out again over Panjim. This time round, I sat down, and wept, as I remembered Zion. The city of my childhood and imagination had disappeared almost completely. There were now many more apartment blocks than I remembered from the 80’s. Irregular and flat roofed, with strange boxes sticking out of them, they marred the sky line of the city, ruined the view of the river. I would have to rely on my imagination hence forth to recreate the Zion of my childhood.

While I dare not return to that spot again, for fear of my fragile heart, as I ride and walk through Panjim, I notice signs of change. Over the past few years, the older of the flat-roofed apartment buildings in Panjim (and in other parts of the state as well I imagine) have begun erected pitched roofs over their flat concrete roofs. I would imagine that this latest development would change the skyline of Panjim a great deal; would prove to be an improvement, taking us back to an era when the skyline of Panjim was dominated by pitched (and tiled) roofs. Viewed from the ground, these new roofs soften the heaviness and harshness of the concrete apartment block. The building doesn’t seem weighed down anymore by the weight of a thick concrete slab, but wears its crown as it were, lightly.

These roofs present underline a significant home-truth; the architectural model represented by the old Goan homes, and public buildings, is relevant even today, for reason of working within the environmental matrix of the local area. The upper-storey of these buildings are clearly going to be much cooler through the summer and the building less prone to water-seepage, as the rain slides off the roof, not collecting on the ‘terraces’ of these buildings. Aesthetically too, they manage to hide the irregularities of the design of these buidings. For example, the water-tanks that pop up on the roofs of these buildings, the box on the roof that shelters the entrance to the terrace. One primary reason the contemporary building does not appear as pleasing to the eye as the older Goan buildings, is that these newer buildings have too many design elements sticking out all over them, and secondly they are composed of too many broken lines. The pitched roof over the apartment building manages to tie together some of these incomplete lines, and integrate them altogether through the meeting of various lines at the top of the roof.

Having after many decades ‘completed’ the buildings, these pitched roofs also suggest to us a new agenda for urban dressing – in crude terms for the builder’s lobby, urban redevelopment. Having resolved the issue of the roof, the façades of these buildings can now be altered; to first integrate all those broken lines that mark the apartment block. For example, the balconies that stick out of the façade, and seem to hang in mid-air, without presenting any vertical line that links all of them together, from bottom to top. Secondly, get rid of those excessive elements that clutter the building façade. Example, the concrete chujjas over windows. Finally, it could also present us an opportunity to once more have a street face that is composed of harmonious elements. Buildings which retain their unique personality but through the common elements of the pitched roof, and harmonized façades are in conversation with each other, rather than pursing a radically independent direction.

Ofcourse none of this is going to emerge from merely erecting a pitched roof over the contemporary apartment block. A good number of these pitched roofs still need to have regard to the manner in which they also contribute to the façade of the building. A good number of these roofs do not merely rise from the edge of the terrace, they provide a roof to the terrace, thus requiring us to have regard to the integration of the roof with the façade as well.

For those who can see, there is clearly a good amount of money to be made for pushing for an urban renewal policy that seeks to re-develop existing buildings and harmonise them with an earlier building aesthetic; an aesthetic that in fact draws tourists to Panjim. In such a policy, perhaps we also need to contemplate the wisdom of the current setbacks, that disrupt the street façade, do not contribute to pedestrian comforts since the reason for the setback is largely to accommodate street widening for automobiles. But this is another matter. Development in Goa today is by and large a bad word, primarily because it is absolutely unimaginative and quite frankly ugly. How do we generate profits while also contributing to the larger benefit of society, while not necessarily being philanthropic? One way I would argue, would be a rethinking of urban design in the manner only vaguely suggested here.

Subsequent to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the dispersion of the Jewish peoples all across the globe, there arose among them (and their other brethren in faith) the belief in the re-establishment of Jerusalem through the hands of the Messiah. The New Testaments ends with the Revelations and the vision of the coming of the New Jerusalem, shining brilliantly like a diamond. While I continue to mourn the destruction of my own Zion, perhaps the new pitched roofs of Panjim give reason to await the second coming of the city?

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 21 Jan 2009)