Monthly Archives: March 2009

Just a Shanti-Banti Soul

I shouldn’t really be blogging –  way too much work to do right now, but I had to post this picture, sent to me this morning by Anand from Chennai. He saw my photostream on flickr and sent me this message:

Its good to see your collections..
im surprised you a westerner have adapted indian culture.. its strange..
whereas in india people down here got attracted towards western.
I could smell the indian flavour throughout your wesbite..

Well, i gotta funny idea when seeing one pic.. so i tried some what
you might like..
plz do take a look


Apart from making me laugh out loud, this also made me remember how as a child, I’d sometimes wish I could wake up brown. I wanted to be Indian so that my spiritual and cultural life wouldn’t be so commentworthy for people – particularly at school. I suppose for a shy girl, all I wanted to do was not stand out. Having red hair and white skin and belonging to a community that wears traditional Vedic clothes and all the rest, is a pretty good way of attracting attention.

As I grew up, and grew into my own skin and identity, I became more comfortable with it. I even began to enjoy shocking people that hadn’t previously guessed my background, with my knowledge of something Indian. I could laugh off stares and comments ranging from the amusing, to the downright rude. Once I got interrogated by an old lady in a supermarket while I was dressed in a sari – ‘Do you know what you’re wearing? Do you know where it comes from?’ She seemed amazed that I did.

Of course sometimes it was still an issue. Particularly when performing in Indian classical music and dance performances, a white face means standing out in a much more obvious way than in everyday life.

Now, I’ve gradually come to see it as a blessing. People noticing and asking questions gives me the opportunity to examine my deep philosophical beliefs that I learnt as a young child, but didn’t always consider growing up. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna talks about the body as being no more than the discardable covering for the soul, which is eternal. With this knowledge, I can understand that my external is irrelevant. I can’t imagine how confused I might be without knowing that I am not really any of the labels that society chooses to give me, whether it be wannabe-desi, white girl or HinJew. In Israel I got ‘shanti banti’- what young Israelis call white people that get into Eastern culture. It’s all fine. I am an eternal soul, and even if sometimes I think a suntan might be nice (!), I no longer wish to become any different on the outside.

In the words of the singer India Arie:

I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations no no,

I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.


Filed under Krishna Consciousness, Photos, Videos

An Excuse.

Emails in the coming month,
May receive quite slow replies,
I write from within a pile of coursework,
For this sorry state, I apologise.

Leave a comment

Filed under Creative Writing, Uncategorized, University Coursework

Namamali aged Eleven

Next month my brother will turn twelve. I can still remember the day he was born, waking up in the morning to realise my mum was already gone, and driving with a stomach full of butterflies to the hospital. He was a squished, squirming, tangle of limbs with a funny shaped head, but my sister and I were totally captivated. Our brother. Like no other.

Now he’s on the verge of teenagehood and I can hardly believe that so many years have passed since we sat in that hospital room, laughing that ‘When he’s twelve, Jahnavi will be twenty-two!’. It seemed absurd that I would be so old so soon. But I am, and so is he, and so are we all. Time moves faster than we do.

Here’s some little videos I took of Mali from this month, just for fun. The first is of his second piano concert at the Watford School of Music. He’s been learning for two years now and we’re so proud of him. He’s so musical and even composes his own pieces too. In the second video, he’s talking about his stick insect, who sadly died today. Who’s fault was it? No comment.

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Videos

Celebrating Spring!

Spring is bursting forth more with every day right now. I’m always reminded of this painting (detail above), ‘Spring’ by Lawrence Alma-Tadema at this time of year. The branches of blossoms you can see the people holding are everywhere, and though it’s perhaps mostly only the Hare Krishnas parading through the streets, singing and dancing, the warmer air brings a feeling of celebration and relief that puts everyone in a festive mood, regardless of their religious persuasion. It can perhaps only be compared to the start of the desperately awaited rainy season in hotter countries, where the first rainfall sends everyone out dancing in the street.

The relief I feel when the seasons take a turn for the better is very similar to the relief I feel when I am able to absorb myself in spiritual activity, especially kirtan. These kind of analogies are very common in spiritual literature. The effects of chanting the name of God are often compared to cooling moonlight, breezes, rain and sandalwood paste, or dazzling sun and heating fire. In order to feel relief from the bluster and scorch of life, we can find shelter in becoming absorbed in cultivating and celebrating our relationship with God.

The colour and music of this spring procession were equally present last week as we sang and danced down Oxford Street in Central London, in honour of Gaura Purnima. What wasn’t so present was the sun – rain fell at the beginning, middle and end of the two hour procession. Just as well we were dancing for a different reason. Hems were muddy, hair was soaked, but everyone was happy. Krishna and his names are eternally youthful and fresh, just as the fresh, new buds and leaves of spring. I don’t know about you, but to me, eternal spring = a pretty good reason to celebrate!


Filed under Art, Music and Dance, Krishna Consciousness, Seasonal

After Midnight, Birthday Thoughts.

Birthdays are funny things. They come along, regular as clockwork – that one day of the year where something is supposed to happen – something is supposed to feel different. Another year older, not necessarily wiser. It’s a day that we celebrate, for reasons I can’t quite understand. I’m always a bit uncomfortable with the attention, and the fussiness of it all. I tell myself it’s just another day, but then, I know I’d still feel disappointed if no one wished me a happy birthday, or if I didn’t get a single card. It’s culturally ingrained – the day you were born is a day to celebrate and enjoy the life you live! Have fun! Have some cake! How does it feel to be another year older? Did you get lots of presents? You are having a party aren’t you?

I did have a nice day today though. I went to the temple very early in the morning, relishing the sweet dawn prayers in the darkened temple room. If nothing else, my birthday helps me to remember Krishna. It serves as a yearly marker – a reminder of all the ways that Krishna has protected and guided me throughout the past year. I reflected on this a few days ago, and wrote a prayer:

On Gaurapurnima night in 1987, I was blessed to be born to parents that already worshipped you. Now 22 years have passed. Though a short time in the scheme of things, considering what some people achieve in two decades, my progress towards you has been pitifully slow. Taking my fortunate birth and upbringing for granted, I have squandered the wealth of knowledge and opportunity that is offered to me. The passing years have rendered me scarcely more intelligent than that slippery, screaming baby, being passed from hand to hand. Yet I see the ways in which you draw me closer, day by day.

I humbly pray that just as the fixed position of a shining full moon remains unmoved by the passing clouds, may your moonlike presence within the passing lifetimes of this soul remain ever steady. In the daytime, the moon becomes less visible, and sometimes in times of happiness, I forget you are there, or ignore you. But please remain there my Lord. I was once a worm, and once a tree. I was once a man, and once I flew over mountains. Now I am known as Jahnavi, and after 22 years, I still pray to one day be your servant.


Filed under Krishna Consciousness

Papa Don’t Preach

Still working on my radio script about kirtan this week. With each new draft I’m trying to distill what it actually is that I want people to feel and understand by listening to it.

It’s hard. Perhaps part of it comes from the difficult process of unpicking exactly why I think kirtan is so great? Do I really believe that it’s the greatest answer to the world’s problems, or do I just know that believing it gives me approval within my own society? If I’m not totally convinced myself, how do I communicate that doubt to an audience, without diminishing the message?

I understand more and more the gap between preaching and practise. I’ve grown up being able to explain some simple philosophy, as well as becoming a little familiar with more difficult concepts just by being exposed to them. This is one kind of spiritual knowledge. But I don’t think it’s really knowledge in a true sense unless it’s then internalised and practised with full faith. Is it?

Maybe the ability to preach or evangelise is no more than just being charismatic or  good with words. Without the truth of personal experience and conviction behind the exclamations,  I wonder if the message can ever have a very long lasting effect.

O, it is far easier to study and press a thousand truths upon others, than to feel the power of one truth upon our own hearts.

–  John Flavel, 1627-1691


Filed under Creative Writing, Krishna Consciousness, Uncategorized, University Coursework

It’s Cool To Be A Krishna Girl

So Hare Krishna girls don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t sleep around, don’t take drugs – some don’t even eat chocolate! What could they possibly do with all the spare time that’s left?

Watch my dear friends, Kalindi (mridanga drum), Rasika (karatal cymbals), Anapayini and Kumari (dancing sisters) in their rhythmic showdown. This is a little taster of the kind of performances we do on the Krishna Culture Festival tour.


Filed under Art, Music and Dance, Bus Tour Memories, Inspiration!, Krishna Consciousness, Uncategorized, Videos