Special Place Dance (2 Films Included)

She is placing stickers in a sticker book. My mom got the kiddos gifts as they visit this weekend. Their great aunt grandmother has just passed away. All the kiddos know is that they took a long car ride and now are visiting ajji (their grandmother, my mom) in the city they moved from, the city in which they were born.

Two weeks ago it was late at night and my nephew was upset because although it was nighttime he wanted to go to a “special place”, i.e. somewhere fun, i.e. the park. I said to him, you know, it is not good to go to bed upset, if you go to bed with happy thoughts that will be nicer for your dreams. I suggest that we recount 3  things he is grateful for, i.e. what is  something wonderful that  you are thankful for. “Nothing, because we can’t go to a special place”. I start. “Well, did you know I was coming and we would dance together? “Oh yeah, that was special, and fun”.

Ok, what else?

I had grapes today and I like grapes.  I’m still allergic to raspberry berries though ok?

We make it all the way up to 10, my favorite being how he visited ajji and his old house in long beach, in his imagination, earlier in the day. As he goes to sleep I sing him my version of “My Favorite Things”. “Melina, and Rohan and Kai Kai and swimming. Yoga and yogurt and laughing and film. M-e-d-i-t-a-t-i-o-n and green plants galore….”

“Excuse me, what is meditation?”

Excellent question, would you like to experience this? I ask him to close his eyes and imagine an ocean. And sand. White sand and blue blue water. He is on the beach and his sister is close by and they are building a sand castle. She is close by but also far enough that he can really hear the sound of the ocean (insert ocean noise here). The sun is gently showering his back and a light breeze dances on his skin (add in cuddling effects here)…the guided meditation continues as he falls asleep.

Kiddos = niece (5), nephew (almost 4), nephew (almost 7 months).

Mina-beana-kamina (niece) is telling me what everyone is doing while she is playing with the stickers. Rohanie (as we call  him with an eee ending) is sleeping and I am sure my mom got him stickers too. Applecore is hanging out with both his grandma’s in my mom’s so cal rose and tulsi plant garden. Parents are somewhere. She giggles if I ask if they went on a romantic walk.

cherry blossom with filter

Applecore is my nickname for the the littlest one. Originally this name came as an alternative to the then name his siblings (and parents!) had given him- PooPooHead.  As a result of the Applecore naming, I have now been eating more apples, in honor of Applecore, and my niece has decided to abandon PooPooHead for Applecore, or Kai Kai, as we also like to call him. I had insisted then and still now that she can call him whatever she wants and should not be swayed by me, but is free to do as she wishes, within reason. Like when she tells me, I like visiting your small house because “we can do whatever we want”. I reflect back, “whatever you want, within reason.”  Last visit I explained that in a city we can indeed go for a walk at night. Since I live in a second story unit with lots of window, indeed she saw this was true. “Look at all the people on the street and it is night time!” She revised her initial understanding and after dinner suggested we go outside. I was trying to assess if this was about going outside or getting ice cream and the conclusion was, it was both. And walking, that is another thing we do in the city. And good thing for that because the Skeechers sign then automagically reveals itself to really be a spaceship and other things along our walk are part of the clues.  We agree next time they should visit in the daytime, so we can hunt for more clues outside, for longer, just like Little Einsteins.

Chatting on the phone with Melina, I bring the unicorns into the conversation. She asks, “Why do you think Rohan does not like unicorns so much?”  I protest and insist that he does, in fact he asked me to get him one. I gave her one for her birthday. I think he really is inclining towards dolphins. We are in the process of exploring this.  “What does inclining mean?”

I ask Melina if she thinks unicorns are magical. Yes, for sure they are. I tell her she is magical and I miss her. She says, “I miss you too you know.” 5 years old, in moments this little girl has grown. The day after she turned five she wiggled her toes to show me she can make the toes into shapes. She knows my birthday is coming up and when I ask her to guess how old I will be she puts her clever hat on and asks, how old are you now? (last year I was 5, bc that was one year older than her and one year younger than her mommy). I say 35. She tells me,  “Ok” and then tells me that I will be 36. I pause.  Am I really 35? 2011-1975. Yup it is true.

Before we get off the phone, my niece insists: When I see you next time we should do the ho ho ha ha ha dance, ok? But I know you like to call it the ha ha ho ho ho dance. That is ok, we can still be friends even if we do laughter club differently.  Right?

Here is the film I made for Magical Melina when she was a baby in the belly. Up until recently, she used to find the deer eyes – when they turn into hearts – kind of scary. Now that she is used to it, “I am no longer afraid, and I love it”.


This film is for a Special Place Dance:

Dedication: A pre-birthday celebration for Erika and Jazmin…and Angelisa because I never quite feel like you are a Libra anyway. Thank you for teaching me not only how to love, but how to receive.

Art work by Ladybug K, Magical Melina, Radiant Rohan and my mother’s feet. Dharma Talk Sampled: Buddhist Meditation teacher Howard Cohn.
Music/Edit etc : Kirthi Nath.


Taking the Zanskar Vow: The Gratitude Project

I have been a little slow posting my November Art every day projects- but they are happening. And even more delightfully, projects are brewing, bubbling and multiplying!

Yesterday was one of those SF specials- it was warm outside, the local pool was open, the lifeguard let me swim 5 minutes beyond the close time, the sky was magical, and I brushed up close and personal with humbleness and gratitude  several times. What a wonderful way to be alive!

Magical Sky November 3, 2010

Earlier in the day I went to a new cafe on Valencia Street and posted on Facebook something to the effect of geez, $2.25 for coffee, really? I am paying for the atmosphere.  To this one friend commented about – get ready this is a mouthful- direct trade green coffee beans- and escalating prices which are translating to higher prices in US cafes. Another friend respectfully wrote, “In Bali with this amount we can feed our family for a day…. Lucky you Kirthi

To be honest, I am still grappling with how to take this all in. One thing for sure, I am thankful for the reminder that the price of my cup of coffee translates into much more in another country. How this will effect my choices other than supporting direct trade, I am not sure. In the now, right now, I am humbled and honored to be to be part of a world that extends beyond my local neighborhood and arms length experiences.

Last night was the opening night of the 3rdI San Francisco South Asian International Film Festival.  Most every film in the festival is inspiring and yesterday was no exception. Last night was a double header- starting with Terrie Samundra’s beautiful short film Kunjo. This film is quite powerful and evocative and tells a story not often told- that of rural to rural migration and how this affects a community, especially children. What we learned at the Q/A was that this film was shot in the filmmaker’s family village and the process of making the film was just as important as the final product. Translation: Terrie spent 2 1/2 months in India and worked with local non actors to workshop and develop the script with the community. I am paraphrasing here, Terrie has a more  detailed account on her website, but I wanted to take a moment to pause on the collaborative intent of this narrative production and the earnest desire on the filmmaker’s part to empower the people the story was about.

The next film was Frederick Marx’s Journey from Zanskar. Set in Zanskar, a traditionally Tibetan region of northern India, the Zanskari culture and Buddhist practices are dying out. It is a poor region. For children to get an education that connects them to their culture, they must travel to villages far away. At the heart of this documentary are the questions, “How far would you go to save your dying culture?” and  “What does it mean to separate a child from their family to give them a better life?” This film documents the difficult journey of the Stongde monks, 17 children aged 4-12 and handful of parents who travel from Zanskar to Manali in hopes of securing an education. On one hand there is the astounding physical difficulty of the journey and on the other, the amazing presence of love between the parents and children and ultimately the confrontation of what must be sacrificed for a better future. In its more subtle notes, this story reminds us strongly about compassion, the gift of education and the radiance of humanity.

An audience member asked Frederick to give us an impression of how the kids were years later. Although Frederick stated that how the kids felt was something he could never fully understand because it was not his experience, he did tell us one thing-  some kids say they cry all the time because they miss their family and that they are also full of joy to get an education.

How do you hold both of these things in your hands? Perhaps as an exploration that is not a dichotomy.  And as for if this will lead to a better life, one of the monks Geshe leaves us with this offering….will they have a better life? I don’t know. But if I believe they will, there is less worry and less suffering in the now about what may be.

The Stongde monks are now building a school in Zanskar so kids do not have to be separated from their families and so they do not have to make near death journeys for this promise of the better life. People can donate money that goes towards education or take the The Zanskar Vow an invitation to make your own commitment to make the world a better place. You can send your vow to the folks at the Saving Zanskar website and they will be updating the website soon.

My vow? I will live my life with gratitude and help chronicle stories of gratitude. I do believe in the ripple effect, one vibration at a time.

The Gratitude Project: Jazmin’s Story


What will you do to make the world a better place? What are you grateful for?