An Insured Nose Friday, Mar 21 2008 

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For the Dutch wine maker and taster Ilja Gort, the most precious part of his body is his nose!

A Lloyd’s of London syndicate said Tuesday it is insuring the nose of winemaker Ilja Gort for $8 million.

He took out the policy after hearing about a man who lost his sense of smell in a car accident. The news scared Ilja. What would happen if he lost his?

“It would mean that you cannot taste wine anymore. Tasting wine is something you do with your nose, not your mouth.”

The custom policy covers Gort for the loss of either his nose or his sense of smell and has some conditions for protecting his nose. They also took note of Gort’s long, curly beard in drafting the policy.

What could those conditions be?

Among other things, he is barred from riding a motorcycle or working as a knife thrower’s assistant or fire-breather.

And what has the “long, curly beard” got to do with his nose and smell?

A clause requires that the winemaker use only experienced barbers who will keep their razors steady near his nose.

(Source)

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The Meaning of Greatness: Baba Amte Wednesday, Mar 19 2008 

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Baba Amte’s brave and compassionate life bears the marks of greatness without any myths enveloping it. It’s when I tried to know about this great man that I understood the meaning of ‘naked truth’.

During the six decade long hard work he put into the making of Anandwan (Forest of Joy), providing “meaningful rehabilitation” to India’s leprosy patients and other outcasts, he never allowed any myth or label build around him or his work.

That’s no mean achievement in a country where gurus and yogis of all sorts abound; where common people are easily hoodwinked by peddlers on god preaching and publicizing the scope of their charity work.

Like Buddha, Baba Amte renounced all luxuries and privileges that were rightfully his by birth. But Amte’s goal was not enlightenment. He took his young wife and two little sons along with him and went in search of lepers and others rejected by ‘healthy society’ from its fold. He found them a place to live in, treated and nursed them, taught them productive skills and thereby restored their ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-worth’.

He showed the world how to build man out of his very ruin!

Baba Amte himself was handicapped by cervical spondylosis (degeneration of spine) for four decades. He couldn’t sit erect and stand or walk without support, so he was bed-ridden most of the time. Still, he directed all his activities from his bed and found joy in it. Of this he said, “…pain and sorrows became the witness to my happiness… I asked only to be used till I lie down in the company of mother earth.”

Yes, “to be used” – When Baba Amte died on 9 Feb 2008, at the ripe age of 93 years, he was buried as per his wish so that his body could become one with “mother earth” and be useful for plants.

Links: 1. For information on Anandwan and satellite projects click here. 2. For a biography of Baba Amte click here. 3. For another one click here. 4. For a short film on Baba and Anandwan click here. 5. Economist has an article on Baba Amte here.

The Burden of Honor Monday, Mar 3 2008 

The burden of honor is more on the shoulders of women than men in India.

A man can err and it’s tolerated, but not so in the case of a woman. Her conduct is always scrutinized and no digression is tolerated or goes unpunished.

She’s required to conduct herself in accordance with all sorts of beliefs and practices regarding honor. If an unfortunate incident that could cast doubt on her honor occurs, the blame will never go. She’ll bear it all her life and suffer.

The great Indian epic Ramayana was created to tell the story of the most heroic, virtuous and perfect man, a man who protects Dharma (righteousness) under all circumstances, and therefore worthy of respect and adoration by all.

Rama, the hero of Ramayana, faces all sorts of trying situations and emerges victorious. His wife Sita willingly follows his footsteps and endures more. The demon king Ravana abducts Sita and carries her away. Rama kills him in a fierce battle and rescues her.

Rama returns to Ayodhya, the capital of his kingdom, to begin his reign with Sita as queen beside him.

But, for Sita it’s the beginning of another ordeal!

She undergoes an ordeal of fire to prove her chastity. Still the people of Ayodhya remain unconvinced and continue to doubt her. They wondered, “How can a woman who’d been in the custody of her abductor for months be chaste and pure? How can Rama, the protector of Dharma accept her?”

In the end Rama abandons her in the forest so that his subjects no longer doubt and question their king’s sense of righteousness!