Sunday, November 05, 2006

Letter from Kathmandu

We recently had a visit with John Brandi and Renee Gregorio, two poets who live in El Rito, outside of Santa Fe. On the very last evening, we had the pleasure of hearing three of their poems. This one seems a good one to post before elections in the US.


Friends, let us wake with disbelief,
bare our souls, tell our stories, lose our eyes,
become vagrants of the Sea.

Let us seek the heat
of the kernal that feeds in the dark,
and step aside of men whose twisted lips
pretend to lead, but are not real
in their pursuit of war.

I’ve already seen years
of massacre, hydrogen light the night,
children with ruined eyes, tortured by what
no one should ever see.

Let us leave our security,
open our memory, bring flowers
from the storm, write letters that become
sanctuaries, so that we ourselves
may become sanctuaries.

Friends, a dream
runs up to me smiling. I call on you
to see in the dark, to finish
the song inside you.

- John Brandi

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dress up !

Mustard Seeds Halloween 1
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Although Halloween isn't much more than something the kids had read about in books, it didn't take long for Mustard Seed Library members to get into the Halloween spirit. We all made our own Jack-o-lantern bags and then thought quick about a costume: we had a Native American girl, a purple fairy, Harry Potter and Hermione, a pirate and a swami guy with an incredibly interesting goatee style! We even did a bit of trick-or-treating that felt like the real thing to me.

After, we raided the shelves and pulled out all the Mustard Seeds Halloween titles for the kids to take home -- and read up more on this newly found festival of fun.

Halloween 2006


Thursday, September 21, 2006

A real get-away

Emerald Gecko Hut
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
We were visiting the Andaman islands for the past five days. We flew into Port Blair from Kolkata which took a little under 2 hours. We went to visit a small cove, which is the only beach on this main island the first day.

The second day, after purchasing our tickets for the boat to Havelock island, we went to see the Cellular Jail built by the British to lock up India's freedom fighters. The jail was later taken over by the Japanese. The galleries and museum were of great interest. Later that afternoon we left Port Blair and made our way to the coasts of Havelock.

Havelock is part of the very beautiful and remote island chain that extends from below Burma and leads into Sumatra. We enjoyed ourselves to no end, staying in bamboo huts, collecting shells, gliding on the huge waves of the Bay of Bengal, and riding an elephant on the beach (the footprints were enormous).

The huge array of trees are part of gorgeous native rainforests and when the monsoon rains would pour down at night on our little thatch roof, I felt exhilarated knowing that this was all that protected me from nature's forces. It sometimes felt like we'd be swept into the ocean when a huge gust of monsoon wind came with the rains.

Despite the tropicalia, this environment actually reminded me several times of childhood summers spent at Crystal Beach on good old Lake Erie.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Recently I met a very dedicated woman here named Rosalie who is originally from Brooklyn, New York. She comes to Kolkata eight months out of the year to teach underpriviledged children at various locations throughout the city as part of an NGO she started to address the problem of education. The other four months are spent fund-raising in the US. Her NGO, Empower the Children , uses activity-based classes that all include a story and a craft.

She visited Mustard Seeds Library in the hope that she could find books about certain class topics, and I was surprised that we didn't have too many of them to offer! She is specifically looking for children's story books with these themes:


I thought some of the mustard seed friends and family might be able to help her out. If you can suggest titles for children's books that talk about these particular themes, she can purchase them or if you would like to donate them for her use, you can send them to her directly. Just send an email ( or post a comment if you have book titles or want to get an address to send a new or used copy to Rosalie directly! I'll pass any ideas or books onto her.

Monday, August 07, 2006


About the Patua greeting cardsPata pcard 2Jharna Chitrakar Greeting Cards 2Jharna Chitrakar Greeting Cards 1
Mustard Seeds Alternatives ShopPata pcardPata PcardPata pcard
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.

Do you still enjoy sending a handwritten letter; thanking someone with a card; or remembering someone on special days?

As a means of support to several smaller NGO producers and artisans here in Kolkata I help design and sell a variety of beautiful handmade greeting cards, postcards, and other paper products. The prices are reasonable and provide motivation to the groups who continue to develop and create new products.

Some of the cards have been silk-screened and hand-painted by Silence, a group that trains and employs deaf and disabled workers. Postcards are prints of original pata village artwork. There are also uniquely hand-painted cards by an organization called Anjali, bringing art therapy to three mental institutions in the city. Other groups include Ankur Kala, Suchana Early Learning Center and Calcutta Rescue.

This past weekend we opened up a small card and gift area in the library. Every item on sale is made by these social welfare groups working here in Kolkata to give people training and employment. Proceeds go straight back to the groups.

If you are in need of Durga Puja or Year-end greeting cards, watch here for some designs, or just inquire by email. There is also an 8 card variety pack available, for a donation of $20 (thanks to everyone who has sent their support so far!)

If you would like to see some of the cards or know of a place where I can sell them, please be in touch.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mustard Seed Philosophy

M Seed Tree
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Basically, I still believe that "small is meaningful."

Friday, May 05, 2006

As individually beautiful as the people who create them

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
These cards were painted by people participating in the Anjali Programme in government-run mental institutions in West Bengal.

ANJALI was born out of a desire to realistically implement some of the recommendatons of the National Human Rights Commission towards improving mental health care and treatment in India. The long-term aim of ANJALI is to create a user-friendly institution that would function as a democractic healing speace for campaign, advocacy, and care of the psychosocially disabled. Its ultimate misssion is to initiate and help implement systemic reforms in the sphere of mental health care and treatment in India.

In addition to these cards, Mustard Seeds has started selling greetings cards by various other NGOs and health organizations which implement card-making as creative therapy and means for employment. Please inquire about purchasing a Helping Hand Variety Card Pack.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another Earth Day rolls around at MSeeds

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
This year the kids at Mustard Seeds Library joined in on the Earth Day T-shirt D-Zine Contest and I must say we got some pretty exciting entries. This shirt, designed by Tokai Mukherjee, was chosen as the winner. But it has to be said that everyone is a winner if they are thinking about the EARTH and what they can do to create less of an impact on her -- on April 22nd!

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
After turning in the T-shirt entry forms we baked our own banana-carrot Earth Day cake decorated with lemon icing and flowers from our garden. Then of course, another round of our annual HAPPY EARTH DAY TO YOU!

Thanks to our environmental activist friend, Amanda Suutari, for sharing these nice Earth Day quotations with us all. We have them posted on our Earth Day display in the library:

- We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

- There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964

- You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet. ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

- Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. ~Cree Indian Proverb

- Environmentalists have long been fond of saying that the sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated as it is some ninety-three million miles away. ~Stephanie Mills, ed., In Praise of Nature, 1990

- I conceive that the land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are still unborn. ~A Chieftan from Nigeria

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Card Corner at Aalcha

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
When I heard that my friends at Aalcha were planning to open a lending library and bookshop I asked if I could get in on the fun.

Keeping in touch through cards and letters is something that seems an inherited gene in my family so setting up a small card and stationary corner seemed obvious to me. I am hoping that more people can keep alive the art of letter and postcard writing, even in the midst of this internet/email heyday we are living in.

Products are mainly sourced through NGOs and artists so you just cannot go wrong if you buy your greeting cards and thank yous from here. Beautiful handmade diaries, notebooks and gift bags are also available.

Located in Shyambati in Shantiniketan.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Article 9 of Japan's present Constitution states the Renunciation of War but it is currently in danger of being amended to take up arms. This is something that worries many Japanese people who have always been in support of remaining a neutral country. Creative activism is happening throughout the islands to protect this anti-war clause.

Recently my friend Yoshiko, a peace activist in Japan, wrote to ask for children's drawings from India for the Peace Art Exhibition to be held in April in Nara.

I decided to take Yoshiko's request and her message of peace to the school I volunteer at, called SHIKSHAMITRA. We did three discussion / art sessions with different age groups and some very wonderful thoughts and drawings came out of each. The children, many of whom cope with difficult domestic problems, were enthusiastic about envisioning a more peaceful environment.

"Arms do not ever protect a nation or its people..."

This exhibition is an opportunity for people all over the globe to think about Peace and Japan's Article 9.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How does your garden grow?

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Our garden plot, Malancha, is in its peak season right now. It keeps changing its look and expanding whenever I get time to go down there and work on it. Italian basil is growing like spitfire right now and I look forward to making some pesto. The mali at the kid's school gave me some cuttings, some of which are doing great. This is a fun way to acquire new plants!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
After December 2005, many patuas illustrated their impressions of the tsunami disaster in their scroll commentaries.

This is one frame that describes the tsunami from a patua's perspective. Many of the scrolls show a huge godlike creature crying at the top with tears flowing down from the heavens, heads with their eyes closed are floating in the waters, and birdlike carriages are flying about carrying people -- the helicopters rescuing victims in the affected areas.

Painting by Karuna Chitrakar

Monday, January 16, 2006

bai lou

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
An exhibition at Artisana at 13 Chowringhee Terrace introduced unique contemporary weaves by the bai lou studio.

The studio was started in March 2002 by a young couple with plenty of color, design style, and saavy.

Handmade, handwoven textiles, including scarves, bags, quilts, and sarees are some of the bai lou products. The two have been working closely with weavers in villages near Phulia to meld obviously contemporary designs together with traditional weaving skills -- creating a wave of refreshingly new weave selections and possibilities.

No two products seem to look or feel the same.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Thanks to the following list of people who have helped us in a variety of creative ways to raise money or further Mustard Seed activities....

Kyoko Hosoki & Hiromi Yamagami at JEE in Kyoto selling products; Chiaki Takashima & Rakutendo members for working to make a fair trade pot cover for their bean cuisine club; Siobhan Wilson for taking a keen interest in the groups and trying to start a business up focusing on them; Laura Ford for her "maural" support; Carol Lanigan & Moira Jones in Dublin who started the Coffee Morning Movement to sell products for groups here over coffee; Ringo Hanada, Adarsh Sharma, Yukie Kaneshiro, Martha Hurley, Kenske Nakamura for their financial contributions; Ann Overton for library materials; Kawamoto-san, Arisa-san, Naoki-kun and Nick-san who sell products at their restaurants; Trina Takeuchi and Family; all the Mustard Seed LIbrary members, the NGOs here, and to my whole family!

For those who always wondered, this is what mustard looks like growing on the field!