Some small changes are taking place at Vrindavan Today and this is making me reflect a bit about where VT is going.
This site has been going for 8 1/2 years, which is more than I ever expected would happen when it started, which was basically to protest the flyover at Keshi Ghat. It seemed at that time that Vrindavan was in danger of falling into the hands of technocrats who saw it as a series of problems that needed to be fixed… like the traffic problem with a flyover.
It seemed that Vrindavan was being looked at like a goose that could maybe lay some golden economic eggs and we will all be rich! And of course, as is always the case when greed or “too much intelligence” gets to work, the killing of the goose is the end result. And so for once I felt we cannot sit on the sidelines and do nothing.
Brajavasis must have a voice. And now we hear for the first time government officials assuring the Brajavasis that they will be heard. And by Brajavasis, I think they understand that they mean the spiritual leaders of Braj. The ones who know best what Braj is and what it is supposed to be. In other words, the ones who know what really makes this goose flourish.
And, as an important part of that, it was understood that we outsiders who have come to Vrindavan either as pilgrims or as permanent residents, have a huge stake in what Vrindavan is or is to become. We did not come here as tourists to stare at a dead goose carcass. We want the living Braj-Vrindavan to flourish.
Over the years, we have collected quite an archive and the abundance of links to VT from almost any kind of Vrindavan-related Google search is a testament to the work that has gone into building it up. In my more pessimistic moments, I thought that even if we do not influence anyone or make any change, still we would still have an archive of Vrindavan’s descent into spiritual irrelevance.
Most of the work here was done by myself and Jagannath Poddar, with occasional input from other volunteers. But we have never been too ambitious about what we could achieve here, even though the potential has always been obvious to me. The fact is that Jagannath and I both do other stuff. Jagannath in particular is fighting to have the Yamuna come back to the ghats as well as running Friends of Vrindavan and animating the Braj-Vrindavan Heritage Alliance.
Recently we got a little bit of money and we put some of that into hiring some full-time staff to help expand the content on the site. Jennifer has joined us in the last couple of weeks and is doing a new feature, the daily news digest.
I don’t know why we never thought of this earlier. Making a selective digest of news stories that our readers would be interested in so that we can put more energy into featuring others in greater depth makes a lot of sense. And our other hire is full-time editor Vishakha Ramos, who has indeed been providing beautiful features about hidden corners of Vrindavan, some of those 5000 temples that we never hear about.
Moreover, by giving more current news stories in brief, we can bring up a lot of relevant or interesting things that are going on, stories that we otherwise might not have noted, like the crops failing story.
One of our goals at Vrindavan Today is to make those who are devotees living far away from Braj to feel that this is their home. To help them gain an awareness of the current “real-world” situation in the Dham. It is meant to provide a vicarious experience of being in Vrindavan.
The VT philosophy is that the Dham — as it is, right now — is the Internal Potency of Krishna acting in this world. It is made to work its spiritual magic simply by our being conscious of it.
And though “being” in Vrindavan can mean different things to different people, it is good to know something about the living, breathing place called Vrindavan in order to “be” there.
And that is true even if being there for you means meditating on Radha and Krishna in the eternal abode and nothing else. The natural place for the sadhaka deha is in the physical Vrindavan.
Anyway, I am feeling quite encouraged with the addition of Jennifer Michael to the staff. And Vishakha Ramos has been with us since the beginning of the year. So if you are noticing any improvements at Vrindavan Today, it is totally their doing.
So now I am thinking how we can improve more and actually realize the kind of participation in the Vrindavan community that is necessary to create the Vrindavan of tomorrow that we, the devotees, the Brijbasis, wish to see. One thing is that if we wish to improve even more, we will need some sources of income.
I am still very reluctant to clutter this site with banners and advertisers. This is because we would like to maintain and improve both its devotional and activist stance with regards to Vrindavan culture, heritage and environment, and not be beholden to anyone, nor to distract the readers to unrelated matters.
We would much prefer donors to come forth and help us to move this project forward.
We ask anyone who would like to sponsor Vrindavan Today to get in touch with us at vrindavantoday on google mail.
Here are some of the other things we need to do:
We have a Hindi website that is badly in need of development. We have also been able to get the help of Dhruv Shukla, who has been posting several articles a day there.
Now that Indian use of the internet is skyrocketing, there are hundreds of people even here in Vrindavan that are using Facebook and so on in Hindi. There needs to be a special portal for news stories related to the fundamental issues that face Vrindavan and Braj development.
I have long held that the primary benefit of a Vrindavan-oriented website is that it can be a place for discussion of topics that are of interest to the public in Braj. Certainly matters related to tourism/pilgrimage are at the heart of almost everything related to the Dham “today”, and there is a need for a forum discussing these issues that will engage the insiders, the stakeholders, the old guard of Vrindavan. That can only be done in the language of Vrindavan.
Vrindavan Today, being in English, always has the disadvantage of being translated, of being a mediated eye on the Dham. It is thus always an outsider’s view. We would rather that it would be the real thing, but that could only happen in Hindi, or better yet, Braj bhasha.
Vrindavan Today is really about Vrindavan in all three times, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
- Yesterday is everything that makes Vrindavan the Vrindavan as we know it.
- The “today” really means the eternal now of the transcendent Vrindavan. But it also means the now of the worldly, bhauma Vrindavan.
- The tomorrow is the vision of what Vrindavan is becoming, in the current globalized context with all its stresses, with all the Brijbasis and all honorary Brijbasis from around the world. Let Vrindavan do its work in the world.