Saturday, December 26, 2009

Avatar

I completed my Fall semester at UF at the begining of December and am at home in Abu Dhabi, enjoying an interesting break. We concluded a YES+ here today with 12 bright shining graduates. Also, my family watched Avatar at the Grand Cineplex IMAX in Ibm Battuta Mall today. The Pocahontas story rendered in a jaw-droppingly realistic environment evinced memories of Isaac Asimov, Braveheart and my ethics professor. The after-debate on the drive back to Abu Dhabi was more interesting. We talked ethics, different value systems and other stuff all the way on the two hour drive. The story was predicatable, but the action and the pace were interesting. Wish Cameron put some more thought and made the storyline as gripping as 'Sunshine' or 'I am Legend'.

Will be looking forward to more fun over the coming days in Abu Dhabi.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

College Essay

Q. ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?
A. I am a dynamic figure, often scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations
on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up several inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook thirty-minute brownies in 20 minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer, I toured New Jersey with a travelling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic and all my bills are paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliffdiving competitions in Sri Lanka and spelling bees in the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Some fun moments

“Hey Habi! Whats going oooooonnnnnn”

6 months into the MBA and 5 months to go. I just realized today how incredibly diverse people I interact with on a daily basis. The above is my southern friend Chris’ friendly drawl. Most people I have met so far have trouble pronouncing ‘Abhishek’, so ‘Aabi’ it is. As much as I love diversity, I hate being led on tours. While being hustled with a bunch of tourists by loud, overenthusiastic guides may remain the world’s preferred way of traveling, I enjoy entering alone into new sorroundings, letting the solitude foster a silent, expectation-free, trusting bond between the two of us. The university has a plethora of such hidden delights, which I keep discovering accidentally. Some memorable experiences –

  • 1. Swimming in the O’Connell pool for the first time, which is a full Olympic sized indoor pool freely available to university students.
  • 2. Dinner at Gator Dining, with a 24-dish salad spread, Italian, Mexican and Mediterranean counters for food, unlimited beverages and desserts, worth every penny.
  • 3. Lake Wauberg, with facilities for rock climbing, kayaking, beach volleyball and more.
  • 4. Drifitng into the political science building, with its congressional d├ęcor, dark burnished wood flooring and low overhanging lamps.
  • 5. Downtown Gainesville, with tons of partygoers thronging the pubs and discos.
  • 6. Playing the basketball intramurals, winning 3 games and partying afterwards.
  • 7. Meeting and learning from a plethora of new people, Cameroonian, French, Chinese and of course, Floridan.
  • 8. Football games at the swamp! 90,000 loud , cheering fans egging on the number one rated gators onto SEC dominance.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What is right?


What is right? As long as something does not hurt someone is it right? Which moral codes are valid, which are simply brainchilds of a fanatical mind? What i value most in a human being is his or her respect for himself and his/her honor for others....Beliefs and practices come in second. Some of the best people i have known, some of my closest friends drink like fish, party like crazy and a lot of wrong things. Yet they are people i can count on when times get rough. A lot of 'respectable' people are the kinds who spend their entire lives in the pursuit of fame, wealth and status. People who could appear sensitive but are so cold-blooded that it scares me. Who is right? How can one judge a person to be good or bad - is it because he/she does not smoke/drink/socialize? Is it because he/she is outgoing and daring? I have had plenty of friends of both kinds who are flawed but wonderfully caring people, and i have plenty of those who live like moths, chasing the flame that consumes them. I get confused at times.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A bit on cultural sensitivity


“Who Am I?” – such a profound multi-dimensional question! The quality, and the timing, of the answer are directly proportional to worldly and spiritual success.

When answered sincerely at the end of a profound meditation, it creates moksha. When answered correctly, during preparation of college admission essays or job interviews , it helps make smart decisions and achieve career success. Interviewers are always trying to gauge the candidate’s persona and genuineness through their questions. When introspected before a social gathering, it could lead to interesting conversations and new friends.

Yet, it is a hard hard question to answer. How do we arrive at the answer? A rare few individuals manage to answer this question on the basis of pure insight. Most of us discover the answer by scanning people around us. Ok so that guy is tall, which means I am short. That guy is poor which means I am rich. That girl scored 75% while I scored 90%, which means I am smart. Obviously, we have certain dreams of how we want our lives to be, things that would make us happy. Now, wise men say that happiness is a choice – but the devious mind calls for confirmation and proof to trust oneself and others and be content. Either one can trust that he/she is capable of facing the challenges in life, or he/she can face the challenges, succeed and then trust that this is possible. The two often form a circle, with trust leading to accomplishment leading to more trust and bigger challenges.

I read a wonderful article recently from the Harvard Business Review on how to adapt to cultures and work with people. Titled “Cultural Intelligence” , Earley and Mosakowski, HBR October 2004, this paper indicates two kinds of intelligences – emotional intelligence, which allows us to define who we are and how we are different from others, and cultural intelligence, which is understanding the values and beliefs that drive different groups. Meditation helps develop both – a keen awareness of who I am and going beyond the emotions, and a sharp perception to discern what works and does not work with people. One need not be a football of anyone’s culture, but being sensitive is important. There are three ways of doing this – through the head, through the heart or through the body. Training through the head involves understanding the beliefs, customs, and taboos of new cultures. Learning form the body involves mimicking small gestures the way others do it – it could be a simple way of shaking hands or small mannerisms. A Michigan professor found that candidates who were perceived to be culturally more similar to recruiters often had better chances of landing the job. Learning from the heart involves being strong to face setbacks and failures and keep moving. People can do that if they believe in their own efficacy. If they persevered in the face of challenging situations in the past, their confidence grew. Confidence is always rooted in mastery of a particular task or set of circumstances. This is where seva is so important, it teaches one to persist, to redefine their limitations and to break them, and to keep moving ahead.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Competition and Contemplation in a 10k race


I ran my first 10km race today. Organized by the Living Well foundation and the University of Florida, it was a contest between students and faculty. The track was pretty, with a lake and woods along the way.

What was most interesting was watching the thoughts and emotions arising in my mind:

1. Pre-Race:
I was a little awkward for this was my first competitive 10k run. I have always run alone, for my own sake, and was nervous about running with others. What if i burnt out, or couldn't finish? What if the others were really good? How could i hope to compete with americans who are so much fitter and train so much more for such events? Maybe i should have stayed at home and studied for the imminent exams.

I just kept saying 'No' to these thoughts. Afterall, how can i ever know what is good/bad for me without doing new things? How would i know how good/bad i am without doing things? I am scared by the thought of restricting myself to a limited set of beliefs and learning little about the world. And this kept me going on.

2. During the race -
I had nearly 25 people ahead of me in the first 5k lap. A part of me was saying run or you would be left behind, another part kept saying go slow, dont burn yourself out. I ignored these thoughts, as they are so tiring, and settled into a steady breathing rhythm and kept running at a pace slightly faster than comfortable. Instead of looking to the leader, i would look to the next person ahead of me and catch up to them one by one. By the second lap, i was in third place.

I was helped by the interval training i have done for the last month and a half. This involves alternating between jogging and sprinting. Plus i have been having a more protein rich diet.

3. End of the race-
Throughout the second lap, i kept my focus on the two guys ahead of me and kept gently accelerating to catch up. They had a 120 m lead which i eventually cut to 20m, and i finished third in the race, at 44:11 seconds, 20 seconds behind the second placed guy. Not a bad debut!

I felt a mixture of emotions - euphoria, that i had not only completed the run but had actually been successful against runners who had participated in many more events. My small mind, which was filled with doubts at the begining, was now dying to get back and announce to the whole world that i had won, i had won.

And then i thought, how futile, how juvenile is this mind, which measures my worth based on how the world is, rather than trusting my capability. Guruji had mentioned in 'Feelings and Fools - "How can a piece of wood (an award) be the most important thing in your life? Don't you know that you are good?" And i felt much calmer and clearer then.

In all competitions i have participated in, the winner is always a person who believes in himself, before comparing himself/herself with others. And that self belief is beautiful.

Jai Gurudeva!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jesus is the only way

Saw a brilliant Jewish preacher lecture untiringly for 5 hours today at an open courtyard about why Jesus is the only way. Students heckled him incessantly but the man was unrelenting. He fervently believed that the Bible was the only way and all those who were not Christians were not good human beings. He was jeered, abused, ridiculed and challenged incessantly by students for the whole time but he kept talking, he never yielded. This was a man who was ready to face anything for his faith and could not accept that there was any other way other than that of Jesus.

I asked him "I am not a Christian does that mean i am not a good human being?" He said, "No". I asked "Are only Christians good human beings? He said "Yes". I asked him "Why is that?" He said "Do you believe 2+2 is 4?" I said "No." He was at a loss. Then he said "I cannot explain to you why 2+2 is 4. It would take too much time." I said, "Then you are being illogical". I said "I have seen another Muslim leader who was 5 times as convinced as you are that his was the onlyway. He addressed an impressionable crowd like you today and He was also right." At which he started objecting "There is a reason why muslims are not right, do you want to know?". I said "You know people like you are the reason why there are suicide bombers in the world today." And he repeated "There is a reason why muslims are not right, do you want to know?" I said "No" and i walked away with the man speechless.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Been ages

Its been a quiet life for some time. Florida Gators are rated the top (american) football team in the country, and we have a 85,000 capacity stadium on campus. Fooball games here are a festival - preceded by tailgate parties, which mean music and beer being served outside the back of a truck and people pitching small tents and picnic at spots around campus. The college football season commenced a couple of weeks ago and the opening game was fun - with a packed stadium covered in orange and blue (our colors), chants, noise and cheerleaders.

I have a lighter term with fewer courses than the summer, so the pace is more sane. Have been playing more basketball and doing a lot of running. Also started swimming recently, which is now my favorite exersise. It is light on the joints and heavy on the muscles and lungs. Plus the recreational facilities in the university are phenomenal - we have two olympic sized swimming pols available free of charge to students.

The university is very very colorful at present, with 49,000 new students entering this fall. The boys hostels (fraternities) and the girl's hostels (sororities) got done with their rush weeks - which is the week where these halls finalize which students get into their halls. Gainesville has beautiful weather presently, with plenty of student-run activities to commence in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The aftermath of a hard exam


I survived the summer term, where in barely 12 weeks, the students took 10 courses, which meant dealing with 20 exams, 28 assignments and case studies, 2 presentations, 4 professional development seminars, in a culture I naively thought I understood based on all the TV and movies I had seen. Who said being a nerd was easy? Competitive studying is so similar to competitive sports. They require brutal focus, stamina, a disregard for self-preservation, willingly yielding the right to life and prioritization to the extreme. Not to forget, keeping up the self-motivation when everything else seems so rosy and pretty and tempting. I have always been impressed by good students who perform in their acads and extra-curriculars. Unsurprisingly, most of the toppers I have known since 7th grade have been very well-balanced individuals.

Although I am no expert in the field, there are a few things about studying I can share.

What does it take to do well in studies? Greed would suffice. I am yet to come across high scorers who did well in exams without meaning to. Our society demands performance, results. A good, high-paying job largely goes to a well-performing individual. Companies talk about hiring well-rounded individuals, but that means they want good students with good social skills as well. So what can we do to get better?

As mature individuals, we need to realize that exams exist! They are a part of your life, not an anomaly recurring every 3 months. I wonder how some people manage to live through 20 years of studies claiming how bad this exam was and how well they would do in the next one. There is no next time. The subjects can change, the questions may change, but the basics for studying stay the same. That’s why good students stay good students almost throughout.

Taking exams and studying well have helped me personally as well. As an individual, I would often be scared when held accountable for a job. I would often be the last person to take on new challenges. Exams are brutal because they seem to inaccurately summarise your complex, multi-dimensional personality in cold, impersonal numbers. To do well, you would have to get involved with your time, energy and emotions. You would have to respect those grades. The shortest way out of a problem is through it. When you work completely towards doing well in exams, you would discover greater confidence and mental toughness, because of all the challenges you willingly undertook.

How to do better? Here’s the age old formula – have a time table and a schedule for how you shall cover your syllabus. This is really important because it channelizes all your energy towards the task at hand. Scheduling is an art, practiced and renewed. The next, more important step is, sticking to the schedule. This part usually hurts. Your mind will play tricks on you, not co-operate or focus, etc. But you are greater than your mind, and regularly doing kriya, meditation and short satsangs by yourself will help you recharge your prana and come back to your commitment.

You may have to swallow your instincts of self-preservation and study like it’s the last thing you have to do before you leave the planet. The mind may alternate between dementia, depression, whoops of elation, dullness, lack of energy, loss of muscle tissue, throbbing headaches, vacation fantasies but you will be perfectly fine with some kriya and exersise. i mean, studies never killed anyone, although my roommate at IIT came close when he contemplated poking his finger in the switchboard to end his 'final exam' misery. But you shall live, and with good marks!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guru Poornima Chicago 2009


Guruji ushered a breeze of love, knowledge and shakti in the Windy City. The Hilton Chicago, the venue of the event, throbbed with his presence and the purity of a huge advance course, the Guru Poornima celebrations, a YES course and the ongoing TRM. Guruji stayed at the south imperial suite, which we devotees would inevitably refer to as kutir, and Bhanu didi, arvind and ajay were with him. Devotees came from all over the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Blissful bustle marked the celebrations, with every elevator crammed with devotees. The buttons pushed were not all found on the elevator panel, but all the smallness fell aside in the magnificent satsang and Guruji's discourse on the eve of the celebration.
He spoke on the Guru principle, whose excellent verbatim transcript can be found here. Nearly 3000 devotees meditated, sang and celebrated in the beautifully-decorated, grand ballroom.
Once the satsang had reached a crescendo, Guruji asked - "How many of you are confused? That is good - do you know confusion is a sign of intelligence. Only intelligent people can get confused.
A Guru's job is not to convince, it is to ? confuse :). Good good good". And then the joy of satsang continued.

Guruji travels to LA and Montreal in the coming weeks.
Jai Gurudeva!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gattaca - a review


I discovered this gem of a movie released back in 1997. Directed by Andrew Niccols, who directed one of my favorites - Lord of War, Gattaca is a movie that weaves elements of sci-fi, romance, suspence and drama around the theme of human spirit.

The movie's tagline "There is No Gene for The Human Spirit" reverberates in the rousing tale of its protagonist, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), an in-valid living in a future of genetically tailored humans who dreams the impossible - of flying into space. Asthma, a weak heart and physical frailness do nothing to deter his courage and perseverance to succeed. As he overcomes his challenges through his will, he inspires his stronger, more-gifted friends by the resilience of his spirit.

The plot is full of interesting twists and turns, and is extremley aesthetic. The screenplay, the cinematography, and the background score exude excellence, but never overshadow the fantastic drama that unfolds between the well-developed characters. Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman bring their roles to life. The movie is filled with inspiring moments. In one, when Vincent and his younger, genetically-superior brother Antoine are swimming out in the sea to see who can swim farthest before chickening and turning back, Antione says "We are too far out. You do realize every stroke forward means a stroke back." Vincent says "That's the difference Antoine, I never planned on swimming back."

The movie reminded me of Guruji. No obstacles lessen his love, sincerity and efforts to care for creation, which are provided with utmost simplicity, sincerity, innocence and humility. I am reminded of the Vikram Batra IOCL advertisement, which read "For every step we take, there is an inspired Indian leading the way."


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh New York!

The first term of the MBA ended on the 16th, and I subsequently stayed at my uncle's place in the term break. The family stay left me pleasantly filled with the love in the family, Chachi's wonderful cooking and the energy that Guruji left behind when he had stayed in this house. During this time, my cousin and i took a fantastic two day trip to New York city.

New York City attracts millions from around the world over every year,
who soak in the sheer diversity of human experience that the city throbs with. I remember Dominique Lapierre's ode to the city in the Fifth Horseman where he claims this metropolis as a microcosm of humanity itself, with all its vices and virtues, with residents from every ethnicity and nationality. Visiting the city reminded me of the ashram, which is also a microcosm of humanity, but awash with divinity.

There may never be enough time to experience all the city has to offer, and yet the smallest of times spent here would leave behind awesome memories. Visitors can plan to explore the city with themes, like food, or art, or landscapes and buildings. Or they may resort to the standard tourist attractions of Times Square, Statue of Liberty, and the other magnificent buildings which are probably the world's first skyscrapers. Structures like the Rockafeller center, the Empire State building, the Chrysler building symbolize man's quest to reach for the skies, tokens of the power and egos of corporate giants of early 20th century.

While these are fun to explore, i wanted to explore the pulsating arts and theater scene in the city, and its equally exciting gastronomic gamut. Of course, we saw some of the buildings and shopped too.

New York is home to the first large TV studios and to stalwart comedians. Celebrity show hosts
like Conan'O Brien started their careers in this city. To experience the comedy scene, we visited Stand Up New York, a bar that hosts acts from mini celebrities every night, and was
recommended by our Frommer's guide. We got to see performers from Comedy central and the acts were uproarious. A word of advice, these are suited for adults because of the strong content. At least two families left midway with parents covering their 11 year olds' ears. Anyways, it
makes no sense to be taking your kids to bars at that age. For an infusion of culture and art with the family, i would recommend catching a broadway show. Actually, you should see these even if there is no family around, because Broadway shows are arguably the most lavish theater productions in the world, where the finest theater actors perform some of the most famous acts in spectacular pomp and gaiety. The only place I know of with more opulence are really really rich people's indian wedding. We saw the "Phantom of the Opera". Based on Gaston Leroux's script and Andrew Lloyd Webber's score, this show is one of the longest running in broadway history. It has been around for 13 years, and we still watched it in a packed house. The show was a delight - lush, pompous, stirring and satisfying all at the same time. We also caught an Imax show at the enormous, city block spanning American Museum of Natural History, which once housed the largest collection of natural artifacts on the planet. That was pretty neat as well.

The other theme we explored around was food. New York is a vegan's paradise. I had researched on the internet for vegan restaurants in the city and there were thousands of results. We chose Cafe Viva natural on the 87th street and broadway, a pizzeria serving the famous New York style pizzas on crusts of whole wheat, rice, corn or other whole grain crusts, having toppings of myriad veggies and sauces and specialty 'veggie' meats like seitan and soy. You can buy by the slice here, and we loved the pizzas. We also dined at the more upmarket Cafe Blossom, which has been acclaimed by many NY publications. Started by an actor couple, the vegan joint serves remarkably similar vegan alternatives for popular italian dishes, along with exquisite in-house recipes. You can even check the menus online, and we had our orders ready even before we arrived. My fettucine alfredo was perfect, and the accompanying vegan chicken fillet tasted like the real thing. My cousin's mushroom and soy burger could holds its own against any meat sandwich. New york is famous for its pizzas and for bagels, doughnut like jewish bread. My uncle, who is a NY resident took us to Eisa's bagels in lower Manhattan, and i loved the 6 grain bagel with scallion cream cheese.

We also touched upon the George Washington bridge, the brooklyn bridge, the central park, NYU, and shopped at the Times Square. In fact, shopping at NY deserves a week by itself, with its plethora of super specialty stores. NY's fifth avenue has been one of the most prominent fashion districts of the world, with mega stores like Macy's, Saks fifth ave and Barney's. Not advisable on a student budget. I loved some of the niche stores off Times Square - the M&M's store, a 3 storey shop with entire walls covered with chocolate dispensers, the Toys'r'us store
where adults and kids behave alike in awe of its merchandise, and the NBA store, one of the very few, with jerseys and memorabilia of all NBA teams. Interestingly, they had hand impressions of NBA superstars, so a fan could size up against their favorite player. Beware though, comparing
your hands against Shaq's would probably entail a moment of awed silence.

Concluding, one should also experience the lifeblood of NY - its subway trains. More than the fact that they are cheap and fast, they allow you to see the diversity that makes up the city. I must mention that the visit would have been incomplete without the awesome tour my uncle gave us in his BMW, where we covered most of lower Manhattan. So lots of fond memories, lots of great food and now, its back to another term.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Getting out of examophobia


What is so off-putting about applying one’s backside to the chair and burning the midnight oil?

When we dream, we dream of perfection. In our dreams, we are never doing things semi-perfectly. All results are perfect, all action is effortless.

Sadly, in real work, even when we know what needs to be done, the perfection seems so far away. Either we are plain bored and uninterested, or suddenly ‘discover’ other must-do things, or crave for fun, or witness spectacular dreams and memories coming to life. Then there is negativity – “C’mon you do not really remember everything you read. And you are killing yourself for such abysmal output! Take a break, come back and you would be fresh full of life and ready to rip.” Sadly, that ready to rip state happens once in a blue moon, and almost never after that break. And for some, like me, your philosophy muscles burst with eureka moments about why we are the way we are? And we need to pen it immediately. If only these flashes came around during semester breaks.

We often believe that this problem will go away once we are not students. I am sure you would have thought at times – “What do those working adults know of what we have to go through? Once I start my career, everyone will truly know how awesome I am.” Then we join our jobs and realize, surprise surprise, that have to go through the same emotional washing machine everyday!

It is so easy to start towards a goal, but so hard to actually accomplish it!

Wouldn’t it be amazing to not be bothered by the imperfection, about the way you are feeling, about how sexy the idea in your head really sounds and why it would change the world, or by how urgent this other task really is? Just imagine if you could sit to study, and only study! The kriya definitely helps, but wisdom is needed here.

I remember Rashmin had indicated something very interesting – he said that one must master “the art of not dealing with the mind.” Either fighting thoughts and sensations, or yielding to them creates trouble. What works then? Recognizing that these thoughts and actions come from the same divine source as you, and there is nothing right or wrong about them. They do not need your co-operation or support. Let them go their way, and you go your way. Have an ‘adult’ relationship with your feelings and thoughts.

This wisdom helped me all through my IIT days. When I started playing basketball, when I started playing the guitar, when I started doing seva and organizing courses, it would take me forever to start doing the job, be doubtful and bored through the job, and the results were understandably discouraging. I resisted the shortcomings initially. But as I started accepting them, and taking action, I would miraculously discover insights into succeeding. Either something would just ‘click’ or someone would come up with an awesome tip out of the blue. Consequently, I would be successful at the task, and more dispassionate at the same time.

This acceptance is a skill. It happens only when you are committed to winning and giving your 100%, and you get better at it the more you do it. And as you become more accepting of yourself, bigger challenges will come your way! And bigger rewards too. And at the same time, you don’t get swayed by extremes!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stock pricing and the G

I am studying about stock and security valuation in finance, i just saw an equation which says
P0 = D0 (1 + g)/(rs - g)

where P0 is how much someone would pay for a stock, rs is how much return you require from it, and g is the expected increase in the stock's dividends.

What makes this interesting is that financial experts say that no stock can have g > rs, or growth greater than requirements because then it would be infinitely precious...

If only the financial experts knew that there is such a g who always provides more than rs:) Therefore, it follows from the above equation, that holding devotee shares in AOL is infinitely precious:)

Who says studies can't be fun!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Knowledge and Exams

It is 1.51 am here in Gainesville, and i have exams in a few days. I always considered myself an imaginative person, but my God, the onset of the exams has opened faucets of reminiscenses, such that i am flooded with mental and emotional activity.

Is'nt it wonderful to note how the mind works so hard to not do well in exams! If it were to spend 10% of the energy it spends avoiding studies on actually studying, grades would skyrocket and i would never have to worry about doing poorly again.

I sense this carrousel of emotions within me, whirling with so much velocity from relief, elation to hopelessness, dejection and back and forth and back and forth. It is really fun to watch!

I feel so grateful for the kriya and suryanamaskars right now - when in the face of total phyiscial , mental and emotional revulsion to the thought of studying, i can still smile, watch and keep studying! For those in the knowledge, studies and exams are such an awesome opportunity to become stronger in wisdom! Wow!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

New blog on Guruji experiences!

Dinesh bhaiya has sent links to this beautiful blog that emnates grace from every line written here...

Here's a link to his article...

JGD!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 13th! (belated)


So many beautiful posts on His birthday - on Bau's blog, Bhawana's blog, Komal's blog...bless you all.

While it is/was His birthday, the gift was mine.....I just returned from conducting the first ever Kriya in Gainesville, and i am much much happier than the participants were, whose smile indicated that they were very very happy indeed. 

Had the Kriya in a 'New-Age' church! Can't wait for the next kriya on the coming thursday.

Jai gurudev!

PS: Had to edit this one. Just had flashbacks of Guruji which I thought I  should share. On almost all my meetings with him, whenever i have taken sweets or any food for him, He has always blessed it and asked me to distribute it to the devotees. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciated that He has a huge devotee base and that He needs to take care of everyone, but there was this small voice hissing that maybe what i carried was not good enough for Him. Then one day, when Guruji looked at me asked me to distribute the gulab jamuns i had brought, I suddenly felt I understood why...My God, only the Guru can do this. Whatever He holds dearest, He gives to his devotees as a blessing! There is absolutely nothing he holds for himself other than our love for him, a love over which we have 'No Choice' in any case. Blessed is this creation, that it can witness His love!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some observations

Just a few personal observations about people here at Gainesville, Florida. These may be sweeping generalizations, but i would love to hear different opinions. I may be broaching sensitive territory here, but i have seen how so many Indian students manage to come to UF and live EXACTLY the same way as if they were attending college in Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai, and never explore new waters. The following lines may be helpful if you plan to come to the US.

1. "Oh, I can see why you felt that way. I would have done the same if i were you." They love to convey sincerity and belongingness. People would honestly share what they think and how they are feeling when spoken to. A question like "How are you today?" could lead to long, honest discourses at times. They assume that you are friendly, till you take pangas,  and would answer your questions as relevantly as possible.

They appreciate eye-to-eye contact; sincere, unbiased dialogue; and would convey emotion through the tone of their voice. 

Again, "Convey" is the operational word. In case you plan to come to the US, don't mistake people's expressions of belongingness for meaning that they really belong to you. That requires a few advance courses :) It would be a huge mistake to start talking about what you think is wrong about people, place, the weather, or anything. Be very wary of cribbing and bitching in general. Don't abuse the hospitality and stay on guard, as people's true opinions would probably require a few drinks to emerge. 

2. "I am loving this!" Americans strive to express that they are "In Control" and  "there is nothing to worry about" in a friendly, energetic, polite way. They know how to turn on the charm. Confidence, and belongingness, is a heady cocktail.

3. Indian role moels are "responsible", "caring" and "respectful". We are hard-wired to respect a personality type resembling lord Rama. American role models would probably be "accomplished", "caring" and "indpendent". Peel away the good-natured exterior, and you see an intensely competitive human being. People are busy sizing each other up discreetly. Competitiveness and survival are virtues people admire strongly, IF these are combined with strong "self-control" and "fair play". This is an individual's society. 

4. Americans love to play (compete). I have already written how hugely fanatical they are about sports and physical activity.

5. They are very planned and informed about their actions. They are terrified of screwing up or coming across as a fake. "Credibility" is a very big deal, and you need to do what you say, and say what you mean.
If what you mean may not be socially palatable, don't say it.

6. Alcohol is a means to finding escape from being planned and orderly and to be silly. People are very self-conscious and afraid to make mistakes, and they rely on the booze to loosen these chains. 

What a huge market for teaching the Sudarshan Kriya! Awesome!

Would love to discuss more on the same. 
Jai Gurudeva!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The begining of the UF MBA

This one may be long :) Its been 3 weeks at Gainesville now and they have been great!

I acclimatised a little to Gainesville in the initial week, completing my university formalities, exploring the campus and using the public bus system. I also played a lot of basketball at the univerisity's humongous SouthWest Recreation Center, 0.7 miles away from where i stay. UF is one of America's top sports schools, having won the NCAA (american) football championship last year. 
It is also rated as one of the top party schools in country in unofficial guides. Sport and partying kinda go hand in hand here, with tailgates aplenty during the fall football season. Have to see that. Coming back to the facilities, the SW center is enormous as so many students train here. They have close to 8 indoor bb courts, 2 outdoor ones, 4 soccer (ahem) grounds, 6 beach volleyball courts, 6 large squash courts, a large cardio room and a 14000 sq foot gym. These guys obviously love their sports as this is but one of the three huge complexes at the university devoted entirely to sports.


UF is big on probably every statistic. A 2000 acre campus, 900+ buildings, more than 150 departments and close to 60,000 students are just a few of them. 3 weeks into the program, I have thus far seen a huge hospital, an equally large cancer research institute, fine arts schools, music building, plenty of science labs, engineering buildings and sports medicine insitutes. There
 is more for me to see yet. 
However, you would probably never notice the size of the campus because of the greenery here
. I could swear that i had landed in Bangalore (the part near the ashram), with palm trees and lush 
green trees when i got here the first time. And the weather is Indian too - which is great.

Our business school, comprising 5 buildings nicely dots the UF map. Thats where i was headed 
on the 27th morning for my orientation. The student ser vices team had done an awesome job in sending us the entire prientation manuals and notices 2 months earlier. I later learnt that 25 of us shall graduate as MBAs next year. The average age of the program is 29 and the average number of years of experience around 6. 
 
 
We are 4 international students - one apiece from China, Korea, Nigeria and Namaste. Plenty of US defence forces people. 6 women out of 25. The presenters on day 1 introduced us to some of the history  and people at UF MBA. It was a great start and the whole setting was very friendly yet dignified. On day 2, we travelled to Lake Wauberg, a lake run by UF staff and we played plenty of team games combining joint problem solving and physical exersise. Kinda like a crystal maze. After lunch, we tried the ropes challenge, where we belayed and rope climbed a 50 foot+ tall structure - similar to the stuff we 
see in military traning. Day 3 through Day 5 was a combination of further introductions, the student body presentations, leadership building courses, career planning and stuff. The meals on all the days were consistently yummy. We also had a mixer at the Swamp, the popular pub near
 UF, and a bowling night out on Friday.


The academics started yesterday, and we have a packed  semester here. Most of my calendar through May and June is already marked with tons of appointments. The faculty have commendable credentials and emphasize plenty on real world application of the concepts.  They
 are also very planned and prepared, and we have already been handed all the presentations and preparation materials we may require through the term. Seems like our small cohort is headd for an active, but fun summer ahead.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hey How are you? and other observations

The last couple of weeks have been tremendous fun! I travelled via cold cold London, on a grey grey morning to a sunny, clear Boston which, ironically was even colder than London.

Amherst was awesome and i stayed at Chachi's place. Got introduced to all sorts of meat, pork, chicken and other vegetarian delicacies made entirely from soy. Have to admit though that even the meat-free meats dont taste so great any more....Got my basic setup and acclimatization done and learnt some driving here. There are so many strange things to driving in America, of which the cake goes to the 'Stop' signs. They seem to be be everywhere and the driver necessarily needs to stop at all of them. And the speed l;imit is very strongly adhered to. My cousins are big gamers, and we spent many hours playing titles on their XBOX 360. The younger one is an awesome rock guitarist at the tender age of 14. He made his satsang debut in the satsng concert held to honor the 'teacher from India'. The satsng concert was a blast, with 2 elec guitars and 5 drums. 

Sports and people's fascination here has been a revelation. Most conversations are peppered with the updated basketball/football/baseball scores. The gymnasiums here, and the national fascination with basketball are to be seen to be believed. At the UMASS campus at amherst, one 'gymanasium' had 5 gyms and 10 basketball courts under one roof. And college students spend a lot of time playing. 

I landed in Gainesville the day before, a big welcome change from the cold New England weather. he trees and vegetation seems very close to India. The University of Florida is an enormous, school with noble laureaes and olympians having graced its halls in their student years. The student community here is close to 60,000. UF is big into sports with many students who compete in the olympics from their countries.

I am comfortably settled into a major Indian enclave here, and have started watching streaming TV shows to acclimatise in the new culture. I loved the series"How i met you mom", of which i have seen5 episodes now.

Have not taken too many photos, but shall clcik some soon and upload them too.  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A nice journey

The last week was a blur of activity in preparation of my travel to the US. Packing for traveling to the US kept throwing up new 'must-carry' items everyday, and it was finally concluded on Saturday evening at 8.00 pm. Plus taking a backup of all the documents on the laptop, installing essential software, copying all the beautiful photos of the wonderful 3 months onto the ew laptop, getting all papers in place.It is always a good idea to check out your university's Indian students' association web pages for checklists and reminders. So i was finally set to leave yesterday at around 8 pm.

Our AD YES+ group got together last evening at 8 pm and we were all together till the airport. Plenty of wonderful conversations, and gifts were exchanged, We reached the Abu Dhabi airport at 11.20 pm last night and after completing the check-in formalities, I came out to the main gate where our group waited. Lots of hugs, wonderful memories, full hearts and gifts marked the meeting.

The BA flight for heathrow took off at 2 am, and 7 and a half hours later, i was flying through dense grey clouds into terminal 5 at London. The skies in london were so grey, it reminded me of all the english books i had read . And it was cold, yet the airport was spic and span. It looked sterilized actually, quiet and clean like the insides of a hospital. I visited the Heathrow lounge and found an interesting chewable toothbrush, a chewing gum with bristles which means you can discard the toothpaste and just chew on. Then there was the Multi-faith prayer room, a room with a chapel, prayer mats, and yoga books. I did my Kriya and sadhana here, and then had some of the lovely parathas mum had packed. I then proceeded to the departure gate, which was a good 7 minute walk from the lounge and our flight to the US was off an hour and a half after scheduled. Seems the captain found a funny 'smell' on the aircraft.

THe trip to Boston also took 7.5 hours. I had an interesting, scottish businessman for my neighbor. He heads marketing for a huge firm and shred nice insights into the marketing profession.We talked at length about politics, sports and was a lot of fun. When we landed at Boston, it seemed warmer than London, but was not. Turned out that American Airlines had left half the luggage in London, something they usually do, and i had to file a 'request' for my luggage with the American Airlines counter, who promptly drove the bag down to Uncle's house the next day.

The first few days at my aunt's place in the US have been interesting. Have learnt a bit about driving here, visited huge stores, eaten varieties of bacon, turkey and sausages made from tofu, and had a loong intense basketball game in UMass' massive indoor stadium today (there are 10 full sized basketball courts within a single structure). I considered myself fit, but the experience of working out with American college kids has left me with a stronger determination to adopt a better diet and fitness plan :) will experiment with rajesh bhaiya's high protein, low carb diet.

Will start with seva soon. Have just been absorbing all the wonderful Guru stories that chacha and chachi have, and have also been doing sadhana in the room Guruji gave darshan in.

Its a nice start overall, lets see how things shape up!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A bit on Mantras


My first experience of mantras was when i learnt the Gayatri mantra from mum in 7th grade. In those days, chanting the mantras for a few moments, would bring such a sharp, focused and peaceful mind. Nevertheless, i forgot about their utility as growing up and moved on.

That was till i did my Art of Living basic course and the Sudarshan Kriya. The sheer experience of peace and energy was unlike anything i had felt ever before. Although this sadhana derives its potency from another, much more subtle source, the root mantra used in the practise is a maha mantra by itself.

Recently, i bought a copy of "Healing Mantras", at Landmark in Bangalore,  and it gave me brilliant insights into some of the spiritual practices i have been following. Even when i would chant the Gayatri mantra in earlier days, i would feel incredible peace, but understanding a bit of its meaning from this book has allowed me to go deeper into the experience. The book is incredibly well organized with mantras speciafically written for addressing specific mental, financial or physical conditions, and practitioners have reported positive transformations.

Till now, i thought mantras as prayers or praises of divine, abstract forms. But once i began chanting some of these mantras, i realized that these actually have a deep, powerful physical and mental effect. Just chanting the Ganesha or Laxmi mantras allows me to feel more consolidated, focused and positive at the same time. I was delighted to learn the meanings of the mantras i chant when doing the surya namaskar, and chanting these makes the surya namaskar something else altogether. I was also happy to read in details about chakras, and the connection between the planets, the constellation, our bodies and mantras.

How wonderful is the fact that the rishis of ancient times have stored their cumulative discoveries of the mysteries of the universe into these sounds, and that these mantras can so immediately address the mental and emotional issues and challenges we face today!

On the eve of ashtami, here is a gift-
"Aum Shrim Maha Laxmiye Swaha" - the mantra for unlocking abundance in life.
 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Y3S+

The third YES+ course in Abu Dhabi concluded today amidst much celebration and silence. Conducted at our center, the YES+ had an interesting mix of working professionals and students on the first day. At the end of the 6 days, there was just one big group of joyous, wiser and more peaceful human beings – empowered, as the course promises.

 

We had keen volunteers, who made all arrangements and were keenly present throughout the course. The participants changed from being a little hesitant on Day1, to blooming and free by the time the course ended. The satsangs were fun, the kriya deep, and the games and activities were totally charged up.

So many blessings, so much love and appreciation flowing on the last day, and so many new wonderful friends. Where else on the planet can you get even a shadow of this joy?

 

Blissed out remembering the last 6 days and reading the feedback. Love, JGD!

Friday, March 20, 2009

New happenings

Has been an interesting last week at Abu Dhabi, a mixture of seva and fun all coming together. Played some Grand Theft Auto 4 on the PS3. Rockstar games have cleverly redefined and rendered New York City as Liberty City in the game. This is the first time that I am playing a game of this franchise, and the open-world, sandbox game, comprising elements of driving, shooting and puzzles is good fun. Unfortunately, it is too long and i am afraid i would not be able to finish it due to other priorities. Besides, i am desperately trying to clean up my act by shifting from FPS games/solo adventures to more mature, complex strategy games (think Age of Empires). The thing about these games is that there is a high learning curve, so the thought of starting a new game can be quite intimidating. I have played AOE, and Warcraft 3 earlier. I remember how other activities would suddenly start seeming important when i would play these games :) I pushed myself into Warcraft purely because i loved the plot, so reminiscent of LOTR, one of my favorite reads. Once the tough learning curve was crossed though, i found the gameplay very engaging and rewarding. Strategy games have this positive effect in making you a better planner and allowing you to better organize, and execute, your activities. So i had bought Civilization Revolutions, one of the very few strategy games for the PS3, and have been diligently reading the internet guides to understand how to play! 

Have also been re-reading Ramesh Menon's brilliant rewritng of Ramayana, the highest selling English translation on Amazon.com. I just loooovvveee grand fantasies (though Ramayana is not one).

Had an inspiring meeting with Aban aunty in Bangalore and have donated towards the VISTA project, Pitaji's initiative to empower rural women in north Karnataka. Met Bau and took his blessings for further seva. I enquired if I would see him in the US, to which he responded "This (the ashram) is the best place to vacation. Come back here only." 

Got a multiple entry Canada visa yesterday. We had a couple of great intro talks and two wonderful satsangs over the last week, with electronic dholaks and an elec guitar. We seem set for our third YES+ in Abu Dhabi from the 22nd.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To my Bengali friends

Thanks to Bambi.

The Bengali Babumoshoi 

With all due regards and profound respects to all and sundry Bengali 

A  is for Awpheesh (as in Office). This is where the average  Kolkakattan 
goes and spends a day hard at work.  And if he works for the 'West Bengal 
 Gawrment'  he will arrive at 10, wipe his forehead till 11, have a  tea 
break at 12, throw around a few files at 12.30, break  for lunch at 1, smoke 
an unfiltered cigarette at 2,  break for tea at 3, sleep sitting down at 4 
 and go home  at 4:30. It's a hard life! 
  
B is for Bhision. For some reason  many Bengalis don't have  good bhision. 
In fact in Kolkata most people are wearing  spectacles all the time. 
  
C is for Chappell (as in Greg).  Currently, this is the Bengali word for the 
 Devil, for the worst form of  evil. In the night  mothers put their kids to 
sleep saying, 'Na ghumaley  Chappell eshey dhorey niye jabe.' (If you don't 
sleep, Chappel will come and take you away!!) 
  
D is for Debashish or any  other name starting with Deb. By an ancient law 
every fourth Bengali  Child has to  be named Debashish. So you have a 
Debashish everywhere  and trying to get creative they are also called  Deb, 
 Debu, Deba with variations like Debanik, Deboprotim,  Debojyoti, etc.. thrown 
in at times. 
  
E is for Eeesh. This is a  very common Bengali exclamation  made famous by 
Aishwarya Rai in the movie Devdas.  It is estimated that on an average a 
 Bengali, especially  Bengali women, use eeesh 10,089 times every year.  'Ei 
Morechhey' is a close second to Eeesh. 
  
F is for Feeesh.  These are creatures that swim in rivers  and seas and are 
a favourite food of the  Bengalis.  Despite the fact that a fish market has 
 such strong smells, with one  sniff a Bengali knows if a fish  is all right. If 
not he will say 'eeesh what feeesh  is theesh!' 
  
G is for Good name. Every Bengali boy will have a  good name like Debashish 
 or Deboprotim and a pet name like Motka,  Bhombol, Thobla, etc. While every 
Bengali girls will  have pet names like Tia, Tuktuki, Mishti, Khuku, etc. 
  
H  is for Harmonium. This the Bengali equivalent of a rock guitar. Take 
 four Bengalis and a Harmonium and you  have the successors to The Bheatles! 
  
I is for lleesh. This is  a feeesh with 10,000 bones which  would kill any 
ordinary person, but which the Bengalis  eat with releeesh! 
  
J is for Jhola. No self respecting Bengali  is complete without  his Jhola. 
It is a shapeless cloth bag where he  keeps all his belongings and he fits 
an amazing number  of things in. Even as you read this there are 2 million 
 jholas bobbling  around Kolkata- and they all look  exactly the same! Note 
that 'Jhol' as in Maachher Jhol  is a close second 
  
K is for Kee Kaando !. It used to be the  favourite Bengali  exclamation 
 till eeesh took over because of Aishwarya Rai (now Kee Kando's agent is 
trying to hire Bipasha  Basu). 
  
L is for Lungi - the dress for all occasions.  People in  Kolkata manage to 
play football and cricket wearing it  not to mention the daily trip in the 
 morning to the local bajaar. Now  there is talk of a lungi expedition to 
Mt. Everest . 
  
M is for Minibus. These are dangerous half  buses whose antics  would 
effortlessly frighten the living daylights  out of all James Bond stuntmen 
 as well as Formula  1 race car drivers. M  is also for Maunkey Cap and 
Maaphler!! 

N is for Nangto. This is  the Bengali word for Naked. It  is the most 
interesting naked word in any language! 
  
O is for  Oil. The Bengalis believe that a touch of mustard oil will cure 
 anything  from cold (oil in the nose),  to earache (oil in the ear), to 
cough (oil on the  throat) to piles (oil you know where!) 
  
P is for Phootball.  This is always a phavourite phassion  of the Kolkattan. 
 Every Bengali is born an expert  in this game. The two biggest clubs there 
are Mohunbagan and East  Bengal and when they play the city comes  to a stop. 
  
Q is for Queen. This really has nothing to do  with the Bengalis or Kolkata, 
 but it's the only Q word one  can think  of. There's also Quilt but they 
never  use them in Kolkata. 
  
R is for Robi Thakur. Many many years ago Rabindranath got  the Nobel 
Prize. This has given the right to all Bengalis  no matter where they are to 
 frame their acceptance  speeches as if they were directly related to  the 
great poet and walk with their head held high. This  also gives Bengalis the 
birthright to look down at  Delhi and Mumbai and of course 'all 
 non-Bengawlees'  ! Note that 'Rawshogolla' comes a close second  ! 
  
S is for Shourav. Now that they finally produced a genuine  cricketer and a 
captain, Bengalis think that he  should be allowed to play until he is 70 
 years old. Of  course they will see to it that he stays in good form  by 
doing a little bit of 'joggo' and 'maanot'. 
  
T is for  Trams. Hundred years later there are still trams  in Kolkata. Of 
 course if you are in a hurry it's faster  to walk. 
  
U is for Aambrela.. When a Bengali baby is born he  is handed one. 
  
V is for Bhaayolence. Bengalis are the  most non-violent  violent people 
 around. When an accident happens  they will fold up their sleeves, shout and 
scream and curse and  abuse, "Chherey De Bolchhi" but the last time someone 
actually hit  someone was in 1947. 
  
W  is for Water. For three months of the year the city is  underwater and 
 every year for the last 200 years the  authorities are taken by surprise by 
this! 
  
X is for X'mas.  It's very big in Kolkata, with ParkStreet fully lit up and 
all Bengalis agreeing  that they  must eat cake that day. 
  
Y is for Yesshtaarday. Which is  always better than today  for a Bengali 
(see R for Robi Thakur). 
  
Z is for Jebra, Joo, Jipper and Jylophone.. 
  
!!!! 

 


Sunday, March 8, 2009

An amazing Advance Course!


Waves of silent joy and contentment washed over the 49 participants at the advance course concluded at the ashram today. By personal choice, i feel that the advance course is the most beautiful program we have, with techniques cleansing the farthest reaches of the mind and beyond. My 11th course was special, with Joshi ji wonderfully guiding us through the enchanting, energizing journey. In a short spell of 4 days, difficult emotional blocks were confronted and transcended, for us to experience higher and higher energy and purity. The pearls of creation in the program were all polished punah punah. Even the pics are so white without any flash employed :)

Prior to that was my cousin's wedding in Mumbai which was a traditional Bangalorean one (the groom is bangalorean). Will update pics soon. Am too awash with Advance course bliss at present :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

US F1 visa interview

Have just completed my visa formalities in mumbai today. Am unable to post pictures simply because photography is not permitted even near the premises :)

So i had prepared my dossier of documents before leaving abu dhabi - the I20 form, the DS forms, the financial proofs, the education certificates, the MRV fee proof, etc. When i landed in mumbai on saturday, i travelled to mahalaxmi to see the US consulate which is at breach candy. I also went through a few typical questions for the interview on the internet, only to realize that the questions are fairly straightforward - why are you going to the US? where will you study? who will pay for the trip. I remembered prashant's advise on being prepared with questions on funding. That was helpful.

I also remember him sharing horror stories of people queuing up outside the consulate 3-4 hours in advance of the interview time. That was not very helpful. Turns out it was not required either (fortunately).

I left kandivli around 7 am and it took me 45 mins (nice) and 500 bucks (not nice) in a cab to the consulate. People were queued outside the consulate. The security guards were quite good at handling the crowd. Of course, since it is the american consulate, i did'nt expect very polite security, so probably that helped me adjust to the way crowds were handled there. At around 8.45 all those for an 8.30 am appointemnt were called to form a new queue, we were told to bundle our I20, passport, and the pink slip from HDFC together. A little ahead another security guy instructed us in chaste bihari english to not carry any medhicines, any mobhile phone, any drinking bhater, etc. Bhatches bhere allowed, i bhas instructed. So bhere accessories, much to the delight of the style bhai standing behind me.

The entrance of the consulate is like a small airport check in counter, where we were frisked, our documents rearranged and walked through a metal detector. The inteview lounge is like a railway ticketing counter, we were issued tokens and waited for one of the interviewers to beckon us to any of the 20 odd counters. Mumbai consulate covers the states of maharashtra and gujarat and inteviews are conducted in english, marathi and gujarati. so for every "Token numbers 704, 705, 707, 709, please come to counter number 7 with your pink tokens" there would be a "Kisanbhai rajubhai patel and family, counter solah avedu chhu" announcement. There were plnety and plenty of patels there, by the way.

I finally heard my token number 963 being called. The counter is like a confession chamber. The interviewer sits on one side, and you stand, sweating, on the other. My interviewer was an indian american who was joined by an american american (?) consular officer midway through my first question - "What are you going to study?" They started chatting with each other with me listening to how so and so candidate should be given higher priority than the other. Then he started explaining to his compatriot about how "IIT is a very famous school in India. Plus he has worked for all these top companies." She said "And he is an Art of Living instructor too." To which he told her "Yes he is a golden boy" and then both turned to me and said "Congratulations you have got your visa. It shall be mailed to you at your address within two days" So that was that, and i headed out to the Bandra station, where i celebrated my american visa in true indian style - having a couple of wada paos and a mango lassi.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anniversary Party!

It was mum and dad's anniversary yesterday and our YES+ group got together for a fabulous party. Sudha brought over all the stuff for the arrangements and khyati, chetan, vishwan ji, soumen, prasoon, swati all chipped in to arrange the hall and food. We had nice scented candles, confetti filled balloons and a big pineapple cake for the occassion, and it was graced by many of our part 1 teachers including ramdas ji, vijaya ji, dr veena and pramod ji, anil and bindu ji, ragini. With a couple of family friends and our YES+ group thrown in, we had a rocking group of both the young and the young at heart. The cake cutting was fun with mum and dad having to simultaneously blow out two different candles on the cake. 

Saroja conducted a fun session where mum and dad got to speak about how they first met. We had an antakshari and a couple of songs on the guitar. Dinner was nice - traditional khana plus some good homemade gulabjamuns and dahi bhallas from tripti aunty. This was followed by a superb mimicry session with Rebecca, who was brilliant alternately as a philipina, an arab, an aussie, a scotsman, and of course, as a malayali. Once the dancing started it went on for hours. The best thing was mum and dad's total happiness with the party. 

Looking forward to our next get together.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

YES+ @ AD...Once more!

The YES+ deuxieme concluded with glowing smiles, flowing hearts and growing minds. Each day, starting from the 10th, brought forth a blossoming of the participants’ hearts. We played, we danced, we sang, we shared wisdom and ,naturally, we breathed to celebrate His priceless gift to humanity – the YES+ program. From the eventful first day at the India Social Center, to the next 5 days at our Abu Dhabi AOL center, and the finale at our home, I had the honor of guiding 25 loved ones to His light. 


Day 1 was fun. The riddle nearly started a riot. On Day 2 all of us unlocked secrets of unending enthusiasm and had our first peek into infinity. The experience of 

vastness deepened on Day 3 while tough insights were had to discover what holds us back in life. Day 4 was our picnic where even at the end of a whole day of discovery and fun, the participants wanted more and more. Day 5 was marked with colourful (or rather dimly lit) skits symbolizing the different groups. The group presentations on vegetarianism were very insightful, and reiterated the crying need for all of us to turn vegetarian to save our bodies, our planet and our wallets. When we parted on day 6, our hearts were full and our heads light and clear, and we committed to making life a celebration for more people.

There were many snapshots in the course - Saroja proposing to the whole group on Valentine’s day with roses; the Suryanamaskar relay races which brought out the best (or worst?) of the different groups; Avanish ji’s enthusiasm and belongingness belying his age; the long and amazing yoga sessions; the games and the games and more games; Suraj’s “YESmobile” delivering people safely after the course, and so many more. Swati, saroja, vishwan ji and soumein showed fabulous commitment in the way they were at the venue every day, making all the arrangements happen, so that the course was a seamless, smooth experience for all the participants. The satsangs were divine, and Guruji’s blessings flowed so abundantly. 


For me, the experience of conducting the program was as stunning as organizing it. Congrats to all of us who had worked towards it – Swati, Saroja, Bimlesh, Soumein, Vishwan ji, Apporva, Khyati, Sumal, Jitesh, Ranjan. Heading to the malls, our team would randomly meet up people and inform them about the program, and by doing that we feel so much more a part of the city and the community, so many insecurities have vanished, and fears of other people’s judgement diminished. At the same time, the mind feels sharper and more creative, and our communication has improved tremendously. It is amazing that though I have been actively meeting new people  and speaking to them about the course for the last 10 years, yet every time, some awkwardness falls away and I feel much more connected to the World around. It is so much easier to see Guruji's wisdom on how the mind works. All the dullness and false concepts start dropping away when doing seva.


In all, a wonderful journey ended and another amazing one begins now, with all of us fervently praying

 and working towards making our dream a reality – of having Bawa here in the first week of April.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wonder wonder!


The heart seeks the old. The older the love, the more fresh it seems, the more full of joy. We always admire old ties, the older the better.

The mind seeks the new. New discoveries thrill us, new frontiers. 

When yoga happens, then both these tendencies unite, and steady love, joy and peace are established. (more in Shiv Sutra 5)

This is an interesting insight into how we deal with commitments. For example, studies or a new fitness plan, or a new hobby. It is so interesting initially, with the mind discovering new things everyday. After a while, the heart starts longing for freshness, for established formulas of getting happy. If a few days/weeks/months have passed since starting the activity, the mind loses its charm, because now the activity is not new anymore. And hence revertng to doing things the old way becomes so appealing.

This is why most new year resolutions/ commitments, etc fail.

Through knowledge, through wisdom, the heart and the mind unite and both these seemingly opposite tendencies can miraculously coexist.

I have personally experienced the power of this knowledge. When i do anything that i must do, i listen to knowledge/read knowledge sheets when these tendencies get very strong. Then i get back to working and repeat the procedure whenever taking breaks. I have noticed that my mind wanders much less now and the uneasiness has also diminsihed. The questions have reduced, and the wonders have increased! Thanks so much to Guruji!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Udyamo Bhairavah!


Why work hard when God is taking care of everything? If you are going through trouble, and God is supposed to comfort you, does that mean God is not with you?

Often when we need to do good things, we say "Godwilling, it will happen." Do we say that when we have to do something wrong? Also, when a rough patch comes, we often hear "God is testing us, we are having to suffer." Then we don't say we are responsible. When we achieve something, we talk about how much effort we had to put in, how we overcame obstacles. When we screw up, "this is what God wanted." 

Udyamo Bhairavah, let us invoke the divine in our actions. If God is doing this, rest assured that He is experiencing it also. If He does it, then He experiences it also. You cannot have this duality of Him doing and you experiencing.

So,udyamo bhairavah. Without udyam, without purusharth, the divine cannot be invoked. Becmoing skillfull, adept at what you do is important. That comes with 100% effort, not simply physical effort, but mental and emotional effort too. Often some people say that we have been good all our lives then wy has this suffering come upon us? They were good, but they were also foolish. When stuck in a problem, we have to devise the upaya, strategies to alleviate the problem.

Do not wait for God to call you. He has been crying out your name loudly for ages. Arise!

(more in Shiva Sutra 4)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Good and Evil


Q. Dear Guruji, Here on the path i feel i am taken care of. But what about those who go through torture, slavery and suffering? Is God partial to taking care of a few?

Guruji:
You cannot know the mind of the divine. You cannot fathom it you can only wonder about it. If you stay with the question i don't know if you will find an answer or not. Do you know if there is no misery in this world, all the good qualities will also disappear. This is a tough truth to digest because it is not very pleasant. For good qualities to exist,  it is essential for the opposite to be there. Suppose there was no suffering on whom will you be compassionate? How will you even know what is compassion. That is why we say opposite values are complementary. 

Theres a story in indian mythology. Good and Evil decided that they would play a drama in the world. For one to be a hero, one had to be a villain. And so it was. The good and the evil fought for a long time, and at the end, when evil was killed, they both sat together and thanked each other. This is the story of Ram and Ravana, when Ravana was about to be killed, he told Rama "I am glad to die at your hand, for I have found salvation."

Opposite values are complementary. Truth is multi dimensional, not linear. Good and Evil both co-exist in God.

Jai Gurudeva! 
(for more listen to Guruji's talk, aptly titled, "Good and Evil")

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Studies


This one is for Tanu, and all those who study.

Around 7 years ago, Guruji was meeting a group of young adult participants in Narayana. I also got in with them, for i just wantedddd to meet Himmmm. In the QnA, one girl asked, "Guruji, how to become perfect at studies?" Guruji asked "What?"
"How to become perfect at studies Guruji?"
"What?"
"How to become perfect Guruji?"
"Come again..."
"Guruji how to become perfect?"
"What?"
By now the whole group (mostly girls) were giggling...

When the girl started to ask again, Guruji, who had been looking right into her eyes all the while, abruptly asked "Got it?"

So, got it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happenings happenings


It has been a very active week after Atlantis. We had our second YES+ follow up on saturday. After kriya all of us headed to the Abu Dhabi mall for some seva. It is always interesting, no matter how many times you do it, to go as a seller to a place you have always been buying from. We had fun approaching a few sales staff too, to please 'check out our offer' :)

Everyday we have been having some or the other outdoor seva. Also, i have been implementing te "I Love Studies" technique to start studying corporate finance in anticipation of my MBA.Actually the topics are very practical and interesting, but still there is some mysterious repelling force when i sit at the desk...Mum has been very active in garnering registrations for the course. So studies and seva at present. Will update with more soon.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Behold the Atlantis!

The last two days were a fantastic experience at the Atlantis, the new hotel/adventure park at Dubai which has captured the world’s imagination. Themed on the fabled city of Atlantis, the hotel combines cutting edge technology, ultra-modern architecture and landscaping techniques with world-class family entertainment options to create one mind-blowing experience, which has tourists thronging from all over the world. Atlantis comprises several accommodation options, with executive suites offering fantastic views of the Arabian Gulf and the Palm Dubai, presidential suites large enough to accommodate a joint family, and the super special Lost Chamber suites, which have 3 floors of floor-to-wall view into the Ambassador lagoon, a 35000 gallon ‘aquarium’ comprising 30000+ fish of 125 species. The adventure park, Aquaventure has superb water rides, with the showpiece being the Ziggurat, having a 100 foot vertical slide into shark-filled waters! Dad’s company ran a special 2 day stay package at Atlantis for its employees at a small fraction of the original cost. And Boy did we have a good time!

We left Abu Dhabi around 10 and landed first at the Mall of Dubai, which is basically a small city posing to be a mall. Mom bought a mobile phone, I had a cold stone sundae and we rushed to catch the bus to Atlantis. 20 minutes later, we were being ushered into a new world, with architecture inspired by the ocean. 10 minutes and as many photos later we were in our suite and we immediately proceeded for lunch to the ‘Saffron’ dining room below. This was a contemporary dining place with stylish red neon lighting and red and wood seating areas. The food , oh the food! Even though it was predominantly (yuck) non-veg, there was an over-abundance of choice and quantity. There were 30 items in the salad bar, around 100 dishes, a bakery stocking 15 varieties of bread and nearly 40 desserts. Some of the stuff which I could sample included superb Japanese sushi with wasabi and 

soy (thanks to abhilash for introducing me to these in Bangalore, and thanks to hemant for teaching me chopsticks), 2 cheese selections, risotto, double choc chip muffin, blueberry muffin,  dark chocolate mousse, crepe suzettes, labneh zatar, hummus, thin crust original Italian pizza, and some more. The service here has been exceptional too, and we have had bright, smiling staff sensitive to all our requests. Post lunch we visited the ‘Lost Chambers’ where the legends of Atlantis come alive. It is a labyrinthine passage inspired by the atlantis style of architecture. Part-historic, part-fantasy, the structures built inside the chambers - including the Kings court, the Sages council, the mining counter, the emergency exit – were colored with the vivid stories which the tour guides enthusiastically narrated. Also on display were fish from every major ocean in the world, thronging multi-hued in their 

schools. We finished the trip and headed to our room. I went to the fitness center and left after a tough but invigorating 1.5 hour workout. Mum, dad and I headed for our dinner to the ‘Kaleidoscope’ dining hall, and we enjoyed another gigantic spread covering 150+ dishes and 7 different cuisines. We then had a night stroll by the beach, with the ocean contrasting brilliantly with the glittering hotel building.

 

It was interesting to see how the hotel has attracted tourists from all over the world. A majority seemed to be Asian – Japanese, hong kong, Singaporeans, etc. Plenty of arab and European visitors too. And fashionable crowds too, which means that the boots covered more than the skirts did. The nightclub, Sanctuary, had a cool red and black theme, and the DJ was really smooth.

Saturday morning saw us getting ready for the Aquaventure. I had a nice jog by the ocean and went to the gym for a while. Then we moved to the Aquaventure, specifically to the Ziggurat, as I wanted to do the slide on an empty stomach. The life guards were mostly Kenyan and were ready with bright smiles for all instructions. The service throughout the facilities was amazing,

 polite yet very attentive. They really put us all at ease. The Ziggurat, which is a Sumerian word for temple, has 7 different rides and slides. The most famous of these is the Leap of Faith, a 30 m near vertical dip, which requires us to climb up 3 storeys. I literally ‘fell’ in love with it, the only regret being that it was over too soon.  After 2 nearly heart-stopping runs down that slide I went to the shark lagoon, where you can float through a transparent tube surrounded by shark filled waters. We caught the golf cart back to the hotel , stopping by at the dolphin beach on the way. Breakfast was again at Saffron, with an overwhelming choice of fruits, cereals, fresh breads, Indian, thai, Japanese, Arabic and Italian delicacies. The waffles and pancakes were great. We packed and checked out of the hotel after that, headed to Abu Dhabi. 


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