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?

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


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?"
"How to become perfect Guruji?"
"Come again..."
"Guruji how to become perfect?"
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.