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!