Thursday, October 26, 2017

Zero Tolerance

I came home last night as I normally do to a house full of activity.  I heard Baltej (11) practicing his Dilruba in our prayer room and Himmat (9) doing homework in the playroom.  My wife (Jasmine)  was cleaning up the dinner in the kitchen and Avtar (5) was enjoying his ‘electronic’ time on her phone.

As our normal routine my wife and I use our kitchen island to catchup on the day.  The routine of how the day was, how the kids behaved what was the status of the homework’s and other activities the kids were up to.  During this time, I am also setting up my dinner plate and we are normally interrupted by one of the boys coming and greeting me with a hug or just trying to get into our conversation.  So I noticed that Himmat (middle child) and Avtar had come by but Baltej went straight up to take a shower after his practice.  When I asked about him Jasmine proceeded to tell me how he had acted up that evening throwing a ball at one of his siblings and then another friend who had come to play on our driveway.  Though these were uncharacteristic of his behavior, we have enough kids and have spent enough time with them to know nothing is awkward and boys do some really stupid stuff from time to time (maybe girls too but I cant speak to that!).

After our conversation and my dinner was finished, I noticed that Baltej had not come back down stairs, this is again uncharacteristic of him and, so I decided to go talk to him.

As I walked up the stairs I noticed that his door was closed, and lights were off, this was another atypical sign at 7pm, normally he is full of energy and trying every excuse to extend his bedtime.
 
When I opened the door, I found him in bed under the covers, I went over and sat at the edge of his bed and lifted his covers, he must have been under them for a while because his head felt hot almost feverish.

I asked him what was wrong and if he was just tired, he looked at me with a very concerned and serious face, “I feel a lot of pressure” he said.  He went on to explain how he had gotten a zero on one of his makeup assignments.  He was fearful that I would be upset along with his behavior that evening with his siblings and friends. 

Being a parent is a very difficult job, anyone who has kids can tell you there is not one way, there is not one answer, there is not one strategy.  You are constantly thrown into unexpected situations or conversations.  Along with that you have the burden of knowing what you say, what you do, even how you say it, how you do it all gets recorded by little impressionable and very observant minds.  It’s a miracle that anyone grows up normal! 

“Its ok, I am not mad at you” I started off, I knew he already felt the stress of his behavior and failure, this was not a time to be upset or make him feel worse.

It was a rare moment where not only was I in the right frame of mind to give the advice, but he was in the right frame of mind to receive it.  Most times these moments come in the heat of something else going on, or in the midst of needing to get somewhere and so we miss these opportunities.
 
In what I hope someday he remembers as his dad’s ‘calm’ voice, I went on to explain to him that he was feeling stress and that he can’t change the past, the zero his behavior is all in the past now.  What he had under his control is his future actions.  I felt him feeling a bit relieved that he had dodged the ‘I’m in trouble bullet’ but of course I was not going to let him out that easy.

I used that moment where I had his captured attention to dish out some advice I also could use myself sometimes.  You cannot change the past, when you make a mistake or an error, there is no sense focusing on that missed chance.  The only thing we should get out of that is to learn by never forgetting that feeling.  I told him if you want to remember anything from today it shouldn’t be your grade or your behavior, but just this feeling that you had afterwards, that is the best chance to not make the same mistake again.  By this time Jasmine had also come upstairs, and I’m sure she too felt this was a good time to drive home some points so, as I was getting up and leaving she took my seat at the edge of the bed.


The Indian in me of course kept thinking about that zero he received, and as I was getting up I said I am not upset at the zero this time, but if it repeats then there would be something I would be holding him accountable for…..after that the desi part of me felt relief not letting the education expectations down!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Disconnecting to connect

For Father’s Day my son was asked to draw me and then point out my characteristics.  When he brought the drawing home and I took a look, it caught me off guard.  It was a picture of me holding my phone.  As one of my characteristics, ‘What does your father like to do’ he had written
 
“My father likes to watch funny videos on YouTube”

Children provide the most accurate reflection of you.  They show you the unbiased view that you seldom want to reflect on.  The one my son pointed out was most likely true, I was on my phone constantly.  I would love to use the excuse that it was because of my new job, and the demands of it and maybe I could chalk up 25% of my phone use for that, it would be inaccurate of me not to acknowledge the social media and entertainment aspect.

The truth is I am like many normal adults now a days, we use our phone for work, for information, to socialize and also cure our boredom.  Quite frankly I cannot even remember the last time I was bored.  Even places like the bathroom, the phone provides the world at your fingertips, you can google random questions you always had, research cars you will never buy, play games or communicate with anyone you wish.  The pull to use the mobile device is very strong, and truly addictive.

We try to justify our use because we don’t want to admit the truth.  We can survive without our phones, we can survive without social media, and most importantly if I wanted my kids not to be addicted to this technology, I would have to lead, by example, not lecture.

So that is what I am doing.  Today I deleted all my social media accounts, and had a discussion with my wife.  Though I had not talked to her about it previously and she was surprised she was quickly on board.  We have strategized to place our phones in a box at home, and only check them once every hour or so, for important emails.  I am also setting up some VIP emails so that if there is an emergency at work I can get some sort of alert, and not look completely careless!

I am an above average social media junky, I had too many friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and Instagram, and though I never really understood the appeal of Snapchat I had downloaded it just to see what the hype was about. 

For me the goal is simple, to disconnect to connect to what is truly important.  I had been on Facebook so long I don’t even remember how life was before it!  Ok I do but I do not really remember how we kept in touch, I am guessing via a phone call?  The aim is that come next father’s day, my son does not draw me with a phone in my hand, and for “What does your father like to do”  I would like to see the answer :


“My father likes to spend time with me when he is at home”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Money cannot change hearts and minds.

Recently National Sikh Campaign launched the “We are Sikhs” initiative.  Where a vast amount of money was spent to make an Ad/PR campaign to educated the American population on what Sikhs are/stand for.   All efforts to educate and spread awareness have their place and should be applauded, however I do believe we have started to cross the lines of what we should be standing for.

Money cannot win the hearts and minds of others, commercials cannot express the deepness of our beliefs.  Historically Sikhs have consistently been underdogs, and under constant scrutiny either by the government or other forces.  Never has a time come where Sikhs turned to self-preservation, they in fact did the opposite, the more they were taunted, the more they were hunted, it increased the self-sacrifice and service for others.  This is where the mind shift is happening and where I begin to see a new problematic thinking emerging in Sikhs.

Just following the ideals of Sikhism would provide ample amplification of our values.  There have been many examples of Sikhs doing just that and getting Viral posts with millions of views, Fauja Singh running for the charity, Ravi Singh going to Haiti and other remote areas to assist those in need, Balpreet Kaur’s exemplary response to an online bullying incident, and recently Angad Singh tying a turban in the middle of Times Square.  Our core beliefs and values when practice in real life would/and will provide a free of cost understanding of who we are.

Are we putting our resources to best use?  When we were younger we thought why do we have so many Gurdwara’s with such a small population, we wondered what was wrong with the previous generation wanting to build bigger and larger buildings when they did not agree with one another.  This generation has a new challenge, we now understand that the brick and mortar are not the best use of our funds, however we must think and do some soul searching on what we are now doing.  We are using our funds to educate others about us, sure this is a noble cause, and it may even have a place, but does it need to be the consistent focus?  We have come a long way since 9/11 and our community has been reaching out since and has done a lot better than before, yet we continue to use attacks against us to make ourselves fearful.   

Let’s truly introspect on what we are trying to achieve, what sort of community are we trying to become?  Our glorious heritage is full of courageous acts, where Sikhs defied odds, not for their own gain or to make their lives easier, but to fulfill a larger destiny, for mankind. 

The Sikh creed is to stand out, doesn’t matter if someone knows why or why not from first glance, every Sikh’s actions and words should change the hearts and minds.  We ourselves are the commercials, we ourselves are the advertisement, we ourselves have the power to change the perception.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Uneasy Feeling

It seems like something that is difficult to shake.  At every life stage we go through, we continuously have an uneasy feeling, and it’s sort of there constantly in the background.  Nagging us continuously creating doubt, fear and making us question our abilities.  It is an invisible dialogue we have no matter how successful or confident things seem on the outside there is that ever pervading doubt.

I think this may be a survival mechanism, an animal instinct to always be on the lookout.  Nobody likes to acknowledge this side of themselves, it puts you in a vulnerable spot.  It’s the social media world now, where what is posted is perfection, happy faces, continuous highs and good moments.  We are bombarded with images and thoughts which make us feel like that is the true reality, when it is really just a small subset of positive emotions.  What is shared is not the whole spectrum of sentiments or authenticity, not only is it a limited view, it is a filtered reality of that small window.

The human experience is very difficult to capture, we try in our own ways.  Pictures, videos, writing, art yet nothing can ever describe emotions completely.  There is always that part of our experience that only we know that only we live and that only we actually feel.  That is our inner truth, our unfiltered reality.

That uneasy feeling is actually our reality that we ignore, that we consistently refuse to engage in discourse with.  The participation of understanding yourself, your true inner self is the first step of spirituality.  It is the step that seems the most difficult because we are so used to living externally, our image our reputation, our looks, everything creating noise from the true reality of who we really are, and what our real purpose in life is or should be.

Facing anything takes courage, but facing yourself is the most daunting task of all.  It is why most refuse to do so and continuously live in a state of superficial reality.   We create a numbing environment full of things around us, and put value on temporary objects.  Our self-worth becomes less of the inner truth, rather more about what we can project to society. 

Our worth is not in our things, it is not in our relationships, it is not in our accomplishments.  Our worth is something we have within, that we are born with, it is just given to us for free and that is probably why we take it for granted.  It is too simple so we make it complicated that is a gift we have as human beings, to complicate simple things.

The only way to cure the uneasy feeling is to embrace it, own it, and understand it.  Applying the coating of acceptance will begin to bring some peace and contentment.  In an otherwise noisy world silence is the key, it is the only truth.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Average Sikh



They say the average American does not know the difference between a Sikh and Muslim.  They tell me the average American associates a turban and a beard with ISIS, Taliban, or Bin Laden.  That’s ok because the average Sikh does not have fear in their vocabulary.
We are not the victims of mistaken identity, we are in fact doing exactly what our identity was supposed to do.  It was supposed to absorb hate and ignorance so others would not have to.  See, you mistake us for something we are not however you do not know exactly who we are.  Our heritage teaches us tolerance, to love the enemy and to protect even those we do not agree with.  These seemingly progressive values, of equality, freedom of religion, justice for all that you thought were American are actually something Sikhs have been living, and dying for centuries overOur history is full of examples how Sikhs protected others before themselves, put humanity first and their own life last.  We are taught from a very young age that our identity comes with responsibility, it will come with its own set of challenges, and we are in fact ready for anything and more your hate can dish out.
We have learned through our forefathers that hate does not last, and love, and truth eventually overcome.  You may feel big by attacking us, but with each blow you only strengthen our resolve.  You have bullied our children in schools, attacked our places of worship all in your skewed misinformed and small view of the world.  Yes we look different but we are not foreign to this type of treatment.  Everywhere a Sikh goes they know they stand out, they know their identity comes before all else that is presented about them, and even in the face of extreme intolerance they are willing to not reciprocate the hate but shower love instead.
You think if you intimidate us we will go running ‘back to our country’ as you heckle commonly, however we will not go back but only dig our heals stronger to prove that not only are we not afraid but we have the resolve to overcome your anger.  Our religion provides us the guidance that there is no other, there is no difference, there is no better, there is only divine light which shines in all. 
A Sikhs strength lies in their identity, it goes hand in hand with their existence.  You might use images of the media to shape your world view through the bias lens, but we use spiritual power to shape our resolve.  A Sikh will stay steadfast in a  storm because we know the real battle does not rage externally rather internally is where the conquest really counts. 
My hope is of a better America, where tolerance is not just a word that is thrown around, but actually practiced by every individual.  Where diversity is not seen as a weakness but our core strength and what makes this nation great.  Till then you will never see us hiding, the 'Average Sikh' will be out there with our turbans and beards easy to spot and ready for any challenge that may be presented.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Happiness



Today while driving to work I read a very intriguing bumper sticker.  It read: “ It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”.  Needless to say my mind always needs something to ponder and with a 45 minute drive I lowered the news radio I normally listen to and thought about that bumper sticker.  My thoughts quickly drifted to many questions:

What makes me happy?

What is happiness?

How often are we meant to be happy?

Why is happiness so important?

Why is it so difficult to obtain or keep that happy feeling?

As I pondered it, I reflected on the moments in my life that were the happiest.  It was in those times that I really felt alive, that my life felt like it had purpose and meant something.  Happiness defines us, in a way we are exactly what we are happy about.  Our personalities, priorities, time, all is spent to fulfill some sort of happy moment we seek. 

Having young children reminds you of your own childhood, and one of the first things parents begin to understand is how happy children constantly are.  They seek happiness in every moment, this is why they cry easily too, because when they don’t get to their happiness it is devastating.  For them the only expression left if something is not fulfilled is the emotion of crying or throwing a tantrum.  As adults we ‘mature’ in thought and this brings about two fundamental changes in the way we pursue happiness:

1)      We don’t pursue happiness as often – we begin to realize that happiness is not guaranteed, therefore we limit our tries, and we calculate our moves to effectively manage our failures.

2)      We become jaded and less and less disappointed when we don’t get to our happy place – when we don’t get to our happiness we hide our disappointment and emotion with a strong face, or a careless attitude of telling ourselves, we really didn’t want it anyway.

So though we are all constantly seeking happiness, it becomes an elusive element in our lives.  The main effort is not placed on the feeling of being happy but on how we can get there.  Therein lays our problem instead of focusing on the moment of being happy, or in a happy state we begin to tell ourselves, I will be happy when….

We begin to call these, goals, achievements, but we are just masking the truth about setting destinations of happiness.  Of course there is no harm in trying to achieve success and pushing ourselves to become better in whatever realm we deem important, the fault comes because we as humans begin to see those destinations only.  Our happiness is then offset for another time, not the current moment, not every moment we are living, not every experience we are having, but only those we are striving for.

This is the reason children can find happiness in just playing with dirt, they do not care about the end product of playing with that dirt, what they can build with it, or what goal they will achieve after playing with it.  They only care about that moment, about that current state their mind is in, they are doing something they want to do, and to them that is their happy state.  Sadly we begin to live our lives as adults and then we teach our children the same thing that happiness is a destination, not every moment.

In our fears we tell them that happiness is found in success.  In better grades, in being the best at everything, in putting rewards at the end only if certain conditions are met.  You will get ice cream if your room is clean, which means happiness will only come ‘after’ you have achieved some level or satisfied a requirement.

I am about to turn 40 and maybe this is my midlife crisis talking or just my normal insanity.  This whole notion is crap, it’s full of shit, and honestly it makes me sick to know that it’s what we teach our children.  Instead of learning from them, to live each moment and in a constant happy state, we teach them that the happy state will only come if we accomplish something.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying we should teach them to be lazy; however there should be rewards, there should be celebrations at random for no other reason than we have that moment.  It would benefit us, and them if we started to take away some of this ‘achievement’ based happiness.  It would benefit us if we ourselves started to enjoy moments of happiness at every breath, not because our goals have been reached, but because we actually have this moment, this particular second in time to let ourselves feel good about our journey at its present state.

I’ll be happy when I get to high school, when I get to the college I want, when my career is set, when I have money, when I have no mortgage, when I retire, when my kids are set, consistently we push our happiness away, instead of embracing it. 

Happiness is not a destination; happiness is in every moment of our journey.  It is in fact our natural state, when we take away judgments about ourselves, or comparisons with others.  When we focus inward, we find that within ourselves there is a treasure of great happiness that we began to ignore when we became ‘adults’ as we matured we buried that treasure even deeper.  We forgot how to look up at the sky and marvel at the clouds, listen to the wonderful sounds of the chirping birds, feel the wonderful/warm the sun rays hitting our face.  We forgot that it is our maturity that causes us strife, our intellect that causes us stress, and most of all our inability to be satisfied with the moment of time we are given, the present, to feel blissful in every situation.  The beauty of life is in every second, and somehow we miss it because our attention is not in that second but some hour/day/year in the future.


Happiness can be found in every breath, moment, touch, glance, and smile, in the simplest and most natural way, all we have to do is stop trying so hard.

Friday, October 31, 2014

SPOTLIGHT PROFILE: GURPREET SINGH – COMING FULL CIRCLE


Photo : Vicky stylin' and profiln'!

My first encounter with Vicky aka Gurpreet was outside of my house on my driveway, it was 2 days after my marriage. Just a little clarification, Vicky is the husband of my younger sister and also the Brother in law of my Cousin brother Raj. So double relation, my first impression of him was he was tall and had a very strong handshake.

As time went on I noticed him at my cousins get togethers (since he was a part of their in-laws) one thing always stuck out that he was the only turbaned guy on their side of the family. Besides hello and hi at family functions I rarely took any time to talk to him and vice versa, he was a very pleasant family oriented guy and always left a good impression on those he knew and didn’t know!

Once we all went to the amusement park together, all extended family and Vicky was also their with Raj and Keenu (Keenu is Raj’s wife). The only thing I shamefully remember is when I saw Vicky in a baseball cap, I called him ‘Topee Vala’, not sure if he remembers this but I do!! It was pretty mean thing to say but sometimes arrogance clouds your judgment, and you judge people on their looks and limited actions.

A few years later, at Gurudwara I saw a guy who looked like Vicky in the langer hall. I thought maybe he had another brother because this guy didn’t have a turban or a beard. I looked more carefully but still couldn’t see that it was him. It wasn’t until one of my cousins told me that that’s Keenu’s brother he cut his hair. At that second my heart sank, all of a sudden I remembered all the times and opportunities I had to talk to him, maybe get to know him or see how he felt about Sikhi, I had past those up, and today he was here in the langar hall with no turban and no beard.

Photo : After he cut his kesh

It's always a sad feeling I get when I see someone let go of their saroop, even if I don’t know them I sometimes feel I lost a close brother. It’s a difficult thing to swallow even though I am open minded and understand everyone has their own path, but when it happens there are some emotions which are triggered. I believe this to be the inherent connection that all Sikhs have with Guru Gobind Singh, this bond is stronger than we know and through that bond we are all connected.

Afterwards I still kept seeing Vicky in family functions and get togethers yet I always imagined him with a turban, I couldn’t take that image out of my head. It was tough at times to see him but after a few times I started handling it better inside myself and came to terms with it.
I am going to skip the part of this story where Pinki and Vicky fell in love, because that is not for me to tell, and on top of it I probably just know very little!

After Pinki and Vicky were close, he started talking to me online. It was there that I felt his strength, his love for Sikhism, it was evident even in our conversations. He shared some deep feelings he had for Sikhi, and eventually I mustered enough courage to ask him why he cut his hair. It was a tough question but after seeing how much love he had for Sikhism it was one that I selfishly asked. To this his reply was on the term of “moment of weakness” or something like that, it was a few years ago so I cant remember the exact quote.

I went to his house a few times, and there I got to know Vicky, and I saw such a beautiful person. He is a huge giant and he has a HUGE heart, and it was at that point that I had accepted him as a better Sikh then I was. He had a passion for Sikhi, for Seva and more over the way he talked he just motivated me to seek more of his sangat. We spent a few weekends together, going to Gurudwaras together, then after wards just going to his apartment for chips and salsa, while we talked. I really hold those days close to heart and as moments in which I gained so much understanding and appreciation for his genuine love towards Sikhi, that inspired me!

I remember one of those weekends we were sitting on the floor at his apartment when he told me that he has decided to keep his kesh again. I don’t have the words to explain the feelings I had at that moment, so I wont even try to express them here!

Photo : Transformation first stage.
Photo : Transformation 2
Photo : Transformation 3
For someone to come full circle it means that they have seen all the sides. I believe that Vicky came full circle with his saroop, from having it and not appreciating it, to losing it, and then coming back even as a stronger Sikh. It is really special to see when a person is transforming into Sikhi saroop; you can actually see the Guru’s light coming through them. As their hair grows, and you see that part of their Sikhi blossom you can only feel blessed to be in their presence. The first day he tied a turban again we went to his house, and took pictures before heading to Gurudwara.

Photo: Comming full Circle, first day wearing Daastar right before Gurudwara
When I look closely at what Vicky has shown, besides courage, besides the humbleness to change and besides the great and deep Sikhi which was inside him, he showed me that Sikhism is not just a state of being, it is an experience. That living even through the tough times when you're down you can actually come back stronger, better, and more dedicated.

BOLE SO NIHAL!!!
SAT SRI AKAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Photo : I like this one because he looks content, or tired ! lol!