Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Riding for Positivity

Himmat on a typical morning.

If there is one genuine morning person in our house its Himmat.  He wakes up with a smile and hug no matter how early it is, and most days is ready a couple of hours before he has to leave for school.  In our normal routine he is in my bathroom while I am tying my turban waiting for me to finish so I can tie his patka (small turban).  Normally during this time, we talk and discuss what happened yesterday or other things on his mind.  Mainly how much ‘electronics’ time he may get when he gets home, or what we plan to play outside.

For those who don’t know Himmat, his personality is truly positive.  He lives for the moment, never worrying about tomorrow or consequences.  He is the kid you would want to have as your best friend, loyal, caring and fun loving.  He’s not the youngest but he is the real child in our family.

Today was no different in our routine but in the morning conversation he told me its Bike to school day today.

“Daddy I’m going to ride my bike to school today” he said with a big smile on his face.  

Being the adult, I immediately responded with “You don’t have a chain, so maybe next year”

“What’s a chain?” he asked

“You put it on your bike, so it stays in place” I told him still concentrating on getting my turban right, its easy to have a bad turban day if you are distracted.

“Oh I have a kick stand so my bike will stay in its place” his big smile was back thinking he solved the issue.

“No, that’s not what I meant, the chain is so you can chain your bike with a lock, so nobody steals it” I’m a bit annoyed that he doesn’t even know what a chain is, at this point.

“Why would someone want to take my bike?”

“I don’t know, but if it doesn’t have a chain then the possibility is greater that someone can steal it if they want to”  I responded, trying to make him think logically.

“If they take my bike, then I won’t have a bike” I looked back at him through the mirror, his smile was gone and a concerned look took over his face.

As I finished my turban, he sat behind me on the tub, with a serious look.  I realized what I had just done, taken his innocence and trust in humanity away with a simple statement about a bike chain!

His whole body slumped and as I called him to stand in front of me to do his turban he walked slowly, of course I don’t know what he was thinking but my guess was his shattered trust that his bike would be safe outside his school the whole day without a chain was weighing heavy on him.

As I looked at him from the mirror his face reminded me of a face I have seen on every adult.  The face of worry, the face of stress, the face of distrust.  Within a matter of seconds, I had changed his optimistic morning to a negative one.  With my own attitude, my own distrust of humanity.  I had passed on unwillingly a stress about society and how we have to be constantly vigilant to a child who looked at the world optimistically.  As adults we have had experience, of course we have had good experiences along with the bad, but we normally use our common sense rooted in bad experiences, which cause us to be overly cautious and skeptical of humanity.

“You know what, why don’t you just take the bike to school” I said, trying to sound positive.

“But what if it gets stolen? What if someone takes it?” He responded with the same logic I had planted in his brain.

“Then we will get you a new one, you will out grow this one eventually anyways” As I said this I saw his eyes begin to light up again.

“What do you think the chances are that someone will take it?” He asked.

“I don’t know the chances, I mean most likely it will be fine, but even in worst case, you ride/walk back home and we will get you another bike, don’t worry about it” I was finishing up his turban at this point.

His body language changed he started telling me his plans to call his cousin and tell them he is riding his bike if they want to join.

Before I let him go down for breakfast, I told him something I was silently reminding myself.

People are mostly good, and even if there are some bad ones don’t let them ruin your perception of others.  When bad things happen, we can figure out a solution, so don’t stress it and do what you feel is right.

A small lesson for me this morning not to be pessimistic and remember that humanity is worthy of trust.  We just have to dig deeper sometimes and remember the times that people assisted us, or came through for us to understand that the positive experiences actually outnumber the negative ones.

And finally, one of my relatives who knows Himmat really well sent me a unexpected whatsapp message this morning:

“Good Morning Everyone. I’m having my Himmat moment - Love you all and a big hug from me to all of you for having beautiful children and being beautiful people who have always been there for me.  Happy Everyday.”

Yes, we are truly blessed, in so many ways if we open our eyes/minds to acknowledge it.  Thank you Himmat for being that positive energy that reminds me life is not only about logic, but an unconditional trust that the universe has a way of making things work out in the end.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Slow Motion

As humans we have the tendency to look at what we don’t have.  All around us are better things, more comfort, flashy, larger, roomier, advance etc. etc.  The never-ending list and cycle of wants.

We look at life and rate ourselves either by our possessions or by our accomplishments, but none of these truly bring us peace or satisfaction.  This is not really anything new, deep within us we know this to be true.  We have never been as happy as we were when we were children, before the competition and meaning to do something to make our mark in this world overtook us.  Back then we were just happy marking chalk on the sidewalk, or fingers in the sand, just that much was enough.

When we grow up do we really grow down?  We learn but in that learning we refuse to see the truth about ourselves.  We hide behind complexities which we ourselves do not understand.  If we come off too simple then we get judged as naïve, too complex then we get judged as clever.  In this battle of extremes our desires, wants and needs are clouded.  Clouded by not only what we want but what is expected, what is around us, and sadly what is fed to us.

In moments of silence and stillness we discover within us there is something else.  Within us there is the complete experience that even if its for moments at a time its calling on us to feel fulfilled.

This feeling gets replicated, when we feel love.  I have found that moments of meditation are very similar to moments where you feel unconditional love for others.  The challenge is to unconditionally love yourself in the same manner.  That would be the key to living not for the external but internal peace.

Last night before putting the kids to bed they begin cuddling with my wife, it became a picture moment.  As I watched them hugging and giggling into this line of sitting on laps for a moment I felt that unconditional love I have for everyone there.  Its in those moments that you see some major clarities and can comprehend the deep truth.  Nothing really matters, the only thing we can really give is love, the only thing we can get is love.  It is our misunderstanding that we can give or receive anything more. 

The mirage of illusion we seek to matter, we seek to fill ourselves with experiences, or some accomplishments that we strive for, only to feel empty every goal we make reality.  There is nothing to accomplish but love.  There is no where to go, there is no greater experience or destination.  It can be had at every moment if we catch that chance. 

They are very sensitive instants that happen quickly, so we miss them, because we are focused on the wrong things.  Slowing down is seen as counterproductive but living fast we rarely produce anything worth acknowledging.  However, just as in sports, it is only in slow motion that we can make the right call, its only in slow motion that we can see clearly, and it is only in slow motion that we can capture the most important moments that life has to offer.

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.