Thinking of Swami again

This has been happening to me since I am a teenager. I don’t think I ever shared or talked about it before but when I get really drunk – I can only think of Swami. I know it’s weird and kinda bizarre. I mean how can one fathom to mix intoxication with devotion? But it turns out I sure can. Back when I was at home – my dad would talk about Swami all the time. To rebel to him I picked a side. To be a true muslim and deny Swami. I thought he is just another person and never considered about him seriously.

But the kinda of serendipitous turn of things that happened during my move to Singapore – changed everything for me. I shed all the religious thinking and adopted an open mind. Since then I have felt closer to Swami and more even so when I am frigging drunk. It’s like the more I get drunk the more futile the petri dish of this reality becomes. The more clarified becomes the fake ensamble. I get more drunk to escape it but it never works so I give up and just miss Swami. In the beginning it was weird and now after all these years I realized that I do it by default. It’s like my happy place I go to.

I really have no idea if it’s good or bad and I don’t want to find out yet but Swami I miss you and am thinking of you. This does remind me of a beautiful bhajan –

sukh ke sab saathi, dukh mein naa koi
(Everyone is a friend in happy times, no one is there in sad moments)

mere raam teraa naam yek saachaa doojaa naa koi
(Oh my Lord Ram, only your name is a true one, no other)

jiwan aani jaani chhaayaa,
(Life is full of passing shadows/ obstacles)

jhoothhi maayaa, jhoothhi kaayaa
(pretentious show of emotions , pretentious body)

fir kaahe ko saari umariyaan, paap ki gathhari dhoi
(Why then, the whole life, you have to carry the burden of sins)

naa kuchh teraa, naa kuchh meraa,
(Nothing is yours, nothing is mine)

ye jag jogiwaalaa feraa
(the world is like a circuit of devotis)

raajaa ho yaa rank sabhi kaa, ant yek saa hoi
(Whether you are a king or a beggar, the end will be the same)

baahar ki too maanti faanke,
(You live on the elms of others)

man ke bhitar kyon naa jhaake
(Why don’t you look inside you)

ujale tan par maan kiyaa,
(you looked up to the white/shining skin)

aur man ki mail naa dhoyi
(And did not bother to clean up your heart)

Dialing down the distractions

Mind is an amazing thing. It can get excited easily and also profoundly be connected to something. I have experienced both sides. But a lot on the distractions side lately. I mean not just what I see or hear but within the chatter – the chatter is off the hook and it’s running helter-skelter. I usually don’t make any birthday resolutions – but I happen to attend a conference yesterday and it made me think and now I think I am ready to dial down some of the mental distractions and setup some goals.

When I sat down last night to write down all the things I want to do – the list went on more than 3 pages. But after a while – it kinda start to repeat itself. I start to see patterns and then realized that I need to take some time to prioritize. To keep it simple I am going to set only 2 goals. I professional and I personal.

1. Professional: At the conference I attended I saw what is going to be becoming of Javascript. I was amazed and excited about whats coming up in next couple of months. I think Javascript is at that place where it’s going to explode all over the web and a lot of intelligent people will use it places never imagined. I have always looked down on javacript till I started to work on it seriously 3 months back. I mean I really dived into it. Trust me when I say it took me 1 week to wriggle out meaning out of this – (broken link – but if you are serious about understanding closures you should read this – to understand closures in javascript but I sure did. It was mind numbing but I wanted to know once for all how javascript implements closures.

But I always treated javascript with less value compared to server side languages especially Python. But now I have changed my thinking about it. I think with given enough libraries around it’s possible to to pretty much all I need to do in Javascript. I am not going to be building sites using javascript on server side but I think I have found a niche where I can apply my skills. So my goal for this next 1 year is to just focus on Javascript. No Google Go, Objective C, Python, R or anything else. I am going to spend learning, writing javascript every day at least 30 mins per day outside my work.

2. Personal: There was a time I was rooted in my spirituality. But I think I kinda diluted it with a lot of *spiritual* distractions. Now it’s time to clean it up. I am going to plan on following and practicing only one spiritual mode. After thinking a lot about it – I think it’s going to be Bhagavad Gita. Mainly because it doesn’t tell you to leave the world and go take penance. Gita is all about how you can live spiritually even if you live in the world. I mean world of distractions. Gita is a song, yoga, meditation and everything else.

I plan to listen to Gita everyday for next 1 year and try to follow principles from it. I pulled out some old hard drives and it contained so much music, verses, talks and chants from Gita. Enough for 1 year.

Thats the plan. To dial down everything else. I think this is simple enough for me to follow and I plan to blog about these practices once every month – to keep track of my progress.

This is my Sadhana.

Pulling Back

Suffering is the unyielding attachment to that one stale thought obsessively. Behind these attachment there lies *witness*. When I pull back from these attachments I sense the “gap”. The gap is ever present, I am just not aware of it.

Gap is the cosmic dust that fills the universe.

Gap is the space between trigger and response

Gap is the void that needs no filling

Gap is the sound of the one hand clapping

Gap is what Rumi, Hafiz, Gibran experienced and J.Krishnamurti, Yogi Paramananda talked about, Lincoln, Gandhi, MLK did in actions.

Gap is the humm of life.

I experience it only when I pull back the senses. It’s time.

Beginning and End

In Hindu religion the first God who is prayed is – Ganesha and the last God who is prayed is – Hanuman. It starts with an Elephant God and ends with a Monkey God. And so it is, I found 2 songs/bhajans to go with them.

1. Ganesha Vandanam – I first heard this when Sai version of Jersey Boys performed this couple of years back at a Sai retreat in Pennsylvania. I was so moved. I love this bhajan which is in praise of Lord Ganesha.

2. At the same retreat as I was preparing for the evening program – I came across music playing over the speakers throughout the retreat center. It was an amazing song which was just so relaxing. I found my friend who was manning the music station and checked about it. It was a song called “Yoga Lullaby” by Russill Paul from AM and PM Yoga Chants. It’s in praise of Lord Rama whose bantu is Hanuman. The best cosmic lullaby ever.

Listen to Russill Paul’s Lullaby

The last time I saw Swami

The last time I saw Swami was last year in November. Whenever I visit India, I try to go to Tirupati and Puttaparthi. The year before I could only go to Tirupati. Last year it was even shorter visit. 20 days. It would be hard to go to both the places but I wanted to try. Our whole family drove to Puttaparthi and the plan was to see Swami the next day and they would come home back and I would go to Tirupati.

The next day when we went for Darshan, Swami didn’t come out. He was already on wheel chair and because of his sickness there was no darshan. We enjoyed the sumptuous North Indian vegetarian food and got back to darshan again at 3pm. This time I was sure I would have a darshan, because I was leaving that night and if I don’t see him I didn’t know when I will see him. Me, my brother-in-law and 3 year old nephew waited for Swami. Bannu was getting restless. Poor kid, how long can he just sit and wait.

I think we waited for 3 hours before Swami showed up. I was so relieved. It was the best darshan ever. Swami stayed out for everyone and then there were beautiful bhajans. Swami says that we need to come visit him to re-charge our spiritual batteries. Thats exactly what happens to me when I go see him. It was just beautiful. To see him sit there so close. I was drinking it in. As I was having the darshan, a internal dialogue started. I was telling him that how we are expecting a baby. I prayed for a healthy baby. I also mentioned that I won’t be coming back to see him for another 3 years this time. Next time I come around I will bring my daughter. Most of all, just being thankful for all the wonderful gifts he showered on me.

As the bhajans came to an end, students brought laddus as prasadam to Swami for his blessing. Swami touched the prasadam and they would start coming towards us to distribute them. I was so excited because I never got any prasadam so far in all my visits to Swami. I took mine and thanked Him.

As we got out and we heard the news that the hurricane is about to cross over to land in Chennai. It would have been impossible for me to take public transport and go to Tirupati as it was affected most. So we decided to head home and I was just happy that I had such a wonderful darshan.

I preserved the prasadam and brought it over to US for Sangita to have it – as a blessing for my baby.

Now I realize the importance of why it was the best darshan ever. Swami is no more now and the most wonderful memory of Puttaparthi for me is that evening. Thanks Swami for such a wonderful darshan. I miss you a lot. As I think of you Swami – there is only one bhajan that rings in my head.

Thankful for Sahana

This is one of those moments for me where I am taking time to smell the roses. Taking time to appreciate the most valuable thing in my life – my kunjus, Sahana. With day care and all I think I spend about 4 hours with Sahana while she is awake. But those 4 hours are filled with fun and joy. The time me and Sangita spend with her in the evening – taking care of her and watching her grow is amazing. To witness life grow in front of our eyes is fascinating.

Sangita does a lot to take care of Sahana and I get to do a lot of fun tasks with Kunjus. The other day she learned to splash her hand in water. The way she reacted was completely out of this world. That particular moment of discovery of something new and how that brings her joy is worth watching. After she goes to sleep – I love to watch her sleep. Completely in peace and security. The way she snuggles up to me in the night brings me smile. Oh and the talks – the early morning speeches she gives to the audience of 2 are hilarious. “Ba babababababa blah”. I don’t need an alarm, Sahana’s nails scratching my nose do a far better job.

I am thankful for my kunjus. I am thankful for my Sahana. Thank you Swami for your blessings.

How I became a “Pasha”

A discussion with the HR personnel couple of days back about how I have 2 date of births – official and unofficial, reminded me of how pain in my butt was my last name when I got to US 10 years back. I ended up having the rare opportunity of picking my last name as I ventured to fix my first name, last name mess.

You see, in India, we don’t spell out our last names after our first name. We usually abbreviate it in front of our first names. So, for example – “John Dorian” would be “D. John” in India. So, I am guessing by sheer accident when I started my schooling back in 1979 my dad didn’t think of breaking my name for the school system. So on my school records – my name always have been “Akbar Pasha”. It was missing my family name initials in the beginning. My family name is (or was) – wait for it – “Mohammad Abdul” – and I would have usually written it as “M.A. Akbar Pasha”. But something was off. Either my school messed it up or my parents didn’t think it was important. So just ‘Akbar Pasha’ prevailed.

The way Indian education system and further civic system is setup is – the name, you have at your passing of high school (Indian version) – which is a 10th grade – kinda sticks and becomes your official name. So, less did I know the future pain, when I passed the test with my name as ‘Akbar Pasha’.  And so it endured. My college, my graduation, my post graduation – everything just proceed with my full given name – Akbar Pasha without any last/family name. I never bothered about it either.

The trouble started when I was trying to get out the country for a job. When I got my passport back in 1998 – the passport office was flummoxed with my missing last name dilemma and they fixed it by leaving it empty. So I have a frigging blank in my last/family name place in my passport. That was ok. It didn’t pose me any trouble. I ended up happily in Singapore and worked my butt off.

The trouble started when I got my US work visa. You see back in those days to get a work visa to US, there was no need to face an interview. You apply with right paper work and if it works out, you get the visa. So, I think when the US consulate in Singapore was processing my visa application – they must have been confused about my missing last name in my passport and in order to fix it – they did something crazy. They made another mistake on top of it. They messed up my first name.

I think the software they were using usually *requires* a last name. And here I come without one and that threw the whole system off. So they decided to take the fix in their own hands. And it got f*ed up more. So, when I got my visa – they made my last name ‘Akbar Pasha’ and in my first name added an abomination – “FNU” – First Name Unknown. I kid you not. That’s what I have in my visa!

The real trouble started when I got to US. While getting a SSN, Driving License and every official document – nobody can find my name in the records because I was frigging FNU. There were many occasions where people – this is true! – called  me FNU (It kinda sounded like Fanhuuuu). They probably thought it’s some Swahili shortcut. I felt like when John Dorian tries to say Turk’s phone number using the letters on them in Scrubs! To all those crazy free software movement people – yes, the thought did occur to me if it were GNU instead of FNU I would have considered it keeping it!

So there it started for the next 4 years wherever it required me to show my ID – it was such a pain in the butt. I had to explain to everyone how I have a *missing* first name. Every time I went to DMV, every time I flew international, every time I had to give my first name officially. I was always “FNU Akbar Pasha”.

So, finally I decided I had to fix it – on my trip to India, I decided I would break up my name so that it’s easier for people to say it (Starbucks disagrees) and also break it down. I went to the passport office and got my name fixed. I officially became “Akbar” first name “Pasha” last name. I probably am one of very few people who get to choose their last name. But I wouldn’t recommend it!

As to having 2 date of births? It’s a whole another story and another blog post.