Friday, May 4, 2012

Big Bad Bullies

Growing up in Flushing, Queens as a skinny Indian boy I was the target of more than a few bullies during my childhood.  It's one of the reasons I have such a bad attitude towards anyone who tells me what to do as an adult.  The impact of our childhood is apparent when during adulthood we're faced with similar predicaments and the same knots that were present at 8 years old start stirring up acid reflux symptoms at 30.  What's different though is the reaction to the impulse to flee.  I ran away from the first couple of bullies but then got bold and talked right back to them.  After a few ass whoopings, I realized that these guys had real short fuses, and very sensitive egos.  So I became an expert at insulting and jabbering and made sure they'd be humiliated in front of their peers.  No amount of clobbering could mitigate the pounce in my punchlines especially when I shot degrading momma jokes from the ground.  Sure I lost the fights, but I sure as hell won the confrontation because I had a big ass smile on my face and the Big Bad Wolf couldn't put a sentence together since momma was too busy being a whore to care her son wasn't going to class and was now pretty much illiterate. 

As I got older, I got less skinnier and was less of a target.  There was the occasional bully who felt that brown skinned Indians had no place in their school located in Whitestone, Queens.  So I told them to kiss my ass and realized that I was immune to the insults, and unafraid of cracking my knuckles against a bully's face.  Sure my punch didn't have much spike but it was about standing my ground and being sure of myself.  No need to flee when I have something righteous to defend.  Interestingly enough, bullies tend to shy away from conflict when it's put upon them.  They like to surprise and strike.  They're not very brave, rather they're actually cowards who use unusual advantages (size, weapons) to intimidate their prey hoping it will bring them to their knees in submission.  Well I'll pass on submission to bullies and would rather engage in a fierce battle to the death because the world is all too often run by those who fleece the weak and underprivileged.  Getting older, I do not advocate violence as a means of resolving conflict.  It should be used as self defense only and bullies don't fight fair, so don't expect non-violent passive efforts to result in anything positive. 

Corporate America is full of bullies.  In every size, shape, color, ethnicity there are bullies in the workplace who like to take advantage of situations.  They look for targets that are harmless and can be manipulated.  They also look for people who will carry added burdens without the threat of having to pay more money or suffer any consequences.  The direction of corporate policies is pretty tied to the profits generated by businesses.  The people in charge take credit for the work done by the working class tier.  The board of directors sit high and mighty reporting results and claiming credit for decisions that for the most part had little impact compared to what the mid-level managers did to implement policies into place.  This isn't about the 1% having too much money.  This is about the 1% using their money to keep average hard working people from furthering their careers and striving for greater heights.  Litigation is often a means of bullying the little guy.  Corporate giants greedy for more money look to enforce unfair policies upon employees with little regard to the consequences of those actions.  Especially in a time when finding gainful employment is a challenge and providing for one's family is a daily grind even when employed.  Corporate boards may feel strong while calling the shots and manuevering across their chessboard but they should be forewarned that those who were bullied when they were young are immune to threats.  Heave your cannonballs upon my ship; target me with your corporate snipers; nothing will make me cave.  I am no coward.  I am not 8 years old.  Let's get ready for a fight. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My favorite museum experience...

The season was Fall and I was 10 years old and in the 3rd grade while attending public school in New York City. I was quite small in stature, but my imagination was vivid. I had yet gotten glasses, so I had the look of an angel. But how many 10 year olds live up to that label? The Museum of Natural History is located uptown on 5th Avenue along Central Park West in Manhattan, New York. It’s an exhibition of fantastically displayed dinosaur fossils, historical artifacts of ancient cultures, and information spanning the natural world and universe. At the time of my initial visit though, I knew it as the place where dinosaurs lived and Native American tribes continued to roam free. To this 10 year old, I was going to see history; I was going back in time.

I boarded the bus with a book-bag that was filled with some snacks, Hawaiian Punch juice, and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in a paperbag. The bus ride was ripe with anticipation. Kids were munching on snacks and sharing with each other. Teachers and chaperones were hollering instructions to stay seated and to keep the noise down (talk about unenviable tasks). I was seated in the middle of the bus with my good friend and the buzz from all the kids’ chatter was electric. Everyone was so enthusiastic (sugar from the snacks probably helped). I had $10.00 tucked away in my wallet which my mom gave me to spend in the gift shop! My dad reminded me to get something for my mom. I got each of us a dinosaur pen! The excitement compounded with each pothole the cheese-bus rolled over with a gasps of oohs and ahhs. As we pulled up to the museum, there was a roar from all the kids. What isn’t thrilling about seeing larger than life creatures the size of apartment buildings we lived in? I was in awe that I was about to see a T-Rex in attack mode, with its teeth set to rip into its lunch. I was ready to see the Native Americans.

We entered the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda and checked our bags and coats. As I turned around, I was greeted by a magnificently large creature with every bone visible. So this is how humongous a dinosaur was? It wasn’t the T-Rex, but rather the Brontosaurus. I instantly grew fond of this gentle giant because it was a vegetarian like me. From the start, the group was told to stay together, but my buddy and I had to be told more than once to not go too far ahead. We just wanted to see it all and couldn’t be bothered to wait. I had to be told more than once not to go over the ropes to touch the fossils. Looking back, I am shocked I didn’t bring down one of those beasts. The eagerness within me was alive and harnessing it was just not easy. I would go on to witness an amazing array of exhibitions portraying dinosaur after dinosaur as well as ancient Native American tribes as they lived long before the U.S. was colonized. All the while I was under the watchful eye of chaperones. Though I wasn’t going to cause any trouble (most likely), or break anything (somewhat lucky I didn’t), I just wanted to get as close to the history that was within my reach. I wanted to touch what lived on Earth more than 240 million years ago! I wanted to talk to the tribesman who hunted bison and lived in America before it was America. I was 10 years old and my imagination had a large appetite. I ate the history up and it has stayed with me since. The notion of something being historic threw my imagination into hyper-drive.

My love affair with history was cemented at that point and I’ve never been the same; for the better. My appreciation for natural and scientific history has continued to escalate into different realms. I value learning about different eras and important people who have influenced the world in subtle and profound ways. Through museums, as different artifacts have been put on exhibition over the years, I’ve been able to bridge the education to my still vivid imagination. I’ve continued to develop my knowledge of history by educating myself by reading books and studying it. The study of history opens a great many doors, it all depends on your imagination’s hunger.

It’s with great passion I look forward to the grand opening of the Swaminarayan Museum in March, 2011. Though I am no longer 10 years old, my imagination continues to hunger with great intensity. I am afforded an opportunity to be amidst the presence of artifacts from Swaminarayan Bhagwan’s life which is most humbling. I look forward to being on the plane with great anticipation as I will be traveling with a good friend. I will have a little more than $10.00 to spend at the gift shop. I’ll certainly remember to get something for my mom and my dad this time. I probably won’t have to be told more than once to keep a good distance from the artifacts. I’ll probably be well behaved; I’m so excited so no promises.
Heighten awareness for the Grand Opening of the Swaminarayan Museum

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Mirage of Religion

Religion is considered different things by many people. There are those who are devoted believers apply faith and God to every facet of their existence. There are those who although acknowledge the divinity of the universe-creating entity, do not adhere to a strict code of conduct for His sake or in His honor. Some people dismiss God outright and appeal to the secular theories that explain creation of nature. Between each of these classifications there are tribal groups which have varying levels of belief and intensity attached to their personal agendas. Religion is not going to a place of worship, kneeling and paying homage to a martyr, saint, or idol. It's not donating money earned through unscrupulous endeavours in the hope some profit used in God's name will cleanse the guilt. It's not believing when something is at stake and preparing a list of reasons for why He that reigns supreme over all must oblige your requests.
Describing religion is not very easy since it's an unknown entity. There are a series of theories and hypotheses which are the root of every religious debate. There is no guarantee that the edicts of age old scriptures is the appropriate way to live. There is no way of knowing for sure what the outcome of living a pious live entails. No matter which faith we discuss, there are a lot more questions than there are answers.
It's far more productive to explain where religion can be found. Though I do not know what it is, I can tell you that I believe it's found in the oncology department at hospitals. I also think Religion can be found at shelters where homeless, hungry, and abuse victims gather to avoid having to brave another blistering winter night on the streets. Religion can be found in Kindergarten classrooms.
All of these instances and examples of where religion can be found revolve around the premise of humanity. It's through my eyes that I've seen religion within the scope of these locales. Oncology wings are a testament to the brave patients and resourceful medical communities. The patients have to undergo intense, debilitating medical treatment just to perhaps have a chance at beating the cancer. The medical communities have invested billions of dollars in research to develop better treatment and care for patients with cancer. The brilliant minds that have spent countless hours involved with this research has contributed to the advanced level of care we are able to provide these days. The lesson here is that there are times in a person's life when life is not the most important detail. Simply breathing becomes a religious experience. Simply being able to exist and be part of the scenery becomes a good day. The many people involved with the fight against cancer fosters an environment of togetherness and camaraderie. There is a unified vision and collective understanding that improving the quality of life for another human being is paramount.
Shelters across the city serve the needs of the homeless, hungry, and abused. These shelters are where some people go to work everyday. Some people rely on these shelters to keep their families warm, fed, safe or all three. Witnessing how those who live on the lower rungs of our very tall economic ladder is an incredibly humbling experience. There are criminals and unsavory characters amongst the masses which convene at these shelters. There are harmless and innocent bystanders to the economic struggles facing us today also in the group. There amidst a mix of many types of people is a system which is predicated on serving others. The notion that a fellow human being may have to sleep on the street, or be hungry, or need protection from someone else causes enough disturbance that this service is offered. There are people who live to serve others. Regardless of their scruples or lack thereof, they are humans and they need food. No one should be hungry. No one should have to sleep on frozen concrete. People care about one another and try to help others without any expectations. No thanks necessary, just providing a service that will improve other people's lives. Religion is found in the bitter, angry souls that frequent the shelters. It's in the grateful, appreciative hearts savoring every drop of soup as it heads down to their stomachs.
Dealing with kids can be described as a religious experience by some inexperienced parents. Teaching a motley-crew of rugrats their ABC's and 123's while incorporating "sharing-is-caring" and "say please & thank you" lessons is an entirely different category. The kids evolve from their initial fear of being away from home to getting acclimated to their new playpen. Missing Mom evolves into a playtime and fun in a myriad of ways. Teachers demonstrate extreme patience with these children who are no relation to them. They accept a great amount of responsibility and receive very little compensation. Their spirit and enthusiasm contributes greatly to the foundation of these children. There is religion in this unselfish, humanitarian function. Loving and teaching children is a way of making the world a better place.
Religion is something that can only be described when found. Once that moment of discovery passes, the definition of religion fades away. Religion can't be remembered as a memory. It can't be foretold like a fortune. Religion is in every step we take and every breath we breathe. It's found in the eyes of the careless, but remorseful. It's in the tears of a scared, lonely child. Religion is found in the elated shrieks of new parents. Religion is found, and then it's lost and then it's found again. It's the most beautiful mirage because it constantly remains elusive.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Positively Charged

Opposites may attract, but that doesn't mean you want to attract a negative attitude to complement a refreshing outlook on life. A positive disposition is likely going to be the impetus for great accomplishments. I hesitate to believe a champion of any sort charted their pursuit along a pessimistic route. It's incumbent on individuals to see the beauty of their dreams before they set out to achieve them.
Obstacles will appear and how we handle those challenges will not determine our success, but it will gauge our strength. The strength needed to be successful. The many challenges we face in life are going to leave us disappointed at times. We may not be strong enough and we have to continue to move forward. Negativity will only serve to hinder your forward progress. It's key to be able to understand before the journey begins that there will be moments fear and trepidation will be shadows following every step. Accepting this will eliminate the surprise and therefore they can be welcome guests. Though they won't be asked to stay awhile. The hurdles we can leap over heighten our sense of worth, and the ones which cause us to stumble hurt our ego core. It's the hurdles that hurt us that we will benefit from. We will learn a lesson. We know to train harder. We know that we are not where we need to be to be at the level we expect from ourselves.
Lessons are good. Without the lessons in life, we would not have the satisfaction of redemption. Being perfect would just be too boring. The excitement in life is found in the wrinkles. Fun can definitely lead to many wrinkles! It's about the charge that we apply to the socket in our soul. Insert a negative cell and it's going to shock your mind how long it will take to repair the damage. Be consumed with positive thoughts and aspirations, the results will be shatter any image of happiness you may have ever dreamt. The sadness that accompanies disappointment will subside. The hope for a bright future will be restored. It's in the moment that we realize we are born to be happy. Our souls are chasing destiny which has no limits, so do not set any. Positivity is the means by which we survive and thrive. Thrust yourself into it. Allow positivity to manifest itself through your eyes and smile. Let your ears hear the optimism that resonates in the wind. The rain brings with it rainbows. The snow brings with it blankets of heat. It's in the perspective of our mind that our heart is led. Direct it towards a destination marked with an 'X' underneath which lays greatness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love is not Enough

The recommended daily allowance of nutritional ingredients helps guide individuals concerned with their health towards a balanced diet. There is no recommended daily allowance for love in a relationship though. It's evident to me that love is not enough, therefore there are many other ingredients which are essential for a balanced relationship.

Among those ingredients is communication. I'm a guy and I would testify under oath that I do not want to know everything on my girl's mind. However, I do want to know enough so I can understand why she's being irrational and moody. Perhaps it's just her hormones, or her way of craving attention. Maybe she's frustrated at the simplest thing but has tortured the thought to death and it's not magnified to 100x beyond reason. Communication would amount to fiber in the diet. Fiber satisfies an appetite, but not the taste buds. It's key for parties in a relationship to understand one another. Making the effort to get to know the other person would in effect enlighten each person about important details. It's not a clinical, rest-on-a-sofa exchange of ideas that equals communication. It's in the simplest question being answered honestly. It's not what you say, but how you say it.

Another essential nutrient for a balanced relationship is spice. No one likes a boring lover. Integrating communication into the bedroom is vital for a passionate love affair to evolve. Relationships tend to transform from exciting adventures to the great beyond with unknown dangers into uneventful kayaking on a quiet, shallow stream. Spice it up but do not overdo it. Too much anything is not good for you. Sprinkle it on and savor the taste. Be one with the experience and do not let the fear of a little fire keep you from feeling the heat.

Love is not enough. You need to talk to your girl and love her. Be good to her and respect her. Be gentle because she's fragile. She's unwilling to show her weaknesses, but accept her as such. She'll be firm and strong in her opinions. But it's her heart that needs to be comforted all the time. There is no recommended daily allowance for this. It's an on-call, full-time, no-limit type of matter. Patience and compassion must shoulder some of the load so love's reach is greater.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

A nice film. An intriguing plot. The poor and underprivileged of Mumbai's slums were not exploited. There was a realistic presentation. The circumstances the lead character, Jamal, faces and overcomes are admirable. This is not going to be a review of the film though. I am not a critic and this film should simply be viewed and discussed, not reviewed.

One scene in the movie is what has me up at 2am. A child's innocence can often lead him to do things in haste. Decisions made in haste can often backfire and cause more harm than good. As the devil or one of his henchmen once said, 'the best laid plans' - any how, what would compel a person to jump into a pile of human feces? Perhaps faced with a life of death scenario, it's not hard to imagine opting to hold your breath while covered in #2 rather than breathing no more. How about something less dramatic. Imagine a motivating factor that stems from the heart in the form of passion or love. Could you love something enough that in a matter of a few seconds, it is deemed worthwhile to be covered head-to-toe in shit?

Jamal is a huge a Amitabh fan and he keeps a picture of him in his pocket at all times. While negotiating a shy bowel movement in the slums, the locals begin hollering "Amitabh's helicopter, Amitabh's helicopter!!" One of Jamal's friends locks him in the outhouse he was using leaving Jamal with only one possible exit. He takes the picture of Amitabh out of his pocket to protect it from the awful fate that his body is about to be subjected to. His 4 1/2 feet frame goes about 4 1/4 feet down into a pile of what is clearly disgusting waste. The arm holding the picture stretched upward the entire time, was not damaged. Upon climbing out of the wastehole, he proceeds to run looking like 4 scoops of chocolate ice cream without a cone yelling "Amitabh, Amitabh!!" Clearly aided by the stench of his newly aquired body odor, he reaches Amitabh through a path cleared by his stormy Category 2 descent. He gets to Amitabh and he gets the superstar's autograph. Arms raised in ceremonious fashion, Jamal does Johnny Drama proud with a "Victory!!!" pose.

The sheer enthusiasm in his pursuit of an autograph was thought provoking. He chased what his heart wanted. He did it without regard to any common sense. When guided by common sense, common results are achieved. It takes the heart of a child, which is wrapped in a membrane of innocence and uncorrupted passion. The passion that leads an adult includes greed, lust, ego. Self-gratification is a common deterrant to achieving life's passions. But the innocence that a child brings to the table is clearly the remedy to making life worthwhile. So what if there is a pile of shit on the way to making the dream come true. Isn't it all about the goal anyway? Does it really matter if everyone thinks you smell like poop? In the end, when you have the autograph and you have the satisfaction of knowing you did everything you could to make your dream come true, are you going to be able to smell anything but the sweet smell of accomplishment and satisfaction?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving - Let's Say Thanks

Let's say thanks. There are thousands of troops deployed overseas who are representing our country with pride and honor. They are stationed with the task of protecting our freedom. We are detached from the dangers that exist all over the world and faced by many other nations. We are protected by two oceans and friendly neighbors to the north and south. Despite the tragedy of 9/11, we are relative safe compared to many other regions in the world. Our nation's foreign policy adds fuel to the hatred of Americans and the western world held by some factions. But all in all, there is a level of security that we have and that we take for granted which should be acknowledged.

Imagine how badly a soldier would rather be walking down Main Street, U.S.A. with a couple of bucks in their pocket rather than patrolling a foreign border with an AK-47 over their shoulder. How difficult must it be to hear about the hometown football team through a news bulletin, after having attended an affair hosted by shrapnel and gunpowder. This is not about agreeing with the fight. But take a moment to put yourself in the boots and fatigues of a soldier. They are far removed from their lifestyle. They are away from their loved ones. Though they signed up for duty, their sacrifice should not be regarded any less significant. They are living a life of duty. They have learned to put their self interest behind the greater good. We walk along the avenues of the city and get lost amidst the splendor of the holiday season. The pretty decor, the window displays now prominently visible from afar. These soldiers are about action, whereas we who live in the land of the free are mired in distraction.

The spirit of Thanksgiving has long involved stories of the Pilgrims and Indians sharing a feast. Over the years, it's come to include other recognizable subjects such as, football, Black Friday, parades with big floats. The spirit of the holiday has taken on a form of thanks that is sad and embarrassing. We are not giving thanks to those who came before us and sacrificed their lives so we could live in freedom. We are giving thanks to the NFL for scheduling a couple of games. We're thanking retailers for discounts so we can spend more money than we should. We are thanking animators for coming up with creative cartoons so nice big floats could be blown up and then paraded down 5th Ave. The true spirit of Thanksgiving should be evident in the lives we live every day. Every day we have freedom, is a day we should be thankful there are people that have layed down their lives and fought for a greater good. Every day we have that affords us the opportunity to express our beliefs, is a day that we should remember there are troops as of this very second who are prepared to die before any harm comes to Americans.

Is all this too melodramatic for you? Is being thankful everyday too much of a chore? Then pick up and move out. Get out of this country and go live in a country that will not guarantee your right to a fair trial and to practice the faith you choose to. Sure our country is not perfect and not all people are treated fairly. But that is not because the system allows it. It's because of ignorance and the lack of courage. When you see something happening that should not be occurring, you should not walk away. You should think of the soldiers that are on active duty who won't walk away. This is not about picking a fight. It's about protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. Let's say thanks to those soldiers who are protecting us because we are unable to do so on our own. Pay it forward by being vigilant and helping to improve the nation we live in. Help make the country a better place so when our soldiers return, they are greeted by a kinder place.

The freedom we enjoy has come at a hefty price. Many lives have been lost fighting wars throughout the years. Now more than ever, after a decade of economic prosperity and technology kicking it up another notch, our lives are very rich in terms of tangible items. But the spirit of our lives has lost meaning. We must take the time to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces. The economy has since tanked and now we are looking at some turbulent times ahead. This is not the time to lose faith or spirit. This is the time to take measure of all that we have to be thankful for. Xerox is promoting a campaign that allows troops to receive a Thanksgiving Day card expressing our appreciation for their services. Go to and support our troops. Take the time to express your appreciation.