I was raised an Indian Muslim in a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Like many, I have faced ignorant racism. At age 7, a woman and her elderly mother shouted at my and my mother, “Go back to your own fucking country.” Even then I knew she needed medication. At age 25, I was in San Francisco when 9/11 happened and similar yelling and harassment became a common occurence in my life. I do not shy away from hatred. I stare it down. In my lifetime, I never thought I would witness my President addressing the 1 billion Muslims in the world. But it has happened. And I feel heard.
I sit here staring blankly at a blank piece of paper, but for the faded blue lines that help me write straight across the page. My task is simple – to come up with 8 lines which when all said and done will make up 2 versus of a song. This canvas stares back at me pushing me to find poetry in explaining one word: Truth.
Word association games leave me with new words: fear, danger, strength, courage, compassion. Are these not some of the most complex human emotions? And what I have is 8 lines. I will massage the words and hopefully find poetry.
Arabian…thank you for your patience.
To Mumbai and all my Mumbaikars, my heart goes out to you. A Chennaikar by right, but a Mumbaikar by choice, no words suffice. My humble prayers are with you.
How you raised me to love India and its people with your joy and chaos, laughter and love for life. You allowed me to step beyond the boundaries of my parents’ India to find my own home away from home. You welcomed my music, my curiousity and my tukda Hindi with open arms. I am forever yours and send loving prayers of peace and healing while you rechannel your anger and confusion to effect incredible change. We are with you – though we are thousands of miles away.
I leave you with a few words I use to console myself in troubled times.
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.. think of it, always.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Like all birthdays, I want to feel like this year my life will have some awe-inspiring purpose and wonder that even I cannot deny (or mess up)! The sign from God. The moment of truth. (I know…no pressure or anything.)
When my dear friend and fellow actor, Carey Embry, told me that Amma, commonly known as the ‘Hugging Saint’, was in town and giving Darshan on my birthday, I thought, if this is not a sign from God… Carey is an Amma devotee and his enthusiasm for our day is rivaled by none. Not even me, and I even received lovely birthday blessings from Amma.
You can’t help but to smile when you see her. She exudes pure love and joy, though she is surrounded by so much pain that we all carry around with us like dead weight. Saint she is. With ease and patience, Amma lifts us all up. Truly she and her work are holy.
But I will let Carey tell you more about our “fantastic” day…
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My Revolution is much more than music. I want us all to be about love, compassion and joy. If we could all give the way Amma does, this world would be heaven. I am the first to say I have work to do.
So you can see what lovely gifts Amma gave me….we came and took a picture before we cut the apple and fed my moms, me, Carey, Harpal, my dad and saved some for YL dad. It’s prasadam..we ate it as the way to accept Amma’s blessing.
May you all continue to be blessed…
A new friend of mine recently challenged me with a single question, “Do you have a plan for yourself?” I just stared at her for about 2 minutes and then answered, “Clearly, I don’t.” It’s been my experience that plans never work out the way you envisioned and so I told her that about 5 years ago, I decided to stop making plans and to just go with the flow. Projecting way out in the future is a futile endeavor, I feel. It sets you up for incredible disappointment. Life happens, and not in any way you imagined.
My friend spends her days helping people define who they are and what they want to be in the world. Nebulous job description I know, but useful nonetheless. She explained to me that long-term goals are dangerous but invaluable. Interesting paradox. She went on to say that plans help you work out what you want to do with your days; today, this week, this month. They help bring forward short-term objectives.
I am still grappling with this conversation. What is the point of working hard every single day on short-term objectives you hope gets you to a goal that you will most likely never get to? Why not just go with the flow and let life happen to you?
I explained to her that for nearly 5 years, I’ve been a gypsy. She said, “I’d go so far as to say that you’ve been a nomad. It’s time to come home.”
Fascinating. All this time, I thought I was on a path. Turns out my path has been to not be on a path. The ultimate goal-less goal. Even I am getting dizzy thinking about this.
Yoga has taught me to be in life’s current. My friend inviting me to use life’s current to take me where I want to go. She asked me to think about what I want to be known for in 10 years. For the first time in my life, I am definitely aware of the fact that I have no idea. What type of legacy do you want to leave? Have you thought about that lately?
a couple of weeks ago, harpal bought tickets to a bowling charity event for a place called home. so off we went to support our friend roger and of course, the kids who benefit from a place called home. except, the thing is, i’m about the worst bowler around town. and what made me think i could hurl a 12 lb. ball down a oiled lane is beyond me…but somehow a couple of beers and fun with friends got my confidence up. it seems i was over-ambitious and have tweaked my knee, to the point that i have to ice it! my friend, mita, is a physical therapist and was happy to know that i’ve been icing it. i’m a dancer…ice is definitely a dear friend of mine.
so while i spend this time letting my knee heal up, i have some time to think about the shifts happening in my life. mostly i notice how some friends have become almost strangers to me while others have become like family and if you had asked me a year ago how it all might turn out, i’d have picked all wrong. in that way, i guess it’s best to let the Universe show you who’s real and really there for you through time. at the end of the day, every friendship is only as good as its conflict resolution abilities and the sticking power of people being willing to work through all that life has to offer. honest, conscious friendships are really hard to come by, but i don’t mind. when they’re here, they’re unbelievably amazing.
shifts are good. it keeps us growing and moving and open to new experiences that are better suited for our life in the present moment. my mom says i have a tendency to trust and love to easily. she says i don’t have to turn everyone into close family right away. she’s right.
i love being informal and close with people i meet, but i think life has recently taught me that informality and closeness is something that must be cultivated with great care and respect – otherwise there is no appreciation for it. not to say i hold back or that i’m cautious or mistrusting. just to say that now i take my time with people. there is no rush.
perhaps that is why my knee is sore…as a reminder to slow way down and be present and honest about what is true in my life right now. so maybe drunk bowling isn’t that bad afterall…
it actually happened. my mom made it through four rounds of chemo. yesterday was her last one. my dad and i were with her in the hospital and we just talked and managed to laugh a fair bit. a far cry from her first chemo, where for the most part, she cried through the whole thing. all six hours of it.
now she’s at home, resting and recuperating and getting her energy stored up for my wedding. in 2 1/2 weeks, i’m getting married to one of the most gracious, generous men i’ve met. we’ll be with 60 of our closest friends and family on a beach in cabo san lucas.
our special day will mark the end of mom’s chemo and my father-in-law’s brain surgery he underwent last week to remove a tumor. both parents are at home safely recovering. all doctors have given the go-ahead for the wedding hangama and travels.
there is a light at the end of this tunnel. healthy parents. exchanging life-affirming vows with my beloved. we made it through.
thank you all for your love, prayers and kind words though this very intense time. if nothing else, my sweetheart and i have a new-found, deep appreciation for the zest of life.
when all is said and done, my wish is that all the fire we walked through left me stronger and more raw for my music and art and of course, for life.