Category Archives: Stories

On the Road

Touring is an experience. It’s been great to reconnect with so many friends over the last few weeks. We’ve really been all over the place, but haven’t at the same time in comparison to what it is going to be like next time around (this time its been VA, NC, SC, GA, NY, NJ, PA and CA, while next time its going to be a more comprehensive US tour).

There have been many highs. One of them being the incredible response we are getting show after show. To see the years of practice that the Tabla Ecstasy artists have done being appreciated and to see the impact they are having on their listeners has been wonderful. The number of well-wishers that this group is just growing and growing. One of the responsibilities I have on the road is to get feedback from the audience after the show and many many times I have been so overwhelmed by the true heartfelt wishes and prayers for the success that people are giving for the group. I am reminded time and time again how fortunate I am to be apart of this wonderful family and to have Guruji in my life.

This week is our last week in the US. We have shows in Albany (tonight), Manhattan (April 17th) and Princeton (Sunday). Then we head North to Canada, where I have the privilege of opening for the group during our Toronto show.

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Filed under Indian classical music, Rhythm Riders, Stories

Colours of Light

As I prepare to make a rangoli outside my apartment to welcome in the New Year tomorrow, I remember a Diwali from three years ago that I will never forget.

Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarakh!

~~~~~~~~~~

It was Diwali. During the five days, women draw beautiful images outside their homes with coloured sand, rice and grains (called rangolis) to decorate their homes and welcome the new year and visitors.

Over the few months that I had spent volunteering, I continually was awed from the wonderful rangolis that a colleague of mine created for various occasions. His work always brighten the space they are in and the people that see them. Inspired by their beauty, I decided try my hand at rangolis. These beautiful works of art would be a wonderful way to express my gratitude to the many people who have showered me with their love and affection. As is the experience of many NRI volunteers in India, I felt humbled and immensely indebted to the many caring souls that went out of their way to make me feel at home in Ahmedabad, a place miles away from my birthplace in North America.

Arming myself with bags of coloured sand, I first practiced outside the volunteer home where I was staying. After a few tries, I felt confident in my work. As I made my way from home to home, I could not contain my cheer. As I spread the sand, I silently gave my thanks to each individual and prayed that the new year brought new hope and prosperity to each. At every home, the children would crowd around welcoming me with their smiles and watching intently as each rangoli unfolded. Each then added their own touch to the final piece and we created a colourful display full of love and good wishes.

Such a simple thing brought so much joy to all. The small grains of sand became colours of light and were the perfect way to celebrate Diwali and welcome the new year.

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A Small story about a Small Action creating Small Change

One nice thing about the location about my flat is that it is 2 min walking distance away from a MORE grocery store. This is very convenient when I randomly remember that I need something.

I generally go to MORE from home, so I take bags with me, which which I can bring home my groceries or if its small enough, stuff the things into my fairly large purse (whose size I actually chose for this purpose).

When you go to MORE, like any other grocery store, the cashier or his assistance automatically starts to put things in plastic bag. The first few times, I got strange looks and had to repeat myself when I would ask that they not put my groceries in plastic bags (and I don’t think that was because they didn’t understand my Gujarati accent). Over the course of a couple trips, I kept getting the same cashier, who asked me the third time he rang up my bill why I didn’t take their bags. I quickly explained how plastic bags are bad for the environment, cause cancer and cow deaths and he seemed to appreciate the information. When I was about to leave, he stops me and asks, “Mam, can you fill out our comment form?”

I look and the form and am about to tell him that I needed to go, when he interjects my thoughts and adds, “I think you should share why you didn’t want to take a plastic carrying bag.”

I look at the form and again, my mind tells me that there is no point. But then figure what the heck, there is no harm. I quickly fill out the form stating that MORE should discourage stop providing plastic bags or encourage customers to bring their own bag (by potentially providing a financial incentive like stores in N. America do) as that will show that the company cares about environment, which is good for the company’s image (I had to pitch it in corporate terms). I had the cashier the form and proceed home.

After that day, whenever the cashier rang up by bill, he never gave me a plastic bag. Through my small action, one other person learnt about the dangers of plastic bags.

An even bigger surprise came a month or two later. I walked into MORE after a long time and noticed a new sign on their announcement board behind the cashier and near the vegetables. It read:
PLEASE MINIMIZE THE USE OF PLASTIC BAGS.

MORE has not stopped giving plastic bags, but it atleast had taken one step in the right direction. Who said that you can’t be the change?

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Power of Sadhna

An experience from a few months back:

There are places where you go and can feel something different. Often these places become points of pilgrimage. They are places that have become charged with the intensity and heat of someone(s)’ penance. Karl Marx’ chair in the library when he would sit for hours and hours is such a place or places of pilgrimage, be it Mecca or Kailash are other examples.

There is such a place in Ahmedabad, a room that I have spent time in many times, but recently I got a chance to really experience the magic of the room first hand. I had some time to kill and instead of coming back later, Guruji told me to practice in the room. It was the first time I was alone with tabla in the room. Time flew by without me even realizing, one hour became two. Two came close to three when Guruji told me that I would be needed in 20 minutes. This was was perfect because I would finish three hours then. Three hours passed and was not called. Practice was going really well and even though it had been 3 continuous hours, I was not tired. In fact, at this point, my mind was getting tired, but my body and hands were still in form. So I decided to stay put and another 45 minutes later, I was called out. If I had not been called, I could have continued to practice! For the first time, I had spent nearly 4 hours in continuous solo practice without getting up, without breaks, and without having my hands compelling me to stop. It was amazing.

When I came out and shared my experiences, the others just smiled. Its the magic room they said as they have said many times before. Its the room where Guruji and Latifbhai would have long and intense practice sessions, its the room where ustads who came to visit Guruji would teach and interact with Guruji’s students when he used to run tabla classes from home and most important of all – it was the room that had become charged by Guruji’s sadhana as its the place where Guruji himself conducted the majority of his practice over the course of many many years. It is the magic room.

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Filed under Indian classical music, Reflections, Spirituality, Stories

Things in Harmony

This morning started beautifully. I woke up hearing the call of birds which was following in matching rhythm by alarm a minute later.

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Update from the NEW cave

Dear friends,

So its been a long time. So much has been happening. First off, I have moved into a new cave. A more permanent one. This one too can withstand earthquakes, but more permanent in the sense that it belongs to my family, so there is no worries about having to move out etc. I moved in a few weeks ago and after the whirlwind of getting everything settled, this time more so than last because after we got possession, i had to make sure everything was okay in terms of the builders’ responsibilities, etc. But its done and then after a few days I got sick… which meant practice got a lot of disruptions, but life has now resumed in terms of practices, etc.

It’s been a very exciting time at rhythm riders, in the sense that the senior students, who now perform professionally are becoming more and more established. Its fantastic to see that their years of dedication (over 18 for many) are paying off and that they are getting recognized for their incredible skills and training (which of course would not be possible without our guruji). In terms of writing, i have been doing a little here and there, but its all half written so apologies for no emails or updates.

As for my practice and life in general. Things are great. I have a blast with my Vedanta teacher and im more flexible and more in control of my breathing because of yog and my allergic cold (which has been MASSIVELY aggravated since moving to India) is minimal due to a fantastic ayurvedic doctor that can tell what wrong by checking your pulse! I am getting the hang of being in a traditional guru-shishya parampara style of teaching more and more. Def lucky to have a guru who understands American mentalities and is patient with me. (the guru shishya parampura is the way that classical arts have been passed down, it requires complete surrender of the student – mind, body, EGO – at the feet of the teacher, allowing the teacher to do their best in making you. an analogy is becoming a piece of clay and allowing the sculptor to mold you as they see fit based upon the make-up of the clay. the ego by far has been the biggest challenge as cultural influences of growing up in the West where the importance is placed on the individual and doing what one feels is best. in this case, you don’t know anything so there isn’t a reason to have ego, but still it is there so overcoming it of course is a challenge. discussion of learning to be a student can be a whole email in itself…)

Growing all the time, can def see improvement in my playing which is always very encouraging. People around me in terms of family, friends, etc are becoming more adjusted to the idea of what I am doing as they understand more about what I am doing. I found this article yesterday that talks about the “double life” that many South Asians lead. It was reassuring to find others similar and to know that I have found that passion.

Time is just flying by so quickly and we’ll see where the road leads, there are many things in the pipeline with regards to future plans, nothing is finalized yet, so we’ll see where the road takes me. What is certain is that I am growing and love the fact that I get to be in an environment with great music and incredible amounts of knowledge that most people don’t even know about. One plan is to start writing a monthly article on stuff that I am learning particularly in philosophy. First one is almost done (they will be in gujarati and english).

hope all is well and that each of you are finding your way to following your dreams and passions.

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Oct Quick Update

I don’t know where to start… I say that every time.


On one side there is nothing to share, on the other side so much.


There are moments in life where you clearly see that you are at or have passed a fork in the road and that is what I have done.


So many changes.


This is going to be a short update as I want to just tell you what I am up to but am not ready to share it all just yet.


I have moved from the ashram house to a flat. Two weeks of running around, getting this and that, waiting for delivery people, etc was hectic and I am glad its over. My new space is beautiful and completely what I needed. Space for myself was needed for me.


I am learning vedant and philosophy. Topics include different religious outlooks, meditations techniques and philosophers.


My tabla practice is improving. It’s gone through lots of ups and downs.


I am going to the gym (getting my aerobic stamina back…) and taking yoga classes and have really improved on my eating habits.


My bookshelf is loaded with philosophy and music books – titles include Intro to Indian Classical Music and this INCREDIBLE book called the Mysticism of Music Sound and Word by Hazrat Inayat Khan. The book perfectly describes why I am studying Indian classical music.


Life is hectic on one side and calm on the other. I am still working with my NGOs, finishing up the exhibition work for the van, while Parth (the new Indicorp fellow) has taken over other responsibilities.

I am doing a lot of things, time flies by (except sometimes when I sit to practice…), but the lessons keep coming and growth continues to happen.


At some point, I’ll write about why music and philosophy. Why I am taking the time to focus on them for a while.


In short, I am doing well.

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