Thank you 2011, Welcome 2012

Being the regular and consistent blogger that I am, I thought it only fitting to start 2012 with my single, annual blog post. Those amongst you who are literate and numerically astute will probably be quick to point out that I wrote a grand total of zero blog posts in 2011. One of my goals last year was to experience what it would be like not to blog at all for a year. It was tough, but you’ll be pleased to know I succeeded.

Pratish, Will and Carlos in Mozambique2011 was an eventful year. Rather than give a detailed account of what I ate each day, I thought it would be much nicer to be thankful for some of the experiences I well, experienced. The year got off to a cracking start with some close friends trying to swallow the dozen grapes they had just stuffed into their mouths. In Barcelona, it seems, this is traditional fare: for each of the 12 seconds before the New Year, you put a grape into your mouth (so 12 grapes in 12 seconds). Apparently it’s not as easy as it sounds.

January was the only month I did any sort of real travel in 2011. Mozambique was an interesting though somewhat delapidated country with very friendly people. The trip was not without its adventures. We returned to South Africa having experienced what it was like to be held up in our car by two machine-gun armed pseudo-police officers trying to score a fat bribe… not nice.

Pratish birthday 2011 imageMy birthday in 2011 was another occasion to remember. I had some close friends and family over from across the country for a traditional Qawwali concert at home. Family and friends are certainly something I am very thankful for and functions like that one really help you appreciate them.

In 2011, my social network extended by the many coaching clients I interacted with over the year. It was satisfying helping make some major life-changing decisions in places as far abroad as Trinidad, Dubai and India. Also satisfying was some intensive pro-bono coaching work I did with two primary schools in South Africa over a couple of months.

I finally caved and got an Apple product – by choice. The iPad is an amazing device and kudos Steve Jobs for pushing the concept into the world. His death were amongst many this year that will be remembered. Others include Osama bin Laden, Elizabeth Taylor and brother leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Pratish Mistry on BBC World Service photoSpeaking of ol’ Muammar leads me into yet another memorable experience in 2011: My twenty minutes of international fame – first on BBC World radio on the 1st September, and then on BBC World Service TV on 2nd. Surprisingly, I was calmer speaking in front of 18,000,000 prime time TV viewers than I was making a speech in front of my class in high school – go figure.

The 2nd of September was also the day I was extended a contract offer with ABSA in Johannesburg, which I accepted. I had decided earlier that year, that I wanted to focus on setting up my own venture and this fit in beautifully. All in all, friends, family and working on a mix of coaching – developing tools and working with clients, contract strategy work, writing and website development made for a wonderful 2011.

New year’s eve yesterday was far less eventful than the previous year – an entertaining braai with family followed by calling it a night before midnight. Life is nothing but for new experiences.

2012 is going to be an intensely great year – I can just feel it (although that could just be the rum acting up from last night – can never be sure). Is it possible to have even more fun than I usually have in the West Indies? Will I be able to continue working a regular job for only 3 months a year? Will I get off my behind and finally get my second book published? Will I actually make more than $20 out of any of my websites? Am I going to step up my blogging frequency to more than twice a decade? All these questions, and more, will be answered in the next 365 days (or 345 days, if the Mayans are right)!

Road to somewhere

Yesterday, H. H. Sri Swami Adhyatmanandaji Maharaj from the Sivananda Ashram in Ahmedabad held a satsang session at our home in Lenasia, South Africa. After the session I presented him with a copy of my book, The Universe and the Mad Butterfly.

Today was an interesting day. With some hesitation but not one so over-powering as to prevent me from going, I attended another satsang session by Swamiji at my brother Sunilbhai’s house. The session was announced to be a question and answer session and I had a feeling some questions would be answered. When the ladies seated in front of an empty chair were singing bhajans, I remember thinking that I would not ask any questions as the forum was probably not an appropriate one. Still, I felt that some guidance would be forthcoming if I listened.

Swami Adhyatmanandaji Maharaj
When Swamiji arrived, and was seated, I recall thinking of the question “Why am I procrastinating with my next book? Why am I stuck?” Before the satsang started he summoned me by hand as I was sitting at the very far end of the room from him. I stood, and pointed to my neighbour, Sachin, asking if he was the person that was being summoned. He shook his head, pointed at me and asked me to come forward.

As I walked toward him, he asked Sunilbhai, the host of the satsang to provide him with a pen and paper. When I sat before him, he said: “I am going to write something for you.” For the next 10 minutes or more he wrote. The entire satsang group sat in silence as he continued to write somewhat oblivious of their presence. After some time, I saw him draw a flower next to the text he had written. He handed me the page and I smiled and said: “Thank you.” As I walked back toward my seat at the far end of the room, I heard him smile and tell the 50-strong audience that it was a private message for me. When I sat down he jokingly said: “don’t worry about my spelling mistakes, the Universe will correct [them].” I glanced at the page and folded it in half without reading it. I felt calm.

When he started his discourse to my surprise he began by mentioning the first verse in my book. I was listening yet I was not so I’m unable to quote everything. I do recall him saying that my “book captured the very essence of the Bhagavad-Gita.” He spoke of the moth and the flame and made a number of other references to the book. He spoke of the senses and how they served as input to the mind. He related the need to keep them calm and how important it was to have regular moments of silence each day.

Still later, he mentioned some points specifically about procrastination. He spoke of the very intelligent Ravana who had many ideas but failed to act on them. Two concepts he mentioned were Do it now (DIN) and Keep in View (KIV). I did not understand what he meant by some of it as some of it was lost in translation and other bits I could not hear clearly. I later spoke to him and asked him about these terms. He said that if the action were to result in doing good for society then one should Do It Now. If the action being contemplated would cause or may cause harm to others, then it should be Keep In View.

After the lecture, I thanked Swamiji again for his note when I bowed before him. I had still not read the page in detail but I knew that the content – no matter how eloquent or insightful – would likely be less relevant than the time he spent writing it. I also felt fairly certain that the words would likely be pretty meaningless for anybody else in the room but me. After I bowed before him, he smiled and said: “I am in the same place you are in and I wanted to write something for you.”

I remember, as his main lecture progressed that it was probably time for me to be more disciplined and quieten some of my ambient noise. I thought about doing Vipasanna meditation and asked him some good locations to do this later. He told me to avoid Igatpuri which had many attendees – “1,000 men and 1,000 women”. He suggested I pick a smaller centre where there would be more discipline. His first suggestion was that there may be somewhere local.

In our brief one-on-one discussion after the meal, I asked him about my problem getting started again on my next book. We spoke across messages somewhat but it was clear that he was pleased that I was writing. About The Universe and the Mad Butterfly, he said that the book required some thought to appreciate, and that it was not for the common man. Then he said something I will surely remember for much time to come: “Some of the verses were as though they were a direct translation from the Vedas, Upanishads. Beautiful…”

After a long time, I felt that I was not straying too far from my path.

Hello world!

Pratish AvatarThis is my first blogpost – I will be updating this blog regularly with the latest page of my haiku book, The Universe and the Mad Butterfly. I hope you enjoy it and please do leave your thoughts and comments on the site.