A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Hello Stranger October 12, 2013

Filed under: conversations,Inspiration,Travel — gurdas @ :

A couple weeks ago we had our second couchsurfing experience and just like the first one, it left behind positive vibes. However, unlike the first one, this time we were the hosts. For the uninitiated, couchsurfing is a social network where you get a couch and give a couch. A couch implying a place to park your belongings and sleep. So, basically, you’d either end up sleeping in a stranger’s house or have a stranger sleep in yours.


Are you CRAZY !!??

The idea sounds a bit crazy given the *mad about security* times that we live in. On a closer look, it isn’t as mad as it sounds. Couch surfers have profiles, they get recommendations, and give recommendations. And thus, there is a system of trust built around your history as a couchsurfer. Other obvious rules apply, such as, it is better to have a well written profile with reassuring descriptions and pictures.

The first time we couchsurfed was during our visit to Washington, DC in 2011. Recall, I am a PhD student with a family. That is just a sophisticated way of saying I cannot afford a vacation without collateral damage to other monthly necessities. In comes couchsurfing, where I’ve been a member for years but never really participated. Within no time we found a “couch” which was actually a small apartment all to ourselves. Our host, George, gave us the keys to his apartment and went to live in his mother’s home a couple blocks away. His mother was on vacation in Europe. Unbelievable. We’ve only known George during our search for a couch. So, here’s a guy who is ready to trust not just his space, but his complete house to strangers. The risk is not always monetary, but it is there. A more real challenge is having to cope with the idea that you have to share your space with strangers. What if they are untidy but you are a clean freak. How about loud versus quiet? George underlined my believe that humans have a lot to celebrate for. And it is okay to trust.

Which we did when we hosted The Wilhelm Brothers, a two member folk rock band based out of Ashvelle, NC. It was a short one night stay and we wish they could have stayed for another day. I hardly got half as many stories out of them as I wanted to 🙂 But they were on tour for their new album, Lay Your burden Down. Both Cristoff and Chris were easy going, polite, and clean. We hope they had a comfortable stay and will visit us again.

The benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The stories you hear and the experiences you collect can be transformational, create lasting memories, or at least make good coffee table cpnversations. If you enjoy human connections, seek strangers. I am inclined to say we’ve tasted both sides of the couchsurfing cake and “We’r Lovin’ It”.


Jagjit Singh, 1941-2011 October 10, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration,nostalgia,poetry — gurdas @ :

Jagjit Singh in concert at Durham, NC. April 2009.


“Jaggu-Chittu” was how we addressed the pair when in high school. Their music lifted our hearts, had us sing to our loves, and connected us to the mysterious. Chittu took her voice away after the loss of her son. And now, Jaggu is gone. I did not know him personally. Nor have I met him, though I did attend a concert 2 years ago. And yet this seems like a personal loss. In fact, my first personal great singer loss. Because the way I associate with Rafi, Kishore, and Jagjit is unlike any other singer, except maybe Lata and Asha but they are both alive. Rafi sahib passed away when I was learning the alphabets. Kishore da said goodbye when I was still a kid. And so their loss did not register the way this one did. My thoughts go back to that evening, some 15 years ago, when listening to the album Insight, I peeled a few layers off my ignorance.

अच्छी सांगत पा के संगी बदले रूप, जैसे मिल के आम से मीठी हो गयी धुप| (from the track Dohe in the album Insight)
Translation: In the company of the good, you acquire goodness. Just the way sunshine becomes sweet upon meeting the ripe mango.

जगजीत साहिब, आपने जिन शब्दों को आवाज़ दी, वोह हम हमेशा गुनगुनाते रहेंगे| ताकि आपकी अच्छी सांगत हमेशा साथ रहे|

Also see this previous post.


giving thanks November 25, 2010

Filed under: Ethics and Values,Inspiration,life,love,Me,philosophy — gurdas @ :

Thank You

To those who did not help, for introducing me to life
To those who helped, for upholding my belief in humanity

To those who were impatient, for helping me practice patience
To those who were patient, for giving me the space to be and become

To those who were weak, for the opportunity to be strong (for you)
To those who were strong, for inspiring me

To those who were dishonest, for the examples that it is just not worth it
To those who were honest, for telling me it is worth it

To those who were unkind, for testing my ideals (and hopefully I lived up to them)
To those who were kind, for encouraging me to be the same

To those who did not love, for the moments of soul searching
To those who were loving, for showing me the only way to live


William the 99999999th July 6, 2010

Filed under: Ethics and Values,Inspiration,life,love — gurdas @ :

I love being surprised and do not suffer my ignorance of high cuisine menus. So, I often tell the person taking my order what I feel like having, and not necessarily what is on the menu. And I let the person attending our table advise, often even pick for me. The advantages of this approach greatly outweigh disadvantages (which are almost non-existent). One, I get to relish all kinds of expressions – questioning, curious, thoughtful, surprised, caught off-foot to name a few. Being a turbaned Sikh, I have the advantage of appearing different. So, when I get into my ‘lets have some fun here’ ordering style, it is almost always something they did not see coming. I have never ever received a normal expression when I start ordering. And this gives me a high 🙂 Plus, I get some free character study to do. I see confident, knowledgeable attendants (because they shoulder the responsibility of understanding my taste needs and matching it best to a menu item) and I see confused, ignorant types. None of this is available to folks who display a mastery of the menu (sometimes faked) and reel off their orders. And the fun does not end there. Since I am basically eating their pick, they take special care in making it right, and always come back asking how good their pick is. I shower them with my smiles and praises. Great relationship (however brief) tactic.

So, the other day my friend, Mina, and I went to a Starbucks for chit chat over coffee. Taking our order was a smiling African American gentleman named William. My order was this “I am in the mood for something cold, very little ice, and a strong taste of coffee.” William jumped to the challenge of meeting my desire. He asked me a couple of questions and placed the order. I had no clue what he was going to serve me. I did not ask. Surprises are best when savoured at the right moment. It was Mina’s turn. On our last visit, she had a strawberry drink. The other options were mango-orange and chocolate. William completely ruled out mango-orange saying it had no taste. I fell in love with the guy right then. For anyone to confidently say something on their menu is not worth it, needs to be acknowledged. Mina did not want chocolate and she already had strawberry. Hmmm…this was looking like a jam. But William bested himself. He offered to make a mix of strawberry and mango. He had not tried it before, but was confident it will be different. Mina felt secure in his confidence and she agreed to be game.

We took our table and shortly after that my order was announced. My drink looked inviting, very dressy with a dark bottom layer, a light brown middle layer, and cream top layer. My expectations doubled. I took a sip and smiled. William had nailed it. Just what I wanted! And this was not on the menu. I praised his selection and thanked him. He made double sure I liked it. I told him I loved it. A minute later, Mina’s order was ready and while not as dressy as mine, it still displayed an interesting mix of colours. She took a sip and then another. And she smiled. Check-mate! What happened after this moment is why I am writing this post.

William walked over to our table and asked Mina how her drink was. She said she liked it. Her praise was gentle and maybe William thought she was just being polite. So, he said this “If the drink is not what you feel like having I can make you another.” I was sold. His smiling face and humility coloured that room. Mina took the cue and this time her praise was equal to how much she liked the drink (she loved it).

I pondered on this and both Mina and I talked about it. What William did was exceptional. It might seem otherwise, but I thought his gesture was grand. It is not about the cost of the drink, but the attitude.

My next visit to Starbucks is not going to be for the good coffee they brew. But to be able to say hello to William.

ps: The name William, to me, has a kingly tone to it. And so the title of this post.


A true soldier’s prayer June 28, 2010

Filed under: Ethics and Values,Inspiration,Me,philosophy,Religion — gurdas @ :

If I were given the choice to meet any one person in history, my pick would be Guru Gobind Singh. A figure unlike any other,  a soul most extraordinary. The 10th guru of the Sikh faith, fought battles against tremendous odds, lost all four sons in the struggle for the right to practice a religion of one’s choice, was a stellar poet in Persian, and instilled in the Sikhs a light that shines bright to this day. All of that in the brief 43 years he lived.

Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh

देह शिव वर मोहे इही
शुभ कर्मन ते कभू न तारों|
न दरों अरिसों जब जाए लरों
निष्चे कर अपनी जीत करों|
आर सिखाहों अपने ही मन को
एह लालाचाहों गुण तेओ उचरों|
जब आव की औध निदान बने
अति ही रण में तब जूझ मरों|


Deh Shiva var mohe ihai
Shubha karman te kabhu na taron
Na daron arison jab jae laron
Nishche kar apni jeet karon
Ar sikhahon apni hi man ko
Eh lalachahon gun teo uchron
Jab aav ki audh nidaan bane
Ati hi ran main tab jujh maron


O Lord give me this blessing
That I may never be deterred from good deeds
That I may have no fear while fighting against the enemy
And that I may triumph certainly
May I educate my conscience
To crave singing your praises
And when the last moment comes
I may fall fighting in the battlefield

Guru Gobind Singh (गुरु गोबिंद सिंह), 10th Sikh Guru, 1666-1708

Note: The image is from here. My home for the first 18 years of my life had this exact framed painting and I would like to pay my regards to the painter, Sobha Singh, whose works of Sikh gurus are without parallel.