What We Wished We’d Known at 18…

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Sometimes you just need to get away from it all…

Sometimes you might need to just get away from it all, right?

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Is It Time For A Spring Clean Yet?

Time To Spring Clean

Okay, so the official first day of Spring is apparently the 20th of March this year.

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Are you carrying out your dharma?

What is dharma?

Religious duty appropriate to one’s age and status in life.

Whether you are religious or not. We all have a duty in this world.

To arrive for better, every single day.

Whether we are striving for better in our actions, our thoughts or in our unique disciplines.

Don’t let the world down, you owe it your unique gift, your dharma, you owe it to yourself to be the best possible version of yourself.

Light up, Lift up and Don’t be afraid to SHINE

So, we’ve spoken about this before. The fear of ‘shining’. What does this mean? What does this entail?

A Christian friend said to me at her local church service today, this theme was also discussed.

What often amazes me is that at their core, so many religions share fundament core values such as love, peace, hope and an ultimate faith in the ‘divine source’. The term ‘religion’ often just acts as a means of different people reaching their own ‘enlightenment’ or ‘path’ and if that path helps maintain their faith, brings them closer to a sense of meaning…then what is the harm in that?

I thought it was apt to discuss it here, given that today is officially Diwali, the Festival of Lights, in the Hindu calendar.

As a child, I was painfully shy. I would still classify myself as ‘shy’ though age, experience and wisdom has helped me to spread partial wings and leaving a shell that remains, if I ever need it to retreat to.

One other thing that happened as I was growing up is that I became scared to ‘shine’. There may be some people that can relate to this. We don’t want to appear different; we would rather hide in the shadows and be a ‘sheep’ than step out into the unknown and embrace the things that help us stand out, even if it was to the detriment of our own success. I was scared of being unique.

Diwali is a time for rebirth, rejuvenation and reflection. It reminds me that we don’t need to wait for the new year to make a new resolution (however, today is obviously convenient because The Festival of Lights symbolises new beginnings anyway…!).

Why?

Because each and every moment is a moment of rejuvenation, an opportunity to change. Though obvious, the idea hit me again today and emphasised one important point.

So many of us are victims to making ’empty promises’. You know what I mean:

When ‘x’ happens….I’ll do ‘y’

We wait for ‘the perfect time’, we make up excuses and dim our light.

STOP. Today is your day to ‘Face A Fear Everyday’. Today is your day to not ‘shelf your light’ but in fact to shine your light.

Embrace what you have to offer the world, we’re all different. Be proud to be unique.

Feeling blessed, overwhelmed and grateful at The Ramadan Tent

Yesterday evening, I went to The Ramadan Tent, situated in the grounds of The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Set up by Omar Salha, a SOAS alumnus, this Ramadan Tent welcomes Muslims to break their fast for Ramadan by serving iftar, the sunset meal.

The Ramadan Tent

News of the Ramadan Tent has travelled fast. One of my good friends learnt about it through her flatmate and now both volunteer there, helping in the iftar preparation and disposal, and ensuring that everyone feels welcome, and is accommodated with food and a place to sit.

Muslim or not, it does not matter. Committed volunteers have made this special iftar possible and welcome the public during Islam’s holy month, regardless of religious, socio-economic or political background making it truly an event that brings old and new faces together.

It truly was a special feast. Sustained by charitable donations, it was so inspiring to see so much food being provided for so many. As we sat on the ground around long mats acting as tables, it felt like a large family picnic was about to start. There was a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a feeling of togetherness. The homeless sitting amongst students and members of the public, no prejudice or judgment was placed. Each person was treated as part of an extended family.

Ramadan Tent

Before the call to prayer and breaking the fast, a speaker is invited to speak. Yesterday, Omar had invited Jehangir Malik OBE, director of Islamic Relief UK to talk. Malik reiterated how wonderful it was for so many people from across London to come together in the spirit of Ramadan. In a recent Huffington post article, Omar mentioned how not only did he hope this Ramadan campaign would challenge some misconceptions about Islam but also bring communities together.

Similarly, Jehangir Malik also feels that Ramadan Is a Time to Break Down Barriers, Not Build Them Up’.’ Having just completed a trip to Syria, his words had a lasting impact on me and I could tell on others too. Here we were sitting down, surrounded by a family we’d only just acquired, being provided with food and water whilst there were so many across the world struggling for just one of these basic privileges.

Dates were passed around to eat and symbolized the beginning of iftar. A change in the wind during the call to prayer made for a magical atmosphere. Despite not being Muslim myself, it was as if the summer breeze whispering around us had somehow cast an invisible spell, connecting everyone there. It did not matter what religion you were, where you had come from or what your economic situation was.

Ramadan Tent

As people, we were all the same; we all hoped and prayed for a world that we could feel proud to live in, we all desired an end to the suffering of those less fortunate and we all wanted to leave our positive mark in some way or another. It was an overwhelming and inspiring moment.

My friend told me how, on one occasion, due to the increased popularity and interest in The Ramadan Tent, there had not been enough food to accommodate all guests as well as committee volunteers. In this instance, volunteers refrained from eating to ensure every single other participant had food in front of them. Bearing in mind, the majority of these volunteers had been fasting themselves, it was moving to hear the extent of their charitable duties.

I have an immense sense of respect for those that are fasting during Ramadan. It requires dedication, commitment and perseverance -it is only when one is tested that one realises their true potential.

Ramadan Tent

Many are all too aware of how the media can misconstrue or demonise Islam and as a result alienate communities. This event however, as Omar hoped it would, disputes Islamic misconceptions and teaches non-muslims about the core values of Islam. There were times during yesterday’s iftar that I could not say a word. There was a spell I did not want to break. I felt proud and privileged to have experienced such sharing, generosity and sense of community. I left feeling happy that this was such a positive opportunity for others to appreciate the true spirit of Ramadan.

Ramadan Mubarak to all those participating!

Love, respect and blessings,

Ana at The Asian Destination xo

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Celebrate Being ‘Unique’

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Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett

Malika Garrett's Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Malika Garrett’s Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Successful Non-resident Indian Bengali artist, Malika Garrett, emigrated to the USA to study art in college. Since then she has combined her business experience with her creative passion and helped raise thousands of dollars for charity. OWN Ambassador, Malika, talks to The Asian Destination about collaborating with Deepak Chopra and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. We also discover how Deepak, Mastin Kipp & Oprah Winfrey have helped change her life.

Available at malikagarrett.com

Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: You grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal in India and went to study in America before becoming the successful artist that you are today. Tell us, when did your love for art start and did you always want to pursue it as a career?

M: My love for art started as far back as I can remember. We are a family of artists, I was always around art and was taught to appreciate it from a very early age. I always loved drawing. I was forever sketching on any paper I could find. My most treasured gifts were pencils, erasers, crayons and markers! I won the class Art prize every year in my school in Kolkata. My grandparents were my first patrons and fans. They encouraged me and even bought my art! I learned service and volunteering through my art; I sold it to my grandparents at age 4 and raised money for Mother Teresa! Since then I have always volunteered and given back.

Raika Mother & Child available at www.malikagarrett.com

Raika Mother & Child available at http://www.malikagarrett.com

TAD: Did you ever think you would be an artist?

M: No, I did not ever think I would be an artist. I was leaning towards being a business woman in the corporate world, travelling or saying, ‘Order! Order!’ and being a judge! It’s funny how I ended up being a business woman and an artist. I pursued Art in college but fell into Sales while I was working in advertising at the New York Times.

TAD: What do you miss about India/Kolkata and how important is it to you to maintain a level of Indian culture/tradition in your life?

M:I miss Kolkata and India immensely- I am always going to be Indian and Bengali first. I will never forget where I came from. I owe much of my success and the making of who I am to my childhood in Kolkata. Kolkata has shaped me and made me who I am today. It is very important for me to maintain a high level of ‘Indian-ness’ as I am married to an American and have 2 children whom I want to be a part of their mother’s culture. I am always afraid they will never know their mother’s home or know what it means to be Indian. My husband and I have since birth tried to teach my children about both cultures and encourage them to explore and ask a lot of questions.

malikagarrett.com

Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: Being a non-resident Indian, sometimes integrating a mixture of traditions and cultures can be a challenge, how do you deal with it?

M: I never really found it to be a challenge, in fact quite the opposite for me, since I was exposed to the world of travel from a very early age. My multiracial children however, epitomize the synthesis of two parent philosophies in a flowing, yin-yang self. They have always known Mum to be Indian and Dad to be American. Their combination of heritage makes them world citizens. In my mind, it makes them wiser too and a lot more tolerant, curious and appreciative of diversity.

TAD: Are there any typically Bengali things you miss now that you are settled in America?

M: Yes the FOOD! Daal (lentils) Bhat, (rice) LUCHI (oily, fried flat bread) and Aludom (an Indian take on mashed potato)! I also miss the Bengali traditions: Durga Puja & Bhai Phota.

Artwork: malikagarrett.com

Artwork: malikagarrett.com

TAD: Would we be right in assuming the inspiration behind most of your art is your time spent living and visiting India?

M:YES! Very much so! My work is mostly about the people of India – their stories , their images of strength, simplicity and courage. My work is about many from India who struggle, yet despite their challenges, are happy people. That is what I try to portray through my work: that despite their challenges their lives maintain a sense of simplicity and beauty in the midst of harsh circumstances. They don’t let their situation get in the way- they make the most of it and go on with life. They have inspired me to survive, despite the many odds I have faced as well.

'Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a "Borla" or "Rakhri", the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful' - Available at malikagarrett.com

‘Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a “Borla” or “Rakhri”, the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful’ – Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: Art can be quite subjective, how do you handle criticism and negative comments?

M: I smile and take in everything they say. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion. In many cases they have shown me things in my art work I haven’t seen myself. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity for me – good or bad.

There are no failures. Just experiences and your reactions to them.” ~Tom Krause

Artwork available at malikagarrett.com

Artwork available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: You are one of several OWN ambassadors. For those that are unaware, please could share what it means to be an OWN ambassador?

M: The role of an OWN Ambassador is to support OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), and have a vision “To Live Your Best life. As an OWN Ambassador you can participate either via Facebook, or Twitter. We participate via Twitter Parties, Tweet Ups, Book Club/Tweet Club. You get to interact with like-minded fellow ambassadors. It’s a positive support system that lifts you up. We are a community of like- minded people having informative conversations everyday and spreading joy and love.

Source: Facebook.com/TheOwnAmbassadors

Source: Facebook.com/TheOwnAmbassadors

TAD: How did you become involved with Oprah and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)?

M: I met the group on Twitter because of our mutual love of OWN and my conversations with their producers about my personal story. If you would like to become an OWN Ambassador, follow @ownambassadors on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook, insert #OWNAmbassador in your profile under the Bio section, and on Twitter, use #OWNAmbassadors as the hashtag. It’s that easy! As Oprah mentioned to us and the world, we are the ‘Carriers Of Light’.

Image Source: Malika Garrett

Image Source: Malika Garrett

TAD: You have worked and come into contact with a variety of prominent people including Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Mastin Kipp. These individuals, amongst many others, are known to all be committed to ‘living their best life’. What have you learnt from working with them that you could share with us?

M: Each one has taught me so many lessons that resonate with me but one that screams out is what Oprah has said over and over again- ‘Life happens not to me, but for me’!– She has really changed my life.

Also Dr. Chopra’s teaching that ‘Holding on to resentment is like holding your breath’– has made me look at forgiveness in a whole new light.

I try to remember every day:

‘We all can receive atonement through service’

‘We are all spiritual beings having a human experience’

‘Vulnerability is the Birthplace of Creativity and Change’– Brene Brown

Mastin Kipp & Malika Image Source: Malika Garrett

Mastin Kipp & Malika (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

I have also learnt not to hold myself hostage for my past and that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

As Maya Angelou said to Oprah

“ When you know better you do better!’

I am SO grateful for all of these wonderful folks you mention and others who have helped me enhance my spirit and not drain my power. Each day they have given me a new breath of life!

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser. Image Source: Malika Garrett

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

TAD: You have recently been involved in a Akshaya Patra (AP) fundraiser – congratulations on its success! Could you tell us a bit about the charity and the event?

M:They are an amazing organization and I am proud and honoured to be a part of them.

Please check out their website and get involved- everyone can make a difference- it only takes $15 to feed one child for one year a hot meal served in school everyday! Founded in 2000, the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mission is that “no child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” and its next goal is to feed five million children daily by 2020. Currently they are feeding 1 million children every day. The foundation is a strategic intervention in education aimed at breaking the vicious and perpetual cycle of poverty.

Image Source: foodforeducation.org

Akshaya Patra Foundation (Image Source: foodforeducation.org)

TAD: How did you come to be involved in it?

M: My journey with AP started a few months back, in December, while I was in conversation with Dr. Chopra. He happened to mention that he was coming to Atlanta. He invited me to get involved with Akshaya Patra and I was thrilled. I had nothing to give but my creativity. I offered to do a collaborative painting with him for their fundraiser in Atlanta. The event was last week and was a massive success. The event raised over $400 K and my painting brought in $50K. Because of our collective efforts 26,000 children will be fed a hot meal in India. How cool is that?

Mandanganj Women and Child at www.malikagarrett.com

Mandanganj Women and Child at http://www.malikagarrett.com

TAD: This is not the first fundraiser your art has featured in, you also joined forces with Robin Raina in ‘India on Canvas’ where artwork was also auctioned for charity in order to help under-privileged children in India.

As mentioned, the volunteer and service bug bit me at a very early age in Kolkata. I was always wanting to help to give whatever I had to whoever I saw needed something. In addition to raising money for Mother Teresa’s missionaries for charity, I taught classes to the children of the household help. Robin Raina and I partnered together for ‘India on Canvas’ and then with Shashi Tharoor in 2008 for the same charity.

TAD: So, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing more of your art being exhibited soon or featuring in another worthwhile fundraising event soon?

M: No immediate plans- but that can change tomorrow! I am always excited about new collaborations and ventures.There are some smaller ones in the works but none I can name yet.

TAD: How does one get their hands on a Malika Garrett piece? Are they available for shipping?

M: My art work is on my website at www.malikagarrett.com you can also ‘like’ me on facebook.com/MalikaGhoshGarrett and follow me on twitter @MalikaGhosh

Malika’s blog: www.malikaghoshgarrett.wordpress.com/

and check out: www.malikaghoshgarrett.wix.com/malikagphotography

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Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani and Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and Happy Kali Puja & Diwali from Destination: Celebration

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