Trip to Pushkar – India
It was fascinating to visit and earn about an ancient and famous place, the holy town of Pushkar, from the eyes of a family members who grew up there in a prominent social position. I had gone there a few times earlier too, but never quite had gotten a feel for the place.
Pushkar is often called ‘Tirath Raj’ or the king of pilgrimage sites. It is also one of the oldest living cities of India. (For more visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushkar.) Pushkar has the unique distinction of having the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma, the creator of the world according to Vedas. I visited Pushkar in December for just a few hours with my wife Neerja and my mother-in-law. I knew that my mother-in-law was born and had grown up in Pushkar. I requested her to come along with me and show us the town as she lived it. Once we reached there, she became quite animated when showing us where when the important things and important activities were, during her childhood days. Very understated by temperament, she let slip that her extended family (the Maloo family) owned half of Pushkar! I knew about her coming from a rich family in Pushkar, but this seemed really big. As an instance she said that when her father and his brothers separated, each one got many mansions in inheritance. She also stated that they used to own bricks of gold. Those bricks were mortared into walls to keep them safe from robbers. No one trusted the banks, they all trusted gold.
We visited Pushkar Raj (pic on left), the holy lake in which everyone likes to take a holy dip. It has 52 ghats, or sides from which one can access the lake. We also the Brahmaji temple (pic on right). We visited the other famous temple in Pushkar, the Ranji temple, … the old Ranji template and the the new one. We then visited one of my mother-in-law’s family mansions, which is currently rented out. We bought loads of ‘Maal Puvey’, the rich creamy pancake-shaped dessert for which Pushkar is famous.
I now had a feel for this ancient city.
Leadership Lessons from Organizing Cultural Events …. By Anil Maheshwari
Certain good ideas lead to properly-organized and well-attended ‘successful’ cultural events. This could be applicable to creating good organizations also. I write below from my experience of organizing a few big house-full South-Asian cultural events at MUM over the last 12 months. All the events had the customary song and dance elements. However, they also had new innovations. And they all brought in new challenges, opportunities, surprises and joy. It takes a certain gut-strength to manage it all.
Here is a list of the events we organized and the innovations we incorporated:
- Diwali function in November 2013. We created a beautiful innovative poster to promote the event. We introduced the idea of including participants from all South Asian countries including not only India, but also Nepal, Bangladesh, SriLanka, Pakistan, and others. We introduced the idea of a fashion show where all students could showcase their traditional dresses. We introduced the idea of a boy-girl pair of MCs, where the MCs were from different nationalities. We invited the Mayor of the city to the event, and he got the flavor of how important Diwali is for the entire South asian community. We introduced the idea of giving free organic Burfi Prasad to all the attendees. Last but not the least, we kept the event free to the public. The program was wonderful, and the event was a big success. (Pictures courtesy: Craig Shaw).
- Holi function in March 2014. We introduced the idea of a poetry recitation which is a Holi tradition in India. In this case, I did the recitation of a humorous old poem. We introduced the big idea of doing a large bonfire which is a Holi tradition: Students continued to sing and dance around the fire till midnight. We played with gulal (colored powder) in the night around the fire. We provided free munchies at the bonfire. We introduced the idea of a bhajan band, and this band continued playing at the bonfire also. The event was a super success.
- Baisakhi/Ugadi/Indian-New-Year event in April 2014. Coming soon after the Holi event, it was a low-key event. We invited the visiting head of the Maharishi movement in India who was visiting the US at that time. My daughter performed at the event.
- Krishna Janam Ashtami event in August 2014. This also worked as a welcoming event for all the new and returning students. We continued the ideas of a MC pair, free burfi Prasad, and a large bonfire. We introduced the idea of playing a Maharishi knowledge tape where he was talking of the significance and power of Lord Krishna. We invited the President of the university; he liked the event and said we needed more of such things to enliven the campus. The event was a house-full and standing room only performance.
- Garba dance party in September 2014. This was a dance party for people to dance to traditional Indian garba music. We brought the Dandiya sticks for the dance. At this event we also discovered our new student president of the South asian club.
- Diwali event in October 2014. This event used many of our previous ideas. We had the usual Bollywood song and dance shows, an MC pair, a large bonfire, a fashion show that now included people from Africa also. We added a professional Gandharva performance to the event. I led a group bhajan performance. People stood up and joyfully sang the Aarti together. This event was so packed that latecomers could not find space to get into the auditorium.
The organizing of all these events followed a similar pattern, was but there were different challenges each time. Different people pitched in to help when things looked bleak. Through all this I persevered. Here are some of my lessons:
- Commitment: Someone has to hold the flag high. Even when no one else is interested or seems to be ready to contribute, the key organizer must love the idea, and should have complete faith that the event will happen, and well. There were moments when there was no one else who came to the event planning meeting.
- Self-sufficiency. One should be prepared to invest your own time and resources to make the event happen. One should have the talent to sing and dance, or have your friends and family participate as needed. One can usually find the talent, strength and resources within oneself.
- Openness: Be open to surprises. Be open to what might actually happen at the event. Do not get stuck in a preconceived notion of a cultural event. Be open to new ideas from unexpected sources. Be open to support from unexpected sides. Totally different people, faculty or students, pitched in to support each of the events at crucial moments. Later in the year, we found consistent support from one like-minded person on campus.
- Integrity: Make sure every event has integrity at a high level. The higher level idea should be to have fun, or whatever else. Do not get caught in the weeds of this item or that, this performer or that, this issue or that. Gradually the reputation will grow and people would love to attend the events.
Honoring the Hidden Army … by Dr. Anil Maheshwari
This long Labor Day weekend we attended our Indian ethnic community’s convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was a beautiful 3-day affair with over 700 guests visiting from 27 states in the US and Canada, and some from India. This biennial event offered colorful environment, sumptuous food 5 times a day, nice bollywood entertainment, and 52 breakout sessions serving a variety of stuff from Yoga to financial advice to ‘rangoli’ competition. People greatly enjoyed the program and danced their hearts out. More importantly, they rebuilt old relationships and then built some new ones.
On the last morning of the event, many people behind the event were being thanked from the stage. A few named leaders were thanked for their vision, commitment and dedication. As is customary, the organizers called all of the almost 100 volunteers to the stage to thank them and take a nice group photo. That was a great moment of cheer.
However, the organizers did something even better. They called on stage all the hotel staff which included the servers and the chefs and many others who in their black and gray uniforms worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our every wish was met. Their picture was taken with the leaders of the event. It was a touching moment, at least for me. I don’t recall having ever before seen the hidden army of servers and cleaners being brought to the fore and thanked in such a prominent way. It was the right thing to do. In one stroke it brought cheers to so many undervalued overworked people. By this action, we also taught our younger generation the value of respect for everyone.
This is the future of leadership. Everyone who performs their tasks in a conscientious and quality manner should be respected profusely. It does good to the spirit of the individuals, and it also builds a nice culture for the organization. It builds the thickness of connection in society that lubricates collaboration for success in the future.
Vedas for Ultra-modern Living … notes by Dr. Anil Maheshwari
Maharishi University of Management (MUM) hosted the 11th conference of WAVES (World Association for Vedic Studies) over the first weekend of August 2014. Over a hundred papers and presentations were made by speakers from around the world. Many scholars came from India, while many others were from the US including many professors from MUM itself. The range of topics covered was vast: covering entire Vedas, to specific topics like Ayurveda and Sanskrit, to specific concepts like maha-vakyas. The presentations were theoretical as well as empirical, intellectual as well as experiential. The event provided an extraordinary international Vedic experience.
Here are a few key observations.
- MUM is a unique and powerful laboratory for ultra-modern Veda-based healthy living style. Speaking with several visiting scholars, I discovered that there seems to be no other place like this in the world. The visitors enjoyed being at MUM even if for a few days. They enjoyed the good sattvic vegetarian food, chanting by Vedic pundits, Gandharva veda music, and the overall high quality arrangements. There are indeed many villages in India where people still do Vedic practices like Rudra-abhishekham on a daily basis. However, they seem to do it because that is as an ancient family ritual, and not as a part of conscious Vedic living.
- The founder of MUM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is considered up there among the Vedic greats such as Sankara, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Gandhi, and the like. One after the other, the speakers extolled the greatness of Maharishi from the Vedic knowledge and practice perspective. It was a dream come true for many of the speakers to come to Maharishi’s place.
- Not surprisingly, most of the Vedic scholars worldwide seem to be of Indian origin. The Vedic researchers at MUM are also Indians at heart, whom I affectionately call ‘white desis’. A lot of the Vedic scholars in India seem to be located in the Sanskrit departments in major Indian universities, and some in philosophy departments.
- Many of the papers presented by visiting scholars were theoretical in nature, analyzing and synthesizing the Vedic texts. On the other hand, many of the presentations from MUM speakers were around experimentally validated applications of Vedic knowledge and experiential technologies (such as Transcendental Meditation® ) to human welfare … such as to physiology, psychology, neurology, sociology, business, and the like.
- There were many engaging presentations, and some of them completely wowed everyone. One Indian scholar synthesized all the Vedas to present a guide to daily living. Another Indian scholar showed how the mahavakyas, esp ‘Tat Tvam Asi’, could be applied in the social context to promote cooperation. A visiting scholar from the US presented on how Ayurveda can be used for kaya kalpa. Another visiting scholar from the US enthralled the audience with many thought experiments at the intersection of Vedic legacies and new technologies. A powerful presentation from MUM showed a Unified-field based framework integrating the physical world and the world of Atman or Consciousness. Another MUM presentation showed how Transcendence is the effective path to human development after adulthood.
The conference created new possibilities for sharing of authentic Vedic knowledge around the world. It also gave the world a taste of how Vedic knowledge and practices could be adapted for living the ultra-modern life!