FSU Football: An Absolute Dream #ThankYouFSU

Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2015 by Kratik in
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From leaving the IMG Academy, feeling gutted that I hadn’t made it, to lifting the national championship trophy…it’s been an absolute dream.

You know, at times in life, you take a decision that may be deemed stupid by many and illogical by most, but no matter what anybody says, something within you tells you that you are making the right choice. Well, most – including a part of me...to be precise, my head – thought I was foolish when I rejected a paid sales job in Clearwater to work for FSU Football for free.

To be true, it was against all possible logic and all the knowledge that one could conjure but from experience, I had learned to not think too much, follow my heart, work my socks off and then, observe things working out in the most perfect way possible. After all, I didn’t believe in miracles…I relied on them!

Having worked with the athletes who were preparing for the NFL and NBA Combines at IMG Academy, Bradenton, I had seen how good they were but working with Florida State Football showed me the work that goes into making them that good. It was great seeing how hard not only the players but also the staff worked, and how well the athletes trusted the process.

I would see their work ethic and tell myself that if these guys can manage to get grades in school, work hard to be top-notch athletes, workout in the weight-room, study the film and learn plays, and take care of their lives outside of football, I would be doing them injustice if I didn’t give my all.

I had worked with sport-specific, GPS and performance data for a couple of years previously, so, I knew what the data meant but it was incredible to have a chance to see and work with the data for a sport that I had absolutely no clue about. It’s easy to look at numbers and say, “Well, even though he is the best out of the group and he is having an extremely high max velocity, he is not necessarily working hard,” but for someone, like me, who didn’t know a whole lot about American football, it was about learning what the data meant in relation to football.

That’s when my immediate boss, FSU Football's head strength and conditioning coach, Vic Viloria, really helped me. He made sure that I learned the sport, which helped me in understanding how the coaches coached, what players of a particular position group did during a certain drill and most importantly, where the GPS numbers were coming from. The only reason why I was at FSU Football was to learn, and gaining knowledge the way I was doing was fantastic. I would wake up every morning, smile and tell myself, “YES! I am going to learn something new today.” It was a brilliant feeling.


As I got more and more familiar with the sport, I was extremely eager to communicate whatever I could gather from the GPS data. At times, I might have even been a touch irritating, but I will always be grateful to coach Vic who gave me his time and heard whatever I had to say. It’s one thing to hear what someone is saying, it’s another to trust them with what they are telling you. You know, it’s great to have mentors, teachers and people who can groom you, it’s even better when he is your own boss.

Watching my first few games from the sidelines was some experience even though I didn't understand it a whole lot. My motto was to follow the others. If people were shouting, shout. If everyone was quiet, don't speak. If you see others pump up the crowd, pump up the crowd. Just follow. Lol. And trust me, that helped. A few more games in, and after attending many more practices and watching film, I began to understand the sport better.

It was also overwhelming to see exactly all the stuff that went on during the game and the number of people that were involved. It was astonishing to see that everybody – the strength coaches, the athletic trainers, the team doctors, the recruiting staff, the nutritionists, the video guys, the equipment managers, mental conditioning coaches, the team chaplain, the FSU police, the marching band and most importantly, the football coaching staff – had a role on the sidelines. I was amazed at how good of a piece of management that was.


The concept of having some of the coaches in a box upstairs and not on the field, monitoring every opposition play and communicating the information to the coaches on the field, seemed absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why other sports like soccer don’t use this system. Just imagine, Ryan Giggs in the box monitoring every change in opposition formation, every second and communicating information to Louis Van Gaal, who would ultimately decide on whether he has to tinker with United’s formation or the style of play. It would be brilliant.

The 2013 unfolded and we won the national championship. After the victory, I still remember running on the Rose Bowl field with my arms outstretched, Van-Nistelrooy-style, and jumping up and down to every song that the marching band played. It was fantastic. That feeling was of being on the top of the world and all the snapchats that I received told me that the whole of Nole Nation was feeling the same.

                    
        


As we got back to Tallahassee, there were thousands of people waiting for us to return home. As a little kid, I remember waiting for hours for the Indian cricket team to arrive and here I was, with Florida State, on the other side. You know, it’s moments like this when you realize that you are a part of something absolutely huge, something that is much, much bigger than you. For letting me experience what I experienced, I will always be grateful to Florida State Football.



A couple of weeks on and our head coach, Jimbo Fisher, called me into his office and told me that FSU Football were interested in offering me a full-time job and will also file for my H1B Visa. It was one of the best feelings ever! After speaking to him, a very teary me ran down the stairs and sprinted outside the building doing the Danny Welbeck celebration! That moment, just that…that’s what priceless moments are like! That moment, I knew I had won for the little boy who lives inside of me and who who dares to dream! It was incredible.

So, here I was! After a few months of rejecting a paid sales job in Clearwater to work for FSU Football for free to have a shot at the United dream, I had a job which I loved, working with people whom I considered to be a blessing and a sponsor for my Visa that was the collegiate national champions of America. I have always said that I rely on miracles and that was a miracle. God showered his grace in the most unexpected way.

Money motivates some people but dreams motivate me. I came to America to make my dream a reality and at times, you have to take a little risk to make the impossible dream possible. I did and God made sure that I stayed on the path.

The 2014/2015 season was crazy. Coming back to win so many in the way we did was awesome. It was like experiencing Manchester United during the 2012/2013 season all over again, but this time from the sidelines. Now that I look back at it, it must have taken the players and the coaches some phenomenal spirit to rally and finish every game the way they did. The Doak Campbell Stadium rocked during every game and you could sense an enormous togetherness among fans.


 I still remember the game against Clemson when, with a few minutes to go, the fans at Doak started singing ‘I believe that we can win’, a chant that reverberated around USMNT 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign…it was brilliant. Even though we were down by a touchdown, you could sense in the air that something special would happen and we would win. Then, Sean threw that long pass to Rashad and we got on level terms, before Karlos scored to win it for us in extra time. Coach Fisher’s pregame team talk during that game was one that I will never forget. I still remember when he told the team that they had worked too hard to be there and not enjoy that moment. It’s something that I consider as a life lesson…it’s really important to enjoy every moment, especially, when you have worked hard for it.

2014/2015 was a great season and the next one is going to be a superb one as well because FSU Football has that man, Jimbo Fisher. I have worked under/with some very good coaches in various sports, both in India and in Singapore, and coach Fisher is the best of the lot. He is also an incredible person and someone whom I will always be indebted to for the rest of my life for believing in me and having me as a part of the Florida State family.


I came to Tallahassee with dreams but what I am leaving behind is a family. Even in my wildest of dreams, I couldn’t have ever imagined that it would pan out this well. Working with a brilliant staff and phenomenal athletes, who were responsible for winning two ACC championships and a national title in the past two years, it’s been an absolute dream. Time to chase that United dream now.


Do you believe in miracles? I rely on them.

A special thanks to the strength staff (coach Vic, coach Red, coach Derek, Ben, coach Louis, coach Brice and Richie), coach Jon Jost and coach Caitlin Quinn for their continuous support, the athletic trainers (Jake, Jerry, Jeronimo, Julie, Jason, Remy, Madeline and team), the nutritionists (Ms. Katie, Paula, Morgan, Beth, Blair, Jen and Lauren), the recruiting team (Mr. Bob, Christian, Matt, Paul and their team), Mr. Clint Purvis, Mr. Mario Edwards Sr., Mike Warren, the assistant coaching staff (Matt, Miles, Chris Rev, Kurt, Bert, Bright, Addison, Glauser, Spurlock, Jamie, Becker, Shlemon, coach B, Jeremiah, Stone, Priest), the assistants (Ms. Joy, Ms. Daphne, Ms. Nicole, Logan, Carson, Ms. Carol), the video guys (Cody, Matt, Kevin, Campo and team), Lt. Maloy, Lt. Bagnardi, Zach Stipe, the equipment managers, Mr. Mark Robinson, Mr. Monk Bonasorte, the position coaches (coach Haggins, coach Trickett, coach Sal, coach Graham, coach Sanders, coach Dawsey, coach Brewster, coach Kelly and coach Miller), and to our head coach, Mr. Jimbo Fisher, for helping me live the dream.

Erin, Paul, Mikey, Jim, Kat, Brittany, Steve and Samantha Spiers, Alicia, Ryan Pham, Marco, Shuai, Miao, Eric, Gary, Carlton, Christian, Kristin, Max Christiansen, Rikki Lee, Andrew Young, Smay, JJ, Mike, Nick Downey, Parker, TJ, Yue Ji, Chris Mcloed, Sara, Kristin Smith, Karly Gilchrist, Shirley, Hailan, Kosuke, Jack, Rob, and everyone else...you guys are legends and I love you all!

Once a student, then an employee, Nole forever!

- Kratik Malhotra

Back Home: It’s Kinda Magic

Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015 by Kratik in Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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 Pulling me out of a bubble of negative energy, He asked me if I would like to come home again.


In the past eighteen days, I have been to two cities, met hundreds of people, made plenty of new friends, learned what’s smiling again and most importantly, realized the fact that the connection which once was, will always be.

When I was a student, I had promised myself that once I start earning and can afford to do an Art of Living Advance/Silence course, I would go ahead and do it. Well, by April 2015, I had been earning for almost an year and two months, but for some reason, I had kept on postponing myself in taking the program. Either I felt that it wasn’t time then or I was trying to save money, or maybe I had accepted straight up that I only have to be good at my job and not brilliantly rounded. Irrespective of the reason, I was a dumbass.

…and then, something magical happened: I got my tax refund!

It was one of those times, when you think, “Okay, what do I want to do the most with this money?” In Robin Van Persie’s words, the little boy inside of me said, “Get your backside to an Art of Living Silence course.” However, there were still doubts in my mind when I realized how much the travel and course would cost, so, I told my mind to ‘shut up and go to bed’ as I started looking through the list of courses all around the United States. I soon came across a magical name, Michael Fischman. Michael, the famous author, was teaching a course in Boston and having heard so much about him, there was no way I could have not registered for the program.

Michael Fischman

Knowing how fragile my mind is, I booked my flight tickets in no time as I told myself, “Flights are non-refundable, boy! You can’t get out of this now!” It felt like I had won over my mind, at least for that moment. Soon, I registered for the silence program with Michael and left for Boston a couple of weeks on.

My silence was incredible. It was my sixth Art of Silence course but the first one in which I cried during silence. There were too many realizations, too many lessons, too much knowledge and a massive amount of gratitude for everything that I had received. It was the first time that I saw my mind getting cleansed, little by little. It was like watching the negative impressions that were stuck on my mind getting removed and being winded away. It was fantastic.

("It Is Time" - Rafiki)
By the end of the advance course, my smile was back. It just felt like everything was perfect and trust me when I say this, there was hardly a negative thought in my head. It felt like home coming from a spiritual standpoint. It felt like He was saying, “It is time!” (In Rafiki’s voice from Lionking). It's fine if you call me insane.




A couple of weeks on, Guruji, Sri Sri Ravishankar-ji, was coming to Boone, NC and a friend of mine, whom I had met the evening before we played the Hurricanes in Miami in Novemeber, asked me if I would like to drive with her up the mountains from Florida. I paused for a second and then replied, “Duh!” I mean, I could have said all the duhs and dahs, and acted like it wasn’t a big deal but in truth, I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to meet Him. It was like magic. I mean, after the advance course, I felt like He had said, “It is time!” and then, I was going to see Him. It was miraculous.

She picked me up from Jacksonville and we were off to Boone doing satsang on the way. At times, that satsang even had Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Backstreet Boys making special appearances! To all the girls reading this, I am still straight…just saying! We shared so many Guru Stories that even her car would have felt grateful.



Few hours on and here we were - on top of the mountains - at the Art of Living Retreat Center. As we were entering the Boone Ashram, I yelled out, “I am home!”

It was phenomenal. I just couldn’t stop smiling. Actually, I realized that it wasn’t only me; everybody was smiling. For some reason, everyone was just so happy. It wasn’t Bangalore but it was divine. Guruji was leading a knowledge series, and I and her waited for him to get done and come out of the meditation hall. When I saw Him, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. He was in front of me but I didn’t lose my sense. An Art of Living teacher from Mumbai had once told me that His rate of motion is directly proportional to your excitement, so, I was to be as calm as possible.

I started walking behind him and on the way to his kutir when he turned around and said, “Hi” to me, waving his hand. I smiled as wide as I possibly could. I mean he had never said ‘hi’ to me in such a fashion. It was awesome. From then on in, we followed him around wherever he went and I asked/told him one of the things that I wanted to tell him, partially.

Popping In From The Right Corner
The next day, it so happened that I had received permissions to go inside his kutir but by the time my turn came to speak to Him, He had to go and lead the knowledge series. As He was passing me by, He waited for a split second, smiled at me, patted my on my right bicep and then, left. So for the other thing, I knew He had blessed me even if neither of us said anything verbally.

Later that day, Saturday, the satsang in the Ashram was incredible. I have never smoked but if that wasn’t a high, I don’t know what is. Guruji’s talk was amazing. I had never heard Him speak the way He spoke. It was superb. The energy inside the meditation hall in the Ashram was immense. An hour on, it was breathtaking coming to terms with what I had experienced.

                               
(Ashram, a place filled with positive energy)

The Saturday Satsang
As I was leaving the Ashram, getting ready to go back to Tallahassee, I knew what I was going to miss the most: the energy, the light if you want to call it. It was my first trip to the Boone Retreat Center in about two-and-a-half years and it was special because it made me reaffirm that there can be no place like Ashram. It’s a place where the positive energy lifts your energy by manifolds and you automatically start feeling happy. I am not joking when I say this: your happiness level is like you have won a national championship or a world cup, and you are that happy every moment.

The more I look back at the trip, the more I realize God’s grace. I mean meeting my friend in Miami was a miracle. You know, I was so happy to meet a fellow Art of Living volunteer that we actually did a satsang on the South Beach. I planning two trips within two weeks of one-another was a miracle. Meeting Guruji from so close was a miracle. Making so many friends on my trip was a miracle. Getting a ride back with the volunteers from West Palm was a miracle. Having an ‘Ashram love’ story like one I have every single time was a miracle. Missing my bus, but still getting back to Tallahassee by Sunday night was a miracle. I coming ‘home’ is a miracle.

During silence in Boston, it was like He had asked me if I would like to come back home and I replied, “Yes, Guruji.” 18 days on, now, I am truly home.

I don’t believe in miracles…I rely on them.

Jai Gurudev :)
Love,

Kratik

Here I Go Again

Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by Kratik in Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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It’s been six years since I did my first Art of Silence course and almost three and a half years since I did my last, and it feels different. Times are different, circumstances are different, people around me are different, the country that I live in is different, it’s Boston and not Bangalore, it’s taking place at a center and not the ashram, but something inside of me still wants to yell out, “I am going home!”

Home…well, I guess that’s what the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore does to you. I knew it was a home at the first instant; I don’t know how, I just knew it the moment when I saw the top of Vishalakshi Mantap (VM) from the taxi as I hit 21st km kanakapura road for the first time. In fact, from there on in, every time that I would make a trip to the ashram, seeing VM from the bus before entering the International center of the Art of Living would make my eyes wet. My heart would start pumping faster and I would feel like I am on the brink of something incredible. It felt like a wish was coming true and trust me, it happened every single time. It was amazing and something that I could never comprehend, but I guess that’s what happens when you are right outside of your home.

Ashram was a place where everyone was welcomed, accepted and celebrated, where every being was spiritual (and I am not talking about only humans), where everybody smiled for absolutely no reason, where the energy was so strong that you could rise in love with anybody at any time, and where it seemed like you already knew all the people whom you had just met. Time, space, energy, beings and their spirits, nature, universe and God…in the ashram, all those felt connected. It’s a connection that – probably – only silence and grace can make you experience and having not been in silence for over three years, at a personal level, I believe my connection with the self and the divine needs be strengthened again.


 

So, here I go again, wearing a huge smile on my face and singing Jai Gurudev! Over the years, Guruji and his knowledge has taken me to places. From my experience, one thing that I have learned is to trust the process and enjoy the journey.  You know, about three years ago, when I was a student at the Florida State University, I could never save enough money to afford an advance course. So, I took a sankalpa of doing an advance course once I save enough money and three years on…boom! Now that I have done that, it feels very special. Even though it’s my sixth and I won’t be doing it in the ashram, or going to the ashram doing satsangs in the train with hundreds of fellow volunteers, I believe this Art of Silence course it’s going to be the most special one yet. I just know it.


(Hult International Business School, Course Location)


Times are different, circumstances are different, I have even grown up a tad bit, but one thing still remains the same: the thought of me doing an advance course still makes me feel like there is magic in the air. I do feel it in my fingers and I absolutely feel it in my toes; Guru grace is all around me and the feeling grows…I feel like my spirit is dancing. It’s special, it’s magic and in Boston, I AM GOING HOME.

That Fateful Night

Posted: Friday, September 19, 2014 by Kratik in Labels: , ,
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There are things that I hate to talk but at times, you feel you gotta man up…

United were 3-2 up when Craig Bellamy scored for City in the final minute in what looked like had assured the ‘noisy neighbours’ a certain point. Former Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham has described United chasing a game as the most beautiful sight in football and his statement was underlined with what happened next.

"It's only as far as Ryan Giggs, who placed one for Michael Owen…Oh this is incredible. Beyond added time, Michael Owen with his first Old Trafford goal for Manchester United makes the place erupt!" 

Michael Owen, boyhood Everton fan, who had been a Liverpool hero for years, came off the bench to score a decisive winner for United in the great Manchester derby at Old Trafford. As Owen scored, I slid on my drawing-room floor and screamed out loud in amazement. It was incredible. Hardly anyone expected it but almost every United fan wished for it. But again, you “never say ‘never’ with Manchester United.”
 
Everyone goes through tough times, which in turn makes you a stronger person and the time round-about the Manchester derby was one of the tougher times that I have ever been through. My school was giving me trouble regarding my engineering final year project and my grandfather, who had always been my inspiration (and still is), wasn’t doing well health-wise. Its times like those that watching Man United win seemed as the only source of delight.

After the win, I went into my room, taunted Man City fans over the internet; spoke to some of my co-Man United friends and discussed how we were going to win the title again that year. It was a fantastic moment.

I was sitting in my room when my father received a call and went like, “How? I can’t believe this. I just spoke to him a while ago.” As the shock waves passed through every cell in my body, I looked down to pray and wish that my worst fear hadn’t come true. My father soon delivered the news that my grandfather was no more. I didn’t shout, I didn’t yell, I kept my voice to myself but I cried my heart out.

It was tough. Some of my most fond childhood memories have been with my grandfather and losing him was a blow. It was one of those moments when you start feeling cold, your heart starts pumping faster, when you feel like puking and sleeping at the same time. It’s the worst feeling of the lot. I couldn’t believe what had happened. It was strange.

I always say, “It’s a great day when United wins.” Not always.

Never had I ever experienced emotions that are such poles apart and I wish I never experience those again.

This may sound abrupt but I don’t want to talk of the following day.

The next one week was one of the toughest weeks I have ever had in my life. I was alone at home in Pune for the next couple of days, having had to leave the very next day after my grandfather’s funeral because my college was screwing me over my BE Engineering project. Even home becomes a terribly lonely place when you are missing people. On my engineering college’s behalf, it was a rather inhumane, selfish and vastly disappointing behavior that must be put under heavy scrutiny. I have never spoken about this in the past and I never will speak about this in the future but at times, some things deserve to be put right.

I give my 100% in whatever I am doing and I hardly regret things. The biggest regret in my life (and I share this in each of my spirituality courses) goes back to 2009, the final time that I had spoken to my grandfather, who told me to mail him the newspaper cuttings of the articles that I had written, working as a journalist. I thought, “Who mails stuff? I will instead take the cuttings by myself to Indore when I go back during Diwali and show it to him personally.” Three weeks on and he was no more. I guess that’s how life goes sometimes and all you can do is learn.

My biggest lesson of the entire experience was to value friends, family and in general, human life more, and to contribute as much as I possibly could to the society. When you feel like talking, “talk”; when you miss someone, say, “I miss you”; when you want to express your love, say, “I love you.” Why hesitate? As Guruji (Sri Sri Ravishankar) says, “Our mind sticks to the negative.” We think twice before doing the right thing than doing the wrong thing.

As for my grandfather, right now, I know that he is in a great place, playing rummy with God in heaven and beating him. In about two hours and 46 minutes, we will be playing Clemson in what is one of the biggest games of the season and I know he is up there looking out for me and our Seminoles. After all, he is probably the greatest reason why I love sports. To be true, I am no one when it comes to this football team, and it's coaches and the players who make the team win titles but its his and God's grace that in a country where I was not born, I have found a little home in this football team.

Let me just write this. For once, let’s all celebrate life; let’s all celebrate whom we have and let’s all feel grateful for whatever we have experienced and whoever we have become. We, in ourselves, are unique and each one of us is perfect in his/her own right. So, stop judging, start accepting and begin spreading love :)

We all can make a difference. Smile irrespective of whatever.

“Misery is inevitable but suffering is a choice.”
Jai Gurudev :)
Love,
Kratik

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They bowled a bouncer, we ducked well, it was too high for the keeper to catch and it went for four which carved a path for us to Pasadena...

I do most things last minute. I am extremely impromptu. I hardly plan. But I manage my time very, very well and somehow, things just pan out perfectly. Read what I have written in the previous sentence again and if you know me, you would know that's how I roll. Also, add to this the fact that I rely on miracles every time and yes, they do happen every time. Not the best and definitely not the safest way to do things, but without a shadow of a doubt, it is the most adventurous.

I had worked on the soccer and performance analysis tool, Prozone, for over two years and they were coming over from England to Chicago, IL to conduct a certification course. I didn't know it was happening until a week ago before the workshop when I saw their posting on twitter. So, I had to book the tickets ASAP, which I did, and get ready to work on the Miami game, who were coming into town to play us at the Doak Campbell Stadium. Having already cruised past Clemson two weeks ago at Death Valley 51-14, one more win would have meant that we were gunning big time for the top two spot.           

           

It was a great night at Doak and our players were incredible as we beat the Canes 41-14. It was a great team performance and two phrases that reverberated around the stadium were 'One Team, One Heartbeat...Florida State Seminoles' and 'We Want Bama!' Alabama Crimson Tide were the #1 ranked team and regarded as one to beat.

Later that weekend, we got to know that we had jumped to the #2 national ranking, but Oregon Ducks, who were #3 had a game in hand, which if they had won, would eclipse us as the #2 college team in America. The game was to be played on Thursday, November 7, 2013, the day before I was supposed to fly out to Chicago from Orlando.

                                  

I repeat, "I do most things last minute. I am extremely impromptu. I hardly plan. But I manage my time very, very well and somehow, things just pan out perfectly. And I do rely on miracles." I knew I was catching a flight from Orlando a week ago and I should have booked my bus tickets from Tallahassee to Orlando when I booked my flight tickets, but I did not. I thought to myself, "The flight leaves at 6 AM Friday morning, so, I can technically still leave Thursday evening and get to Orlando airport the same night. Then, stay there for about seven hours and then, board my plane." In theory, this would have worked out just fine as the Greyhound buses ran throughout the day and always had free seats. Therefore, like most students do, I waited until Wednesday night for ride/carpool and when I didn't one, I started looking out for bus tickets.

Again, 'in theory', my plan was great, but practically it was messed up because some times even the most improbable things happen. For some reason, every single bus to Orlando was booked for Thursday. It was very, very strange. Even the Red Coach buses were full. It was weird and seeing no vacancy did knock the stuffing out of me. I was like, "How can that happen?!"

Thursday morning was crazy. I went to the travel offices, surfed through every single website that sold tickets (bus tickets, train tickets, flight tickets) and rented out cars, but either I didn't get the ticket or it was way too expensive. So, I was left with only one, and often the worst, option: Craigslist. I hit up everyone on Craigslist who had posted an advertisement, but received no help. I had lost hope but knew the value of the Prozone certification and was ready to pay close to $400 for a flight ticket from Tallahassee to Orlando, when a friend of mine informed me about a friend of his diving down to Orlando in two hours from the time then.

I couldn't believe that it was happening. It was absolutely astonishing. My friend drove me home and as I had already packed, I picked up my luggage and was set to go. The girl who drove me to Orlando, she was a part of the famous FSU marching band and on our way to Orlando, all we did was sing the 'Fight Song' and did the warchant and the chop multiple times while listening to the commentary of the Oregon-Stanford game. Stanford beat Oregon, which meant that we stayed second and now, were firm favourites to go to Pasadena to play for the national championship.

                                  

What a celebration that was. I worked for the the FSU Football team and she played in the marching band, so, technically, we both were a part of the team. Therefore, our celebrations were pretty extraordinary. We celebrated at the gas station where we had stopped. Doing the warchant extremely loud. Showing off the chop, we let everyone knew that we were a part of the Nole nation. And yes, we did yell, "WE WANT BAMA'" on the highway.

It was absolutely perfect. I couldn't have imagined it any better. She even dropped me off to the airport at the US Airways terminal on the Orlando airport. You get what I mean by relying on miracles?

It was like, it had all happened for a reason. How many times out of a million, you wouldn't expect me to get a bus ticket? I mean, even right now that I am checking, there is space in the bus which leaves in 5 minutes. Pretty strange, isn't it? Especially, because it was a Thursday and not even a weekend. As they say, everything happens for a reason. I don't know what reason was behind all this happening, but it certainly made the trip to Orlando very, very adventurous.

I soon got certified as a performance analyst through Prozone and we ended up playing Auburn for the national title on January 6, 2014, whom we beat to be crowned the collegiate football champions of America in a nerve-wrecking game. It was a great season, with top-notch players and a wonderful staff, who work for whom I consider to be the best head coach in college football, Coach Fisher.

                             

Maybe it was careless and risky on my part, but it was an awesome experience. If you read my blogposts, you will learn of my journey from India to FSU Football, and one thing that's constant is the presence of miracles throughout my stories. Don't be stupid, plan and plan well, but if it doesn't go your way, believe and know that miracles happen. As the latest Nike commercial reads, "Risk Everything!"

I don't believe in miracles, I rely on them :)

- Kratik Malhotra

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In July 2009, I had met the famous Indian actor, Jackie Shroff, who – listening to what I was doing – advised me to go in for a degree in sports management. Many who know me from the time when I just an engineering student – and doing not so well – know this story well. The others, whom I have met over the past four years, not so much.

It had barely been a month since I had taken my third year electronics engineering exams from the University of Pune and I had started interning with one of the most selling national newspapers in India, the Indian Express, as a sports journalist, when I met the famous Indian actor named Jackie Shroff at a press conference in the outskirts of Pune, India.

I had never really met any of the Indian actors in the past and so, meeting Mr. Shroff was quite something for me. So much so that I called home the moment I saw him and told my mother, “JACKIE SHROFF IS STANDING BEHIND ME!”


At the press conference, along with a few others, Mr. Shroff delivered a great speech and soon after, the media were invited to have lunch. The actor, who has plenty of hit movies, was busy speaking to a few journalists who were desperate for his quotes. In order to write a better story, I sneaked past a couple and popped my head in the front row to hear what he had to say. He soon finished speaking and said, “Good?” To my disappointment, the journalists nodded which meant that I couldn’t really get any more quotes and I was too shy to ask him questions. But what happened next has lived fresh in my memory ever since.

Most of the other journalists there were at least aged 30 (if not more) and I was  this 21-year old boy, who was about to start his fourth (senior) year of his undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree. Mr. Shroff turned to me and said, “Aur young man, kahan se?” Which translates two, “Young man, where are you from?” I smiled and with confidence responded, “Sir, Indian Express but I am also an engineering student.”

Mr. Shroff questioned, “Tu kya engineering, journalism…?” I gleefully replied, “Sir, but this is what I want to do in life. I am going to England to do a degree in sports journalism from the University of Central Lancashire (UCL) as well.”

Mr. Shroff, “Jounalism accha field hai, par tu sports management mein degree kar. It’s an upcoming field and paisa bhi jyada hai.” And I thought to myself, “Maybe I should look into it. It’s Jackie Shroff telling me after all.”

I was always told that as a journalist one must never ask for autographs of or pictures with the celebrities as it is deemed ‘unprofessional’. As a journalist, I followed that notion most times, but there are always exceptions. Think of it this way, I had Jackie Shroff in front of me who had surprised me with his down-to-earth attitude and nature, and had made me turn into a fan of his and his personality. Ek autograph toh banta tha!

What did I do next? I asked him for his autograph and I wasn’t ashamed. I still am not. He asked me for my name and signed it with a written message. The message said, “Be determined and not disappointed.” I looked at him and remarked, “Sir, aapne likh diya na, toh ab done.”

What he told me next really, really touched me. He explained, “Be determined: have the biggest dreams possible. Never be disappointed: stick with your dreams and work towards them in order to be what you want to be.”

It was an advice that was philosophical, spiritual and motivational at the same time. On my way back home, all I did was feel grateful to God for making me meet a wonderful person, who also happens to be an absolutely brilliant actor.

Two-and-a half years later, I left for the United States to do a Masters’ program in Sport Management from the Florida State University. For me, both personally and professionally, the program did wonders, and now that I find myself working as a performance analyst for the number #1 ranked American Football collegiate team, I cannot but thank Mr. Jackie Shroff for his advice at that one press conference in July 2009 in the outskirts of Pune.


Every single morning, before going to work, I smile, feel extremely grateful to God, meditate and say to myself, “I am living the dream” because without the words of people like Jackie Shroff at vital times in my life, I couldn’t have achieved what I have achieved. But I ain't done yet...there is still a long way to go. To be true, it is still only a percentage of where I want to go and what I want to be. I am aiming for the impossible because I know with God’s grace, even the impossible becomes possible.

-         - Kratik Malhotra

The Hole World

Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2013 by Kratik in Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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I have often come across people who think of themselves as ones in a hole. When you speak to them, all they would tell you is, “Man, my life is f***** up,” and if you ask them what exactly happened, they would go like, “I HAVE STUDENT LOANS TO PAY!” Or “MY GIRLFRIEND DUMPED ME! Or maybe, “I HAVE TAKEN A $1,000,000 PAY-CUT!” They would crib about most things that have happened to them.

And then, I have come across people who are pleased, even though they don’t have as much as the people mentioned above. Who are these people? What do they do? They are the strong, independent and willing souls that have landed on this planet as a result of God’s creation, and in them they are heroes who not only smile, they in fact, conquer and from within, they conjure glory.

I was more like first ones.

Couple of years ago, round about this time year, I was working for probably the biggest sports analysis company in Asia as a soccer analyst, the world’s most read soccer website as a soccer journalist and the most well managed professional soccer club in India as a soccer marketer, but I can say, I am doing  better now. Working in marketing and sales, we had to sell tickets and get people for our soccer games. Having volunteered for almost three years as a social activist, I remember approaching this non-profit organization that took responsibility for teaching rural kids in India. As a club employee, I had these students come to the stadiums to watch our club games for free. It all worked out well and the kids made it in time for the East Bengal game, which in fact, was one of our first few games of the season.


The head personnel for the organization’s Pune branch, Arhaan, got about one hundred kids to the stadium and having spoken to my boss, I made sure that the kids made it to the sidelines as the players walked out for warm-up, only to be later seated in the VIP section. As the little rural children, who were dressed in their uniforms, got to the sidelines, their excitement was unbelievable. Some shook the hands of the players as they were walking out on to the fields, some shouted out their names and some whispered, “Hey, look at their leg muscles…oooh,” or, “This is the first time I have ever met a football player!”

As the game went on, they made the maximum noise and chanted the PFC theme, “Who are we? PFC!” It was great to see them have an experience of a life-time. The entire incident shook me and made me realize that it’s these moments that people remember. You are not going to remember if you ever failed in a test 36 years on, but what you will remember is meeting a football player who appears in the newspaper the very next day.

After the game, Arhaan thanked me and the club for everything we had done for their organization’s kids. As I was walking towards the parking, just seeing the look on each student’s face, I couldn’t stop smiling and later, I went to Arhaan and I asked him what I had resisted for a long time. I questioned, “So, are these kids really happy?” After which, he looked at me in confused manner and said, “You know, our kids are always happy, but today was definitely something special.”

They come to school because they love to and because they want to learn. They really love to learn. Unlike most kids, who are forced to go to school, they have an easier option: they can work in restaurants to support their family, but instead, they come to us because they want to learn. They too have big dreams.”
That moment was the moment when everything started to seem very different. Who were those kids? Well, they certainly are born in the richest of families. In fact, their families can’t even afford to pay for school, but they still go to schools because they want to learn and such non-profit organizations do a fantastic job in making sure that these kids get everything from books, to pens, to uniforms. Most of us are blessed enough to be born if upper/lower middle-class/rich families, but we are always not happy for something or the other, whereas, kids from lower financial backgrounds love everything that life gives them and their respect for it is insurmountable. It was a real eye-opener for me.

An year later, sometime in late-November/early-December, I was in Atlanta and visiting a homage for mentally infirm people. It was like being in Forest Gump or Koi Mil Gaya but only ten times of that. It was a scary but a very pleasant experience. Imagine yourself being surrounded by people who have been left at the centers by their families, who don’t know where they are at and why are they there, who don’t know what they are doing and on top of it, who have a misconception of who they are.

Maybe they live though a child in them or maybe they live their past over and over again…I don’t know, but one thing that could easily be inferred was the fact that they were all childlike and not childish. Their smiles, their joy, their excitement and their love for us was astonishing. I remember when one women from the mentally infirm home called me to her side and told me to stay safe, and also, blessed me to stay happy. I couldn’t believe it. In spirituality we talk of a ‘shift’, which refers to the shift in the thought process and it was exactly that. I don’t know what has happened to me since then. When I want to cry, I cry; when I want to laugh, I laugh, but I make sure that I celebrate life every moment like they do.

                                         

Those people…they were playful and joyful, (you talk of a girl dumping you, these people were dumped by their families to rotten) and also knew that life is difficult, but by then, they had also realized that every moment deserves to be celebrated. For me, it was even tough to imagine where they were and what each of them had gone through, but the startling thing about them was that they all were happy, and loved our company. It was a massive, massive shift for me.

You know, you must take a little time out of your lives and go and visit the homeless shelters because you must meet them. You must meet these people. They will teach you a lesson. Small worries of your life would disappear and dissolve, and like them, even if a little thing brings you happiness, you will celebrate it as if it is your salvation. Moreover, you will be grateful to God for what you have got.

In this post, I have talked of rural kids and mentally infirm people, but there are thousands out there waiting for you to visit them. Take your first foot forward. Visit these people, who live in this moment; that moment which passes as you snap your fingers. They aren’t the Jordons or Will Smiths of this world, but what they do, they turn into Morgan Freemans and Rajnikants because deep down they know, “Every single time that you are challenged, God wants you to come out as a hero.”

To me, I take my inspiration from these people: people who don’t have as much as others but their belief, strength faith and smile carries them past every single day.

"When you have done everything possible possible, He makes the impossible possible." – Dinesh Ghodke

Love,

Kratik