Oh Chicago, You Remind Me Of India!

Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2015 by Kratik in
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Today, I complete two weeks in Chicago and it’s been some experience, already.

As I left my uncle’s house and took a bus from Blue Ash, Ohio to travel to a city that I had only heard of, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Getting off the bus, coming to terms with the fact that I was actually in Chicago, I paused for a second, spread my arms, gave the widest smile, closed my eyes and told myself, “This is happening!”

That moment! What was big about that moment? Nothing. I had already known for almost a month that I was going to be in Chicago, but it was just that moment…there was something about it. It was special. It was a moment when you promise yourself that no matter what happens, I will make it big here. It was magical!

As I was in the cab, riding through the Chi-town downtown, I pounded myself on the chest and repeated Jameis’ words, “If we’re gonna do it den, we’re gonna do it big den!” I had been to Los Angeles, New York city and even to Chicago once before but seeing the sky-scrappers in downtown, it felt different. It felt like a city that may demand great strength, charisma and desire if I had to truly make it.

Chicago gave me the same feeling you get if you are in Mumbai for a job interview, knowing that you might be living there soon. It kinda felt scary for a split second but it felt more like an adventure that would be wonderful to live through. Plus, my new job with STATSports was the greatest opportunity I had to learn and it was exceptional how easily I said Jameis’ words to myself.

After all, I don’t believe in miracles, I rely on them.

That moment. Just that.

When I was in Blue Ash for a couple of days before coming to Chicago, I couldn’t wait to get to mid-west and start working. You know how they say that players find it hard to sleep the night before their first game, I couldn’t sleep on Sunday night just thinking of how awesome first day of work would be. I would look at my phone and be like, “Ten hours to go for work…nine hours to go for work.” It was crazy!


Monday was awesome. Seeing what work had to offer was great. I was made aware of the work assigned to me, my responsibilities and duties. It was brilliant to get started. We broke off for lunch at half-past-noon and it was crazy to walk around the downtown. I couldn’t stop smiling! It seemed like a fancy India! It really did. I knew Chicago was a big city and it had a lot more people than Tallahassee but I didn’t realize how big it actually was, and how many people lived and worked here.
It was like walking at MG Road in Pune on Sunday afternoon – there were people everywhere and there was continuous movement around the city! I had come from a rather ‘chilled’ Florida where everything went at its own pace, to Chicago where everyone was in a rush. For once, I wanted to make people sit down and say “Guys, relax!”

It was crazy but in Chicago, I wanted to experience something different. It’s always been about experiences and this was an experience that I know I would enjoy living.


On my way back to the apartment, we rode on this thing called ‘CTA’, which was nothing but a fancy Mumbai local train (with obviously no people clinging on to the train via a metallic column). So many people traveled by it that if one hits the stations during peak hours, he may not even be able to board the train. It was so fascinating! I mean, you don’t experience such things in Florida. But for some reason, even though thousands of people traveled together on each day, people who didn’t know each other avoided having conversations one another. It was rather strange but I guess that’s how they roll.

The most incredible thing that I have seen in Chicago so far was the people on the train stations playing guitars and singing songs…I was like, “Dude, that is so India!” It always caught my attention as to how much talent resided within India…I mean thousands, who were labeled ‘beggars’ – a word that I absolutely loathe when you consider that they are singing, dancing or displaying some sort of art to earn money – could sing and most of them are very, very good at it.

The same was with Chicago. There was so much talent that it was extraordinary even to observe. Some call me mad but if someone is genuinely good, you ought to tip them and well, buying an occasional rap CD from someone on the street isn’t the worst thing one can do.



As of India, I wish the government, the local TV shows or the new channels pick up or do something to identify such talent. In sports, you talk of scouting networks and how kids come up through the ranks. I wish something of this sort is established as well…that would be the thing!

My first weekend in Chicago was the ‘Fourth of July weekend’ and it was fantastic. I had never hung out with people from Ireland and as I quickly found out that they are a lot of fun! Before coming here, I didn’t know Chicago had a beach – it apparently does. I also quickly realized that Chicago is a very expensive but a beautiful place.

In my first two weeks, Chicago so far has been an experience and an adventure that has just started. I am loving life in Chicago!


I came here aiming for the impossible and it feels good to be getting an eye in. And I know, at times, life will be challenging but if it was too easy, I wouldn’t be doing it, would I? It’s brilliant to accept challenges, overcome them and be successful, but it’s even better to learn.

After all, I don’t believe in miracles, I rely on them :)

“When you have done everything possibly possible, He makes the impossible possible.”                       - Dinesh Ghodke


-          Kratik Malhotra

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.


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