At the moment, I have two jobs that require very different skill sets. During the days, I cook full-time at Bollywood Theater, an excellent Indian street-food restaurant in Portland, Oregon. I spend my day making lassis, samosas, curries, vindaloo, chutneys, pav bhaji, kati rolls, aloo tikki, raita, chai, and a lot of other delicious things. I really enjoy cooking Indian cuisine because I get to use so many different types of ingredients and interesting spices. I usually come home smelling like masalas, covered in turmeric or beet juice, which can be a totally overwhelming visual/olfactory experience for some people but I love it. Another great thing about Indian cuisine, especially street-food, is that there is so much variety! The diverse geography of India has caused it's people to create so many different types of food depending on the climate, cooking methods/fuel, and available ingredients. There are always more cookbooks/recipes to pour through and new dishes to discover. Working in the food industry in Portland is also great because our seasons are so distinct and we have so many local food producers. At Bollywood, we always have seasonal specials and try to use seasonal ingredients in our staple dishes whenever we can. For example, we're doing a radish green, green garlic, and spring onion roti with rhubarb chutney as one of our specials right now. Sounds pretty tasty, right?
Working in the food industry can have it's challenges; Long days standing on your feet and hunched over a butcher's block, frequent cuts and burns, and a standard of excellence that we're always trying to improve, but at the end of the day, cooking is what I love, it's my meditation, it's the perfect creative outlet for my obsessive-compulsive brain, and it's a way for me to serve my community and promote wellness in one of the oldest and most simple ways that exists.
When I'm not cooking, I'm working as part of the MPA Alumni Association. The community of MPA, (including GRD, 4S, and GNFC), Alumni is extremely diverse, multicultural, and has members in every continent with a variety of different professional backgrounds including entrepreneurs, artists, scientists/engineers, teachers, yogis, medical professionals, social justice activists, and many more. Our mission, (from my perspective), is to create a network and platform for this culturally diverse, international, growing community of people to communicate, collaborate, and work together to accomplish their goals. I really enjoy working to create an organization with a mission that's so positive, and we have a lot of creative freedom to achieve this goal.
We're always looking for new ideas to engage our alumni community while also making a positive impact in/connecting with other communities. For instance, we're producing and curating an awesome spiritual art exhibition in Sante Fe, New Mexico, from June 6th-24th called the Sanctuary for Spirituality. Our intention with this exhibition is to showcase artwork inspired by one's relationship to their spirituality, however they may express that. We have over 30 submissions and artists from multiple countries and faiths from around the world, a lot of which are MPA Alumni! I've personally never curated or produced an art exhibition like this before, but it's been a blast so far and a great learning experience! I'm really excited to help create this inclusive space, promote spiritual and alumni artwork, and put together an art grant that MPA students will be able to apply for with part of the proceeds from this show.
Between these two jobs, I end up working about 50 hours a week. While this is kind of a lot, it's not very uncommon in my life. Before I had this work schedule, I was going to school and working, both full-time. I'm starting to realize that I'm a chronic work-a-holic... But when I'm not working, I try to spend my time exercising and learning. I try to go the Circuit bouldering gym once a day if I can make it. I volunteer at a local bike shop that builds and donates bicycles to children who are on free/reduced lunch programs whenever I can. I also just bought an old 1982 Suzuki FZ50 moped for $85 that I plan on restoring and riding around for fun. I know a little about bicycle mechanics, but very little about engines so I'm stoked to learn more!
As far as words of wisdom/thoughts to share with other MPA Alumni and current MPA students, all I can really say is that MPA truly changed my life in a lot of really positive ways. Studying spirituality, learning about my own consciousness, communication, relationships, yoga, medication, and physical/mental/spiritual wellness is extremely value when you're a teenager. There aren't many places you can study that kind of content, or even that many where it's valued in the way that it is at MPA, but all of those things together can create an extremely powerful and solid foundation that you can apply to everything you do for the rest of your life.
I guess the advice that I would give to current MPA students is to try and get as much as you out of your experience in India. There may be some things you gravitate towards and some things you don't. Put your energy into learning about the things that interest you, and give the things that don't a chance just to see what they're about. Try everything in the MPA curriculum at least once. When you graduate, you might not continue to recite Japji, do yoga, or meditate every day, I certainly don't, (but you might), and either way it's totally fine. These will always be practices that you can pick back up if you feel like they will benefit your life. These practices are also just a few of many ways that you can manage your mental/physical/spiritual wellness; there are many more you can explore to find out what makes you feel happy, healthy, and whole. What I'm really thankful for is that MPA taught me what it means to and how I could manage mental/physical/spiritual wellness, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.
This is one of the reasons that I'm working to build the MPA Alumni Association. Eventually, it would be great if, through our fundraising events, we could help sponsor the tuition for all the kids/people that want to go to MPA from all around the world. I want everyone who feels like this kind of education could benefit them to be able to have that experience. It would also be great, if through our efforts, we we're able to help MPA evolve, improve, and sustain itself through the passage of time. I think a spiritual education will always be valuable and should always be accessible. To me, MPA Alumni are the best group of people to help make that dream a reality. Like I said before, we, (MPA Alumni), are a diverse, determined, creative, and international community. I don't believe that there's anything we can't accomplish if we work together.