My life today is the result of the influences I grew up with. I would have to say that, without a doubt, the greatest single influence on the shaping of my youth was the life and teachings of the Mahatma, Mohandas K. Gandhi. My interest in Gandhiji began as a child of ten, when I first saw a film titled Nine Hours to Rama, about the events leading up to his assassination. Being adopted and raised in a Cuban and Italian family in the Latin Quarter of Tampa Florida, my adopted parents encouraged me to hold precious and dear the memory of my Indian mother who had died giving birth to me. My earliest memories are of my adopted mother relating to me all she knew about my birth parents. By the time I was twelve, I had read as much as I could find about the history and culture of India, including the Bhagavad Gita, several Upanishads and Puranas as well as the biography of Gandhi.
They were to have a profound effect on my life ever since. Because I grew up during the 1960’s when the youth of America were steeped in the anti-war movement, the ideas of peace, love and tolerance were deeply ingrained in me. As a teenager, my two greatest heroes were Gandhiji and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who brought Bapu’s teachings of ahimsa into the American consciousness during the Civil Rights Movement.
Over the years I have engaged in many professions. After college, I spent seven years as a priest and a chaplain in the United States Air Force, caring for the spiritual needs of U.S. military members and their families in various places around the world, including Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Germany. In 1982, I resigned my commission as a Captain in the Air Force and traveled to India where I lived for several years, investigating the culture and spiritual tradition of my biological mother. It was at this time that I first began writing seriously, contributing articles to a number of religious and philosophical periodicals. Upon returning to the U.S., I took a position teaching life skills to mentally handicapped in a group home, and subsidized my income by writing several historical novels in order to support my family and raise my two children. In the mid-80’s I taught myself to use the then-new “personal computer” and learned to design databases and web sites, which led me to a position with
Lebhar-Friedman, a 70 year old business publishing firm based in New York. Here I was to learn to combine my skills as a writer, editor and database manager by converting business publications into interactive CDs. I also worked as Assistant Editor for several of their trade magazines, including American Restaurateur and Independent Pharmacy Today. During all this time I continued to work as a freelance journalist on the side, contributing articles and editorials to several newspapers throughout the Southeast, including the Tampa Tribune, the Saint Petersburg Times, and the Miami Herald.
Upon moving from my home state of Florida to the Atlanta area, I accepted the position of Managing Editor for the Atlanta Samachar Weekly, which introduced me to the Desi community here. Among the friends I made while working with Atlanta Samachar I met a most extraordinary gentleman, Giriraj Rao, the Executive Director of the Gandhi Foundation of USA. Last year I was asked to accept the office of Assistant Executive Director of the Gandhi Foundation, where my duties have included the writing of literature about Gandhiji and the work of the Foundation, designing the
site (www.gandhifoundationusa.com), and assisting in the administrative details of the work of the Foundation. I have found this to be some of the most personally rewarding work of my life.
Today, my daily life still revolves around the ideas of inner peace, world peace and service to the community. My day begins at 4 am when I rise to perform my morning devotions and meditation. I usually spend an hour or so after breakfast making notes and planning my activities for the day. I prefer to spend the early part of my day working on technical issues, such as my administrative duties as the Assistant Executive Director of the Gandhi Foundation of USA or providing technical support in my work for a major wireless company. My afternoons are devoted to reading, as I try to keep up with world events as well as current trends in literature. In the evenings I spend my time in more creative endeavors, such as writing and designing. I have just finished my latest book, a biography, and have just started on an historical novel set in the third century
B.C.E. and which is about a Greek philosopher from the city of Laodecia in ancient Asia Minor. I am also continuing to work on my own translation and commentary of the Brihandakya and Isa Upanishads, which I have been working on for the last five years. I also contribute editorials to the wonderful local magazine
For the past year, I have spent most of my time writing my latest book, Happy Warrior, The Legend of Happy Lee, a biography of the Reverend Heslip “Happy” Lee, a veteran civil rights activist and a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The book was completed last month and will be published in the next few months. During that year, I had the great pleasure of getting to know Happy very well, having rented a house across the street from him in order to spend time researching his amazing life. Aside from interviewing him in order to write his life story, we have come to many spend hours together on a daily basis, discussing the unity of spiritual thought and the state of human relations in America today. I am honored to call Happy a dear friend, and proud to announce that on October 9th of this year he will be awarded the first-ever Gandhi Lifetime Achievement Award for his long career in civil rights and race relations.
At the ripe young age of 48, I feel fortunate to have had a very full, productive and rewarding life, and look forward to another half-century of productive service to the community that gives me life and fills my days with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Each day is an adventure, and every hour of every day is a blessing waiting to happen.