The Song Within

How many of us are using our God-given gifts? I think Henry David Thoreau said it best: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." I pray that will not be the case for you, dear readers, or for me.

I have a family friend I’ve known all of my life. We consider ourselves "cousins," and even passed for sisters when we were younger. I was around 12-years-old the first time I heard Maiysha sing. I sat in the backseat of her mother’s car, when an incredible voice cascaded from the passenger seat, drowning out the sound of Anita Baker on the radio. I listened in awe. Is this an angel I am hearing? I knew then that Maiysha had God-given talent. No grown-up had to tell me that!

 

Maiysha and I haven’t been the best at keeping in touch, but I do know she’s been successful at everything she’s pursued. Her star is very bright. In late May, I was excited to learn she had a forthcoming debut album, scheduled for release on August 26, 2008. I am proud of Maiysha, and I join the chorus of folks who know and love her when I say, "Go’on, girl!" To hear her music or read more about this amazing talent, go to her MySpace page. I am listening to the single "Wanna Be" now and I love it! If you think she sounds good on the computer, just wait until you hear her pipes in person! God has blessed her with a beautiful voice, this much is true.

When other people pursue their dreams, it is so inspiring and gratifying! It’s like watching the birth of a superhero. You get so much joy out of seeing them realize their superpowers. You begin to think maybe you can fly, too. I can’t purport to know exactly what my God-given gifts are, but I know I don’t want to go to the grave with the song still in me.

Your PsychoEnergetic Inheritance

Do you have family patterns that defy repeated attempts to transform them?

Along with our DNA, physical traits, and modeled behaviors, each of us receives a psychoenergetic inheritance from our parents and ancestors. Embedded in this inheritance are deeply engraved patterns that impact our current health, relationships, finances, family issues and lives.

In this regular column, I

On Using Intuition

Intuition is simply information. Wherever your career uses information from other sources intuition can be added. If you have a clothing company and you are gathering information about which styles will sell next spring you can add intuitive information to the other information that you use. If you are trying to figure out how to get promoted, pose that question to your intuition as well. Intuition is best-used along with, not to the exclusion of, the other sources of data you normally use.

On Finding my Work Passion

Intuition can give you information about anything. One mistake that people often make with intuition is to wait for an answer out of the blue instead of looking at other sources of information where intuition can guide us to an answer. For example, notice what you are doing while you are waiting for a bolt of lightening to tell you what to do. Are you redesigning your friends

Pitiful, Helpless Giant, Act II

The specter of a defeated America remains the single most powerful motivator for national policy. As a country, victory is the only viable option. After two world wars in which America played the role of rescuer (the New World coming to end the bloody folly of the Old), it wasn’t until Richard Nixon portrayed America as “a pitiful, helpless giant” in the Vietnam era that the U.S. had to face the reality that wars are not always won. History is repeating itself almost verbatim today in Iraq. That conflict has been a disaster for five years, yet John McCain’s policy of “no surrender” could carry the day.

America, always proud of its youthful vigor, resists the prospect of maturity. It would be a mature decision to wind up the Iraq war as soon as possible, to oversee a just settlement with the help of the U.N., and to make reparations for the immense devastation we recklessly caused. Something like that is bound to happen, but the underlying fact is that Iraq, like Vietnam before it, was a naked exercise in national pride. The giant had to swagger across the world stage, bringing war where there was no cause. The image of military might was the only cause, while in the shadows the shame of possible defeat exercised its baleful influence. The shadow was doubly powerful because of 9/11, which brought a feeling of national helplessness. Iraq was the exorcism of that feeling as much as anything else.

As with any powerful image, this one can’t be countered with reason. That’s what baffles anti-war movements, then and now. They aren’t listened to on reasonable grounds but instead are vilified as traitors. By definition, it’s anti-American to even hint at defeat.

In the current presidential race, the accusation that Barack Obama isn’t a patriot (which is believed, the latest polls show, by almost 25% of the population) is an anti-war backlash. John Kerry tried to disguise that he was a longtime peacenik in 2004, only to be blasted by an anti-patriot smear in the form of Swift boating. Now Obama must figure out how to quell the specter of the pitiful, helpless giant, extricating us out of Iraq without suggesting defeat and failure. So far he’s relied on realism, flatly telling the public that the war has been a debacle. A large sector of the public already believes this and won’t demonize him, which leaves another sector, unknown in size, for whom the image of defeat isn’t subject to reason. Over the course of the next four months Obama will test whether they can be coaxed into reality or not.

Gotham Chopra: Anand Jon is Rotting in Hell

I first met Anand Jon about five years ago. A mutual friend was getting married in Miami and it was quite the swank affair. She was of an Indian high society family and as such it was quite the scene, including a Friday night soiree at the famed Versace mansion on Ocean Avenue.

That was the first night I was introduced to Anand Jon under the premise that we were two young South Asians making waves and we should “hook up.” Always paranoid at the double entendre that the term “hook up” connotes, I played it cool and made clear that I was a guy’s guy. Anand, I figured, did the same as he spent most of the evening wooing (with obvious success) various attractive girls that filled the place. While taken aback at his aggressiveness with the ladies and the way he blatantly name dropped and boasted his fledgling fashion label, part of me was impressed by his clear ambition and willingness to embrace it with such vigor.

We kept in touch over the next few months, mostly by email since he was a New York guy and I was L.A.-based. I ended up on his newsletter list and regularly received unsolicited updates about his self-proclaimed achievements – that his fashion label was rocketing up the industry and he himself was becoming an icon, an up and coming Versace or Armani. Of course, most of the quotes declaring such a status were either attributed to him or his side-kick sister Sanjana who was a designer in her own right but clearly had an adulation for her brother and desire to see him succeed.

Soon Anand had his sights set on Hollywood. Aside from fashion, he wanted to break into TV and film. Some of the young girls that he outfitted like Paris Hilton with whom he partied in N.Y.C. were finding fame on trashy reality shows and Anand, just as ambitious, knew he was smarter and more cerebral than them. He had started to concoct a myth around himself like all good brands do, playing upon Indian spiritual stereotypes and classifying himself along side such acclaimed South Asian stars as M. Night Shamlayan and, yep, Deepak Chopra. Always sharp though, when Anand required real help, he reached out to South Asian brethren that were more his strata, i.e. me.

It was a year after we met for the first time that he called me and said he was coming to L.A. and wanted help finding an agent. For me, who had been in L.A. for a few years by that time and had worked in both TV and also published a few books, it was an easy enough request to help fulfill. I introduced Anand to an agent at one of Hollywood’s premiere talent agencies (where I was also represented). No one could ever be better at selling himself than Anand and in the very first meeting with the agents at said agency, he had them sold, convinced that he was about to break in the fashion industry and that he would be a valuable and lucrative asset to the agency as he expanded into other media outlets. In a town drunk on hype, hope, silicon, and sex, Anand’s ability to build so much buzz around himself was no small achievement. Once again, I was impressed.

Over the next few months, now that he was more and more entrenched in L.A., I saw more of him. He’d invite me to parties at various trendsetting spots that he claimed were held in his honor or celebrating his latest achievements. I never really questioned the substance of his claims – I mean why would he lie? At these events, he regularly had strange entourages by his side, mostly youngish looking models who never spoke and whom he ordered around to tend to his various whims. He claimed alliances and friendships with various starlets and celebrities that never managed to show up at the aforementioned events and that he claimed had just texted him and wanted to meet him later at night privately. I was in a long distance relationship at the time with the woman who would become my wife, so such seductive temptations were tempered by my own young romance and commitment ideals. I was just as happy to slip out the back doors of the parties and clubs and get home for the late broadcast of Sportscenter and the like.

It was around that time that I started to tire somewhat of Anand’s act. His endless declarations of his litany of achievements – he literally carried around a press book that included obscure articles on him to show off his fame. He’d talk endlessly about potential movie parts he had auditioned for but then passed on the part because he didn’t “trust the integrity of the film-maker” and such. He made one such reference to me about a film-maker named Darren Aronofsky who was a casual friend of mine. Anand claimed to have accepted a role to work on a film that Darren was working on. Out of curiosity, I called Darren and asked him if this was indeed true. Darren confirmed my suspicion – he had never heard of Anand and was definitely not collaborating with him on any such film. At the time, he was preparing for two respective projects, one with Matt Damon and another with Mark Wahlberg and Brad Pitt. Anand was not on Darren’s radar.

Still, when our mutual agency called me not long after the Aronofsky affair, and said that they wanted to set up a meeting with various high end television producers and heads of networks to pitch a reality show that would star Anand and I, I listened. Anand had landed a part on “America’s Top Model” and I was doing my own thing on a network called Channel One making news documentaries around the world. Both of has some fledgling TV experience. albeit in vastly different arenas. The new idea was to position Anand and I as two young, hip, ethnic cool kids that would be dispatched “simple life” style to various rural outposts around the US – think small town Iowa, Texas, Indiana etc – where we would try and expose middle Americans to things like yoga, meditation, and other “eastern” exhilirations, not to mention a fashion make-over that Anand, with his fashionista background, would oversee. Really, like all good Reality TV, the idea was to insult and entertain at the same time. And like any entertainment industry climber with ambition, I agreed to take the meetings and soon Anand and I were out on the road pitching. He had never really learned to drive, so he would regularly call me an hour before our meetings and ask me to pick him up from his Beverly Hills apartment. While irritated at the inconvenience of the task, not wanting to cancel last minute on prominent and powerful producers, I’d usually give in and battle traffic to retrieve Anand. Regularly, he’d climb into my car as would another youngish looking model, who’d claim to be one of his muses from some rural town from the midwest. I employed a don’t ask, don’t tell strategy, minimally interacting with the girls who would just sit in the backseat silently, chewing gum, and staring out into space. They’d then wait in the lobbies while we conducted meetings at various places, and then robotically climb back into the car and once again sulk glumly while we waded through traffic and I indulged Anand as he declared his many recent achievements.

The straw that broke the camel’s back as I recall it came in a meeting that Anand and I attended with Jeff Zucker, the top dog at NBC. In the midst of our (lame) pitch, Anand got a call on his cell phone. This was in addition to the many constant beeps and sounds that emanated from his phone indicating texts, IMs, and emails. Shockingly, in this instance, Anand picked up the phone and started chatting away while we were in the midst of the meeting with arguably one of the most powerful men in Hollywood! It was brash beyond belief. At one point – and this may just be my own imagined dramatization but I swear to God I think I witnessed it – Anand put his finger up and shushed Jeff who was as incredulous as I was at what he was seeing.

Immediately after that meeting, I called my agent at the agency and informed them that I was dropping out of the project and would not take any more meetings with Anand. I didn’t bother to confess the reason why – it made no real difference. I just didn’t want the link.

My relationship with Anand slowly faded away from that point. I was still on his newsletter and got regular updates about his still self-declared stratospheric rise to fame. He and I appeared in 2004 in the same issue of Newsweek magazine as two South Asians worth watching. My last actual encounter with Anand had a strange irony now that I look back upon it. He called me about two years ago and invited me to some party in Hollywood that was the talk of the town. As my wife was out of town and I had nothing to do, I figured I’d go. Of course, half way there, I got a call from Anand that, if I didn’t mind, could I pick him up from his Beverly Hills apartment? Mildly annoyed, but not really since his place was actually on the way to Hollywood, I complied. However, this time when I arrived to retrieve him, not just one girl climbed into the back of my X5 BMW, a posse of them did. And this time, a few of them did not appear just “youngish,” they were overtly young. The whole thing rubbed me the wrong way – no gross pun intended and I subsequently pulled off an escape I am rather proud of. When we arrived at the club, instead of just handing the car off to the valet, I dropped Anand and his gaggle of girls off at the front door and said I wanted to find street parking so as to be able to leave easily when I wanted to bolt from the club. Anand shrugged and said he’d “see me on the inside.” That was the last time I ever saw Anand Jon. I never parked the car but just headed home, got lucky and caught the late Sportscenter.

It was about a year later that I was up late at night on my computer, combing through some of my various news sites that I noticed a small item that a young South Asian fashion designer named Anand Jon had been arrested outside of his Beverly Hills apartment. A young of age model had complained that Anand had raped her. Even though Anand was arrested and held in the Beverly Hills prison, it quickly became apparent that the case had some of the usual context – the girl was an aspiring model (by this time Anand was a semi-established and moderately known middle of the road designer). She had known Anand for some time, traveled with him, gotten to know his family apparently, and even mixed with him after the alleged crime. Forgive me if the aforementioned details are not so accurate but you get the point – at the very least the case would likely shape up as a “he said, she said” with all sorts of contextual evidence that may make it hard to convict Anand of the crime.

However, if memory serves, the Beverly Hills courts were conspicuously diligent for some unknown reason and Anand was held in prison for several days without the opportunity of posting bail. And over the next week, new charges emerged from a litany of other girls. By the end of it, over a month later (April of last year if memory serves), Anand had close to 20 girls from all over the country, some of age, others below the legal age of consent, claiming all sorts of sexual assault. Charges included rape, assault, sexual assault, sodomy and kidnapping. By the end of it, there were something like 40 various counts and Anand was facing numerous life sentences if convicted of the crimes.

Of course, at that stage, there appeared no way that the system was gonna let Anand go free on bail with so many gruesome charges against him. The Dallas Morning News, if memory recalls, published a particularly disturbing story about an alleged assault on an underage girl who aspired to be a model and was driven to the “audition” be her father who waited in a hotel lobby while Anand allegedly violated the girl in an upstairs room. I won’t bother with any of the other disturbing, violent, and perverse allegations that are all over the internet if you bother to google it.

Of course, immediately Anand, his family, and various lawyers declared his defense claiming the charges were baseless, the fiction of scorned girls, willing sexual partners in an industry charged with skin and sex. More accusations were lobbed at alleged industry rivals, jealous of Anand’s growing fame, and apparent imminent opportunity for Anand’s small company to raise several millions of dollars from various Wall Street investors to grow the label. Opportunistic sycophants, Anand and his team claimed, jumped the gun with their made up allegations in order to hopefully score some of his cash windfall.

Meanwhile, Anand was moved from the relatively innocuous Beverly Hills prison to one of L.A.’s most feared, a jail known that is heavily trafficked by L.A.’s massive gang population, most often either convicted or awaiting trial for rape or murder.

For weeks, I combed the internet looking for updates, reading more and more of the articles that listed the horrible allegations against Anand. I took a perverse interest in recovering as much as I could about what was going on. Despite having visited similar jails as a journalist and even interviewing gangsters actually guilt and convicted of worse crimes than the ones alleged against Anand, there was still something fascinating and terrifying to me in contemplating Anand’s scenario. The idea that I knew the guy that was enduring this nightmarish odyssey affected me in a way I remain confused by. There were nights I stayed up imagining the horrors and fear that Anand must have been feeling at that same precise moment.

But as time passed, I also started to feel an anger and shame. Not toward Anand, whose guilt or innocence I don’t really claim to know, despite my fairly long and sordid personal history with him. And not even toward the screwed up judicial system that locks up alleged criminals for over a year in Anand’s case without even substantiating the charges with an actual trial. Think about it: Anand Jon has now been rotting in hell for over a year without even a trial date being set for a single violation that he’s been charged with. And by the way it’s reasonable to think that every horrible thing you have ever heard goes on in maximum security prisons with hundreds if not thousand of violent and deviant offenders actually does occur. That is some dark dark times.

My real anger and shame and consternation goes out toward the South Asian community that hasn’t visibly done anything to demand that Anand actually get a trial to determine his guilt or innocence. I’ve thought about this at length and think it’s fair to assume that were Anand a different ethnicity and of equal fame that he has in the fashion industry, let’s say C to D list, there is NO WAY there would not have been a louder hue and cry over his situation. Let’s say for sake that a C list African American fashion designer were charged with the same crimes that Anand has been, I really believe that an organization like the NAACP would have been all over this case, made a lot of noise over it, and in essence forced the judicial system to move the thing along or drop the charges if they couldn’t efficiently substantiate them. However, in the case of the fragmented South Asian community we are sadly living up to our reputation for not supporting our own.

Get this straight: I am not Anand Jon’s friend. I kind of dislike the guy and based on my actual experience with him, described ad nauseum above, I have kind of already formed my own opinion about his guilt or innocence. That’s not right because it’s not been informed by any real information gleaned by anyone close to the case. Despite being tempted to, I’ve not reached out to his sister Sanjana, nor visited Anand in jail. I also have no idea where the prosecution is on all of this and why on earth it’s taken them so long to build their case when there seems to be so many accusers.

It’s reasonable to think that there are hundreds of thousands of others in this country whose fate is similarly railroaded by the screwed-up judicial system. And many of them are probably South Asians we’ve never heard of as well as many other minorities and white people as well. it’s just in this case that Anand and his modicum of fame, albeit most of it self-generated, and my own peripheral relationship with the guy has made me wonder about our own community and it’s lack of desire to exert its muscle to get the kid a fair trial. Don’t get me wrong, when I point the finger, the first person in my cross hairs is me. No one wants to stand up for a guy that could be guilty of the crimes Anand is charged with. He may very well be destined for a life locked up in hell. But I guess I am left wondering: shouldn’t we care that it’s at least justified?