Recently, I got a chance to sit down with Udgam, a devotee from Dallas and an old friend of mine. His family had come to Austin for the weekend to celebrate Diwali, and we recorded a short interview! Udgam is a quarterback for his high school football team, but he always finds time to play dholak in satsangs. During our family camps, he also helps teach the beginner lessons for the dholak electives.
Udgam is one of the young people leading the charge at Radha Madhav Dham, helping out wherever and however he can. The ashram provides a great platform for youth of all ages to channel their energy in positive, spiritual, uplifting ways. The reason I write this blog is for kids like Udgam, kids who are constantly teaching each other, constantly teaching me. Here are some of the highlights from our chat.
V: How old are you?
What grade are you in?
Are you excited to be done with high school?
Yes and no. I really enjoy high school, but its also time for me to move on.
You live in Dallas, why did you come all the way to RMD for Diwali?
RMD is a lot more devotional in that it focuses on the purpose of celebrations. It increases your love for God through the celebrations, rather than you know just eating good food and dancing. You further your emotions towards God when you come here for celebrations, so that’s why we come here.
Does your family come to RMD a lot?
We come, I’d say, every month. It gives us a break from the material world, and all the distractions. It gives us some time to focus on devotion, and use this little reprieve from all the mayic, material stuff that’s out there. It’s hard to get away from that stuff when you’re so busy that if you can get time to get out here, then you can spend some time doing what really matters.
You’re a man about town here at RMD, but we see you the most in the hall, drumming. What motivated you to start drumming?
I’ll be honest with you. When I was a kid, my parents enrolled me in tabla classes and I was not interested whatsoever. I despised going to classes. Why am I wasting my time? My parents had to pull me, they had to be like, Udgam come on, you gotta go, it’ll be really good. So at first when I was doing tabla classes, I didn’t really appreciate it. I was learning everything normally, you know, because I was a good kid, but I didn’t really appreciate it. But once I came here and I saw people playing dholak like Shaniel and Parimal, I got into playing a little more because of my tabla background. And once I started playing in satsang, that’s when I realized not only how important dholak is but how fun it is. It’s just another form of seva for us. MJ has blessed me to be able to be the dholak player. My two years of tabla were when I was in 4th and 5th grade. I sort of regret not having continued further because now I love it so much. It’s one of those things I wish I had continued further. Now, I’m so passionate about it, I could have really contributed more to satsang.
We also see you teaching dholak at the family camps. What do you like about teaching dholak?
I usually teach kids, because I teach beginner’s classes, and you know kids catch on so fast. It’s amazing to see, after one week, how much kids can learn, and suddenly play in satsang after a week of learning. It’s just awesome to see I can help a kid become more of a part of satsang through only a week of teaching them simple beats. A lot of kids are not as interested in satsang. Once you get them into dholak, they’re so fascinated and really enjoy it so much. It’s just another form of seva for me, that I can make kids become a bigger part of satsang.
My favorite thing about you is that, on top of everything you are, a teacher, a mentor, an athelete, you’re a big brother to Naman, your nine year old sibling. What’s the toughest part about being a big brother?
One, with high school and being a senior and being so busy, sometimes it’s hard to find time to spend with him. And I really want to, it’s just so hard, you know. I’m just so busy nowadays, that’s one of the biggest problems. Another one is, we’re both really competetive. And when we play games, one of us has to win. The problem is if I go too easy and he wins, then he gets mad that I didn’t go hard enough. But if I go too hard and I win then he starts crying. We’re very competetive. It’s a good thing and a bad thing.
What is the best thing about being a big brother?
I think the coolest thing is always having a best friend. Me and Naman are always on the same wavelength, we can always talk to each other. Even though we have an 8 year age gap, we’re able to connect very well. We’re both into sports, we have similar interests. There’s a lot that goes into it. But our ability to be best friends, to be there for each other despite our age gap, it’s fantastic.
I’ve known you for a long time, and watched you grow up and change quite a bit. What quality do you think is the most changed in yourself?
Well, I’ve definetly matured. And I think that’s a good thing, you know, once you get older you mature. I think the main thing that’s happened is I’ve made more of an attempt to incorporate devotion into my life. When I was a kid, I used to go to satsang, and I used to spend only that time for devotion. But now, even though I’m definetly not perfect, I think I make more and more of a conscious effort to incorporate devotion into everyday life. I’m still trying though, but its happening, slowly and slowly.
Anything you want to share with young devotees coming to the ashram for the first time?
At first it’s gonna be hard to embrace what RMD has to offer. It’s going to be very different at first. It may seem like your parents are forcing you to do this, and you’d rather be with your friends. But take some time and relish what this place has to offer, devotionally, mentally, everything. It’s really changed my life, and if you embrace it, it could change yours too.
To hear my full interview with Udgam, click here.