My Current Obsession

Welcome to my updated website, powered by WordPress, which frees me from my webmaster to post at will here with my most current obsessions, distractions, fascinations, achievements, published stories, working assignments, cultural observations and assorted other drivel any old time I want to. On this home page you’ll see quickie blogs that start here and jump to some other page. Here’s my first:

I have a long relationship with India. Long before I traveled there as a journalist, I went there (with my ex-wife) as a young American seeking to broaden my horizon, expand my global consciousness, explore my spirituality and examine life outside the safe bubble of my suburban New Jersey upbringing. We slept on beaches in Goa, we did the Pokhara-to-Jomsom trek in Nepal before there were a handful of tour packages to choose from. I lived and studied with a famed tabla guru in Benares.

Those six months fundamentally changed my worldview…and my self view. Arriving back to an America darkened by a Nixon Administration scandal called Watergate, and psychologically still not yet out of the cloud of the Vietnam War, which ending we read about as we sat in a rickshaw in New Delhi, we agreed to save our money, bet on Massachusetts’ new Lottery every week and go back to India as soon as we cashed in our winning ticket.

CUT TO 30 years later and I’d not returned to India. Then I got the assignment of a lifetime from the National Geographic Magazine to track the growing popularity of Buddhism from East and West. In the footsteps of the Buddha, and of Buddhism’s global migration, I landed first in India in January 2004, almost 31 years to the date after I arrived there in 1973. Much had changed in the intervening years. There was a rising middle class who preferred Western sports jackets over pajama pants and fewer women in saris. There were malls and particularly long lines at all electronic devise shops.

Since then, I’ve returned many times on writing projects. There is something about this country that draws me, even as it sometimes repulses me. I’ve met some of the most fascinating people in the world there. I have seen great wealth and great poverty.

On most recent trip, in October/November 2016 to Mumbai, which I learned people have begun reverting back to calling it Bombay, I started work on a book collaboration, the substance of which will have to remain secret. For now. Stay tuned.

For the New York Times, I also got to interview and write about media magnate Ronnie Screwvala for the paper’s Saturday Profile column in the international section (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/asia/india-ronnie-screwvala-poverty-swades-foundation.html). He had launched cable TV in India, and expanded it to film and video games and what not, literally. When he sold the whole enterprise to Disney, he took a huge chunk to create the Swades Foundation with his wife Zarina, established with the big dream of raising 1 million people from rural Maharashtra out of poverty. I spend several days with him as I reported on the Foundation’s progress in villages 100 miles south of Mumbai.

By the way I also wrote this for the

I plan to return to India late spring 2017 to follow up on the book project, and, if I know myself, get myself into mischief encountering colorful people from all walks of life, and generating more prose. Come along.

Meanwhile, you will find me at home in Berkeley, California, for the next several months, still filing Q&A Vocations columns for the Times Sunday Business Section (by the way, I also wrote this from India about dabbawalas for that column: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/jobs/dabbawalas-india-lunch.html), appearing from time to time on WCBS-AM radio’s Health and Well Being Reports, and looking for inspiring stories to tell.