I hope I don’t embarrass Pratik by disclosing my nickname for him, but he is nothing less to me than an angel. I met Pratik at a community talent event I hosted, as Pastor of Living Spirit. He addressed me and exclaimed how moved he was and promised he would return to our next service. He did, and he kept returning bringing his exuberance, his cultural flavor, his fervent assistance, and he even brought a Bollywood star as talent for one of our events!
It was no surprise to me that he was the first person I thought of when I endeavored to create Garden Spices, centering on our differences. He remained our Managing Editor until his life could no longer sustain our schedule. His spirit has always been with us, but it’s nice to have his energy grace our pages. Welcome back, Angel! – Victorine, aka, “Minister V.”
GS: Tell me about your family and your childhood in India
Pratik: It took me years to realize I had/have a wonderful family. I come from a large family. 163 and counting, just on my Grandfather’s side. I ran away from home in 7th grade for a night. I took a banana. I wanted to go to Mumbai to become a movie star. My childhood was a roller coaster – filled with creativity to bullying in school, from being uber-talented with low self-esteem, average academic grades but aced cultural programs. My penmanship was so popular that our school’s principal asked me to handwrite all the certificates for our Annual Day celebrations. Of course, I was sworn to secrecy.
I was different and unique in my own way since childhood. That somehow made others around me feel threatened, and hence I was subject to ridicule and bullying. Somehow I anchored my pain in my spirituality and turned it into the purpose of continuing to blossom. With a clear conscience, I learned to be unstoppable despite my fears. Come what may.
GS: What do you value about your culture?
Pratik: Respect and value of elders. Seeking their blessings every occasion I got/get. I bow down and touch the feet of my Gurus, mentors, teachers, and Ministers at church. Being extroverted and surrounded by people (several family members/relatives) helped me understand the importance of community.
GS: What made you come to the States?
Pratik: Grad school. My parents sent me for an MBA, but I switched to a Masters in English Literature. I had a Bachelor’s in English, so it felt like the right step to take. I am a huge fan of William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Francis Bacon.
GS: What is your experience being an Indian man here in America?
Pratik: I take pride in my upbringing and ethnic heritage. I am careful about how I represent India and Indians. I’m known for being candid, humourous, and speaking my mind. I’ve been stereotyped on occasions and typecast as a Parsee man (at my request) in a musical production of Just So. I was asked if I am an Indian with a feather or an Indian with a bindi. In their defense, this was a four-year-old. Often it is a lack of knowledge and lack of exposure. But what came out of that question was a camaraderie. I cooked an Indian feast for that four-year-old and their family. At that table, all questions were welcomed, and the conversations were rich. It can be a challenge to stay true to oneself and yet be an authentic representation of my culture. I feel that I have found the right balance to be an ambassador of South Asia.
GS: What part does spirituality play in your life? Is Hinduism vital to you?
Pratik: I grew up Hindu and went to a Roman Catholic school. A couple of my best friends were from Pakistan when I lived in London. I love the Buddhist ways of meditation and Zen. The polytheistic nature of Hinduism enabled me to add Jesus, Allah, and Buddha to a plethora of Gods, Goddesses, and deities. I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I honor all paths leading to the betterment of humanity. I claim my faith in every faith, and that’s how I build my theology. Although I have visited various places of worship, I find myself most comfortable with the Unitarian Universalists. You can say I am a Hinduu with two UUs.
GS: Which do you prefer, writing, acting, or your ministry?
Pratik: My creative outlets are more circular than linear. I don’t have a preference. I see my writing as a way of reflecting and sharing my journey. I LOVE acting because it lights me up from within. I enjoy the costumes, the drama, getting to play various characters, and entertaining people. My ministry is my identity; it is who I am. I prefer a multi-generational setting, such as a church/congregation. It is wonderful and thoroughly satisfying to see different age groups, backgrounds, races, cultures, and languages come together under one roof and form community. I am comfortable writing poetry, performing a dance, acting on stage, or enjoying a cup of coffee during fellowship hour with my spiritual companions at Living Spirit Church.
GS: What does art mean to your life?
Pratik: Art is an expression of life. There is life (or lack thereof) in art, and most of us are familiar with the euphemism – Art of Living. Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” As for Aristotle, he believed, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” At the risk of sounding philosophical, I firmly believe that art imitates life and life imitates art. For me, it is essential because that is how we share stories. My life has been inspired and enriched by the journeys of others. Their art of storytelling has become my life. I share my story through art hence pouring back into the ocean. Somehow that connects us all – our journeys / our stories! I am here to hear yours, and I am here to share mine. See you at the crossroads! Namaste.
– Pratik Mamtora
Pratik Mamtora was born & raised in India. He has lived in London, United Kingdom for three years & absolutely loved it there. Pratik has a Bachelor’s in English from India and Master’s (ABD) from UNA. He loves to read and write, especially poetry. Pratik enjoys coffee & conversation and is passionate about serving the community. He invests himself in understanding the needs of the modern world and the evolving spirituality within. Pratik is known to walk that extra mile to make others happy. If you ever meet… or when you meet him, Pratik will make you smile.
Pratik and me, Minister V.at Living Spirit.