My mother was the most generous and kindest woman I have ever known. She was honest to a fault. Her life was about spreading joy and helping anyone she could. The one thing that struck me most was her ability to treat everyone the same, with utmost respect. Whether they were a millionaire or they worked for us. Others would tell me she exudes a light hard to explain. Some of my friends would tell me how fortunate I was to have a mother like her. Indeed, I am. I had no idea the kind of impact she would have on me in my adult life. On June 21st, 1991, she passed away from an auto accident at the ripe old age of 49.
December 29th, 2008 was a beautiful Los Angeles Monday morning. I was excited about plans to go shopping with my good friend Sheri to pick up a basketball hoop later that afternoon. Sipping coffee while reading the Los Angeles Times, my cell phone rang. The minute I answered everything changed and it was never the same again!
During that call I found out that Sheri Sangji, who was family to me, had a serious lab accident at UCLA. She was lying in the hospital in excruciating pain with third and fourth degree burns all over her body.
15 days later, she lost her fight and passed away. Her death had a profound impact on me. Sheri was a visionary; she would speak of changing the world. She reminded me of my younger self. Her desire had inspired me, however I now realized if my inspiration did not turn into action I would not be honoring her life. It was time to do something.
Sangji was the catalyst who brought out in me what my mom had ingrained. Faced with this powerful call to step up I quit alcohol and cigarettes cold turkey. For a decade, I had been held back by my addiction. Sheri’s passing woke me uo from my stupor. A good friend gave me the added motivation when she reminded me that if I wanted to change the world I should first start with myself. The deal was sealed when Naveen, Sheri’s sister, upon hearing me say I was thinking of quitting cigarettes and alcohol, proclaimed, “Congratulations!” “What for?” I asked. “Since you’ve said it, I know it’s as good as done. I know you. No more smoking or drinking,” she said with a radiant smile. I had only known her for two weeks.
Sobriety cleared away the fog and what it revealed was so intense I couldn’t handle it. Instead I fled! Against my gut and very fiber of my being, I was offered an opportunity for business in Karachi, I packed my bags and I ran away to Pakistan. What I assumed would be only a few months, fate turned into a nearly six-year sojourn.
While in Pakistan, unlike the city of Karachi I grew up in, I found it to be filled with strife, intolerance, sectarianism, violence, hate and bigotry. However, while extremism was rearing its ugly head, I found the generosity and kindness of ordinary citizens in the face of extreme poverty to be unmatched. Many things moved me, but a few incidents and people in particular left a deep mark.
I stared at the barrel of a gun eight times, held up for phone and wallet. I survived a mass shooting where 8 people were killed and scores injured by hiding in a small, dark, dingy, smelly warehouse. I could still hear the screams of one woman, months after. They had killed her loved one in front of her.
I hid, holed up and scared in an apartment during the worst riots the city had ever experienced.
I found bullet casings on my balcony a few times.
I lost a dear friend, Sabeen, and my wonderful step-mom, Bilqis, to brutal violence.
I lost all my money. My business folded.
I even contemplated pulling a shotgun under my chin.
I suffered with PTSD.
I felt broken after being served the divorce papers from my wife with the words “I have feelings for another.” This was the last straw. I and packed my bags for Los Angeles. I chose life.
Exhausted, tired, emotionally drained, yet hopeful and even happy, I was home. I bought a bicycle, and started riding to the beach everyday. I hibernated. I fell in love with my city again. The pain was there, but everything was beautiful. Life was beautiful. I was alive. It was time to be unbroken again. I set up my morning alarm to “Here Comes the Sun.” Meditated. Played Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Louis Armstrong. Listened to Marianne Williamsons’ weekly lectures based on “A Course In Miracles” and realized it’s exactly what the woman I worship, my late mother, had taught me. My focus will not be my pain but of what can be done to bring the positive change. The concept of a business that gives back was born.
Two months later, in a café in Santa Monica on a crisp December morning, I sat down, writing my business plan. I had faced my demons and changed myself in more ways than I had ever imagined, more than I can write here. Now I was truly ready to change the world. As the waitress brought over the change for my coffee I looked down at the dollar coins. E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many One. We are all one. We are connected. One Source. Voilà, Oomo was born. A business that celebrates diversity as it gives back, changing one life at a time.
I have known Jenifer Yeuroukissince 1995. She is extremely creative and has stellar work ethics. She is an artist and a health and wellness enthusiast. She began her career as a choreographer working for video and live performance companies in France, Germany and the U.S..Along side her career making dance, Jenifer owned and operated one of the first pilates studios in West Hollywood, Range of Motion Fitness. Jenifer has lectured on choreography and video art at the Choreographers Symposium in Sydney Australia and the Art institute in San Francisco California. Some of her clients include artists and executives from Temple Hill Prods., FOX, AEG, Twin Peaks, Conde Naste, Pretty Little Liars, UTA, JJAMZ, Catherine Sullivan & Co., Trap Door Theatre, MET Theatre Los Angeles, Dirty Sexy Money, Focus Features. Jenifer is currently using her fitness industry knowledge to develop and manufacture fitness products that help people move with more fluidity and strength. She is also directing PSA’s, short films and infomercials. Quirky fact: Jen is the movement specialist for the writer who penned “Hot Tub Time Machine” and thinks they probably laugh as much as they dance in that class.
Jenifer and I were having lunch when I showed her Oomo 3D Earbuds, telling her about my frustration of having the most incredible earphones in the world which sadly no one knows about. She offered to show it to some of her entertainment industry friends. A few weeks later the entire Multi Award-Winning audio team for the television show “Homeland” endorsed Oomo. I asked her to join the team.