Majnu, Madness and the Magic of Life!

The biggest impediment to happiness is non-acceptance of what is. The more we resist Life, the more our unhappiness persists. To love the Life you are given you need the eyes and heart of a lover like Majnu!

There’s an old Sufi parable, often perceived as a great love story, of Laila and Majnu (made into memorable Hindi films by several filmmakers), that teaches us the power of loving Life for not what it appears to be but what it truly is! Osho, the Master, often used to say it.

As the story goes, Majnu fell in love with a woman called Laila who was not beautiful according to others. According to popular opinion she was very ordinary and perhaps ugly too. But Majnuwas mad after her, for her, so mad that the very name of Majnu has become synonymous with madness. He was continuously praying to God, continuously moving around the city asking people for help, because he was a poor man and the woman he had fallen in love with belonged to an aristocratic family. Even to see Lailafrom far away was not easy. It was an Islamic country where the story is set, and in a such a country it is very difficult to see even the face of a woman.

Seeing his agony, his anguish, even the king of the land became a little concerned. He sent for Majnu __ he felt great compassion for him. He told him, “I know that woman; that family is well known to me, and if Laila had been a beautiful woman she would have been part of my harem. I have not chosen her __ she is not worth choosing. I have got all the beautiful women from all over the country, and I feel so much for you that I will give you a chance. You can choose any woman from my harem and she will be yours!” So saying, he called the most beautiful women from his harem to his court!

Majnu looked at each woman in minute detail and declared, “This is not Laila!” Again and again…he passed over a dozen women, and the remark was always the same: “This is not Laila!”

The king said, “You have gone utterly crazy! Lailais nothing compared to these beautiful women! You can choose anyone. I have known the most beautiful women of the world, and my women are some of the greatest that have ever been on the earth. Stop this Laila, Laila rant of yours….!”

Majnu replied, non-plussed, “But you don’t understand me. And I can understand why you cannot understand me. It is not a question of choosing somebody else or anybody else; the choice is not in my hands. It has happened already; the heart has chosen! I am nobody, I cannot interfere in it. The mind is only the circumference; the heart is the center. The center has chosen, how can the circumference interfere? And moreover __ forgive me for saying so, because you have been so kind __ I still insist that there has never been a woman like Laila and there will never be again. But to see the beauty of Laila you need the eyes of a Majnu, and you don’t have those eyes so nothing can be done about it. You have to see her through MYeyes; only then will you be able to see the grandeur, the splendor of her being.

Life’s like that. Like Laila. Often appearing to be ordinary, pedestrian, boring, challenging … everything else but beautiful, mesmerizing, fantastic. But there’s great grandeur in its being. And to see it, to feel it, to exult in it, to rejoice, to celebrate, you need to be. Simply be. You need to be like Majnu__ a bit romantic surely, but a lot, lot more fanatic! Such a Majnu-like attitude will arise in you, when you stop resisting Life and start embracing it! Such Majnu-like fanaticism may seem “madness” to people around you! But you, when you just be, and love Life for what it is, through that “madness”, you will be bliss!

Lessons from a girl who fell

Living in the moment is darn simple if you look up to children as role models. They epitomize the spirit to let go, have fun and simply be. They therefore are happy despite their circumstances.

Last evening we were sitting in a doctor’s clinic, waiting for our turn to be called in. A child, about 5 years old, who was playing around the waiting room, suddenly fell off a chair and hurt her head. She wailed for a few minutes. But as soon as her mother consoled her, she stopped crying. It was a bad fall. Because we could hear the impact of the child’s fall – of her head banging on the floor. It was more than an ordinary “thud”. In fact, I had expected the child to continue to wail. But she stopped. And immersed herself in flipping through a magazine which was lying around. Obviously she could not read. She was too young. Besides she was a child that came from a less privileged background. Looking at her mother I even wondered if she would get a decent schooling at all. Also, the magazine she held in her hand was in English. But what was interesting was that instead of focusing on the pain that she had been inflicted, owing to the fall, the child made herself busy reading aloud a make-believe story to herself from the magazine – just stringing her thoughts around the pictures she saw. Her spirit and her narrative were both engaging. Although, from where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the magazine, I really liked her story. And in some time, I even lost myself to the moment – forgetting that I was at the doctor’s in the first place because I had a nagging physical condition that needed review.  

Back home later in the evening, I reflected on the little girl’s attitude. It was both infectious and inspiring. I wondered:

  • Why is it that we adults are unable to get up and get going when we fall – either physically or figuratively or emotionally in Life?
  • Why is it difficult for us to let go and immerse ourselves in the moment – finding both enthusiasm and joy in what is?

Perhaps, a simple reason why we get affected by any form of pain, as in a physical fall or an emotional situation, is that we don’t treat events that happen to us as just events. The child was able to get over the fall and its painful impact because she subconsciously treated it as a simple event. She moved on to the next one. Which was about story-creating and story-telling! We would have clung on to the pain, analyzed its causes, its consequences and found a zillion ways to opinionate why the incident causing the pain must never have happened. And so on and on. Resultantly, we don’t even recognize the opportunity in each moment. We may be physically present in a moment but are mentally stuck in the past, in the pain. In the present, only reality, only the moment exists. The mind does not exist in the moment. The difference between children and us is, they are forever engaged with the present, with what is. They simply refuse to remain enslaved to their minds!

Perhaps that’s a lesson worth thinking about and possibly imbibing?

Give freely and joyously

It was the American writer and lawyer Albert Pike (1809~1891) who memorably said: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

Yesterday, I heard a story. There once was a very wealthy man who was very attached to his wealth. He had this bizarre idea of taking all his wealth with him to ‘the other world’ after his earthly sojourn ended. He advertised in the papers that he was willing to offer half of his wealth to anyone who gave him an idea that will “ensure” that he could take all his wealth with him to “the other world” when he died. People who saw the advertisement thought the man had gone loony. Many days passed and not even one person contacted the wealthy man. His advisors and friends told him that no one ever will because his was such a bizarre expectation. And then, about four weeks after the advertisement appeared, a man called up claiming he knew of a way this could be done. The wealthy man immediately agreed to meet him. The caller set a pre-condition for sharing his idea. He insisted that half the wealthy man’s fortune be immediately transferred in his name before he gave away the idea. The wealthy man evaluated his options and concluded that since no one else had even come forward, the only way he had even half a chance of taking at least half his wealth with him when he died was to agree to the caller’s condition. So, the transfer deeds were done, the bank transfers were completed and the two men met in the wealthy man’s home for the ‘idea’ to be shared.

The caller said: “Sir, just as your country’s currency will not be valued in another, and so just as you have to take foreign exchange with you in lieu of an equal amount of your local currency when traveling overseas, you have to enter into a unique exchange agreement if you are to take your wealth with you to ‘the other world’. That exchange agreement requires you to give away all your wealth to help the poor and the needy. For every cent that you give away, you will get a credit of one goodwill point. Those points will be directly credited into your ‘other world’ account . You can’t see the account while you are here. You can access your goodwill account only in ‘the other world’. If you carry out this advice of mine you can be sure of getting goodwill credits that are equal to your wealth on this planet!”

The wealthy man simply agreed to follow the caller’s advice without protest. He gave away the other half of his wealth joyously to the poor and needy. When he died, his whole country mourned and millions showed up at his funeral. The foolish but rich man had ended up doing good by giving freely, albeit inadvertently.

Surely, we are not foolish. We do get the moral of this story straightaway, don’t we? For, what of ours have we brought with us and what will we take away? Everything that we think belongs to us is impermanent, including our Life. So, let’s give joyously. Through our giving selflessly, freely, we can make a difference, we can touch another Life! That is the only true wealth we can ever claim to have earned in this lifetime!

Living dangerously you will find joy!

To live dangerously or not is not a choice you or I can always make. In a way, living dangerously is a given. You are already in danger! Because you are already living in the unknown. And anything you don’t know is risky, dangerous, or, let’s say, adventurous__if you want an euphemism that is. Those who fear danger, fear the unknown, dislike unpredictability, and so shy away from the adventure Life offers, don’t live. They simply exist. They are breathing, and so are biologically alive, but they are long dead.

A friend was chatting about adventure sports the the other day. He spoke about how white river rafting helps you overcome fear and face nature. He said that adventure fills you with joy and is the best way to learn to live in the moment. It got me thinking. Doesn’t Life sometimes thrust adventure on you? What do you do when suddenly your job gets taken away or your child is diagnosed with leukemia or you rupture a heart valve or an event, natural or man-made, changes the entire context of your Life irreversibly? The other indisputable truth is that Life is already playing with you. But you are not aware of it, because in the secure confines of your job, your monthly pay check, your Life, you think, is in your control. Whereas it really never is!

An interesting, nerve-wracking experience taught me this lesson. Some time ago, I was diagnosed with a particular health condition that my doctor felt required an urgent scan to investigate and to decide on taking next, corrective steps. If the scan were to confirm what he was suspecting, my doctor told me, I would need an immediate surgery. “It is a matter of Life and death. We need to take a decision in the next 30 minutes,”said the doctor. I was taken aback. But I quickly gathered myself and calmly explained to him that in my (financially) insolvent state I could not afford any of what he wanted me to do. I reported that my health insurance too had lapsed some years ago as I had not been able to pay the premium. I shrugged my shoulders and said “Life would take care of me”. It was my doctor’s turn to be taken aback. He did not argue. He politely asked me to sign an undertaking that I was leaving the hospital of my own accord__this indemnified him against any turn my Life would have likely taken. I signed the document without thinking too much. As I got up to leave, he asked me how I could be so calm in the face of such a situation. I replied: “Doctor, I don’t have a choice!” He suddenly asked me to wait and called up another clinic and arranged for the scan to be done immediately at a huge discount, which I believe, he got me on his personal reference. I thanked him and we rushed to the other clinic for the scan. As I lay on a table submitting myself to the radiologist and his team for the scan to be completed, these thoughts were uppermost on my mind:

  1. What if the doctor’s hunch was right and I indeed have the condition he suspects and I need a surgery?
  2. What if the surgery cannot be afforded by us and I die?
  3. What if I die and leave my wife and family in the lurch, in a messy financial state?

A wave of fear gripped me. I hadn’t been in this kind of a Life-and-death situation ever before. As the scan progressed though my fear evaporated in the face of my awareness. I realized that I had no choice. That I had to face whatever was going to happen to me and my family. Because a critical resource which could solve our problem, money, was simply not available to us presently. And I had no means to raise it. Nor did my wife. As this awareness replaced my fear, a beautiful feeling of peace and calm took over me. I discovered I was actually smiling when the radiologist remarked in surprise: “You look happy Sir! You seem to be enjoying your condition!” I replied, again, “Doctor, I don’t have a choice!”

The scan was soon completed. It revealed the presence of a different condition, not at all Life-threatening, to the one my doctor had suspected. I gathered from the radiologist, from my own doctor and from some elementary research I did on Google later, that both conditions had identical symptoms and only the scan I underwent could have ruled out one or the other. Phew! So, that was some adventure Life thrust on me, in addition to whatever I was already facing!!!

But that experience reinforced in me something I had learned from Osho, the Master: that in reality, we don’t have too much choice in Life. You always have to accept what comes your way! I have also learned that whether you seek adventure or adventure seeks you, either way, you can be guaranteed joy! The only difference is when you seek adventure, you naively imagine you are in control. And when adventure seeks you, when Life becomes unpredictable, you understand the truth better __ that this game was never being played by you, that you were never in control!

So, know that you and I are already living dangerously. Because whether you like it or not, Life is coming at you, to you, only the way it wants to. And because through living dangerously you will find joy!

Mourning or Celebrating: Our world is the same!

In the midst of all of our problems lies a very beautiful world. Simply, we don’t notice it!

Yesterday I was on a flight. The hostess did a particularly bad job of the announcements. The food was cold. My ear was blocked thanks to an infection I have been carrying. And my thoughts wandered, at 30,000 feet, to the slew of problems we are faced with. I tried attempting solutions to some of them by making a diligent list of them on my little Post-it pad. My problem solving skills were particularly challenged because the nature of the problems were so nscrutable. After about 30 minutes of concentrating intensely on those problems, I was no more wiser or relieved than before! Suddenly I was forced to look up.  Some activity across the aisle from my seat had drawn my attention.

What I saw blew my mind away. There was a very, very old lady, perhaps well over 90. She had very little hair left. But whatever she had was in a brilliant silver and was neatly combed and made her glow. Her skin was all shriveled. And hanging. She had no teeth. Even so, she appeared to be completely at peace with herself and her world. She was looking radiant and very beautiful. Her toothless smile made me come alive and connect with a higher energy. She was struggling though to stand up to walk to the washroom. The hostess, with the pathetic announcement skills, was helping her. When she realized, the lady couldn’t make it with just she offering her hand for support, the hostess reached out and embraced the old lady and walked her slowly to the washroom. They were back after several minutes. In that time I put my pen down and replayed the whole spectacle again in my mind’s eye. What I had witnessed was a beautiful spirit in the old lady and genuine human compassion (and not just the discharging of a professional responsibility) from the hostess. When the old lady was seated again, she held the hostess’ hand, smiled benignly at her and said, in a beautiful voice, in English: “My child, I love traveling. And I prefer to travel alone without having to depend upon anyone from my family. Because I know the world is full of such angels like you. Thanks for being so kind to me.”

The irony struck me hard. Both the old lady and I were traveling together. We were literally seated next to each other, with only the plane’s aisle running in between us. Yet the world the lady inhabited seemed so much more beautiful and abundant than my own. For, if I had not looked up from my futile problem-solving attempt, I may have missed the beauty in the moment that I actually was so blessed to witness. An awakening and a learning dawned on me: The world we live in is the same. It is the same for the one who mourns and for the one who celebrates. It’s beauty doesn’t diminish ever. We actually see the world as beautiful, for the way it is, but in the throes of our problems, we hardly notice its beauty! So,we believe “our world” has lost its sheen. Because we see it with problem-tinted eyes and a depressed spirit! Alfred North Whitehead (1861~1947),English-American mathematician and philosopher, has summed it up perfectly: “Everything of importance has already been seen by somebody who didn’t notice it.”

The import here is not to say that we should not face our problems or attempt solutions. There’s only a humble submission that in doing that, don’t get so consumed, that you stop to pause and celebrate the magic and beauty of and in the Universe! When you allow yourself to notice the world you see, without judging whether you are in a frame of mind to celebrate it, you will open yourself up to such a whole new world of opportunity and a beautiful new way of living __ intelligently!

Pause and celebrate the miracle of your family

An intrinsic aspect of intelligent living is to not just earn a living but to learn to spend quality time with your family. In such a connected world, where there are so many options for children to learn and display their talent, I do agree that Life for us parents, especially in an urban or metro context, can at times be harrowing. Ferrying the children to and from events, activities, hobby classes and school, in the midst of our ever-demanding work schedules and corporate careers, can often appear thankless. And then there is the time that you need with your companion, just to chill out, doing nothing! Phew! Where’s the time for yourself?

Sometimes family Life can get very demanding and complicated. With so many schedules to coordinate, with so many things to do, with so many aspirations to fulfill. Even so, there’s great value in learning to pause, and celebrating the miracle of your family.

Some years ago, when I was based in Singapore, I had a friend Steve, who was the general manager of the hotel I stayed in as a long-term guest. He was a big-hearted man from Vancouver, Canada. He must have been in his late 40s then and I was in my late 20s. He and his wife loved Singapore and he was doing a great job leading the hotel he was employed at. Then suddenly he told me over dinner, one night, that he was going back to live in Canada. His three daughters, it appeared, were in various years of finishing undergrad and grad schools. And he said, “We want to be with them, for them.” I remember wondering, as a career-obsessed youngster, what a crazy idea it was to give up such a great job and go back to take care of three ‘grown up young adult daughters’. Steve perhaps read my mind. He said rather prophetically, “When you grow up to be my age, all you will want is happiness for your children. Your success and happiness will lie in their own.”

I certainly did not take Steve’s words to heart. So, even as I continued my quest to build a career, flying around the world, at the cost of not being able to spend time with my family, I did not quite realize what I was missing. Those were very early days of the internet. Hotmail was not even around as a free-for-all service. Phone calls were mighty expensive. So, we had a fax machine installed at home for my wife and I to be in touch. One day, as I was lounging in my hotel room in Rome, after a long day’s work, the bell desk slipped a fax message under the door. It was from my son. He must have been hardly six then but he knew how to operate the old Compaq 486 (!!!) we had at home. He had managed to pull out a computer clipart picture of a globe, pasted it on a document, printed it and faxed it to me. Below the clipart, in his scrawly handwriting, he had written, ‘Where in the world are you? Come soon!”  My eyes welled up, and I remembered Steve, as I read that message. I was not sure I did it consciously, but over the next several months I worked hard and eventually managed to relocate back to India.

Even after I came back and set up a business here in India, it took me a long, long time to discover the magic of my own family. I often ended up getting trapped in the rat race, letting clients, business and my team take over my time, all the time! I am glad, am grateful to Life and am humbled, that I finally did manage to yank myself out of that rut!!! When my daughter was born, 18 years ago, I was that ambitious, globe-trotting CEO. I often used to ask my wife, when I called from airports half-way across the world, half in jest, half in trepidation, if our daughter would even recognize me! Today my daughter (and of course, my son) and I are the best of friends. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The upside of a business slowdown, I have come to believe, is this amazing friendship I have struck with my children. Today Steve’s words ring so very true to me.

Unmistakably, living fully is a full-time job!  Living fully surely involves experiencing the family we create and raise than just providing for them. There’s nothing more valuable in Life, you will realize, sooner than later, than the friendship of your children and the companionship of your spouse. A family is where you learn to live. You learn compassion, you learn to teach, you learn to lead, to serve, to give, you learn to understand the value in constructive confrontation, in forgiveness and in simply having a lot of fun, laughing, and goofing off! You may not realize it but your family not just complements you, but completes you! As someone has said so wisely, “Family is not just important. It is everything!”


Un-clinging sets you free

Anything that you cling on to is bound to bring you grief. Because you will first be consumed by your fear that you may lose it. Second, you will eventually end up grieving over its unavoidable loss. Because, everything that you cling on to today will be lost surely someday! This doesn’t mean you give up everything. It doesn’t mean you renounce. It only means stop ‘clinging on’ to whatever is making you fearful or sad or both __ memories, things, people, habits, opinions, whatever.

Earlier this week, a friend called me from Germany. He said he had invested in a residential property in the heart of Chennai for around USD 250,000. He said he had been trying to get a tenant to take the place on lease from him so that the investment could start yielding him monthly returns. It had been over six months and he has not found a tenant. “I am just clueless. I am not able to sleep all night. I can’t even take a break and come to India because work here is very demanding. I can’t leave Germany for a few months at least. Please help me find a tenant. I am losing money every single day,” he lamented.

This is a classic example of the possessor (my friend) being possessed by his possession (the property). His grief is palpable. With due respect to his decision to invest and to his sense of financial prudence, I hope he realizes, sooner than later, that it possibly is simply not worth it for anyone to be ‘losing sleep’ over ‘losing money’. The solution obviously is not to let go of the investment. But to let go of the expectation that just because the investment has been made, it must start yielding returns. My friend can end his suffering, and get over his grief, is he awakens to the fact that his investment is not wrong, but his expectation of a yield from the investment, in a timeframe he expects, is what is holding him to ransom!

Clearly, Life doesn’t work the way we want it to just because we have drawn up blueprints and excel sheets. The humbling truth is that the more we cling on to plans or expectations based on our plans, the more we will suffer and grieve.

I should know.

Earlier this week again, while clearing up papers we had not accessed several years, I chanced upon a file containing our Firm’s trademark certificates. I laughed loudly when I saw it. I recalled the time in 1996 when, we set up our Firm with a Vision to be a global consulting Firm, we had invested substantially in filing for ownership of all our trademarks and intellectual property rights (IPRs) for our proprietary Programs. I was a fanatic with regard to the usage of our trademarks. The fonts, the style, the colors, the backgrounds on which they were used, and the surfaces where they appeared, all of this had to be, I demanded with jihadicferocity, consistent. Now, few people on my Firm and outside understood this demand or complied with it. Yet every time there was an instance of a violation of the identity of our Firm, on email, on PowerPoint slides, or in print, I would go ballistic. Almost 17 years later, here I was, looking at that file, while presiding over, literally, the ruins of our Firm, and wondered how insipid my effort to ‘cling on’ to my expectations had been. Surely, I know, someday our Firm will revive. And those trademarks and IPRs will become relevant yet again. I clearly understand now that demanding consistency in the way my Firm’s identity is presented is not where I erred. I had got it all wrong with my expectations. I had lost valuable sleep. And now I realize that it simply wasn’t worth it!

I have learned that clinging on to something actually ends up making you feel just the opposite, of being in control, when you understand the vicious game your mind plays on you! While you are physically in possession of something, and you think you are in control, the truth is that the ‘something’ is controlling you. The mind loves dependence. It needs a crutch. And in your clinging on to many things at various times the mind exults at the innumerable possibilities for dependence. So, in effect, over time, your mind controls you, leads you, directs you. It is like being in a car where the driver has been rendered powerless and the car drives itself to wherever it feels like!? Do you even think this is normal? This is what has happened to each of us because of our ruinous tendency to ‘cling on’!

What are you clinging on to? To understand this, ask yourself what’s possessing you – a thought, a opinion, a suspicion, an object, money, property, a relationship or perhaps a habit? Simply un-cling. And watch how you feel. With your feet no longer chained to the ground, un-clinging sets you free! As Mevlana Jalauddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet has said: ‘You were born with wings; Why prefer to crawl through Life?”


You can’t fast-forward your Life

When you believe you can no longer go on with your Life, when the odds are stacked against you, when you feel you are up against a wall, when you vainly wish you could simply fast-forward such a phase of your Life, choose a quiet place and think deeply. Ask yourself: why is it that you feel you can’t endure your situation anymore? Is the situation forcing you to want to give up or is it your refusal to accept it for what it is? Be objective. Be practical. Be honest. You will quickly realize that the situation is simply, well, a situation. Let’s say the situation you are faced with is a broken marriage or a phase of acute unemployment or a stifling legal quagmire or fourth stage of a rare germ cell cancer or even something as common as a splitting, unbearable headache. Is the situation the problem or are you, and your inability to deal with it, the problem? Pain in reality comes without suffering. Your belief, expectation, desire, wish, whatever, that it must not exist in the first place, as pain, as a situation, is what makes you suffer!

Often thinking deeply about yourself and the way you are receiving and responding to Life helps. But when despite that effort, when your mind slips back into its default self-sympathy mode, it is perhaps a good idea to zoom out and look at Life around you. Almost always, when you stop obsessing with yourself__in sympathy or from grief__you will find how much more blessed your Life is, compared to so, so many peoples’ lives out there!

This morning’s newspapers reported that Anand Jon, the India-born fashion designer, who has been tried for fresh charges of sexual abuse this time in a New York court, had been awarded an additional five years in jail. So, that makes it 64 years in jail in all for Anand, with a Los Angeles court having already awarded him a 59-year sentence. Anand is only 39. If we take into account the years he has spent in jail so far, Anand’s got over 50 years of imprisonment still left. Without going into the merits of his case, because I am not entirely sure he has received a fair trial, I am just contrasting his situation with the one I am faced with. And I can’t help but internalize these two unputdownable lessons from his Life and my own:

  • Even wishing a situation doesn’t exist is a luxury many don’t have. Anand Jon surely doesn’t!  
  • The only way to be free from suffering is to accept pain: Assuming his cases are not immediately reopened through appeal (at the moment, the family does not have the financial wherewithal to support this) in a higher US court, what other way does Anand Jon have than to accept his Life for what it is?

I have no idea how Anand Jon feels about his Life just now. His last recorded sentiment in public is through a November 2010 blogpost. In that he writes: “…I do know that there is a Purpose to all of this and it is beyond my own exoneration. God clearly had bigger plans for me than just influencing the hemlines, and though I can and will win this ordeal, I may not survive it, and this makes me concerned about the pain my loved ones will go through. It is a fascinating concept that I think more about them than myself. My pencil (I only get two per week) is running out of lead, so I also learn patience. Maybe that’s what it’s all about – taming the ego and revealing love…” But, thanks to this reflection this morning, I do have a deeper understanding of how to face the Life that I have been given.

Maybe my sharing here will help you too to face your Life situation with equanimity. Because wishing that a situation didn’t exist is what triggers the suffering. And simply accepting that it does exist, and that you can’t do anything about it, is what makes it endurable. Some see this endurance as the indomitable human spirit. Some see it as raw courage. I believe it is nothing but an awareness of the humbling reality that you can never fast-forward your Life. You have to live through some of Life’s grueling situations __ however long it takes. You can comfort yourself though __ that, like Anand Jon says, along the way, you will grow to become more patient, more humble  and more loving!

There’s a reason why someone comes into your Life

Everyone comes into your Life with a reason. They may not always be the most welcome influences in your Life when they do arrive. But they are there to teach you something__provided you are open to learn your lessons from them!

Some years ago, a marquee client’s manager had an intense dislike for me personally. My Firm was a service provider for his company for over 8 years at that time. Over this time, his company’s founder and CEO and I had established a remarkable personal rapport and professional, working relationship. When he came on board, his boss, the CEO asked him to take all “direction and support” from me in managing ongoing corporate affairs, executing pending assignments and formulating new strategies for their company. Maybe it was the word “direction” that his boss used which ticked off the manager. Maybe it was hands-on my working style. Whatever it was, from day one, he made his dislike for me known explicitly. He began by barring me from meeting the CEO one-on-one. He set in place a ridiculous process of recording deviations for the flimsiest of reasons__ranging from delays in arriving for meetings called with no notice or inability to manage delivery by other partners, who were independent vendors or service providers to his company, just as we were. For the record, our job did not include managing their delivery, though their delivery did impact our work! For each deviation he so recorded, he enforced a financial penalty, which were not envisaged per our Service Legal Agreement with his company. Over a few months, it became clear that his actions were driven by an agenda to cause me personal grief. He was, at the same, extremely courteous with my other team members who were co-owning his company’s engagement alongside me. For whatever reason, perhaps misplaced righteousness, I refused to seek an engagement review with the CEO. Instead, I sat down to do a review of how we were working as a Firm__what value we were delivering and how happy we were doing what we were mandated to do by our clients. This manager’s actions, the ignominy and suffering that followed, forced me to rethink every single aspect of our Firm’s portfolio of services, our delivery model, our client-wise billings and profitability. To our surprise, though it should never have been surprising, we discovered that our entire service strategy was flawed. Every client relationship was unprofitable. We were bleeding__billing our clients far, far less than what it cost us to deliver them the unmatched service that we always did. When we looked at the numbers, in the backdrop of our already debt-laden balance sheet, we realized we were going nowhere from a business point of view. On the other hand, I was also personally not happy with delivering the services we were offering clients. This realization led to a complete retooling of our services, our delivery model and our client portfolio. It included, of course, exiting non-profitable client relationships, beginning with this marquee client. This led to a virtual reinvention of our Firm. A version 2.0 is you like! Over the years, we have built a simpler delivery model that creates exceptional value for our clients, gives us immense joy in delivering it, and which is financially profitable too. Our legacy problems remain, but we don’t make losses with our client relationships anymore.

When I look back, I realize that the antagonistic manager’s presence in my Life was key to my transformation as a businessman, a professional and as an individual. That he was indeed there with a reason. He has since moved to live in the United States. While visiting there a couple of years ago, I called him up and profusely thanked him for helping me along, perhaps unwittingly, my Life’s journey. He gracefully welcomed my gesture to reach out. Whenever I think of how far I have come in Life, I always say a silent prayer of gratitude to that manager. Without him, I realize, I wouldn’t be the way I am today __ happy and peaceful__despite the circumstances!

If you have someone in your Life right now, whose presence you question or whose influence you resist, sit back and look at this person differently. Ask yourself what you can learn from this person. You will then realize that she or he is there with a reason!

Being sensible with a Life that you can’t make sense of

Don’t try to make sense of Life. It is the way it is with a reason. If you realize what the reason is, it will cease to be a mystery. And just as a reminder, ever since the Universe was created, no one has been able to solve this mystery called Life!

But, yes, you can be sensible with Life. At least, with your Life.

A friend sent me this SMS last week.

Zindagi ko badalne mein waqt nahin lagta, lekin waqt ko badalne mein, kabhie kabhie, saari zindagi lag jaati hai.

Translated it means: “It doesn’t take too much time for Life to change. But sometimes for (your) time to change, it takes an entire lifetime.

We are all a product of the time we go through. Those who don’t believe in the concept of time and karma may find this simple point of view difficult to accept. But even they will attest to Life’s enduring mysterious nature.

In a way, to take a telecom analogy, we are all like pre-paid SIM cards, launched into this world with a pre-ordained set of features and a design we are not aware of. It is when we try to seek certain features that we are not designed with that we suffer. Without realizing the pre-paid nature of our existence, we punish ourselves by cursing our fate, blaming (a) God for being partisan or even non-existent, and compare ourselves with the features endowed in other creations. Just as a pre-paid SIM card can be recharged or re-equipped only if the Operator allows it and never by the customer alone desiring it, so it is with Life. We will do well to embrace, appreciate and celebrate this truth.

You and I are just a part of a larger, inscrutable cosmic design. Our roles are both inconsequential and crucial at the same time. This paradox is again part of Life’s mysterious design. At one level, we cause nothing to happen on this planet, because we are pre-ordained to live in a certain way. Yet, we are part of whatever happens, to us, around us, in our lifetime__be it success or failure. We also have a huge responsibility towards (our) Life. Which is toward action, toward doing what we can, in any given situation, dutifully. It is, for all these reasons, and more, as the Bhagavad Gita reminds us, we must stay detached from the outcome while willing to be accountable on our actions. Again paradoxical. But such is Life. Revisiting this truism on a daily basis, helps us stay anchored and humble.

This, interestingly, is the only sensible way to live a Life that you can’t ever make sense of!