“Everybody is slipping on banana peels!”

Often times, you don’t need a big crisis to disturb your equilibrium. Even a small, mundane event – what they call “small stuff” – can upset the balance! In such an event, use your awareness to restore your balance. Then, laugh over it and, simply move on!
Yesterday, I had an insipid argument with an auto-rickshaw driver. I am sure you have had several such showdowns too. But mine was not over the fare – as is normal. My driver claimed he did not know the way to a popular landmark in the city. So, while I was surprised at first, I guided him. Then, as we rode along, I got on to a phone call. I told the caller, in English, that I had had a rough day and that now I find myself in an auto-rickshaw whose driver did not know his way around the city! The auto-rickshaw driver slammed the brakes, pulled the vehicle aside, turned around and spoke in English to me even as I was talking over the phone. He accused me of taking my “anger” out on him and for “affecting his dignity”. He seemed very hurt. So, even though I was shocked at his behavior, I abruptly ended my call. I tried explaining things over to him. But it was of no use. I decided to engage another auto-rickshaw.  So, I settled this driver, apologized to him and moved on. It all seemed so bizarre. He genuinely did not know his way around town. And all I was reporting to the caller over phone was this fact. I seriously couldn’t understand where or how my statement had meant an “assault on his dignity”. My only conclusion was perhaps that the auto-rickshaw driver was hurt because I was speaking to someone about him in English, and he thought that I was doing so, so that he would not understand. So, his retorting in English (and he was very good) may have been an attempt by him to assert his education. While I did apologize to him, for even inadvertently hurting him, I do hope I meet him again – both to understand his perspective better and to also convey my heartfelt apology one more time.
Life’s like that. We don’t really know what people are carrying in them when they are interacting with us. Each one’s got a story. Each one’s got a pain area. Sometimes we tread on people’s toes unwittingly. Or we press their pain buttons. Sometimes, people try to interpret – than understand – us. So, that leads to a lot of misunderstanding. You can go on and on thinking about why someone did what they did to you or how you could have dealt with someone better. Or you could simply let go of each event – and it’s memory, which is disturbing your inner peace – and simply move on!
Last night, just before I went to sleep, I thought about the bizarre incident with this savvy auto-rickshaw driver! At the same time, I felt both stupid and good. I felt stupid because it was such a silly misunderstanding by him and good because I appreciated his command over English – it was excellent! Then I recollected what Osho, the Master, had once said: “Everybody is slipping on banana peels – you just need an insight to see that Life is one, big, cosmic laughter!”
I laughed to myself and don’t remember when I fell asleep!

Whatever’s yours will come to you – no matter what!

Nobody can take away what is due to you and nothing can help you get what’s not meant for you! This is an unalterable Law of Life!
Anupam Kher – Saaransh – 1984
  
Anupam Kher’s story and Life is inspiring. Overcoming facial paralysis and a bankruptcy, he is today not just an actor and producer-director, but is also a Life coach, a motivational speaker and author. We often respond to denial by Life – through people and events – pretty much like the way Anupam did. That’s natural. And in a way, we must demand what we believe is rightfully ours. In his case, he was so convincing that Bhatt decided to cast his lot with Anupam, betting on the young man’s passion. And so it worked out for everyone – for Anupam, for Bhatt and for Barjatya – “Saaransh” was a super hit and was even India’s entry for the Academy Awards under the Best Foreign Language Film category in 1985.
Even so, there will be times, when you will not get what you want or what you believe is rightfully yours. In all such times, as in any other, it is important to know that what’s yours will always come to you – no matter who or what comes in the way. And you will never get what’s not meant for you – no matter who’s helping you get it! There’s a divinity that shapes our ends. And it goes beyond human understanding and beats all logic. So, the best way to live Life is to make your efforts, sincerely, passionately, and accept Life for what it is. That’s the essence of what the Bhagavad Gita also teaches us – “Make sure your motive is pure and the means are right, then do your best and leave the rest (the results) to Life!”

Make your Life’s work memorable

Whatever may have been your Life’s story, however bitter the experience may have been, if, at all, you can leave behind a legacy where people can remember your work – and perhaps be inspired – your Life may have well been worth it!

           

 A new book from Harper Collins, by Akshay Manwani, “Sahir Ludhianvi – The People’s Poet”, celebrates the Life of one of India’s greatest poets and one of Bollywood’s iconic lyricists, in this context. Manwani’s book is rare because it examines the Life of both the poet and the person in Ludhianvi. Manwani believes that it is impossible to look at one while ignoring the other! Manwani reveals that Sahir’s childhood was plagued by fear and anxiety – his mother was the eleventh wife of a landlord, whose clutches she sought to free and her son from. Sahir carried these scars and memories all his Life. In his later Life, he became an alcoholic after two failed love affairs – one with the renowned writer Amrita Pritam and the other with singer-actress Sudha Malhotra. Yet his ability to express himself through his verses never faltered.

He fell back on his Life’s experiences to produce some immortal lines. My favorites remain:
“Hum Dono” (1961)
“Mein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhatha Chala Gaya
Har Phikr Ko Dhuen Mein Udaata Chala Gaya
Barbadion Ka Shok Manana Fizul Tha
Barbadion Ka Jashn Manata Chala Gaya
Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Mein Uda…”
It means: “I played along and went with the flow of Life, I blew (smoked) away all my worries…To grieve over misfortunes are a waste, so I celebrated my misfortunes and blew (smoked) away my worries…”
“Kabhie Kabhie” (1976)
“Mein Har Ik Pal Ka Shayar Hoon,
Har Ik Pal Meri Kahaani Hai,
Har Ik Pal Meri Hasti Hai,
Har Ik Pal Meri Jawaani Hai”
It means: “I am the eternal poet, my story is eternal, I am in every moment, my youth is in every moment.”
“Pyaasa (1957)
Yeh Kuche Ye Nilam Ghar Dilkashi Ke
Yeh Lutthe Hua Caravan Zindagi Ke
Kahan Hai Yeh Muhafiz Khudi Ke
Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par, Woh Kahan Hai”

I won’t even attempt a translation. It is impossible to translate the pain and the pathos in this verse into English. The song portrays the sentiments of the main protagonist of “Pyaasa”, Guru Dutt, who, while passing through a red light area, laments at how the selflishness of man, the greed for a woman’s body, ruins so many lives…and he asks, where are those who feel proud of India, when we can’t even protect the dignity of our women? Hearing Mohd. Rafi’s rendition of this song, it is said that the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was moved to tears.
“Dhool Ka Phool” (1959)
“Tu Na Hindu Banega, Na Musalmaan Banega
Tu Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai, Insaan Banega”
This verse was penned by Sahir based on the post-Partition experiences that he had been through. He had briefly shifted to Lahore, after Partition (he was born Abdul Hayee in 1921 and Sahir Ludhianvi is his pen name), but he could not bear being away from his Hindu and Sikh friends. So, he returned to Bombay, via Delhi. The song means: “You will not be a Hindu, nor a Muslim, you were born human, so you will be (a) human…!”
Sahir’s poetry lives on, long after he’s gone. It’s 34 years now. But each of his songs are relevant even today. In a way, his Life and his verse, are his message. And the learning is that if we can express ourselves, in whatever way we can, our Life’s work too can be meaningful – not just when we are alive, but also be remembered even after we’re gone!  

Go with the flow of Life!

Learn to live with what is, in the now. This is Life. And the only one which you have.
           
Sometimes, we have to live through periods of time that we intensely dislike. Things could be taking forever. Business may not be happening. Or a relationship may be heading nowhere. Or a health situation will be forcing you to be confined to bed. You may want Life to move faster in such situations. But Life has a mind and pace of its own. Eckhart Tolle, the German-Canadian spiritual teacher, in his awakening book, “The Power of Now” says, “Life is now. There was never a time when your Life was not now, nor will there ever be.”

In a Zen story, a man falls into a river, with violent rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. People who were watching this accident felt the man would die. But miraculously the man came out alive and unharmed downstream, at the bottom of the falls. People rushed to him and asked him how he managed to survive. He replied: “I realized I had no choice. I adapted myself to the water and did not resist the force, the direction or the flow of the river. I plunged into the ferocious swirls, giving myself up to the river and came out gratefully whenever I was tossed up. This is how I survived.”
The river rapids accident is but a metaphor. It teaches you – and me – the need to go with the flow whenever Life changes gears, changes the scenery and changes your reality! There is no point in wishing that your Life is different from what it is. There is no point going back in time and wishing your Life could be rewound or relived. And yes there is no point hoping Life could move faster and get you out of your current situation. It is what it is. You either live now, with and in the present, or you never will!

Living without expectations guarantees inner peace

Expectations always bring agony. So, to live without expectations is a personal choice.
Someone I know wrote to me asking if it was possible to live without expectations. Interesting question that is.
That at the root of all agony is an unmet expectation is an irrefutable truth of Life. Think of any situation where you have experienced agony and you will notice that an expectation was always behind it. You do a friend a favor. The friend does not either return it or thank you. You agonize. Now, was doing your friend a favor the cause of your agony? Was the friend not returning the favor the cause of your agony? Or did your expectation that your friend return the favor cause your agony? Obviously, your expectation caused you agony – because, minus the expectation, everything between you and your friend is just fine.
So, living without expectation is simply a choice. If you choose to expect something out of everything or everyone, be sure that you will agonize each time your expectations are not met. If you choose to drop expectations, you will be happy either way – whether you get something or not. So, it is a choice. It is, in some sense, a no-brainer too!
On the surface, at a superficial level, it may appear that you cannot but have an expectation from someone you have a relationship with. For instance, it is right to expect that a mother must trust her children and provide for them. But what if the mother does not trust, does not care? What’s the point in having that expectation just because there is a mother-child relationship? Won’t the child agonize every time the mother fails to meet his or her expectation? The truth is that in any relationship, over time, sometimes, the people in it stop “relating” with each other! This is where the problem arises. Let’s take another instance. If you make coffee for your spouse every morning, you may have an expectation that on a day when you are sleeping in late or are unwell, the spouse makes you the coffee. Now, what happens when your spouse does not either make or offer to make you coffee? Will you then start to re-examine your choice of making coffee for your spouse? Possibly you well may re-examine if you only see the relationship and don’t relate to your spouse anymore. But if you still relate to your spouse, you will make the coffee whether or not your spouse makes one for you or even acknowledges the one you make. Expectations arise when the relating has stopped between people. In such situations the relationship has become a contract, an agreement. It has become conditional. You do this THEN I will do that. But when you are still relating, there are no conditions, no expectations, there’s just being, there’s just doing.
So, whether it is making coffee or doing the dishes or forgiving someone (in a relationship) for transgressions, whatever, simply pour your heart into it and do it. Or don’t do it. That is also fine. But please don’t do it – or anything – with an expectation. The problem with any expectation is that irrespective of the character or nature of the person on whom the expectation is pinned, you are the one who will suffer and agonize if that expectation goes unmet. So do you want to suffer or do you want to live free? Your choice!If you want inner peace though, make sure you choose to live without expectations!

Of freedom from insecurity

When you accept insecurity, it disappears.  
A friend called a couple of days ago. He is the head of operations for a multinational company. His company is very conservative and every single decision is controlled by the top management sitting in their global headquarters. My friend had over a decade built a reputation for himself within the company as a reliable and responsible manager. Therefore, he was allowed a higher degree of empowerment. He was, exceptionally, allowed to lead a couple of crucial processes in the India operation on his own. Which meant that he did not have to seek approvals for these processes from the top brass. But just this week, these processes too were taken over by senior managers at the corporate headquarters. My friend called me to seek my view on making sense of this development. “I am very uncomfortable that my empowerment is withdrawn. I have asked my boss why this has been done,” he told me. He was sounding very disturbed and the feeling I got was that he feared for his job. I told him: “You are feeling insecure. Which is natural. Accept your insecurity. Talk to your boss or senior manager and ask them upfront if the reason for this change has anything to do with their view of your efficiency as the process owner. If your insecurity persists, despite that conversation, go look for another job. If you get one that you like, move. If you don’t get one or don’t want to move even after getting another offer, at least you would have realized the value of  what you have on hand and you will be able to be more productive and efficient. Important, you will stop feeling insecure and disturbed.”
For various reasons, in myriad situations, each of us encounters insecurity. The best way to deal with insecurity is to accept that it is there.
Insecurity is a normal human response to situations that you can’t immediately make sense of. Metaphorically, you are groping in the dark. There is no light. Suddenly you feel lost. Lonely. You are filled with fear. What do you do? Well, you can shiver and shudder. You can cry in despair. But soon you realize that none of that can drive the darkness away. What you need is light – and you don’t have a source like a torch or a matchbox or such. So, when you understand and accept the hopelessness of the situation, when you embrace your insecurity, you will be able think with greater clarity.
When you think about Life deeply, you will recognize the truth that there is nothing called security. On the vast cosmic plane, the human being is as powerless as an ant is in front of humans. One event, and in under a moment, a Life is snuffed out. So what security are you and I seeking when we can never really escape the inevitable end, death? When you understand this quality – its impermanence – about Life, you will stop seeking security.
In the course of a lifetime, there will be a million, or more, occasions when you will feel insecure. Accept your insecurity every single time. When do that, your awareness, through your acceptance, will remind you each time that the security you crave for is a myth. Then insecurity will not hound and haunt you. You will be free from it.