A lesson from a ghazal and its singer’s Life!

You have only two options in Life – either enjoy the moment or endure the moment!
Jagjit and Chitra Singh: Picture Courtesy – Filmfare/Internet
I recently stumbled upon old recordings of some live concerts of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh on YouTube. Hearing both Jagjit and Chitra sing together is mesmerizing. But we have to make do with only recordings. Because Chitra stopped singing 24 years ago when their only son Vivek died tragically in a road accident in Mumbai in 1990. In 2009 Chitra’s daughter Monica Dutta, from her first marriage,  committed suicide. And in October 2011, Jagjit too passed away. Talking to Filmfare’sFarhana Farook two years ago, Chitra had said: “When I lost Baboo (Vivek’s nickname) the question ‘why me’ would bother me. Not anymore. Spirituality changes your thinking. There has to be a reason whether I understand it or not. Any other woman in my place would have crumbled or become bedridden. But I didn’t allow that to happen. Because I don’t have the luxury of indulging myself.  Also, I’m not scared of death. I welcome it this moment…Since Vivek passed away, there was this thing between my daughter, Papa (she called Jagjit by this name) and me as to who would meet him first. Both of them have beaten me to it! Everything in Life is momentary – yaa jee lo, yaa jhel lo! (enjoy the moment or endure it!) Manzil na de, charag na de, hausla toh de...” The last line of Chitra’s quote is actually the opening line of a famous ghazal (you can listen to the original here) that Chitra and Jagjit used to sing. It means, “If you can’t show me the destination or show me the light (for the way), at least give me the strength to endure”. I can completely relate to Chitra’s grief; she’s seen enough pain for a lifetime but her spirit – though I disagree with her decision not to sing anymore after Vivek’s death – remains unbroken. And that’s my key takeaway.
Life deals with each of us in our own ways. We have our own stories of love, loss, death, betrayal, hurt and grief. When you reflect on the nature of Life, you will realize that there’s really no point getting bogged down if your Life does not go the way you planned for it. Yes, there will be suffering when there’s pain. But you have to overcome that suffering by accepting the pain. As Chitra realized, and shared, there’s no point in asking “why me”. If something happened to you, it happened. Period. Asking “why me” or “why me now” will not undo what has happened. It was in this “why me” phase that Chitra perhaps resolved never to sing again. We can learn from her Life that such a choice was avoidable. Because what happens when we choose, in times of grief or intense suffering, to forsake what gives us joy, is that we indulge in self-martyrdom, self-pity. And that can be debilitating; it will only increase our suffering. Someone like Chitra sang not to earn a living. Music was her Life. It was who she was. Resolving not to sing was like killing the music within her. Whether it is music or art or your chosen vocation, never try to sacrifice who you are just because you believe Life has dealt you a hard blow. As Chitra herself says, thanks to her own evolution through the years, you can either enjoy the moment or endure the moment. There really is no other way. And therefore there’s no point in fighting Life or getting angry with Life for whatever’s happened – or is happening – to you!
The learning from Chitra’s story is simply this: whatever it is that you are faced with in Life, learn to accept it. If there is intense pain, accept it and endure it. Only your accepting pain will end your suffering. And if you are content with whatever you have and whatever is, enjoy each moment. Don’t wish that your Life is any different from what it is now. It is pointless. If you must at all ask for anything of Life, from Life, ask for the strength, as the ghazal goes, to endure it!  

Recognize our oneness as human beings

Unless we realize the oneness that unites us as humanity, we will never be at peace.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination divided the country, referring to the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. “Our own people were killed. The incident was not a wound on the throat of any community but a knife, a dagger on India’s century-old great social fabric,” Modi is reported to have remarked, taking an indirect dig at the Congress, and their purported role in those riots. Consequent to Modi’s public posturing, neither he nor any National Democratic Alliance member visited Indira Gandhi’s memorial, Shakti Sthal, yesterday to pay homage to her on her death anniversary. No sooner had Modi taken this stand, his critics pointed to the daggers that were driven through India’s chest in December 1992 (over the Babri Masjid episode), followed by what happened in Mumbai between December 1992 and January 1993 (over the gut-wrenching Mumbai riots) and during February~March 2002 (over the Godhra episode). Irrespective of which party ruled – or where they ruled – these episodes do throw up painful memories of India’s soul bleeding. And all of this happened because we, as a people, as a nation, have allowed ourselves to be tricked to believe in our separateness, and worse, have allowed ourselves to be exploited on that unfortunate premise. These episodes are a gory, haunting, reminder that we didn’t recognize our oneness as people, not just as citizens, but as human beings.
What’s shocking is that we continue to refuse to see humanity as one even at a personal, individual level. The other day I was aghast when someone we know wanted us to connect them to a “Brahmin” lady who could be “gifted” a saree to commemorate someone’s death anniversary. Now, why a “Brahmin” lady? Why would this someone’s maid, who toils daily to keep their home clean, be a less deserving beneficiary? But my sane counsel, and humble protest, cut no ice. To appease the dead, I was told, a “Brahmin” alone can and must be a beneficiary!
An old story that Osho, the Master, used to say, comes to mind. A king had made a palace; the palace was called the Mirror Palace. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, all were covered with millions of mirrors, tiny, tiny mirrors. There was nothing else in the whole palace; just mirrors everywhere. Once it happened that, the king’s dog, by mistake, was left inside the palace in the night and the palace was locked from the outside. The dog looked around and became frightened — there were millions of dogs everywhere. He was reflected: down, up, in all the directions — millions of dogs! He was not an ordinary dog, he was the king’s dog — very brave — but even then, at the moment, he was alone and very scared of the “other” dogs. He ran from one room to another, but there was no escape, there was nowhere to go. He became more and more frightened. He tried to get out, but there was no way to get out — the door was locked. Just to frighten the other dogs he started barking, but the moment he barked the other dogs also barked — because they were all mere reflections. Then he became more frightened. To frighten the other dogs he started knocking against the walls. The other dogs also jumped at him and bumped into him. This saga endured all night. In the morning the dog was found dead. But, see the beauty of it, the moment the dog died, all the dogs died. The palace was empty. For, there was only one dog and millions of reflections.
Osho tells this story and says that this is the point that the venerable sage, Patanjali, makes: “There is only one reality – and there are millions of reflections of it. You are separate from me as a reflection, I am separate from you as a reflection, but if we move towards the real, the separation will be gone — we will be one.”

Alas, this simple truth is not understood. We find more and more ways as individuals, as a society, as a country and as a world, to focus on our “separateness” than celebrate our “oneness”. We even take our arguments and logic to banal levels – choosing to ignore a former Prime Minister’s contributions by refusing to pay homage to her or choosing not to talk of events that have plundered our country’s conscience and secular fabric – just because they inconveniently remind you of your failures to provide responsible leadership and governance! Understanding our oneness does not require a great effort. If we simply take a deep breath and see that we are all alive because of this one, Life-giving, source, which is common to all of us, we will bury our divisive urges and live celebrating our oneness!