Welcome to the party called Life – it’s on 24×7!!!

Celebration is not an event. It is a state of being.
As another year flows past and as yet another flows in, you may quite be tempted to believe that it’s the event tonight – New Year’s Eve – that’s the celebration. The truth however is that your entire Life is – has been and will continue to be – a celebration. You don’t see your Life as a celebration because you are preoccupied with the small stuff. And as Richard Carlson has famously said, ‘it’s all small stuff’! 
Just consider this: what if you didn’t join a New Year party tonight? Won’t you physically be missing all the action? All the fun? All the dancing and the drinks? Indeed, how can you enjoy a party for which you never showed up? This is the problem with most of us – this big, magical, beautiful party called Life is happening 24×7, 365 days, for us but we are not “in” it, we are not present or although we are physically there, we are lost in the maze of our grief, guilt, worries, fears and anxieties.
If I have learnt anything from Life, it is this: Life is one helluva celebration. If we start valuing what we have, instead of pining for what we don’t have or worrying about what may happen to us, we will be soaked in happiness. Celebration, in the context of Life, is a state of being. It is eternal and present continuously!
Okay, here’s a little exercise you can do. Sit down quietly for a few minutes. And make a list of your most memorable moments from your Life so far. Wasn’t that birthday five years ago awesome? Wasn’t that office party where you met you partner unforgettable? Wasn’t the day you child was born your biggest celebration up until this time? So, make the list….but hey, you know what? There’s a catch here. The moment you start counting your memorable moments of your Life, you have lost this game. If you take your age and multiply it with 365 days – that’s how many days you have been around here on the planet. And yet you can count only a handful of days as being memorable among the thousands that you have ostensibly lived, well, isn’t that a tragedy?
Think about it – if you are not celebrating each moment, aren’t you squandering this once in a lifetime opportunity, this limited period offer, called Life? Begin by celebrating what is and what you have. Celebrate the air in your lungs. Celebrate the magic of a sunrise, a dew drop, a flower, the smile of a child or the warmth of a pet. Celebrate that you have access to internet and Facebook so you can pontificate on whether Free Basics is a rip-off or not! Even if someone you love has passed on or moved away – celebrate their Life or your time with them. Life is too precious – and you don’t need me to tell you this – so, go beyond the party you have planned to be at tonight! Make each day of your Life a celebration – and see how it is then filled with abundance and grace!  
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To simplify Life, be aware, be honest

Nothing about your Life is going to change unless it does. Life is what it is. Feeling negative about it is never worth your while.
Someone asked me the other day if it is possible to not feel negative about Life at times. Of course it is possible. Yet, don’t expect negative thoughts not to rise. They will. Such is the nature of thoughts. They will always keep swimming in your mind. But you can develop the ability to recognize and rid yourself of negative emotions as they rear their ugly head. This calls for being both aware and honest.

Be aware first of the futility of negative thinking. Can you solve any problem by brooding over the fact that you don’t have a solution in sight? And is there any point in brooding over a problem that you cannot solve? Even so, negative thinking will insist – and ensure – that you brood. This is where awareness comes into play. It is simple – if you are aware, if you observe your thinking, you will not heed the negative thoughts that will arise in you. And what you don’t heed, what you don’t give attention to, doesn’t grow. Period.
Take self-pity and jealousy for instance. When you compare yourself with others, naturally, you are bound to pine for what you don’t have and feel jealous, often subconsciously, of what someone else has. Neither of these emotions is constructive. Self-pity keeps your feet nailed to the ground and jealousy fills you with negativity. This when you must be brutally honest. Ask yourself: What are you pining for? And who are you jealous of? Continue this train of awareness-based questioning: Is what you are pining for really so critical for your Life? Can you not manage without it? And is feeling jealous of someone going to make you get what you are pining for? These questions can have an awakening effect. You will be amazed at your own ability to realize that these emotions are wasted, unproductive and are shackling you. Out of that ruthless honesty will emerge the simple clarity that you are who you are. Unique. And what you have is all that you have. You will awaken to the reality that pining and brooding is not going to make you, or your situation, any different.


Employ awareness and honesty to simplify your Life. Being positive about Life may not solve your problems. But it will at least make you smile. As a line I often quote, ostensibly from the Guru Granth Sahib, goes: “Taqdeer teri apne aap hi badlegi aye dost; muskurana seekh le, wajah ki talaash na kar!” It means: “Your Life will change when it must, my friend…Learn to smile (in the meantime), without looking for a reason!”

“Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question!

Life knows no fair play or foul play. Life is simply in an eternal state of play!
As I write this The Hindu’s website is breaking news that there has allegedly been a rape on the Pune campus of IT major Infosys (Infy). My first reaction, that I even tweeted (@AVISViswanathan), was “Gosh! There must be a way to end all this!” Earlier this morning in The Hindu’s Open Page, Rya Sanovar asks a very pertinent, albeit disturbing, question: “Why do I get and they don’t? Is this world we live in so unfair that it can’t provide its people the basic amenities of Life?”
The word ‘amenities’ can be replaced with ‘security’, or with ‘dignity’, and Sanovar’s question will still ring true. Yet there’s no point asking that question. Life never promised anything, least of all fairness, to anyone. Fairness and unfairness are social labels. They expectations that are born from within us humans. Life is simply at play. Life keeps on happening: one event after another. And each event, each happening in Life, is an experience for sure, and, if you care to pause and reflect, it can be a learning too. To crave for fair play from Life is to invite misery. Period.
In the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011), Farhan Akhtar recites his father Javed Akhtar’s poetry. One of the poems is this one:
Dil Aakhir Tu Kyun Rota Hai?
Jab jab dard ka baadal chhaya

Jab gham ka saya lehraaya

Jab aansoo palkon tak aaya

Jab yeh tanha dil ghabraaya

Hum ne dil ko yeh samjhaya

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai?

Duniya mein yun hi hota hai

Yeh jo gehre sannate hain

Waqt ne sabko hi baante hain
Thoda gham hai sabka qissa
Thodi dhoop hai sabka hissa

Aankh teri bekaar hi nam hai

Har pal ek naya mausam hai

Kyun tu aise pal khota hai

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Listen to/watch the original poem here


The poem so beautifully captures the essence of what I am trying to say here – that Life distributes sunshine and sorrow equally. Yet, it appears unequal to us because we compare. When you compare your home with Mukesh and Nita Ambani’s Antilia, you may feel, in real estate terms, poorer, less endowed. But when you see what you have compared to the person who seeks your attention – and alms – at a traffic signal, and who sleeps on the pavement, you feel so much more blessed. The truth is all our lives are perfect – yours, mine, Mukesh’s and Nita’s, and the pavement dweller’s. Each of us has what we need and gets what is due to us. Comparisons, therefore, serve no purpose. They simply ruin your inner peace. Besides, there’s no point in asking why is Life unfair or why is there inequality, why is there hunger, why is there rape and so on. “Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question! Instead ask yourself how you can contribute to make this world better – how you can bridge the inequality gap, how you can feed someone today, how you can touch a Life and make a difference?

Life may not have promised fair play. But Life’s always open to you playing along. Will you?

Go on, get crazy – go do what you always wanted to do!

Every once in a while walk the line of lunacy.
Go do things the world calls crazy but what you believe delivers joy unto you. Soaking yourself in this joy frequently is what will, ironically, keep you sane and grounded.
I met a friend the other day, who has been an inspiration. He started his career as a bottle washer in a five-star hotel’s bar. And worked his way up to become an expert in wines, a sommelier. He is employed in the Middle-East and earns substantially to be able to provide for not just himself but his extended family of siblings and relatives. On a vacation to India last week, he went to a five-star hotel, and enrolled himself as a daily wage contract worker and washed dishes for a full 8-hour shift. His reasoning: “It was a bit difficult after all these years. But there was more, unadulterated, joy than the physical pain it caused. It helped me connect back to where I came from.” Another person I know, in his 40s, has kicked his “secure” job and is learning “tattooing” because he wants to be a tattoo artist on the beaches in Brazil!!!.
If what the world calls crazy is what gives you joy, just do it! When you walk the line of lunacy, you are following your bliss. Bliss works on us in several ways – ways that we have not even thought of.  The experience is always liberating.  When you are in bliss, you are one with the Universe. In this state, you attract health, peace and prosperity. Ultimately, aren’t we all not working hard and burning both ends of the candle in this Life for just those three things – health, peace and prosperity (to be sure, a.k.a wealth!)?
Interestingly, it is that time of the year when plans and resolutions to do meaningful, important stuff in Life, are chalked out. Yet, so many new years have come and gone. And as every new year turns old, the resolutions too will slip away, snowed under the pressures of everyday Life, BAU – business as usual, as they call it in the corporate sector! You can spend a lifetime planning, but it is in those moments of doing what you love doing, that you actually live! Rest of the time, you merely exist! Here and now is where it all starts. So, go do what you always wanted to do. Don’t postpone. Don’t hedge. Go on, defy popular logic, get crazy!

Your Life flows in the direction created by the choices you make

There are no right or wrong ways to live your Life. Live it your way. After all, it’s your Life!
What caught my attention over veteran Hindi actor Sadhana’s passing on Christmas day was that she died alone in a hospital in Mahim, Mumbai – losing her battle with an undisclosed ailment. Her close friend and actor Tabassum told The Indian Express’ Sonup Sahadevan that Sadhana, 74, was “very ill and very sad”. Sadhana’s husband R.K.Nayyar had died in 1995 – the couple had no children. Sadhana apparently had no relatives and was also embroiled in a bitter legal case over the house she was living in as a tenant in Khar. Her eyesight in recent years had been affected by hyperthyroidism.
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Now, here was a woman who was the heartthrob of millions in India all through the 1960s and much of the 1970s – her famous films included Mera Saaya (1966), Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Gaban (1966), Mere Mehboob (1963), Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962), Hum Dono (1961), Rajkumar (1964), Waqt(1965), and Ek Phool Do Mali (1969). She was considered a style diva and her hairstyle, that was aped by many, was popularly called the ‘Sadhana Cut’.
Did such a memorable icon deserve such a forgettable end? This is one question that some of the people writing, commenting, opinionating on Sadhana’s Life and times, have asked over the last couple of days.
Interesting question. In trying to answer it, we must consider that Life is all about the choices we make. And we must remember that Life’s basic principle is impermanency. Nothing is permanent. What goes up, comes down. What goes down, comes right back up. So, fame, fortune, friends and family – everyone and everything, will, at some point, fade away. The choice to live your Life alone is entirely yours. The choice to perhaps fight a court battle – or whatever – is entirely yours. The choice to be sad is entirely yours. Just as the choice to be among people you know, to not fight a court battle and to be happy is entirely yours!
I am not here pontificating whether Sadhana made the right choices in her Life. I am only saying that her choice to do what she did was purely her own. Just as it is with each of us in the context of our Life’s stories. Osho, the Master, has explained a simple, practical, way of making decisions and choices in Life. He says, when decisions come from your head – from the way you are thinking; emotionally, rationally, whatever – you will often not enjoy the outcome of your decisions. He says you may even suffer from your choices. But when your decisions come from your being, he says, when they come from who you really are, then no matter what the decision is or what outcomes follow, you will be at peace. So, who are we to judge how Sadhana made her decisions, her Life choices? Maybe she was at peace living alone and fighting her court battles, even as she battled failing health. Maybe, if Tabassum’s perspective is brought into focus, she was not. In fact, with Sadhana gone, it does not even matter now.
Even so, there’s a learning here for all of us. Our lives are flowing in the direction created by the choices we have made. And, as I see it, there are no right or wrong choices. A decision is a decision. A choice is a choice. And each choice leads you through an experience that you again learn from. This is how Life flows…and flows….until it ends…possibly when it merges again with the source?

What we can learn from Kashibai about relating and relationships

Don’t cling on to any relationship that makes you unhappy. Just step out and free yourself!
I watched Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s (SLB) epic historical Bajirao Mastani earlier this week. True to SLB’s style it is awe-inspiring for its grandeur, finesse and story-telling. The film recounts, with some cinematic liberties taken, the story of Bajirao I (played brilliantly by Ranveer Singh), the Peshwa (Prime Minister) of the Maratha empire, between 1720 and 1740. In this time, while on the one hand Bajirao leads the expansion of the Maratha empire across the North, South and East of India, he takes Mastani (an amazing performance by Deepika Padukone), the daughter of the King of Bundelkhand, as his second wife. In the backdrop of the political compulsions that govern the Life of the Peshwa, SLB’s Bajirao Mastani tells the story of the unbridled love between Mastani and Bajirao – even as Bajirao’s first wife, Kashibai (a solid portrayal by Priyanka Chopra), comes to terms with losing her husband to this “other woman”. SLB’s work, as usual, is pure poetry on screen. The romance between Ranveer and Deepika makes Bajirao Mastaniseem so real in front of your eyes – as if you are in the 1700s, in Pune, in the midst of the Maratha empire.
But the real hero of the story, according to me, is Kashibai. For a simple reason – she operates, all through the narrative, from her core of inner peace and as who she believes she is. Yes, she is shocked when her husband falls for the aggressive and maniacally-brazen Mastani – who, to compound matters for the staunchly Hindu Maratha society, is a Muslim! So, Kashi does grieve initially. But she soon chooses to stand her ground. She has done no wrong. She has caused nothing to warrant losing her husband to the “other woman”. It’s her husband’s choice. In one epic scene in her personal chamber, where Bajirao goes to take her leave before embarking on his final military mission, Kashi tells him not to ever come back to her room – meaning, to her! There was no drama as Kashi expresses herself. There was just a firm, stoic, acceptance of what is and a decision to move on – “you have another woman, that choice is unacceptable to me, we don’t relate to each other anymore, so, let us separate.” Even when she rushes to his side later, as he lies ailing, she has this clarity that she’s there as a caregiver and not as one necessarily in a relationship. And that perspective that SLB brings out, and which Priyanka beautifully portrays, offers a key learning for all of us.
The tragedy with most marital relationships is that they try to lock in, actually hold as hostage, people within a legal and social framework. Just because you are married to someone, you have to suffer that person for the rest of your Life – however disenchanted that person may be from you or however distant you may have drifted away from that person. There’s nothing wrong with marriage as a concept – except that the way it is insisted it is practiced has rendered it totally useless. The truth is, over time, everything and everyone changes. The circumstances in which people come together change. Biologically people change – with ageing. Emotionally people change. So, like Bajirao, people get drawn to new liaisons. To be sure, Bajirao here is not a gender-specific metaphor. There are so many contemporary women who seek meaning in companionship outside of their marriage – and there is nothing wrong with it. They key is not to feel trapped. It is important not to suffer. And Kashibai teaches us how not to suffer. She can’t relate to a philandering husband, she can’t accept her man sharing “love meant exclusively for her” with another person. Simply, she can’t relate to her new ‘Peshwa’. So, she divorces him by banning his entry into her chamber.

Kashi’s must not be as a reel-Life choice. In real Life too, indeed, it is so, so simple. If you are caught in a relationship that’s making you unhappy, just step out of it. Be open. Have an honest conversation with your spouse and opt out. There’s nothing wrong or sinful about such a choice. In fact, it is grossly unjust only when you kill your inner peace and happiness only to protect a relationship – per a social and legal definition – which is long dead, which is, seriously, not there anymore! 

Sab Kuch Likha Hua Hai

Everything in Life is interconnected with the other and everything happens for a reason!
I am reading a fascinating new book: “Written by Salim-Javed: The story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” (Penguin, Diptakirti Chaudhuri). It is the most thoroughly researched book on the lives of the famed writer-duo Salim Khan (father of Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan) and Javed Akhtar (father of Zoya Akhtar and Farhan Akhtar). Between 1971 and 1987, Salim-Javed wrote 21 of the finest stories ever told in Hindi cinema – including Seeta Aur Geeta, Yadoon Ki Baraat, Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Trishul, Don, Kaala Pathar, Shaan and Shakti. The book looks at the evolution of not just the Angry Young Man as a character, but also of Amitabh Bachchan, as a Superstar, who is considered Salim-Javed’s protégé.
Author Diptakirti Chaudhuri quotes Javed Akhtar in one of the chapters thus: “Life is strange. Sometimes if you look back, you feel like editing your Life, rewriting it. You want to change Scene 12 which is less pleasant, but the story is so well-knit, you realize Scene 32, which is the highlight of the story, will also have to vanish. It is not possible to retain Scene 32 because it has some connection with Scene 12.” Analyzing Akhtar’s quote and his lifetime’s work, Chaudhri writes: “What Javed said about his Life is also true for Salim-Javed’s scripts. Even in the weakest of their scripts, a Scene 32 would not have been possible without a Scene 12, in which it had its genesis. And it wasn’t only the links between the scenes….every motivation had a backstory.”
So it is true about each of our lives. Every motivation in your Life – and mine – has a backstory. Indeed. Everything has happened with a reason. For a reason. Everyone in your Life has come at the most appropriate time to serve that reason. The beauty – and pity – of Life is that you never know why something is happening when it is happening. Only when the event has past, only when you pause to reflect does the cosmic design become evident. As Steve Jobs (1955~2011) famously said, “You can only connect the dots backwards.” When you do connect those dots and recognize why you have gone through an experience, why you have met someone, you realize, as someone famously said, that Life’s Masterplan has (had) no flaws. And yes, as Javed Akhtar pointed out, you can’t go back and edit your Life!
Here’s a little exercise you may want to do. Take out an hour today. Sit back and think about your Life. Can’t you connect the dots today? Could you have connected them when an event was happening in your Life? Can your Scene 32 ever have been possible without your Scene 12? Didn’t person X, who you disliked so much, teach you the art of living, even as person C, who you met so very briefly teach you how to give selflessly? Doesn’t, when you look back, everything in your Life seem so well ordained, so well fitted in its own place – like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle?
Whether you review your Life with the poetic perspective of a Javed Akhtar, or whether you dissect it like the way Chaudhuri has analyzed some of the greatest stories told on screen, you will conclude that your Life too can be a movie script. There’s magic and beauty, miracle and tragedy, in your Life too. Except that your Life’s end, at the moment, is unpredictable. The climax of your story remains unknown to you even as you know that your story will end, certainly, with death. So while the end is certain, the road to get there remains uncertain. Yet, if you learn to deal with your Life, the way you will watch a movie – where you will get up and come away when the movie is over, with no attachment to the movie’s plot or the characters – you will forever be able to anchor in your inner peace.
This awareness that everything’s ordained, everything’s part of a larger plan which is beyond your control, does not mean you should not act. This is not a call to inaction. This only means that don’t fret and fume about the Life you have – or about the characters that inhabit your story. Just learn to appreciate and value everything, and everyone’s presence, in your Life. So act in every situation, but don’t get attached to the result. Do whatever you can and do it well. Just don’t complain if you don’t get what you want.

The key to intelligent living is to live with the total understanding that everything in Life happens for a reason, to complete your Life’s experience and learning. So, don’t be impatient with your Life. Go with flow. Because, as the classic line from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011; Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Deepika Padukone), rendered by Arjun (Hrithik) on-screen in a Spanish bar, goes, “Sab Kuch Likha Hua Hai” – “Everything’s Written”!