Make a personal effort today to make this world a better place to live in!

There is an urgent need for you – and me – to deliver compassion and spread harmony in the world.

raghavenra ganeshan
Raghavendran Ganeshan

The tragic bomb blasts in Brussels earlier this month shocked the whole world. I have been particularly numbed by the story of Raghavendran Ganeshan, a software engineer with Infosys, who was on the Brussels Metro when a suicide bomber blew himself – and the train – up. After over a week of harrowing anxiety – and hope – for the family, Raghavendran’s body finally arrived in Chennai a couple of days ago. The papers here reported his tragic story. I don’t know what to say or how to react. Who would have thought that a simple man, a young father, on his way to work to dutifully fulfil a client mandate in one of the most peaceful parts of the world, would meet such a horrific end?

Even so, I feel, the more distressed the world appears to be, the more hopeful we must all remain. As I await dawn on this promising Thursday, I remember an old Jewish story on when does dawn really happen? An old rabbi once asked his pupils how to tell when night ended and the morning began (which is the time for prayer). “Is it when you see an animal in the distance and know whether it’s a sheep or a dog,’’ asked one pupil. “No,” answered the rabbi. “Is it when you can look at a tree and tell whether it is a fig tree or a pear tree,” asked another. “No,” answered the rabbi. After a few more tries the pupils gave up. And they requested the rabbi to enlighten them. “It is dawn when you can look at the face of any man or woman and know that they are your sister or brother. Until then, it is still night,” explained the rabbi.

With so much strife in the world today, within families, communities, businesses, sporting teams, countries and even within ourselves, now is the time for each of us to make a personal effort to love creation and our fellow human beings. All Life is equal. Let’s each of us practice compassion and treat everyone we know, meet or pass by in Life with love, dignity and respect.

Learn from your decisions; don’t just brood over them.

You do something only because you think it is the right thing to do in the first place!

il_570xN.459117414_7a01Almost all of us are taking decisions all the time. Right from choosing whether you want your coffee cold or hot at a café, to deciding whether or not to end a relationship, we are always in decision-making mode. Big or small, if you examine your Life closely, each moment is decisive. The truth is also that while some decisions work well, some don’t. When a decision backfires distill the learnings from the experience and move on. If you don’t and instead choose to brood over your decision, you will surely grieve and suffer.

Yesterday, a gentleman called me saying his business was in dire straits. He said he had made some strategic decisions five years ago which had not worked well for him. He wanted to know how to get rid of the guilt that he was carrying in him. I told him what I often tell myself: “Guilt is a wasted emotion. It serves no purpose. You did what you thought was right. That’s why you did it in the first place. Now, in hindsight, if the decision has backfired, is there any point in grieving over it?” “Instead”, I advised the gentleman, “look at what the experience taught you and what you can learn from it.”

Now even when a decision works in your favor, it is important you see the learnings there. If you find it difficult to focus on the learnings, the reason is simply this: your ego comes in the way. If the decision you made worked, you feel that “I did it!” and if it didn’t work you say “I blew it all up!” Either way, the “I” comes in between you and the learnings. So, drop the “I”. That’s when you will learn from each of your experiences.

It is that simple. That elementary. A decision once taken is history. Your learning from it can however help you along the way in Life!

What is meant to be will always be – you simply, quietly, keep pushing!

 If it is due to you it will come to you no matter what – or who – comes in the way!

Our close friend Sruti Harihara Subramanian’s feature documentary, A Far Afternoon – A Painted Saga by Krishen Khanna, (watch the trailer here), won the National Award in two categories yesterday – for  Best Arts/Cultural Film and Best Music for a Non-Feature Film (for the composer-sound designer duo Aravind-Shankar)! A Far Afternoon, to me, is a masterly effort that showcases on film how the Life and craft of celebrated artist Krishen Khanna are intertwined. My wife Vaani and I saw the film when it was privately screened in Chennai – even before the rest of the world got to see it! I must confess that I showed up cold for the screening – I have never understood art the way connoisseurs do, I didn’t know anything about Krishen Khanna up until then (quite shameful, I admit) and I don’t generally watch documentaries; so I went literally for ‘Sruti’s sake’! Yet, the film left me in awe of the subject (art), of the protagonist (Krishen Khanna) and of the film-maker’s mind. There’s an endearing simplicity to the film-making and story-telling process that makes the viewer believe that he or she is with Krishen at the moment, in his studio, hearing his heavy breathing, hearing the clock tick and witnessing his genius mind at work. I told Vaani – and Sruti – when the film got over: “This is truly a world-class film!” While I am delighted surely for Sruti, I am not at all surprised that she got a National Award for this one.

Sruti Harihara Subramanian with artist Krishen Khanna
Sruti with Krishen Khanna

Yet, to be sure, A Far Afternoon was a film that almost never got made the way it finally did. First, Sruti always wanted to make a feature film and never a documentary. Then when she began working on this film, she had a vision for a short 10-minute documentary. The final film is 73 minutes long! Important, when she began shooting Krishen, he was 89 years old (he will be 91 this July)! So working with him, during the shooting of the film, involved factoring in – and overcoming – several imponderables given his advanced age. Then, when the film was canned, a quirk of technology led to a substantial part of the footage ‘going missing’ from digital storage. In this time Krishen broke his arm, which meant re-shooting that part of the film, was never an option. Following several anxious weeks – and nerdy efforts – the missing footage was retrieved, again, interestingly, owing to a quirk of technology! I have seen Sruti hang in there through that difficult period. If she often felt lost, defeated, devastated, she didn’t show it. Yes, she was anxious. Yes, we knew the ‘poor thing’ had lost ‘some data’. But no, we didn’t fathom then that she had lost the footage of A Far Afternoon; the enormity of what she may have gone through while making the film – working on retrieving the missing footage and thinking of the possibility of her film remaining ‘unmade’ – struck us only after we watched it. When the National Award came her way yesterday, I realized that one of Sruti’s strengths is that she’s a ‘quiet pusher’ – someone who deals with her everyday issues of anxiety and stress, but quietly keeps pushing at her vision, going after what she’s thought through. She blushed when I made this assessment of her this morning and said, “A Far Afternoon, I discovered through making it, has a Life of its own. It was meant to be the way it turned out to be.”

And there lies the big learning for all of us in Life. What is meant to be will always be. No matter how far it is, how far-fetched it is and no matter what – or who – comes in the way. So, the best way to live Life is to go after what you believe in, your vision, and be that ‘quiet pusher’ – teeing away every single day, chipping away at every obstacle on the way. If you can, learn to drop your anxieties and let the path forward unfold, allowing Life to take over. If you must worry, go ahead and worry, but keep ploughing on without giving up. Actually, when you give yourself up to Life, you don’t have to do anything other than do what makes you come alive. If you are feeling alive doing what you are doing, then Life leads you on. And if it is meant for you, it will come to you!

A Life lesson from Virat Kohli: Stay Humble, Stay Amazed!

Everything happens through you and never because of you!

Like his captain M.S.Dhoni said in the post-match presentation ceremony, I too am loving the “evolution” of Virat Kohli – not just as a cricketer but as a human being. There was a time, not too long ago, when he was considered brash, arrogant, foul-mouthed and tempestuous. But the Virat we have seen through this World Cup T20 is a different person altogether.

Bowing to Sachin

First, after scoring a steely 50 against Pakistan at Kolkata on March 19th, he bowed to Sachin Tendular in the stands, dedicating his innings to the Master – “It is because of Sachin that I started playing cricket,” he later explained on TV. Next, last evening, when Dhoni hit the winning four against Australia, Virat, at the non-striker’s end, sank to the ground. On his knees, he bowed down in reverence, overwhelmed by the moment. Had it not been for his pyrotechnics in the previous two overs, India would not have made it past the line and into the semis of the WCT20 2016 – he knew that; yet, he felt humbled by his own brilliance. Then, he stood up, removed his helmet and raised his finger, pointing it at the skies and looked up with complete certainty that he was but an instrument; he was genuinely grateful for being the ‘chosen one’ for last night!


To me this quality in Virat will continue to take him onward. And higher! I am sure Dhoni’s sagacity and equanimity have had a huge influence on Virat’s temperament. Yet I want to credit this 27-year-old with coming forth and being willing to be humble. Bravo Son! Soldier on!

‘Am merely an instrument!’

If there’s one quality that we all need to nurture in us as we go – and grow – through Life, it is humility. We must realize that success and failure are mere labels. Virat, for instance, who is the toast of 1.2 billion cricket-crazy fans in India this morning may well be rubbished even before the season is out if he fails to deliver the goods. In India, especially with respect to cricket, every fan is a better analyst and judge of your potential and playing conditions than you are. So, it is very, very important to understand that everything happens through you and not because of you. This is not just applicable to a game, as in to cricket, but to Life itself. We are mere messengers, instruments for a higher energy (some call this energy, God; I am comfortable just recognizing the presence of an inscrutable, magical energy that is beyond my understanding!) to work through us. Each event, happening in our Life, is a learning. If we do something miraculous, be amazed, be humbled, like Virat was last night. If you do something stupid and botch it all up, again be amazed, be humbled, and learn from it. Don’t gloat, don’t exult! And don’t despair or give in to depression either. Victory or defeat, success or failure – all are mere imposters. Treat them with dignity. Let them come. Let them go. And you simply journey on, letting your music play – through you!

PS: All pictures are courtesy Internet and copyright/ownership rests with original creators.

Stay Cool – “Thand Rakh”!!

Just surrender to the Universe’s energy, to Life, don’t fight it!

bai thand rakh-750x750I love the Punjabi phrase – “Thand Rakh”! It means “Stay Cool”! Not just in situations when anxiety grips you, or when you are provoked by someone, but stay cool, at all times! This is not a state that is beyond your reach. If you just understand how Life works, and how it is working for you, you will learn the art of dropping anchor and staying unflustered despite Life’s upheavals!

Consider this: don’t you agree that if there indeed is a Master of the Universe, who was controlling, coordinating, delivering, granting, blessing and driving whatever is happening in the world, in your Life and mine, then this person is mighty intelligent? So intelligent that zebras have stripes while horses don’t, that when the East has daylight, the West has stars in the sky, that there are four seasons that keep switching as if someone is operating the switches in a Master Control Room, that mangoes are different from oranges and the Himalayas are different from the Rockies! None of these have been or can be controlled by you or me. Yet they happen! And so, we have to admit that the Universe’s energy, which, in my humble opinion, powers our lives, is far more intelligent than all of us put together. Yet why don’t we trust this energy?

Think about it. When things go per your expectation, you don’t have an issue. When they go against what you wish, you immediately start fighting Life. Why? For instance, let’s say, your DVD player doesn’t work when you sit down to watch a movie. You feel frustrated. Even so, it is a small thing, you will eventually get over that setback! You will fight your DVD player for a while, then chuck it out the window and move on. Now, take a more serious situation. Let’s say you are out of work and out of cash. What do you do? You begin, of course, by fighting, by hating, by resisting the Life which you currently have to endure. You sulk, you brood! But does that change anything? Or what if your liver malfunctions or your heart suffers an attack? That’s a situation you can’t even mentally fight! When you realize that you are dealing with situations beyond your control, you learn the art of surrendering to Life. Now, think, if we could consider surrendering to Life in all contexts, how much more simpler and easier to live will our lives be?

In Hindu scriptures, they talk of surrender as ‘saranagati’ to a physical God, an idol. I am suggesting that we learn to surrender to Life, the energy that keeps you – and me – alive! The truth about Life is, no matter what you do, what is to happen (alone) will happen! What I have also learnt from Life is that the Master Plan no flaws. Whatever is happening to you just now is what is ordained to happen. Therefore, intelligence demands that you and I don’t fight Life. Fighting and resisting Life is what causes all your suffering! So, simply, “Thand Rakh” and surrender to Life!

Witnessing is when you can soak in the suchness of what is!

Over time, become detached with yourself. Become a witness of your Life!

Last evening we noticed the amount of litter that had piled up on the streets around the Mylapore Tank owing to the Arubathimoovar festival at the Kapaleeswarar temple. Makeshift stalls had come up all over serving food and buttermilk to devotees who have been thronging the temple for the past week. The litter was created because the stall managers, and the devotees, both were being irresponsible with the way they disposed of waste – paper cups, plates, spoon, plastic gloves and such. I grieved looking at the state of affairs – no ‘Swach Bharat’ campaign can ever change the way we Indians think, behave and live, I thought. I was slipping into an anger – with the entire system – spiral, when I looked up at the sky and spotted the moon. It isn’t full moon yet, but the moon looked majestic and beautiful. I decided, for the rest of the evening, to soak in not what lay on the ground but what lit up the sky. I decided to be a witness – it helped me calm my nerves and enjoy the rest of the evening despite the chaos and mess around where we were!

awareness-be-let-meaning-meditation-osho-passive-relax-thingsTo be sure there is great value – and power – in witnessing. Almost all our suffering comes from wanting to control our lives – people, events, things. In every situation that you find yourself in, if you imagine you are a mere fly on the wall, a witness, see how your changed perspective changes the way you feel and respond. When you are a witness, you are more detached than an observer. An observer has an agenda. But a witness merely happens to be there. So, as a witness, you are not involved with the drama. It is like watching a movie – when it is on, you watch it on the screen; but you are not one of the characters. You may relate to the story and the characters but you are not in the story, you are not them. When the movie is over, you just get up and come away.

The key is, can you get up and come away from your Life, without necessarily responding every single time you are seduced or provoked to respond in a situation?

Most people misunderstand the practice of meditation to be an act of silencing the environment around them. It is clearly not that. You can say you meditate only when you have learnt to still your mind, drop anchor, and remain silent. The Buddha rightly called meditation “witnessing”.

Witnessing is when you can soak in the suchness of what is – without necessarily responding. When you are a witness, you are more aware than involved. In the witness state, you learn to not immediately respond emotionally to any situation. You are there, but you are not there either. So anger, grief, guilt, anxiety….none of these emotions hold you hostage; they may arise, but your awareness will remind you not to succumb to them. When you are a witness, you are detached from the screenplay of your Life. This clearly does not mean inaction. In fact the detachment helps you choose when – and how – you must act.