Nothing, absolutely nothing, is going with you

So, why cling on to stuff, why fight over them?

I was amused to note that the Times of India Group has served a legal notice on Arnab Goswami asking him to desist from using his now famous phrase – “the Nation wants to know” – on his TV shows in the future. While the TOI notice made quite a sensation on social media, it left me with several questions. Why do people cling on to stuff? Why do they want to fight over them? Why try to control the actions of other people in contexts that are best left alone?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not against protecting intellectual property or material wealth or physical property. But a large media group, a behemoth, wanting to restrain a former editor from using a ubiquitous phrase, that had come to be identified with him over the past decade, to me, personally, smacked of a certain lack of spiritual depth.

The truth about our lives is that we came empty-handed and we will leave empty-handed. In this time that we are here, everything that is with us, is given here, is taken from here. And everything that is with us, will be taken away from us. Either when you are alive. Or when you die, it will pass on to someone else. So, spiritual awareness demands that we stop clinging on to stuff. If you are spiritually aware, if you are awakened, you will understand the futility of fighting, of wanting to control, of desiring to possess.

I must confess I was never this way. Life’s experiences have changed me.


To be sure, I was pretty much in the Times of India thinking mold. Everything – and everyone – I reasoned, had to be controlled. And just when I thought I had arrived, by clawing my way through Life, by fighting and winning so many battles, everything I had created or acquired to cobble together my little empire, everything was taken away from me!

The bankruptcy hit us in end-2007. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) But it was an episode in 2012 April that made me understand and awaken to the transient nature of Life.

We had long closed down all our offices, including the one in Chennai. We had taken up a small two-bedroom apartment, which primarily served as a holding area for all our files and documentation – that were statutorily required to be maintained. The premises also held our personal collection of over 1500 books, all of them dealing with management, self-help and spirituality, collected over 20 years. But soon, we were unable to meet the rental commitment for this space too. So, in April 2012, we worked on vacating the place. All month we sat, Vaani and I, on the ground, each day, sorting and shredding stuff that we couldn’t shift to our home. Among stuff that wasn’t going to make it with us were those books from the private library. We gave away 1300 of them to a friend who runs a training company in Bangalore. He drove down to pick up them up. I also personally shredded the wall-mountable props of the Vision and Mission statements of our erstwhile Firm. It was catharsis. It was as if I was completing the last rites for our dream child, our Firm that we had found 16 years ago with the Vision of being a global consulting Firm.

That night, over a drink, I cried. Literally and figuratively, I was presiding over the ruins of an empire that once was. And now there was nothing. As I soaked in the futility of my grief, I made peace with myself. I understood that Life is not only about dreaming, striving, achieving, owning and controlling. Life is also about losing – what you have owned, what you have created – and about not getting what you want. It was a magical moment of awakening.

Ever since, I have found myself getting better dealing with denials, rejections and loss. So, while I still believe you must take adequate measures, living in a real world as we all do, to protect what is rightfully yours, you must avoid this urge to want to control, to fight and to possess stuff – things, people, opinions – and claim them as your own. Such a struggle will only take you away from living in the moment, from being happy. And, besides, without a shred of doubt it can be said that nothing, absolutely nothing, is going with you!  

Life Se Dosti Karke Dekho

Don’t fight Life, don’t resist what is and you will never suffer!

Last evening, I watched a movie on TV called Nil Battey Sannata (2016, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, Swara Bhaskar, Ratna Pathak Shah, Ria Shukla). It is an endearing film that reminds us that our dreams help us go on, no matter what we are faced with. One of the characters in the film, a young boy named Amar, is very good at Math. When he is asked how does he grasp the subject so well when everyone else struggles with it, Amar replies: “Try understanding it and you will never have a problem. Maths Se Dosti Karke Dekho, Woh Phir Tumhe Satayegi Nahin.”

I found that perspective very empowering in the context of Life too.

One of the main reasons why people struggle with Life is that they don’t understand it. They expect Life to happen the way they want it to happen. They don’t realize that Life does not conform to any pattern, there is no formula to live it, there are no methods to be employed nor can any mantras help. The only truths that are discernible about Life are these: 1. It is a limited period offer that will expire soon. Everything – and everyone – will perish; Life itself is impermanent, transient. 2. You can’t control Life; it simply keeps on happening. So, no amount of wishing can change a reality that has arrived in your Life. Once you understand these simple truths about Life, you will stop struggling with Life. Then there will be no suffering. Yes, there may be pain, because pain is inevitable. But you will not suffer. You will begin to live your Life with the faith that, over time, every challenging phase will pass, that you will be looked after and provided for. You will learn to be patient with what you have, with a great acceptance of your current reality. You will begin to trust the process of Life, even as you are patient with yourself, and with Life itself, even as you work on changing it.


Which is why, after watching the movie yesterday, I was compelled to scribble this learning down on my constant companion, my Post-it pad! “Life Se Dosti Karke Dekho! Woh Phir Tumhe Satayegi Nahin…” “Make friends with Life…then it will cease to be a struggle, it won’t trouble you anymore!” This certainly does not mean that your problems will go away. Your problems will be there, but you will be able to deal with them better – without worrying, without being frustrated, without suffering. In Life’s game you never know what hand you are going to be dealt next, but the more you play it, the more you enjoy playing every hand it deals you, the better you will get at the game itself!

I am reminded of an all-time classic, among my favorites, from Hum Dono (1961, Amar Jeet/Vijay Anand, Dev Anand, Mohd.Rafi, Jaidev, Sahir Ludhianvi) “Mein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaata Chala Gaya…” It means, “I partnered with Life and went along with the flow…” The learning is both simple and profound – don’t fight Life, don’t resist what is and you will never suffer!

Why I refuse to call myself a Hindu

Can we just be human, pleeeaaassse?

My good friend Girish Pradhan was stopped from entering the famous Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore yesterday. The temple authorities wanted to ascertain that he is a Hindu. Girish sports a beard and apparently that’s why the “clarification/proof” was sought.

I have been thinking about this episode ever since Girish’s wife Weena posted a status on Facebook last afternoon. And interestingly, adding to the discourse brewing in my head, I ended up watching a Subhash Ghai film “Black & White” (2008, Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Anurag Sinha) on TV last night. The film deals with some searching questions on Hindu-Muslim unity, on how a terrorist is born and why most acts of terrorism are led by Islamic fundmentalists. While the film was engaging for most parts, it didn’t quite answer all the questions it raised. And that is the problem. No one seems to have the answers – even though a majority of people think peace, think secular! We are all, as well meaning citizens of the world, stuck in a situation where a few people hold us to ransom with their anti-human ideas of religious fundamentalism.

Before this post is conveniently misinterpreted and given a communal flavor, I must hasten to confess that I was born to Hindu parents. But I refuse to call myself a Hindu. My religion is humanity. Period. And Life is my God. In fact, later this month, on 29th April, Saturday, I host famous dancer Zakir Hussain on my popular show – The Bliss Catchers – at Odyssey Bookstore, Adyar. Now, Zakir is a Thirupaavai Upanyasam expert. Had Zakir and I tried to enter the Kapaleeshwarar temple, and if we were asked to prove ourselves as Hindus, undoubtedly, Zakir would have won himself an entry ticket! And I would have failed miserably – I don’t wear my poonal (sacred thread), I don’t know any shlokas and, of course, I may have well refused the test. To me, a God who resides in the smelly, dark, sanctorums of a temple, or for that matter who is ensconced in any “place of worship”, watching over apathetically, even as people fight each other in the name of religion, is no God at all.

Clearly, we cannot afford to be like God. Not anymore. We must not sit back and allow the rot to happen. I believe each of us has a responsibility to heal our world. I am not even talking of healing the entire world. I am suggesting we begin with our small Universes, our circles of influence.


First, we must make religion irrelevant in our actions, in our pronouncements, in thought. Let me explain. I have another friend, who often brags that he prefers keeping his second apartment locked up, but he says he will not give it to Muslim tenants. Such thinking must stop. Religion, if at all it must be practiced, is a deeply personal affair. And must be kept that way. Flaunting your religious belief is what makes it relevant. And when there is a mass relevance, fundamentalists seize advantage, they want to induce fear, control you and brainwash you. Some of them take it to a destructive level – they turn barbaric and murderous. Sadly, this is what is happening around us, with alarming frequency. Second, let us understand the difference between divinity and God. Divinity is Life’s way of expressing itself – you will find divinity in a sunrise, in a raindrop, in the stillness of a valley, in a bird chirping, in a child’s eyes, in you, in me and in every aspect of creation. God, on the other hand, is a human invention, who does nothing to save the world from anarchy and extremism. Yes, there is a Higher Energy that governs, guides, nurtures and protects all of us. And we are all created by that Energy and we carry that Energy in each of us. So, to me, every form of creation is God. I don’t relate to God again as one Supremo who resides in a designated place of worship. This theory and its belief is downright divisive and abhorrent. Finally, can we just soak in the essence of this immortal song from Yash Chopra’s directorial debut Dhool Ka Phool (1959, Manmohan Krishna, Mohd.Rafi, N.Dutta) “Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalmaan Banega, Insaan Ki Aulad Hai, Insaan Banega…”? Sahir Ludhianvi’s inspiring lyrics remain relevant to this day – can we just be human, pleeeaaassse?

I know millions of people out there echo these sentiments that I share here. The time has come for all of us like-minded folks to step out and speak up for humanity. My prayer is this: let’s stop being closet secularists. Only when we make religion irrelevant in the public domain, can we make religious fundamentalism irrelevant and powerless.