I am often asked how do Vaani and I handle the social implications of being bankrupt.
“Don’t people call you a ‘Failure’ – how do you deal with it?” – well, that’s a question that always comes our way. Surely, we have been called ‘Failed Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Cheats’…in fact, many more debilitating labels have been stuck on us! As long as we worried about those labels and gave them attention, they really weighed us down. But soon we learnt an important Life lesson – “What others think of you is none of your business!!!”. So, we simply peeled off the labels in our mind, trashed them, and moved on.
We have realized that when you are sure of your values, you have integrity of Purpose, when you stay true to yourself and own the outcome of your actions, no one, nor what they say, can then pin you down!
This picture was taken at a recent “Fall Like A Rose Petal”Talk where I am sharing this learning with a bunch of young engineering students. I am telling them that the Big ‘F’ word to be wary of is “Failure”…I shared with them that both “Success” and “Failure” are mere imposters, they are labels that society tries to stick on you. As long as you let neither label stick, you will be happy and at peace with yourself!
“I am sick and tired of fighting Life,” he said as he sat down across me at a café recently. He was in his late 20s. He looked beaten. He had reached out to me and Vaani wanting to seek our perspectives through our ‘Let’s Talk Happyness!’ Program. He ordered a black coffee for himself and told us his story. His parents are separated. He has a smoking habit that he loathes. He has been rejected by all potential employers – 15 of them so far – in the last 3 years. He feels he is “cursed” and “condemned” to “worthlessness”. His girlfriend has deserted him. “I feel lost and lonely. I am sick and tired of fighting Life,” he repeated, choking as he spoke.
This young man’s plight is not unique. There are many, many out there who feel lost and beaten by Life’s challenges. They feel they can’t go on “fighting Life” anymore. Vaani and I can relate to their agony, because we have been there and felt that way. But we have also realized that fighting Life is futile. You can’t win over Life. And, interestingly, Life is not playing to win – or defeat you – either. No matter what the circumstances are, however excruciating and hopeless they are, you only have one option. Which is to face Life, and take it as it comes, one day at a time. This may sound too simplistic especially when you are in the throes of complex situations. But there seriously is no other way. You can never fight Life – and hope to win. No matter what, you must just face Life and flow with it.
This is what Vaani and I have learnt from our own experience of dealing with a decade-long bankruptcy. We believe that it is best to put your head down and go to work – remaining detached from the results. We have learnt not to complain, not to mope and mourn, not to suffer.
Facing Life simply means this – you do what you can in the given circumstance without expectations, without resistance, without grief. Eventually, each of us has to go through what we have to go through; so, we might as well face Life with equanimity than fight it with angst.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
A young lady reached out to Vaani and me recently. She said her 2-year-old marriage was breaking up. Her parents were both diagnosed with cancer. Their family property, which had been under litigation for years, was decreed in favor of her uncles. And she had been laid off at her job. “Where do I begin to fix my problems? I have nowhere to go with my ailing parents and my one-year-old child. I don’t know what to do,” she confessed, breaking down inconsolably.
Vaani and I have been in her situation. We too have felt clueless and lost. What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
I remember Thursday, April 29th 2014 vividly. On that day, we went ‘zero-cash’. We spent the last eighty rupees with us on an auto ride and lived in Chennai, in spells of pennilessness, for months on end after that. Our bankruptcy had blown up into an incomprehensible phase of prolonged worklessness and pennilessness. At one time, we endured 30 months, between 2012 and 2014 when we had no work, no income. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal and watch this Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk.) This, despite, our best efforts to work our network of contacts, pound the pavement, restructure our delivery model, and put our business back on track. It’s a phase that we are still enduring at varied levels of intensity and challenge from time to time.
It is through this darkest phase of our Life that Vaani and I have understood the true meaning of faith.
We have understood that faith is not quite about trusting an external resource or agency, also popularly known as God. Faith truly means trusting the process of Life – and being happy despite the circumstances; which means, being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. We realized that despite our excruciating circumstances, Life was providing us all that we needed. Nothing went according to our plans. Nothing still does. But we have survived a decade of bankruptcy and its attendant, often imponderable, challenges. In this time, our children graduated – our son from an overseas University in 2012. Our daughter too is doing her Master’s abroad. Miraculously, every time we came to the brink, a helping hand appeared from nowhere and hoisted us up or ‘someone’ opened our wings and taught us to fly. That’s what faith has come to mean to us – to know that since you have been created without your asking for it, you will also be, unfailingly, looked after, provided for and cared for. We have learnt that just because we find the going tough, we must not conclude that Life is cruel. In fact, as we have discovered from our experience, Life is most compassionate – always giving you a situation only so that you grow better from dealing with it.
This is what we told the young lady too who sought us out through our Let’s Talk Happyness Program. When you don’t know what to do in Life, you simply let go and you let Life take over. To be sure, you never were in control of anything. Life was always, Life is, and Life will always be in control. Or simply, the Master Plan has no flaws. All that you have to do when you are clueless is to trust the process of Life, keep the faith, and take each day as it comes.
If you wish to seek our perspectives on a Life challenge you are faced with, please reach out here – Let’s Talk Happyness! If you have a personal story of faith, please share. Or tag someone for whom this Post is likely to be useful.
For how many more years will we follow an archaic practice in the name of religion and God?
I am appalled. And heart-broken.
Over dinner yesterday, someone visiting us shared the horrifying story of how a young lady in her extended family is being ill-treated by her (the lady’s) in-laws. We know the young lady to be very talented and so it was particularly hard to stomach her story.
Apart from being asked to follow meaningless, archaic, rituals, in the name of religion, the young lady, I understand, has to face the ignominy of being isolated from the rest of the family during her periods each month. Apparently, she cannot even read a book in the time because that would mean “polluting Goddess Saraswati”. However, it appears that she can go to work because her income goes to supporting the family. Seriously, things can’t get more pathetic and hypocritical than this!
The young lady is an engineer; she works at a large MNC. She is hardly 27, so I presume her in-laws may possibly be in their 50s; which is, they belong to my generation. What gets my goat is that someone my age, in today’s world, practises a ‘custom’ that tramples on the self-esteem of a woman. And we are mute spectators, unable to do anything to stop this atrocity? How will we step into someone’s home and question them, when the girl herself is not protesting the treatment being meted out to her? Her father, her mother and her brother too don’t appear to have an issue there. So, how can we, “rank outsiders”, get involved?
I just don’t get it. You need a woman to be your son’s wife, you need her salary, you need the grandchild, but you don’t think it is important to respect the woman for who she is?
To be sure, I know so many young people who stand up for empowering women. But I guess their crusade is often directed at the uneducated, underprivileged segments of society. What do we do when in our elite, educated circles, folks my age behave in such a regressive manner? Would the in-laws of the lady have allowed it if their daughter was treated the way they are treating their daughter-in-law?
On a wall, opposite to the Russian Cultural Centre on Kasturi Ranga Road in Chennai, there’s a graffiti that screams out a message, loud and clear, for all of humanity. It says: “Women menstruate, get over it!” I wish someone painted that graffiti on the walls of this family’s house.
Honestly, I am lost, I am appalled, I am heart-broken. And I am clueless. I believe all I can do is pray. With due respect to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, I pray that my land rises into a heaven “where, without exception, women are respected”.
In any relationship, be true to who you are; protect your inner peace.
Our neighbor, a venerable 88-year-old man, passed away last week. Vaani and I visited his family. His son was there, by his mother’s side, meeting all the visitors and accepting their condolences. Among the visitors was the son’s ex-wife, an amiable lady. The couple may well have been living separately, but they did not seem cold towards, or alienated from, each other. They treated each other with dignity and grace. She offered to help with looking after the guests and the rituals. And he politely thanked her for her gesture.
It was beautiful to witness their quiet, albeit surprising, camaraderie.
Here was a couple who had separated, as I understand, years ago. Yet, in the time of her ex-husband’s grief, the lady displayed great compassion in being there and supporting him in whatever way she could. I am sure they had their differences of opinion about Life and living together – which is perhaps why they separated. But they didn’t appear to have let their differences drown their respect for each other.
That’s an interesting way to live Life, I thought to myself, especially after two people have made a choice to go their ways.
I have always believed and maintained that if two people cannot relate to each other – irrespective of the relationship they have – they must separate. For instance, I can’t relate to my mother. We have had a dysfunctional relationship ever since my teens. Over the last few years, I have consciously maintained a distance from her. And, resultantly, I have had to be distant from my father too. I am sure my parents hold a view that my choice to “continue to remain estranged”, at my age of 50+, is wrong. But I know that my chemistry with my mother just doesn’t work. I can’t relate to anything that she thinks, says or does. It is proven beyond reasonable doubt that we cannot hold a calm, mature conversation between us. So, in my humble opinion, I believe it is best we remain distant from each other. I am not justifying that my choice is right; all I am saying is that it helps us both go on with our lives with dignity and inner peace.
Well, that’s one way of looking at Life. And, as was evident in the way my late neighbor’s son and his ex-wife engaged with each other last week, there appears to be another way to live Life too. Which is that people can go their ways and yet they can engage with each other meaningfully, minus all the acrimony. Or simply, dosti (friendship) is still possible, even after a break-up!
The bottomline, as I understand, in any relationship, is this: be true to who you are, protect your inner peace. If staying with someone makes you feel miserable, if you can’t relate to that someone, then move on. But having moved on, if you can still be cordial from a distance, be so. However, if you feel being distant alone is best for both of you, be so. Either way, be happy, be at peace with yourself.