Live a Magnificent Monday!


Live through each day gracefully, enjoying each moment, even if it is not the one that you ordered or wanted, but yet received. So receive your day, as it unfolds before you, with immense gratitude and live it fully!

If you are reading this on Monday, you must be wondering if this is just some armchair philosophy being dished out by someone who is both unaware of how Mondays are and who is just preaching without any practical insight.

Let me share my learnings that have brought me to this point in Life, thanks to which I can assure you that this is indeed the most intelligent way to live.

There was a time when I was globe-trotting. Breakfast in Singapore, lunch in LA and dinner in Rome. Traveling nine months in a year, living out of hotel rooms 21 days in a month. I loved that Life. I had heard of intelligent living then. And had assumed that it was all about applying your intellect in Life to make fame and fortune. So, I invested my every waking hour in working. Family was important but saw my role primarily as a provider who ‘scheduled’ to ensure presence at home to mark anniversaries and birthdays. I always felt being at my kids’ school annual days and Parent Teacher interactions as a waste of time. Those meetings didn’t add value to my Life. If I could pack in an additional meeting either with my clients or with my team, we would be better off as a Firm, was my irrefutable logic. And on the odd weekends I spent at home, I would pore over CEO reports, filed by each member of my 40-strong team. They would tell me what was wrong in the way we were running our Firm or delivering value to our clients. I would make copious notes and initiate steps and Programs each week to get our house and processes back in order.

I saw work as an investment for a future where I would be happy, as would my family, and our Firm would run on auto-pilot turning in dividends, enriching our lives.

I don’t think this line of logic is wrong per se. Except that it can neither be guaranteed that Life will happen the way you want it to nor that living can be postponed while you earn a living.

In the years that followed, despite my purposeful intent and my hands-on, paranoid leadership, my Firm went bust and the same team members, for whom I worked overtime, drifted away. Rightly so. Whoever wants to be on a sinking ship?  My children grew up. And suddenly, one fine day, although it was always on the cards, our son flew away to pursue an undergrad Program in Economics at the University of Chicago. The night he left for Chicago, we came back home to a half-empty nest. That sense of emptiness took months to get used to. I particularly felt I could have spent far more time with him in his growing up years. Initially, I grieved a lot. And even held myself responsible for missing out on such a never-before opportunity of living engaged with the growing up years of our son!

Life’s a hard teacher. She gives the test first and lesson later. And that’s how I failed the test and still learned the lessons!

I made amends with our daughter. I decided, and have been reasonably successful with it, to get involved with every aspect of her Life, alongside my wife. And what I couldn’t provide for our son on the ground, I made up with regular phone and Skype calls during his college years. I also forgave myself. And decided to not resist the manner in which my Life and business has slowed down. I decided to celebrate it. And so, now I see work as prayer, a form of expression of my inner Self, a joy. Result, we do take up only work that we love and prefer to rejoice each opportunity to live as one in which we can invoke soul, provoke thought and inspire action!

Now I can modestly claim I understand intelligent living better. I have learned that it only means living. The intelligent part is to choose living __ in the moment, mindfully, loving each moment __ over everything else. So, this Monday, what do you want to do? Maybe you can’t do everything that you want to either. But you can do one thing for sure __ appreciate the value of each moment and journey through the day gracefully, enjoying its beauty and celebrating its uniqueness, its “never-again-ness”. Do this knowing that maybe there’s a companion, a child, a parent, a sibling, a colleage __ someone who you are taking for granted, waiting for you to pause and engage with her or him. Know surely that it’s a blessing if you can indeed do it. And be eternally grateful for that opportunity!  

Live celebrating your Monday’s magnificence today!

                                                                                                                                                                                          


Don’t let anyone disturb your Inner Peace


Say it as it is. Be in-the-face. Be truthful. Fundamentally, don’t allow anyone or anything to disturb your inner peace.

Specifically this also means don’t cling on to relationships where you are unhappy. When you work towards pleasing someone in a relationship, at the cost of your own peace, you are actually suffering. And nothing ever__including a close relationship__is worth if it is born out of_or at the cost of__your suffering.

In every relationship draw your boundaries. It is perfectly alright to outline what works for you and what does not. Most of us fail to draw up these contours and therefore end up in grief when there are moral, emotional or physical transgressions. Ideally, of course, if there is pure, undiluted love and sharing there is no need for such boundary-setting. The problem occurs when there is a transgression. At the first such instance, it is always advisable to place on the table candidly what works for you and what does not. When we fail to do that, we allow for a repeat of the same, irksome or unacceptable behavior. When we do that, we cross a temporary chasm of raw emotion, but enter into a perpetual state of peace and harmony. This applies in all relationships__spouses, parent-child, boss-subordinate, neighbors, siblings.

To be truthful means to be authentic. You are peaceful only when you are authentic, are true to yourself. When you say something which you don’t mean, and yet say it to be nice, your grief, your inner turmoil, takes its toll on you. Your peace is disturbed. In those moments, hours, days, weeks, months and years, of being untrue__to yourself__you have been dying several hundred thousand times.

Examine your Life. This could have happened to you sometime surely or it could be happening to you just now. It is never too late. Be courageous. Embrace the truth. Be true to yourself. Candor’s biggest contribution to Life are invaluable: trust, peace and joy! Try it. You will find that it works__wonders!

Empty Yourself of You – All the Time!


Only when you empty yourself of your ego will you understand the essence of intelligent living!

Unknown to us we__you, me, everyone__carry a rather unnecessary sense of self-importance than we normally should or even need. Self-importance is different from self-respect or self-esteem. Self-importance means you think your Life is being controlled by you! The more self-importance you perceive of yourself, the lesser you will be closer to realizing your true Self and the angrier you will be with Life and with people around you!

Several years ago, things were going horribly wrong for me at work. My team was playing truant. People were quitting. They were sharing information with competitors. And there was a whole deal of negative energy flying around. The final nail in the coffin was when one member of my team, an office assistant, filed a police compliant against me for non-payment of a statutory due. It was an ignominious moment. We had, as a Firm, picked up that kid literally from the street. We had supported his education helping him acquire a degree in Commerce and an MBA in Marketing through distant learning programs. I was heart-broken when he did what he did. For one there was no truth in his complaint. Second, HE had done that to ME! Over a drink, I shared my grief with a very dear friend, whom I will call Guruji!

“You know how much I have done for this boy,” I lamented. And continued: “I have helped him financially when his mother was in hospital and later when she died. I have bought him clothes every quarter. I have paid for his exam fees and his tuitions. I have enrolled him to a computer training Program and helped him become tech savvy. And he still did this to me?”

Guruji smiled back at me calmly and asked, “Are you finished with your tale of woe, AVIS?”

“Are you finding something funny with my plight,” I shot back, quizzically.

“Indeed. I find it funny that you think your team is the problem. To me you are the problem!”, said Guruji, in a tone which was both peaceful and rude-sounding to me!

“What are you saying? I have been a good employer. I have led with care and compassion. I have uplifted the lot of my team. I have provided them with rewards, recognition and opportunity. And you say I am the problem?” I roared.

“Just count the number of times you have used ‘I’ in this conversation AVIS. You are so full of yourself. Empty yourself of the ‘I’ in you. Be humble and you will grow and glow!” said Guruji.

It was like a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I was devastated. But over several days and weeks of introspection and rumination I understood what Guruji meant. This old Zen story, which he sent me on the mail, further helped me.

A Cup of Tea 

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Having understood the essence of and discovered the power of intelligent living, I went on to empty my cup. But the interesting thing is, when you empty it, doesn’t stay empty. You have to keep on emptying it. It is a continuous process.

Each time someone slights you, each time someone rubs you the wrong way, you mind will tell you “How dare he or she?”. Immediately, remember Guruji, remember Nan-in and empty your cup. When things are not going according to your plan, and you are getting angry, irritable, disturbed and your inner peace is destroyed, empty your cup.

The more you stay empty, the more grace it will attract. Because Life can only fill an empty cup with abundance. How can a cup that is full attract any grace or abundance?

The simplest way to live is to know that your cup must be empty and to remember that Life goes on, in spite of you and not because of you!

To make the world better, give and forgive!


The world can only be made better by giving and forgiving.

I rediscovered the meaning in practicing this truism again this morning. On the street I saw an old lady stumble and fall on the pavement. She was struggling with the weight of several bags that she was carrying. It was a busy morning. I was rushing off to catch up on work. But I flagged down an auto-rickshaw and requested the driver to pick up the lady from across the road and take her to where she would have liked to go. I gave the driver some money and asked him to call me if he had to go a longer distance and pick up any extra cash from me later in the day or tomorrow. The driver, who belongs to the redoubtable, unreasonable and unruly clan of auto-rickshaw drivers that terrorize public transport in India, replied: “Sir, thanks for giving me the opportunity to serve. I will take care of her, wherever she wishes to go. I will make up the difference in fare, if any!” As she rode away in the auto-rickshaw, a strange sense of peace and joy rose within me. I had had a pretty rough morning and much of it was centered around what we didn’t have and magnified by one individual on my team who was making Life miserable for all of us. Yet this one opportunity to serve, in a sublime and sure fashion, made me feel infinitely better. Re-energized and feeling good that I had been useful, despite my circumstances that had made me momentarily bitter with my Life and world, I forgave my colleague for his transgressions. I realized that if I had to behave the same way as he was doing, it would leave both of us scarred. I resolved to give the situation my understanding. It may not change anything in the short term but definitely makes me feel good and useful as I write this.

Try this approach to give and to forgive. I guarantee that you will feel the same way as I do.

When things get snatched away from you and when you feel betrayed, let down, hurt and pained, the natural response is to protect what’s left with you and to be wary of everything and everyone. But such a restrained existence will only make you hurt more.

The first sense of insecurity in us comes from whether we have enough for our own survival. So it is not that we don’t want to give. We do. But what prevents us from giving freely is the fear that what if we needed what we are giving away and we don’t have enough of it! The truth is we will always have enough and be provided whatever we need by the Universe. To be sure, we will never be denied our own needs. So, give and give freely. Without inhibitions and without expectations.

Forgiving too involves giving of a different kind – your understanding, patience and love. If you understand that we are all the product of the time we go through, you will realize that people behave differently from you because of what they are suffering from and going through.  If someone is causing you pain, you are perhaps inclined to believe that they are conspiring against you. And your reflex action is to hate them. To want to have nothing to do with them. But if you make a sincere effort, you will realize that their behavior is an expression of the anguish within them. What they need is your understanding, and not your hatred. Forgiving does not mean subscribing to someone’s despicable behavior or forgetting what happened. It means just letting go of all the negative energy that may be pent up within you, by giving the person in question your understanding and being compassionate.

When you give and forgive, especially when you are not expected to, you may well not be recognized or celebrated. But you will discover the joy of being human. Isn’t that a celebration enough in itself?


To solve a problem, first accept it!

Refusing to look at a problem, or denying its existence, cannot make your Life any simpler.


All what you suffer from comes from what you deny. Facing Life and taking a problem head on is what can make you solve it and live in peace.


But we invariably don’t like to exorcise our demons. We somehow have become comfortable suffering, feeling tormented, preferring to stay debilitated than feeling liberated. Because continuing to be miserable seems far more easier than having to work hard to rid ourselves of what makes us miserable!


I met someone yesterday after a couple of years. He, in his own opinion, was financially ‘very well off’. Yet he found his Life ‘incomplete’. He spent entire days, daily, in a prominent five-star hotel’s bar, literally being there from the time it opened to when it closed! He lamented to me that his wife no longer loved him and all she wanted was ‘his credit card and a certain sum of cash monthly for her shopping sprees’. His 24-year-old son, though married, was not exactly doing anything significant and ‘lived off’ his dad. His daughter was the only one who understood him but their relationship too in recent years had come under stress. She wanted to go overseas for higher studies but he was insistent that she marry now because that was the norm in his ‘community’. He said to me, in a tone reflective of a defeated man, “I have lost it in Life. I have done no wrong. Yet everyone around me has let me down. I am suffering. I wish I could die.”


I laughed at him and looked him in the eye. And said: “My friend, you are the problem. For as far as I know you, you have been drinking entire days for years now. You have a drinking problem – spurred by a lack of purpose in your Life. There’s enough and more money. So, because you don’t know how to be useful and productive, you are indulging in something that has already ruined your family Life and is on the verge of consuming you.”


My friend suddenly turned hostile. He ended our meeting and drove away drunk in his car, despite my request and protests to engage a taxi leaving his car behind.


I wish he understood that unless he faced the brutal reality of his Life, he may really be unable to make it any better.


Just as my friend has a problem, each of us has. All of us like to deny whatever is our problem__ranging from a relationship to a lousy job to a ruinous habit__hoping that time will take care of it! This is one area where no one can help you than you, yourself!  

But facing the truth is scary. How does one see the reality?


Good question. And so, it is with all situations, with all of humanity, with all aspects of Life! Fundamentally, if you know what you want out of your Life, you can go find that Life and recreate, reinvent yourself. But if you don’t know what you want, how can anyone help you? This question is not as profound as many people make it out to be. It is a dumb question. Even a person with low IQ can answer it __ by approaching it the other way, by knowing, for starters, what you don’t want in your Life! Because the answer is that nobody, definitely not you, wants to suffer. Since you don’t want to suffer or be miserable why do anything, or accept any situation that accentuates your suffering?

The only way to solve a problem is to accept it exists. And to look it in the face and lead the change yourself. There are no two ways in which you can change your current realities or end your suffering!


So, if you are feeling miserable about anything__or anyone__in Life, sit down and introspect. Diligently make a list of actions that you must take to end your misery. Resolve to do it. And just get down to doing it. Don’t give yourself the license to make excuses. Resolving to do it from the New Year is an excuse straightaway! So, don’t kid yourself!

Remember what Andy Law, maverick creative thinker and head of The Law Firm, says, “Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.”

Are you making a living or would you rather make a Life?


Examine what possesses you to understand how impoverished your really are!

All of us have been trained to calculate our net worth basis our material assets – property owned, gold lying unused in lockers, investments in stocks, insurance policies, vehicles, cash in the bank. If you think you have enough, all your thinking is focused on how can you protect your net worth, as viewed by you, from eroding and ensuring it actually appreciates in value. And if you think you want some more, and what you already have is not enough, all your thinking centers on amassing more assets – everything is about property, money, stock markets and investments. In either of these scenarios, you are being possessed by something you are not. And that makes you, very, very, very poor in Life’s scheme of things!

The truth is you are not your bank balance, not the property you own, not all the assets that your accountants total up to declare your net worth. You are Life, the Universal energy, in its purest form, and you imagine that you are a few pieces of paper and metal or a few measures of this earth, that which you cannot take with you in any case, when this human form of yours dies! As long as you are possessed by what you think you own, you are not living. You merely exist.

I met a friend recently, who, by his own admission, has plenty saved up in his bank accounts for his next two generations of family to exist comfortably. Yet, for several months, he confesses, he has been ‘grieving and suffering, often spending sleepless nights’, fighting to recover a sum of money owed to him by someone. Since that person has changed his address and is not traceable, a court order that my friend has secured stating that the party pay up cannot be served on the latter. My friend therefore has embarked on a pilgrimage to rid himself and his family’s path of all the obstacles that prevent them from recovering what’s due to them! In principle, there is nothing wrong in fighting legitimately for what is yours. There’s no harm in undertaking a pilgrimage too. But in either situation and effort if you are going to be ‘possessed’ by your desire to want the money desperately or by the fear that you may not ‘get what you want’, then are you not a slave? Of what use is all your wealth if at the end of the day you are enslaved by what you think you possess?

Do what you think you must do to earn your incomes, protect your wealth and grow your asset bases. Just don’t get possessed by your material wealth.

In Life’s book, net worth is judged not by how much you have, but how much you give. Give freely. Give food to the hungry, give clothes to the homeless and cold people this winter, give your time and attention to your family that perhaps doesn’t nag but pines for you, give your love and compassion to a harassed colleague at work or give a helping hand to a stranger struggling to cross the road or load heavy bags on to a cart at the airport. Give without expectation __and you will feel you have gained something. You will feel enriched. You will realize this simple truism about Life – that when you give, you rejoice, you exult, you feel happy and blessed. When you want, you feel tormented, depressed, fearful and always unhappy!

In reality also, all that you want can be robbed from you __ Life can take away your power, position, prestige, money and all your material assets. But no one, not even Life, can take away what you can give, unless you want to give it yourself. Like your love or your time that you choose to give someone – without any expectations of anything in return.

Think about it! Making a difference to someone’s Life can enrich you. Just making money for yourself actually impoverishes you! It is the difference between making a Life and making a living!


Bliss is celebrating and loving Life’s design!


In Life, everything is predetermined. And yet everything is up to you!

No, I am not contradicting myself. On the other hand I am merely summing up what Life really is. It is, essentially, what you experience between two ends of this paradox __ where you are born without your asking for it, you are given a lifetime without your inability to control anything that happens to you and at the same time, you have the opportunity, the choice, to live your Life fully, in bliss!

So, is there a destiny? A friend raised this question after the ghastly manner in which a 20-year-old girl died in an accident on Sunday. The news made headlines in the papers and left all of us shocked. The girl, with a gaggle of friends, was at a place which is more that 25 km from the accident spot. For no earthly reason, these girls, seem to have ventured out for a drive in the wee hours of Sunday morning and were on a highway on the outskirts of Chennai when the accident happened. All other occupants of the car survived the crash, except this one girl. So, someone who knew her and was shocked therefore beyond description said, ‘She literally walked into her death trap. It was destined.” That prompted my friend to ping me for a perspective.

Destiny is a subject that I too have often tried to understand. I don’t claim I have the answer that you may relate to. But I will share what I have learned through my Life and experiences__and what I find acceptable to me as an intelligent perspective!

Hard as it may appear to instantly believe, given our scientific grooming and our temperament for logical inquiry, our entire Life is in the hands of a Universal energy that is at the same time inscrutable and marvelous. At once compassionate and cruel. Totally understandable and yet completely incomprehensible. This is the energy that powers us all __ the breath that we take, and so does every living organism. From birth to death, of this lifetime in human form, we live to a pre-ordinance which we are completely unaware of. To that extent, it is all pre-determined. Even so, we do have the opportunity, the free will, to respond to Life as it happens to us.

Since none of us has seen God, in the manner in which each of our religions insist he or she exists, I would like to conclude that God, Fate, Destiny are excuses that mankind has invented to take the easy way out of remaining accountable in Life! We abdicate our responsibility towards our lives by dumping the blame on a God, an unknown Fate and an inscrutable Destiny. Osho, the Master, explains this well, in his trademark, in-the-face style: “There is no fate, no destiny. You are just trying to dump your responsibility on something that does not exist.  And because it does not exist, it cannot resist you; it cannot say, “Please don’t dump your responsibility on me!” God is silent, you can dump anything on him __ no resistance, because there is nobody to resist. Fate is again the same. You fail in love, you fail in other matters. It hurts that you have failed. You need some kind of ointment for your wounded heart. “Fate” is a beautiful ointment and freely available. You don’t have to pay for it. You can say, “What can I do?  Everything is decided by fate.” Success or failure, richness or poverty,  sickness or health, Life or death,  everything is in the hands of an unknown power called fate “I am doing my best,  still I go on failing. I am following all the moral principles preached to me, still I am poor. And I see all kinds of immoral people becoming richer,  getting ahead, becoming famous. It is all fate.” It gives you solace.  It gives you solace that you are not reaching your goals. It also gives you solace that if others have achieved success, there is nothing much in it, it is just decided by fate. So, on the one hand, you are saved from feeling inferior; on the other hand, your jealousy enjoys the idea that the successful person is successful only because fate has determined it that way: “It has nothing to do with him; he’s not superior to me.” God,  fate, destiny–they are all in the same category: throwing your responsibility onto something that does not exist.

My understanding is an extension of Osho’s point of view: If there is birth, there will be death. So, what’s so intelligent about calling someone’s death, a well-known, inevitable reality, his or her destiny? What’s the point in sulking and blaming your fate__when things go wrong, when we know for sure that things WILL go wrong? What is the point in calling a God, who you fear, unkind? Isn’t it obvious that you will fear something only when it does not meet your expectations in some manner __ being unkind being one of them!? I would, for the same reason, want to find someone who loves__not fears__God, call God unkind!

So, the moot point is Life will keep happening to you, the way it wants. You can accept it and be happy and content or you can resist it and sulk. This act of responding to your Life is what is free will all about. And that free will is within your control, even if your own Life is not!

Let’s take two examples of two exemplary women to understand how deployment of free will really impacts the quality of one’s Life:

Chitra Singh
Chitra Singh, the ghazal singer and maestro Jagjit Singh’s wife, came out of her self-imposed exile to pay tribute to her husband. She has been interviewed in the latest issue of People magazine. 22 years ago she had lost her son Vivek in a car crash, then her daughter Monica committed suicide in 2010 and Jagjit himself passed away in 2011. She admits to Dhaval Roy that she made repeated attempts at finding her voice again, but failed each time: “Life has been so kind and unkind to me at the same time that singing doesn’t come to me anymore. One’s voice is a very delicate mechanism. I just choked up and stopped singing. So, I did not leave music, it left me.” So, that is her response, employing her free will, her way, to living, to a predetermined Life design.

Shagufta Rafique
In the same issue of People, I encountered the amazing story of Shagufta Rafique, who once was a dancer in bars in Dubai and a prostitute, who has not become a screenwriter, dishing out hits like Raaz 3 and Murder 2, in Hindi cinema. She tells Divya Unny: ‘My stories are cheap and melodramatic like me. I am not a trained writer. A course cannot teach you how to tell stories. You need to have a flame burning within you which translates into something relatable. Life has taught me that. I have been a whore too long to erase that part of my Life. I have always dreamt of telling my story. And my own film will be the biggest test of my strength.” And, that, dear friends, is her response, employing her free will, her way, to living to a predetermined Life design.

Bliss is what happens when you choose, through your free will, to accept, celebrate and love, your Life’s design, or destiny. When you rue your design, blaming your fate, you will suffer. When you live your Life lovingly, you will meet God __ your God! And that God is bliss!