Lessons from the QSQT man!

Mansoor with Aamir at the Mumbai Launch of ‘The Third Curve’
Last evening we attended the launch event of a very interesting book titled ‘The Third Curve’ by Mansoor Khan. Mansoor is someone who has always followed his bliss. Son of the legendary Bollywood filmmaker Nasir Hussain and a drop-out from  IIT-Bombay, MIT and Cornell (he never completed any of the courses he took up at these institutions), Mansoor is famous for all the films he made (he directed the first four and produced the last) becoming superhits – Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (which made his cousin Aamir Khan a national sensation and Juhi Chawla a star), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Josh and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (which launched the career of his now famous nephew Imran Khan).  In 2003, Mansoor gave up Mumbai and Bollywood (returning briefly in 2008 only to produce Imran Khan’s launch film) and moved to Coonoor to take up organic farming and  set up a homestay (http://www.acres-wild.com/) – something he was always passionate about.
I learned two very important lessons from Mansoor. And I am happy to share them here with you:
  1.         No matter what happens, stay calm: As we arrived at the Landmark book store, everything seemed set for Mansoor’s book to be launched. But, as we were soon to discover, that was not really the case. The audience had not yet arrived. And when they did, we were told the screen, on which Mansoor intended projecting a presentation, had not arrived. Soon, the folks at Landmark brought a vinyl banner which was turned around and hung on the backdrop to provide a make-shift white background on which Mansoor could project his presentation. Then a power cable had to be drawn to start up his laptop and projector. When everything seemed set, someone suggested the lights be turned off around the front of the house, over the ‘screen’. And someone, by accident, turned off the line that powered the laptop and projector. Phew! All of this led to the official start being delayed by a good 40m. But Mansoor was unruffled. He was clear what he wanted. And he went about getting it done his way. This was a book launch mind you. There was an invited audience, several of them potential readers of his book, and ticking off even a few of them could have left a lousy taste at the launch. But Mansoor’s down-to-earth demeanor (absolutely no airs despite being so unconventionally, professionally and financially, successful) and his cool-as-a-cucumber attitude won him many admirers in the audience! And once he started sharing the concept behind his book, he was on a song. Hearing him speak was like watching Sachin Tendulkar bat! It flowed from the heart!!!
  2.         Be the change that you wish to see: Mansoor’s book, ‘The Third Curve’ is really about how mindlessly chasing a desire to exponentially grow money, over the last 150-odd years, has led to a phenomenal erosion of energy reserves in the world (he says 250 million years of sunlight reserves have been squandered since the advent of the Industrial Era, in just 150+ years!). He warns that the world, and all of civilization, is on the brink. He calls for urgent, immediate action. He wants us all to wake up and embrace the Green Life. Energetics, he says, and not just economics, can save the world! While his book, and his Talk, are refreshing and make you think, what’s inspiring is that Mansoor is not just prescribing a solution. At his farm, Acres Wild, he lives the solution. Acres Wild is an eco-friendly farm, that encourages a holistic and self-sustaining lifestyle – they grow their own vegetables organically and do not use chemicals, strive to increase bio-diversity and keep tillage to the minimum. If there’s one reason people may be encouraged to heed his clarion call, it will be because Mansoor leads by example!

All of us are quick to complain. Few people take action – Mansoor being one of them! His story is remarkable because he is following his bliss and he is being the change he wishes to see around him. Perhaps, that also explains how he can be so calm and unruffled – when things don’t exactly go to a plan! An inspiration for those who pause to reflect and are willing to learn?

Inspire your children to come alive

Give your children the power of choice. Allow them to experiment, fall, fail, learn and decide what they want to do. Don’t let your experiences and your insecurities dictate your children’s career or Life choices.
This morning’s Times of India reports that 769 seats are still vacant in the famed Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) for the current 2013~ academic season. This is unprecedented in the glorious history of the IITs in India. This can mean two things: that the IITs have lost their sheen or that engineering as a field of study is no longer a (forced) preferred option. I would like to assume and believe that the latter is true and that the vacant seats reflect a very teeny-weeny shift in the conventional Indian parental mind-set which has primarily been, for generations, oriented towards driving their children to pursue careers in either engineering or medicine. The Aamir Khan-starrer, Hindi blockbuster, 3 Idiots (2009, Rajkumar Hirani) held a mirror to Indian parents when it showcased Farhan’s (Madhavan) plight: of a brilliant wildlife photographer-to-be who was caught in the rat race to become a mediocre engineer just because his father (Parikshit Sahani) always dreamt of Farhan becoming an engineer! I am not sure if the response to admissions to IITs this year is any reflection of the central, core message of 3 Idiotsbeginning to percolate and causing parents, and their children, to focus on what makes the children come alive than what makes the parents feel secure!

As much as Life is unpredictable, Life is also often times a long journey. Many of our experiences and learnings, often from misadventures, direct us towards our destiny. I for one, after being a salesman, a journalist, a strategist, a CEO, a project manager, an executive assistant to a tycoon and a consultant, (in that order), over 17 years, discovered what I wanted to reallydo in Life only when I turned 35. Obviously, I was doing many things after college. I was working my butt off and earning good money. But while each experience I had was exciting, I was still searching for something. There was an incompleteness that I could not describe. It was only when I was faced with a Life-changing crisis that I found out what really gave me joy. That’s when I felt completely at ease and peace with myself and was able to say with certainty and conviction that “this” is what I want to do for and with the rest of my Life. So, the import here is that people, especially children, need to be allowed to make their choices. They must be allowed to experience Life and choose what makes them come alive. The world needs people who are alive, not nerds who have got the grades but whose souls are dead long, long ago. A great musician can heal the world many times over than a mediocre doctor ever can. A fashion designer may pack more precision and creativity into a piece of work than a bad engineer can ever even conceive.

An interview in the same edition of Times of India is worth referring to here. It was with actor Prakash Raj, who lost his 5-year-old son to a freak accident, 9 years ago. Raj, one of India’s most accomplished and famous character actors, had this to say about memories of his son and Life: I can’t forget him, even though I have removed all photographs of his. I am a non-believer and wanted to bury him in my farm. I just go, sit there many times. He is the one who made me realize how helpless I am and how unpredictable Life is and how small it is and how weak you are in front of nature. I love my daughters, but just miss my child, even though it’s been nine years since he died. He was just five when, while flying a kite from a one-feet-high table, he fell on the ground. For a few months after that, he would have fits, after which he died. Nobody could understand what was the reason. His death was more than any other sorrow for me. I don’t take Life for granted anymore and live in the moment.
As it is that crucial time of the year for admissions to colleges, perhaps you are a parent who’s grappling with just the same issue I am sharing here. My unsolicited advice is this: enjoy your children as long as this lifetime lasts. Inspire them to come alive. Ask them what makes them come alive. And give them the freedom to pursue it. Support them in whatever manner you can. More than your money, they need your conviction in them. More than making yourself feel secure about your children’s future, strive to make them more happy by allowing them to do what fills them with joy! Life’s too short. You might as well watch your child being truly happy than watch her or him be unhappy while being financially and professionally, and given the inscrutable nature of Life, vainly, secure!

Be Jolly – Don’t you get the cosmic joke?

Last night I was watching the 2006 Hindi hit film Fanaa (directed by Kunal Kohli, starring Aamir Khan and Kajol) yet another time on TV. I particularly like the character Jolly Singh, played by the late satirist-and-comedian, Jaspal Bhatti. Bhatti plays a guard at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and has the queer name of Jolly Singh in the movie! He explains that he was perhaps named so because his grandfather had the habit of saying ‘Jolly Good’ for everything that happened! And so, confesses Jolly Singh in the movie, that’s the secret of his being cheerful all the time!

Actually, all of us have that ability to be ‘Jolly Singhs’ inbuilt in us. But that part of us is suppressed because of layers of everyday stress that keeps piling on. The worries and tensions of everyday living leave us battered and bruised. We barely manage to see off a day’s challenges and the next day arrives with its truckload of fresh issues, conflicts and problems. And so it goes. Our days and weeks and months and years are all spent in battling Life than living it freely. Somewhere along the way all of us have become adept problem-fixers, not necessarily solvers, and have conveniently forgotten the meaning of being our own selves, of being happy and jolly!

The biggest reason we are like this is because we choose to attend to our worries than our opportunities. Something’s not right. And we have rushed to worry about it, fix it. The truth is even if you get a heart attack, you can’t treat it yourself. You need a doctor to attend to you. So, instead of getting worried, can you not be jolly? Maybe a good laugh can revive you, as laughter is always good for the heart!

Let’s take inspiration from Jolly Singh! And just be jolly good about anything that happens in Life!

If you are not convinced, let’s look to Osho, the Master, for some perspective. He championed that this Life is the biggest cosmic joke! He said there are three types of laughter __ or three ways in which you can be jolly!

  • One way is when you laugh at others. That, he said, and you will agree, is being very mean. Avoidable!
  • The other way is to laugh at yourself. That is a more evolved response but still very connected with the material, worldly self! But it better than the first kind and prepares you for the third kind!
  • The third way is to laugh at Life itself. This is when you are neither laughing at others nor at yourself, but, objectively, are laughing at the situation! You are laughing at Life!

Osho said being truly jolly meant getting this cosmic joke! Just the way Jolly Singh’s grandfather, and Jolly Singh himself perhaps, got it! This lifetime is really one, big laugh. We come with nothing. And will depart with nothing. We are not even aware we will be able to retain all that we experience in this lifetime in our subconscious and reproduce it in our evolutionary journey going forward. Yet, despite having to go away without owning anything, all our strife, our daily battles, are about stuff we will not be able to take away with us. Do you realize that? Do you get the joke!

If you eventually do get the joke, laugh! And ask yourself, how wonderful would it be if we could all be ‘Jolly Good Fellows’ all the time! And be infected at least in part with Jolly Singh’s energy or Bhatti’s enthusiasm and humor or with Osho’s wisdom!!