For every seed of hatred sown, plant a grove for humanity

The more we allow parochial thinking to lead us, the more divided our world will be.
Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza
Picture Courtesy: Internet 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yesterday opposed tennis star Sania Mirza’s appointment as Ambassador of the newly-formed state of Telangana. Subramaniam Swamy, the redoubtable BJP leader, was quoted in the papers as saying: “I agree with the BJP leaders that when people have divided loyalties, we cannot expect them to represent the country or any part of the country faithfully. So, the BJP stand is well taken.” Sania came under attack from VHP and BJP because she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. In fact, Telangana BJP leader K.Laxman called Sania “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law”.
Such thinking is gut-wrenching and numbing. Sania is a successful sportsperson. And Malik is another successful sportsperson. The two decide to marry. Where does, and why should, nationality play any role in this? Mercifully, both belong to the same religion. Else the self-styled mandarins may have had added more logs to the fire.
Interestingly, in October 2009, when former Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram’s wife, Huma, was being flown from Lahore to Singapore in an air ambulance for treatment for renal failure, she developed complications when they were overflying Chennai. An emergency landing was mandated. And doctors at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, treated her for a few days, before she passed away on October 25, 2009. Dr.Venkataraman, the doctor who treated Huma, is a Hindu. As are several of the fans who gathered outside Apollo Hospitals that morning to show their support for Akram and condole his loss. About a decade earlier, fans at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, in Chennai, had given Akram a standing ovation, after he led Pakistan to a memorable win in a closely-fought Test Match.
So, in reality, the common folks, people like you and me, don’t ever get swayed by religion or by partisan thinking. Humanity and the spirit of sport – of letting the best team or player win – rules higher in our minds than anything else. Even so, the games politicians play, often for petty gains or even for demonstrating one-upmanship, are divisive. Not only should we be wary of them, we must express our secular and objective views on all such occasions.
There’s an ad playing on TV promoting the 2014 season of KBC. It shows how a boy from a Hindu family, calls his Muslim neighbor, with whom his family has been having a rift, to ask for the meaning of “as-salaam-alay-kum” using the phone-a-friend option. He gets the right answer and wins the prize money. The jingle in the background goes somewhat like this: “Jab Lahu Ek Ho, To Rang Kaise Do?” meaning, “When the blood is the same, how can it have two colors?”. I believe that the ad’s, and the jingle’s, message is something we must all hold dear in all contexts. We are just one world, one people. We have the same blood in us. The color of our skin may be different, as may be our national flags, or our religious affiliations. Even so, we have the same feelings as another in any given situation – all of us have the ability to love and be compassionate; and all of us feel pain when we lose someone we love. So, for every seed of hatred and divisiveness that is sown, let’s plant a grove for humanity. As Bob Marley (1945~1981), the Jamaican reggae singer, famously said, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”

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No amount of negative thinking can change your Life

Nothing about your Life is going to change unless it does. Life is what it is. Feeling negative about is not intelligence.
At the same time, don’t expect negative thoughts not to rise. They will. Such is the nature of thoughts. They will always keep swimming in your mind. But you can develop the ability to recognize and rid yourself of negative emotions as they rear their ugly head. This calls for being both aware and honest.
For instance, take self-pity and jealousy. When you compare yourself with others, naturally, you are bound to pine for what you don’t have and feel jealous, often subconsciously, of what someone else has. Neither of these emotions is constructive. Self-pity keeps your feet nailed to the ground and jealousy fills you with negativity. Being honest with yourself is a good beginning. Ask yourself: What are you pining for? And who are you jealous of? Continue this train of awareness-based questioning: Is what you are pining for really so critical for your Life? Can you not manage without it? And is feeling jealous of someone going to make you get what you are pining for? These questions can have a eureka effect on your thinking. You will be amazed at your own ability to realize that these emotions are wasted, unproductive and are shackling you. Out of that ruthless honesty will emerge the simple clarity that you are who you are. Unique. And what you have is all that you have. You will awaken to the reality that pining and lusting is not going to make you, or your situation, any different.
Bob Marley, (1945~1981) the famous Jamaican reggae singer, said it so beautifully, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So, when you are riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”

"Fulljoy" Life – Then your troubles won’t double!


If worry could solve even one percent of the problems that we face daily, worrying may be perfectly justified as a global pastime. Yet while it is evident that a large mass of humanity worries most of its lifetime away, there is no evidence to suggest that worrying has been productive at all.

Worrying causes frustration and plunges you into a depressive spiral. Everything and everyone seems to be getting after you. One thing leads to another. And by the end of a destructive spell of worrying you are dealing with more crises than you originally had started off dealing with. Worrying comes free so everyone does that. But remember the problems it seeds are very, very expensive!

A business acquaintance, by sheer accident, introduced me to this learning. Several years ago, I was in Bengaluru on work. And I was running late for a meeting. The one I had just finished had ended badly. The client owed my Firm a substantial sum of money. We had been following up on our claim for over a year. We had been promised a resolution and payment at that meeting. But the client reneged, disputed the claim and refused to make any payment that day. The meeting ended sourly and in a stalemate. I was both angry and worried as I rode in the car for the next meeting. I was angry because what the client had done was unfair and unethical. I was worried because I had issued cheques to parties, who were long overdue for payment by us, in anticipation of this inflow. I did not know what I should do. In such time, I reached the venue of the next meeting. It was a large company. And they were prospecting my Firm for a potential service contract. I was late. So, I tried to rush the security guard at the registration desk. He didn’t seem to bother. I yelled at him. When I finally reached the reception area, I found the receptionist speaking on the phone. It appeared to me in a few minutes that she was on a personal call. I gestured to her that I was late for a meeting. She impatiently gestured back asking me to be seated. I scowled at her.

And the chatter in my mind went: Damn! Why is everyone after me today? How am I supposed to pay off those vendors and meet the wage bill of my team with this inflow not coming through? I am now late for this meeting. And I am not likely to be making an impression with my presentation with this new prospect because I am both late and in a lousy frame of mind! Damn!

Finally, I was ushered into an empty conference room. I hooked up my laptop and tested my slide deck on the screen. An executive in formal attire walked in. I did not look up at him. I wanted to avoid any polite conversation. I just wanted to present my Firm’s case and go back, perhaps, to worrying. The fire in my cash-flow was far more demanding of my attention than a potential business deal. I assumed the man was one of the members of the leadership team to whom I was to present that day. After setting up my deck, I looked away from the man. It didn’t occur to me that I was behaving like an oaf. I was consumed by my desire to drown in the seductive, ruinous comfort of my worry! I paced up and down the side of the conference room that I had occupied. The executive must have felt it bizarre that his guest was not even acknowledging his presence in his own office!

After what must have been several moments of silent gazing by him and a pretentious meditative pacing by me, he spoke up.

He asked me, in a cold, matter-of-fact, tone: “AVIS, do you always look so beaten, morose and wear this frown all the time?”

It appeared that a million-volt thunderbolt had hit me. I froze in my tracks. I turned around. Looked at the executive and sheepishly said: “Errr….Well…..I am sorry….I was preoccupied….Errrr….!”

He was in his mid-40s then and I was in my mid-30s. He appeared to be a nice bloke. He smiled and spoke calmly: “I can see that you are worried about something. And angry too with something. If you make this presentation carrying those two emotions, let me tell you, you will piss off everyone. I am already wondering why I am here when you are not here!”

I apologized. I thanked him. I walked across to his side. We exchanged business cards. I discovered he was the Head of Strategy and awarding my Firm the mandate, should we make the cut, was in his hands, apart from the CEO’s. I knew the CEO well. And that’s why I was there. I pulled myself from the brink that day, thanks to this gentleman’s unsolicited yet fortuitous intervention. The presentation went very, very well. And we bagged the contract!

But more than that, the value of the wisdom this man has imparted in me is priceless. He taught me, in a nano-second, how worrying can ruin a perfect moment pregnant with opportunity! He taught me the power of now! It took me several years of struggle, tears, pain and suffering, to internalize this learning. But if he had not sowed that seed that day, I would not have been able to tame the worry beast in my Life!

Bob Marley 1945-1981
I was reminded of this episode this morning as I read a story in the latest issue of OPEN magazine on Rohan Marley, the legendary Jamaican reggae singer, and Rastafarian, Bob Marley (1945-1981). Rohan, now 40, told OPEN that his father had taught all his many siblings to not just enjoy Life but to “fulljoy” it!

Think about it. How much of your precious living moments are you sacrificing on the altar of worry daily? How much of your time do you look beaten, morose and are wearing a frown__like I did that day in the conference room in Bengaluru? Don’t you want to “fulljoy” Life?  If you do, then know that to “fulljoy” Life means to not worry and be happy! Because, when you worry, as Bob Marley famously and beautifully sang (“fulljoy” this song, clinging on to its every lyric…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIM3GHvBQjY), you only double your troubles!