Your Life flows in the direction created by the choices you make

There are no right or wrong ways to live your Life. Live it your way. After all, it’s your Life!
What caught my attention over veteran Hindi actor Sadhana’s passing on Christmas day was that she died alone in a hospital in Mahim, Mumbai – losing her battle with an undisclosed ailment. Her close friend and actor Tabassum told The Indian Express’ Sonup Sahadevan that Sadhana, 74, was “very ill and very sad”. Sadhana’s husband R.K.Nayyar had died in 1995 – the couple had no children. Sadhana apparently had no relatives and was also embroiled in a bitter legal case over the house she was living in as a tenant in Khar. Her eyesight in recent years had been affected by hyperthyroidism.
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Now, here was a woman who was the heartthrob of millions in India all through the 1960s and much of the 1970s – her famous films included Mera Saaya (1966), Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Gaban (1966), Mere Mehboob (1963), Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962), Hum Dono (1961), Rajkumar (1964), Waqt(1965), and Ek Phool Do Mali (1969). She was considered a style diva and her hairstyle, that was aped by many, was popularly called the ‘Sadhana Cut’.
Did such a memorable icon deserve such a forgettable end? This is one question that some of the people writing, commenting, opinionating on Sadhana’s Life and times, have asked over the last couple of days.
Interesting question. In trying to answer it, we must consider that Life is all about the choices we make. And we must remember that Life’s basic principle is impermanency. Nothing is permanent. What goes up, comes down. What goes down, comes right back up. So, fame, fortune, friends and family – everyone and everything, will, at some point, fade away. The choice to live your Life alone is entirely yours. The choice to perhaps fight a court battle – or whatever – is entirely yours. The choice to be sad is entirely yours. Just as the choice to be among people you know, to not fight a court battle and to be happy is entirely yours!
I am not here pontificating whether Sadhana made the right choices in her Life. I am only saying that her choice to do what she did was purely her own. Just as it is with each of us in the context of our Life’s stories. Osho, the Master, has explained a simple, practical, way of making decisions and choices in Life. He says, when decisions come from your head – from the way you are thinking; emotionally, rationally, whatever – you will often not enjoy the outcome of your decisions. He says you may even suffer from your choices. But when your decisions come from your being, he says, when they come from who you really are, then no matter what the decision is or what outcomes follow, you will be at peace. So, who are we to judge how Sadhana made her decisions, her Life choices? Maybe she was at peace living alone and fighting her court battles, even as she battled failing health. Maybe, if Tabassum’s perspective is brought into focus, she was not. In fact, with Sadhana gone, it does not even matter now.
Even so, there’s a learning here for all of us. Our lives are flowing in the direction created by the choices we have made. And, as I see it, there are no right or wrong choices. A decision is a decision. A choice is a choice. And each choice leads you through an experience that you again learn from. This is how Life flows…and flows….until it ends…possibly when it merges again with the source?

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Dharam ‘paaji’ and the secret of living above this world!

The surest way to stay grounded is to be silent. Not just in the face of emotional and physical provocation, but in terms of making it a daily practice.
Practicing silence periods awakens you to your true Self. This method is called Shubha Mouna Yoga.
Dharmendra in ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana 2’
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Listen to Bollywood legend Dharmendra, now 80, on how silence helped him. In a recent media interview, he’s quoted as saying: “…In 2001, I was alone in America with a back problem. Loneliness was killing me. No one to share sorrows. Guess what? I started talking to myself. Then tanhayee (solitude) started talking to me, ‘You don’t know me. You are afraid of me. You can’t escape me. Remember your childhood dreams of becoming a star? You were on my lap then. I was in the lullabies your mother sang. You didn’t need me in all those years of mahurats, megahits, parties, tamashas. But now you are in my arms again’….”
The benefit of mouna is orgasmic in nature – it has to be experienced. It cannot be explained or described. Your being silent does not require the environment to be quietened by you. It requires only you to remain silent. When you are silent you encounter your God – the ‘one’ within you. When you converse with your God, you understand the truth of your creation. “Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” – Jesus (John 8:32). When you are free, your world looks and feels different; there are no pressures, no worries, no fears. This does not mean problems vanish and challenges cease to exist. It means your problems don’t trouble you and the challenges don’t weigh you down. You live in the same world. But you now know how to live above it.

Reaching this state of evolution requires just 20 minutes of being silent each day to start with. Won’t you give 20 minutes of your time daily to gain control over the remaining 1420 minutes in the day? If you invest in the stock-market or real-estate or mutual funds hoping to get a good return on investment (ROI), you will understand the value in giving 20 and taking back 1420!!! You don’t have to listen to Jesus or to me, but listen to Dharmendra, a man who has lived Life fully, is a very colorful personality, has a glad eye, has married more than once and drinks even today with true Punjabi flourish! For he’s one of those who have discovered the secret of living in this world and yet being above it!

Inspiration from a legend to stay Evergreen, Everyoung, Everalive

Do what you love doing. No matter what people think of you. And you will forever be at peace. And, importantly, you will always feel young.
Review your Life. Almost all your decisions are based on what other people think of you. The way you dress, the way you speak, the way you think are limited because of a perceived world-view you have of yourself. In fact, many people are trapped in lives and careers that are based on what other people have chosen for them __ parents or spouses __ or they have been driven by circumstances and fears to do what they are doing.
Dev Anand, Bollywood’s Evergreen, Everyoung, Eversmiling and Everalive star, led his Life his way__no matter what people thought of him__and led the way for us for the 65 years that he was in cinema. Almost everyone loved him. In fact, I am yet to come across someone who says, “I don’t like Dev saab”. He lived a full Life, although his last recognized hit at the box office, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ came in 1971, which was 40 years before he passed away in December 2011! But over these 40 years, he continued to do what he loved doing __ make films, launch new talent, helping whoever came his way. He financed his 18 films between 1971 and 2011 from revenue from his various real estate investments and from his post-production, recording and sound remix facility in Pali Hill, Mumbai, which industry estimates say, earned him Rs.20 crore annually. So, his Navketan Films, continued to survive despite all his 18 films failing at the box office. Despite his bad run in the trade, Dev Anand’s goodwill, carried him along in his last few decades. The venerable Warner Brothers associated even with his last film__and another failure__’Chargesheet’ that released in October 2011, because, as an official told The Economic Times, “We did it for Dev Anand”. Trade Analyst Komal Nahta recounts the tale of a person who bought the distribution rights of a Dev Anand film for the Rajasthan region some years ago. Nahta asked him: “Are you crazy?” His reply, Nahta told The Economic Times, was, “I got to pose with Dev Anand for a photo.” It wasn’t just about his star appeal alone, which he of course retained despite aging over the years. He didn’t mind that the trade wrote him off because of his films’ poor showing. He continued to be alive to humanity. What was special about Dev Anand was his energy. Nobody, it is said, who went to him came back depressed. He continued to launch talent__having launched stars like Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff and Tabu in films__and was willing to help anyone in distress. “Log mujhe pyaar karte hain”, he would say smiling his trademark smile, meaning, “People love me.” To me, the key learnings from Dev Anand’s Life: 1. He loved what he was doing. 2. He was therefore ever peaceful, ever smiling. 3. He took his work seriously: continuing to improve every day, with each film, at least in his mind, within himself, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHAT PEOPLE SAID OR THOUGHT OF HIM. 4. He was forever willing to help. Only when we live Life this way, can we live easy, and as the lyrics of Dev Anand’s 1962 classic ‘Hum Dono’ (We Both), go, we too can say, “…Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhatha Chala Gaya…Main Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Main Udaatha Chala Gaya…”. This means, I went along playing ball with Life, blowing away all my worries. This, Dev Anand often said, was also his Life’s Mantra.

Make it yours. And you too will be Everalive, Evergreen and Everyoung!  

Monday Morning inspirations from Panchamda’s immortal music

Except what you will be remembered for, nothing is permanent. Neither your success. Nor what you call failure.
Everything changes. You too have changed. You too will lose everything that you desperately seek to protect: your name, your position, your salary, your savings, your assets. You too will move on, when your time comes. This is the Law of Life. This is the way of the Universe. If this is so, why do we fret, fume, worry, amass, control, protect, fear and feel jealous of or hate another?
Understanding the impermanence of Life itself and of each experience that comes with it in this lifetime is intelligent living. Whatever has happened, whatever is happening, whatever will happen to you cannot be changed. It is when you live with this realization that you actually live. And until you get this simple truth about Life straight, you will struggle and suffer through Life.
Last evening, I was listening to one of R.D.Burman’s compositions – Musafir Hoon Main Yaroon – (Parichay, 1972, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar). To call Rahul Dev Burman just great is perhaps blasphemous. RD or Panchamda as he was fondly called, was__and IS__one of India’s greatest music composers. Between 1966 and 1982, he ruled Bollywood. I am sure no one needs any introduction to his genre or his songs. Just a gentle reminder will get us all humming. It is said that he composed ‘Aye Meri Topi Palat Ke Aa’ for his father Sachin Dev Burman’s 1956 ‘Funtoosh’when he was hardly 9 years old! The golden years of Hindi cinema were courtesy RD: ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera’ (Teesri Manzil, 1966), ‘Dum Maro Dum’ (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, 1971), ‘Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja’ (Caravan, 1971), ‘Chingari Koi Bhadke’, ‘Kuch Toh Log Kahenge’ ‘Yeh Kya Hua’ (Amar Prem, 1971), ‘Duniya Mein Logon Ko’ (Apna Desh, 1972), ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne’ (Yadoon Ki Baraat, 1973), ‘Is Mod Se Jaate Hain’ (Aandhi, 1975), ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ (Sholay, 1975), all songs of the musical blockbuster Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin, 1977,  ‘Nam Gum Jaayega’ (Kinara, 1977), ‘Aaj Kal Paon Zameen Par Nahin Padte Mere’ (Ghar, 1978), ‘Piya Baawri Piya Baawri’ (Khubsoorat, 1980). The list is endless. Each of his songs can send people like me into a rapturous, emotional nostalgia trip. Yet, writes Bollywood chronicler and RD-admirer, Ganesh Anantharaman in his book ‘Bollywood Melodies’, “despite the youthful hit scores of Love Story (1981) and Betaab (1983), I believe that by the 1980s, RD was in the throes of a serious identity crisis. He had exhausted his capacity to create westernized jazzy scores. He had too many instances of his more melodious scores being rejected, mostly because the films were badly made or did not have the right star cast.” In reality this translated into RD being totally rejected by Bollywood.
Can you imagine one of the greatest music composers of all times knocking on the doors of producers and studio owners in Mumbai “asking” for an opportunity?   Where R.D. Burman had made a career from songs with a strong Western jazz influence, he found that he was repeatedly being outdone by Bappi Lahiri’s Western “inspired” disco. There were a few reprieves though from this ignominy. Notable among them, once again showcasing his genius, was the work he did for his close friend Gulzar: ‘Mera Kuch Samaan’ (Izzazat, 1987). He plodded on, hurt, humiliated, financially devastated, in pain and suffering. ‘1942-A Love Story’, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s super hit, and whose music restored RD’s glory convincingly came, I guess, a trifle too late. Although he had poured his heart into composing the film’s music__evident with the runaway success of the numbers ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’, ‘Kuch Na Kaho’ and ‘Pyar Hua Chupke Se’__he died, beaten, rejected, dejected on January 4th 1994, several months before the film’s release and, therefore, before seeing his last work reach cult, iconic status.
(Enjoy a review of a book on him by Aniruddha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal, R.D.Burman __ The Man and Music, in the video link here)

Such is Life. You could be on top one day. And hit rock bottom on another day. Or you could be catapulted to glory from the throes of defeat, failure and frustration. The key to intelligent living is to recognize the transient nature of Life. Then you will want to live well, in the moment, doing whatever you can do__the dishes, painting, cooking, teaching, curing, leading, whatever__the best way you ever can. Don’t get carried away by fame. Don’t get defeated by insults and rejection. What lasts is the immortality of your work__when you leave behind a legendary body of art. Just the way RD’s music is. Everything else is impermanent. 

Being depressed for too long is an unevolved response to Life

If you are feeling depressed about Life please know that you are experiencing something normal. Just don’t allow the depression to pin you down and hold you hostage.
Recent media reports suggest that Bollywood star Deepika Padukone has talked about battling anxiety and depression last year. She reportedly felt a ‘strange emptiness’ in her Life and her close friend’s suicide only made matters worse for her. Deepika has said she shot for much of the climax for Happy New Year (2014, Farah Khan) feeling “this way”. Now, this confession by the actor may make some people wonder why she, of all people, has to be depressed. After all, doesn’t she have it all – a glamorous Life, success, money, a fairy-tale relationship with a co-star and what not? But that’s the way depression is – it strikes different people for different reasons. Even so the fundamental cause why people tend to feel depressed is the same – they are depressed when they don’t get what they want. Since people’s wants vary, the reasons for depression vary too. But since everyone out there has unfulfilled wants, depression is inevitable at some time in Life or the other in everyone’s Life.
The way to deal with depression is simple though. First accept that depression is a normal and natural response to not getting what you want in Life. Sometimes your wants may be well defined – money, a car, a vacation, a relationship, a child…whatever. Sometimes your wants may be tangible; you may have all the material wealth but what you may be looking for is something intangible – better understanding from family, inner peace, joy in the work you are doing and such. In either case, know that most often you will not get what you want in Life. So, feeling depressed over a want not being met, or granted, is a juvenile, unevolved response to Life. Now if you learn that the nature of Life is such that all your needs will be fulfilled, but never your wants, then you can rise above your depressed state and move on. But if you allow yourself to be depressed for too long, then suffering isn’t far away. Because depression is like a wave. If you stand there too long, you will be drowned by the high tide. Then depression will hold you hostage. This when you will not find motivation to do anything – to face people, to go to work, to believe in yourself or even to just be alone – by yourself. You will become irritable, you will grieve and you will suffer.
The first wave of depression is natural. But the second one is self-inflicted. You can’t avoid the first one. But you can ensure that you keep the second one away. Be wary of depression. For every second in your Life that you are depressed, you are not living. You are merely existing! A simple truth worth remembering when depression strikes you is that if you are not getting what you want, then perhaps, it is the way it is meant you be. Instead, simply, accept what is and go on with your Life.

Let your sadness make way for joy!

Don’t approach anything that happens in your Life from sadness.
A loss. Pain. A heart-break. An insult. All of them are not what we expect. And so we respond with shock, anger and sorrow. But after we get over the initial response, we must develop the attitude to shift the attention to joy. Exult in the opportunity that each of those surprising, often times even shocking, events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. A loss also teaches you, through your grief, what is more valuable to you in your Life. You grieve a loss because you attach a value to it. This awakening to the realization of what’s important to you must call for celebration. And joy, not grief and sorrow!
If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to learn to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Your spouse tells you that she or he can’t carry on in the relationship with you anymore. Beneath the obvious layer of shock and tears, it actually opens so many more opportunities to start afresh in Life. To explore newer horizons rather than be stuck in a bad relationship in grief, in sorrow, in pain. Joy here means the suffering for both of you has come to an end. Yes the pain of going through the process of separation will have to be dealt with. But eventually it too will lead to joy!

So, in effect, there are no sad endings in Life. Why then be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? A beautiful song from the John Abraham movie ‘Jhoota Hi Sahi’ (2010, Abbas Tyrewala, A R Rahman, Javed Ali, Chinmayi) comes to mind. It is among the most spiritual songs to emerge from Bollywood recently. The message is simple: Why Cry! Life’s too short to be spent in sadness and worrying! 

A lesson in finding yourself from ‘Finding Fanny’!

There will be times in Life when you will find yourself lost. Don’t panic or feel frustrated at such times. Know that only when you are lost, can you find your way – and find yourself!
I recently watched this very cute Bollywood English film called Finding Fanny(2014, Homi Adajania, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapur, Deepika Padukone and Arjun Kapoor). The story revolves around how Ferdie, an old postmaster, goes in search of his lady love, Fanny, who he had lost contact with 46 years ago. Ferdie is supported in his search by Angie, a widow who lost her husband on the day of their wedding six years ago. Tagging along with Angie is her mother-in-law, Rosie, who claims her husband is dead but the truth is he ran away with someone else and Rosie makes up his “lost in the sea” story so that she doesn’t lose face in the village. Then there’s the man who has loaned his car for the search journey, an artist, who has a fixation for “big women” – and Rosie is his latest muse. Driving the car is young Savio, whose inability to profess his love for Angie to her in the first place, led to her wedding and subsequent widowhood! As the story unfolds you discover that while finding Fanny is indeed the context, each of these characters is really searching for something they are missing in their own lives. Each of them has lost something – most importantly, precious years of their Life – and are seeking love and belonging in their own ways. That’s where, subconsciously Finding Fanny, connects to our own real, everyday, lives.
Each of us, at different times in Life, in different, often unique, contexts, will find ourselves lost. Either a job might have become listless or a relationship may have lost its very meaning. Or, sometimes, just raising a family – bringing up kids, attending to parents and in-laws, providing for the spouse – can take its toll. There may also be times when some decisions you took about your Life have misfired and you are swamped with guilt and self-pity. Or someone you deeply love someone who was you anchor, your everything, is suddenly gone – is felled by Life and is dead. Each of these situations – and many more – can happen to anybody. It can happen to you. It can happen to me.
The normal reaction in such times is to feel depressed. You will be deluged with a lot of questions in your mind. Questions for which you will have no immediate answers. What is the meaning of Life? Why am I having to face this problem situation? Why me, now? Is there really a God out there? If there is God, then why do good people like me have go through pain – and suffer? Why should I live any longer? Why is the world full of cynical, scheming, uncaring people? Where can I find love? Where can I find home? Just the vast range of questions, and the lack of answers, can weigh you down even more. And you will end up being more depressed than you already are.
But know and remember this: allowing depression to take over is not the way to respond to Life. In fact, when depression strikes and you sense a ‘lack of meaning’ in your Life, get up, even if you don’t feel like it, and push yourself to keep walking, even if you lack the energy or intent to even take the next step. As much as you may think that Life has been cruel to you by placing you in a certain situation – joblessness, a critical health challenge, a divorce, widowhood, death of a child, a business failure or whatever – the truth really is whatever it is now that you have is really your new Life. Being depressed means continuing to mourn the Life you once had. But think about it. What was once is gone. It is not going to come back. No matter how hard you pine for it. Feeling lost and  feeling depressed are convenient ways of saying you want to delay, you want to postpone living. Fine. But Life will go on. Just as the characters in Finding Fanny discover, your years will simply pass you by. There’s no point waking up later in Life and wailing that you lost such a lot of time just feeling depressed. Instead, when dealt with Life’s twists and turns, learning to accept what is, the way it is, taking it all in your stride and moving on – you will discover, is intelligent living!

You don’t feel lost in Life because Life has been unkind to you. You feel lost because you don’t understand, or often you don’t want to understand, that the Life you have is the onlyLife you have. When you realize that you must live this Life that you have – no matter what circumstances exist – to the fullest, relishing every moment of the experience, you will have found yourself!