“Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question!

Life knows no fair play or foul play. Life is simply in an eternal state of play!
As I write this The Hindu’s website is breaking news that there has allegedly been a rape on the Pune campus of IT major Infosys (Infy). My first reaction, that I even tweeted (@AVISViswanathan), was “Gosh! There must be a way to end all this!” Earlier this morning in The Hindu’s Open Page, Rya Sanovar asks a very pertinent, albeit disturbing, question: “Why do I get and they don’t? Is this world we live in so unfair that it can’t provide its people the basic amenities of Life?”
The word ‘amenities’ can be replaced with ‘security’, or with ‘dignity’, and Sanovar’s question will still ring true. Yet there’s no point asking that question. Life never promised anything, least of all fairness, to anyone. Fairness and unfairness are social labels. They expectations that are born from within us humans. Life is simply at play. Life keeps on happening: one event after another. And each event, each happening in Life, is an experience for sure, and, if you care to pause and reflect, it can be a learning too. To crave for fair play from Life is to invite misery. Period.
In the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011), Farhan Akhtar recites his father Javed Akhtar’s poetry. One of the poems is this one:
Dil Aakhir Tu Kyun Rota Hai?
Jab jab dard ka baadal chhaya

Jab gham ka saya lehraaya

Jab aansoo palkon tak aaya

Jab yeh tanha dil ghabraaya

Hum ne dil ko yeh samjhaya

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai?

Duniya mein yun hi hota hai

Yeh jo gehre sannate hain

Waqt ne sabko hi baante hain
Thoda gham hai sabka qissa
Thodi dhoop hai sabka hissa

Aankh teri bekaar hi nam hai

Har pal ek naya mausam hai

Kyun tu aise pal khota hai

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Listen to/watch the original poem here


The poem so beautifully captures the essence of what I am trying to say here – that Life distributes sunshine and sorrow equally. Yet, it appears unequal to us because we compare. When you compare your home with Mukesh and Nita Ambani’s Antilia, you may feel, in real estate terms, poorer, less endowed. But when you see what you have compared to the person who seeks your attention – and alms – at a traffic signal, and who sleeps on the pavement, you feel so much more blessed. The truth is all our lives are perfect – yours, mine, Mukesh’s and Nita’s, and the pavement dweller’s. Each of us has what we need and gets what is due to us. Comparisons, therefore, serve no purpose. They simply ruin your inner peace. Besides, there’s no point in asking why is Life unfair or why is there inequality, why is there hunger, why is there rape and so on. “Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question! Instead ask yourself how you can contribute to make this world better – how you can bridge the inequality gap, how you can feed someone today, how you can touch a Life and make a difference?

Life may not have promised fair play. But Life’s always open to you playing along. Will you?
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Comparisons get no one anywhere

Learn not to compare people or yourself with others. Know that everyone’s Life design, including yours, is unique.
The other day we were at dinner at a friend’s place. The conversation veered around the new Indian Super League that features football clubs from across the country competing in a never-before format. Someone wanted to know who owned the club from Chennai – Chennaiyin FC. When she was told that it was co-owned by the Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan (AB Jr) she remarked sarcastically, “Now that he’s not doing well in films, he has taken to sports, is it?”
She then went on to berate AB Jr: “He’s not a patch on his legendary father. His father is such an iconic star. This guy pales in comparison.”

I am not going to defend AB Jr, though I must confess that I like him. People do have mixed views about him and his work – just as they do of any film actor. I believe, for instance, in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004) and Guru (2007), AB Jr was exceptional. And he has been consistently good in several other films – although many of them have not been very successful at the Box Office. I haven’t met him personally but I know several people who have worked with him – and all of them uniformly attest that he is an exceptionally warm, friendly person, a livewire on the sets and a thorough professional. Indeed, AB Sr, the venerable Amitabh Bachchan, is a Super Star. And he is light years ahead in the business – not just ahead of his son, but of almost everyone else! So I wonder why we must compare father and son – and, therefore, constantly judge AB Jr with a clear, unavoidable bias toward his father?
All of us have this urge to compare ourselves with others and others with still others. Comparisons lead us to one of two outcomes – a superiority complex or an inferiority complex. Both outcomes are manifestations of the ego. The truth is that you compare yourself with others because you are egoistic. So, if you stop comparing, you will have effectively dropped the ego.
Osho, the Master, asks us to learn from nature. He cites the example of a man standing in front of a tall tree and saying that he feels small. There are so many small trees and shrubs around this tall tree – but they don’t express their “smallness”. They simply go on living, swaying in the wind and co-existing in the presence of the tall tree. Why does this man alone feel small in front of the tall tree? Osho tells us that only we, humans, compare. And that’s because we allow our egos to lead us. Similarly, we are the only species who judge others. A is better than B. B is inferior to C. AB Jr is not as good as his father. NaMo is better than Manmohan Singh. Shoba De is better than Arundhati Roy. And on and on we go. Passing judgment. Comparing people. And presiding over our ill-informed, half-baked opinions – reassuring ourselves that we are the most important specimen in our species.
Comparing yourself with others and feeling superior leads you to insecurity, and through that to suffering – because you never want to lose that social (superior) status. Comparing yourself with others and feeling inferior leads you to suffering because you are constantly pining to become something or someone that you are not. Bottomline – in either case, you are inviting suffering into your Life. You must realize that no matter how hard you compare yourself with others or judge others in comparison with others, comparisons have absolutely no use. You will be who you are. And people you compare yourself – or others – with will be who they are. Comparisons, therefore, are a total waste of time and precious personal energy. They get no one anywhere.

The intelligent way to live is to know who you are and simply be at peace with yourself. And even if you don’t know who you are, just being at peace with the way you are, avoiding comparing yourself with others, is the way to be! 

Let the whole world be happy!

A lot of our suffering can be avoided if we stop comparing ourselves with others!
We have been conditioned to compare. Everything from our growing up years to our adulthood is about comparisons. Some years back a popular Unilever detergent brand Rin ran a TV commercial that had the line: “Bhala uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise?” It means: “Wonder how his shirt is whiter (brighter) than mine?” That ad was immensely popular and signified how deeply comparisons have impacted our lives in a socio-cultural context. Our education system breeds comparisons at a very early stage when small children, who are barely able to speak, are ranked according to their “academic proficiency”. And as these children grow up and emerge from colleges to take up careers in the real world the comparisons only grow more rabid and vulgar – someone’s better looking than me, someone has a more beautiful wife or a bigger apartment or a swankier car or a better pay packet! The comparisons never seem to cease – what class do you travel by, what car do you drive, where do you shop, where do you dine, where do you educate your child – you go on and on. Soon, unwittingly, you have passed on the “method and malaise” of living with comparisons to the next generation.
Comparing does no one any good. Not to the one who compares nor to the one who is being compared with! In fact, comparison breeds jealousy. And jealousy leads to suffering!
When you understand Life better and think about it deeply you will see great value in my humble suggestion to stop comparing yourself with others. You are you. And the other is different from you. Period. Each Life is unique in creation. And each Life’s journey is different. There may be similarities but nothing is, and really no two lives are, identical. So, why compare something, your Life, that is incomparable?
Whenever you indulge in making comparisons, you can be assured that jealousy will raise its ugly head too. And jealousy is often a silent operator. It is not always very expressive or evident. But it subconsciously chews you up from within. It happens this way – your mind keeps on telling you to look at someone and compare. Soon, a painful pining sets in. “Look at him,” you say to yourself, “he’s having all the good things in Life despite having no scruples.” Or, “I deserve better than her because I have worked harder.” Or, “This is so unfair. I have never hurt a fly. But there’s so much pain in my Life. Everyone’s happier than I am.” All these thoughts, and more, are symptomatic of jealousy eating you up from within. When you are jealous you are obsessed with everyone else’s Life, but yours. How can you be happy then – especially when you are focussed on what you don’t have and what others have? To be sure, happiness comes only when you consider and celebrate what you have!
But you don’t have to despair. You are not alone in comparing, being jealous or being unhappy! Everyone else is living this way too. That’s really what’s making the world sadder and meaner. That’s also why people are suffering all over. The way out of this debilitating and depressive spiral is to stop comparing. The moment a thought arises in you – and be sure it will arise – urging you to compare yourself with another, order that thought out. Just ask yourself: “So what?” And tell or remind yourself: “Let everyone be happy!” Try this approach. It works brilliantly! You don’t have to do this for the sake of others. Do it for yourself. Because only when you are happy with yourself, the way you are, irrespective of how things and people are in the world, can you find inner peace!