Pissed on and passed over? – Never confuse being compassionate and being firm

Forgiving someone for a transgression and yet being firm on the issue need not be mutually exclusive.

A young manager I know is in a quandary. His boss has been harassing him at work – to the extent that the young man went into depression. His colleagues advised him to report the boss’ behavior and to seek a new role within the organization. The manager got himself assigned to a new project within the company over some months but he has chosen not to complain about his ex-boss. Over coffee the other day he asked me if was right or wrong in a. forgiving his boss and moving on and b. not reporting his boss’ behavior to his company’s HR leadership on grounds of breaching an organizational value – ‘respect for the individual’. “I am not sure I can be forgiving and also report him,” he confessed.

As I have learnt from Life, you can – and often must – do both. There’s a warm and compassionate side to each of us. We are, by nature, willing to forgive people for their transgressions. But often times our softer side is viewed and interpreted as our weakness by people who trample upon our emotions or deny us our freedom or even basic, fundamental, human courtesies. In such situations, it is absolutely fine to stand up for yourself, look the someone who is bullying or harassing you in the eye, and say that you will not take this treatment anymore. Besides, in this particular manager’s story, it is important that his boss’ behavior is reported. Because it conflicts with an organizational value and if left unchecked it may cause serious emotional injury to other employees and also impair the organization’s culture.

Important, when you are forgiving someone, you are gifting yourself freedom from the trauma that following any pain that has been inflicted on you. Forgiveness frees you of suffering. But fighting for the injustice meted out to you in the first place, that’s issue-based. So if you choose to stay firm, and unrelenting, on not allowing such an issue to arise again, either to you, or to anyone in the future, there is no conflict whatsoever.


I have learned this from Swami Sathya Sai Baba: “In any relationship between two people, one may well be a cow and the other, a bull. There’s nothing wrong in being either. Each has a role to fulfil and each has something to offer the other. But at any time that the bull starts taking advantage of the cow’s benevolence, mistaking it for meekness, the cow will be well within its rights to assume the ‘avatar’ of the bull. In taking a stance, in your own interest, there is no right or wrong. Just be true to yourself – do what you believe must be done in any context. The cow need not perpetrate any acrimony, aggression or animosity. But the cow shouldn’t suffer any of these either.”

In essence, while to make a mistake is human, and to forgive such a mistake too is human, to suffer in silence and sorrow is both unjust and inhuman. It is the biggest hurdle to inner peace and joy. So, don’t confuse being compassionate and being firm. They need not be exclusive. Simply, no matter who it is, don’t let anyone take you for granted, trample upon your self-esteem, piss on you and pass you over. Remember: if you don’t stand up for yourself – chances are, perhaps, nobody else will!


A friend teaches me that true love means “compassion”

The compassionate are the richest people, they make this world so much better!
A reader, perhaps spurred by the flavor of the month, Valentine’s, asked me if love is a motivator or is it a responsibility. And I write this post to share what I know of what true love is.

Let us understand that love is fundamentally an expression of energy. The lowest form of that energy is when you make love, have sex; that energy is purely physical. That energy is also called passion. The next level of that same energy is love, where you go beyond the physical and feel for the other. There is give and take beyond the physical state in love and this is what makes people be with each other and thrive. And the third level of that energy is compassion, when there is something deeply spiritual that unites two people. And each only wants to be a giver. Each does not expect anything in return. This is the best and the purest state for a couple to be in. It may be possible that only the giver may be compassionate and the receiver may not reciprocate. But the giver goes on giving, with no expectation, with no complaints. So, the love that we commonly talk about at a romantic level, is mid-way between passion, plain love-making or sex and the deeply spiritual compassion.
Pure love is when all the energy in you transcends the physical, passionate, state, goes beyond the feeling stage and reaches the giving state, the compassionate state.
Let me share with you the story of my friend, who is now 50. I met him earlier this week, many years after he had separated from his wife. His wife actually had dealt with him rather unusually – taking over his property, deserting him and migrating to the US with their child. While she may have had her own reasons for her actions, my friend was devastated. He just could not reconcile, for several months, with what had happened. I remember him telling me: “I loved her and still love her a lot. She could have just told me that she wanted to break away from me and I would have walked away without a question. That she chose not to trust me with her decision hurts me more than her leaving me. And why deny me access to my own child?”
Over time, my friend immersed himself in his work. And all of us around him felt he had managed his emotional state pretty well. When I met him a few days ago, I asked him how he was coping. What he told me blew me away completely and my admiration for him has swelled. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “So, how are you coping with Life?”
Him: “Life’s beautiful. I married a Kashmiri woman whose husband died of cancer some years ago and adopted her son as my own.”
Me: “That’s wonderful. How old is the boy? And how has he adapted to you?”
Him: “The boy is 12 now. It’s been three years. He calls me ‘daddy’ and we are great friends. My wife and I are also great friends. To tell you the truth, I have a special and beautiful friendship with her. After her husband’s death, her in-laws were not supportive. They harassed her and blamed her for their son’s death (he was diagnosed with cancer within a few months of their marriage). She even contemplated suicide as she could not handle them nor get over her loss. She loved her husband a lot and did not see a meaning in her continuing to live. We have a mutual friend who asked me if I could consider marrying her so that she could get out of the tyrannical clutches of her in-laws. When I met her for the first time, she told me openly that she did not want to ever physically consummate our marriage. Because she still feels the presence of her husband in her Life. So, she told me that our own marriage may not work out. I liked her openness. And her concern for me. I told her we could still marry and be great friends. That’s how it all started and all three of us are very, very, very happy!”
Me: “That’s such a great choice and gesture. I respect you. But don’t you miss something: maybe physical intimacy? Maybe your first wife?”
Him: “Life’s not about sex and physical relationships alone. I still love my first wife. But she’s gone. What’s the point in pining for her or holding a grudge against her? I decided to channelize my love for her and my first child, who’s with her, toward my second wife and her son. Their presence in my Life keeps me anchored and their friendship keeps me going.”
Even as I recall this conversation here, I feel blessed and grateful that my dear friend reiterated for me a learning that’s so invaluable. Love’s not only about physical intimacy with a partner. There’s a special friendship that’s possible if you make the effort. And if nurtured, through sharing, caring and compassion, as in my friend’s case, it can take Life to a spiritual level, making it beautiful and meaningful!

So, as a Valentine’s Day message, let’s take away the need to evolve and attain the state of compassion, when you are only giving, with no expectation of anything in return. 

Forgiving someone is the best gift you can give yourself

Forgiveness means to accept people for who they are. Irrespective of their irrationality, of their attitude towards you and of their actions.
I recently met a business associate who had failed to fulfil his contractual obligation to my erstwhile (and now defunct) Firm.
It had been a messy relationship. He was paid a sum of money in lieu of his services that he never delivered. When my Firm demanded the money back, he stonewalled us and refused to even take my calls. I sent him a strongly worded email to which he never replied. So, it was in these circumstances that this person and I met at social event. He was courteous but he was both uncomfortable in my presence and, most certainly, unapologetic. Sensing his discomfort, I clasped his hands, and looking him in the eye said, “Let bygones be bygones. I know we have an issue pending. But I am not carrying any grudges any more. I am sorry if I have hurt you in any way over the episode we both wished had never happened.” That kind of lightened the atmosphere and we spent the rest of the evening drinking and chatting up! 
I am not even sitting in judgment of what I did as right or wrong. I simply forgave the person. Period.
I have learned from Life that nobody is bad. Nobody is out to fix anyone! People do what they do because they believe they are right in doing so. Or they think if they didn’t do so, something grave is going to happen to them. Or if they didn’t do what they are doing, they may not get what they expect from you. All irrational behavior by someone then is a manifestation of what they are thinking, their belief systems at that moment, which again is a reflection of the time that they are going through. Such behavior needs to be responded with compassion not hatred. These people need your understanding. They need your forgiveness, not your anger. Besides, if you think deeply about it, what purpose does anger serve? You burn in it, while the person at whom you are directing your rage is often totally nonplussed about how you are feeling.

To truly forgive means to give someone your deepest understanding. It means to let go of the need to judge, opine, analyze or justify and to simply accept the diversity in human Life. It also means to appreciate that people will think different, behave different from you, because they are different from you!  Besides, forgiving someone unburdens you of all the excess baggage of anger, hatred, grief and suffering that you will otherwise carry around. Forgiving someone who has hurt you is the best gift you can give yourself. Think about it. This awareness can make your Life beautiful!

Whistle-Podu for Chennai and her people!

Sometimes words cannot describe the pristine human spirit at work.    

Photo Courtesy: Internet
As Chennai goes through a disastrous phase of dealing with a calamity of apocalyptical proportions, some of the images and updates that are coming via social media are so heart-warming. People are helping each other – food, clothing and emergency medicines are being arranged. Strangers are chatting each other up. There is so much damage, so much loss, so much gloom with so much water flooding the city – yet the streets are full of inspiring, touching gestures and stories.
Photo Courtesy: Internet
A young man on a two-wheeler offered to take me around the block just so that I could see how we could get some food to an elderly couple. I hear people are sharing their wi-fi passwords freely so that families can be in touch with their loved ones – the telecom network has sputtered to a stop. But internet connectivity, particularly through BSNL, is still on. A neighbor has cooked hot meals for stranded people and is busy going around in a truck distributing it.
My good friends Divya Srinivasan and Koushik Udayashanker have taken it upon themselves to go around comforting animals – street dogs and cats in particular, who are startled, frightened and hungry. And the young team of founders from The Postbox, Nikhil Joseph and Madhuvanthi Senthilkumar, are doing phenomenal networking on social media – connecting people, supplies and relief operations! I can’t find words to describe their compassion.
Vishal & Monika
For our part, last evening we took in a young couple, Monika and Vishal, whose home got flooded. We didn’t know them – we were tagged by a friend, whose friend’s friend knows them! Talk of the power of social media!
A lady with a Karnataka registration plate on her car was told by a gas station attendant this: “We are sorry you are having to experience our city like this. We hope you will be back when our city is on its feet again!”

There are so many, many, many more stories. This is a city of over 6 million people. And there may be that many stories out there today. I have no words to express how I feel just now. But I still have one word for Chennai and its people today! In typical ‘namma’ Chennai lingo: Whistle-Podu! 

If you want Nature to be kind to you, start by being compassionate to her

Be compassionate to Mother Nature. Because she is the reason why we are.   

Yesterday evening, when driving into Chennai, through the blinding rain, it just occurred to me that if Nature has struck back, it is only because we have been inconsiderate, irresponsible and reckless – as individuals and as people. Chennai’s been battered with seasonal rains, of a fury that has been not been seen so far – in at least a 100 years. I belong to this city. I was born and raised for most parts here. I have leave here 20 years on the trot. I have not seen rains like this in my lifetime – in 48 years!
Picture Courtesy: Outlook/Internet

And the reason – individual greed, lousy urban planning, poor civic administration and government’s lack of vision apart – is that we, as a people, are irreverent to Mother Nature. As my friend Sruti Harihara Subramanian posted on Facebook: “Mother Earth is angry. Let us go back to worshiping her and begging for her forgiveness. Let us promise to be tender and kind to her and no more take her for granted.” You can’t but agree with Sruti’s perspective.

Of course, when the rains stop and the floods recede, in a matter of weeks, when the blame game begins only to be drowned in the next big crisis, this episode, albeit historic, of Nature’s fury will also be forgotten. Sadly.
But there’s an opportunity here. Can we make a small beginning by being compassionate towards Nature? Reuse. Recycle. Save water. Save power. Plant a tree on your birthday or wedding anniversary. Send out positive energy through your daily prayers – thank Nature for all that you have been bestowed! Only when more of us do this, consistently, we can hope for Nature’s continued compassion. Only then can we hope to leave a better planet for our children to live in!