Because, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

Do what you love doing! And live Life up as long as it lasts!

Another year is ending. And a new one begins in a few hours from now. Across the world people have made plans for night-long revelry and partying. Soon, as a new dawn breaks, the new year too will become predictable – and at the end of the first week, will even become routine, boring and pedestrian. We will all have returned to our daily lives, back from vacations and parties, running faster and faster on Life’s treadmill – only to discover that we are not getting anywhere. We will continue to complain: that there isn’t enough time to follow our dreams, that whatever we earn is just not enough, that we never seem to be finding true love or that our health challenges are becoming more and more unbearable.

Why is it that we often feel good when we are vacationing or are at a party and never quite feel good about the biggest party of them all – Life?

The answer lies in our understanding of Life. Or the lack of it!

Michael Schumacher’s Helmet
As reports about F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher suggest, it’s tragic that he finds himself where he is. Someone who defied death on the racing tracks has been felled, rather uncannily, off it. As he battles for his Life, there’s no better message for the coming year that I can think of than the one Michael always displayed on his helmet: “Life is about passions (sic!) – Thank You for sharing mine.” To be sure, Michael lived this message! He followed his passion, he followed his bliss!

With each passing year, you are drawing closer to your death. The only thing constant and predictable about Life is that it will end. So, there’s as much a responsibility that each of us has, as there is opportunity, to live this Life, that we have been given, fully! And your Life could not have been lived fully if you have not followed your bliss – if you have not done what you loved doing.

Many of us are so caught up with earning-a-living that we have not lived. There’s a gnawing pain within, a regret that gets only more pronounced with each passing year. Every birthday is a grim reminder that there is lesser time available. And then, when something tragic, like in Michael’s case, happens to us, we look back in regret – wondering if we could not have lived Life differently. If we could not have followed our dreams. While saying all this, I am not belittling the importance of keeping your economic engine running. Of course, each of us has a responsibility towards our families – to our parents, spouses, siblings and children. Providing for them requires reprioritization of Life’s To-Do lists and, of course, money. Therefore, I am not recommending that you focus only on yourself. I am only suggesting that let your selflessness not consume your passion, your inner joy, your bliss.

So, as you enter another year, as the festivities die down, pause and reflect on your Life. Ask yourself what would you have liked to have attempted doing in Life? Work on a plan that helps you maintain a balance between what you need to keep your income stream steady and what you need to do to keep you inner joy flowing. Execute that plan in 2014. Undoubtedly, as you get started, you will struggle. You will stumble. You will fall. But keep at it. And soon, you will have learned the art of living – fully, happily!
Make each moment, for the rest of your Life, memorable. Livethem! For, you live only once! Because, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’!

Wishing you and your precious family lots of love, peace and abundance all through 2014…


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If something makes you come alive, go do it!

You can make your Life worth it by living your dream.
All of us have dreams. But few actually live them – because most of us are often trapped in the rigmarole of everyday Life: earning-a-living, procrastinating and finally just not being able to break free from a deceptive sense of “security” that actually cripples us and prevents us from taking off!
The Family Massaro: Darold, Dante, Jennifer
Here’s some inspiration from a threesome who are to set sail on a voyage later this Saturday! Jennifer Munchow Massaro is a good friend of mine who works as a communications professional in Silicon Valley. She’s married to Darold Massaro, her best friend from college, who heads a creative social media enterprise called Connected Social Media. The couple have a son, Dante who is barely 10. Jennifer, Darold and Dante have decided to give up all their predictable pursuits – a career, a business and conventional school – for a couple years and instead, on Saturday, September 28th, are setting sail on their 40-foot boat Benevento on a journey that will take them through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the East Coast, across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean. 
The Benevento
Jennifer has this to say about the whole plan: “It’s true that the hardest part of embarking on an extended sailing trip is actually leaving. It is an unbelievable amount of planning. Getting the boat ready, renting our house, home-schooling, vaccinations, medicines, provisioning…it’s enough to discourage anyone from realizing a dream; especially those of us who are an innocent bystander of someone else’s dream! I have realized that the only difference between someone who says they want to do something big and someone who actually does something big is not genius or inspiration. It’s the drudgery of planning and working the plan! We are excited to shove off – September 28. And in addition to the thrill of traveling to new places we are even more thrilled to leave the grind of Silicon Valley and have quality time as a family. We are going to ease the main (shipping lingo!), spill some wind from our sails and just slow down!”
Jennifer could not have articulated this better. She says she took time understanding and sharing Darold’s dream of sailing around the world. But once in, she decided, with Darold, that Dante’s best education would be to learn from Life and through traveling. So, she calls herself the Head Mistress of Open Ocean Elementary and, apart from being Darold’s First Mate on Benevento, she will school Dante in more areas than what someone in 4th and 5thgrade can ever learn!
I believe all of us have this desire to go do something that will make us come alive. But we all struggle with getting started. I am often in awe of another friend of mine, Ramesh, who almost always finds the time and the means to pursue what he loves doing. He’s been an entrepreneur, an educationist, has been on a gruelling trans-Himalayan bike rally, has been on several nature expeditions, does his bit for cleaning up the environment and is now understanding and exploring making films with a cause. While many of us find it difficult to juggle between a career and home, Ramesh keeps diving into whatever gives him joy. And I believe he’s able to pull it all off, every single time, only because he focuses on what makes him come alive.
I have learned that to follow a dream you need to stop looking for guarantees in, and from, Life. One of the reasons people don’t get started is because they want to know if things will be okay when they try to do what they love doing. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in Life. And if you wait to get everything logically set or for outcomes to be forecast with certainty or for safety nets to be in place – socially, financially or for the family – you may never quite feel reassured. Remember: you have only so much time (left) to follow your dream! So, if you really want to live your dream – simply go after it. Plan for sure, as Jennifer says, but don’t hold yourself back. Take the plunge – dive in! And watch yourself come alive, as Ramesh has perhaps felt every single time!

Don’t come in the way of your children!


Don’t come in the way of your children. Let them journey through their lives and find their own paths.
We try to possess our children just because we gave birth to them and therefore we are ‘rightfully’ (that’s a delusionary claim, in my humble opinion!) worried for them. The very idea of possession is so vulgar. It reduces the child to a thing. You possess a thing. You don’t possess your children. You have them in your Life because you are blessed! Parenting is a blessing and is not your birthright!
I read some very tragic stories in the media over the last couple of days. That got me thinking on parenting, responsible parenting at that, all over again. And when I refer to parenting, I am not just referring to biological parents here. I am addressing the role of teachers, society and media, besides the natural parents.
Ashok Kumar
The first story is of a 15-year-old school boy from Chennai, R.Ashok Kumar, who was the runner-up in the National (Indian) Badminton championships. When he returned to Chennai with his medal and certificates, his school admonished him for missing too many classes ‘in the name of sports’! His mother, who works as a maid in households in the neighborhood, is at a loss on what to do. She says her son loves the sport but is ‘worried’ because the school threatens to throw him out. This was also the fate of young Indian cricket star, Unmukt Chand, 19, who led India to victory in the U-19 Cricket World Cup a few months ago. His college, St.Stephen’s in New Delhi, initially did not allow him to appear for his exams because he did not have enough attendance! It then took some backlash in public for the college to revoke its insensitive and senseless stand!
At least, in these two cases, we can see that the children as still in a younger age group, and therefore having __ not mandatorily, in my humble opinion again__to be answerable or responsible towards a school or college, apart from their own families.
Gaurav Jain
But take the case of this young post-graduate, Gaurav Jain, from New Delhi. The Hindu reports that after picking up a Master’s Degree from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication’s Amravati campus this year, Gaurav realized he needed to live the Life of a poor person if he wanted to honestly critique public policy. So, on September 10, 2012, he hired a cycle rickshaw from Roop Nagar (a New Delhi suburb) for Rs. 40 a day, giving his driving license as collateral. Apart from actually living the Life of the folks on the street, Jain also writes a blog on his daily learnings. Titled ‘The other side of the Fence’, his blog, cycletorickshaw.blogspot.in, chronicles his Life and times. And Life on the street is not easy. It has his own upheavals. Jain, given his education, started to mobilize the unorganized cycle rickshaw pullers into a team so that they could demand better fares from customers and better treatment from the high-handedness of the cops, who normally give members of this trade a raw deal. A few weeks ago, Jain was assaulted by a cop for “parking in a no-parking zone”. The story made it to the papers in New Delhi. And Jain’s family flipped! They had no idea their son was a rickshaw puller. And so they actually threw him out. They disowned him! And Jain found himself sharing a 100-sq ft space in a small tenement with six other daily wage earners! The Hindu further reports further that since this incident, his family and Jain have made peace. Jain is now back home. Enriched with his experience, he is now looking for positions where he can apply his real-world perspective in matters of public policy!
Can you imagine a family actually disowns, even if for just a few weeks, an adult son, just because he dared to be different __ with a good reason to boot?
This brings us to a larger question, a common thread, that passes through all three stories and is possibly playing out in your own homes too! And that is the rather sick trend of parents (and teachers) coming in the way of their children’s dreams! If you have adolescent children you will relate to this even more. You are finding now that your child, who until now, was listening to you, does not want to be told ‘anything’. You are beginning to wonder if your child is focused on academics. You worry, therefore, for your child’s grades and job prospects. If this is happening in your home, let me tell you that YOU are losing it! Your worry is understandable. But you acting from that worry __ what you fear about your child’s future __ is totally unacceptable. Instead why can’t you act from faith __ in your child’s desire and ability to make intelligent, independent choices about her or his Life? And why can’t you have faith in your ability to guide, counsel and support your child’s vision for herself or himself? Your children want to live THEIR lives. Get this straight. If you have taught them good values and share a good bond with them, then, you have raised them well! You have got an ‘A’. Beyond this, please, let us__that you and me__not come in their way.
If a child wants to take up badminton or tennis or cricket as a career or act in movies or ride a cycle rickshaw or be a ragpicker, what, pray, is the harm? How many more doctors and engineers and lawyers and software programmers do we want to produce in this world? And if children don’t take those decisions how will we have next the Saina Nehwal or Roger Federer or Sachin Tendulkar or Amitabh Bachchan or Gandhi? How will we have a better world if we keep championing conservative, secure careers, accepting mediocrity in thinking and limiting the aspirations of our children?
Here’s a simple test that you may want to take in your private time. Do it with just yourself. If you are a parent, ask yourself:
  1. Am I doing what I enjoy doing and love doing or am I just earning a living?
  2. Given a choice wouldn’t I want to be doing something totally different from what I do to earn a paycheck just now?
  3. Do I want to see my child as a well qualified professional or do I wish for her or him to be a well-rounded human being?
  4. Will I feel proud my child owned a villa and four cars or will I be happier if she or he touched the lives of people, made a difference to this world and inspired millions?
You know what you answered. You know what needs to be done. You are not dumb-headed because you are the parent (or teacher) of such a beautiful, intelligent child! So, please, for heaven’s sake, get out of the way of your child’s future. Your child needs your love, your understanding, not your ‘help’ and certainly not your decisions that are born from your insecurities, fears and worries!