Make your Life’s work memorable

Whatever may have been your Life’s story, however bitter the experience may have been, if, at all, you can leave behind a legacy where people can remember your work – and perhaps be inspired – your Life may have well been worth it!

           

 A new book from Harper Collins, by Akshay Manwani, “Sahir Ludhianvi – The People’s Poet”, celebrates the Life of one of India’s greatest poets and one of Bollywood’s iconic lyricists, in this context. Manwani’s book is rare because it examines the Life of both the poet and the person in Ludhianvi. Manwani believes that it is impossible to look at one while ignoring the other! Manwani reveals that Sahir’s childhood was plagued by fear and anxiety – his mother was the eleventh wife of a landlord, whose clutches she sought to free and her son from. Sahir carried these scars and memories all his Life. In his later Life, he became an alcoholic after two failed love affairs – one with the renowned writer Amrita Pritam and the other with singer-actress Sudha Malhotra. Yet his ability to express himself through his verses never faltered.

He fell back on his Life’s experiences to produce some immortal lines. My favorites remain:
“Hum Dono” (1961)
“Mein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhatha Chala Gaya
Har Phikr Ko Dhuen Mein Udaata Chala Gaya
Barbadion Ka Shok Manana Fizul Tha
Barbadion Ka Jashn Manata Chala Gaya
Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Mein Uda…”
It means: “I played along and went with the flow of Life, I blew (smoked) away all my worries…To grieve over misfortunes are a waste, so I celebrated my misfortunes and blew (smoked) away my worries…”
“Kabhie Kabhie” (1976)
“Mein Har Ik Pal Ka Shayar Hoon,
Har Ik Pal Meri Kahaani Hai,
Har Ik Pal Meri Hasti Hai,
Har Ik Pal Meri Jawaani Hai”
It means: “I am the eternal poet, my story is eternal, I am in every moment, my youth is in every moment.”
“Pyaasa (1957)
Yeh Kuche Ye Nilam Ghar Dilkashi Ke
Yeh Lutthe Hua Caravan Zindagi Ke
Kahan Hai Yeh Muhafiz Khudi Ke
Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par, Woh Kahan Hai”

I won’t even attempt a translation. It is impossible to translate the pain and the pathos in this verse into English. The song portrays the sentiments of the main protagonist of “Pyaasa”, Guru Dutt, who, while passing through a red light area, laments at how the selflishness of man, the greed for a woman’s body, ruins so many lives…and he asks, where are those who feel proud of India, when we can’t even protect the dignity of our women? Hearing Mohd. Rafi’s rendition of this song, it is said that the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was moved to tears.
“Dhool Ka Phool” (1959)
“Tu Na Hindu Banega, Na Musalmaan Banega
Tu Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai, Insaan Banega”
This verse was penned by Sahir based on the post-Partition experiences that he had been through. He had briefly shifted to Lahore, after Partition (he was born Abdul Hayee in 1921 and Sahir Ludhianvi is his pen name), but he could not bear being away from his Hindu and Sikh friends. So, he returned to Bombay, via Delhi. The song means: “You will not be a Hindu, nor a Muslim, you were born human, so you will be (a) human…!”
Sahir’s poetry lives on, long after he’s gone. It’s 34 years now. But each of his songs are relevant even today. In a way, his Life and his verse, are his message. And the learning is that if we can express ourselves, in whatever way we can, our Life’s work too can be meaningful – not just when we are alive, but also be remembered even after we’re gone!  

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Understand sadness to find bliss



Nobody likes being sad. We all hate it. So, the more we hate it, the more it haunts us. Yet as much as we hate it, we find a strange comfort in being sad.

Face it. It is easier being sad than being happy. Happiness requires a lot of work __ a lot of overcoming is to be done. Whereas sadness comes naturally. Every time something doesn’t go to plan, all you have to do is to be grumpy, feel sad and brood.

You may want to consider a different perspective though: the moment you understand sadness, you will find bliss! It is as simple as it sounds. But getting there, understanding, isn’t easy.

You feel sad when what you want isn’t there. But since sadness isn’t your natural state (in fact, happiness is!), your entire being resists your being sad. The mind feeds on misery. So, it tells you to fight sadness. It selfishly urges to fight for something which isn’t there, which is causing your sadness. The mind wants you to be sad because it needs fodder. It needs you to be sad for it to thrive! Think about it. When you are happy, you are actually mindless. Which is why, when someone is in a state of rapturous delight, we believe he or she has gone crazy, or has ‘lost his or her mind’. True happiness, bliss, is a state of ‘mindlessness’. So, if you are sad, it means your mind is in control. On the contrary, you can be happy only when you are in control of your mind! Understand that you cannot overcome your sadness by fighting it. You can overcome it only by tricking your mind. So, when you are sad, don’t resist it in future. Accept it. Accept the condition which is causing it too. In acceptance, there is no resistance. What you don’t resist, does not persist. So your sadness, through acceptance, transforms into a new, peaceful state of being. That state, simply, is your bliss.

Yesterday, we received a mail from a family friend who had lost her husband to lung cancer barely a week ago. She thanked us all for our prayers and offered to be at a memorial service that some of us were organizing later this week. In her mail, she wrote: “Thank you very much for helping me to keep everyone updated all through his illness and I know it is with great sadness but unanimous relief that he is finally at peace. I am still in limbo! Every morning I decide to ‘tidy up’ some of the things lying around, the nebulizer, all the tubes and masks, medicines boxes, cotton wool….still haven’t succeeded. I see his toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom and I feel if I remove it from there it’s like trying to wipe out memories…. so I don’t! I wish words like ‘dust to dust and ashes to ashes’ didn’t represent the finality of death  so accurately….    

This is what acceptance of your sadness is all about. In this friend’s case, it was the death of a companion. In someone else’s case it could be a separation. Or a pink slip. Or, as my daughter shared an inspirational story of her senior at college this morning, the loss of mobility, and a semester, owing to a ghastly accident. Whatever be the causes for our sadness, unless we come to terms with it, both the cause and the effect, we cannot move on, we cannot overcome. But the moment we accept, we will encounter inner peace and be (in) bliss.

As the legendary Sahir Ludhianvi (1921~1980) memorably wrote for Guru Dutt’s all-time classic ‘Pyaasa’ (Thirsty, 1957), in the song, ‘Jaane Woh Kaise Log Thay Jinko…’, “….gham se ab ghabraana kya…gham sau baar mila…” The lyrics mean, “what’s the point in worrying about sadness and sorrow…we keep getting them (again and again) so many hundred times (in Life) in any case…”. Be clear and get this straight! The number of times your expectations will not be met in this lifetime will far outnumber the times they will be. So, theoretically, you will end up being sad, than happy, for much longer in your Life than you can possibly imagine. Do you really want to spend the rest of your Life being sad and sorrowful for circumstances that, well, are beyond your control? Isn’t it, therefore, better you embrace this simple, practical way to bliss?

Make peace with what saddens you today. And through understanding your sadness, find your bliss!