Sometime in April of 1988, soon after Vaani and I had decided to start a Life together, we visited Muttukadu, on ECR, in Chennai. We saw an open top Maruti Gypsy parked near the bridge there. I had barely started working as a sub-Editor, on a salary of Rs.782 per month, at The (New) Indian Express. But I was ambitious. And I loved the way the Gypsy looked. So, I stood next to it, pointed to the car and told Vaani, “Someday, we will buy this car for ourselves!” And she instinctively captured this picture on a Hot Shot (remember that magic device?) camera – perhaps for me to pause and reflect on Life lesson this morning…!
Life Hai, Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai!
We didn’t know of K.S.Narendran until Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 went missing on March 8th, 2014. Naren’s wife of 25 years, Chandrika, was on that flight. Vaani and I reached out to Naren and found him to be very warm, very gracious, even as he was stoic. Over the last 33 months, Naren has had to come to terms with the enormous, new reality he is faced with; he has had to pick up the threads of his own Life while helping their daughter Meghna cope, accept and move on. What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
This morning I found this post on Naren’s Facebook wall. Read on…
It is now 1000 days since MH370 last took to the skies.
I did not imagine that in today’s satellite surveilled world, a large plane with hundreds of people could just vanish.
I did not imagine that we will be searching six kilometres under the ocean for an aircraft that was flying ten kilometres up in the sky.
I did not imagine that we would know so little about its whereabouts after so many days.
I did not imagine that bits and pieces of the plane would reach waters and seashores thousands of miles away from where the last goodbye was heard.
I did not imagine that so few debris would be recovered after this long a wait.
I did not imagine that some day I would write “No debris today” and feel relieved.
I did not imagine that it would be the same status update for most days since that day in early 2014.
I did not imagine that a search will continue only where the plane is believed to have gone down, and not in parts where the parts and pieces of it show up.
I did not imagine that it was possible to be so cavalier in handling affected families.
I did not imagine that rich nations of G-something or the other will cavil about allocations for search and investigation.
I did not imagine that we would be arguing about my dollar or yours when it could be your life or mine the next time.
I did not imagine that we would make a trip to pick the pieces when we trusted our governments to do this on our behalf.
I did not imagine that we would have love and support from thousands for whom our loss has been theirs.
I did not imagine that a ‘Thank You’ to all would seem so inadequate, yet it is the best there is to give.
In sharing his deepest feelings, Naren holds out a lesson in fortitude and gratitude to all of us.
In May this year, I had the opportunity and privilege to be in conversation with Naren at the event series I curate for Madras Management Association (MMA) titled “The Uncommon Leader”. Naren told me then that he is neither an ‘uncommon leader’ nor has he any wisdom to share. But if you listen to this 80-minute conversation I had with him, you will understand how invaluable reflection and acceptance are in situations when we are dealing with disruptive change and when we must demonstrate personal leadership.
As we rush through our lives, often trying to obsess over its material aspects, we miss the opportunity to invest our precious moments in all that which matters most to us. Occasionally, a Life-changing event shows up, either in our own lives, or through the lives of others, which reminds us that this is an ephemeral Life – anything, absolutely anything, can happen at any time to anyone!
Take away what you find relevant from my blogpost today, but please do pause to send Naren, Meghna, and all those beautiful families a long distance hug and all your love!
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!
A Life challenge arrives only so that you awaken from you stupor, from merely existing, and start living!
I was asked a very interesting question by a young medical college student in Chittoor yesterday: “AVIS Sir, why do we need a tragedy or crisis in Life to start living intelligently? Can’t we in the normal course learn to live happily, accepting Life for what it is?”
I thought that was an intelligent question from a very beautiful mind!
Of course we don’t necessarily need a tragedy or crisis to wake us up from our stupor. But the problem is that most of us don’t even know we are steeped in stupor. We imagine that earning a living is what Life is all about. So we run after name, fame, money, qualifications, material things and everything else that is impermanent and perishable. We kid ourselves to believe that we can postpone our happiness, we can postpone who we are, postpone living the Life that we want to live, even while we prioritize other people and things, over ourselves. We miss the most elementary point that Life is a limited-period offer and if we don’t live a moment fully, the way we want to, then we have lost that moment forever.
So, in a way, we are lost but in a bigger way we are pretending we are lost. Don’t we all know that we will die one day for sure – sooner or later? Then why do we choose not to live fully and instead squander our lifetime accumulating things that are going to perish or are not going with us when we perish?
Therefore, it is because we pretend to be dumb that we find a Life tragedy or crisis awakening. A tragedy or crisis is nothing but an event. Just another event. Just as your graduation is an event or your marriage is an event or your vaccination is an event so is your lay-off or your divorce or your chemotherapy. But only when what you don’t want or what you don’t expect lands up in your Life do you realize that you are not in control of your Life. That’s when you reflect and realize that had you lived your Life more intelligently then when the unforeseen and unwanted happens, when pain arrives in your Life, you can at least console yourself that you lived well and happily until now.
To live intelligently you need nothing but an awareness of your Life being a gift and a limited period offer. But to awaken to this awareness, you sometimes need a reboot, a wake-up call, and that’s precisely what a tragedy or crisis does to you! They shake you and wake you up! But if you are awaken, then you don’t need a wake-up call at all, do you? Even so, you will wake up only when you are really asleep, but if you are pretending to be asleep, you may still not wake up. Think about it – it makes a lot of sense!