What I have learnt from the NaMo Wave

The biggest lesson I glean from Elections 2014 is “acceptance”.  

I am not a Narendra Modi fan. Simply, I cannot relate to someone, however brilliant he may be as an administrator, who used religion to build both his party and himself. But this is a verdict that my country’s people have given emphatically. And I can do nothing to change that. So, the best way forward, I discover through my awareness, in such a scenario, is to accept what is and simply move on.

A lot of our problems and miseries come from wanting people and situations to be different from what they are. The moment we drop the “wanting” and accept a situation for what it is or a person for who she or he is, we are instantaneously at peace with ourselves and with everyone else. We often fail to realize that in our wanting people or situations to be different, we are actually letting our ego play up. We are saying that we know better than others how they should be leading their lives or doing things.

Cartoon Courtesy: India Today/Internet
For instance, as the election results started coming in yesterday, my ego told me that the people of India were making a mistake. My issue was no longer with Modi. It was with the people of India. I was alarmed that we were handing over power to someone charged with genocidal racism. Whenever I am disturbed I have learnt to drop anchor and be silent. When I reflected on whatever was happening with the election results, I realized that I was being unduly paternalistic about the situation. Who am I to tell the people of India what to do? They are informed and responsible enough to have done what they did. My awareness again helped me conclude that there was no point in resisting the reality. The people of India had either decided to overlook Modi’s credentials on a key aspect like secularism or they had backed his very ideology that I was uncomfortable with. Every which way, they had voted for change, voted for Modi and he is now our new leader. When this reality sunk in, I simply accepted it. I even wrote on my facebook wall wishing Modi and his A-Team all the best. With that acceptance, I found myself immensely peaceful, within.

Acceptance is not resignation though. And I want to clarify this. Resignation has a quality of discomfort to it. It is really about not being able to do anything about a situation that you hate. So, you resign to it. But there’s no scope for hatred in acceptance. Acceptance is really a celebration of the way people and things are. It reasons that while Life is imperfect it is also beautiful. When you accept imperfections in you, around you, your Life can only be beautiful. Because you are not complaining anymore. Or wishing or hoping or wanting that things were different.

So, the day after the resounding mandate, I am seeing, through my acceptance of my country’s new reality, the beauty of it all. For the first time in over 30 years, someone will lead India with a complete majority. And even if half of what he has managed to get done in Gujarat (I have seen it first hand and have great admiration for what has been accomplished there in the past decade) can be implemented across India, we will be a different, and a far improved, nation. Just as I have accepted the way I am, I have accepted the way my country men and women are, the way our new reality is, and I hope, we will all enjoy, despite the imperfections that abound, the development and governance that’s been promised!

A Lesson in “being the change” from our maid’s daughter

Manage the unavoidable. Avoid the unmanageable. This brilliant clarion call is attributed to climate change thinkers and is used by them as a guiding principle to inspire action globally to manage and avoid disastrous environmental impacts.
The slogan has also a deep meaning in our personal lives__and therefore on all our actions in society too. How other people behave or what they have to say to you or about you is not in your control. This is totally unavoidable. A simpler approach will be to manage your emotions/responses than trying to control those of others. So, manage the unavoidable. Ruinous habits and temptations__including negative emotions, depressive tendencies, fear and insecurity__can become unmanageable if you let them control you. So, simply, learn to avoid them.
Yesterday, we voted in the general elections in the Tamil Nadu phase. Our maid, Vadivu, too voted. Over lunch, we asked her how her experience was. She said that musclemen from a political party had come to her area two days ago and offered money (Rs.1000/- per head) asking people to vote for their party. She said almost everyone was disinterested but out of “fear”, of those “goons”, many took the money. But Vadivu’s daughter, a little over 18 and a first time-voter, firmly stood her ground. She not only discouraged her mother from taking the money but also influenced many people in her area not to accept the money. Vadivu says that her daughter diffused a potentially explosive situation by “assuring” the “goons” that “what they seek will be done” but without taking any money. After the “goons” left, she exhorted everyone to go exercise their free will and right by voting for whoever they really wanted to vote for. Vadivu told us that her daughter’s entire peer group was against money-based and caste-based politics and that her daughter wanted to make a beginning by standing her ground and making an intelligent choice in this election. We were touched by the young girl’s wisdom and her conviction and courage. (I am not posting their pictures to protect their privacy and, just in case, to also ensure their personal safety.) I believe Vadivu and her daughter managed the unavoidable – muscle and money power at election time – and avoided the unmanageable – allowing the rot to continue by succumbing to coercion and threats!
When each of us makes an effort and exercises an intelligent choice, we can enrich our lives and make our world a better place. It is only through several individual choices and actions that we can leave behind a meaningful legacy for the generations following us. For (climate) change to happen globally, it must first take place within. Within you and within me.

Avoid the urge to argue and to want to be right

I read this somewhere: “An argument seeks to establish who is right and a discussion is to decide what is right!”
With India going into a very significant election over this month and in May, social media is agog with opinions and views on what people think will happen in the next 45-odd days – who will win, who is worthy of becoming PM and such. But even as people are expressing themselves freely, there’s a great deal of angst and intolerance that’s apparent. Political ideologies are dividing people at a social level. Often affecting old friendships. And that’s a sad thing to happen. I believe friendship that cannot allow a candid, calm and constructive discussion is not a mature friendship. What we all have to recognize is that whether someone supports one leader or the other, the core issue here is that all Indians want better leadership. Each one feels the person he or she is inspired by is a better leader. Now, if you don’t support your friend’s choice of national/political leadership, discuss and debate about the leader and leadership – don’t rubbish your friend hoping to win an avoidable, vitriolic argument. This serves no purpose. Actually, honestly, even social media posts serve no purpose at a nation-building level. But they do serve as a means of expressing ourselves freely. Such expression must be respected and any personal or acerbic remarks must be avoided ideally and surely expunged!
I have learnt that arguments over anything – not just over a political or academic or religious or ideological viewpoint – serve no purpose. They end up raising the decibel level and increasing acrimony. An argument is really an ego game. It is always fought over who is right than what is right. At a deeply spiritual level, even right and wrong is relative. What may be right to someone may always appear wrong to someone else. Or what may be right now to someone may appear to be wrong to the same person at another time. So, when what is right is debateable, what’s the point in deciding – that too, over a painful, often wasted, argument – who is right?
Osho, the Master, explains this beautifully: “Life is not divided into black and white – a lot of it is more like gray. And if you see very deeply, white is one extreme of gray and black is another extreme, but the expanse is of gray. So one can see it as white and one can see it as black. It is as if a glass is there, half full, half empty. Somebody says it is half full and this is the truth and somebody says it is half empty and this is the truth… and they start fighting. All arguments are more or less like that.”  
So, in any context, in any situation, avoid the urge to argue. And stop wanting to be right and to be seen as right. If you have an opinion that is fair and constructive, and if you think all parties in the discussion will have the maturity to accept it, express it. If you believe that maturity is lacking in the forum, exercise your right to not participate. Ideally every perspective shared in a discussion must be constructive and must create value. If you can’t ensure that, it’s a simpler and intelligent response to just stay silent.