Let people and their opinions just be – you carry on living the Life that you love living

Don’t measure your Life in terms of success or defeat, asset value and brand value or on what people – including the media – have to say. Nothing matters in the end; except whether you lived each of the moments you were alive and except the lives you touched!    

This morning’s Economic Times had a story on Indian cricket’s most successful captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Written by Ratna Bhushan and Ravi Teja Sharma, the story (“Is Brand Dhoni on the wane?”) seeks to analyze if Dhoni’s appeal as a brand endorser is under threat and if it is worth betting on post the ban on Chennai Super Kings’ from the IPL. Nothing wrong with the story per se given that ET is a business paper and they have the need to comment on subjects such as brand value and asset value. But there’s a naïve perspective, in fact an avoidable opinion, that the story plays up. It reads: Dhoni was listed by Forbes in 2014 as the world’s fifth most valuable sportsperson brand, valued at $ 20 million. And only last week, he was named as the world’s ninth most marketable in a study by London School of Marketing. But can this change? It can.”  I infer the statement to mean that if you thought Dhoni was invincible, infallible, indispensable, think again; because his brand aura is waning with his poor ODI performance as captain, with CSK in trouble and with his retirement from Test cricket. My point is – whether any of the reasons Bhushan and Sharma attribute to Dhoni’s dropping brand value are relevant or not, the irrefutable truth about Life is that what goes up has to come down. Such is the nature of Life. The question whether someone’s position in a given context (in Dhoni’s case it is his supremacy in the game) can change or not is both irrelevant and naïve at the same time. Of course, all Life is about change. And nothing lasts forever – including the social definitions of success or failure.
Mercifully, the Dhoni we know is the man he is. He is unlikely to be bothered by the ETanalysis. 

Yet, I find so many people grieving over what other people have to say about their lives. They put on a mask and pretend to be living a Life to contend with social and peer expectations than to live fuller, wholesome lives. They work overtime on how they are perceived than how they simply are. So people suffer bad marriages because they have to protect their social identities. They get stuck in lousy careers because the money is more important than the quality of work they do. They work overtime, often vainly, to look presentable and appear good on Page 3 or on TV, while within them they are rotting – feeling empty, lost and unwanted by their immediate circle of friends and family. All of this is wasted, misplaced effort that only accentuates personal suffering.

Remember this: your Life will mean nothing to you when you are gone. You can’t take anything with you when your time here runs out – not your money, not your assets, not your memories, not your family and definitely not your rewards, recognitions, media stories and public opinion. What really matters are two things – First, how did you live your Life? Did you live it fully or did you merely exist? And second, did you do work that touched people’s lives and made a difference? When you believe you lived all the moments of your Life fully, when you believe you touched even one Life in your lifetime, then, you can say your stay here has been meaningful. Only then you can say your lifetime mattered. Else, it was all fluff. Before you know it, it’s gone with the wind! Pooh!  

So, drop all pretentions. Get real. Let people say what they want to and let their opinions be where they are. You simply carry on living – being who you are and living the Life you love living! 
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Here’s to you, Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…

Where there is compassion, there can be no separateness.
All of us believe we love people that are close to us. But there’s a higher quality than love. It is compassion. Compassion has its roots in Latin and simply means ‘co-suffering’ or ‘to suffer together’. But a more relevant meaning is that compassion is about ‘having a deep awareness of another’s suffering and wanting to relieve it.’  Love, on the other hand, is about possessing someone. It has, over time, acquired a conditionality. ‘I will love you if you love me’ or ‘I will love you if you are truthful or this or that…’ The moment a condition specific to the relationship is not met or fulfilled, the love ‘deal’ is off! But compassion is unconditional. Which is why it is beyond love.
Pic: Nirmal Harindran, The Indian Express
Yesterday, S.Sreesanth, 30, the ‘enfant terrible’ of Indian cricket, married his girlfriend of six years, Bhuwaneshwari Shekawat, 28, a.k.a Nayan, who is from one of the royal families of Rajasthan and is a jewellery designer. Sreesanth has been in the eye of the spot-fixing scandal that broke in the Indian Premier League in May this year. He has since been banned from all forms of the game by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He spent a few weeks in Tihar jail earlier this year and has been booked under the stringent provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 (a law that was enacted to combat crime and terrorism). The whole country, led by the media whipping up a frenzy over the scandal, the social media and almost anyone who voiced an opinion – went against Sreesanth. Most believed he was guilty beyond doubt, several opined that he deserved what he was faced with and many, many others felt his whole Life was over. Perhaps, he too must have thought it was all over. But Nayan did not think so. Nor did she believe what the world was saying. She stood by him as he was taken from one court to another, one investigation to another, one lock-up to another, to finally a longish term at the Tihar jail, before being granted bail. And at a time, when most others would have broken off the relationship, Nayan agreed to go ahead with her marriage to Sreesanth! A friend of mine, on facebook, marvelled at the young lady’s conviction in her beau. I too admire that quality. I am not here to comment on what Sreesanth did or what course the law will take on his case(s). That’s for the legal system to decide. But I want to celebrate the compassion that this young lady has displayed. In a world, where everything is conditional, to standby someone – who has already been tried by the media, pronounced guilty by popular perception and ostracized by society – is really, truly remarkable.
You don’t have compassion for another. You arecompassion. The Buddha has described compassion as the feeling, the quality that transcends love. When you love someone you are desirous of that someone, you need that someone to complete you, but when you are compassionate, that same love becomes a sharing. You not only relate better to the other person, you actually feel for that person better – sometimes even better than the way the person feels for herself or himself. Compassion heals – definitely the person who is compassionate, but also the one who receives compassion. It is the highest form of energy – one that dissolves all separateness and makes way for our souls to be in unison, in harmony!
It was compassion that made Gandhi and Mother Teresa do what they did. We don’t even have to rise in love to those heights. If we can just stop asking ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ in each interaction in Life and give others our unconditional support and understanding, without judging them, we would have walked the path of compassion. And for this learning, this morning, with due respect to Simon and Garfunkel (ref. ‘Mrs.Robinson, written by Paul Simon, performed first as a single in 1968; Grammy 1969), ‘Here’s to you, Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…More power to you…Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…’!

S%#t Happens! Get up, dust yourself, move on…


Yesterday’s papers led with a picture of cricketer Ankeet Chavan and his wife Neha shot at their wedding on Sunday. Ankeet has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. One of the players arrested on charges of spot-fixing in the IPL (Indian Premier League) scandal, Ankeet was granted bail until June 6th by a Delhi court to enable him to get married. The marriage itself, per earlier, erroneous and speculative, media reports, was doubtful. Until, of course, the bride-to-be, Neha Sambri, came out and clarified that no matter what, she stood by Ankeet and was going ahead with the wedding. In the midst of all the scandals, rumors, controversy, it’s remarkable how the Chavan and Sambri families decided to face the reality stoically even as they went ahead with the wedding as planned.

Neha and Ankeet: Love and Grit
Consider the various scenarios:

  • Perhaps Ankeet is indeed guilty and may be convicted.
  • Perhaps he’s not. And he may walk with his head held high. (PS: I sincerely wish he does!)
  • But, either way, his cricketing career is all but over with Rajasthan Royals (the franchise that he was part of) sacking him and the BCCI (Board for Control of Cricket in India) banning him from the game pending a probe.
  • He’s lost all his reputation for now and will be treated as an untouchable by most people and organizations

Yet, there’s something beautiful about Ankeet, his family and his long-time girlfriend and now wife, Neha. And it is that they have displayed rare courage to face Life squarely and to move on.

You will agree this isn’t easy. I remember when I was Ankeet’s age a project I was involved with went bust. And I was rendered jobless and people in my professional network looked at me suspiciously. Many of them dubbed me a failure. I was so stung by their remarks that I refused to even come out of my bedroom. I was scared to face the world. I was hiding from Life.

In that context, Ankeet and Neha have show tremendous grit. They teach us that clinging on to something that has happened, a past which cannot be undone, is an exercise in futility. The past is a chapter which is over. We have lived through it. And perhaps learned from it too. What’s the point then in allowing ourselves to be tormented and enslaved by it? Whether the past happened of your own accord or happened beyond your control, even if you thought you were right doing what you did then, even if all of it blew up on your face, isn’t it sensible to simply move on? To love the present and to keep loving it? The other learning from Neha’s decision is that actions are not half as important as intent is. If your intent is right, and conscience clear, it’s perfectly fine even if your actions are questionable because of the circumstances and context in which they took place. Also let’s remember that nobody is a Saint. In fact, even a Saint may well have a sinful past and no Sinner is beyond reformation.

Journey through Life with this complete awareness. Know that there’s no one way to live Life. That each path has its own challenges, opportunities and tragedies. Nothing is permanent. A fall hurts. But, again, no fall is permanent. When you fall, get up, dust yourself and move on. Life cannot be lived fully when in grief. Life’s a celebration! It requires a total understanding – that you will make mistakes, you will be a victim of your own designs or of circumstances, you will fall __ but each time, celebrate the learning in each experience and simply keep moving on!


Understanding the potent power of Silence


Is silence a virtue or is it a sign of weakness? The latest target of media and public opinion for remaining silent is India’s charismatic cricket team captain, M.S.Dhoni. This morning’s papers liken him to Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh (the Indian media and wags, by the way, have nicknamed PM Singh, ‘Moun’mohan – ‘mouna’ meaning ‘silent’ in Sanskrit!) and brand him a weakling who has allowed himself to be gagged by the BCCI  (Board of Control for Cricket in India) in the wake of the IPL (Indian Premier League) spot-fixing scandal.

The normal human tendency is to rush to speak, be heard, clarify, demand attention or defend – as the situation or context may warrant. So, when people choose to remain silent, either not making use of an opportunity to speak up or not responding to a provocation, the popular inference is that the person choosing silence is weak or has something to hide. Well, to be sure, it may mean neither. A perspective worth considering is, perhaps, the person has nothing to say or believes that being silent is an answer or sufficient response in itself or recognizes the futility in speaking at that point in time.

I have learned the value of remaining silent, over retorting, defending, clarifying or expressing, through experience. There was a time when I would rush to offer my point of view – either in defense or to justify – in all contexts. I used to imagine then that if something had to be said, it had better be expressed then and there, loud and clear. Over time though, I have learned to believe otherwise.

In fact, I now revere, and am inspired by my own father’s ability to choose silence as a response each time that he could have spoken. I remember, with a huge sense of shame, once, many years ago, when there was a raging issue in the family, my demanding to know from my dad whether he was spineless. My demand was uncouth, violent and unbecoming of a son. We sat in a hotel lobby (because we could not speak in private at his home) when I asked him the hugely provocative and embarrassing question: “Why are you not speaking up for what is right dad? Are you spineless?” My dad, much to my shock, and infuriating me no end, responded with a blank look on his face. He simply, yet again, said nothing, choosing to be silent. I came back from that meeting with my father disillusioned and angry. But today, perhaps wiser from learning from Life, I completely agree with my dad’s choice. I don’t think there could have been or can be a better response to situations that we are faced with as a family. And it is not just with my family or with a specific situation. In several situations in Life, remaining silent is perhaps the best response.

I am still learning this art though. And it isn’t always easy. I remember another instance where I could have remained silent but choose to express myself instead and that expression has led to a strained relationship and a continuous sense of angst among a few people connected with that episode. I wish now I had remained silent. Here’s what I have learned:

  • We may do some things. And we may not do several others.
  • Whatever be the course our lives take, based on decisions and choices we make, people will have opinions. They may cast aspersions on you. They may demand explanations. Or simply provoke you wantonly.
  • Wherever you see no value being added with your expressing yourself, and of course when you think your speaking (up) will only confound the situation, it is best to remain silent.
  • No matter what people say, remember, at the end of the day you have a job to do, a Life to live. And if you can avoid potential, wasteful conflicts by choosing to be silent, why not go about your Life and business silently? 

 

Of course, sometimes speaking up becomes a necessity, not an option. And in all such cases, a conflict normally becomes unavoidable. But such conflict is constructive and never destructive. How then do you decide when to speak up and when to be silent? A good rule of thumb is to make the choice of remaining silent not so much to avoid conflict__but so that you don’t end up creating one!

Silence is a great force. Because silence always speaks when words can’t or when words fail! Being silent is an art that is worth learning, exploring and practicing. It will ultimately lead you to a great, unimpeachable inner peace.

Switch On! Switch Off! Stay Tuned!!

Not worrying does not mean not acting on what worries you. It means acting with focus but without worry.

Worry doesn’t solve anything. Least of all your problems. Solutions to your problems can only be got when you attempt them. Many a time though, you are caught up with your problems so much that you don’t see solutions. You only keep worrying about being unable to solve them. And some problems are so complex, so protracted in nature that you can’t solve them immediately in any case. And definitely never by worrying! So, in such situations, caught in the maze of your problems, your worry turns into a deep, dark brooding and your Life is plunged into grief. It is not at all funny. Half of humanity lives like that __ merely existing, often drowning in their sorrow and suffering!

At such times, switching off from worrying can help. It turns your attention to living __ from merely existing.

Yesterday, at the IPL cricket match in Chennai, Ian Bishop, the expert commentator from Sony Max asked India and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) Captain, M.S.Dhoni, how he handles the pressure of his job. Of leading his country and his IPL team to success every single time. Dhoni replied in his characteristic manner: ‘Well, it’s a high pressure job. Many people say they try it. But I can claim that I have been successful at it. Which is, I have developed this ability to switch on and switch off. When I finish a game, I switch off from cricket. I then switch on when I come back to something connected with cricket, a meeting, or a practice session or a game itself.” This appears to be a good practice and one which seems to be working for Dhoni. For he is truly both Captain Marvel and Captain Cool for Team India and Team CSK just now!

I have learned this art too and over time have been successful with it. I have designated periods of time daily that I invest in addressing the worrisome, irksome, not-easy-to-solve issues of my Life. I switch on when I need to focus on them. And I switch off from them when I have tried my bit for the day and immediately switch the focus on another department of my Life that requires my attention. This method, I realize, has helped me live in each moment __ accepting it and enjoying it for what it is. This ensures that I don’t worry or brood. Either I solve what’s staring me in the face or I turn my attention to another aspect of my Life where I can be more productive. Switching off and switching on at will, I live mindfully, at peace and in bliss! This is the way I stay tuned to Life!