A lesson from a ghazal and its singer’s Life!

You have only two options in Life – either enjoy the moment or endure the moment!
Jagjit and Chitra Singh: Picture Courtesy – Filmfare/Internet
I recently stumbled upon old recordings of some live concerts of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh on YouTube. Hearing both Jagjit and Chitra sing together is mesmerizing. But we have to make do with only recordings. Because Chitra stopped singing 24 years ago when their only son Vivek died tragically in a road accident in Mumbai in 1990. In 2009 Chitra’s daughter Monica Dutta, from her first marriage,  committed suicide. And in October 2011, Jagjit too passed away. Talking to Filmfare’sFarhana Farook two years ago, Chitra had said: “When I lost Baboo (Vivek’s nickname) the question ‘why me’ would bother me. Not anymore. Spirituality changes your thinking. There has to be a reason whether I understand it or not. Any other woman in my place would have crumbled or become bedridden. But I didn’t allow that to happen. Because I don’t have the luxury of indulging myself.  Also, I’m not scared of death. I welcome it this moment…Since Vivek passed away, there was this thing between my daughter, Papa (she called Jagjit by this name) and me as to who would meet him first. Both of them have beaten me to it! Everything in Life is momentary – yaa jee lo, yaa jhel lo! (enjoy the moment or endure it!) Manzil na de, charag na de, hausla toh de...” The last line of Chitra’s quote is actually the opening line of a famous ghazal (you can listen to the original here) that Chitra and Jagjit used to sing. It means, “If you can’t show me the destination or show me the light (for the way), at least give me the strength to endure”. I can completely relate to Chitra’s grief; she’s seen enough pain for a lifetime but her spirit – though I disagree with her decision not to sing anymore after Vivek’s death – remains unbroken. And that’s my key takeaway.
Life deals with each of us in our own ways. We have our own stories of love, loss, death, betrayal, hurt and grief. When you reflect on the nature of Life, you will realize that there’s really no point getting bogged down if your Life does not go the way you planned for it. Yes, there will be suffering when there’s pain. But you have to overcome that suffering by accepting the pain. As Chitra realized, and shared, there’s no point in asking “why me”. If something happened to you, it happened. Period. Asking “why me” or “why me now” will not undo what has happened. It was in this “why me” phase that Chitra perhaps resolved never to sing again. We can learn from her Life that such a choice was avoidable. Because what happens when we choose, in times of grief or intense suffering, to forsake what gives us joy, is that we indulge in self-martyrdom, self-pity. And that can be debilitating; it will only increase our suffering. Someone like Chitra sang not to earn a living. Music was her Life. It was who she was. Resolving not to sing was like killing the music within her. Whether it is music or art or your chosen vocation, never try to sacrifice who you are just because you believe Life has dealt you a hard blow. As Chitra herself says, thanks to her own evolution through the years, you can either enjoy the moment or endure the moment. There really is no other way. And therefore there’s no point in fighting Life or getting angry with Life for whatever’s happened – or is happening – to you!
The learning from Chitra’s story is simply this: whatever it is that you are faced with in Life, learn to accept it. If there is intense pain, accept it and endure it. Only your accepting pain will end your suffering. And if you are content with whatever you have and whatever is, enjoy each moment. Don’t wish that your Life is any different from what it is now. It is pointless. If you must at all ask for anything of Life, from Life, ask for the strength, as the ghazal goes, to endure it!  

Bliss is celebrating and loving Life’s design!

In Life, everything is predetermined. And yet everything is up to you!

No, I am not contradicting myself. On the other hand I am merely summing up what Life really is. It is, essentially, what you experience between two ends of this paradox __ where you are born without your asking for it, you are given a lifetime without your inability to control anything that happens to you and at the same time, you have the opportunity, the choice, to live your Life fully, in bliss!

So, is there a destiny? A friend raised this question after the ghastly manner in which a 20-year-old girl died in an accident on Sunday. The news made headlines in the papers and left all of us shocked. The girl, with a gaggle of friends, was at a place which is more that 25 km from the accident spot. For no earthly reason, these girls, seem to have ventured out for a drive in the wee hours of Sunday morning and were on a highway on the outskirts of Chennai when the accident happened. All other occupants of the car survived the crash, except this one girl. So, someone who knew her and was shocked therefore beyond description said, ‘She literally walked into her death trap. It was destined.” That prompted my friend to ping me for a perspective.

Destiny is a subject that I too have often tried to understand. I don’t claim I have the answer that you may relate to. But I will share what I have learned through my Life and experiences__and what I find acceptable to me as an intelligent perspective!

Hard as it may appear to instantly believe, given our scientific grooming and our temperament for logical inquiry, our entire Life is in the hands of a Universal energy that is at the same time inscrutable and marvelous. At once compassionate and cruel. Totally understandable and yet completely incomprehensible. This is the energy that powers us all __ the breath that we take, and so does every living organism. From birth to death, of this lifetime in human form, we live to a pre-ordinance which we are completely unaware of. To that extent, it is all pre-determined. Even so, we do have the opportunity, the free will, to respond to Life as it happens to us.

Since none of us has seen God, in the manner in which each of our religions insist he or she exists, I would like to conclude that God, Fate, Destiny are excuses that mankind has invented to take the easy way out of remaining accountable in Life! We abdicate our responsibility towards our lives by dumping the blame on a God, an unknown Fate and an inscrutable Destiny. Osho, the Master, explains this well, in his trademark, in-the-face style: “There is no fate, no destiny. You are just trying to dump your responsibility on something that does not exist.  And because it does not exist, it cannot resist you; it cannot say, “Please don’t dump your responsibility on me!” God is silent, you can dump anything on him __ no resistance, because there is nobody to resist. Fate is again the same. You fail in love, you fail in other matters. It hurts that you have failed. You need some kind of ointment for your wounded heart. “Fate” is a beautiful ointment and freely available. You don’t have to pay for it. You can say, “What can I do?  Everything is decided by fate.” Success or failure, richness or poverty,  sickness or health, Life or death,  everything is in the hands of an unknown power called fate “I am doing my best,  still I go on failing. I am following all the moral principles preached to me, still I am poor. And I see all kinds of immoral people becoming richer,  getting ahead, becoming famous. It is all fate.” It gives you solace.  It gives you solace that you are not reaching your goals. It also gives you solace that if others have achieved success, there is nothing much in it, it is just decided by fate. So, on the one hand, you are saved from feeling inferior; on the other hand, your jealousy enjoys the idea that the successful person is successful only because fate has determined it that way: “It has nothing to do with him; he’s not superior to me.” God,  fate, destiny–they are all in the same category: throwing your responsibility onto something that does not exist.

My understanding is an extension of Osho’s point of view: If there is birth, there will be death. So, what’s so intelligent about calling someone’s death, a well-known, inevitable reality, his or her destiny? What’s the point in sulking and blaming your fate__when things go wrong, when we know for sure that things WILL go wrong? What is the point in calling a God, who you fear, unkind? Isn’t it obvious that you will fear something only when it does not meet your expectations in some manner __ being unkind being one of them!? I would, for the same reason, want to find someone who loves__not fears__God, call God unkind!

So, the moot point is Life will keep happening to you, the way it wants. You can accept it and be happy and content or you can resist it and sulk. This act of responding to your Life is what is free will all about. And that free will is within your control, even if your own Life is not!

Let’s take two examples of two exemplary women to understand how deployment of free will really impacts the quality of one’s Life:

Chitra Singh
Chitra Singh, the ghazal singer and maestro Jagjit Singh’s wife, came out of her self-imposed exile to pay tribute to her husband. She has been interviewed in the latest issue of People magazine. 22 years ago she had lost her son Vivek in a car crash, then her daughter Monica committed suicide in 2010 and Jagjit himself passed away in 2011. She admits to Dhaval Roy that she made repeated attempts at finding her voice again, but failed each time: “Life has been so kind and unkind to me at the same time that singing doesn’t come to me anymore. One’s voice is a very delicate mechanism. I just choked up and stopped singing. So, I did not leave music, it left me.” So, that is her response, employing her free will, her way, to living, to a predetermined Life design.

Shagufta Rafique
In the same issue of People, I encountered the amazing story of Shagufta Rafique, who once was a dancer in bars in Dubai and a prostitute, who has not become a screenwriter, dishing out hits like Raaz 3 and Murder 2, in Hindi cinema. She tells Divya Unny: ‘My stories are cheap and melodramatic like me. I am not a trained writer. A course cannot teach you how to tell stories. You need to have a flame burning within you which translates into something relatable. Life has taught me that. I have been a whore too long to erase that part of my Life. I have always dreamt of telling my story. And my own film will be the biggest test of my strength.” And, that, dear friends, is her response, employing her free will, her way, to living to a predetermined Life design.

Bliss is what happens when you choose, through your free will, to accept, celebrate and love, your Life’s design, or destiny. When you rue your design, blaming your fate, you will suffer. When you live your Life lovingly, you will meet God __ your God! And that God is bliss!