Sab Kuch Likha Hua Hai

Everything in Life is interconnected with the other and everything happens for a reason!
I am reading a fascinating new book: “Written by Salim-Javed: The story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” (Penguin, Diptakirti Chaudhuri). It is the most thoroughly researched book on the lives of the famed writer-duo Salim Khan (father of Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan) and Javed Akhtar (father of Zoya Akhtar and Farhan Akhtar). Between 1971 and 1987, Salim-Javed wrote 21 of the finest stories ever told in Hindi cinema – including Seeta Aur Geeta, Yadoon Ki Baraat, Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Trishul, Don, Kaala Pathar, Shaan and Shakti. The book looks at the evolution of not just the Angry Young Man as a character, but also of Amitabh Bachchan, as a Superstar, who is considered Salim-Javed’s protégé.
Author Diptakirti Chaudhuri quotes Javed Akhtar in one of the chapters thus: “Life is strange. Sometimes if you look back, you feel like editing your Life, rewriting it. You want to change Scene 12 which is less pleasant, but the story is so well-knit, you realize Scene 32, which is the highlight of the story, will also have to vanish. It is not possible to retain Scene 32 because it has some connection with Scene 12.” Analyzing Akhtar’s quote and his lifetime’s work, Chaudhri writes: “What Javed said about his Life is also true for Salim-Javed’s scripts. Even in the weakest of their scripts, a Scene 32 would not have been possible without a Scene 12, in which it had its genesis. And it wasn’t only the links between the scenes….every motivation had a backstory.”
So it is true about each of our lives. Every motivation in your Life – and mine – has a backstory. Indeed. Everything has happened with a reason. For a reason. Everyone in your Life has come at the most appropriate time to serve that reason. The beauty – and pity – of Life is that you never know why something is happening when it is happening. Only when the event has past, only when you pause to reflect does the cosmic design become evident. As Steve Jobs (1955~2011) famously said, “You can only connect the dots backwards.” When you do connect those dots and recognize why you have gone through an experience, why you have met someone, you realize, as someone famously said, that Life’s Masterplan has (had) no flaws. And yes, as Javed Akhtar pointed out, you can’t go back and edit your Life!
Here’s a little exercise you may want to do. Take out an hour today. Sit back and think about your Life. Can’t you connect the dots today? Could you have connected them when an event was happening in your Life? Can your Scene 32 ever have been possible without your Scene 12? Didn’t person X, who you disliked so much, teach you the art of living, even as person C, who you met so very briefly teach you how to give selflessly? Doesn’t, when you look back, everything in your Life seem so well ordained, so well fitted in its own place – like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle?
Whether you review your Life with the poetic perspective of a Javed Akhtar, or whether you dissect it like the way Chaudhuri has analyzed some of the greatest stories told on screen, you will conclude that your Life too can be a movie script. There’s magic and beauty, miracle and tragedy, in your Life too. Except that your Life’s end, at the moment, is unpredictable. The climax of your story remains unknown to you even as you know that your story will end, certainly, with death. So while the end is certain, the road to get there remains uncertain. Yet, if you learn to deal with your Life, the way you will watch a movie – where you will get up and come away when the movie is over, with no attachment to the movie’s plot or the characters – you will forever be able to anchor in your inner peace.
This awareness that everything’s ordained, everything’s part of a larger plan which is beyond your control, does not mean you should not act. This is not a call to inaction. This only means that don’t fret and fume about the Life you have – or about the characters that inhabit your story. Just learn to appreciate and value everything, and everyone’s presence, in your Life. So act in every situation, but don’t get attached to the result. Do whatever you can and do it well. Just don’t complain if you don’t get what you want.

The key to intelligent living is to live with the total understanding that everything in Life happens for a reason, to complete your Life’s experience and learning. So, don’t be impatient with your Life. Go with flow. Because, as the classic line from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011; Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Deepika Padukone), rendered by Arjun (Hrithik) on-screen in a Spanish bar, goes, “Sab Kuch Likha Hua Hai” – “Everything’s Written”!
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Appreciate the sense of cosmic justice that prevails in the Universe

There’s a beautiful, mystical quality to Life. It has its own form of natural justice.
Everything that you or I do comes back to us in this Lifetime. One way or the other. You are kind to people. Kindness pervades your Life. You let down someone. And someone lets you down in return. You touch a Life with love, compassion and care. And people touch your Life the same way.
I was moved by a story Javed Akhtar, the famous and immensely soulful Bollywood lyricist, poet and story writer, shared on his TV show ‘Legends’ on Zee Classic recently. The year was 1966 and Javed saab was a struggler in Mumbai. He had no job and no money. And nobody wanted to check his work and worth out. In those days, he made the acquaintance of the then famous lyricist and Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi (1921~1980) and had begun to treat Sahir as his mentor. One day, he lamented to Sahir how desperate he was for a break and how he was on the verge of being thrown out of his house, because he had not paid the landlord for months. Sahir apparently took out Rs.200/- (a princely sum in 1966!!) and giving it to the young Javed said: “Keep this. You will get a break soon. Until then, this will help you survive. Return it when you are able to.” As luck would have it, Javed did get a break the following week and has never had to look back, financially at least. Over the years as Javed’s career in Bollywood peaked, he would often meet Sahir in parties and industry forums and even worked with him in a couple of movies __ where Javed was writing the story and Sahir, the lyrics. Javed would openly state that Sahir’s ‘shagun’ (goodwill money) of Rs.200/- had indeed broken the jinx for him and so, he would not return the money out of fear that his luck, and good times, would run out! Sahir, in return, would often rib Javed saying, “I know how to take this back from you. One day, mark my words, I sure will.” On October 25th, 1980, Sahir suddenly died of a heart attack at age 59. Since he was not married, and he left behind only two sisters, Javed and couple of other friends arranged for his burial. Sahir, in his last years, had really not had much work and so was out of cash personally. The burial over, as the friends came back to Sahir’s house and were reviewing next steps__of clearing up the worldly belongings that Sahir had left behind__the undertaker from the Juhu (a downtown Mumbai locality) Muslim cemetery came up to the door. Javed opened it and was told by the undertaker that the cost of the burial service was Rs.200/- and that he needed to be paid. Javed had rushed instantaneously upon hearing the news of his mentor’s demise, and so he had not carried his wallet, but he had exactly Rs.200/- in his shirt pocket! When Javed paid off the undertaker, he recalled with his eyes welling up on the TV show, the realization dawned on him: “Finally, Sahir indeed took back the Rs.200/- from me,” confessed Javed saab!
As it is said in the Bible, “What goes around comes around!” (Genesis 29: 1-30).
Osho, the Master, tells us this other story that highlights the same learning. There once lived a very skilled blacksmith in ancient Rome. His name and fame had spread to far-off nations. His creations were selling like hot-cakes, in far-off marketplaces. Gradually, an enormous amount of wealth began to gather at his doorsteps. One day, Rome was suddenly invaded. The invaders demolished Rome, and captured the top hundred citizens. Amongst the top hundred citizens, the blacksmith was one. All of them were handcuffed and chained, and were taken and left on a faraway hill to die or await their execution. Among the 100 prisoners, 99 were crying. Only the blacksmith seemed to be calm and composed. He knew that the moment the soldiers abandon him in the hill, he would easily unlock the handcuff and the chains. He had that skill. So, the moment the soldiers abandoned him and left the first thing he did was to look at the handcuffs and chains that imprisoned him. He was shocked with what he saw. With his handcuffed hands he started beating his chest and began to wail in remorse. What did he see in the handcuff and the chains? A very strange thing which he had never imagined he would ever see in his Life! He had a habit to emboss his signature on whatever he created. And that is what he saw on those chains and handcuff, his own signature. They were his creations, which had got sold in some far-off marketplace, and eventually had come back to him through the invaders. Now, for the first time he became nervous and paranoid. He knew it was impossible for him to unlock himself, because he had never created anything weak. He was well acquainted with his creations. He had always designed and created the strongest and the best objects. Obviously, he had never imagined or dreamt that that the handcuff and the chains he had created, would one day imprison him. Osho teaches us the moral of this story thus: “No man ever foresees the fact that the chain and handcuff he has been creating, will be the very chain and handcuff of which he’ll be ultimately held captive. No man ever dreams that that the cobwebs he has been weaving are the very webs that he will eventually get entangled in, in his Life.”
So, appreciate this sense of natural, cosmic justice! Make sure you understand this and live intelligently__always doing good!

Making your work brilliant

Approach your work with humility and innocence. That’s when it will become a work of art!
&Pictures, a TV channel, recently premiered “Chale Chalo – The Lunacy of Film-making”(Satyajit Bhatkal, 2004), a documentary on the making of the Aamir Khan-classic Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001). As part of the telecast, the channel had organized a live interaction with Lagaan’s cast and crew. Famous Bollywood film-maker Karan Johar, who hosted the show, asked the film’s lyricist Javed Akhtar to comment on his experience of writing the film’s songs – each of which went on to become memorable hits. Akhtar replied, modestly: “I feel as artists, we must set aside our past successes, our fame, our glory, our ego and approach each new assignment or opportunity with a child-like innocence and curiosity. Then the opportunity becomes simple to deal with. You should never work with the pressure of past success weighing on you. When you approach your work with humility, it always produces great results.” In cricketing parlance, one would say, “You take a fresh guard and start from zero in every new inning.”
There’s great wisdom in what Akhtar has said. Think about it. No one really wakes up to do a bad job. Yet works of art are rare – in whatever field you choose to consider. Besides, very few artists, professionals, sportspeople or other achievers, are able to sustain their success and stay on top of their game. The reason for this is that they are weighed down by their own success. They feel they have to prove something every time they work or play or create. It is only those who, as Akhtar explained, approach their work with humility, innocence and curiosity, who end up repeating their success or excelling in whatever they do – consistently. Another all-time great, Amitabh Bachchan often confesses to being nervous every time he faces the camera. Imagine, a legend like him feeling so! But that perhaps is the secret of his brilliance and of his ability to stay relevant in a highly competitive industry for over 40 years now!
 
I see my work as a prayer. I feel when I work – write, deliver Talks, coach people, consult, lead Workshops – the Universe’s energy is expressing itself through me. I offer my being as a prayer, whenever I work, and I allow this energy to speak through me. None of what I do, or what anyone does, is an individual effort. Life expresses itself through each of us. And since there are so many of us – the expressions are myriad too. So, whether you are a housekeeper or a music composer, if you bow humbly to Life and offer yourself as an instrument for Life to express itself, whatever you do will turn out brilliant!

Be alive in each moment in Life

Merely breathing is not being alive. Being alive is when you are in the thick and swirl of Life and are enjoying each moment! Being alive is when you are living each moment as if it were your last!
In the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011, Zoya Akhtar), there a beautiful poem by lyricist Javed Akhtar (rendered by Farhan Akhtar), that talks about what it means to ‘Be Alive’! I am sharing here the original Hindi version (in English script!) and the English translation – courtesy indicine.com.
Hindi Version:

Dilon me tum apni betabiyan leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

Nazar me khwaabon ki bijliyan leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

Hwa ke jhokon ke jaise aazad rehno sekho

Tum ek dariya ke jaise lehron mein behna sekho

Hr ek lamhe se tum milo khole apni baahein

Hr ek pal ek nya sama dekhe nigahein
Jo apni ankhon mein hairanian leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum
Dilon mein tum apni betabian leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

English Translation
If you have eagerness in your heart, it means you are alive,

If your eyes are filled with dreams, it means you are alive
Learn to be free like the wind, (copyright indicine.com)
Learn to flow freely like the river,
Embrace every moment with open arms,
See a new horizon every time with your eyes,
If you carry surprise in your eyes, it means you are alive,
If you have eagerness in your heart, it means you are alive…

To be sure, you can be alive to the moment even when you are in enormous pain, as long as you are not grieving! Grief is a killer. Just as guilt, anger, worry or hatred are! When you welcome each moment, no matter what it brings with it, with open arms and are willing to accept it for what it is, you are alive!
Wishing you a wonderful and ALIVE day today!
Enjoy the original poem rendered by Farhan Akhtar here…

Of Raavan, Ram and Jannat

The conditions inhibiting our inner peace are, interestingly, within us! Our true, native state is love and peace. But years of conditioning, in the way in which we have been raised and how we lead our lives, have suppressed that true state. Our only task is to undo that conditioning and remove all the layers of anxiety, misery, jealousy, self-doubt, anger, hatred and fear that suppress our true nature__and we too will return to being loving and peaceful!
I watched the Hindi movie Swades (2004, Ashutosh Gowariker, starring Shah Rukh Khan) another time last night. There’s a line in a beautiful song “Pal Pal Hai Bhaari” (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar, Music by A R Rahman) in the film that goes like this: “…man se Raavan jo nikaale, Ram uske man mein hai…”. It refers to the plight of the devotee who is signing the Lord’s praise but actually nurtures a lot of hatred and evil within. Raavan (the demon) and Ram (the Lord) are metaphors here. That line in the song is a reminder that if you really want to experience the Lord (love and peace) get rid of what’s tormenting you (the evil, whatever’s debilitating, in you)! The real import for all us, mortals, caught in the rat race, is that to be truly peaceful, we need to throw out all the conditions that inhibit our inner peace from our lives.
In Urdu there’s a word called jannat – it means paradise. Jannat is where love, peace, prosperity and all the good things in Life are in abundance. Most people believe jannat is something to be attained after completing our worldly tasks, after fulfilling our responsibilities, perhaps, in an after-Life.  But the truth is that there’s only this one lifetime, as we know it. And whatever has to be attained and experienced has to be done here. Now. By accepting and loving what is.
It is by resisting what is that we are piling on the layers of wasted emotions that restrain our true, native state, of love and peace, from flowering. Look at young children. They just submit themselves to Life, to their environment, to the conditions into which they are born – unquestioningly, without resisting. Which is why they are in complete bliss. We will do well to draw inspiration from children around us! And experience Ram and jannat – here, in the now!