Make your Life’s work memorable

Whatever may have been your Life’s story, however bitter the experience may have been, if, at all, you can leave behind a legacy where people can remember your work – and perhaps be inspired – your Life may have well been worth it!

           

 A new book from Harper Collins, by Akshay Manwani, “Sahir Ludhianvi – The People’s Poet”, celebrates the Life of one of India’s greatest poets and one of Bollywood’s iconic lyricists, in this context. Manwani’s book is rare because it examines the Life of both the poet and the person in Ludhianvi. Manwani believes that it is impossible to look at one while ignoring the other! Manwani reveals that Sahir’s childhood was plagued by fear and anxiety – his mother was the eleventh wife of a landlord, whose clutches she sought to free and her son from. Sahir carried these scars and memories all his Life. In his later Life, he became an alcoholic after two failed love affairs – one with the renowned writer Amrita Pritam and the other with singer-actress Sudha Malhotra. Yet his ability to express himself through his verses never faltered.

He fell back on his Life’s experiences to produce some immortal lines. My favorites remain:
“Hum Dono” (1961)
“Mein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhatha Chala Gaya
Har Phikr Ko Dhuen Mein Udaata Chala Gaya
Barbadion Ka Shok Manana Fizul Tha
Barbadion Ka Jashn Manata Chala Gaya
Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Mein Uda…”
It means: “I played along and went with the flow of Life, I blew (smoked) away all my worries…To grieve over misfortunes are a waste, so I celebrated my misfortunes and blew (smoked) away my worries…”
“Kabhie Kabhie” (1976)
“Mein Har Ik Pal Ka Shayar Hoon,
Har Ik Pal Meri Kahaani Hai,
Har Ik Pal Meri Hasti Hai,
Har Ik Pal Meri Jawaani Hai”
It means: “I am the eternal poet, my story is eternal, I am in every moment, my youth is in every moment.”
“Pyaasa (1957)
Yeh Kuche Ye Nilam Ghar Dilkashi Ke
Yeh Lutthe Hua Caravan Zindagi Ke
Kahan Hai Yeh Muhafiz Khudi Ke
Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par, Woh Kahan Hai”

I won’t even attempt a translation. It is impossible to translate the pain and the pathos in this verse into English. The song portrays the sentiments of the main protagonist of “Pyaasa”, Guru Dutt, who, while passing through a red light area, laments at how the selflishness of man, the greed for a woman’s body, ruins so many lives…and he asks, where are those who feel proud of India, when we can’t even protect the dignity of our women? Hearing Mohd. Rafi’s rendition of this song, it is said that the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was moved to tears.
“Dhool Ka Phool” (1959)
“Tu Na Hindu Banega, Na Musalmaan Banega
Tu Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai, Insaan Banega”
This verse was penned by Sahir based on the post-Partition experiences that he had been through. He had briefly shifted to Lahore, after Partition (he was born Abdul Hayee in 1921 and Sahir Ludhianvi is his pen name), but he could not bear being away from his Hindu and Sikh friends. So, he returned to Bombay, via Delhi. The song means: “You will not be a Hindu, nor a Muslim, you were born human, so you will be (a) human…!”
Sahir’s poetry lives on, long after he’s gone. It’s 34 years now. But each of his songs are relevant even today. In a way, his Life and his verse, are his message. And the learning is that if we can express ourselves, in whatever way we can, our Life’s work too can be meaningful – not just when we are alive, but also be remembered even after we’re gone!  

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Make peace with that unpopular Santa called ‘fate’

An eternal confusion that abounds in us is whether our lives are predestined or not.  

If Life is predestined, what is the point of trying to control it by dreaming, imagining and living it our way? And if it is possible to live Life the way we want to, why doesn’t everything we will and work towards always happen?

The answer to these questions lies in the definition and understanding of Life itself. Former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s definition of Life is best in this context: “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” Determinism is pre-ordained destiny. Free will is the ability to choose an action freely in the context of (every day) living. Someone wise once said that a man born to be hanged shall never drown. So, even if he tries to commit suicide (free will) he will survive and will die only from hanging (determinism). But that doesn’t mean he must give up living__or, in his case, trying to commit suicide! The joy of dealing with Life’s ‘unseen’ hand, of responding to it intelligently, is what makes Life interesting and unputdownable. You need to crouch when Life is raining blows at you and then leap back when both your confidence and the conditions are up. Think of this Life as an adventure sport, where your faith and patience are continuously tested and you must keep summoning both qualities from within you, to live each moment fully. Apple co-Founder Steve Jobs says of this so beautifully, “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Determinism or fate is like an unpopular Santa Claus who’s bringing you things that you don’t want or like. Making peace with that Santa is free will. It means to accept what comes in your stocking and live with it, while believing and knowing that what you really want is on its way to you. In making that choice, free will again, you will find the cloud lifting, the confusion clearing and__bliss!