Living fully is more important than arriving first

Don’t compete with anyone or anything in Life. Life’s is not a race that you must aim to complete first. It’s not a battle either where only the fittest will survive. It is about living, letting others live too, and enjoying every moment that you are on this planet doing what you are good at and love doing.
For the last four weeks, the front pages of the Chennai editions of most leading newspapers have been taken by Kalyan Jewellers. Announcing the brand’s arrival in Chennai the ads claimed that Kalyan’s was the largest jewellery showroom in the world!!! A high-voltage star-studded campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Prabhu, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Nagarjuna led the media blitzkrieg. But even as Kalyan opened their showroom last Friday, their rivals Prince, Lalitha and Joy Alukkas upped the ante splurging on full page ads. This morning’s Page 1 of The Hindu’s Chennai edition was taken by Joy Alukkas to claim that they owned the world’s largest jewelry showroom “as certified by the Limca Book of World Record”. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you are the first or the largest, what really matters is that you are great on service and quality, ethical and true to your customers. To me, this avaricious need to be “seen” in a certain way takes away the joy out of living and doing business!
Unfortunately, our education system and our social architecture promotes just the opposite sentiment. Both erroneously, irresponsibly, define excellence as being the first and getting on top of the world. So, in school you are encouraged to top the class and in society you are measured by the wealth, power and stature you have. Therefore, many of us are running a rat race, trying to outdo the others, wanting to be first and more importantly be seen as the first. A way to examine this perspective is to understand that ultimately, however fast we get anywhere in Life, our stories will allhave to end. So, why are we rushing? Think about it. Our Life is ticking away, one moment at a time. So, does it make sense to run at all, worse, run faster and only to get to the end faster or is it prudent to savor each moment, drink in its beauty, help others with whatever we can and arrive at our story’s end, gracefully, peacefully?
Celebrated Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar, helps us understand this perspective by sharing why he chose notto direct the remake of the film that his father Yash Johar had originally produced. In 1990, Yash Johar, had produced ‘Agneepath’with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. While the film won a lot of critical acclaim and also got Amitabh Bachchan his first National Award, it failed to be a commercial success. This left Yash Johar personally heart-broken and financially broke. Karan Johar recalls that his father eventually died grieving his favorite production’s failure. As a token of respect to his father and to celebrate his memory, Karan has produced the remake of ‘Agneepath’ (in 2012) with Hrithik Roshan playing the role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. Times of India asked Karan Johar why he chose not to direct the film himself: “Dad had pinned a lot of hopes on it as the previews had been full of praise, but when the film didn’t do well at the box office it broke his heart. Dad always wanted to remake it. One day Karan (Malhotra), who was my associate director on ‘My Name Is Khan’, and I were chatting when I told him about my desire to make it again. Karan told me he was a huge fan of the original so I asked him if he would revisit it. He agreed immediately. I am incapable of directing a film like ‘Agneepath’. I can do only what I am good at, so I would have been the worst choice to direct it. It has aggression, action and an inherent violence in it – things I am not capable of directing in my films. Karan is an exceptionally talented and angry boy, and for this film one requirement was anger. There’s an inherent sense of suppressed anger in Karan and ‘Agneepath’was the platform to express that.”
So beautiful. Karan Johar is such a successful director and has delivered several blockbuster hits over the last 15 years. There sure may have been a temptation to want to direct it himself had someone else been in his shoes. But that’s intelligent living. When you make a powerful choice of enjoying Life rather than proving or making a point. Because, in the end, to have lived__fully__is more important than to have arrived__first!

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There are no full stops in Life!

The key to intelligent living is to go with the flow of Life – savoring your successes and learning from what you fail at!
On a recent episode of the popular TV show, “Koffee with Karan”, celebrity Bollywood director Karan Johar had the two sensational young stars Parineeti Chopra and Alia Bhatt as his guests. The show’s format includes other stars giving Karan’s guests either feedback or compliments through video recordings. On this episode, Alia’s father, the famous Bollywood director, the venerable Mahesh Bhatt, had recorded a message for Alia. His advice for Alia, who’s just a couple of films old in the industry, was this: “…Remember that in this world we will be penalized when we fail and we will be applauded when we succeed. Take them both in your stride. Keep going…because in such journeys, there’s nothing like a full stop…!” Papa Bhatt was helping his daughter understand the vagaries of the movie business since she is new to it, she’s young and inexperienced. But all that he said is true for Life itself.
Most of the time, a lot of us struggle with Life because we fear failure. Even before we make efforts, we have developed an attachment to the results. We expect and want every effort of ours to succeed. While theoretically every effort, when made with dedication and precision, can be successful, in reality this is just not possible. Besides, success and failure are labels that society has created. At a deeply spiritual level, there’s only effort – there is no success or failure! This the essence of the message of the Bhagavad Gita – focus on ensuring that your motive is pure and the means are right, don’t worry about the results or the outcomes.
I took a long time to understand this truth about Life and struggled with accepting it initially. I could never comprehend why sincere effort, driven with sound integrity of purpose, should fail. For the first few years of our bankruptcy, I felt humiliated with the label of “failed entrepreneur” that society pinned on me. Every time I appeared in court, to face charges pressed by irate creditors, I would be addressed as the “accused” by the officials and the judge. It hurt very badly. I was devastated when my family called me a “cheat”. My grief was unbearable. It was my effort to get rid of my grief that led me to realize that I was allowing these social definitions (of me) to affect me. Yes, I had made mistakes in our business which had caused our challenging situation. But this was not the end-of-the-road for me, I reasoned to myself. I redefined my Life’s context – I told myself that we had to hang in there, face Life, work harder than ever before, and climb out of the situation that my family and I were in. To be able to do this diligently is what success now meant to me. Indeed, we haven’t managed to even begin turning around our financial fortunes. But we have developed this ability to keep ploughing on. This has happened because my wife and I have been able to get over the fear of failure. I believe when you are not afraid of failing in Life, you will be successful in facing Life, even if material success – as defined by society – takes a long time to arrive!
In Life, you win some, you lose some. Neither is success permanent. Nor is failure. Really, there are no full stops in Life. You simply have to keep on going – no matter what!

Ishq-wala Love

To love and be loved, at a soul level, is a blessing.
The forgettable 2012 movie “Student of the Year” (Karan Johar) had a simple song which went on to become quite popular – “Ishq-wala Love”. I was reading a discourse by Osho, the Master, and he explains why “Ishq-wala Love” is different from just plain Love. (I am not sure, going by the lyrics of the song from ‘Student of the Year’ if the lyricist had really heard or read Osho’s discourse!) Osho says that contemporary interpretation of love – thanks to hype-driven traditions like Valentine’s Day – implies that you like or adore someone for their mind, their intellect or their body.  He says true love transcends the mind and the body and touches the soul. And he says no English word can ever do justice to describe love that encompasses mind, body and soul – all three dimensions. So, he dips into the Persian language and pulls out the word “Ishq”. It means loving with total intensity. It is often used in a Sufi context and has a celestial, even divine, connotation. “Ishq” is when you lose yourself in love, when love possesses you, when it oozes from your every pore and makes you go mad, turn fanatic – with which the other word with Sufi origins is closely connected, “Fanaa” – which means to be annihilated in divine love! “Ishq” has a level of unbelievable passion and obsession associated with it, that goes beyond the ordinary and is often hard to describe. “Ishq” comes from the Persian root “a-sha-qa” – which really means an ivy plant that winds itself around other plants. Similarly, the “aashiq” or lover gets entwined with his beloved, in an incomprehensible, inscrutable love. When the lovers are experiencing “Ishq” – they are actually mindless – so they are unmindful of pain, of the sentiments of their families, they don’t care for what society thinks and don’t relate to their surroundings or circumstances. They simply lose themselves – “dissolve” in each other at a soul level.
The ancient story of Laila and Majnu has immortalized “Ishq”. Laila was dark-skinned and never considered good-looking. The King of the land who was known to have a harem, which no woman could escape, had rejected Laila. But Majnu loved her. He was in “Ishq” with her. He fought Laila’s rich father valiantly. He ignored the social ostracization that he was subjected to. He refused to forget Laila even after she was married off forcibly. All of this forced the King to send for Majnu. And he asked Majnu why was he so “madly in love” with Laila. Majnu simply replied that the King would “never understand”. Which was the truth. Because “Ishq” does not look at the body, it does not even look at the mind, it does not look at social standing, it is not affected by circumstances. While the King and society looked at Life through all these lenses, Majnu saw only Laila’s soul and saw himself as one with her. So, in the story, Laila dies in another land, succumbing to an illness and Majnu too dies at the same time. (To be sure, there are various versions of this story in circulation – thanks to the creative genius of many story tellers and artists who have tried to bring it alive over the years.) The word ‘Majnu’ has now come to mean someone who is “madly in Ishq”.
Valentine’s Day is a good time, as any other, to reflect on the depth of your own love for another or others. If you have been noticing a growing distance between you and someone you once fell in love with, it’s important to go beyond the flowers and the gifts, and enquire within. Maybe there never was “Ishq”. Maybe it is relevant now that you examine if there’s a role “Ishq” can play in your Life. Maybe there’s a need to break-free from a relationship, where there’s no relating anymore, and open yourself to “Ishq”? Whatever you do, or choose not to do, just know that to love this way, beyond mind and body, at a soul level, is a celebration of Life – and “Ishq-wala Love” indeed is a blessing.