Death is an inspiration – reminding us to LIVE intensely!

In the end, we all have to go. And those who have known us, will only be left with memories. So, we might as well live our lives fully, happily and touch as many lives as we can in this lifetime!

3-year-old Arshea bidding Major Mukund Varadarajan goodbye
Picture Courtesy: The Major’s Family/Internet
India lost a brave son a few days ago – Major Mukund Varadarajan, 32, of the 44thBattalion of the Rashtriya Rifles. He was killed in an encounter with terrorists in Shopian, Kashmir, on April 25. The papers have been full of public anger and grief, even as his family has remained stoic and patient – despite the media frenzy and all the VVIP attention they have been receiving. A while ago, I spotted this picture on facebook on Major Mukund’s wall. The caption said it all: “Daddy’s Little Princess. Final goodbye. Arshea at the Besant Nagar crematorium.” There was another picture too – of Indhu, the Major’s wife, receiving his uniform from one of his colleagues. And the caption said: “All that remains are memories and these.”

I kept looking at the pictures for a long, long time. They drove home a truth that is hard to miss. When it’s our time, we too will have to go. It is inevitable. But the question is, will we have lived a full Life by then – completing whatever we have always wanted to accomplish? Will we have made a difference to the lives of people in our circle of influence? What kind of memories will we have left behind?

These are significant questions that can make a huge difference to the way we look at Life. And, hopefully, change the way we think, live, work and love. We must understand that we have not been created on this planet to be running on a treadmill forever. This Life has to be lived – not just to earn hard now to live another day; but it has to be lived fully, enjoying each moment of it thoroughly. Death must not be feared nor should we be sad or overwhelmed by it. Death is an inevitable reality – and all of us, without exception – from the time we left the womb, have been heading for a certain death. The process can take time, days, months or even years, and exceptionally as in the case of Khushwant Singh (1915~2014) and Zohra Sehgal (1912~she turned 102 this past Sunday), even a century! But none can avoid it. So, when you understand Life, death can actually be an inspiration, because every time we see death around us it reminds us of the opportunity we have to live – when we can! As Osho, the Master says, “Death is your constant shadow. It is telling you – ‘I can come any moment. Be prepared.’ And what is the preparation? The preparation is: live life so totally, so intensely, be so aflame with it that when death comes there is no complaint, there is no grudge.”

Yes, we will have lived well, lived a brilliant Life, when we can go away calmly, without struggle – either for us or for those that we leave behind.

Advertisements

Life Lessons I learned from Khushwant Singh

There are few people who have lived Life on their own terms, who have been brutally honest about themselves, as they have been of others, and who will live on through their Life’s message. Khushwant Singh was one of them.

I know there are far too many obits, tributes and memoirs out there celebrating the grand ‘ol man of India – his Life and his times. One more from me may hardly seem to matter and it may even appear to be an overkill. But let me share what I have learned from him.
Khushwant Singh
Picture Courtesy: Internet
26 years back, my wife and I met Khushwant Singh. My wife lived in New Delhi at that time and we were to marry the following year. I was visiting her on a vacation. We had some time to kill one afternoon. We looked up the phone directory (well, there was once a time we all depended on that big, fat book!) and called Khushwant Singh’s home. He answered the phone himself. I introduced myself as a journalist from ‘The Indian Express’, Madras, and I asked if I could interview him for our weekend magazine. He gave me an appointment the next day. So my wife and I landed up at his Sujan Singh Park residence. He answered the door himself, was very cordial and offered us ‘chai’(it was around 4 pm in the afternoon, so Scotch was out of the question I guess). Although he may not have been expecting someone with me, he was extremely nice to my wife. When he heard that we were engaged to be married he said, “Companionship is very important in Life. Be happy with each other’s presence and be there for each other.”He must have been 73 or so. And I was just getting to be 21. That advice, unsolicited though it was, has stayed with me, and with my wife, all these years, and has served us both very, very well. That’s the first Life lesson I learned from Khushwant Singh – and wasn’t I blessed to have learned it live, directly from him?
It was a good interview he gave me – he spoke about writing, shared his own views on the writer’s block and about journalism in India. He was very down-to-earth, dressed in home clothes with an unkempt turban on his head. Honestly, I was too overawed to be in his home, in front of him, that none of what he said really mattered to me then. I was keen on staying on for as long as we could because I wanted bragging rights that we spent so much time at Khushwant Singh’s home. So I kept on asking him questions. He soon got bored. But he did not hide his feelings or drop hints suggesting that we must now leave. He simply came to the point. “I am afraid you are taking more than the hour I had set aside for this interview. You have to excuse me. You will have to leave now,” he said in the most honest way anyone can say such a thing to visitors without sounding rude. We quickly apologized, packed up and left. That was the second lesson I learned from him – Be direct, in-the-face and truthful about whatever you feel. He surely lived his Life that way, but for young 20-something me, it was a big learning. I did not put this learning into practice effectively until about a decade ago. But ever since I have started being in-the-face and speaking my mind to people, I have been a lot more at peace with myself.
My interview with him appeared in The Indian Express’ Weekend section in Madras in a few weeks after our meeting. I sent him a clipping of the piece with a note thanking him and apologizing for our poor etiquette that afternoon. I didn’t expect him to reply. But he did. He thanked me for the clipping. He said that he enjoyed meeting me and my wife. He wished us both a wonderful married Life. It was a simple, short note. But there was a warmth and blessing in it. That was the third lesson I learned from Khushwant Singh – Take time to respond to whoever reaches out to you, no matter who they are. I treasure this lesson and live it every single day of my Life. I was not surprised, therefore, this morning when I read his son Rahul Singh’s tribute “My father Khushwant” in The Times of India where he says, “Above all, he was a great communicator. As the Kipling poem goes, my father could walk with the kings and yet had the common touch.”
Much fanfare has been made about how Khushwant Singh wanted his epitaph to read: Here lies one who spared neither man nor God; Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod; Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun; Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun.” But typical to the man, not too many people have known (even I would not have known had it not been for former India cricket captain Bishen Singh Bedi’s passing mention in his piece in The Hinduthis morning) that as per his will, Khushwant Singh’s eyes were donated before he was cremated yesterday. Through this compassionate wish of his, I learned yet another significant lesson from Khushwant Singh, albeit through his passing – Always, be useful!
What a way to live and what a way to go. If we can imbibe the spirit of his Life’s message, we will all live happier – and peaceful – lives!