Make this a Happywala New Year!

Flow with your Life to experience the abundance and grace in it!
We had a meaningful New Year’s Eve. A few of us friends had got together. Through the evening, as the best of R D Burman and Kishore Kumar songs were played, and sung, we also had an interesting activity on. Everyone got a word from Santa’s big red bag that was passed around. Each person had to talk about the word in the context of the year gone by and what they hoped for in 2016 in relation to what the word meant to them!
So words like ‘Celebrate’, ‘Miracle’, ‘Serendipity’, ‘Awesome’, ‘Magic’, ‘Learn’, ‘Unlearn’, ‘Inspire’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Love’, ‘Be Yourself’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘Let Go!’ popped out of Santa’s bag! Most people who spoke related beautifully to their words, pausing to reflect on what the word had meant to them in 2015. Someone shared how the year had been full of celebrations all through! Another spoke of being awesome and celebrating awesomeness. The gentleman who got the word magic asked us to consider the magic in the moment when the year changed! Another talked about how spending time with his father, before he passed on, was an opportunity to re-experience unconditional love. Vaani talked about her inspiration that led her to resume learning music in 2015. And there was this friend, who did not exactly know what serendipity meant but realized upon reflection that everything in our lives is, uncannily, serendipitous.
The word I got was, interestingly, aptly, happiness. To me happiness is not just a state of mind or an attitude, it is a state of being. Over the last few years this state of being has helped us as a family face – and survive – what can be described as, to put it matter-of-factly, a cathartic phase in our Life. To be sure, we continue to grapple with imponderables. But we have learnt the art of being happy despitethe circumstances.
Being happy does not guarantee that your problems will disappear. Or that solutions to your problems will immediately appear. Being happy, we have discovered, has simply helped us feel and experience the abundance and grace that surrounds us. When you are happy, you magically see only what is – and don’t get stuck only complaining about what you don’t have. So, as we enter yet another year when our financially uncertain situation endures, we celebrate that we all have good health, we have a home to come back to, we have each other and that we have friends who treat us with love, compassion and dignity. Through this celebration, we recognize the grace that fills our lives, always giving us all that we need!

Really, it is not what happiness is. It is what happiness does. It makes you live a fuller Life, no matter what’s happening to you!  What comes between you and your happiness is you. You are unhappy only because you are trying to control what’s happening to you. When you try to control Life, you are not in it. You are looking at Life as if it were a problem that you have to solve. As if it is a third party that you have to deal with. Instead if you flow with Life, you will find that it is filled with abundance and grace every step of the way and you too will, as one of our friends last night exclaimed as the clock struck 12, have a Happywala 2016!

Go with the flow of Life – resisting it is pointless!

The most evident truth about Life is that it simply goes on! And you and I are like the ‘musafir’ (voyager) in the opening song of Parichay (1972, Gulzar)…we have to just keep walking…‘bas chalte jaana’…!
This is the big message I picked up watching Masaan(2015, Neeraj Ghaywan) the other day. It is the most thought-provoking, poignant film I have seen in a long, long time. It deals with a young lady coming to terms with the death of her boyfriend when the police raids their room in which they are making love. A parallel story deals with a young boy, from a lower caste (his family burns corpses at the riverside crematorium), aspiring to woo, court and marry an upper caste girl. The girl is willing but soon dies in a bus tragedy along with her entire family. The boy struggles initially to reconcile with his loss – he ends up having to cremate her body! But eventually he manages to move on. Both story arcs converge as the film ends, with the young lady meeting the young boy on a boat and together they ride onward…
Set in Benares, Masaan has been winning acclaim on the international film festival circuit. And has earned praise from critics and viewers alike.
Vicky Kaushal as Deepak in ‘Masaan’
Picture Courtesy: Internet
To me, however, Masaan portrays the ever-flowing nature of Life. The young lady has to handle her guilt, her grief, over a choice she and her boyfriend made. Her father has to live with the ignominy of her choice. Together they have to face a corrupt cop and raise a ransom amount for the charges against the lady to be dropped. She tries to seek closure by going over to apologize to her boyfriend’s family, but they don’t want her apology; they ask her to get out! In the parallel story, the young boy has his father’s support to quit the corpse-burner tradition and profession. He has his girlfriend’s assurance that she is willing to even run away – should the families disapprove – with him provided he gets himself a job. He’s almost certain of getting that job when she dies. He has to deal with his demons. His depression almost ruins his career prospects and he’s on the verge of being a corpse-burner all his Life. But he realizes that unless he moves on, he will only be trapped ‘where he is’ and remain depressed. A state that will serve no purpose, he reasons. So, with great difficulty, he picks up the threads of his Life and lands himself a job. As both the young lady and the boy move on, they meet each other…
Indeed, there are no pauses in Life. It simply goes on. As long as you are alive, you have to keep walking, you have to keep going with the flow. You may not like whatever is happening to you. But you have to face it, you have to live through it. When you hate whatever is, you will suffer. Here’s the nub: you can’t prevent Life from happening to you. But you have the choice not to resist Life. And nothing, nothing really, is the end of the road, until you are alive, until you die. Period.
I talk from experience. On December 31st 2007, when I sat with Vaani in our bedroom and surveyed our Life, it seemed impossible to go on. We had just Rs.2000/- left with us in Life. And we had over a million dollars in debt. And no work. Yet, almost 8 years on, we have survived and lasted to tell our story. We still don’t have enough work – not even enough to cover our living expenses – and our debt remains unpaid. But we move on…living each day, working hard, facing our realities – court cases, police complaints, cashlessness at some times and very frustrating material scarcity at others – and believing that all this too shall pass.

There is no other way to live Life. It is what it is. You have to accept what is, keep working on what you want it to be and, in the process, exercise your choice to simply be, well, happy with whatever is. It is when you don’t live Life with this clarity and understanding that Life is miserable. Go on, go with the flow of Life. After all, there’s isn’t any point in refusing to flow it! 

Remember: you too have come with an expiry date. So, live, don’t exist!

“The wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, the leaves of Life keep falling one by one!” – wrote Omar Khayyam, (1048~1131), the Persian poet, in his classic ‘The Rubaiyat’.
Today our son Aashirwad turns 25. Suddenly a quarter of a century seems to have flown past. A quarter of a century!!?!! That’s a third of a lifetime, if you can hope to be at least 75! These are the 25 years that I have grown up from being a boy to a young adult to being a lover, a husband and a father, to being an entrepreneur to going bankrupt – and resultantly penniless – to being a student of Life. It is when I was ready and willing, as any good student should be, to learn,  that Life, the teacher, appeared before me and taught me this invaluable lesson – that we are all perishable. Each moment is perishing even as we are going through it. Everything around us is perishing and everything – and everyone – we knew has perished. You, me, all of us will perish too. The learning I have from Life is that the opportunity of this lifetime must be utilized within the lifetime of the opportunity. Life is a limited period offer. Period. Enjoy it as long as it lasts! Indeed, sometimes, you may only be in a position to endure Life. But if you understand Life and its impermanence, you will learn to accept, and therefore even enjoy, what you are enduring! So, as the famous song from the Hindi film, Golmaal(1979, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, R.D.Burman, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar) goes: “Aane Wala Pal, Jaane Wala Hai, Ho Sake To Isme Zindagi Bita Do, Pal Yeh Jo Jaane Wala Hai…”It means exactly what Omar Khayyam wants us to realize: “Each moment – and Life – is passing us by. If possible, seize the lifetime in the moment, because it too will be gone soon.”
Realize the value of each moment. At least from now on, go do what you love doing. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Just do it! Also, please make time for your family and children today. Because even before you realize it, time would have flown, the birds too would have flown, leaving your nest empty. What you will be left with are just memories. Those are funny things, these memories. The stuff you laughed about will make you cry and what you cried over, you will laugh about when you look back! Work hard without doubt. Earn money, that’s important. But with advancing age, decreasing efficiency, and limited time left on this planet, what you will be left holding are only memories. Make sure they are happy ones, of happy times, of memorable moments that you want to relive. Not of times of which you have no memories because you merely existed back then! Someone wisely said, we don’t remember days, we remember moments. Ensure each of yours from now on are worth living for and remembering happily later!
We all have come with an expiry date. Except we don’t know what that date is. So, when you don’t know how much time you have left here, won’t you want to make each day, each moment, count?

For heaven’s sake, it is not ‘zindagi ka suffer’….!

Suffering is self-inflicted. If you are suffering in any situation, you have only yourself to blame.
Yesterday a friend texted me his predicament. He said he was unable to reconcile with my thoughts, which I share in my daily blogposts, on a “practical, real Life basis”. “While I agree in theory to what you say every day, I simply can’t believe that you can be happy without money. Means to earn a living, having money for everyday needs, to me, is a critical pre-requisite. I am suffering because I have no job and no money,” he confessed.
I can empathize with my friend. I have been in his shoes too with regard to postponing happiness by imposing pre-conditions on Life. I have suffered too for weeks, months and years. Until I realized that you suffer only when you set conditions on Life. How can you? How can you insist that Life deal with you in specific manner when you don’t even know how Life works and thinks? The problem with such condition-setting is that whenever Life does not conform to your expectations, which will be ever so often, you will suffer. Today, I am still in my friend’s shoes – I have no work and no money too, but I have learnt not to suffer. Because I have accepted my situation unconditionally. I keep trying harder every single day, with my wife, to put our business back on track but I don’t say anymore that I will be unhappy with what I have, and my Life, unless my business turns around. Resultantly, while there is intense pain – if you are living or have lived without money, you may feel my pain – there is no suffering.
I am reminded of that beautiful song from the Hindi movie Safar (1970, Asit Sen, Kalyanji Anandji, Indeevar, Kishore Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore) which talks about the inscrutable nature of the journey of Life. The lyrics go…’zindagi ka safar, hai yeh kaisa safar, koi jaana nahin, koi samjha nahin…’ Safar in Hindi means journey and zindagi means Life, but, ironically many are living their lives and humming this song as ‘zindagi ka suffer… This is not intelligent punning. This is the reality. Many, like my friend, are resisting their realities and that’s why they are suffering.

To summarize, you suffer only because you have chosen to suffer. Accepting your reality, the Life that you have, cannot solve your problems. It cannot take away your pain. But it surely can help you not to suffer. It is only when you choose not to suffer, will you be able to attempt better solutions to your problems. Remember: you have been given this Life, this zindagi, for you to journey (safar) through, experience and learn from this lifetime, and not to suffer! So, whatever it is that you are dealing with, accept it and journey on…with a song in your heart!

“Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!”

You can only be happy in the present. Or to say it differently, you can only be happy if you are present!

A friend called yesterday to say that his world is falling apart. His business is doing badly and his marriage is on the rocks. “I am very, very unhappy! I hate being this way. But my worries and anxieties are pinning me down,” he lamented. Surely nobody loves being unhappy! I can totally empathize with my friend. But only he, neither his business doing better nor his marriage being saved, can pull him out of the rut he finds himself in.

It is the nature of worries and anxieties to debilitate. If they are holding you hostage, it only means that you have allowed them to be that way. The human mind plays tricks on you all the time. It consistently strives to take you away from what is and gets you to attend to what once was or what may possibly be. So, most of the time, you are not present in the now. And happiness is always in simply being – present, in the now! When you impose conditions on what is, unhappiness sets in.

There was a time when I did not know, or understand when I eventually got to know, this secret to living. I remember waking up in my air-conditioned bedroom in the nights, some years ago, sweating. Sleep evaded me for months on end. I would pace up and down a long hallway in my apartment each night – worrying, fearing, feeling angry, guilty, helpless. I knew what I was doing was stupid. It was crazy. But I just could not sleep. I could not focus on the present.

Once I went to a live concert of R.D.Burman hits (performed by a fantastic national-level orchestra). The hall was full. And the audience was hysterical. About an hour into the concert, I suddenly realized I had not even known which songs had played until then. I was there physically, I was hearing everything, I was watching everyone clap, shout, whistle and sway to the legend’s unputdownable music, but I was not “in” the concert. I was not present there. What finally woke me up from my worry-filled reverie, was one of my favorite R.D. numbers from the film Golmaal (1979, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar). The song went like this: “Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai, Hosake To Isme Zindagi Guzaar Lo, Pal Yeh Jo Jaane Wala Hai…” The lyrics meant a lot to me that day: “The moment which is coming will go away, if you want to, live in this moment, for it will be gone soon too…” Not that I had not heard that song before. But that evening, that song stirred something within me.

Swami Sathya Sai Baba
As they often say, things happen in Life, when they must – never a moment earlier or later. The next time my inner consciousness was stirred was through an experience I had with Swami Sathya Sai Baba (whose birthday it is today), which happened within a week of the R.D. concert. I confessed to Swami that I was very worried and anxious about the future. I told him I saw no way out of the problems that we were faced with as a family. I said, I simply cannot go on like this. Swami asked me what would it take for me to be happy. I replied that if someone could assure me that my problems would be taken care of, I would be happy. Swami then told me that I would never be happy if I thought this way. “To imagine, to desire, to wish that you will not or you should not have any problems is the biggest problem. As long as you have this problem, you will be unhappy. Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!” explained Swami.

That conversation with Swami changed my entire approach to Life. I soon found a wonderful method called ‘shubha mouna yoga’, which is to essentially practise silence periods daily, that helped me discipline my mind. The human mind, I discovered, is like a dog. If you don’t train it, if you don’t discipline it, it will lead you. But if you coach it and teach it to “stay still”, and to obey you, it will never stray. Swami’s inspiration and his awakening message to me, and my practise of mouna, has taught me to be happy despite the circumstances I am faced with in Life.

We have to learn to accept that Life will have problems. And our entire lifetime has to be spent dealing with these problems. Now, we can grieve over the fact that we have problems, and wish, in vain, that we have none, and so be perpetually unhappy. Or we can expunge such an expectation and be happy – in the here and now!


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Each moment is a never-again opportunity!

Yesterday was the legendary singer Kishore Kumar’s birthday. And I chanced upon one of his most memorable songs while shuffling channels on TV. The song is from ‘Aap Ki Kasam’ (1974, J.Om Prakash, starring Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz and Sanjeev Kumar with music by R.D.Burman and lyrics by Anand Bakshi).

It goes like this: Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo mukam, woh phir nahin aate, woh phir nahin aate….

And it means: The moments that you live through in Life will never come back…

The film itself has a powerful message. It tells the story of a jealous and possessive husband who doubts his wife and abandons her. Only to realize, much too late, that he was wrong. The song is sung by him in the aftermath of his awakening, where he pines for the time he spent with her and realizes painfully that those times can never be gone back to again, that what is lost is lost!

This is so true with all our lives’ scripts too. Each moment is so precious. And if we are not alive to the moment, living in the moment, it is gone. Forever. Heraclitus (535~475 B.C), the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, has said: “You never step into the same river twice.” What he means is that, Life, like a river, is ever flowing. It is always in motion. If you step into it once, it has changed by the time you have stepped into it another time. Similarly, with each passing moment, Life changes. In a new moment, which will never come back, you have a new opportunity to live. Using that moment, living it fully, is up to you. If you are going to be caught up with debilitating emotions like anger, worry, sorrow, greed and jealousy, you are sure to miss that never-again opportunity! Remember, no one’s getting any younger. And all of us are speeding towards our deaths – albeit at different speeds!!!

So, seize the moment. Live each moment – fully, joyously! Make your Monday Magnificent….begin, if you wish, by listening to that immortal Kishoreda melody here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYYe0gCoQx0