“Find your own reason” – a wake-up call from ‘Airlift’s’ ‘sarkari babu’

Sometimes when you have to do what you must do, you have to find your own reason.  
Kumud Mishra in ‘Airlift’
Photo Courtesy: Internet
Yesterday, we watched an amazingly well-made Hindi film, Airlift, based on the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in August 1990. The film, made by Raja Krishna Menon, and starring Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur, tells the true story of how 170,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait, were airlifted by 488 planes of the Indian Air Force, Air India and Indian Airlines, in the largest evacuation operation in the world. The evacuation would not have been possible, given the apathy with which the Indian government functions, had it not been for the efforts of a joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. When he finally networks with his colleague in the Civil Aviation Ministry and gets down to addressing the union of pilots that represent Air India and Indian Airlines – who are refusing to fly civilian aircraft into a war zone for the operation – the joint secretary is asked by one of the pilots, “Why should we fly risking our lives? Give us one reason.” And the bureaucrat (fictitiously named Sanjeev Kohli; a brilliant performance by Kumud Mishra) simply replies: “The 170,000 people who are stuck there have, unfortunately, no relationship with any of us, except that they are fellow Indians. So, if you need a reason to do what is right, to go do what you must do, you have to find your own reason. Apna hi kaaran dhoond lo ji.”
There is no rabble-rousing, heroic oratory that takes up screen time. Just a 30-second, modest, heartfelt, helpless plea. Imagine the most pivotal point of the film’s story has no melodrama. Not even drama.
That scene and dialogue may or may not have been rendered in real Life. We don’t know and possibly Airlift’s director Menon may have taken artistic liberties. But, nevertheless, what Mishra’s character Sanjeev Kohli says in the film brings to the fore a practical, personal and deeply spiritual option we all often ignore.
Which is, to do whatever we have to and must do, we don’t need an extraneous reason. We must do it for our own sake. We often procrastinate over decisions – governing our own lives – or we delay doing the right things for people and community around us. All our dilemmas, and the delays associated with them, arise from this ‘waiting for a reason’ syndrome. And that’s the wake-up call that the sarkari babu in Airlift serves to each of us. He’s almost, through his nondescript appeal, certainly saying “be the change that you want to see in the world”. To be honest, apart from the fact that Iraq invaded Kuwait, even after watching Airlift, I could not recall the story of this historical evacuation from memory. I was a journalist in 1990, with India Today; I was 23 years old then, and still I could not remember even one fact – 488 flights, 170,000 people, 59 days, involving Air India and Indian Airlines? I conceded to Vaani yesterday: “I must have been so self-obsessed.” Perhaps it is true that it is only when we are self-obsessed that we search for reasons to do what we must do.  
Interestingly, almost in all contexts in Life, each of us knows what must be done. And what we must be doing. Yet we procrastinate, postpone and pretend to be clueless. So, whatever it is you must be doing, don’t dither, don’t delay. You don’t always get a second chance in Life! Find your own reason to inspire yourself into action and go do what must be done.

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The essence of living Intelligently

Intelligent Living has only two tenets. 1. Just be. 2. While just being, be at it.
Arriving at this state of awareness does not take time or practice, it only takes a moment of awakening. When you let Life take you on its own course, you just be, you don’t resist, you don’t fight, you don’t agonize and so you are peaceful and often in bliss. But letting Life flow at its own terms__no matter what you think or do, Life has an independent mind and operates on its own terms__does not mean stopping to do what you must do. This is the action that the Bhagavad Gitatalks about, this is the duty, this is the Purpose that creation has intended for us. When you are not aware or ‘awake’, you try multiple things, you try to control, you fight and you worry. When the awakening moment happens, when your Purpose finds you, you find meaning in doing what you must do.
Now, this is not complicated. A Zen story here explains how simple understanding your Life’s Purpose really can be.
A disciple spoke to his Master as he was sitting down to meditate.
“Master, what is my Purpose in Life? I have heard you speak so much about our being purpose-driven to accomplish things in our Life, yet when I try to grasp what it is that I myself am meant to be doing, I am unable to arrive at my Purpose in my mind.”
The Master replied: “My dear young man, our Purpose in Life is as individual as the fingerprints on our palms. So what it is for you I cannot tell you. However, I can tell you that  knowing what your Purpose in this Life is important. My experience has taught me that you cannot find Purpose in your mind. You will only find it through your heart.”
He then added, “My son, I have a question for you. If you knew, right now, that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you most regret that you had not accomplished?”
“Well, Master,’ said the disciple, “I would certainly rue the fact that I had not learned how to become a Master like you. I would also very much regret not being reconciled with my family for we have seen much acrimony over these past years. Then, I will feel sorry for the fact that I have not realized my dream of building my own monastery.”
“Well,” said the Master, “it sure looks like you have identified the essential ingredients of your Life’s Purpose, it is now for you to go to work to make these things come alive and become your reality.”
It really is that simple. When you arrive at this moment of clarity, you awaken. You start living and don’t just exist! In getting to that moment of awakening is where most of mankind fails to employ the intelligence it is endowed with. You see this intelligence demonstrated ever so often: in a smart business deal, in an invention, in just the way you convince an airline agent to confirm a waitlisted booking, in arguing a point, in making important investment decisions. And yet, in the most critical aspect of your journey through this planet, you miss the opportunity to employ your intelligence. That awakening moment can even be now, if you accept in all humility that there must be a reason for your creation (your raison d’etre) and if you seek Life to unveil it to you. The key is to be humble. That’s what takes, at times, even a lifetime!