Be unruffled, be who you are

Don’t bother about what others have to say about you. Let them say what they want to. You simply be yourself.   
Dr. Manmohan Singh and Ms.Gursharan Kaur
at NaMo’s swearing-in ceremony
Picture Coutesy: Internet
Yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi and his team was indeed a great moment in Indian history. Such a grand, peaceful transfer of power in the largest democracy in the world – it made me feel very proud as an Indian. I was particularly inspired by the outgoing Prime Minister (PM) Dr.Manmohan Singh’s demeanor. He was cool, calm and cheerful. The whole nation had ridiculed him and continued to do so, even as the live TV telecast of yesterday’s ceremony was on. For instance, Suhel Seth, socialite and strategic brand advisory Counselage’s founder, thundered on NDTV, “For God’s sake, for 10 years, we had a PM who did nothing!”. Such exaggerations have been a consistent feature of all political commentaries during Dr.Singh’s tenure as PM. Yet, barring a couple of times, Dr.Singh has never deemed it necessary to clarify. I am not here to moderate a debate on whether Dr.Singh was an effective PM or not, or appraise whether he fell abysmally short on communicating with the people of India, or even comment on whether his leadership of the various crises his government and the country faced was good enough. All I am seeing as a learning here is that he remains unruffled by others’ opinion of him. To the extent that he graciously participated in the handover of his office – without even letting a glimpse be evident of the gloom that has enveloped his party and erstwhile council of ministers, thanks to the mauling they received in the just-concluded elections.
Now to be able to stay true to yourself – no matter what others say – well, that’s a phenomenal quality.
Contrast this with how sometimes you – and I – get bogged down by others’ opinion. In fact, if you observe yourself closely, you are most of the time working hard to conform to  other people’s opinions of you. What you wear, where you live, what you drive, where you dine – everything is dictated by a societal norm and you, just as everyone else, fears any deviation.
Some years back I met a Sanskrit scholar and yogi, attached to one of the five seats of vedic learning in India. He knew I had worked at one time with India Today. He wanted to know if I could help him get into the “famed” ‘India Today Power List” that the magazine brings out annually. Now, here was a man, whom ministers feared. Actors and industrialists revered him. Yet, he was craving to be in listed in a social pecking order? I asked him why. He replied, “Saar, it doesn’t matter who I am. What matters is who I am compared with.” This is what’s happening to everyone. The Times of India this morning carries a story titled: “Who sat where; the ‘other’ pecking order” – in reference to where celebrities sat among the 5000-member audience at Modi’s swearing in. Apart from personal comfort – of either viewing or traveling – it does not matter where you sit in an event or an auditorium or on a plane. To me, most of the 5000 people in attendance at the Forecourt of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan yesterday were uncomfortable – sheerly because of their choice of clothing. In the 38-degree-plus heat of a summer evening in Delhi, people were wearing suits and bandhgalas and silks sarees and full-sleeved designer clothes. These people would have been better of thinking about how they were feeling than worry about where they were seated!
Indian society, in particular New Delhi’s power class, holds you hostage to pride and prejudice. You become the dumping ground for people’s opinions of you. You then try to be many things to many people. And, in the process, sadly, lose your own identity. People praise you, praise you dress sense, applaud you for where you live – and immediately you have become a victim. You are now a hostage to their opinion. You cannot live any other way. Then, as will always happen in Life, your business fails or you lose something – power or position – and people don’t want to have anything with you. And you start grieving that loss of social acceptance more than what you have lost in real terms. You are driven by what other people think of you than who you really are. This way you have become society’s slave, imprisoned by your own insecurities and craving for social acceptance!
But the one who does not think much of others’ opinions is free. Such a person is fearless of societal branding – aware that just as when society can pin a label, an opinion – let us say enormous praise over something genuinely well done – it can also take off the label when there’s a drop in performance. Pretty much, perhaps, like in Dr.Singh’s case. Neither success nor defeat affects such a person. Nor does praise or criticism. Such a person always responds to all that is said – good, bad, ugly – of him or her with a, “Thank You! It does not matter. I am who I am.” This equanimity is what leads to inner peace!

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Be Jolly – Don’t you get the cosmic joke?


Last night I was watching the 2006 Hindi hit film Fanaa (directed by Kunal Kohli, starring Aamir Khan and Kajol) yet another time on TV. I particularly like the character Jolly Singh, played by the late satirist-and-comedian, Jaspal Bhatti. Bhatti plays a guard at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and has the queer name of Jolly Singh in the movie! He explains that he was perhaps named so because his grandfather had the habit of saying ‘Jolly Good’ for everything that happened! And so, confesses Jolly Singh in the movie, that’s the secret of his being cheerful all the time!

Actually, all of us have that ability to be ‘Jolly Singhs’ inbuilt in us. But that part of us is suppressed because of layers of everyday stress that keeps piling on. The worries and tensions of everyday living leave us battered and bruised. We barely manage to see off a day’s challenges and the next day arrives with its truckload of fresh issues, conflicts and problems. And so it goes. Our days and weeks and months and years are all spent in battling Life than living it freely. Somewhere along the way all of us have become adept problem-fixers, not necessarily solvers, and have conveniently forgotten the meaning of being our own selves, of being happy and jolly!

The biggest reason we are like this is because we choose to attend to our worries than our opportunities. Something’s not right. And we have rushed to worry about it, fix it. The truth is even if you get a heart attack, you can’t treat it yourself. You need a doctor to attend to you. So, instead of getting worried, can you not be jolly? Maybe a good laugh can revive you, as laughter is always good for the heart!

Let’s take inspiration from Jolly Singh! And just be jolly good about anything that happens in Life!

If you are not convinced, let’s look to Osho, the Master, for some perspective. He championed that this Life is the biggest cosmic joke! He said there are three types of laughter __ or three ways in which you can be jolly!

  • One way is when you laugh at others. That, he said, and you will agree, is being very mean. Avoidable!
  • The other way is to laugh at yourself. That is a more evolved response but still very connected with the material, worldly self! But it better than the first kind and prepares you for the third kind!
  • The third way is to laugh at Life itself. This is when you are neither laughing at others nor at yourself, but, objectively, are laughing at the situation! You are laughing at Life!

Osho said being truly jolly meant getting this cosmic joke! Just the way Jolly Singh’s grandfather, and Jolly Singh himself perhaps, got it! This lifetime is really one, big laugh. We come with nothing. And will depart with nothing. We are not even aware we will be able to retain all that we experience in this lifetime in our subconscious and reproduce it in our evolutionary journey going forward. Yet, despite having to go away without owning anything, all our strife, our daily battles, are about stuff we will not be able to take away with us. Do you realize that? Do you get the joke!

If you eventually do get the joke, laugh! And ask yourself, how wonderful would it be if we could all be ‘Jolly Good Fellows’ all the time! And be infected at least in part with Jolly Singh’s energy or Bhatti’s enthusiasm and humor or with Osho’s wisdom!!