“The winds of grace are always blowing…”

“The winds of grace are always blowing. You must hoist your sails to catch them.” So said Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836 ~ 1886).
Ustaad Anwar Khan Saab, Mansoor Khan and their troupe
I was, yet again, reminded of this beautiful perspective on Life last evening. A friend and his family had organized a concert by the Manganiyars – a community of folk singers from Rajasthan – on their rooftop. It was an unusual evening in Chennai – it was still very warm, but as the sun set, dark clouds gathered and very strong gusts of wind blew over the city. It didn’t rain. But it came menacingly close to raining. In this backdrop of the game of hide and seek that nature played, five Manganiyars performed at their soulful best. There were no additional lights on stage, no mics and no speakers. The artistes just jammed – led by the supremely talented Ustad Anwar Khan Saab on the vocals and the world-renowned Mansoor Khan on the Dholak. The other three artists played the Kartaal and the Sindhi Sarangi between them. As Anwar Khan Saab sang he lost himself to his music. And held all of us in the audience in a trance. His deep voice, the rhythmic beats of the Kartaals, the sublime strains of the Sindhi Sarangi and the unobtrusive yet unputdownable presence of the Dholak made the evening truly magical.  
I picked up a few learnings.
The first was humility. Anwar Khan Saab is one of the most feted Manganiyars. Yet, as he began the concert, he humbly looked at each of the other four artists in the troupe and asked them: “Izzazat ho, toh shuru karein…” Meaning: “May we have your permission to begin…” There’s an Urdu word called ‘tehzeeb’ which actually means ‘culture’ but combines the essence of being ‘humble and dignified in demeanor’. Khan Saab embodied that word ‘tehzeeb’ in the way he spoke, he sang and he conducted himself last evening – he personified humility.
Second, I re-learnt the value of respecting a senior. Mansoor Khan is younger, is more relevant and hugely famous across the world. Yet Mansoor let Khan Saab lead the whole concert last evening and do all the singing. It’s the kind of difference in appeal that would exist in the cricketing world between Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar that is there between Mansoor and Khan Saab. Even so, Mansoor was content with just being the Dholak player yesterday – happy to share stage presence with the Ustad and sing for the joy of singing alongside the maestro.
Third, I felt the grace – yet again – in my Life. Not that it is ever absent in any of our lives. It is always there. But we are so busy earning-a-living, running on our Life-treadmills, that we miss this grace. But I have realized that whenever I have let go, whenever I have just let a higher energy draw me in its direction, hold me in its sway and take me where it wants to, I have felt the grace. Last evening, I almost did not make it to this home concert of the Manganiyars. It had been a tiring Sunday at home. And all I wanted to do was have a drink and watch television. But our hosts are very, very special. And the Manganiyars are our favorites – particularly Mansoor Khan. So, despite my body protesting, I completely let go as Khan Saab began. For the next two hours it was a pure bliss and grace show! My wife Vaani concurs with me. How else do you explain such great weather in Chennai in the middle of June, such great artists jamming in front of you with no commercial trappings, such soulful music and us in the midst of all this – when we can never quite dream of buying tickets to a live performance of this class, given our fragile financial state?

As the concert ended, I took a swig of Kingfisher beer that my host graciously offered. And then I looked up at the sky and smiled in gratitude and joy. I was reminded of what the Buddha has said: “When you realize how perfect your Life is, you will look up at the sky and laugh!” Indeed, I don’t think that we will ever have a perfect Life – the way we want it. It is always what it is. And if you can accept what is, you will have raised your sails, you will then have felt the grace in your Life, you too will then perhaps look up at the sky and laugh….! 
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To the MAESTRO called YOU…

Sachin Tendulkar has finally announced his retirement from the game that made him God! While there are people who are still awestruck by his legend, there are others, his admirers-turned-critics, who opine that he should have quit the game at his peak – which was a few years ago. Sachin himself explains his rationale for continuing to play well past his prime in his statement, issued by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), yesterday. He says: It’s hard for me to imagine a Life without playing cricket because it’s all I have ever done since I was 11 years old.
I would like to share what I have learned, so far, from Sachin’s Life. Each of us has three questions to answer and three circles to fill in Life:
  •      What can you be best at in the world? – What’s your innate talent?
  •      What are you deeply passionate about? – What keeps you excited about living?
  •    What drives your economic engine? – What earns you money?

When you answer these questions and fill the circles with your answers, the one vocation – or answer – that leads to the convergence of these three circles is your inner core of joy, your bliss. When you follow your bliss, you too will become a world-leader and world-beater, and consequentially wealthy too, in your chosen field. Of course, the time it takes to reach that pinnacle of greatness varies from individual to individual – it is often a direct correlation between effort, the time the individual is passing through, and the larger, unfathomable, cosmic design. But one thing is for sure: if you have identified that one vocation, which led to the convergence of these three circles in your Life, your bliss that is, you will always be happy doing what you have chosen to do – even though your financial success make take time coming. They key is to keep following your bliss, as Joseph Campbell (1904~1987), the American thinker and writer, famously said, knowing that doors will soon open where only walls existed. The difference between people who have identified their bliss and those who go on to become Gods, legends in their chosen fields, lies in the following. When you follow your heart, your  bliss, no matter what, you will arrive where you truly must and deserve to be! Important, focus only on your bliss, while following it, and not on becoming great! Greatness follows when you truly follow your bliss! (Just to clarify: the concept of these three circles was first presented by Management Guru Jim Collins in the context of helping organizations derive their Core Purpose. But I have found it extremely relevant in the case of individuals too – after all, people make organizations tick!)
Osho, the Master, has explained following your bliss beautifully. He says when you do what you love doing, when the doer becomes the deed, for instance, when the dancer becomes the dance or when the player becomes the game, magic happens. That’s when the Universal, cosmic, energy is flowing through you. The actor and the action are in unison then. That’s what the world calls genius, greatness. That’s how ordinary people become maestros. Did you not see that magic in Sachin – then, and don’t you not see it even now, when he is on a song? Sunil Gavaskar, the legend himself, said this of Sachin Tendulkar when talking to India Today, a couple of years ago: “The secret of Sachin’s longevity in the game lies in his joy. His mind, body, soul – all three are in a state of perpetual joy when he’s playing!”
To reach your own state of perpetual joy, you need to only shift your attention from your economic engine circle to the other two circles – concerning your talent and passion – in your Life. Then you too will be soaked in bliss and will be able to uncork the magic within you! Here’s then, cheers, to the MAESTRO called YOU!