Sunny Leone is more spiritual than most people around us

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!
Here’s today’s blogpost!
Spirituality does not impose any conditions on your being. It is the flowering of inner awareness that brings you to be present in whatever is.
Sunny Leone
Picture Courtesy: Internet
There’s this whole song and dance, well we can call it drama too, over Bollywood actor Sunny Leone’s interview with CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey. I have not seen any of Sunny Leone’s movies nor have I dug up her footprint, as an erstwhile porn star, online. I have also had no interest in any interview she has given up until now. That’s when my friend BG’s story on the actor and her interview appeared in The Hindu this morning. Now, BG’s someone I respect a lot. And his concluding line, “…Until now, she was a small-time actor, the interview made her a heroine.”…caught my attention. So I googled and pulled up Chaubey’s interview with Leone and watched it. I not only concur with BG’s perspective but I go a step further: I don’t just think Leone is gorgeous-looking, sexy if you will, I believe she’s very, very, spiritual too.
I have no comments to offer on Chaubey’s interviewing style or the quality and tone of his questions. That’s his way of Life. So, my perspective here is not because I disagree with what Chaubey asked or did, but is here because I agree with, and can relate to, everything that Leone said. It takes an evolved person to say that I have no regrets about the past. And Leone does not just say it, she says it with a deep conviction. She says, “ …Everything that I have done in my Life, has led me (in)to this seat…it’s a chain reaction that happens…everything is a stepping stone…when you are young you make decisions that lead you to who you are as an adult…” To me, Leone’s interview offers an unputdownable lesson in spirituality. It left me admiring this young lady for her ability to hold herself up with dignity, when so many people are hell bent on judging her. Watch the full interview here:

I make no comparisons here. But interestingly, at the recently concluded Hindu Lit for Life event, ace photographer Raghu Rai, who was in conversation with renowned art editor Sadanand Menon, said something very similar: “I am just a sum of all the experiences I have been through in Life. Everything that I have done in my Life has made me the person that I am today.” Everyone who heard Rai share with Menon came back feeling reflective and spiritual.

And truly, that’s all there is to Life. We all are a product of the time and the experiences we go through. There’s nothing right or wrong about the choices we make. Each choice leads us to another one and that one leads to yet another. And through choosing, falling, crawling, getting up, flying and falling again, we learn to choose better and cruise along in Life. Leone’s choice of opting to be in the porn industry was not very different from my choice of having been a salesman early on in my career or Rai’s choice of being a news photographer for several years. In the end, really, no experience is a waste and no experience is bad. Each one teaches you something, provided you are willing to learn.

As I see it, there’s a lot I can learn from Leone. She displays humility, acceptance and a keenness to just let things be. For instance, she says that she has neither been “haunted” or “held back” by her past. She tells Chaubey that she does not want to think of a future – of acting with a big star like Aamir Khan – that is not yet born: “At this moment I don’t know (about the future) any better.” I wish, instead of bringing a hypocritical sense of morality into play, that people pause and reflect on Leone’s interview for the honesty she inspires through it. That and her ability to be who she is, celebrating herself, without any regrets of a past that is dead and gone, and without any anxieties over an unborn future, are very spiritual qualities.  To me, those qualities make her more spiritual – and not just sexy – than most people around us are. 
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“Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question!

Life knows no fair play or foul play. Life is simply in an eternal state of play!
As I write this The Hindu’s website is breaking news that there has allegedly been a rape on the Pune campus of IT major Infosys (Infy). My first reaction, that I even tweeted (@AVISViswanathan), was “Gosh! There must be a way to end all this!” Earlier this morning in The Hindu’s Open Page, Rya Sanovar asks a very pertinent, albeit disturbing, question: “Why do I get and they don’t? Is this world we live in so unfair that it can’t provide its people the basic amenities of Life?”
The word ‘amenities’ can be replaced with ‘security’, or with ‘dignity’, and Sanovar’s question will still ring true. Yet there’s no point asking that question. Life never promised anything, least of all fairness, to anyone. Fairness and unfairness are social labels. They expectations that are born from within us humans. Life is simply at play. Life keeps on happening: one event after another. And each event, each happening in Life, is an experience for sure, and, if you care to pause and reflect, it can be a learning too. To crave for fair play from Life is to invite misery. Period.
In the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011), Farhan Akhtar recites his father Javed Akhtar’s poetry. One of the poems is this one:
Dil Aakhir Tu Kyun Rota Hai?
Jab jab dard ka baadal chhaya

Jab gham ka saya lehraaya

Jab aansoo palkon tak aaya

Jab yeh tanha dil ghabraaya

Hum ne dil ko yeh samjhaya

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai?

Duniya mein yun hi hota hai

Yeh jo gehre sannate hain

Waqt ne sabko hi baante hain
Thoda gham hai sabka qissa
Thodi dhoop hai sabka hissa

Aankh teri bekaar hi nam hai

Har pal ek naya mausam hai

Kyun tu aise pal khota hai

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Listen to/watch the original poem here


The poem so beautifully captures the essence of what I am trying to say here – that Life distributes sunshine and sorrow equally. Yet, it appears unequal to us because we compare. When you compare your home with Mukesh and Nita Ambani’s Antilia, you may feel, in real estate terms, poorer, less endowed. But when you see what you have compared to the person who seeks your attention – and alms – at a traffic signal, and who sleeps on the pavement, you feel so much more blessed. The truth is all our lives are perfect – yours, mine, Mukesh’s and Nita’s, and the pavement dweller’s. Each of us has what we need and gets what is due to us. Comparisons, therefore, serve no purpose. They simply ruin your inner peace. Besides, there’s no point in asking why is Life unfair or why is there inequality, why is there hunger, why is there rape and so on. “Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question! Instead ask yourself how you can contribute to make this world better – how you can bridge the inequality gap, how you can feed someone today, how you can touch a Life and make a difference?

Life may not have promised fair play. But Life’s always open to you playing along. Will you?

Stop being a ‘thought terrorist’!

You are human first. Your gender, your religion, your nationality, your qualifications and your income come later and, quite honestly, don’t matter at all.
Misbah Quadri
Picture Courtesy: The Hindu
This morning’s Hindureports the shocking story of a 25-year-old young lady, Misbah Quadri, being denied accommodation in all of Mumbai just because she is a Muslim! “Mumbai – of all places?” I thought. If Mumbai has become so parochial, the rest of India may well be damned! But this is not an isolated story or occurrence. The other day I was at a friend’s place for dinner. And he openly acknowledged that he would never rent his apartment to Muslims. He confessed: “Call me conservative or anti-Muslim, I cannot simply trust people who belong to that religion.” My friend is educated, widely traveled, does business globally and yet he holds such a regressive view? Within my own family, I have someone who cannot refer to Muslims without using an expletive alongside. This is a sad trend and needs to be condemned with as much intensity as it is being propagated.
When I think about it deeply, dispassionately, I believe we are finding it convenient to generalize and to hide behind our insecurities and flawed assumptions. While it is true that most acts of terror in the world are conducted by Muslims, it is wrong to imagine that all Muslims are terrorists. Perhaps, people find it simpler to banish an entire community because they have never tried to – or wanted to – be discerning in their judgment. Another reason why people cannot understand or appreciate Muslims may be because of their inscrutable practices, rituals and traditions – from circumcision to Muharram to the ubiquitous burkha. But that is no valid argument. Every religion, the way each of us is raised, every community has its own idiosyncratic methods and beliefs. If you find a burkha restricting women empowerment, then you should find the Hindu practice of disallowing girl children from performing the last rites of a dead parent equally restrictive. A sandhyavandanam can be as banal as Muharram if you don’t understand the significance of either.
I think there are as many reasons to divide humanity in this world as there are people on the planet. We don’t need to invent newer ways or choose to alienate a particular community or religion just because we don’t know or understand someone or something. Those who think they are very smart in exercising options such as the ones my friend has chosen, or what building societies in Mumbai have chosen against young Misbah, are actually sick in their heads and hearts. The very thought that you can discriminate against someone just because he or she belongs to a particular community or religion is an act of violence. As Gandhi would say, it is himsa (violence) of the highest order. It is worse than the acts of terror that kill people around the world each year. We must drop this tendency to be violent in our thoughts, in our perceptions, that lead us to discriminate against fellow human beings – urgently and wholeheartedly.

Fundamentally, let’s remember that there are only two kinds of people in the world. Humans who practice love and compassion. And humans who indulge in hatred and violence. If you cannot immediately decide which category someone belongs to, it is fine. But don’t imagine they belong to the latter category just because they come from a community that you think is redoubtable. If you do that, in the absence of valid, irrefutable evidence, unfortunately, sadly, you will be indulging in himsa too! When you discriminate against someone, you are being violent in thought. And, to be sure, thoughts can kill – they are like cancer, chewing away humanity! So, unless you are one, stop being a ‘thought terrorist’! 

Living fully is more important than arriving first

Don’t compete with anyone or anything in Life. Life’s is not a race that you must aim to complete first. It’s not a battle either where only the fittest will survive. It is about living, letting others live too, and enjoying every moment that you are on this planet doing what you are good at and love doing.
For the last four weeks, the front pages of the Chennai editions of most leading newspapers have been taken by Kalyan Jewellers. Announcing the brand’s arrival in Chennai the ads claimed that Kalyan’s was the largest jewellery showroom in the world!!! A high-voltage star-studded campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Prabhu, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Nagarjuna led the media blitzkrieg. But even as Kalyan opened their showroom last Friday, their rivals Prince, Lalitha and Joy Alukkas upped the ante splurging on full page ads. This morning’s Page 1 of The Hindu’s Chennai edition was taken by Joy Alukkas to claim that they owned the world’s largest jewelry showroom “as certified by the Limca Book of World Record”. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you are the first or the largest, what really matters is that you are great on service and quality, ethical and true to your customers. To me, this avaricious need to be “seen” in a certain way takes away the joy out of living and doing business!
Unfortunately, our education system and our social architecture promotes just the opposite sentiment. Both erroneously, irresponsibly, define excellence as being the first and getting on top of the world. So, in school you are encouraged to top the class and in society you are measured by the wealth, power and stature you have. Therefore, many of us are running a rat race, trying to outdo the others, wanting to be first and more importantly be seen as the first. A way to examine this perspective is to understand that ultimately, however fast we get anywhere in Life, our stories will allhave to end. So, why are we rushing? Think about it. Our Life is ticking away, one moment at a time. So, does it make sense to run at all, worse, run faster and only to get to the end faster or is it prudent to savor each moment, drink in its beauty, help others with whatever we can and arrive at our story’s end, gracefully, peacefully?
Celebrated Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar, helps us understand this perspective by sharing why he chose notto direct the remake of the film that his father Yash Johar had originally produced. In 1990, Yash Johar, had produced ‘Agneepath’with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. While the film won a lot of critical acclaim and also got Amitabh Bachchan his first National Award, it failed to be a commercial success. This left Yash Johar personally heart-broken and financially broke. Karan Johar recalls that his father eventually died grieving his favorite production’s failure. As a token of respect to his father and to celebrate his memory, Karan has produced the remake of ‘Agneepath’ (in 2012) with Hrithik Roshan playing the role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. Times of India asked Karan Johar why he chose not to direct the film himself: “Dad had pinned a lot of hopes on it as the previews had been full of praise, but when the film didn’t do well at the box office it broke his heart. Dad always wanted to remake it. One day Karan (Malhotra), who was my associate director on ‘My Name Is Khan’, and I were chatting when I told him about my desire to make it again. Karan told me he was a huge fan of the original so I asked him if he would revisit it. He agreed immediately. I am incapable of directing a film like ‘Agneepath’. I can do only what I am good at, so I would have been the worst choice to direct it. It has aggression, action and an inherent violence in it – things I am not capable of directing in my films. Karan is an exceptionally talented and angry boy, and for this film one requirement was anger. There’s an inherent sense of suppressed anger in Karan and ‘Agneepath’was the platform to express that.”
So beautiful. Karan Johar is such a successful director and has delivered several blockbuster hits over the last 15 years. There sure may have been a temptation to want to direct it himself had someone else been in his shoes. But that’s intelligent living. When you make a powerful choice of enjoying Life rather than proving or making a point. Because, in the end, to have lived__fully__is more important than to have arrived__first!

An unalterable reality: dealing with detractors is a part of Life!

There’s no point in killing your creativity and stifling who you are to please others. You live when you do what you love doing. If you stop doing that, then you merely exist, you don’t live!
The Tamil writer Perumal Murugan is in the eye of storm in Tamil Nadu. One of his works, Madhorubhagan, has come under fire from Hindu outfits who feel it should be banned and Murugan arrested. The book has also been translated into English by Penguin and is titled One Part Woman. The fundamentalists allege that it shows Lord Shiva in poor light. Murugan, on the other hand, has been defending his work saying it is a love story of a couple, Kali and Ponna, who are unable to conceive a child. Societal pressures cast a shadow on their relationship and Murugan tells their story set in Thiruchengode of the past.
Over the last couple of weeks the protests over Murugan’s book have turned ugly – copies of Madhorubhagan have been burnt and the decibel level against Murugan has been high. Yesterday Murugan, in utter frustration, decided to quit writing altogether. “Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone,” he posted on his facebook Page.
To me, Murugan’s reaction is emotional. This will only accentuate his pain and prolong his suffering. This is a classic case of inability to deal with people who practice value systems that are different from your own. So, you end up quitting in a huff. You want to sacrifice your joy, in an act of inverted martyrdom, in the hope that your action will appeal emotionally to the conscience of your detractors. The brutal truth is it will not. Please understand that if someone is your detractor, it is only because that someone has a different value system than your own, has few or no scruples, and has a conscience which is on an endless vacation. Appealing to or trying to communicate with such people is trying to do a data transfer between two devices via Bluetooth, when one of the device’s Bluetooth option is turned off or is simply not turning on. It is from personal experience that I say that inverted martyrdom does not work. I have voluntarily sacrificed opportunities, entitlements and given up what’s legitimately due to me because I have wanted to emotionally appeal to people who were playing plain dirty. And every time I did that, I was hoping that my actions would transform them. But each time my efforts came to a naught and I ended up giving up on what was logically, legitimately mine. Inverted martyrdom is the act of sacrifice that people indulge in to prove a point, to demonstrate their goodness and righteousness to the world around them. Unfortunately, inverted martyrdom achieves nothing – it is like talking to wall. You just end up berating yourself!

Murugan has done precisely that. His decision to give up writing – something which gave him joy and which was his very Life – is something he must seriously review. In fact, in a recent interview to Akila Kannadasan of The Hindu, Murugan has said, “I am a writer first. I started teaching since I couldn’t make a living out of writing. Writing is my jeevan (Life). Teaching is my jeevanam (bread and butter).”

The Murugan drama offers us all, who are dealing with detractors in some context or the other all the time, a valuable lesson: Dealing with detractors is a part of Life. You simply can’t escape it. And it definitely is part of walking the road less trodden, or taking the creative path. Remember that your detractors revel in making you feel weak and impotent. You don’t need to necessarily fight them. Because to fight them you have to stoop to their levels. And that’s what will weaken you. Instead, you just need to stand there and keep doing what you always do – which is, live your Life fully, do what you love doing and refuse to cower, refuse to capitulate. In the face of integrity of Purpose, I have discovered, no destabilizing force can ever thrive. And integrity of Purpose is the ability to go on, no matter what challenges you are faced with, doing what you love doing.