Live celebrating the suchness of Life!
Here’s an interesting anecdote and a learning from my Life and from Jet Airways’ journey from glory to bankruptcy…
I used to be a Platinum Card member of the Jet Privilege Program of Jet Airways. And on the sheer quantum of JP Miles I had with them, I always flew free on Jet Premiere (Business Class); and all our family vacations for several years were got free on JP Miles!! Those were the days when Jet held the Gold Standard in Service Quality. They were truly world-class!!!
In November 2006, I made a significant complaint on a series of slips that I had begun to notice in their Service Quality standards. A gentleman called Vijay Sethi (an expert and Master in Service Quality/Customer Service/Relationships in his own right), who was heading Service Quality for Jet Ariways then, reached out to me. He said that their records revealed that I was one of their most frequent fliers – among the top Jet fliers in India! So, he requested me if I would be open to sharing my feedback live, at a meeting of their top management team in Mumbai.
I gladly agreed.
So, I was flown to Mumbai on Business Class and I met their 25+ top management, leadership team, including then CEO Wolfgang Prockshauer and COO Peter Leuthi.
It was a two-hour session and the team was amazed with my insights on how I felt Jet was beginning to lose focus of the very core of their existence – the Jet flier, their God, their guest! I pointed out, with relevant details, why the famed Jet Gold Standard was slipping and how their Yellow Rose (a branding device they had used through the first 10~15 years of their operations) was beginning to wither! Wolfgang, Peter and Vijay thanked me profusely for my feedback and perspectives and committed to revive the soul of the airline. Sadly, all three of them left Jet Airways, in different circumstances, in the next few years…and…we all know what happened with the Sahara acquisition and where Jet is today…
Interestingly, while searching for something else in my archives today, I stumbled upon these images, on a day when Jet has suspended operations.
But let me tell you…its perfectly okay to be down. Such is the process of Life. I talk from personal experience.
I, who flew so many air miles monthly, have been grounded for the past several years – including 2016, which was my flightless year (read my Blogpost here.); and Jet which was India’s premier airline is out of cash and grounded now….
But such is Life…what goes up will come down, and go up again, to come down again…Being down is a great humbling, learning, awakening experience…
There’s no point in grieving or losing sleep over the turn of the wheel of Life…instead celebrate Life’s suchness…
Growing up, with age and experience, is a personal, intelligent, choice.
A friend we were sitting with the other day remarked that “men mellow down over a period of time”. She was referring to my choice – and her husband’s too – to cut down on our alcohol consumption. I didn’t mind her gender bias. What she really meant was that all of us evolve over time.
And that it is so true.
Yesterday at the airport, a prominent person (a.k.a VIP in India) we know greeted us at the kerbside. And his personal assistant whisked all of us past the long, winding security line at the entry gate and at check-in. This VIP took seat 1 C on the plane while we trudged up to our seats at the rear of the aircraft, 23 D & E. Once we settled in, I told Vaani: “Once upon a time, not very long ago, I would have insisted we too sat in those front row seats. 1 C was my favorite whenever I managed business class upgrades. But now these things don’t even matter.” She agreed with me. She pointed out that she was very embarrassed jumping the security and check-in queues at the airport. I conceded that I too was very uncomfortable with the way our VIP friend’s assistant had broken the rules for his boss – and for us!
Just 15 years ago, I was so different. I believed in protocol. I insisted my secretary checked me in on first row economy seats on domestic flights, I fiercely fought for upgrades and I always demanded that a Jet Airways porter greeted me at the entry gate at airports with my boarding card and helped me “jump queues” – this was a privileged service that Jet accorded to frequent fliers. I was often told by the Jet Airways team in Chennai that I was among their “most frequent” fliers and so they always gave me “VIP status and attention”. I reveled in such recognition. I thought I was special. And I loved being treated as someone special.
And then, with the bankruptcy (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) everything changed. I believe I have now awakened to understanding the true nature of Life. I have realized that everything that we cling on to, everything that we demand, all that we fight for and think belongs us, well, everything is eventually going to get taken away from us. We came with nothing. And we will go with nothing. So, as Osho, the Master, asks, I too have concluded – “why all this drama?” Yes, personal comfort is relevant and important. But why confuse personal comfort with thinking you are special and that you deserve being treated as special? Growing up, when growing old, I realize now, is a personal, intelligent, choice. This clarity has come to me now. Perhaps, just maybe, I too have evolved over time?
Surely, 1 C or front row economy doesn’t matter to me anymore…23 D is just as fine…for ultimately when your time comes, when your number is called, whoever you are, wherever you are seated, you will end up as dust! As they say in Tamizh, you will end up as “verum thoosi”!
A crisis is a great opportunity to evolve, to grow stronger, wiser and happier!
“Do we need a crisis to wake us up from our stupor,” asked Sheela, who was in the audience when I delivered my signature Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk at Mamallapuram the other day. Sheela’s taken an Indian name, though she is originally from France. She remain paralyzed for 23 years of her Life. She said only after she let go, stopped complaining about Life and learnt to live with what is that she healed completely. She is now convinced that the only way to live fully is to be happy – working only to take care of your needs and dropping all wants.
She asks an interesting question. I have been often asked that – particularly because my own awakening happened only through our Life-changing crisis, our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal).
I always ask people back this question: do you wake up on your own in the mornings or do you need an alarm or a wake-up call? Those who are tuned to a bio-clock can wake up sharp at a particular hour every day. Those who are not, need a wake-up call or an alarm. So, it is with awakening to a more intelligent way of living. Those who are appreciative of the transience of Life, who are raised to live purposefully from their childhood, they just keep living that way. But when people run the rat race or when they are trapped in a material, earning a living, bubble, they are the ones who are rudely jolted by Life’s upheavals.
That’s what happened to me. I thought I could go on postponing happiness, so that I could earn enough, save enough and then put up my feet to enjoy my Life. I was being so stupid. But I didn’t realize it. I seriously believed I had a plan. I had married early (when I was 21). So, I often told my friends that at 40, I will retire, after having “stashed away” enough wealth. Only when every single material asset in my Life, right down to the last rupee was taken away, that I awoke. I was 40 then! It was such a gut-wrenching awakening. I suddenly found ourselves as a family hanging from the edge of a precipice. It was scary, it was dangerous, it was a heart-in-the-mouth situation.
But that experience taught me that Life’s shocks are going to arrive whether you are awakened or not. Even if you are awakened you cannot escape your crisis. But being awakened you are far more equipped to deal with it efficiently. For instance, you can deal with a fire in your home if it breaks out during the day, when you are up and about, than in the night, when you are fast asleep.
Having said that, I want to quickly add that I have learnt to love any crisis. I feel I would not have evolved to be happier – despite our circumstances – but for our crisis. We are still hanging there, as a family, at the edge of the precipice. We have been hanging there for almost 10 years. We continue to, as Osho would say, “live dangerously”. It is undoubtedly painful. But it is not scary anymore. When you are happy with your current reality, you are very peaceful within. So, I don’t either despise a crisis or fear it. I have learnt to be grateful when one arrives and to embrace it. I believe a crisis arrives only to make you stronger, wiser and happier through dealing with it! And you can deal with a crisis only when you are awake – not when you are in stupor, asleep or, well, pretending to be sleeping!
All mistakes offer learnings. Beyond that, they serve no purpose.
Do I ever feel guilty? I was asked this question by someone recently.
Of course, I do. I feel guilty for having made such costly mistakes that led me and my family to this bankruptcy, I feel guilty for failing my parents and my children, and Vaani, and I do feel guilty for our inability to repay the 179 people to whom we owe money (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal ). I sure feel the guilt. For the longest time, until some years ago, I used to carry the guilt. But upon deep reflection, I have set down that burden. My awareness has helped me understand the futility of feeling guilty.
Sometimes we make mistakes in Life that we do realize later were avoidable. In fact, in retrospect, when realization dawns, every mistake seems avoidable. Realization, always, brings guilt in its wake. This is when we must be aware and drop the guilt. We often confuse feeling guilty with a sense of feeling responsible. The truth however is that feeling guilty for long periods of time can be depressing and can cripple us – preventing progress. On the other hand, feeling responsible about or for something brings with it a sense of accountability and helps us take the necessary action to remedy the situation.
But some situations may not be immediately remediable. A friend writes in saying he made a judgment error in quitting his last job. Now, even while he’s struggling without a job for over six months, he’s drowning in a sea of guilt. Without an income and a family to support, he has become depressive and is very scared of the future. He keeps repeating that he should not have quit his last job in a huff. This is what guilt can do to you. It will keep you chained to the past. Also your ego, which will fuel that feeling that you must atone for your sins, will blind you. This way you will miss the completely magnificent present. A situation like the one my friend is facing is unpredictable – it may sort itself out with him getting a job soon or his career can stagnate this way for a long, long time. Holding on to guilt till a situation gets better is wasting a crucial opportunity to live Life fully. Interestingly, feeling guilty about a situation cannot remedy it. Only concrete, constructive action can.
When you feel guilty about something you have done, look at the situation deeply. Ask yourself could you have avoided doing what you did or could you have done something different. Once you realize that you could have avoided doing what you did, first forgive yourself for having done that. Resolve that you will not repeat this mistake again. Then reach out and apologize to all people connected with or affected by your action. Whether they forgive you or not is immaterial – you apologize. If you can’t face them, send them a text message or an email or a note. Beyond this, don’t retain your guilt. Holding on to your guilt pins you down. Drop your guilt instead and move on. Know that everyone makes mistakes. And that mistakes are experiences from which you can learn. As long as you have learnt from it, the mistake you have made, no matter what it was, has served its purpose in your Life.
Life is too short and beautiful to be brooding over and feeling guilty. Instead drop your guilt, come alive, take charge and make every effort to change the situation. No matter how long it takes to turn things around, remember, you have no choice but to be at it. And, without doubt, you can be better at the task of repairing your Life, in any context, when you are free from guilt.
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A Life challenge arrives only so that you awaken from you stupor, from merely existing, and start living!
I was asked a very interesting question by a young medical college student in Chittoor yesterday: “AVIS Sir, why do we need a tragedy or crisis in Life to start living intelligently? Can’t we in the normal course learn to live happily, accepting Life for what it is?”
I thought that was an intelligent question from a very beautiful mind!
Of course we don’t necessarily need a tragedy or crisis to wake us up from our stupor. But the problem is that most of us don’t even know we are steeped in stupor. We imagine that earning a living is what Life is all about. So we run after name, fame, money, qualifications, material things and everything else that is impermanent and perishable. We kid ourselves to believe that we can postpone our happiness, we can postpone who we are, postpone living the Life that we want to live, even while we prioritize other people and things, over ourselves. We miss the most elementary point that Life is a limited-period offer and if we don’t live a moment fully, the way we want to, then we have lost that moment forever.
So, in a way, we are lost but in a bigger way we are pretending we are lost. Don’t we all know that we will die one day for sure – sooner or later? Then why do we choose not to live fully and instead squander our lifetime accumulating things that are going to perish or are not going with us when we perish?
Therefore, it is because we pretend to be dumb that we find a Life tragedy or crisis awakening. A tragedy or crisis is nothing but an event. Just another event. Just as your graduation is an event or your marriage is an event or your vaccination is an event so is your lay-off or your divorce or your chemotherapy. But only when what you don’t want or what you don’t expect lands up in your Life do you realize that you are not in control of your Life. That’s when you reflect and realize that had you lived your Life more intelligently then when the unforeseen and unwanted happens, when pain arrives in your Life, you can at least console yourself that you lived well and happily until now.
To live intelligently you need nothing but an awareness of your Life being a gift and a limited period offer. But to awaken to this awareness, you sometimes need a reboot, a wake-up call, and that’s precisely what a tragedy or crisis does to you! They shake you and wake you up! But if you are awaken, then you don’t need a wake-up call at all, do you? Even so, you will wake up only when you are really asleep, but if you are pretending to be asleep, you may still not wake up. Think about it – it makes a lot of sense!
You have nothing to lose, nothing at all, ever in Life!
Someone we know met us for coffee the other day. He felt that Life is so much on the edge. He said he often seemed to be dealing with this gnawing feeling within him, that if he wasn’t vigilant enough, he was going to lose all that he has created in Life. He also added that there’s so much at stake, most of the time for everyone, that there won’t ever be a time when anyone will ever have nothing to lose!
I have a different perspective to offer. From the time we are born to the time we will die, none of us has anything to lose. Because you came with nothing and you will go with nothing. Whatever you have got has been given here – in this lifetime. So, even if whatever you have got now – your assets, cash, family, lover, your reputation, whatever – is taken away from you, you don’t have to sweat over it. Because you will never be able to take them away with you when you die!
So, the truth is this: you have nothing to lose – ever!
The Japanese martial art form of Karate, now also a major sport, has a deep, spiritual relevance to what we are discussing. The word Karate comes from a root that really means empty-hand. Gichin Funakoshi (1868~1957), founder of the Shotokan style of Karate, is widely credited with introducing and popularizing the discipline on the islands of Japan. Funakoshi changed the way the art form was called, from Karate-jutsu to Karate-do with the do suffix implying that it is a path to self-knowledge and not just a study of a technique of fighting. Karate soon came to mean “the way of the empty hand”. In Karate-Do Kyohan, Funakoshi quoted from the Heart Sutra, which is prominent in Shinghon Buddhism: “Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form itself.” Funakoshi interpreted the kara of Karate-do to mean: “To purge, empty, oneself of evil and selfish thoughts”. He championed that if a Karate practitioner could understand that “empty-handed I come, empty-handed I will go and empty-handed I am here – ready for combat”, then the practitioner has nothing to lose! Funakoshi says one can become a great warrior with this understanding. Then no one can defeat such a warrior, no one can rob him or her – because he or she is empty and has nothing to lose!
When you are willing to live fully, with no fear of losing anything – because there is nothing to lose really – then all you will do is to gain, to attain – happiness, inner peace, fulfilment and bliss! Or simply, when you have nothing to lose, it logically means that you really have everything to gain. As we journey along, let’s always remember ‘the way of the empty hand’!
It is futile to expect people to live by your values or rise up to your standards of efficiency. So just be and let be.
Earlier this week someone pinged me asking for my time to interview me for their channel. This was the second time that this channel was approaching me. The first time I had given them an appointment, no one showed up. So, this time, I requested the lady who called me to ensure that such a boo-boo does not happen. The interview was tentatively penciled in for Sunday (today) noon. But when no confirmation or communication came forth from the channel, for two days since the request was made, I proactively wrote to the young lady late last evening saying I did not appreciate the way they were treating me – that too, a second, consecutive time. I said if they are still keen to interview, I needed to be assured of their intent, commitment and efficiency before I even accepted their invitation. The lady, of course, got back apologizing profusely. An attempt is now underway to seek me out a third – hopefully successful – time for the interview.
Last evening after I got off a WhatsApp exchange with the lady, I thought to myself that I seem to have indeed evolved over the years. And that gave me a huge sense of inner peace.
Just a decade ago, I would have been hurt and I would have been angry. I would have shredded the channel and expressed my disgust in a very loud, sharp and scathing manner. But Life is a great teacher. And I guess I am working on being a good learner.
I have understood that there are only two ways of dealing with situations and people that don’t meet your expectations. One is to fight them, in an effort to change the situation or convince the people involved to see your point of view. And the other is to simply accept things and people for what they are, communicate your displeasure unequivocally, and keep moving on. I used to fight what I thought was the good fight for the longest time – trying to change stubborn situations and people. I have never really been successful with either. What I realize is that getting angry and frustrated always left me drained and seething with negativity. Worse, the negativity would fester in me for much longer after an outburst or showdown. I loathed that feeling. I disliked me in those times. Soon I discovered two truths – one, situations that are not in your control cannot be changed or turned around by you and two, people that let you down often do so only because they believe they are right in what they are doing. So what is the point in being angry with either such situations or people? I have employed this learning, this awakening, in Life ever since, and it has worked beautifully for me.
Basically, you must only work to protect your inner peace. You and only you are responsible for your inner peace. If someone is trying to ride roughshod over you for whatever reason – out of their inefficiencies, or circumstances or insensitivity – politely tell them that you don’t appreciate the way you are being treated. And move on. Don’t preach. Don’t rant. Don’t try to change them. Protect your inner peace. Period. If something, an event, a situation is causing you discomfort, and pain, try to move away. For example, if you are in a job, working with colleagues that you don’t get along with, work on changing your job. If you can’t change your job, accept your reality for what it is, the way it is, and stop complaining. Almost instantaneously your inner peace will be restored. Now, at least a lousy job situation can be changed over time. But what about a critical health challenge or the death of someone you love? There are situations in Life which are non-reversible, unchangeable. Complaining and grieving then is of no use. Only acceptance of what is can help you anchor in peace.
I have also understood that every person you know on this planet is going through their own Life situations. How they interact with the world around them – that includes you – has a lot to do with what they are experiencing in Life and how they are feeling within them. There is almost always no conspiracy against you in particular. If you stop imagining the conspiracy theory, there will be no more villains in your Life’s story. Then, everyone is a fellow voyager. Everyone is struggling, stumbling, falling, getting up and clutching on to their metaphorical last straws – just as you are! So, help them if you can by letting them be. And help yourself by just being and protecting your inner peace – because, no one else ever will!