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.
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!