Everything, absolutely everything, happens for a reason.
Newspapers this morning report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached the properties and assets of a, now infamous, multi-level marketing (MLM) firm. A friend had messaged me last evening asking me if we were engaged with this firm in the past. He had noticed news breaking on the networks of the ED’s action and was connecting the development with our own story. Indeed we were engaged by this firm as consultants – as reputation managers – back in 2002~2003. That engagement changed our Life forever. I talk about, without naming the firm, this experience extensively in my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. In a way, the primary trigger for our bankruptcy can be traced back to this engagement and our ethical decision to separate from the firm. But, as I shared with my friend over WhatsApp yesterday, “No bitter feelings! Such is Life!!”
A few years after we disengaged with this firm and when we were in the throes of our fully-blown bankruptcy, a senior official from their side reached out to me. He wanted to know if we would be willing to consult with and advise his company again. The India operations of the company had by then come under investigation by the ED and local law enforcing authorities. So, the invitation was to consult for them outside India, out of Malaysia. I politely refused the offer. The official knew how grave our financial situation was. So, he dangled many a carrot.
And when I didn’t take the baits, he sent me this SMS message (I still have it saved in a Word document; I reproduce it verbatim from there): “AVIS – Wake up and smell the coffee. The interest rates will cripple. The banks will be after you. You will drown. Something will give way. Maybe Vaani will. She may give up on you. Maybe the kids will never forgive you. I am your well wisher. I have seen Life. Sharing my learning from business and financial disasters with you. I mean well my friend. Whether or not you take our offer up, take charge of your Life. Before it is too late.”
Of course, I thanked him for his courtesy and replied: “Vaani and I are soulmates. We are in this together. I don’t need to ask her this. I know this. And you will see us rise from the ashes. Like a Phoenix.”
My friend’s message of last evening and this morning’s newspaper reports brought back memories of this experience. My biggest blessings are Vaani and our precious children Aashirwad and Aanchal. I am eternally grateful to Life, that despite what we are going through, we thrive as a foursome. Of course, we are a long, long way off from rising from the ashes. But seriously, there is no rancor, no aftertaste of what happened and where we find ourselves today. Indeed the choice I made, based on our core value of integrity that Vaani and I hold so dear, to separate from this firm, altered our Life irrevocably. But I only see all that has happened as part of a grand cosmic design.
Because we separated from this client, to whom we had a 60 % revenue exposure, we had to bring in debt to fund working capital requirements and expansion plans. Because our business income did not match our plans and projections, the debt ballooned and culminated in our bankruptcy. Because we have been bankrupt for over a decade now, our debt of Rs.5 crore remains unpaid to our 179 creditors, and our Life has been so, so, so painful and materially dysfunctional. Yet, because of all this, we learnt the value of reflection, resilience and resourcefulness. Because of all this, we learnt that it is possible to be fearless, face Life no matter how daunting it is and be happy despite the excruciating circumstances. Because of all this we have awakened to our Higher Purpose of “Inspiring Happiness” among all those who care to pause and reflect.
The singular, big learning in Life I have had is this: everything, absolutely everything, happens for a reason. Every event that occurs, every individual you meet or connect with, has a role in your Life’s screenplay. There is a not-so-apparent, but unputdownable, conspiracy for things to happen to you, and people to come into and depart from your Life, in such a manner that you are where you are in Life just now. So, roll with the punches. Don’t be bitter with anyone or anything. Nothing could have happened differently to you. Everything’s happened exactly the way it should have. Everything’s perfect, just the way it should be. And you are exactly where you ought to be in Life!
You cannot escape what’s in store for you in Life – you have to bear your cross, no matter what!
Google reminded me that it is R.D.Burman’s 77th birthday today. Panchamda is my absolute, all-time, favorite. He passed away so suddenly 22 years ago with so much music still left in him.
During the last 10 years of his Life, the man who ruled Hindi film music in the late 60s, all through the 70s and in the early 80s, struggled to get work. Bappi Lahiri’s disco music had taken over and nobody wanted to touch Pancham. Not even Nasir Hussain, who had consistently used RD for all his films that included (and followed) Teesri Manzil (1966). Hussain let his son Mansoor Khan have his way and signed up Anand-Milind for his production Qayyamat Se Qayyamat Tak (1988), which famously launched Aamir Khan’s and Juhi Chawla’s careers. Interestingly, Panchamda got no National Award in his entire career and won only 3 Filmfare Awards (out of a total 18 nominations) – Sanam Teri Kasam (1983), Masoom (1984) and posthumously for 1942 – A Love Story (1995). Observers and chroniclers of Hindi cinema say that RD died a beaten and heart-broken man because he felt the industry that he gave so much to, “abandoned him and moved on with the times”.
Anyone who has heard Mera Kuch Samaan from Ijaazat (Gulzar, Asha Bhosle, 1987) or Dhanno Ki Aankhon Mein from Kitaab (Gulzar, RD himself, 1977) will agree with me that RD is sheer genius. In fact, long-time collaborator, lyricist and director Gulzar refers to Pancham’s Life as an “era that began and ended with him”. To be sure, RD, Gulzar and Kishore Kumar together produced magic and the collection of the songs they created together would rate as the finest and most brilliant ever in Indian cinema. Why then should such a genius have had to go hunting for work? Why then should he be spurned by the same film-makers who once queued up at his door? Why then should such a celebrated artiste die a heart-broken man? Well, while there is no straight, logical answer to these questions; the only one I can muster is that “such is Life”!
Indeed. Such is Life. What goes up will come down. And what goes down will come up again. So, RD’s Life teaches us, yet again, to appreciate the impermanence of everything. Name. Fame. Wealth. Success. Glory. And even failure. Because, though he died wanting to be celebrated again, posthumously, RD is now worshipped. Such is Life! What I have learnt is that we must keep going with the flow. Be humble and be happy for all that you have. When you get what you want in Life, be grateful. When you don’t get what you want in Life, or when you get what you don’t want in Life, be accepting. Don’t fight Life. Don’t become bitter. You are born untouched by worldliness. Live untouched. And go away untouched. Success and failure are both worldly labels. Don’t let them get to you. As they seem to have gotten to RD in his last years. To quote my favorite RD number, again written by Gulzar, and sung memorably by Kishore Kumar, be like that ‘musafir’ (wanderer/voyager) from Parichay (1972): Musafir Hoon Yaroon, Na Ghar Hai Na Tikhana, Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai, Bus, Chalte Jaana…!!!