“…yeh gham ki ratein, ratein yeh kaali, inko bana de id aur diwali…”
This line is from the iconic Shirdi Wale Sai Baba song, from Manmohan Desai’s 1977 classic, “Amar Akbar Anthony” (AAA). The other night I heard this song, perhaps for the nth time, on TV. A young contestant on this Season’s Indian Idol, Azmat Hussain, sang this song beautifully; incredibly, he sang it in the presence of its composer Pyarelal (of the legendary Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo). Anand Bakshi’s powerful lyrics and Mohd. Rafi’s evocative rendering make this song one of my favorites.
There was a time, however, when I hated this song.
I was 10 years old when AAA released. In the last 42 years, I have watched this movie several hundred times; I never tire of watching it! Yet, for the longest time, I used to think that this devotional song interrupted the fast-paced narrative of the movie. So, I loathed this song – picturized on Rishi Kapoor and his on-screen mother Nirupa Roy, it showcased the miracle of Roy’s eyesight being restored through Shirdi Baba’s grace – in AAA. I have even wondered why Manmohan Desai, who to me is a master filmmaker, resorted to “cheap gimmickry”, often sprinkling liberal doses of Faith, religion, God and miracles in the storylines of his films! In fact, one night, several years ago, I recall telling this to a friend: “It is stupid to rely on miracles when you can write your own destiny”! We both were at the famous Trishna Restaurant & Bar in Mumbai’s Fort area and had downed a few pegs of whisky. Our conversation was about Manmohan Desai’s impressive body of work and I remember vociferously highlighting how this song singularly devalued AAA’s brilliance.
I was in my 20s then. And I was ambitious. I was in a hurry to prove to the world that “I” too could be successful, wealthy and famous.
To be sure, through my 20s and right up to my mid-30s, I did hit several performance targets that I had set for myself. This certainly reiterated my belief then that hard work and integrity always delivered results – which is, they always gave you whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted them! And so, for all that while, I never had any reason to either revisit my views on Life, miracles and destiny or consider the import and relevance of Shirdi Sai Baba’s teachings!
And then the bankruptcy happened to us in end-2007 (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). Groping through it – through worklessness, pennilessness, darkness, insecurity, worry and fear – Vaani and I tried religion, rituals and explored the idea of God in the hope of finding solutions to fix our problems. We also leaned on the sciences of Astrology, Vaastu and Feng Shui. Finally, battered and bruised, realizing that there are no quick fixes in Life, we learnt to let go. We chose to surrender and to go with the flow of Life. We immersed ourselves in prayer. Recognizing that there was indeed a nameless, formless, inscrutable, Higher Energy that governed all Life, we implicitly placed our trust in it. We told each other that we will take each day as it comes, one day at a time, and keep walking, however long it takes us or however far we had to walk. After all, we reasoned, the same Energy that had created us will care for us, will provide for us.
This is how – and when – we discovered Shirdi Baba’s twin philosophies of Faith and Patience. When you pause and reflect, you will agree that Shirdi Baba’s Life’s message is contained in these two simple, magical, words. In fact, at all the shrines dedicated to him, and all through the “Saisatcharita”, you will find these two words staring back at you – “shraddha” and “saburi”, Faith and Patience! Through our cathartic, awakening experience, we understood that Faith is simply the ability to trust the process of Life. And we realized that while we anchor in Faith, we must employ Patience until we get what we want.
To be sure, there is no method, no single way, to anchor in Faith and employ Patience. Letting go, trusting the process of Life and living with Faith and Patience, is the way. Living through our crippling bankruptcy for over 12 years now, Vaani and I have realized that Faith does not always solve our problems immediately. But having Faith in the process of Life – that what goes around, comes around; that what goes up will come down some day, only to go back up another day – certainly helps us to cope with our problems better. Keeping the Faith also teaches us Patience. Unless you embrace these twin philosophies, and live practicing them together, you will not see the miracles in your everyday Life.
The truth is that this Life is a miracle, every moment you are alive is a miracle…the sunrise, the sunset, the dew drop, the moon, the stars, the birds chirping…every thing, and everyone, around you is a miracle. But you miss these everyday miracles because you are steeped in grief, in pining for what is over, what is dead and isn’t there or you are gripped by anxiety and fear, worrying about the unborn future, about what is still to arrive. You are so consumed by imagining that your Life is one endless saga of problems that you don’t see the magic and beauty of your Life, of your miracles. In fact, this human form you have is a miracle; despite your frailties, your circumstances and your vulnerabilities, “you are the miracle you seek”! And, be sure, that you are reading this blogpost now is a miracle. What Vaani and I have learnt is that miracles don’t happen to you because you prayed harder or because you deserve them. Miracles are happening for you, and will continue to happen for you, because you need them. But you can see these miracles only when you are soaked in Faith and Patience, only when you learn to let go and flow with Life!
Anand Bakshi’s lyrics from the song in AAA are pointing to precisely this awakening: “…yeh gham ki ratein, ratein yeh kaali, inko bana de id aur diwali…”…Bakshi’s plea is that of the beleaguered devotee, of the seeker, asking Baba to show the way, to making these dark, sorrowful, nights a celebration, like an Id or Diwali…How can a dark phase in Life ever be a celebration, you may well wonder. Turn to Baba, as we did, and you will find him simply inviting you to keep the Faith and employ Patience.
Vaani and I can relate totally to Bakshi’s song – and particularly to that line – now and to the import of Baba’s twin philosophies. For the record, I no longer think it is stupid to rely on miracles or believe that you can write your own destiny. I actually am in a constant ready-to-celebrate-miracles mode and I totally, unquestioningly, trust the process of Life. And I must report that even though we are still in the throes of our financial crisis, we have seen, at every stage, Life taking care of us, providing us what we need, in the nick of time. While, on the material, evidential, side it is common knowledge now that our children have graduated from universities abroad through “miraculous acts of the Universe”, on the spiritual side, we both have not just survived thus far, we are living a Life of meaning and Purpose. As “the happynesswalas”, we are spending our every waking minute Inspiring ‘Happyness’! In fact, to us both, given our excruciating circumstances, being in this state is a miracle. We are thriving, making each moment – however dark or gruesome it may be – count, celebrating it like an Id, like a Diwali!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: https://www.thehappynesswalas.com/
Life hai…kuch bhi ho sakta hai! – It’s Life…anything can happen!
Like almost everyone else, Vaani and I too are still coming to terms with Sridevi’s sudden, tragic, death. We have been reading up every possible – credible – piece of information that has had a fresh perspective to share on what exactly happened to her.
And then, a couple of days ago, we came across this Blogpost by Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta, who is believed to be a close friend of Boney Kapoor and Sridevi. If we go by Nahta’s account of what happened in the final couple of hours of Sridevi’s Life, it appears that even as Boney Kapoor was surfing TV channels in the living room of their suite at the Jumeirah Emirates Tower Hotel, waiting for Sridevi to get ready and join him; so they could go out for dinner, Sridevi was drowning in a bathtub – in the suite’s master bedroom, barely a few feet away from him! And he could do nothing, nothing at all, to save her.
I read and re-read Nahta’s Blogpost. Only to conclude that everything about Sridevi’s death is so unreal, so bizarre. What are the chances someone can drown in a bathtub, in one of the most premium (and therefore considered safe) hotels in the world? What are the chances that a loving, doting, caring husband, can be completely oblivious of his wife drowning, even as the tragedy happened, especially when he was within shouting distance of his wife? What are the chances that you say you will “freshen up and come” and actually die in that time – in under 15 minutes – by drowning in a bathtub?
But such is Life. It is so totally, totally, inscrutable. I am reminded of Indeevar’s deeply contemplative lyrics from that iconic song in Safar (1970) rendered in Kishoreda’s immortal voice (music: Kalyanji Anandji)…“zindagi ka safar…koi samjha nahin, koi jaana nahin…” . Life is indeed totally, totally, inscrutable. And this morning, I read this equally bizarre story of this man, literally, waking up from the dead! It made me conclude, yet again, that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life!
The more I go through Life, the more I experience it, the one indisputable truth that strikes me repeatedly is this – no matter who you are, you have to go through what you have to go through. You just cannot negotiate with Life over your Life’s design. As I see it, in Life, it is always what it is. You have to bear your cross. And you have to live through the design that Life has planned for you. In fact, as it appears to me, Life’s Masterplan has no flaws!
Consider the late Sridevi’s Life again – her design took her from obscure Meenampatti in Tamil Nadu and made her a pan-Indian screen diva; then the same design forced her into near oblivion, after she married Boney Kapoor and they had Janhavi and Khushi, for 15 years from 1997~2012; the design then brought her to centerstage again with English Vinglish (2012) and Mom (2017) and, posthumously, the same design ensured she was feted, in memoriam, on the Oscar stage this past Sunday! And yet, despite all her greatness, her fame, her glory, this legendary star drowned, helpless, in a five-star hotel’s bathtub? Well, clearly, that’s how her Life’s design willed her story to end!
I have realized that our material success – particularly our ability to earn an income using our talent and skills – makes us believe that we control our Life. The truth is that we never were, we are not and we will never be in control. Life is always in control. It keeps on happening per its inscrutable, unique, design for each of us. It often takes a crisis, an event that defies all logic and cocks a snoot at our problem-solving abilities, or death, to shake us awake from our stupor and remind us that it is not us, but Life which is in control. When we realize this, we too learn to be accepting of the Life we have and learn to go with the flow.
There are no two ways with Life. It is only what it is. You are always playing only with the cards that Life has dealt you. And then, when your time here is up, when your name is called, you stop your game mid-way, even if it is in the middle of a bath, and leave! So, approaching Life with humility and a sense of amazement are perhaps the best way to live it well. Humility, because Life is the Higher Energy (which is why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’) that powers everything in the Universe; and amazement, because you never know what hand you are going to be dealt next! After all, Life hai…kuch bhi ho sakta hai!