Even as my 100th Conversation comes up on Saturday, April 13th, I am marveling at the magic and beauty of Life.
These 100 Conversations are special for a few reasons:
all of them have been non-commercial
they represent the most consistent effort in Chennai to curate and host live, reflective, Conversations on Life and Happiness
they have featured a whopping 164 guests in 4+ years and
they have been curated and hosted through the darkest time of our Life – for Vaani and me!
To be sure, our 11-year-old bankruptcy endures; a phase that has often been marked by long spells of worklessness and pennilessness. Yet, each of these 100 Conversations has been therapeutic; each has helped us to learn, unlearn and share Life lessons.
When I hosted my first Conversation on January 22, 2015 with film critic Baradwaj Rangan (while starting the #BlissCatchers Series), Vaani and I never thought this effort would go on for 4+ years or that we would end up bringing so much consistency and focus to it. We loved the opportunity to do something in line with our Purpose of “Inspiring ‘Happyness'”! And we said, “Let’s go be useful”! Success was anyway eluding us – we did not have work or money. But we were learning a lot through this challenging phase in our Life. And all we wanted to do was to share our learnings. But what happens when you do something selflessly, when you do what you love doing, is always beautiful. That’s perhaps why we have come this far, ready with our 100th Conversation on April 13th!
Until our Conversation Series’ came up, there wasn’t any similar effort in Chennai. There were panel discussions and Talks, but there were no explorations of lived experiences and of Happiness through live, reflective, Conversations. Our initiative over these years has, we believe, helped whoever has been touched, realize that Life must be faced, no matter what, and that you can – and must – be happy despite the circumstances.
Statistically, our 100 Conversations have featured 164 guests in all, between Jan 2015 and April 2019, across 47 #BlissCatcher sessions, 4 #happynessconversations sessions, 22 #UncommonLeader sessions, 20 #ArtistsSoul sessions and 7 #HeartofMatter-HC sessions. All of these 100 Conversations have been curated by Vaani, alongside me, making the journey truly memorable for us.
None of what we have done may have been possible without the support of our venue partners and, of course, thanks to each of our 164 guests who agreed to be in conversation with us and share their lived experiences, to make our world a better, happier place!
So, as we host this 100th Conversation, Vaani and I are soaked in gratitude – we will remain eternally grateful to Life for this transformational experience; without the bankruptcy, we would not have understood that Happiness is really being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering, we would not have set out to share this learning with our immediate circle of influence: through my Blog, my book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ and through our Conversation Series’.
Don’t identify yourself with your problems – face them, solve them but don’t ever think that you are them.
Yesterday a friend called me. She was on the verge of tears. Her husband has been battling a chronic skin ailment causing both pain and low self-esteem. Their business has been struggling. And her job at a multi-national has been fraught with challenges. “It’s been very, very, very tough AVIS. We have even considered dying,” she said.
I can relate to and empathize with her situation. But thinking depressively about Life and contemplating ending one’s Life does not, and will never, solve problems. Sometimes Life will push you to a corner and it may appear to be a no-go situation, it may seem like it is the end of the road; but you must not give up. It is at such times that you must remind yourself that you are not the problem you are faced with. You may be having a relationship issue, you may be a divorcee. But you are not the divorce. You may have psoriasis. But you are not psoriasis. You may be bankrupt, penniless – like me. But you are not the bankruptcy. You may have a quadriplegia condition. But you are not the quadriplegia. In summary, never let the definition of your problem become a label that you stick on yourself or allow others to stick on you. Each of your problems is a manifestation of Life’s challenges that populate different phases of your Life. These problems will arrive when they must and they will leave you when they must. The moment you think that your problems are permanent, the moment you think that your problems define you, you have lost the game of Life. Depression will set in and you will merely exist – and not actually live!
I learnt this lesson in 1998 from a man named Ashok, who had a HIV +ve condition. My work with YRG CARE, a pioneering center for AIDS research and education, led by the legendary Dr.Suniti Solomon, brought me in contact with Ashok. I was initially very wary of him. Although I knew how one contracted AIDS, I did not want to shake hands with or even sit next to Ashok at meetings. He sensed my discomfort and accosted me with a broad smile one day. He said: “Brother, I am HIV +ve. But I am not the disease. I cannot transfer my condition to you just because you spoke to me or shook hands with me. I know I have limited time left on this planet. And I don’t intend on living that time worrying about my condition. I am not my condition. I am just another you – perhaps with a different physical condition compared to you! Just as you have diabetes, I am HIV +ve. Please, please, feel comfortable in my presence!” What he told me hit me like a ton of bricks. Ashok passed away some years back, but the lesson I learnt from him has stayed with me.
Whatever you may be faced with, don’t ever let it get to you. Death, divorce, cancer, career crisis, bankruptcy, loss of reputation – none of these, or any other, can affect you if you don’t identify yourself with the problem. Instead face your problem, deal with it daily, but never believe that you are your problem. This is the way to inner peace when faced with any of Life’s inscrutable designs!