Band, Baaja, Baaraat Aur Toast!

Use every occasion to celebrate those who mean a lot to you – it will mean a lot to them!

Yesterday we watched a short video shot at the engagement ceremony of our niece Priyanka. In the video, Priyanka takes time to thank everyone who’s made a difference in and to her Life. She is honest, grateful and very compassionate as she pauses to reflect and share her innermost feelings about her mother, brother, grandmother, fiancé and the extended family!

This is refreshingly different from what traditionally happens at Indian family occasions – most certainly among TamBrahms – like engagements and weddings where families invest all their time and energies in performing rituals and in being subservient to ‘those that make the most noise” in the name of “protocol and respect”. For instance, the girl’s side are always the underdogs at these dos and the members from the boy’s family must always be pleased, their whims pandered to and even their unstated demands must be magically understood and met! Until the last decade, I don’t think TamBrahm weddings were fun. People were always either trying to please the other or find fault with the other. Resultantly even if the boy and girl were in perfect sync with each other, they too were on tenterhooks because they didn’t know when the next explosive situation between their families would erupt! Nett. Nett. No one enjoyed themselves. The celebration was always superficial and never real.

But in this decade, a growing, welcome, trend is emerging.

Eulogy Vs ToastI think this generation of people, in their 20s, has developed a couldn’t-care-less attitude to what others feel, say or do. And I think this irreverence is most appropriate when it comes to dealing with senseless gender-based protocol, inequalities and egos. So, of late, I see a lot more youngsters at our weddings, engagements, baby-showers and such events really celebrating. Important, people are pausing to use these – and other occasions – to talk about each other. To share what they feel about each other and what they mean to each other. After all, what’s the point in eulogizing someone at their memorial service when they won’t be around to hear what you have to say? I feel there is great value in telling people how much they mean to you when they are still there. Surely, it will mean a lot to them.

Slowly, but surely, gender-based protocols and inequalities, in the name of tradition, are also being done away with. At our friends’ son’s wedding recently, the entire family from the boy’s side – all of them accomplished musicians – performed a fusion medley on stage celebrating the girl and her family. In a TamBrahm setting, and in India where the girl’s family have always been treated as doormats, it was really, truly, inspiring to see this change.

I wish that the force be with people like Priyanka, her generation, with families such as our friends’ and with all those who will embrace this new way. I believe family get-togethers and events like engagements and weddings must be used to raise a toast to those that have touched your Life. Even a death must not be mourned in grief or sorrow. Instead the way that Life was lived must be celebrated. True celebration does not come from rituals and protocols it comes from camaraderie and having fun being together. Hope this trend picks up momentum, becomes a wave and drowns everything anti (to it) in its wake!

Living with awareness of your impending, inevitable death makes you live better

The truth is that we don’t have much time.    

This morning we attended the memorial service of a friend’s mother. She had passed away at a Senior Citizens’ Home where she lived the last few years of her Life. So the inmates at the Home had arranged this service to share their experiences of living with her and knowing her.

It was a dignified event. No one cried. Or delivered flashy eulogies. And despite the searing heat – the venue was non-air-conditioned – the energy in the room among the inmates of the Home was so compassionate; it was simple yet beautiful in a very unique way. One of the administrators of the Home, herself a senior citizen, made a significant point: “Ultimately each of us has to go join the Maker. So, the only prayer we must have is to be able to live well and depart, when our time comes, without suffering.”

I absolutely love this perspective. Even if we can’t really order a perfect – suffering-free and instantaneous – exit for ourselves, I think that we can experience equanimity in each moment when we start living with complete awareness of our impending, inevitable death.

your-time-is-limited-so-dont-waste-it-living-someones-life-steve-jobs-1-728As the Dalai Lama points out, the problem with all of us is that we think we have too much time. So because we don’t see our Life as a limited period, soon-to-expire, offer, we go on postponing living, loving and happiness. We seem to have time for everything else – for fighting, for grieving, for worrying, for working like zombies, for being angry, for feeling jealous, for investing and creating wealth (which we cannot take away with us) and for sitting on our fat egos, but we don’t have time for ourselves, for living fuller and happier lives? Think about it – how much more bizarre can it get?

Even so, I don’t think any of us consciously chooses to squander our lives. Often times a large portion of our Life remains unlived because we think we can be happier and live better when all our problems are solved. It’s a very faulty logic that we employ to kid ourselves. But bringing death into the picture can dramatically alter things for you. Consider this – How would you live your Life if you knew you only have until tomorrow morning to live? What would you do? Who all would you call? And what would you tell the people that you have hated, fought with or remain estranged from? Remember, death is not a distant eventuality. It is right here, around the corner. Living your Life well, your way, in the time you have left here is the best choice you can make for yourself!


Learn from your decisions; don’t just brood over them.

You do something only because you think it is the right thing to do in the first place!

il_570xN.459117414_7a01Almost all of us are taking decisions all the time. Right from choosing whether you want your coffee cold or hot at a café, to deciding whether or not to end a relationship, we are always in decision-making mode. Big or small, if you examine your Life closely, each moment is decisive. The truth is also that while some decisions work well, some don’t. When a decision backfires distill the learnings from the experience and move on. If you don’t and instead choose to brood over your decision, you will surely grieve and suffer.

Yesterday, a gentleman called me saying his business was in dire straits. He said he had made some strategic decisions five years ago which had not worked well for him. He wanted to know how to get rid of the guilt that he was carrying in him. I told him what I often tell myself: “Guilt is a wasted emotion. It serves no purpose. You did what you thought was right. That’s why you did it in the first place. Now, in hindsight, if the decision has backfired, is there any point in grieving over it?” “Instead”, I advised the gentleman, “look at what the experience taught you and what you can learn from it.”

Now even when a decision works in your favor, it is important you see the learnings there. If you find it difficult to focus on the learnings, the reason is simply this: your ego comes in the way. If the decision you made worked, you feel that “I did it!” and if it didn’t work you say “I blew it all up!” Either way, the “I” comes in between you and the learnings. So, drop the “I”. That’s when you will learn from each of your experiences.

It is that simple. That elementary. A decision once taken is history. Your learning from it can however help you along the way in Life!