Life couldn’t care if you thought of it as unfair – or as benevolent!
At a dinner that I was invited to recently, I got talking with an acquaintance. We spoke about Life. He said a common pattern he had seen was that the “honest and hardworking folks always struggled more” and that, above all else, “Life is a game of luck”! I politely disagreed with him and said that there are no such patterns to Life. Luck was a matter of human perception and imagination, it never was an intrinsic flavor of Life, I added. The gentleman invited me to substantiate my point of view.
I believe that everyone has their fair share of struggles. Everyone. If we pause to listen to every story around us we will find that people are fighting their own battles. Those who are materially challenged look at the haves and imagine they have no problems. But the truth is that those people may have a different set of issues. They may have money, but they could be dealing with emotional challenges, with health problems or with identity crises. To be sure, there’s no one on the planet who is not dealing with at least one challenge at any given point in time.
Next, on the luck debate, I have to say that it is an avoidable one. I shared with the man a couple of instances from my Life’s story. I talked about how our son Aashirwad graduated from the University of Chicago even as Vaani and I battled our bankruptcy here. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) I told him how our daughter graduated from a college here in India and is taking up a Master’s Program overseas, even as we continue to endure our bankruptcy. In both instances, our children’s education has been provided for by the “benevolent Universe” despite our workless, often broke, situation. Our children’s education may have come to the edge of the precipice many a time but Life always bailed them out. Now, which part of our story is true? Is it that we are hardworking, honest people going through a trying, unlucky time? Or is it that despite our hardships, we are lucky enough that our children’s education has not been affected? The point I am making is simple – there is nothing really called luck. Life is just a series of happenings. When these happenings exceed your expectations, you exult and say you are lucky. And when they don’t, you complain that you are unlucky. Such labeling, and such definitions, serve no purpose. Life couldn’t really care if you think of it as benevolent or as unfair. So, by conjuring up and, worse, believing, in a factor called luck, you are quite unnecessarily complicating a simple process – the process of Life; where you only have one option, which is to flow with Life!
In almost 50 years of knowing Life, all I can say is that Life never promised any fair-play to anyone. It is only your expectations that bring you agony. Drop all expectations, suspend all judgments and don’t ever play up the luck theme. Then, you can only be at peace with yourself – no matter what your circumstances are!
You must fight the good fight if the process of fighting makes you peaceful. But if your inner peace is lost, then the cause, the raison d’etre – to fight – itself is lost.
I am often asked by readers or audiences on how we can differentiate between a good fight, a fight worth fighting for, and one that isn’t? This question often arises when I recommend a principle that I stand by – that the best way to win any battle is to not fight at all – or when I tell people to forgive and move on – even if they can’t forget – than cling on and suffer. Let me share my understanding here though, let me quickly clarify, choosing to fight an individual, situation or system is an intensely personal choice.
First, why do we fight anyone or anything? The idea of a fight arises only when you disagree with what’s happening to you – either with the way you are being treated by a person, by an establishment (a community, organization, society or even by a government or legal system) or by Life itself. So, essentially, you fight every time you see a lack of fairplay in an interaction, relationship or context. But just think about it – when did Life promise any fairplay? Life itself appears so grossly unfair when you weigh your intent, integrity and values against situations that you have to end up facing. So, when Life doesn’t guarantee any fairplay, where is the question of expecting it from humans, and from human-made contexts, systems and situations?
Even so, this doesn’t mean you must not raise your voice against acts that are inhuman or are against social interests. This doesn’t mean you must not want to or try to correct an action or system that urgently needs correction or fixing. Surely you must. But do whatever you must do, do whatever it takes, without agonizing, without suffering, without losing your inner peace. This is where the choice becomes very personal.
My close friend got into a litigious separation process with his wife some years ago. She is 16 years younger to him. They married after a breezy romance. But within a year, she separated from him and sued him for dowry harassment, impotency and domestic abuse. All this, because my friend confronted her with evidence of an affair she was having with a colleague at work. Given the women-friendly anti-dowry laws in India, the lady’s strategy was clear – harass my friend so that he grants her a divorce immediately and compensates her with a huge alimony that included a red Pajero! We advised our friend not to take the legal route. I encouraged him to settle out of court: “Just forgive her, don’t ruin your peace of mind, buy her the car and get out of this mess.” But my friend decided to fight her. In court. The process took over 8 years and it was hell – repeated impotency tests, dowry harassment charges against him and his aged parents having to be defended at every level from police stations to courtrooms, huge legal expenses and his inability to keep a job because the matter required 24×7 attention all through the years. Ultimately my friend won the case at the Delhi High Court. He was exonerated of all charges. And the lady apologized to him in court in return for being granted divorce. Now, all through the fight, through all this drama and humiliation, my friend remained stoic. He was always deadpan, unruffled. I never found him beaten or defeated. He anchored very, very well. Now, if you can deal with a fight with such clarity, such equanimity, then, it is perhaps worth it. But if you are going to suffer fighting, then you might as well not fight at all.
I too have the option to fight many fights. But I have chosen not to. For instance, there is so much corruption around us. Just take the state of the Chennai Airport. The contractors and the Airports Authority of India have a lot of explanation to do over its pathetic condition – falling glass panes, leaking ceiling, unsafe carousels and escalators. It has been rated as the worst airport in the world. Yet, no one has fixed any of these things in the last five years. Worse, no one has been held accountable for this shoddy piece of critical public infrastructure. I do feel like filing a public interest litigation demanding a court direction to the authorities to hold the people concerned liable. But between dealing with my existential crisis and public interest, I prefer preserving my inner peace for investing in resolving my own problem first. Or let me take another instance, of my need to be exonerated by my own family – I have been branded “a cheat” by them despite there being no evidence of my having frauded them at all. Now, this is a fight that I will never fight. Because I believe that if members of a family cannot trust one of their own, what is the point in making them realize their mistake? I have decided to let them live with their theory, and I have learnt to be accepting of my reality that I will never have their understanding all my Life. Important, I have forgiven them – even though I can’t forget the way in which I was treated – and I am at peace with myself and with them.
This is how I choose not to fight each time I am provoked – I go simply by wanting to preserve my inner peace. Because the only reward worth cherishing in Life is your inner peace! It doesn’t ever matter whatever else you have, or gain, if you have lost your inner peace!
So, to fight, to forgive, to move on is an intensely personal decision. The only way you can take that decision is to ask yourself what will make you peaceful. And go do what gives you peace. The key is to be at peace, to be happy with whatever is, even as you are making a sincere effort to change your current reality!