A couple came to us wondering how they can separate while ensuring that their children are not affected. I shared how my friend and his wife worked out a win-win arrangement, based on my advice, that has helped them both immensely. On this Podcast, I talk about how it is possible for a couple to set aside their differences if they choose to keep their children at the centre of their Universe. Any fight that is ego-driven is not worth it. Focus instead on a “working arrangement” when the relating between two people goes out the window.
Listen time: 5:31 minutes
Sometimes, you may have to be firm and tell some people off.
Well-meaning organizations, who necessarily don’t have a budget to remunerate us, sometimes invite us to deliver my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk. Since the opportunity is in line with our Higher Purpose of Inspiring Happiness we do accept such invitations and I deliver my Talk pro bono in such cases. But we do insist that our travel and logistics are taken care of. Recently, a host who, in our opinion, could have afforded to make our ground transfers more comfortable, was pushing us hard to accept mediocre arrangements. Further, the tone of the email we received was unprofessional and lacked dignity. We refused to accept the arrangements they proposed and canceled the Program. When I shared this instance with someone who was struggling to make a similar choice he wanted to know how we can make such a decision simple. “Doesn’t it appear that you are being finicky about making a small adjustment for a larger good? Isn’t there always this conflict,” he asked.
And I think his question is very pertinent. This happens to all of us, all the time, in all situations. The simplest way I have learnt to reason with this apparent ‘conflict’ is to ask myself if I am comfortable doing what I am being asked to do or what I am setting out to do. If I am not, I immediately withdraw myself from the scene, from the opportunity – whatever may be the context or whoever may be involved.
I have realized that if you don’t draw a line, even in seemingly ‘small or trivial’ matters, you will dither when it comes to making a choice with ‘bigger’ ones. Especially in close relationships where people start taking you for granted.
What do you do, for instance, when people close to want to have an opinion about everything you do. And they, if you are not wary, end up treating you like a doormat. You suffer them because you don’t want to be either petty – like them – or it’s not in your “intrinsic nature” to be “unkind” to people. Now, let’s get this right. There’s nothing “unkind” in asserting yourself so as to protect your inner peace and dignity. Whoever it may be – parent, sibling, child, neighbor, boss, colleague or friend – no one, no one has the right to treat you in a manner in which you don’t like or don’t want to be treated. Period.
So, be firm when you must. Just put people in their place. Protect your inner peace, because no one else will do this for you.
Some of the situations Life places you in will also require you to fight for justice. Often with people who are supposedly close to you. Don’t get clouded by sentiments about close blood relations in such cases either. I am not encouraging you to fight because it is the right thing to do. But what do you do when the situation created by people around you demands a firm response? A friend of mine recently called to say how his older brother, with whom he shares the ownership of the family business, was making it almost impossible for both of them to co-exist and survive. “Neither is he accepting a separation of the business and the assets, nor is he allowing me to lead it and run it well, nor is he running it efficiently. We are bleeding losses month-on-month. He’s challenging me to fight him. If I fight him I can at least save half the family’s fortunes – for my immediate family and for my mother and sister. But how can I fight my own brother? I am not interested in any fight,” lamented my friend. I told him: “Don’t let your ego – in the garb of compassion – come in between you and what you must do. Just do whatever you believe must be done in the interest of all parties concerned, without hatred, without anger, without any rancor.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because I can see this escape is just an ego trip. The way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.” Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”
Such is Life. When you have to do something to ensure that your inner peace is not disturbed, you have to do it. And only you can do it. Do it also knowing, as Krishna says, that you are a mere instrument, a conduit for something that Life wants done through you! In doing so, you are not being unkind or rude. You are simply responding to a situation that has been created by someone and which you intensely dislike. So, don’t fall short, don’t fight shy. If you don’t do what you must do in such situations, you will cause your own suffering.
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If your inner peace is being ruined, ask yourself if a confrontation is really worth it?
A businessman I met yesterday said he was forever on tenterhooks. Because, he said, he is always fighting for ‘what is right’. He fights his brother’s reckless decisions in the business that they jointly operate, he is fighting for a parking space, that he legitimately owns, with his apartment builder, he is fighting for an Income Tax refund with the authority for over 10 years now and he is fighting within himself unable to reconcile to the surge of Hindutva and communal strife in the country. Phew! He asked me what he must do to be peaceful.
“Meditate.” This is what I told him.
But the last thing that will come easy, when you mind is agitated and firing on all cylinders, is meditation.
I have been the way this man is right now. So I know.
Our sense of morality, propriety, integrity and intention often wants us to demand a fair world. Besides, the human mind is wired, through years of conditioning, to point out to you that you are always right; that while everyone around you is either doing wrong or doing only what appears to be right, you, and you alone, are the messiah who is clamoring to do what is right. Any definition of right and wrong involves individual judgment and perception. What may be right to you may be wrong from another’s point of view. So, the moment you get into this ‘I-am-right’ mode, you have launched into an endless, zero-sum game! This is how, for many years, I vexed over trying to create a better world – for me, around me. I discovered, through catharsis, that there is nothing wrong with wanting an ethical, fair, egalitarian environment around you. Except that you mustn’t try to create it at the cost of losing your inner peace. Anything that demands a fight that disturbs your inner equilibrium is simply not worth it.
So, fight the good fight, take up causes, choose issues that you want to campaign for, but first win your inner battle. Nothing in the world, nothing in Life, is worth more than your inner peace. If you are at peace, you will have the energy to face the world, you will have stamina to last any crusade and you will have the focus to devise and execute a winning strategy.
Do what you must do in any situation but do it only if you can be detached from the outcomes. Invest in the process, but be detached from the outcomes. Often the biggest hurdle to an individual’s evolution is the desire to want to control outcomes, to prove oneself right and to hold on to opinions. Focusing on the merits of each experience is perhaps a good way to ascertain and convince yourself if such clinging on is really worth it. So, I always recommend a three-step check before you take up any issue that you want to invest your energy in:
- Will what you are fighting for really matter some years from now?
- What is best for all parties involved – letting go or proving yourself right?
- Which stance – letting go or clinging on – will help preserve your inner peace?
This approach has helped me immensely. I have come to realize that wanting a perfect world is not a wrong expectation. But you wanting to create this perfect world your way, well, that’s a stance you may want to rethink and, perhaps, even avoid. Instead, choose an intelligent approach, which is, decide on whatever you do, or want to do, basis your inner peace being first protected. So, ask yourself, each time before you launch into an ‘I-am-right’ mode, if it is really worth it?
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!
Fight only if you must. Sometimes, the best way to win a battle is not to fight at all.
Harsha Bhogle has been axed as commentator by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from the IPL 9 Season. As is the case with most BCCI decisions, no reasons are forthcoming. Meanwhile, the rumor mills are working overtime to suggest that any of these three – or all – reasons may be valid: BCCI being ‘deeply influenced’ by innocuous (per me) Tweets by Amitabh Bachchan and M.S.Dhoni conveying their personal opinions on how commentators must commentate; Harsha’s run-in with a Vidarbha Cricket Association official in Nagpur over a common-sensical suggestion and how Shashank Manohar, the current BCCI President, stepped in and stood up for this official; or how players have begun to influence the BCCI on who should be chosen as commentators. But when news broke out on Saturday evening, when the first match of IPL 9 was being played between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants, that Harsha will not commentate, the man in the spotlight was off to watch a movie with his wife Anita in Mumbai. All he did was he tweeted his surprise at the turn of events.
I think this is a phenomenal quality that Harsha’s got – to not fight everything and everyone that comes in your way!
Though not among my personal favorites (L.Sivaramakrishnan and Danny Morrison are), Harsha is clearly a world-class cricket commentator. He’s worked hard to follow his bliss and he, deservedly, is very, very admired. Just the outpouring of sentiment in his favor, over his axing, is evidence of how much he’s loved. Yet, the landscape in which he plies his trade is fraught with BCCI’s mafia-like ‘control’ of the game and infested with intra-organizational, political landmines. And Harsha perhaps knows this better than anyone else. Hence his choice to not lose his dignity or sanity trying to stir an already confounded situation is commendable. Undoubtedly, the public – his fans and followers of the game – is with him.
There’s a learning here for all of us. When someone queers your pitch, just walk away. You don’t have to respond to every provocation or pick up every gauntlet that’s hurled at you. Some battles are best left unfought. People react to situations based on their own insecurities, perversions or justifications. Things happen in Life because that’s the way Life is – it keeps on happening, endlessly, often mindlessly. So, if you get embroiled in trying to bulldoze your way every single time someone or something becomes an obstacle, you will only be fighting inconsequential battles all your Life. Precious personal positive energy will get drained this way. Sometimes it is better to be silent and work around a problem person or situation than wanting to decimate an obstruction. Be stingy about where your energies go. Choose the good fight – where there’s a cause, where more than just you will be benefited, where there’s an opportunity that your victory can make the world better. For any other battle, not fighting is perhaps the best way to win!