Make a personal effort today to make this world a better place to live in!

There is an urgent need for you – and me – to deliver compassion and spread harmony in the world.

raghavenra ganeshan
Raghavendran Ganeshan

The tragic bomb blasts in Brussels earlier this month shocked the whole world. I have been particularly numbed by the story of Raghavendran Ganeshan, a software engineer with Infosys, who was on the Brussels Metro when a suicide bomber blew himself – and the train – up. After over a week of harrowing anxiety – and hope – for the family, Raghavendran’s body finally arrived in Chennai a couple of days ago. The papers here reported his tragic story. I don’t know what to say or how to react. Who would have thought that a simple man, a young father, on his way to work to dutifully fulfil a client mandate in one of the most peaceful parts of the world, would meet such a horrific end?

Even so, I feel, the more distressed the world appears to be, the more hopeful we must all remain. As I await dawn on this promising Thursday, I remember an old Jewish story on when does dawn really happen? An old rabbi once asked his pupils how to tell when night ended and the morning began (which is the time for prayer). “Is it when you see an animal in the distance and know whether it’s a sheep or a dog,’’ asked one pupil. “No,” answered the rabbi. “Is it when you can look at a tree and tell whether it is a fig tree or a pear tree,” asked another. “No,” answered the rabbi. After a few more tries the pupils gave up. And they requested the rabbi to enlighten them. “It is dawn when you can look at the face of any man or woman and know that they are your sister or brother. Until then, it is still night,” explained the rabbi.

With so much strife in the world today, within families, communities, businesses, sporting teams, countries and even within ourselves, now is the time for each of us to make a personal effort to love creation and our fellow human beings. All Life is equal. Let’s each of us practice compassion and treat everyone we know, meet or pass by in Life with love, dignity and respect.

Aap Kataar Mein Hein

There’s no doubt that our Life stories will end soon. They will – one day surely. So, while our lifetime keeps ticking away, the only real time that we have available with us to live is the now, the present moment!  

A friend called a couple of days ago. We talked about the passing of Manorama, the Tamil actor, who we had all grown up watching on the big screen. And we talked about Amitabh Bachchan, whose birthday day it was, about how his era symbolized our youth. And how at 73, he was having the best time of his Life. Yet, said my friend, there’s no disputing the fact, that everyone’s aging, and will die one day, sooner or later. I quipped, punning on the old BSNL call-on-hold message, “Aap kataar mein hain…you, me, all of us, are in a queue, to eventually pass on…When our number is called, we have to simply go!”
Although it was a casual conversation, I cannot but reflect on the spiritual perspective it offers. If we treat Life as a soon-to-expire reality, we will want to seriously live. And not just exist. I mean we will want to live another way than the way we are living right now. Just this morning I read of Infosys CFO Rajiv Bansal’s resignation. He told The Times of India that at 43, he is re-evaluating what he wants from Life. And I believe it’s only right that like Bansal, each of us understands that Life has to be lived fully. And living fully does not mean spending your first 25 years qualifying, then spend the next 35 years earning, procreating and saving and then at 60-something “waking up” (if you are lucky) to decide what you want out of your Life. At that stage, possible you may have the means to do what you want but you may not be assured of either your health or enough time.

However corny the BSNL call-on-hold message may sound, it’s relevance to intelligent living cannot be ignored. If we take heed, and act on it, we will surely live a better Life than we are living presently! 

Atonement “will” happen if avoidable choices have been made

All atonement really happens in this lifetime – whether you will it that way or not.
Life really is a series of actions. When you act, you do end up believing that what you are doing is right or acceptable (at least to you!) – which is why you really do whatever you decide to. Now, all that you do may not appeal or be acceptable to others – often times not even to your companion, your friends or your family. It is also possible that what you did was genuinely avoidable. Whether something is right or wrong is a very subjective opinion. So, it’s best to restrict any assessment only to decide if something you did – or are doing – is avoidable or not. When you do something that you could have avoided, the best way forward is to own up, seek forgiveness from those who have been impacted by your choice and move on. You may not always be forgiven. But true atonement begins and ends with you. It really concerns no one else!
This morning’s ‘Times of India’ carries an interview by Shilpa Phadnis and Sujit John with former iGate CEO Phaneesh Murthy. Murthy was sacked from iGate in May this year following an office affair that led to the company’s investor relations head Araceli Roiz to claim that she was pregnant with Murthy’s child. (iGate’s policy does not encourage or support office affairs.)  For Murthy this was the second time in a decade that he was getting involved in a relationship which cost him his job – the first time was in 2002 when he was sacked by his then employer Infosys, when his colleague Reka Maximovitch levelled charges of sexual harassment against him and the company. Talking to Phadnis and John, Murthy admits that he made “a mistake” stepping out of his marriage. He says: The whole thing was very regrettable. The mistake I made was in stepping out of my marriage. I have to work on my relationship at home, and that’s what I’m doing. We will see where that leads and that’s my priority number 1. And that’s the reason I haven’t accepted full-time employment anywhere. …Obviously. I also have a significant amount of guilt. Somebody once told me that self-punishment is worse than any other punishment. That’s what it is. I have to now do whatever I can to make up, and I don’t know whether anything I do will be enough.
I clearly don’t want to judge Murthy’s past actions or his effort now to atone. It appears from reading the rest of the interview that Murthy’s wife Jaya and he live separately now. And that, from what Murthy claims, Jaya is his best friend and is giving him time and space to atone and, hopefully, emerge better from the experience. If Jaya is indeed doing that, it is both the best thing to do, given the circumstances (they have been married for 25 years now and still have a good friendship), and is commendable. To me, personally, the fact that Murthy is being honest – he is speaking about his actions publicly and knows that whatever he is doing may never really help him undo what he has already done – is what really matters.
When someone can come out and say she or he made a mistake or made an avoidable choice – that’s what true atonement is all about. Every action can be justified in hundreds of different ways. But all justifications are invalid in front of the mirror. If you can’t get the face in the mirror to accept your actions, as just and judicious, then nothing else counts. When you recognize that you could have acted more appropriately, wisely, and are willing to own up, then you have earned the right to expunge your guilt. That’s how the journey to atone becomes easier to handle. Most important is to recognize that nothing is really sacred in Life other than how you view yourself. It is human nature to go astray, to make a questionable choice, to do things that hurt or injure others. So, never fall prey to guilt and self-pity, when you do awaken. Instead accept, own up and move on. And even if you haven’t awakened, after making several avoidable choices (just as Murthy made the same choice twice, there are several of us who keep doing the same things again and again and again….!), or after several wake-up calls, remember that sooner than later – you will realize, you will awaken. For, whether you will it or not, you can’t but atone. And all atonement is in this lifetime only!