There is no “right” or “wrong” way to face Life. Over time, you figure out your own way!
I just finished K.S.Narendran’s book “Life After MH370 – Journeying Through A Void”! Naren’s wife of 25 years, Chandrika Sharma, was on that flight.
Vaani and I had not known Naren until MH370 happened. Like most of the world, we knew of Naren only through the tragedy. It was our mutual friend Melissa’s Facebook post, in the aftermath of MH370’s disappearance, that pointed to a possibility of connecting with Naren. From what Melissa’s post revealed, Chandrika and Naren had met at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and had started their journey in Life together from there. Having met Vaani, similarly, in college, I could relate to that sense of finding love in your Life…but I must confess I could not relate to what could have been Naren’s pain at that time, in the early days of hope while the world searched for the plane. Initially, all I wanted to do at that time, was to just reach out to the man and give him a hug.
I keenly followed the MH370 story in the media. I wrote a few Blogposts (“Life is a taste” – Simply taste what is!! , “Inspirations from a fellow voyager’s fortitude” and “A lesson in fortitude and gratitude from our dear friend Naren” ) as well sharing how I felt about Naren’s and his daughter Meghna’s sense of loss.
My own Book Fall Like A Rose Petal was being readied for a launch around this time in August 2014. I reached out to Naren – sending him a long-distance hug and requesting him to receive the first copy of my Book. Vaani and I were clear that my Book was not to have a typical celebrity-led, ribbon-opening, launch. We were keen to invite fellow voyagers like us, who were facing Life stoically, to launch my Book. Naren responded warmly. He cited his travel schedules clashing with my Book’s launch date and so he politely declined my invitation.
Vaani and I met Naren personally much, much later. Almost 6 months later. I will come to that in a bit.
Reading “Life After MH370”, I was able to relive with Naren, the days, weeks and months following the tragedy. Naren writes with honesty, baring his innermost feelings, yet he does not sensationalize his grief. This book is not an intellectual or literary expression either. It is also not a tome to pain, grief and suffering. It is a walk-through of Naren’s mind, of his soul, of his minutes and hours, post-MH370, of how he dealt with – and is dealing with – Life after Chandrika. As I journeyed through Naren’s void, I could feel his pain, his anger, his helplessness, his cluelessness, his love for Meghna, his struggle to cope personally with the fact that Chandrika will not return…I could feel his loneliness as much as I could feel his awakening to accept his “new normal”.
There’s a paragraph in the book where Naren shares how he helped Meghna understand their new reality. As I read it, I felt that Naren was both pragmatic and sagacious at the same time. For the same reasons, Naren’s been able to treat this book with a simplicity that is rare to find. It is straight from him to you, the reader. As you read it, you are forced to suspend all social and literary judgment. You just feel what a human being feels when journeying through a void that Life has suddenly sprung on him and his family.
Naren diligently, without getting acerbic at any point, presents the hollowness of the global, multi-national, search effort for the plane. His detailed examination of what-could-have-been-done by Malaysia, by Malaysia Airlines, by the Indian Government, and other governments, and what-eventually-happened is very logical. Reading all his reasoning – which reflected the voice of almost all families who had lost their loved ones on MH370 – I came away with a better understanding of the times we live in. Life moves on for sure, but surely, the world moves on faster. “Life After MH370” perhaps ever-so-gently reminds us, who are avaricious consumers of global media newsbreaks, that there’s a lot, lot more to a news-story after it is taken off the channels and the front pages.
Vaani and I took our first email exchange forward with Naren and we met for coffee sometime in end-2015 at Chamiers Café in Chennai. Over the last several months we have become good friends. I invited him to be my guest on The Uncommon Leader Series that I curate for the Madras Management Association. He weighed the invitation carefully and consented that he was coming just for a conversation with me and that he neither was an uncommon leader nor did he have any wisdom to offer. Here is the entire 90-minute conversation. (Do make time and watch it. I can assure you that it will definitely be worth your effort!)
“Life After MH370”, to me, is an important book. It doesn’t preach. It doesn’t suggest. It doesn’t showcase. Naren simply tells us what he has felt and is feeling, what he has been through and is going through. And that’s how the book makes a very significant contribution to you, the reader – it tells you that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to face Life. You just face it. Whatever happens, experience it. When Life deals you a tragic blow, don’t resist it. Go through the experience. You will struggle, you will stumble, you will grope in the dark, you will be pinned down by hopelessness…but go through it. Because such is Life. There is no other way. And by doing all that, over time, you arrive, at your own pace, at the point of accepting the Life you have, you awaken to your own way of moving on with what is.
Life Hai, Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai!
We didn’t know of K.S.Narendran until Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 went missing on March 8th, 2014. Naren’s wife of 25 years, Chandrika, was on that flight. Vaani and I reached out to Naren and found him to be very warm, very gracious, even as he was stoic. Over the last 33 months, Naren has had to come to terms with the enormous, new reality he is faced with; he has had to pick up the threads of his own Life while helping their daughter Meghna cope, accept and move on. What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
This morning I found this post on Naren’s Facebook wall. Read on…
It is now 1000 days since MH370 last took to the skies.
I did not imagine that in today’s satellite surveilled world, a large plane with hundreds of people could just vanish.
I did not imagine that we will be searching six kilometres under the ocean for an aircraft that was flying ten kilometres up in the sky.
I did not imagine that we would know so little about its whereabouts after so many days.
I did not imagine that bits and pieces of the plane would reach waters and seashores thousands of miles away from where the last goodbye was heard.
I did not imagine that so few debris would be recovered after this long a wait.
I did not imagine that some day I would write “No debris today” and feel relieved.
I did not imagine that it would be the same status update for most days since that day in early 2014.
I did not imagine that a search will continue only where the plane is believed to have gone down, and not in parts where the parts and pieces of it show up.
I did not imagine that it was possible to be so cavalier in handling affected families.
I did not imagine that rich nations of G-something or the other will cavil about allocations for search and investigation.
I did not imagine that we would be arguing about my dollar or yours when it could be your life or mine the next time.
I did not imagine that we would make a trip to pick the pieces when we trusted our governments to do this on our behalf.
I did not imagine that we would have love and support from thousands for whom our loss has been theirs.
I did not imagine that a ‘Thank You’ to all would seem so inadequate, yet it is the best there is to give.
In sharing his deepest feelings, Naren holds out a lesson in fortitude and gratitude to all of us.
In May this year, I had the opportunity and privilege to be in conversation with Naren at the event series I curate for Madras Management Association (MMA) titled “The Uncommon Leader”. Naren told me then that he is neither an ‘uncommon leader’ nor has he any wisdom to share. But if you listen to this 80-minute conversation I had with him, you will understand how invaluable reflection and acceptance are in situations when we are dealing with disruptive change and when we must demonstrate personal leadership.
As we rush through our lives, often trying to obsess over its material aspects, we miss the opportunity to invest our precious moments in all that which matters most to us. Occasionally, a Life-changing event shows up, either in our own lives, or through the lives of others, which reminds us that this is an ephemeral Life – anything, absolutely anything, can happen at any time to anyone!
Take away what you find relevant from my blogpost today, but please do pause to send Naren, Meghna, and all those beautiful families a long distance hug and all your love!
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!