Khudi Ko Kar Buland Itna…The Kalam Way!

Sigh, I have never met Dr.Abdul Kalam! So I don’t have a picture of mine with him to post here. I don’t also have anything to say of him which hasn’t been said already.

As my fellow Indians celebrate his Life by sharing what they think of him, I feel deeply too. But words cannot express what I feel about him. His presence, his Life and now his absence in a physical form can best be described as an eternal inspiration.

Cartoon Courtesy: Internet
Copyright rests with cartoon’s original creator
Last night as the NDTV newsbreak notification appeared on my phone, I was reminded of the lines that Mohd.Iqbal, a Pakistani poet and philosopher (1877~1938), also famously known as Allama Iqbal, gave the world to live by: “Khudi ko kar buland itna, ke har taqder se pehle, Khuda bande se ye poche, bata teri raza kya hai.” This roughly translated in a practical sense (there are a few exalted interpretations too) means, “Make your self-will so strong, your contribution to this Universe, therefore, so unputdownable, that before making your next destiny, the Creator will ask you for your preference of what you want to be created as.”  

We hope the Creator will ask this of Dr.Kalam. And we hope Dr.Kalam will ask to be created, yet again, as himself, as the most devoted, committed, true Indian that ever lived.

Dr.Kalam inspired us to believe that this Life is unlived and incomplete, if you have not touched lives. He lived this way to make his Life his message. In celebration of his Life, let us live that spirit of humility and selfless service – today and always…

Enjoy (your) God! Cheers!!!

God has to be enjoyed, not feared! Live your Life simply, purely, being present in the moment, and you will experience the God that you always seek. Today is as auspicious as any other day. This moment is as sacred as any other. It is our beliefs, primarily conditioned through the medium of religion, that have taken us away from enjoying Life for what it is and have led us to fear (a) God! And anything that’s feared cannot be enjoyed!
Mandarins of religion, historically, down the ages, have written or propounded principles that are aimed at scaring people that something grave will happen to them if they “disregard or ignore” an external God! As a child, I was warned, by my grandmother, that if I don’t eat my meals on time, “sami vandhu kanna kutthum!” (God will come and pierce or gorge your eyes out). So, the first conditioning we often receive is to “fear” God. More recently, a family member who lost her mother, was not allowed to attend the obsequies by her husband because someone else (a distant relative) had died in his side of the family – and per traditional “religious” practice/protocol you must mourn your husband’s loss first over your own! What kind of a religion is it if it prevents a daughter from mourning the loss of her mother and being with her own siblings and father in a time of grief? But such absurdities abound – and worse, they are adhered to because the protagonists “fear” God will harm them if they “dare to disregard, disrespect” or “sin”!
There’s a story from Guru Nanak’s Life that delivers an awakening message. It is said that, per Islam, sleeping with your feet in the direction of Kaaba, which is one of the most sacred sites for Muslims and is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is not permitted. Now Nanak is believed to have visited Kaaba and was found sleeping with his feet pointing to the Kaaba. The Imam, the holy priest, of Kaaba came over and angrily shook Nanak awake. He asked Nanak to explain how dare he point his feet at the holy site.
He thundered at Nanak, “Whether you are a Muslim or not, can’t you obey the rules? Shame on you! Now change your direction and go to sleep.”                                                                                                                                                                      
Nanak replied humbly: “Sir, I have tried but it is just not working out. Why don’t you try pointing my feet away from the Kaaba?”
The Imam was furious. He violently dragged Nanak’s feet away from the Kaaba. But however much he tried, the Kaaba moved too, to be always ending up facing Nanak’s feet. The Imam tried a hundred times. But a hundred times, the Kaaba moved following Nanak’s feet.
Nanak laughed and said: “This is my problem. I also tried. And I also gave up. In which direction do I point my feet? I realize that every direction is holy – and all creation, existence, is divine.”
So it is. A memorable point-counter-point among three famous Urdu poets, spread over 200 years and three generations, further amplifies this message!
 The venerable Mirza Ghalib (1797~1869) was once caught drinking alcohol in a mosque. He said, when asked to explain himself, “Sharaab pene de masjid mein baith kar, ya who jagah bata jahan khuda nahi…” It means: “Allow me to drink in the mosque or tell me a place where God isn’t present (so I can go drink there!).
Allama Iqbal (1877~1938), perhaps offering a counter to Ghalib said: Masjid khuda ka ghar hai, peeney ki jagha nahin, Kaafir ke dil mein ja, Wahan khudaa nahin… It means: “A mosque is God’s abode, not a place to imbibe alcohol, go to the heart of a non-believer, as God does not reside there”
Ahmed Faraz (1931~2008), offered his take on Iqbal’s, saying: Kaafir ke dil se aya hoon mein yeh dekh kar, Khuda maujood hai wahan, Par usey pata nahin… It means: “I have come from seeing a non-believer’s (perhaps referring to himself) heart, God is resident there too…but the non-believer doesn’t quite know this!”
I am not sure if an external God, a Creator of the Universe exists, in reality. But I do believe that all of creation is so beautiful, so divine. And each of us has been created to experience this. Through this experience, we will find our God – within us! As Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet says: “As oil is in the oilseed, so is the Lord within three, unrevealed”. I also have come to believe that this God within has to be enjoyed, not feared! As the Quran says, Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim__meaning, if you believe there is a God, then that God is, in the name of Allah, Benevolent and Merciful!

Here’s hoping that this Eid, you too celebrate the Universal Energy that powers you and enjoy the God that resides in you!

The Milkha Singh Inspiration: Make your Life unputdownable

Yesterday I watched ‘Bhaag Milka Bhaag’, a film inspired by the Life of ace Indian athlete Milkha Singh. Made by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the film was, as it was intended to be, a personal story of true grit and human spirit. Mehra says that he started developing the story after meeting Milkha Singh at the National Stadium in New Delhi (where Mehra used to swim) a few times. The primary theme that appears to have inspired Mehra was the key takeaway from Milka Singh’s Life between ages 13 and 28 – Zindagi se bhago nahin. Zindagi ke saath bhago!’ meaning “Don’t run away from Life, run with Life!”

This theme is what you come away with after watching the film (Farhan Akhtar’s portrayal of Milkha Singh is absolutely brilliantly!). Afterward, as I researched on Milkha Singh, my awakening was further enhanced. Here is a person who had to face unimgaginable strife as a child, had to overcome temptation to focus, had to deal with a venomous opposition, and yet triumphed only because he refused to get bogged down by anything. Neither by circumstance nor by people. Neither by failure nor by success. He just kept his focus on the one thing that he knew how to do very, very well – his running.

For much of his after-track Life, Singh has been leading a quiet Life, preferring to stay away from the limelight even when it was pointed at him. Even now, as his Wiki Page and the movie’s Wiki Page reveal, Singh is believed to have sold the movie rights of his Life’s story to Mehra for a token Rupee 1. Singh instead has asked for a share of the profits the film is making (and it is raking it in!) for the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust which was set up in 2003 to assist underprivileged and talented sportspersons. Singh believes that if the film could “inspire young Indians to aim for and secure that elusive gold in an individual Olympic track event”, that would be reward enough for him. All of Singh’s medals, won in championships across the world, have been donated to the nation and are on display at the Indian sports museum in Patiala. Although Singh and his wife Nirmal Kaur (a former captain of the Indian women’s volleyball team) have three daughters and a son – the famous star golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, the couple adopted, in 1999, the then 7-year-old son of Havildar Bikram Singh, a soldier who laid down his Life in the Battle of Tiger Hill, during the Kargil War.
Milkha Singh: The Flying Sikh

I am just too moved by Milkha’s Singh’s story. For it is not often that you encounter someone who’s Life is his message! Whatever cinematic liberties Mehra may have taken with his biopic, the fact remains that but for his vision and effort, many of us__you and me included__will not pause in our rat races to draw inspiration from the Life of a man like Milkha Singh!

I am reminded of these immortal lines by the famous Urdu poet Mohammed Allama Iqbal (1877~1938): “Khudi ko kar bulund itna ke har taqdeer ke pehle, Khuda bande se khud pooche, bata teri raza kya hai!” It basically (not literally) means: “Make your Life so unputdownable (through selfless living) that before your next (lifetime) destiny is cast, the Creator pauses to ask you for your wish (intent)”!

Wah! Milkha! Wah!!