You can choose to be in a state of equanimity – anytime, in any context!
In response to my blogpost of yesterday, a reader wrote to me saying, “An employee who is rejected by an employer can perhaps move on and seek employment elsewhere. But what does someone do when your family rejects you?”
From personal experience I can tell you that it is not as difficult as it sounds to move on in the context of family or very close personal relationships. The opportunity to be free, liberated and live happily is available to anyone in any situation, regardless of whether the context is personal or professional. You grieve, and therefore you suffer, only because you are clinging on to what has happened. Someone has rejected you, someone has an opinion of you which is not fully based on facts, they have delivered their judgment. If you examine the situation closely, they have moved on. You are the one who is clinging on, pining and suffering, wondering why things are the way they are. But the truth is things already are – they have come to a pass; the words have been spilled, you have been hurt, now what is the point in going on lamenting about it?
When my family called me a cheat and accused me and Vaani of faking a bankruptcy, for the longest time I grieved. I could not accept my new reality that I have been judged by my own mother and siblings. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) I felt devastated that I could not prove to them why their perceptions were wrong. But then, I realized, if they had genuinely wanted to understand us, they would never have doubted our integrity, no matter what perceptional evidence was stacked up against me and Vaani. Soon I saw the futility in trying to convince them of my integrity. I concluded that they don’t trust me – that’s their choice. So, I simply moved on. While I remain accountable to them on the monies I owe them, just as I am with all our other creditors, I have no inclination to discuss or settle any other matters with them. I don’t see it as necessary. And I have no angst, no hurt, no grief in me. Not anymore.
I am not saying my way is the only way of doing things in close relationships when, unfortunately, mistrust, judgment, opinion and rejection come into play. All I can tell you is that I am anchored, I am at peace – because I don’t expect anything anymore from my family. If anything, in fact, on a material plane, I feel responsible towards them.
No situation is difficult to deal with or complex enough to handle as long as you have clarity on what you want. If inner peace is what you want, then some clear, tough calls have to be taken. If you want to wallow in self-pity and flaunt your suffering, then of course, you have a different choice to make. I, for one, believe this state of equanimity is possible for anyone, anytime, in any context – you just have to choose to be non-suffering. Anything – or anyone – that causes your suffering, just weed them out!
When you don’t like what is being done to you, turn around and say NO!
A conversation we had yesterday with a young lady led to a question: “Why do some people hurt, harass and victimize others?” And to another, more important, one: “Why do the victims often suffer in silence?”
Vaani and I have experience of dealing with a long period of emotional strife with my own mother. So we know how it feels to be the victim.
We know of a lady, our age, who is married into a large, well-known and revered, business family in Chennai. Her husband abused her physically for 25+ years. It wasn’t until her son, who went to school with our son Aashirwad, stood up for her that the lady even realized she could say no, that she could walk out, that she could stop being the victim. Until then she suffered silently.
I have also been harassed and bullied at work for over 18 months by my former employer, a billionaire dealmaker. I had met him as a journalist when I was working for Business Today magazine. And I had written about his then-proposed foray into the telecom sector. I later joined him, on his invitation, as his traveling Executive Assistant and was based out of Singapore in the mid-1990s; I was part of his crack team that introduced cellular telephony into India. Over time, I noticed that there was a pattern to the way he was treating me. He was harassing me. His style of harassment was personal and abusive at one level and physically exhausting at another. He would call me names and would keep me unsettled for 20 hours a day, constantly ensuring that I was either traveling across continents, or running between the floors in hotels we stayed in doing petty errands for him. I was always backlogged on my Things To Do and therefore I was stressed out at all times of the day. Further he would not allow me to travel back to India to meet my family on short vacations (even at my expense) for birthdays or for a wedding anniversary. One day I asked him why was he doing what he was doing to me. He replied saying he was avenging an article, which critically examined his chequered past a businessman, I wrote about him when I was working with Business Today magazine. He said he employed me so that he could make me his ‘white-collared slave’. I resolved to quit; but I decided I would quit only when I had become totally indispensable to him. So I worked hard to achieve that goal of mine in six months and I left him when everything in his multi-million dollar business empire and Life depended on one man – AVIS!
I learnt a lot about being victim, closure and moving on from that experience. As I lay in bed last night, preparing to sleep, I thought about the conversation over coffee, and the two questions that came up – “Why do people hurt others and why do victims suffer in silence?” – in the backdrop of my own learnings.
First, I believe people who are causing pain – physical, emotional, whatever – to others are actually suffering themselves. Their behavior mirrors what they are going through within themselves. My mother browbeat us perhaps because that is what she had experienced – as a child, as a daughter-in-law and maybe emotional strife is all what she had seen. My former employer harassed me because maybe he was intrinsically insecure. Despite all his wealth, he was always chasing his tail making more money and had no family Life for himself, and all his time he had spent check-mating people to make business deals; so he was continuously wary of being check-mated himself! I am not trying to justify people’s behaviors here. I am just saying that this is one possibility why people bizarrely end up hurting others.
Now, we end up suffering as victims when people harass us because we are so shocked and numbed by their behavior when it all begins. And by the time we realize that we are being exploited, we have become a victim – cowering in fear and wallowing in self-pity. The only way to stop being a victim in any situation is to say no. When you feel uncomfortable doing something or in the presence of someone or when something is done to you, just say no. Each of us has the option to say NO – all the time! And only when we utilize that option, we stop being the victim. When you stop being the victim, even if the pain endures, even when the perpetrator continues to try to harm you, you don’t suffer. And in most cases, when you turn around and face your perpetrator, or what you fear, in the eye, the victimization stops.
It is only when you are facing Life and saying no to what you don’t like done to you that you become stronger. And Life is all about getting stronger at dealing with situations, becoming courageous by looking what you fear in the eye.
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Everything passes on. Everyone passes on. Live every moment fully, happily, before it too passes on, into eternity.
I woke up realizing it is Rajesh Khanna’s death anniversary today. He passed on this day, in 2012.
His story of superstardom is folklore now. People of my generation grew up watching him mesmerize audiences in film after film! That is, until hubris struck him. With the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan Hindi cinema audiences preferred the Angry Young Man to the romantic hero. Sadly, instead of changing his screen strategy to suit the times, Rajesh grew jealous of Amitabh’s rising popularity. Books by biographers and researchers talk of how he snubbed Amitabh on the sets of Bawarchi (1972, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) – Amitabh did not have an onscreen role in the film (he was only the narrator), but he would hang around the sets courting a young Jaya Bhaduri then. They also talk of Rajesh’s drinking bout one night after coming back from an awards function where the crowds ran past him to mob and seek autographs from Amitabh. It is believed that Rajesh, in drunken stupor, ran up to the terrace of his bungalow Aashirwad, and in pouring rain, kneeled down on the ground, looked up at the menacing skies and cried out, asking: “Why, why me?”
I have loved Rajesh Khanna as anybody else in India has – as an actor who gave us great memories! Memories that have been made even more unputdownable by the songs that R.D.Burman composed for him, and those that Kishore Kumar sang for him! But I will always remember Rajesh Khanna for something else too. I will remember him for this acceptance speech that he delivered at an IIFA Awards event in 2009. There’s a big lesson, in how Life plays the big leveler, in observing him receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from, who else, Amitabh Bachchan – the man who knocked him out of relevance! There’s also a lesson in acceptance and moving on here, in hearing him recite his famous lines from Daag (1973, Yash Chopra) after he receives the Award. I am not sure if Rajesh ever realized the spiritual depth of what he said that night. But the lessons I gleaned from that speech (a reel dialogue mounted perfectly in a real Life context!) will stay with me forever: nothing is permanent and everything will, over time, pass on!
So, this Monday, I meditate on those learnings. I recognize that everything happens through me, and not because of me. Where I am in Life, I know I only have a right to make my efforts, every single day, while staying detached from the fruits of my actions – the Bhagavad Gita’s most basic tenet is now indelibly ingrained in me. I am grateful to Life for teaching me, through my experiences, to be this way. I know and accept that Life happens in phases, and every phase, like everything and everyone, will pass on…my job really is, as Life flows, to live fully, happily, in each moment!