Feeling incomplete and restless? Don’t try connecting the dots!

There will be times in Life when everything will seem so unstuck, so unsure, so unpredictable. Whenever you feel this way, don’t let it all cook within you – just turn around and go to sleep!
Last night when I lay down to sleep, I felt the same way myself.
I had been watching Rang De Basanti(Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, 2006) for the umpteenth time on TV – somehow the move never tires you out; it instead grows on you. In the wake of the Chennai Floods, every issue that DJ and his friends raise in the movie, made me feel very disturbed. Since there is a strong apprehension among most people in Chennai that the floods were a result of poor decision-making by the authorities concerned, issues like lack of accountability, leadership and collective public action to challenge and change status quo – magnified by the RDBviewing – made me restless. And then there is our enduring bankruptcy and the uncertain future looming large: of dealing with every day – practical, survival-related – challenges as 2016 arrives. We are yet to begin repaying our debt and the discomfort of living with – and in – such a seemingly-endless situation is immense. Our daughter’s graduate studies are coming up in 2016 and our son has a niggling medical condition that needs attention. My end of the family still chooses to remain estranged, while we don’t have the means yet to financially reciprocate all the day-to-day support that Vaani’s end of the family provides us.
Phew! Sometimes, I just wish that all this incompleteness – and the restlessness it causes – simply dissolves. Yes, I am human too.
That’s when I recalled a learning that my college mate from Kerala, Rajmohan Pillai, of the Beta Group, had shared with me some years ago. He had told me, while buying me and Vaani a multigrain sub at a Subway in Nungambakkam, Chennai: “Vaani and AVIS, don’t try to solve all your problems all at once. You simply can’t. Just be at them, just be; and over time, they will all get resolved.” I never understood the import of what Rajmohan was teaching us when he first said this. But over the years, I have greatly valued his advice.
So, I just turned off the TV and went to sleep. I slept well.
My practice of mouna (daily silence periods) and my spiritual evolution has helped me realize the futility of worrying. So, last night, I wasn’t worrying. Yes those worrisome thoughts were arising. But I was choosing to remain unaffected by them. Yet, there is an incompleteness I felt. And, from experience, let me tell you feeling incomplete at such times is very natural. The human mind craves for so much control on Life situations. But Life is more powerful. She can never quite be tamed. We often don’t understand this truth about Life and respond to such incompleteness in one of two – or both – ways: we worry and/or we connect the dots of all that is wrong with our Life and magnify a pimple to look like a tumor! Both responses are futile – worrying cannot solve problems and linking all your problems up only confounds an already complex situation!
The best way, I have learnt, is to switch off the mind when it goes into an overdrive on either – or both – fronts. To switch off the mind, you must just live in the present. The mind can only thrive when it is generating thoughts from the dead past or predicting the unknown future. In the present the mind is powerless. Last night, since even my attempt to be in the present – watching RDB – turned out to be disturbing me, I simply went to sleep. And I believe there’s nothing wrong with that choice. Let’s understand that each problem in Life is unique. Each one has a tenure. No problem in your Life – or mine – is going away unless it has served its time – and purpose! So, when you can’t solve a problem with your (human) intellect, agonizing over it is of no use. You simply have to try again – and again and again and again – with a fresh perspective, with renewed energy and vigor.
As I go down to work on my Life and its myriad, incomplete, situations, I wish you too luck. If we can’t immediately solve our problems, let’s at least avoid connecting the dots and making everything seem menacing and scary! This is the only way to inner peace and strength when you are in the throes of a storm!

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!!