The higher you go, the more grounded you must be PS: Also, please hold your own umbrella!

Irrespective of who you are or become, if you can stay humble and grounded, you can claim to have lived your Life most meaningfully and intelligently.

Obama with Vice-President Ansari
Picture Courtesy: Internet
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were our special guests at this year’s R-Day Parade earlier this week. An unseasonal steady drizzle required that everyone had to deploy umbrellas. While most Indian dignitaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had people holding up their umbrellas, both Obama and Michelle held up their umbrellas themselves. People across the sub-continent did not miss this subtle cultural trait that differentiates perhaps much of the Western, particularly US, world from us. We are still steeped in wasteful colonial practices, in the name of “tradition” and “protocol”, while folks from the US are – as they are in several other countries – far more humble and down-to-earth. This is an important lesson to be learnt by us in a country where, at the drop of a hat, people switch to a do-you-know-who-I-am mode and drop names to declare their clout and powerful reach.

Obama holding up his own umbrella, to me, is also an un-ignorable spiritual metaphor. The learning is that the higher you ascend, the more powerful and popular you become, the more grounded and humble you must be.  At the end of the day, we must all realize, that we are merely messengers. The art we claim to be masters of, the work that we do, the success we achieve, and the wealth we believe we create, are all manifestations of the energy that flows through us. Simply, Life is expressing itself through us. We are what we are not because of us but in spite of us! This is the truth. So, if you were a musician and music is flowing through you, how can you take credit for the music? How can the microphone – which is what you really are – take any credit for creating the music? The microphone must simply be happy at having been an instrument that helped broadcast the music. Staying humble, therefore, means to know that you cause nothing – neither your successes, nor your failures.

Does a PM need an umbrella “holder”?
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Of course, the world around us is unevenly skewed in favor of those who declare their might and success with pomp and a misplaced sense of self-worth. To them, they are unfortunately the majority, their hard work has led to their success and so they insist they have the right to flaunt it. Which is why a Mukesh Ambani chooses to build and live in an Antilla and Narendra Modi, apart from not wanting to hold his own umbrella, loved being in pin-stripes that had his name embroidered in place of the stripes! Contrast that with Amitabh Bachchan who, last week, was asked by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt to describe himself in a line. He replied, with his legendary, trademark, humility: “Just another name!”

I guess people know who they love more. The kind that flaunt or those that are self-effacing. But, on a personal note, I can tell you that the best state to be in is to believe that everything happens through you, in spite of you, and never because of you! This is the secret and key to inner peace and happiness! 

An unputdownable lesson on happiness from a slain soldier’s wife

Sometimes Life may just disturb a perfect, picture-postcard family. There are no sure ways to deal with such a situation – you just learn to cope and live.
At R-Day 2015: Indhu set to receive the Ashok Chakra
from the President awarded to Mukund posthumously
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Yesterday, I learnt this lesson, one more time, from Indhu Mukund. On Republic Day yesterday, as the entire nation watched, along with our special guests, US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, Indhu, 31, wife of slain Army officer Major Mukund Varadarajan (who died in action in Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir on April 25,  2014), received the Ashok Chakra – India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, from President Pranab Mukherjee, that was awarded to her husband posthumously. Indhu later told NDTV’s Barkha Dutt (see the full interview here): “India should see the man Mukund was, not my sorrow.” Indhu added that it was “Mukund’s day, his moment” yesterday and she did not want any trace of her own emotion to “interfere” with it. Such stoicism is a rare blessing. All I can do is to salute her and send her my prayers and positive energy.
The picture-postcard family: Indhu, Arshea, Mukund
Photo Courtesy: Internet
Until a year ago, the Mukunds were the perfect family. Their daughter Arshea was barely 3 years old and everything seemed so good to be true. And then Mukund had to go. There was national attention on Indhu, Arshea and on Mukund’s parents. But then like most stories, this one too, despite its emotional, human interest appeal, died down. The Ashok Chakra announcement put the spotlight back on Indhu and the family again. This morning’s papers too are full of pictures of her receiving the award. And then again, soon, everyone will go on with their lives. Mukund’s sacrifice will just remain a memory for some, and for most, a general knowledge data point. Dutt asked Indhu on her show last night if she would ever be bitter with this possibility. Indhu responded with amazing maturity that she would not. “I don’t expect anyone to remember Mukund the way the family will. If the nation remembers him as a patriot that’s good. The emotions are for me, for us as a family.” And finally, Dutt asked Indhu how she coped, how she has been able to stay strong: “Is it because of the love you had for Mukund?” And Indhu replied, again with disarming equanimity, “It is because of the love I havefor him. And the regard I have for him. He would have loved me to be happy. And my strength to live happily and give Arshea a happy Life comes from that.”
Almost everyone struggles with death. And there is no one who has not experienced a personal loss, through the death of someone close. Despite the fact that it is the only thing you can be sure of in Life – that everyone among us will die someday, death, when it arrives, stuns you. It numbs you. It is particularly devastating when it is sudden and snuffs away someone that is so full of Life – like Mukund – and renders incomplete a beautiful family such as his. There are no ways to prepare for such a situation. There are no methods to deal with this inscrutable Life. The only lesson we can learn, every time we hear a story such as the Mukunds, is to promise to live our lives – fully and make each day count; to never postpone happiness and, in a very practical, selfish sense, never postpone family time. And should the picture-postcard be disturbed – and it will be some day – learn from Indhu to be happy despite the circumstances. There is no other way to live, no other way to cope and certainly no other way to be happy!
(PS: Let us take a minute to humbly acknowledge the sacrifice of all the soldiers who have laid down their lives for our nation. And let us pray for the well-being of their precious families.)