Live celebrating the suchness of Life!
Here’s an interesting anecdote and a learning from my Life and from Jet Airways’ journey from glory to bankruptcy…
I used to be a Platinum Card member of the Jet Privilege Program of Jet Airways. And on the sheer quantum of JP Miles I had with them, I always flew free on Jet Premiere (Business Class); and all our family vacations for several years were got free on JP Miles!! Those were the days when Jet held the Gold Standard in Service Quality. They were truly world-class!!!
In November 2006, I made a significant complaint on a series of slips that I had begun to notice in their Service Quality standards. A gentleman called Vijay Sethi (an expert and Master in Service Quality/Customer Service/Relationships in his own right), who was heading Service Quality for Jet Ariways then, reached out to me. He said that their records revealed that I was one of their most frequent fliers – among the top Jet fliers in India! So, he requested me if I would be open to sharing my feedback live, at a meeting of their top management team in Mumbai.
I gladly agreed.
So, I was flown to Mumbai on Business Class and I met their 25+ top management, leadership team, including then CEO Wolfgang Prockshauer and COO Peter Leuthi.
It was a two-hour session and the team was amazed with my insights on how I felt Jet was beginning to lose focus of the very core of their existence – the Jet flier, their God, their guest! I pointed out, with relevant details, why the famed Jet Gold Standard was slipping and how their Yellow Rose (a branding device they had used through the first 10~15 years of their operations) was beginning to wither! Wolfgang, Peter and Vijay thanked me profusely for my feedback and perspectives and committed to revive the soul of the airline. Sadly, all three of them left Jet Airways, in different circumstances, in the next few years…and…we all know what happened with the Sahara acquisition and where Jet is today…
Interestingly, while searching for something else in my archives today, I stumbled upon these images, on a day when Jet has suspended operations.
But let me tell you…its perfectly okay to be down. Such is the process of Life. I talk from personal experience.
I, who flew so many air miles monthly, have been grounded for the past several years – including 2016, which was my flightless year (read my Blogpost here.); and Jet which was India’s premier airline is out of cash and grounded now….
But such is Life…what goes up will come down, and go up again, to come down again…Being down is a great humbling, learning, awakening experience…
There’s no point in grieving or losing sleep over the turn of the wheel of Life…instead celebrate Life’s suchness…
So, don’t hate it. Embrace it, celebrate it!
In response to my Blogpost yesterday, on what I took away from K.S.Narendran’s book – “Life After MH370”, a reader wrote to me saying he could relate to Naren’s sense of loss and loneliness. The reader, who is 60+, is estranged from his wife and his children are too busy with their own lives. He wrote, “I feel lonely and I feel isolated.” “How does one deal with being left behind, and with loneliness, when the world chooses to move on,” he asked.
That’s a very important question.
As I write this Blogpost, our daughter is preparing to leave for her Master’s Program overseas. Our son has been living abroad for over 9 years now. So, Vaani and I are getting to be empty nesters. I don’t think any amount of perspective is sufficient to deal with separations. When it happens, when the time comes, you do get weighed down by it. But if you are aware, if you understand what Life is all about, you simply learn to accept it and move on in your own way. And that’s what Vaani and I are learning to do.
It may appear that dealing with children going away to live their lives and dealing with a permanent loss or separation are two different things. But a sense of loneliness, of being left behind, is perhaps the same – no matter what the context.
I have realized that whoever we are and however closely we relate to our immediate circle of influence, we must prepare ourselves to experience loneliness. The nature of Life is such that people will come and go out of our lives. Whoever is in your Life will soon, some day, be out of it. While some people will stay temporarily and leave, some of them will stay for long and leave after making a significant impact on your Life. And some departures and separations may also well be permanent. Such is Life. There is no escaping this reality.
Intelligent living requires that we accept this suchness, this truth, about Life. This acceptance may not quiet help us avoid the pain of separation or help us escape the tyranny of loneliness, but it definitely will help us cope better. I remember this beautiful song Na Jaane Kyun from Choti Si Baat (1976, Basu Chatterjee, Vidya Sinha, Amol Palekar, Lata Mangeshkar, Yogesh, Salil Chaudhury) which talks of the pangs of separation poetically! But although the mind will protest and make it difficult for you to accept your “new normal” and move on, it is only acceptance that can aid in the process, that can heal you, that can help deal with the void in your Life. So when you feel lonely, accept that feeling unquestioningly. Also be understanding of your world, of the people around you – don’t complain if they get busy and leave you alone; they have their own lives to live!
Anything that you fight, anything that you resist, will persist. So, don’t fight your sense of loneliness. Embrace it and appreciate it as a non-negotiable reality. When you respect this reality you will realize the futility of clinging on to your past. If someone is dead, so it is. If someone’s left you, so it is. By clinging on to what is over, to however close the relationship may have been, you are only inviting unhappiness and suffering into your Life. So don’t wish that what is true about your Life is not true. The truth can never be untrue just because you don’t like it. Accept what is, feel your pain, feel your sense of loss, feel your loneliness, and also examine the futility of consistently, continuously, feeling this way. The moment you understand its futility, your loneliness will dissolve.
Bottomline: you came here alone and you will go alone from here. Your loneliness is an integral part of the suchness of Life. So, don’t hate it. Embrace it, celebrate it!
Receive Life with open arms, accept its ‘suchness’.
Someone we know separated from her husband 10 years ago. She’s tried in vain to ‘settle’ down in all this time – but despite having been in three relationships, she hasn’t been convinced of any one of them being the ‘right’ one. She met an astrologer who told her that she would be single all her Life. Depressed with what she had been told, she reached out to ask me for my opinion. I said, “I am not going to advice you on what to do. But my view is that if you are not happy with any relationship it may well be because you aren’t relating to any of the men you have met.” “Learn to accept the suchness of Life and move on…not everyone needs to marry and ‘settle’ down in the conventional sense…be happy…if you can find love and companionship in Life, that’s more important than getting married,” I added.
She wasn’t entirely convinced with my perspective. She plodded on: “Why does this often happen in Life? That the most irrational things happen to people?” I replied, “I wish anyone had an answer to these questions. Because, such is Life!”
It was the Buddha who has talked about the suchness of Life. So, in Buddhism there’s this concept of tathata – the suchness of Life. It means, simply, like the title of that famous section in Reader’s Digest: “Life’s Like That!” Or, as the famous show on Doordarshan, that I adored as a teenager, was called: “Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi!”
To understand the concept of tathata – the suchness of Life, let’s pause to think about how Life plays out for us, around us. Almost everything that happens to us, or to anyone else, in Life is just an event. A mere situation. But we humans analyze it, we interpret it and we label it – as wow, good, bad, horrible, whatever! But our labelling a Life event does not change anything. If at all it does cause anything – it only makes us miserable when we think of it as ‘bad’. Life has no agenda. There’s no conspiracy to fix you, just as there is no grand scheme of favoritism to reward you. Life just keeps on happening from moment to moment, from event to event.
When the event in question meets or exceeds your expectations, you rejoice; when it does not happen the way you want it to, you grieve. Now, evidently, there are times in Life when what you want will not happen – no matter how hard you try, how faithful you are, how honest you are and how talented you are. This is when you must understand that talent and integrity do not assure you of a comfortable – defined per your expectations of comfort – passage through Life. Sadly, we often miss this clarity and end up pitying ourselves wondering whether we deserve to be treated so harshly, so unfairly, by Life. But such is Life. It never promised you any fair-play at all when you were born. It offered you no guarantees. So whose fault is it when you expect Life to treat you in a certain way? Understanding Life truly means understanding its suchness. That it is what it is. That what once was will never be forever. That there are no guarantees, nothing’s fair or unfair, that Life just keeps on happening to you the way it wants to. And yet, despite all your challenges and problems, you must go on living your Life, enthusiastically. This is what accepting the ‘suchness’ of Life means.
If you can’t see how you can wrap your head around this concept, think of Aarushi’s parents, the Talwar couple, think of R D Burman, the genius who died without acclaim and work, think of Nirbhaya who was brutally raped and killed, think of someone you know in your family who’s going through an illogical, irrational Life phase just now – all these people’s stories are evidence of the suchness of Life! So whether you are rendered immobile by Life or cashless or companionless or jobless – whatever it may be that Life has dealt you at this time, know that it is so because such is Life! The surest way, therefore, to be anchored in peace, despite your circumstances, is to accept the ‘suchness’ of your Life, unquestioningly.