Demonetization of Life, not just currency, can make you happier

Live as if money were not an object. And you will live a fuller, happier Life!

The hope among Indians is palpable.

For the first time, the generations that were born after Independence, appear to nurture hope that ‘something worthwhile to seriously cleanse India’ is being attempted. That includes people like me who have been critical of Modi and skeptical about his promise of ‘achche din’. I am not rubbishing his leadership and the efforts of his team over the last 30 months. But I did not see anything worthwhile being done by his government. There was a lot of drama, PR and optics over all his utterances and policies, but it seemed nothing would crack open Indian culture, stamp out its crab mentality and build an ethos of co-ownership and pride in building a clean, efficient nation. To be sure, I liked the Modi idea of a Swach Bharat – but I know it will never be an immediate reality because for that to happen, every Indian must transform. And that is asking way for too much from our aam aadmi! But the idea to demonetize the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes and strangulate the parallel economy, theoretically, holds out hope. Yesterday, while traveling in Uber cars, at coffee shops, talking to rank strangers on the street and going by the conversations on social media and WhatsApp, I got the sense that India is hopeful of this progressive step helping us cleanse her of corruption! Even if this new system does not sound fool-proof – in that corrupt officials and dishonest citizens, unscrupulous politicians and wily black money hoarders will surely do jugaad to work around and through the system – at least, existing stockpiles of ill-gotten money has been reduced to nothing and the so-called rich, notorious and powerful have been rendered momentarily powerless. So, theoretically, the political and governance aspects of this demonetization move appears worthwhile.

But I also see a human dimension playing out across India over the last 24+ hours. Indeed people are helping each other with methods and means to survive the ‘unsettled’ phase till normalcy in cash-based transactions is achieved. A small-time bangle seller in Hyderabad, reports today’s Hindu, gave away a pair of bangles worth Rs.50/- to a bride-to-be because her family did not have change and had only Rs.500/- to transact. People have been reporting of a new ‘way of living’ where they have the money but not the currency to transact. Friends have been talking of ‘feeling lighter and liberated’. And several people have been reaching out and helping the less educated, daily wage earners, get food and basic supplies till they start re-earning a livelihood. It is heart-warming to see humanity thrive in these apparently cold, material, insensitive times.

avis-viswanathan-dont-get-used-by-money

Living without money is not new to Vaani and me. Over the last 9+ years, we are only too familiar with this ‘way of Life’. In fact, my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal talks about how we were left with just Rs.2000 on 31st December 2007 and the film Rise In Love shows the last Rs.80 we had in April 2014 that we gave away to an auto-rickshaw driver. After that incident, for 70 days, over four months, we lived penniless in Chennai. In this time most devices and appliances at home also broke down. So we had no money, no washing machine, no TV, no micro-wave, no mixer. Besides, my mobile phone and Vaani’s laptop crashed too. But Vaani and I never let all this material dysfunctionality affect our spirit. We had no work, no money and no car. So spent a lot of time speaking to each other about our Life, our experiences, our learnings, our love for each other….we went on long walks, for 10 kms, often for over 2~3 hours daily….our walking shoes wore out in this time and we didn’t have money to buy new ones! But we kept walking – literally, figuratively. There was a lot of pain, but we don’t remember suffering!

One day, Vaani discovered that she had only one onion at home. No other vegetables were there. There was no money to buy fresh veggies. So she made khichdi and onion raita. It was a beautiful meal. We focused on the joy of being able to eat the meal together and not on what it comprised of. On another occasion, we suddenly realized we had Rs.236 available in a bank account that we were not using anymore. We felt we could do well with that cash. So we walked a long way to that bank’s ATM to try our luck on whether the account was a. functional and b. if it would allow us to withdraw Rs.200. Our effort paid off on both counts. There was so much joy when the ATM spat out two hundred rupee notes. We both observed that while it seemed so bizarre that we had come to such a level of abject penury, we were grateful for the miracle of that Rs.200 in our hands that evening. We celebrated our fortune by treating ourselves to Rs.5 worth of roasted and salted peanuts we bought from a roadside thelawala. It was an unforgettable, magical experience.

The lessons we have learnt from living without money are invaluable. We have learnt to celebrate Life. We have discovered that watching sunrises and sunsets costs nothing. We have felt magic and beauty in hearing the birds chirp and seeing the trees sway in the breeze. We have learnt to value conversations between ourselves, with our children and among our friends. We find the joy of our companionship priceless. There’s bliss in walking together, through treacherous terrain, even when we are penniless, when we are virtually check-mated legally and financially. All the expensive, candle-lit dinners that we have had in the past, in the most exotic locations across the world, pale in significance and comparison! And we have found great inner peace in giving our time and in sharing our Life learnings, with all those who care to pause and reflect. In fact, we have now understood that while money is very important, money is just a resource. It must be used. And we must never get used, or consumed, by it, by clinging on to it. The real opportunity of happiness, being available free, and 24×7, became visible to us only when money ceased to be an object in our Life. For this realization, we will remain ever grateful to our enduring bankruptcy that truly demonetized our Life. Which is why, I see this 24+-hour currency demonetization experience in India as an opportunity for everyone here to learn to live happily ever after!   

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The zero side-effects-wala divorce is surely possible

Separate as a couple if you must, but stay together as parents.

I saw an interesting – and valid – observation made by Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court in today’s Hindu. He advises estranged couples to put their children first, ahead of even themselves, while working out divorce settlements. This way, he believes, the parents may be able to agree on all their differences and set up a workable, practical, compassionate, parental relationship with their children. I agree with this point of view completely.

Some years ago, this is what I advised a dear friend too. He has a drinking problem which had led him to being out of work. He was often fighting with his wife because she, naturally, hated him being drunk most of the time. One day the poor lady gave my friend an ultimatum that if he wanted to live with her, he must give up his habit. That very evening this friend invited me to a bar for a drink. Two pegs down, he said he was going to divorce his wife for “ruining his peace” and for “giving him an ultimatum”. I asked him if he had thought of his teenage daughter. And he replied he would fight for her custody in court. That’s when I held him a mirror and told him that if he loved his daughter, he must learn to respect his wife’s point of view too. Especially when she had a valid point. I dropped him home that night. To his credit, my friend sat down with his wife and worked out an arrangement where they started to live separately in the same apartment – but with no rancor between them, sharing parental responsibilities, splitting the bills and the chores between them. Their daughter has gone on to college now and the couple look forward to being more independent with their individual choices and outlooks in the years ahead.

DIVORCE-not-handles-properly-hurts-children-forver...I think this couple have implemented a very fair and workable arrangement. And this can be made to work in most cases if a couple can understand that a.) it is perfectly fine to fall out of love, just as they had once fallen in love (irrespective of whether it was before or after marriage!); or b.) it is okay to realize and concede that there was never any love lost between each other at all! The simplest way to clear up all the confusion over a soured or souring relationship is to ask yourself – would I want to (continue to) live with this person if there was so social stigma attached, if there were no financial claims involved and if there were no parental responsibilities towards the children? If you answer yes, then you are no longer relating to your partner in the relationship. Which means, the relationship is dead and you must separate. Now, when the decision to separate is made, think of the children and make them your first priority. Don’t think of social stigma or financial claims, they are surely less relevant that the children. And the way to look at your roles as parents is to be able to give your children the best of both parents and an environment of love and care. This can happen only when the parents are not fighting. So, stop fighting! Period.

Understandably the point when a couple come to separate is fraught with myriad differences. Of opinions, of attitudes, of claims and of just the way they are experiencing each other. It is also possible that while one partner may be willing to see the larger picture – involving the welfare of the children – the other may not. This is where a spiritual perspective comes in handy. If you consider the futility of any fight that saps all your energy and fills you with anger and negativity, you will want to clearly abandon it. A good fight, if at all, is when you don’t suffer while going through the process of fighting. There is a lot of endurance which is tested but you believe in the cause you are fighting for. Often most fights stop being worth it because they are not cause-led, they are ego-driven. Which is why they turn bitter. And divorce proceedings are no exception. However, when you bring in this understanding that you will first work for your children to get a compassionate environment, that allows both parental influences to thrive, you will see value in dropping all differences and moving on! Bottomline: it is totally unnecessary that divorcing couples fight with each other at the cost of their children. This is the way to go through a divorce without side-effects!

 

Sunny Leone is more spiritual than most people around us

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!
Here’s today’s blogpost!
Spirituality does not impose any conditions on your being. It is the flowering of inner awareness that brings you to be present in whatever is.
Sunny Leone
Picture Courtesy: Internet
There’s this whole song and dance, well we can call it drama too, over Bollywood actor Sunny Leone’s interview with CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey. I have not seen any of Sunny Leone’s movies nor have I dug up her footprint, as an erstwhile porn star, online. I have also had no interest in any interview she has given up until now. That’s when my friend BG’s story on the actor and her interview appeared in The Hindu this morning. Now, BG’s someone I respect a lot. And his concluding line, “…Until now, she was a small-time actor, the interview made her a heroine.”…caught my attention. So I googled and pulled up Chaubey’s interview with Leone and watched it. I not only concur with BG’s perspective but I go a step further: I don’t just think Leone is gorgeous-looking, sexy if you will, I believe she’s very, very, spiritual too.
I have no comments to offer on Chaubey’s interviewing style or the quality and tone of his questions. That’s his way of Life. So, my perspective here is not because I disagree with what Chaubey asked or did, but is here because I agree with, and can relate to, everything that Leone said. It takes an evolved person to say that I have no regrets about the past. And Leone does not just say it, she says it with a deep conviction. She says, “ …Everything that I have done in my Life, has led me (in)to this seat…it’s a chain reaction that happens…everything is a stepping stone…when you are young you make decisions that lead you to who you are as an adult…” To me, Leone’s interview offers an unputdownable lesson in spirituality. It left me admiring this young lady for her ability to hold herself up with dignity, when so many people are hell bent on judging her. Watch the full interview here:

I make no comparisons here. But interestingly, at the recently concluded Hindu Lit for Life event, ace photographer Raghu Rai, who was in conversation with renowned art editor Sadanand Menon, said something very similar: “I am just a sum of all the experiences I have been through in Life. Everything that I have done in my Life has made me the person that I am today.” Everyone who heard Rai share with Menon came back feeling reflective and spiritual.

And truly, that’s all there is to Life. We all are a product of the time and the experiences we go through. There’s nothing right or wrong about the choices we make. Each choice leads us to another one and that one leads to yet another. And through choosing, falling, crawling, getting up, flying and falling again, we learn to choose better and cruise along in Life. Leone’s choice of opting to be in the porn industry was not very different from my choice of having been a salesman early on in my career or Rai’s choice of being a news photographer for several years. In the end, really, no experience is a waste and no experience is bad. Each one teaches you something, provided you are willing to learn.

As I see it, there’s a lot I can learn from Leone. She displays humility, acceptance and a keenness to just let things be. For instance, she says that she has neither been “haunted” or “held back” by her past. She tells Chaubey that she does not want to think of a future – of acting with a big star like Aamir Khan – that is not yet born: “At this moment I don’t know (about the future) any better.” I wish, instead of bringing a hypocritical sense of morality into play, that people pause and reflect on Leone’s interview for the honesty she inspires through it. That and her ability to be who she is, celebrating herself, without any regrets of a past that is dead and gone, and without any anxieties over an unborn future, are very spiritual qualities.  To me, those qualities make her more spiritual – and not just sexy – than most people around us are. 

“Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question!

Life knows no fair play or foul play. Life is simply in an eternal state of play!
As I write this The Hindu’s website is breaking news that there has allegedly been a rape on the Pune campus of IT major Infosys (Infy). My first reaction, that I even tweeted (@AVISViswanathan), was “Gosh! There must be a way to end all this!” Earlier this morning in The Hindu’s Open Page, Rya Sanovar asks a very pertinent, albeit disturbing, question: “Why do I get and they don’t? Is this world we live in so unfair that it can’t provide its people the basic amenities of Life?”
The word ‘amenities’ can be replaced with ‘security’, or with ‘dignity’, and Sanovar’s question will still ring true. Yet there’s no point asking that question. Life never promised anything, least of all fairness, to anyone. Fairness and unfairness are social labels. They expectations that are born from within us humans. Life is simply at play. Life keeps on happening: one event after another. And each event, each happening in Life, is an experience for sure, and, if you care to pause and reflect, it can be a learning too. To crave for fair play from Life is to invite misery. Period.
In the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011), Farhan Akhtar recites his father Javed Akhtar’s poetry. One of the poems is this one:
Dil Aakhir Tu Kyun Rota Hai?
Jab jab dard ka baadal chhaya

Jab gham ka saya lehraaya

Jab aansoo palkon tak aaya

Jab yeh tanha dil ghabraaya

Hum ne dil ko yeh samjhaya

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai?

Duniya mein yun hi hota hai

Yeh jo gehre sannate hain

Waqt ne sabko hi baante hain
Thoda gham hai sabka qissa
Thodi dhoop hai sabka hissa

Aankh teri bekaar hi nam hai

Har pal ek naya mausam hai

Kyun tu aise pal khota hai

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Listen to/watch the original poem here


The poem so beautifully captures the essence of what I am trying to say here – that Life distributes sunshine and sorrow equally. Yet, it appears unequal to us because we compare. When you compare your home with Mukesh and Nita Ambani’s Antilia, you may feel, in real estate terms, poorer, less endowed. But when you see what you have compared to the person who seeks your attention – and alms – at a traffic signal, and who sleeps on the pavement, you feel so much more blessed. The truth is all our lives are perfect – yours, mine, Mukesh’s and Nita’s, and the pavement dweller’s. Each of us has what we need and gets what is due to us. Comparisons, therefore, serve no purpose. They simply ruin your inner peace. Besides, there’s no point in asking why is Life unfair or why is there inequality, why is there hunger, why is there rape and so on. “Why?”, in the context of Life, is a wasted question! Instead ask yourself how you can contribute to make this world better – how you can bridge the inequality gap, how you can feed someone today, how you can touch a Life and make a difference?

Life may not have promised fair play. But Life’s always open to you playing along. Will you?