Do you find your Bliss or does your Bliss find you?
We discussed this all-important question in the 52nd Edition of #BlissCatchers last Saturday. #BlissCatchers is a live, reflective, non-commercial Conversation Series that Vaani and I curate and host, exploring the journeys of those who have gone on to what they love doing the most in Life. This Series is supported and sponsored by the Odyssey Bookstore in Adyar, Chennai.
The guests in Saturday’s Edition of the Series were Learning Experience Designer Harish Srinivasan and Photo Journalist and Cinematographer Wide Angle Ravi Shankaran.
Harish may well have ended up as an engineer-turned-corporate-warrior! But, while in Engineering school, in an ambitious bid to find a cure to “fix our unimaginative education system”, he asked a question that led him to follow his Bliss: “Are we willing to listen to the voices of children?” He explored this question and its possible answers with two of his classmates, Aravind and Jaikanth. Straight out of college, the trio set up Infinite Engineers in 2014. As this company’s uber-cool Learning Experience Designer, Harish’s current mission is to make science fun for children. “I am hoping to inspire a few generations to use their intellect to not just acquire knowledge, but to do, think, learn and innovate,” he says.
Ravi believes it is destiny that led him to his Bliss. 35 years ago, playing around with a doctor friend’s camera, Ravi fell in love with the medium. Then, the venerable news photographer Subha Sundaram, his mentor, instilled in him a value that he strives to live by daily – which is, “to bring his unique creative vision into every picture he shoots”. And then came the opportunity to learn from the Master, P C Sreeram, who taught him how “to create art with the magic of light”. “Each of these events were simply meant to be. They have shaped my Life,” says Ravi. True. Without them, there may be no Wide Angle Ravi Shankaran – an ace photographer who straddles the business, news and celebrity genres seamlessly; a brilliant cinematographer who has done documentaries, ad films and several full-length movies; a #BlissCatcher who has showcased his works in five exhibitions!
In both their journeys I found that their Bliss had found them. For instance, when the chairperson of Harish’s college reprimands him and his colleagues for not focusing on their engineering studies, the trio are angry – not defeated – and channelize their anger to go set up Infinite Engineers. And when Ravi is toying with a friend’s camera, he unwittingly embraces a medium that would eventually shape his entire Life. Listen to my entire Conversation with them here.
Not just with Harish and Ravi, but in exploring over a 100 #BlissCatcher journeys, over the last 5+ years, Vaani and I have repeatedly found this pattern: When you step out of the earning-a-living or economic circle of your Life, when you are willing to allow Life to lead you, your Bliss will come calling. It will come back, again and again, whenever you step out of the earning-a-living circle…until you embrace it, until you make your Bliss your Life! This is an irrefutable truth, this is how Life works! Rumi, my favorite poet was, after all, right: “What you seek is seeking you too…!”
But when your Bliss comes calling, you have a huge responsibility: you must trust the process of Life! You have to let go of whatever you are clinging on to and go with the flow of Life. It may be scary, even unnerving, at times, but this is what makes Life’s fun; so, celebrate that sense of uncertainty, that romance, that only an unscripted adventure can offer you. Harish dived deep into his Bliss when he chose, after Engineering school, not to take up a corporate job. And Ravi gave up a regular, well-paying, job to set up Wide Angle; then, when his freelance photography career with Wide Angle was soaring, he took another deep dive, into cinematography – offering start as an apprentice, at age 40, with the Master, P.C.Sreeram.
Now, at face value, it may appear that Bliss requires you to do something daring, something extra-ordinary. But when you pause and reflect, when you examine the lives of happy people around you, folks who are doing what they love doing, you will notice that all these people have allowed themselves to be led by Life. So, Bliss only asks for something simple, something fundamental, something intrinsic to Life, from you. It only asks for you to trust Life. It requires you to let go of the fake sense of economic or social security that you are clinging on to, and take that leap of faith. That’s when your Bliss will find you and draw you into its fold. And, as American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell says, when you do follow your Bliss, unfailingly, doors will open – every single time!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.
“…yeh gham ki ratein, ratein yeh kaali, inko bana de id aur diwali…”
This line is from the iconic Shirdi Wale Sai Baba song, from Manmohan Desai’s 1977 classic, “Amar Akbar Anthony” (AAA). The other night I heard this song, perhaps for the nth time, on TV. A young contestant on this Season’s Indian Idol, Azmat Hussain, sang this song beautifully; incredibly, he sang it in the presence of its composer Pyarelal (of the legendary Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo). Anand Bakshi’s powerful lyrics and Mohd. Rafi’s evocative rendering make this song one of my favorites.
There was a time, however, when I hated this song.
I was 10 years old when AAA released. In the last 42 years, I have watched this movie several hundred times; I never tire of watching it! Yet, for the longest time, I used to think that this devotional song interrupted the fast-paced narrative of the movie. So, I loathed this song – picturized on Rishi Kapoor and his on-screen mother Nirupa Roy, it showcased the miracle of Roy’s eyesight being restored through Shirdi Baba’s grace – in AAA. I have even wondered why Manmohan Desai, who to me is a master filmmaker, resorted to “cheap gimmickry”, often sprinkling liberal doses of Faith, religion, God and miracles in the storylines of his films! In fact, one night, several years ago, I recall telling this to a friend: “It is stupid to rely on miracles when you can write your own destiny”! We both were at the famous Trishna Restaurant & Bar in Mumbai’s Fort area and had downed a few pegs of whisky. Our conversation was about Manmohan Desai’s impressive body of work and I remember vociferously highlighting how this song singularly devalued AAA’s brilliance.
I was in my 20s then. And I was ambitious. I was in a hurry to prove to the world that “I” too could be successful, wealthy and famous.
To be sure, through my 20s and right up to my mid-30s, I did hit several performance targets that I had set for myself. This certainly reiterated my belief then that hard work and integrity always delivered results – which is, they always gave you whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted them! And so, for all that while, I never had any reason to either revisit my views on Life, miracles and destiny or consider the import and relevance of Shirdi Sai Baba’s teachings!
And then the bankruptcy happened to us in end-2007 (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). Groping through it – through worklessness, pennilessness, darkness, insecurity, worry and fear – Vaani and I tried religion, rituals and explored the idea of God in the hope of finding solutions to fix our problems. We also leaned on the sciences of Astrology, Vaastu and Feng Shui. Finally, battered and bruised, realizing that there are no quick fixes in Life, we learnt to let go. We chose to surrender and to go with the flow of Life. We immersed ourselves in prayer. Recognizing that there was indeed a nameless, formless, inscrutable, Higher Energy that governed all Life, we implicitly placed our trust in it. We told each other that we will take each day as it comes, one day at a time, and keep walking, however long it takes us or however far we had to walk. After all, we reasoned, the same Energy that had created us will care for us, will provide for us.
This is how – and when – we discovered Shirdi Baba’s twin philosophies of Faith and Patience. When you pause and reflect, you will agree that Shirdi Baba’s Life’s message is contained in these two simple, magical, words. In fact, at all the shrines dedicated to him, and all through the “Saisatcharita”, you will find these two words staring back at you – “shraddha” and “saburi”, Faith and Patience! Through our cathartic, awakening experience, we understood that Faith is simply the ability to trust the process of Life. And we realized that while we anchor in Faith, we must employ Patience until we get what we want.
To be sure, there is no method, no single way, to anchor in Faith and employ Patience. Letting go, trusting the process of Life and living with Faith and Patience, is the way. Living through our crippling bankruptcy for over 12 years now, Vaani and I have realized that Faith does not always solve our problems immediately. But having Faith in the process of Life – that what goes around, comes around; that what goes up will come down some day, only to go back up another day – certainly helps us to cope with our problems better. Keeping the Faith also teaches us Patience. Unless you embrace these twin philosophies, and live practicing them together, you will not see the miracles in your everyday Life.
The truth is that this Life is a miracle, every moment you are alive is a miracle…the sunrise, the sunset, the dew drop, the moon, the stars, the birds chirping…every thing, and everyone, around you is a miracle. But you miss these everyday miracles because you are steeped in grief, in pining for what is over, what is dead and isn’t there or you are gripped by anxiety and fear, worrying about the unborn future, about what is still to arrive. You are so consumed by imagining that your Life is one endless saga of problems that you don’t see the magic and beauty of your Life, of your miracles. In fact, this human form you have is a miracle; despite your frailties, your circumstances and your vulnerabilities, “you are the miracle you seek”! And, be sure, that you are reading this blogpost now is a miracle. What Vaani and I have learnt is that miracles don’t happen to you because you prayed harder or because you deserve them. Miracles are happening for you, and will continue to happen for you, because you need them. But you can see these miracles only when you are soaked in Faith and Patience, only when you learn to let go and flow with Life!
Anand Bakshi’s lyrics from the song in AAA are pointing to precisely this awakening: “…yeh gham ki ratein, ratein yeh kaali, inko bana de id aur diwali…”…Bakshi’s plea is that of the beleaguered devotee, of the seeker, asking Baba to show the way, to making these dark, sorrowful, nights a celebration, like an Id or Diwali…How can a dark phase in Life ever be a celebration, you may well wonder. Turn to Baba, as we did, and you will find him simply inviting you to keep the Faith and employ Patience.
Vaani and I can relate totally to Bakshi’s song – and particularly to that line – now and to the import of Baba’s twin philosophies. For the record, I no longer think it is stupid to rely on miracles or believe that you can write your own destiny. I actually am in a constant ready-to-celebrate-miracles mode and I totally, unquestioningly, trust the process of Life. And I must report that even though we are still in the throes of our financial crisis, we have seen, at every stage, Life taking care of us, providing us what we need, in the nick of time. While, on the material, evidential, side it is common knowledge now that our children have graduated from universities abroad through “miraculous acts of the Universe”, on the spiritual side, we both have not just survived thus far, we are living a Life of meaning and Purpose. As “the happynesswalas”, we are spending our every waking minute Inspiring ‘Happyness’! In fact, to us both, given our excruciating circumstances, being in this state is a miracle. We are thriving, making each moment – however dark or gruesome it may be – count, celebrating it like an Id, like a Diwali!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: https://www.thehappynesswalas.com/