In today’s Podcast, I reflect on the fact that we are all in a queue, waiting for our impending, inevitable death. We have two options here. Exist cowering in fear and miss the opportunity to live a full Life despite your circumstances. Or accept your reality and choose to live fully – no matter what! I draw perspectives from Anu Menon’s 2016 film ‘Waiting’! Listen time: 5:17 minutes
Don’t expect appreciation and recognition from others. Celebrate yourself!
A young friend is exasperated that no one reads her poems. To be sure she writes very well. There is clearly evidence of a genius at work when she expresses herself through verse. But her beautifully designed and presented blog hardly attracts any traffic. She is upset because she thinks people don’t like her work. She reached out to me to see if I had a perspective to offer on her ‘predicament’. I explained to her that you cannot and must not live your Life for social approbation. What is important is that you are doing what you love doing. In her case it is writing poetry. That’s all that matters. If you start living your Life for social acclaim and applause, you will lead a very incomplete Life. Because someone, somewhere is never going to like or support what you do. On the other hand, if you do what you love doing, you will end up being truly happy – irrespective of whether others appreciate or recognize your work or not!
I curate a popular Event Series called The Bliss Catchers in Chennai. It is a live monthly conversation that celebrates all those who have had the courage to go do what they love doing. In the April 2016 edition of the Series we had a guest, Sridar Natarajan, the Dean of the Chennai Business School, who is also a music composer. In November 2015, he launched his own music album, ‘Reminiscence’, which is a throwback to the melodious music of the 1980s. Someone in the audience asked Sridar if it bothered him that not many people will know of him and his music. And Sridar replied, non-plussed, “Oh! Not at all!! I love the music I create!” I believe everyone must imbibe Sridar’s spirit. Do whatever you do for your inner joy. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it!
But these are times when people are driven by social media pressure. The number of likes and followers someone has on social media seems to have become the benchmark for whether or not someone is worthy of recognition. The quality of one’s work is no longer the only criteria. So, you need not just be immensely talented, you also need to have a followership on social media. Now, it is also true that social media does not necessarily celebrate talent or world-class quality. So, chances are that even if you have something brilliant to offer the world, you may still not get anyone to follow you, because the followers are all grazing in mediocre pastures. So, how does anyone break free from the tyranny of this social media pressure? Very simply, you stop looking for recognition or reward. Love what you do, love yourself and celebrate yourself.
In Anu Menon’s recently-released, beautiful film Waiting, Naseeruddin Shah asks Kalki Koechlin what Twitter is. And when she explains that it is a ‘notice board where people can share their feelings and their work, and others can follow them, like them, converse with them, critique them and criticize (troll) them’, Shah asks her: “What is the point?” The audience laughs heartily, soaking in perhaps the futility of the entire social media charade. To the lay viewer though it may just appear that the question concerns the pointlessness of Twitter, the platform. But, to me, Shah’s comment was also about the pointlessness of seeking engagement, acclaim and approval from others.
Indeed we are all social animals. No doubt about that. But if we live forever pining for recognition from people who have neither the time nor the inclination to understand us or what we do, we are wasting our precious lifetime. So, the only person who needs to love what you are doing is you. Live your Life this way and see how happily you live!
It is always what it is. And you have to go through whatever you have to go through.
A friend had booked for us to watch Anu Menon’s beautiful, beautiful film Waiting last evening. Everything about the movie is so endearing and uplifting – the story, the script, the screenplay, the dialogues, the music and, above all, the brilliant performances by Naseerudin Shah and Kalki Koechlin. I don’t want to talk about the film’s plot so as not to spoil the viewing experience for readers who have not yet watched the film. But instead I want to share what we can learn about Life from Waiting, the movie, and how we can live our Life better while waiting…!
Actually, if you pause to reflect on Life, isn’t it all about waiting; from the time you are born, for your impending, inevitable death? As you wait, you are so consumed by the material pursuits that you indulge in – driven by your wants and social conditioning – that you have missed this point that Life – and living – is nothing but waiting for death. So, when Life gives you a zor ka jhatka that brings a twist to your fairy tale – a relationship issue, a career or business challenge, an irreparable health condition, someone’s death – you begin to want to understand the most inscrutable – Life itself! But because you are so used to having lived Life your way, and are so accustomed to everything being reasoned so logically, you begin with denial, resisting any disruptive – often irrational, illogical – change that comes your way. Your denying the existence of a problem doesn’t make it go away though. The problem persists. So, you ask, partly in anger, partly in grief, partly in helplessness, why, why me? But the problem still persists. You rage on angrily, thinking your aggression can drive your problem away. When this approach doesn’t work, insecurity and fear creep in. Because that which you can’t make sense of always scares you. But fear only cripples you and holds you hostage – and if you are not aware, it can push you into a dark abyss called depression. When after repeatedly banging your head against a wall, when after desperately seeking answers, after trying to rationally, logically analyze your situation, when you find yourself in a no-go, you grudgingly begin to appreciate that between you and Life, you are less powerful. That’s when acceptance comes in. While accepting a problem – your Life for what it is – does not either solve the problem or get rid of it, it sure does help you deal with it better. It is only through facing Life can you live it more meaningfully. So, Waiting, the movie, really helps you understand that you too can be Zen – attaining that seemingly elusive state of equanimity – by accepting your Life for what it is. It teaches you that, while Life is a wait, from birth, for death, there are two possible dimensions to that wait – waiting for you to awaken to your Zen and waiting for death in that awakened, transcendental, Zen state!
Yet, as Ankur Tewari’s lyrics in Waiting’s ‘Zara Zara’ song, sung so soulfully by Kavita Seth and Vishal Dadlani to Mikey McCleary’s music, remind us, it is a slow process. This awakening. This evolution, this arriving at your state of Zen. It happens with the passage of time. It happens slowly through each experience that you encounter, endure and overcome in Life. It happens as an integral process of the journey of Life. But it happens for sure – for each of us, in our own unique ways. In this time you do realize, one way or the other, that only you have to bear your cross in Life, going through what you have to go through, for no one else can or will do it for you! Finally, when you arrive at your personal, individual state of Zen, you realize that the waiting is what makes Life beautiful and meaningful. That’s when you stop waiting for the inevitable end. Instead, you start living, than merely existing, while waiting!