A lesson from a ghazal and its singer’s Life!

You have only two options in Life – either enjoy the moment or endure the moment!
Jagjit and Chitra Singh: Picture Courtesy – Filmfare/Internet
I recently stumbled upon old recordings of some live concerts of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh on YouTube. Hearing both Jagjit and Chitra sing together is mesmerizing. But we have to make do with only recordings. Because Chitra stopped singing 24 years ago when their only son Vivek died tragically in a road accident in Mumbai in 1990. In 2009 Chitra’s daughter Monica Dutta, from her first marriage,  committed suicide. And in October 2011, Jagjit too passed away. Talking to Filmfare’sFarhana Farook two years ago, Chitra had said: “When I lost Baboo (Vivek’s nickname) the question ‘why me’ would bother me. Not anymore. Spirituality changes your thinking. There has to be a reason whether I understand it or not. Any other woman in my place would have crumbled or become bedridden. But I didn’t allow that to happen. Because I don’t have the luxury of indulging myself.  Also, I’m not scared of death. I welcome it this moment…Since Vivek passed away, there was this thing between my daughter, Papa (she called Jagjit by this name) and me as to who would meet him first. Both of them have beaten me to it! Everything in Life is momentary – yaa jee lo, yaa jhel lo! (enjoy the moment or endure it!) Manzil na de, charag na de, hausla toh de...” The last line of Chitra’s quote is actually the opening line of a famous ghazal (you can listen to the original here) that Chitra and Jagjit used to sing. It means, “If you can’t show me the destination or show me the light (for the way), at least give me the strength to endure”. I can completely relate to Chitra’s grief; she’s seen enough pain for a lifetime but her spirit – though I disagree with her decision not to sing anymore after Vivek’s death – remains unbroken. And that’s my key takeaway.
Life deals with each of us in our own ways. We have our own stories of love, loss, death, betrayal, hurt and grief. When you reflect on the nature of Life, you will realize that there’s really no point getting bogged down if your Life does not go the way you planned for it. Yes, there will be suffering when there’s pain. But you have to overcome that suffering by accepting the pain. As Chitra realized, and shared, there’s no point in asking “why me”. If something happened to you, it happened. Period. Asking “why me” or “why me now” will not undo what has happened. It was in this “why me” phase that Chitra perhaps resolved never to sing again. We can learn from her Life that such a choice was avoidable. Because what happens when we choose, in times of grief or intense suffering, to forsake what gives us joy, is that we indulge in self-martyrdom, self-pity. And that can be debilitating; it will only increase our suffering. Someone like Chitra sang not to earn a living. Music was her Life. It was who she was. Resolving not to sing was like killing the music within her. Whether it is music or art or your chosen vocation, never try to sacrifice who you are just because you believe Life has dealt you a hard blow. As Chitra herself says, thanks to her own evolution through the years, you can either enjoy the moment or endure the moment. There really is no other way. And therefore there’s no point in fighting Life or getting angry with Life for whatever’s happened – or is happening – to you!
The learning from Chitra’s story is simply this: whatever it is that you are faced with in Life, learn to accept it. If there is intense pain, accept it and endure it. Only your accepting pain will end your suffering. And if you are content with whatever you have and whatever is, enjoy each moment. Don’t wish that your Life is any different from what it is now. It is pointless. If you must at all ask for anything of Life, from Life, ask for the strength, as the ghazal goes, to endure it!  

A Pied Piper called Pharrell Williams and the “Happy” virus

Happiness is here, in the now. It is the “truth”. The tragedy is you are unhappy because you are not present in the now!
I remember a story. There once lived a boy, whose family was very wealthy. His father was a workaholic who only wanted to ensure that he made more and more money and that all his wealth was safe. He had no time for his wife and son. One day the father took the boy on a trip to the country, where he aimed to show his son, how poor people live. The father hoped that if the son understood poverty he would grow up to be a responsible lad and a worthy successor to him. So they arrived at the farm of a very poor family, as regarded by the father. They spent a few days there. Upon returning home, the father asked his son if he liked the trip.

“Oh, it was great, dad,” the boy replied.
“Did you notice, how poor people live,” asked the father.
“Yeah, I did,” said the boy.
The father asked his son to enlist his learnings from the trip. 

The boy took a deep breath and went on to share his learnings: “Well, we have only one dog, and they have four of them. In our garden there is a pool, while they have a river, that has no end. We’ve got expensive lanterns, but they have stars above their heads at night. We have the patio, and they have the whole horizon. We have only a small piece of land, while they have the endless fields. We buy food, but they grow it. We have a high fence for protection of our property, and they don‘t need it, as their friends protect them. They are always happy.”

The father was stunned. He could not say a word. 

Then the boy added: “Thank you, dad, for letting me see how poor and how unhappy we are.”

The boy spoke a truth that we often don’t see. In our obsession to build our careers and accumulate assets we are sometimes missing out on simply being – happy! Happiness has become a pursuit whereas it is always within you. Imagine wearing your glasses on your forehead and searching for them all over the house. That’s what we are doing with happiness as well. We can be happy right away, just now, but we are so consumed by our work, careers, meetings and schedules that we end up missing that opportunity to be happy in each moment that we are alive.
My young daughter recently introduced me to Pharrell Williams whose song “Happy” (from Despicable Me 2 / G I R Lis a big hit on social media. I heard the song and instantly liked it. It has simple lyrics and the most significant part of the song, the hook, gets you going…
…Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do…

Virginia-born Williams, a song-writer, rapper and musician, is just 40 but he sure knows what people across the want to be. They want to be happy. Williams’ “Happy” song has become the template for thousands of videos and covers on YouTube that show people in different settings, from different backgrounds, in different countries and cities just letting go and sharing with us what they do when they are happy. The videos have a certain beauty – a rawness, a refreshing, energizing quality in them. They are cool because the people in them are not acting. They are just themselves – being who they are and happy! In the “Happy Bangalore” video, for instance, the conductor and driver of a KSRTC bus are goofing off, grooving to Williams’ song. In another Indian city, a middle-aged lady is really enjoying her jig on the street. To me, Williams’ idea of the song and his appeal to people to “clap along if you know what happiness is to you” is the best thing that could have happened to the world in recent times. Whether it is Barcelona or Berlin or Bangalore or Boston, people are shedding all their inhibitions, letting go of all their pain and worries, and are showing off how happy they are. Sustaining this energy and continuing to be happy despitethe circumstances will require a more determined, personal effort! But at least Williams, like a Pied Piper, has led the way.
Catch the “Happy” virus here Pharrell Williams Happy and hopefully we will see your own cover version of the song on YouTube soon?