Lessons from a Star and a Super Star

Never get deceived by success and fame. They are both fickle and fleeting.
Yuvi: With Player of The Tournament Trophy and ICC ODI WC 2011
Picture Courtesy: Internet
As the curtains came down on the ICC T20 WC at Dhaka last night, India’s sad loss in the Final led to angry fans venting their fury against Yuvraj Singh, once India’s Star player, online. While many critical views were expressed, questioning the pace of his innings (11 runs off 21 balls) and his very place in the team, some were outrageously rabid. Many called Yuvi a traitor. Some called him an “idiot” or such other uncharitable names. Although in Life, and in sport, you are only as good as your last effort or innings, and while critique is understandable, my personal view is that mindless criticism must ideally be avoided. Yuvi’s classic performance in the ICC ODI WC in 2011, which India won, and in which he was the Player of the Tournament, seems to have been forgotten. Also his record-making, six sixes in an over in the 2007 ICC T20 WC in South Africa, seemed a distant, historic data point last night. What was uppermost on everyone’s mind was that Yuvi had failed – yet again in the just-concluded championship – and that he needed to be crucified for India’s defeat in the Finals.
There’s a lesson for all of us from this chapter in Yuvi’s roller-coaster Life – if we care to pause and reflect. I am not suggesting that we should not review M S Dhoni’s decision to play Yuvi in the Final or in the slot that he batted. That’s the job of Team India and the selection committee of the BCCI. I am not saying fans don’t have a right to feel outraged. All I am saying is that here’s a lesson for all of us. No matter who you are or what you have achieved and how well you have served, when you fail, at whatever you are doing, you will find yourself alone. In that moment of loneliness, introspection is the key. Don’t grieve over what the world says, don’t agonize over the loss of fame or name, don’t brood over you actions – simply take Life as it is happening to you just then.
The nature of Life is that it can never keep you in one place. If you are on top, a fall is inevitable. If you are down, you can’t stay there for too long either – you will be hoisted up for sure. No fall is permanent. No conquest is forever. And no pole position is permanent. Each of us is a product of the time that we go through. For Yuvi, the fall will hurt harder because it is cricket – the sport is a religion in India, the fans are very demanding and unforgiving, and so he has to deal with a public scrutiny of his intent and talent. For many of us, our falls happen in our own limited, private, often small worlds. Even so, our pain will be the same as Yuvi’s. Whether you lose in business or in career or in a relationship – whatever be your loss, analysis by peers, family and society only makes the loss even more difficult to fathom and accept. The best way to deal with such situations is to remind yourself that everything is transient. Most certainly, fame, money, glory, success, defeat and loss are impermanent!
I remember an acceptance speech that Bollywood’s first and original Super Star Rajesh Khanna delivered at an India International Film Award event some years ago, when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the man who dethroned him from superstardom, Amitabh Bachchan. Khanna said: “Everything – name, fame, glory – everything is impermanent. Where I am now someone else was in this place and someone else will be in this place when I am gone…” (Follow this link Rajesh Khanna IFFA Acceptance Speech to listen to that memorable acceptance speech) This is the irrefutable truth about Life.
The lesson from Yuvi’s fall from grace last night – and from Khanna’s wisdom – is that we must learn to take success, defeat, fame, fall, glory and loss all in the stride. We must learn to practice equanimity – which is really the ability to be untouched and unmoved by anything, in any situation. This may appear difficult to do. But this is the only way you can be peaceful within – and avoid all suffering – even as you deal with Life’s vagaries outside. 

When Life has a purposeful pursuit, it matters

This morning’s news in India has, as usual, been filled with news of scams and scandals – what with more gory details of the spot-fixing episode that grips cricket in India and the story of self-destruction by a dynamic CEO of a large IT company hogging the headlines! But the story that caught my attention, buried in the inside pages of most papers, filled me with hope, enthusiasm and offered me a teachable point of view.

This is the story of 26-year-old national Volleyball champion Arunima Sinha, who, yesterday, became the first Indian amputee to scale Mt.Everest. What’s remarkable is not only that Arunima is a woman or that she is an amputee. What’s remarkable is that she overcame tragedy, several odds, enormous pain and bounced back in record time – in about 24 months since she was thrown off a moving train in April 2011 for resisting a chain-snatching attempt by some criminals! She landed on the tracks and before she knew it a train approaching from the opposite direction had run over her left leg. To save her Life, doctors had to amputate her left leg below the knee. Arunima says she decided to fight back because she did not want people to look at her with “pity”. Her accident made national headlines because of the apathy the government showed in offering her support despite her being a national sports champion. The Sports Ministry offered her just Rs.25,000 (USD 500 approx) as compensation before it was upped to Rs.200,000 (USD 4000 approx) following a nation-wide outcry. Cricketer Yuvraj Singh offered her Rs.200,000 in his personal capacity to support her treatment and rehabilitation. Arunima decided to overcome her crippling injury and decided to think of doing something “audacious” for an amputee. The Tata Steel Adventure Foundation and the first Indian woman Everest summiteer Bachendri Pal supported her Vision which finally came true yesterday as she scaled the world’s tallest peak.

Arunima: Ms.Audacious
Arunima’s story is hugely inspiring.

All of us, like her, will encounter pain and tragedy in Life. We will fall. And simply not feel like getting up. As a national sports champion, in the prime of your sporting years, imagine losing a limb for no fault of yours. Imagine having to face up to an indifferent establishment that makes a mockery of the role that it has been set up to play. Both these can depress and anger the bravest heart. The initial response will be to pity oneself and will be to seethe with anger over the helplessness to do anything to set things right, to avenge the situation and to bring an apathetic administration to book. Any of us would have responded similarly, in our own tragic situations – with self-pity, depression, anger and cynicism. We may have ended up becoming bitter with Life.

But Arunima flipped the paradigm. She rejected pity and looked for something that seemed impossible to achieve and immersed herself in its pursuit. This shut out all negativity from her. When your Life has a purposeful pursuit, it begins to matter. Through her resolve and intent she connected with the right partners and did what most people would not even dare thinking about!

Remember that when pain and tragedy come calling, they don’t choose their targets basis income or social strata. Each of us is vulnerable at least as long as we are alive! The immediate response to tragedy is to grieve, to pity oneself and to plunge into depression. Arunima inspires us to look the other way. She invites us to take the situation head-on by thinking of doing the unthinkable in such a context. Life loves people like Arunima who pick up the gauntlet it throws. Then the same Life that created the tragedy in the first place conspires to make it a celebration – of hope, faith, patience and triumph!