New tune Newton

Newton is refreshing, stark, hard hitting, pure, timely, subtle, honest, humorous, thought provoking, wistful, pithy, absorbing, engaging, meaningful, interesting and sharp. In fact, I run out of adjectives to describe this powerhouse of a movie. Blessed with some superb casting and an even more amazingly tight script {just 108 mins} , this is an absolute MUST SEE movie that challenges the typical escapist fare that Bollywood doles out to us week and week. And due to Rajkumar Rao’s stellar performance and Amit Masurkar’s (Director and Script writer) contribution it will leave you spell bound.

The theme is absolutely unique: a rookie government clerk foisted into an election tour of duty, which no one wants :  as the scene is set in Maoist infested jungles of Chattisgarh. The story revolves around how this seemingly unlikely hero stands up for the election process and fights the establishment (security forces, media, local apathy, and the police) to allow the tribal voters to exercise their franchise. In this effort, he is assisted by a motley gang of four who themselves are hardly convinced about what they are doing. But Newton stands firm and challenges all around him to allow the “dance of democracy” to roll unfettered under his watch!!

The movie makes you laugh. And the movie makes you think. The small vignettes played out by the characters will leave a lasting memory. Dialogues sparkle!! Some of my memorable moments were :

  • the name Newton is coined by Rajkumar himself:as he explains: Nutankumar me se nu ko hamne “new” banaya aur tan ko “Ton” so ho gaya Newton
  • when one of the Election Duty team confesses he is here only because he saw an opportunity to ride a helicopter, which he had never done before
  • The old and tottering village Patel offering to intervene in the standoff between Election Duty Officer and the Security Incharge (beautifully enacted by Pankaj Mishra)  even as he cannot even stand upright as he  intervenes in the argument
  • The world weary Raghubir Yadav calmly combing his hair when madness is all around and his  Presiding Officer is tense
  • the Security detail forcing the tribals to cook “desi” chicken curry and requisitioning the local hooch for their afternoon repast
  • the tribal school teacher Malko’s reply when she is asked whether she is a “nirashavadi” : she says she is just “an adivasi “
  • Atma Singh ( Pankaj Mishra) explaining to the people to use the Electronic Voting Machine :- ” uspe cycle hai, paani hai, motorcycle hai, diya hai, jo kuch chahiye uske samne ka button press karo”
  • Or the same Atma Singh counseling Rajkumar Rao : “Newton ho, Einstein ban ne ki koshish mat karo”

As a movie, what is most heartening is that there is no pretense, no sham. Everything is true to life: so close to reality that it hurts; and yet at another level: it tickles. The top gun in Police is only interested in impressing the foreign journalist;  maybe all the more, as she is a lady. He has no interest except ensuring normal semblance: “izzat ka sawaal hai”. Or the way he brushes aside Rajkumar Rao’s apprehensions, when he tries to complain. His response: ” Koi booth capturing hua hai? False voting hua hai? Violence hua hai?” If all this has not happened, he cannot understand or take cognizance of the basic travesty of justice or the total rape of the electoral process. Rather he consoles the Presiding Officer and walks away.

The magic of the director came across to me in two scenes most strongly:

  • in one memorable shot, Rajkumar as the Presiding Election Officer on duty has spent the entire morning half waiting for voters to arrive. He sits at a table in an empty class room and the camera pans long shot to the blank, stark blackboard just behind his chair. The camera continues to go behind and show the dark yellowing wall behind the blackboard: equally blank: equally harsh: equally stark as the situation the protagonist finds himself in . Salutations Directorji for the thoughtful composition of that shot.
  • When Malko is leaving, Loknath laughs at Newton sir’s card where he has drawn a five of spades. The school teacher Malko’s response will remain with me for long. She points out to Loknath that the 5 can represent the 5 fingers of a hand. When they come together, it forms a fist: substantially increasing it’s power. And further she points one finger at the head signifying the fist can be directed/led by the head/intelligence to achieve much, using the proverbial “sixth sense”. Reminded me of the Zen masters’ teaching. It has the same simplicity of thought and yet is so profound in it’s import.

To end I quote the famous Director Hansal Mehta’s tweet : Making films is not a race with a finish line but just a never ending search for your ‘self’. Thank you  for reminding me of this.

I owe you Newton for making me think, and taking me deep within myself: vikas

Zero tolerance

Indian society has always been considered tolerant, compared to most others; and we tend to give credit to our multi-faceted lineage and our upbringing where we have been taught Vasudeva Kutumbakkam  “the entire world is my family”. I am forever intrigued by the  variability in tolerance different people and organizations show. And so exploring this here. Look forward to others’ views as we all have different perspectives and experiences on this important topic.  Tolerance is defined as the capacity or practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs/practices of others.  And we all know that differences abound!! In fact differences make life so enjoyable – colorful and rich!! And yet some differences get so deep rooted, and seemingly irreconcilable, that tolerance goes out of the window. When and why does that happen? is a worthwhile inquiry.

Etymologically “tolerance” word was first used in the 15th century. Derived from endurance and fortitude, the word was first used to to describe “having permission from the authorities”. Of course well before the 15th century enough examples of tolerance were seen  and expounded. Cyrus the Great released the Jews from captivity and allowed them to return to their homeland. The Roman empire was known to allow the conquered people to continue to worship their own Gods.  In the Old Testament Book of Exodus 22:21 says: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him”. Tolerance personified?

Hindu philosophy was always about inclusion and respecting diversity. Vishnu Purana and the various avatars of Vishnu show that we readily accepted Fishes and Tortoises and Boars (Matsya, Koorma, Varaha) as God. This transitioned into a half man half animal Narasimha avatar; before moving to a human representation of Vishnu as Vamana then Parshurama,  Rama and so on. The challenge to the Hindu philosophy epitomized by the Buddha and his philosophy was dealt with by subsuming even Buddha as one of the avatars of Vishnu in some Hinduism texts! In this context and background the intolerance that we see today in the name of religion is oftentimes  saddening. In pursuit of the most laudable and lofty objective of going closer to God, how can we get divided so deeply into sects and castes and be at loggerheads with one who does not follow my discipline, my reality, my God?

This same approach we see in our housing societies and clubs. Deep chasms develop quickly and we tend to see differences as unbridgeable gaps. “If you are not with us then you are against us” is the prevalent philosophy. Rather than understand and reconcile differences, people start taking joy in accentuating differences and holding forth the differences as opposing flags and rallying cries to deepen the intervening valleys further!!  We seem to have forgotten the edict from the Holy Koran: “There are a thousand ways to reach the Allah”. No one path is right: all roads lead to the same end. So tolerance and mutual understanding should be our guiding star.

Even commercial organizations which should be driven together by common goals and objectives see the same intolerance of alternate and different opinions. That is why you hear of bosses who say ” My way or the highway”.  Recently I came across a cartoon where a Boss is addressing his team and tells them  “I like people who in their own individual manner find a way of saying ‘Boss you are right’ “. Many of us will recollect the group think that emerges when such bosses are around. People don’t give their opinions as they feel it will serve no purpose whatsoever. Rather it will isolate and identify me in the eyes of the dictatorial boss and expose me to more pain. So the intelligent and creative subordinate becomes quiet and withdrawn, tolerant of the mayhem around him, biding the time when he can move on to a more open culture, a more accepting team, a more tolerant boss.

I was fortunate to work in an organization with had multiple lines of business. And at one time saw two totally contradictory styles of management. One Boss was loud and unforgiving. He loved the sound of his own voice. He held “durbars” and not meetings. His meetings had a start time but never any defined end time. People were summoned and tortured. Laughed at if their opinion differed from that of the boss. The other SBU Head however encouraged dissent. He made it clear his was one opinion but the final decision would be taken jointly. All functions were involved in every cross functional matter. Understanding and blending different perspectives was the preferred way forward. He truly believed and practiced tolerance and mutual respect. No prizes for guessing which SBU head did well and which SBU head soon found himself out of a job, out of a team, out of the company.

Today corporate reality or even social and familial reality for that matter has become so complex and involved that no one can claim full expertise or knowledge. In this context,  ability to hear differing opinions and blending sometimes contradictory approaches, to fashion a creatively new solution, is the only way to survive. There is only one verb tolerate and one adjective tolerant but the two nouns Tolerance and Toleration have both come to acquire different meanings. As parents we must understand that the highest result of education is tolerance. Our parenting must be full of examples when we can tell our children ( and our corporate teams) “I do not like X but I am ok if you do it” OR  “I like Y  but I am ok if you do not do it”. The day we do this with equanimity we have understood tolerance.

A la Voltaire let us remember, we are all formed of frailty and error: let us pardon reciprocally, each other’s folly!!!!

 

May acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness alter your life: vikas

Shit happens

One of the inspiring stories I had heard was about this donkey who had become very old (like me). The Farmer had been served well by the donkey;  but now,  he could neither see very clearly nor serve as a beast of burden.  The Farmer was a kind soul,  and so allowed him to just carry on. One day,  due to his poor eyesight,  the donkey did not see the old dry well: and fell right in!!! It was a 14/15 feet fall and so obviously the donkey could not climb out of the dry well. Nor could the Farmer put down ropes and physically pull the donkey out. And pull out for what? thought the farmer. The donkey is of no use anyway (again like yours truly),  can’t pull his weight around the farm,  do any productive work,  etc etc. Yet considering the donkey’s prior committed service,  the Farmer thought he deserved a decent burial. In the  same dry well!!. So the farmer began shoveling some dirt and mud into the well: with an idea to cover up the donkey and let him die in peace!!

What did the donkey do? (again like me??)  With every shovel full of mud and muck thrown on him: he shook it off and stepped up. Shake it off and Step up. And as the mud kept raining down on him,  lo and behold,   there came a time when the donkey was near the mouth of the dry well : and could just walk out to life and liberty!!!

In every adversity: you have a choice. Do I feel miserable for the inequities rained on me? Do I curse the powers that be? Do I rive and rail at the uncertainties of life? Do I wallow in self pity and curse my stars or my past? Or do I emulate the donkey? Learn from him and say : “Shake it off and step up”  As soon as I learn this magic formula of Shake it off and Step up I soon find myself out of the woods and into a space of freedom and joy.

Unfortunately most of us are so upset with the closing of one door: that we continue to berate our fate and stare at the closed door : little realizing that so many other doors are opening up, and we can Move On!.  But we still get stuck and beat out head against the closed doors in our life: thereby not paying attention to the other opportunities that are open,  other doors which take us to a new realm.

Every area of human endeavor is replete with examples we can learn from! Take Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She did not rise to the list of Forbes’ Most influential Women Leaders by any wave of the proverbial magic wand. She chose to study  in Australia specializing in malting and brewing and topped her class. Despite this specialist  knowledge, she was told she could not be a Master Brewer as that was a “man’s job”. This closing of the door, encouraged her move abroad where she met Leslie Auchincloss,  founder of Biocon Ireland who happened to be looking for a partner to expand into India!! Rest is corporate history!! But few know that Kiran had negotiated with Leslie that she would get a Master Brewer position equivalent,  in case Biocon India did not work out. I think Leslie is still waiting near the open door: waiting for Kiran; while she has moved on.

Do we move on? Do we Let Go? Or we become a Narayan Murthy who speaks of Letting Go but at the first possible turn: wants to hold on and not Let Go!! If only Shri Murthy had stayed as the “chief Mentor” or a la Nandan Nilekani,  moved on to other pastures. Nandan moved from an entrepreneur to a corporate role; thence to a role as a bureaucrat and politician. His stint as the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India was full of glorious achievements and putting India well on the road to digitization.   And yet again the skin is shed and he is now in the hot saddle vacated by Sikka, and vitiated by NRN. His wholesome smile and ease is open for all to see. We see a true karma yogi here.

Truly we see the live exemplification of :

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि।

तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही।। Bhagwat Geeta Verse 22 Chap 2

जैसे जगत् में मनुष्य पुराने जीर्ण वस्त्रोंको त्याग कर अन्य नवीन वस्त्रोंको ग्रहण करते हैं, वैसे हीजीवात्मा पुराने शरीरोंको छोड़कर अन्यान्य नवीन शरीरोंको प्राप्त करता है. अभिप्राय यह कि जीवात्मा सदा  ही निर्विकार रहता है.

How we all, who were worshipers of NRN in his earlier avatar, fondly wish Mr Murthy had shown this निर्विकार attitude. Or for that matter, wish so had Mr Ratan Tata. Or even Mr Cyrus Mistry. By their belligerent actions and public displays all these icons have shown their feet of clay. Shown that Letting Go was difficult for them. Carrying on seemed easier for them. and they were ready to cause enormous losses and harm to the organizations they lived for, the values they publicly espoused just because they were unable to Shake it off and Step up.

Politics also gives us so many examples. The Gandhi family since Indira have never felt like Letting Go and we have the 3rd generation of Gandhis being foisted on an unsuspecting Indian populace. Admittedly, Rahul baba takes the joke on the Indian voters to a really new abysmal level. Look at Lallu and Rabdi. If you wonder what was Rabdi Devi’s legitimacy: you might as well question even what was Lallu’s claim to fame??!!  Nitish in Bihar, Jayalalitha in TN: how many names we need to recount to conclude that the people in power never want to let go: they believe and act as though India  is their jagir which they can pass on like the cattle, hearth and chattel much like the British Lords and gentry.

Looking at all this evidence I conclude: Letting Go is important if you need to grow and move ahead. It is only in shedding the past will you learn and master the future.  Others who give you dollops of sympathy: are not your real friends!! You only need to focus on your own actions. Move on in life. There is miles to go. Let go: rather than carry the past as a burden which will slow you down forever.  Learn from the donkey: Shake it off and Step up. You will soon see a new robust future.

That is why possibly Swami Vivekanand says: “Men, Men.  Men- these are wanted. Everything else will come.” { For my emancipated lady friends: here “men” includes women and vice versa. Remember Swami Vivekananda most illustrious disciple was Sister Nivedita}. Imagine the world if Rudolf Diesel was not able to Let Go of the conventional wisdom of the time and develop an engine that could be ignited without a spark, but just by pressure!. Imagine if Bill Gates was not able to Let Go and move forward as he incorporated so many path breaking ideas in nascent computer operating systems.  Imagine Steve Jobs not being able to move on when he was sacked from Apple, a company he founded, by a Board he incorporated , and a CEO he had chosen. Letting Go, Moving On, and Shaking it off, he set up Pixar and that was his calling card to reenter Apple for his second glorious stint. Can our NRN and Ratan Tatas and Cyrus Mistrys and Yogi Deveshwars and Amol Naiks learn from Steve Jobs to Let go and Move On? Or will Nagavara Murthys and Rahul Gandhis and Roshni Nadars and Isha Ambanis continue in our public life as evidence that Shit Happens!!

 

Remember, Life is a four letter word.: Love it and Make it: despite it all: vikas

 

Bareilly ki Barfi

Effervescent, entertaining, engaging, enjoyable.

An absolutely MUST SEE movie.

It is an emergent spark of the coming of age of the Bollywood factory! Every week we see so many films being released. But Bareilly ki Barfi is the clarion call that Bollywood has come of age and is not afraid of showing totally human, totally believable characters. People like you and me. People who act absolutely human. And do not put on any “filmi” airs. They live very normal lives. Day to day humdrum things happen to them. And amidst it all: a lovely story flowers and entertains you.

No actions of any of the characters is “super human”, which has become the norm of all the Hindi potboilers. Here is a under the wraps writer Chirag (Ayushman) who publishes his trashy fictional book under someone else’s name and photograph. And when Bitti Sharma (Kirti Sanon)  reads the book and changes her life’s course and wants to meet the author Vidrohi ( Rajkumar Rao),  Chirag has to play role of getting Bitti to meet Vidrohi. The proverbial love triangle ensues with Chirag falling heads over heels for Bitti while Bitti only wants Vidrohi in her life. Vidrohi is engagingly played by Rajkumar. First aloof, then interested in Bitti, coming up against Chirag ;  who is now caught in a web of his own subterfuge, as he has projected Vidrohi rather than openly accepting he was the real author of the novel that Bitti actually seeks.

Rakjumar shows what a great actor performer he has become. He is a total scene stealer in his various avatars; Sari salesman, scared friend, local aggressive loudmouth, man in love, and finally challenger of Chirag. Each scene in which he is on screen just effortlessly belongs to him and his acting prowess. The movie is worth watching just to see the craft and skill of Rajkumar.

Kirti Sanon ( whom I saw first time on screen) has remarkable confidence and presence. She brings Bitti Sharma to life. Her interactions with her friend, her mother, her father, with Chirag, in her Electricity Dept Complaint Office, her first hating Vidrohi’s loudness and then falling in love with Vidrohi :  all are done with ease and elan. While the totally believable script characterization helps her, she deserves full credit of carrying it off well.  I saw Anushka Sharma’s confidence and star power (displayed in Rab ne Bana di Jodi and Band Baja Baraat) take birth all over again in Kirti, in the way she has played Bitti.

Ayushman as Chirag plays the first half very well. He is great as the small town publisher who falls head over heels for Bitti and woos his damsel. But he falters when Chirag brings in Vidrohi as a counterfoil in Bitti’s lovestory. Maybe the sheer acting prowess of Rajkumar finds it’s first victim in Ayushman’s Chirag. Ayushman is not able to hold his character or his acting together after Rajkumar as Vidrohi enters the story. His only solace is that he finally gets the girl.

On 2 other fronts Bareilly ki Barfi sparkles. All the support characters of Bitti’s parents, Chirag’s friend, Vidrohi’s mother are played to perfection and leave a lasting impression. Secondly the script writing by Nitish Tiwari (of Dangaal fame) is a class apart. The sheer repartee and clean riposte keeps you bubbling and cheery for the entire 2 hours 2 minutes of the movie. Nary a dull moment, it actually grows from strength to strength.

So Bareilly ki Barfi is sweet. Sweet from beginning to end. And leaves a lovely taste in your heart as you leave the theater.

Here is hoping the Imtiaz Alis and the Karan Johars and Anurag Kashyaps and Aditya Chopras gather some courage from the director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari and writer Nitesh Tiwari and show us some truly believable characters like Bitti and Chirag and Vidrohi in their romcoms.

So next time you are in Bareilly ka bazaar don’t search for jhumkas.

Savor Bareilly ki barfi instead: vikas

My Choice

John Steinbeck, in his typical profound manner, tells us: ” the Hebrew word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not’.” (emphasis added). How well this captures the entire journey of our life!! It is always a struggle between “thou mayest” and “thou mayest not” and the final choice that we make in a given circumstance. Truly the choices that we make, make us!!!

Imagine that fateful day, when young Narendra decided that he must meet someone who has “met God” and was in search of such a Guru. On reaching Dakshineshwar he asked  “Have you seen or experienced God?”. The fateful reply of Ramakrishna,”Yes, I have seen God. I see Him as I see you here, only more clearly. God can be seen. … If one cries sincerely for God, one can surely see Him.”. Bewildered and puzzled, Narendra returned to Calcutta, but  was convinced the words sprung from deep inner experiences. So he returned to meet Ramakrishna again and again; till he was transformed into Swami Vivekanada. Advaita Vedantism owes a great debt to that fateful meeting and of course to Vivekananda’s decision to go to the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893. His speech there ” Sisters and Brothers of America, It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise…” changed the course of seeing Hinduism as the religion of true tolerance and universal acceptance.

Or take the case of Gandhi. When travelling to Pretoria, with a legitimate First Class ticket, he was thrown off the train on the instigation of a white man. Instead of fleeing the scene, Gandhi stayed back for 21 years to fight for Indians in Africa. Gandhi’s travails at Pietermaritzburg railway station was akin to a second birth.  It was said: “When Gandhi was evicted from the train, an Indian visiting South Africa fell but when Gandhi rose, an Indian South African rose.” The aborted train journey finally took Gandhi far beyond Pretoria!! His concepts of peaceful resistance were born from his choice of not accepting injustice. This in turn would shape his entire Nonviolence and Satyagraha philosophy which gave India its freedom from the British; while till then “Sun never set on the British Empire” The first blow to that superstructure was in Peitermaritzburg;  finding its resonance in the birth of India, Pakistan, Australia,  Kenya,  and so many other countries’ independence. (Sotto voce: we must locate and thank the white man who objected to Gandhi’s presence in the train compartment!!) General Smuts put it well:”men like Mahatma Gandhi redeem us from a sense of commonplace and futility and are an inspiration to us not to weary in well doing”. Truly, to do or not to do:  it is our choice!!!

Jawaharlal Nehru’s approach on Article 370 and  J&K; his actions and decisions in the China War in 1962 were bereft of his genial Chacha Nehru lover of children and roses image.  His choices at that time shape our present day actions vis-a-vis J&K as well as China.

Indira Gandhi’s Declaration of Emergency in 1975 gives many great examples of choices altering the course of history. The split of the hoary Congress that Indira engineered in 1969 – Congress(O) and Congress(R) – were the beginning of her megalomania. Riding on the back of populist measures like Nationalisation of Banks & Abolition of Privy Purses, Indira got a catchy slogan of Garibi Hatao to pilot a thumping majority in Parliament in 1971 elections. This fueled her greed for power even more. Newly anointed with Bharat Ratna, Indira won a war against Pakistan, freeing Bangla Desh. She started dominating the judiciary after the Kesavanada Bharti case and cases against the 24th Amendment not going her preferred way. Challenges began with Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat and agitation of Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti under the leadership of Jaiprakash Narayan(JP).  Ignoring the assassination of Railway Minister LN Mishra or the ruthless suppression of the Railway Strike by Indira only showed her decisions/choices progressively becoming undemocratic and totalitarian. The final straw was the Allahabad High Court decision finding her guilty of misusing governmental machinery in her campaigning, declaring her election null and void, unseating her from the Lok Sabha. When the Supreme Court also upheld the HC decision, strikes swept the country in trade, students and government unions. Indira’s choice and decision was to get a compliant President sign on a Proclamation of Emergency.

Even a simple recounting of these events shows the number of fork points and decisions ingrained in the choices made by all actors in this drama. We can  conjecture many, many “what-if” scenarios. There will be no definitive answers to questions like what-if Raj Narain had not challenged her election; what-if the HC judge had not ruled against Indira; what-if SC had overturned the HC decision; what-if JP and Nav Nirman movements had remained dormant; what-if SS Ray had refused to prepare the note recommending declaring  Emergency; what-if Sanjay Gandhi had not implemented forcible sterilizations… Questions, questions, questions. But you get the point I am driving at. Our lives are shaped by choices: choices that we make and choices that others around us make.

On a purely personal plane: I was always enamored with English Literature. Wanted to study and then teach English as a career. When I chose Humanities everyone advised me my life would be ruined. I would live to regret the wrong choice I was making.  Then came a time when there was a choice to shift to studying Psychology and specializing in Organizational Psychology. After that my career aspiration became teaching Psychology. Soon life presented another choice: IIM Calcutta. Having cleared entrance exams with difficulty,  I chose to study Personnel Management & Industrial Relations(PMIR) in IIMC!! Again I faced ridicule and disbelief since my choice was not Systems or Marketing or Finance in the proverbial melting pot of IIMC. I chose PMIR as it would add value to my psycho background. Today my choices have made me: a service oriented professional, happy building other’s careers and coaching them to succeed. I am what my choices have made me.

My final take is destiny is not predetermined; it is a matter of choices we make. Think of Vivekanada restlessly asking to see God. Think of Gandhi emerging stronger from his fall in Peitermaritzburg. We shape and create our life, and our future, through our choices. Indira’s death was also shaped by her choices. Richard Bach put it beautifully: “we are free to choose a different future: or even a different past”.  Think about that.

Let me end with the philosopher of philosophers Aristotle: “Excellence is never an accident… it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

Robert Frost sang beautifully: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
… long I stood;  And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

So friends make your choices wisely: and walk the road less travelled: vikas

 

C’est exclusif

As a lifelong student of human behavior, I am perpetually intrigued, and alternately saddened to see absolutely average (and significantly normal) people put on airs of exclusivity. They project a manner emulating “to the manor born”. They want to prove to their audience, and indirectly to their own selves, that they are special! Their effort is to project themselves as better than they are, above their “level”, superior!!! Often this attempt is farcical and immediately seen through by the audience they try to impress. And thus, they end up coming across lower in the eyes of the beholder.

The simplest example is the people who try to put on an accent. I do not mean the Punjus who want to speak “English” after a drink or two; but rather, the seemingly normal folks who suddenly speak different, when they are in front of an audience or when they are on phone. We all know some folks whose vocabulary or diction changes when they are in the public eye. This desire to project exclusivity is, in my opinion, deep rooted and widely prevalent in today’s times, when supplements like Bombay Times are read more assiduously than the main TOI newspaper, when Page 3 overtakes all!!

Historically of course this disease is old as the hills. There is an apocryphal story about the first English settlers to America on the boat Mayflower. Apparently the people on the boat were so status conscious that it was said “The Cabots spoke only to the Lodges; and the Lodges spoke only to God!”  Heaven help some of the hoi polloi who tried to interact socially with the Cabots and the Lodges!! In social dos today we all see such behavior. There are those who would desperately try and enter conversations with the movers and shakers: getting badly mauled in the process. Yet they would steadfastly ignore some others, seemingly below their level, who were trying equally hard to converse with them. What creates this social pecking order? Who makes these hierarchies? Is it not the innate desire to be exclusive?

Those of us who have had the fortune of working in MNCs have seen the deference with which even mechanics and technicians are treated just because they are German or American: while we gleefully ignore our own brown skinned brethren. Correspondingly the technicians belonging to “Vaterland” will look down on even General Managers of the host country merely because they are from the HQ country.  Those of us who had had the misfortune of travelling to Europe have experienced first hand the twisted egotism of the French who would disdainfully look down on anyone who dares speak in Queen’s English in their hallowed land. Their attitude is speak French or be damned. C’est exclusif!

One expects religion to be the most inclusive, and the least exclusive. But is that the reality we see reflected all around? Rather, in the name of religion, we see the most deep lines drawn between people. While all accept that at the fundamental level all religions teach love and brotherhood, it is in the name of the selfsame religion that we see maximum groupism and claims of exclusivity. We have forgotten Thomas Keller who avers ” The Gospel is an exclusive truth but it’s the most inclusive exclusive truth in the world”. We had  first Protestants who claimed Roman Catholics had lost the plot. And then came a bevy of Lutherans, Orthodox, Pentacostal, and many other variations: all claiming exclusive knowledge and grasp of the Good Word. We forgot Prophet Mohammed’s teaching :  there are multiple ways to reach the Allah. Rather in Goa we keep debating Shiva or Vishnu : who is Supreme? Do the Shwetambers have the right path or is it the Digambars?  Nirgun or Sagun : both claim they define Godhood better.

All this debate and claims lead to David Mitchell’s insight:  ” Faith, the least exclusive club, has the craftiest doorman. Every time I have stepped through it’s wide open doorway, I find myself stepping out in the streets again.”  The desire to be exclusive finally ends by showing us how non-inclusive we become. The Gods look down in pleasure on repentant sinners as ” it isn’t what we say or think that defines us but what we do” per Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility).

Have you not seen people who wear their educational qualifications and alma mater as plumes on their head? They just cannot forget they are from IITs or IIMs or have a PhD and all their interactions are through this looking glass. They distance themselves from others, casting a long shadow of exclusivity. The qualification, college or “club tie” becomes their ‘nom de plume’; a high gate they erect to keep the “aam janata” in their place. But actually they end up as prisoners in their own fence!!! As Theodore Adorno put it “the specific is not exclusive : it lacks the aspiration to totality”. And the real world is glorious and entertaining only because of it’s rich diversity. Which in turn, can be understood  and enjoyed only if one is inclusive.

Are you only the IIM or PhD? Or are you wider and deeper than that? “To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft” warns Jose Marti. I was a Bombay University topper in BA and in MA. I had the privilege of studying in IIMC. So what? I always hid it as I reminded myself that every year there is topper in BA and one in MA. Hundreds study every year in premier colleges. But that does not define me. If it distances me from others: I would rather hide the Gold Medals I won, and not use them as the proverbial “third eye” of Shiva to judge and evaluate and destroy others.

In today’s times we can learn a lot from the entire journey of the LGBT community to get their rightful place under the sun. Stuart Milk a LGBT activist puts it brilliantly: “We are less when we do not include everyone”. Elsewhere our own Bapu cautions: “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive”.  So ubiquity is the new exclusivity. And the faster we understand this, the better human beings we will become. ” I am large. I contain multitudes” as Walt Whitman sang. To which I will only add what Sant Chokhamela  taught me :

उंबरठ्यासी  कैसे शिऊ आम्ही जातिहीन
रूप तुझे कैसे पाहू त्यात आम्ही लीन
पायरीशी होवू दंग गावूनी अभंग…                                                                                                                    ( I cannot come to the temple as I am an outcast:                                                                         I cannot even see your face as I am so helplessly enamored;                                                        so I will stay at the steps and sing your praises)

Don’t threaten me with love baby. Let’s us just go walking in the rain: vikas

Accessible, Affable, Amiable, & Available

A favorite nursery rhyme goes:

Higgledy Piggledy my black hen; She lays eggs for gentlemen;

Sometimes nine and sometimes ten; Higgledy Piggledy my black hen.

I am about to “clack” and “cluck” and lay one Golden Egg (not 9 or 10) for you: the formula for success, silver bullet that overcomes all, sure fire recipe for triumph!! Ladies and Gentlemen, what you need to do is simply be Accessible, Affable, Amiable and Available. And your life is made!!! Permit me to explain.

In the early school days who was your best friend? whom were you most attracted to? It was a super friendly Ajit or a Daduly (elder brother to all in school); you went towards them because they were affable, amiable, friendly. You could easily tell them what was bothering you.  Not that they had an immediate solution to your problem. But the fact that you could easily approach them and tell your woes was enough to unburden you. They were your “heroes” in school.

Take even the teachers. Whom do you remember most fondly even now? and why? It was a Somalingam (Somu, to the entire school, behind his back of course!) or Miss Nagpal or Mrs Chatterjee. Remember them? They all, without exception, were accessible and available. You could easily tell them when the boy sitting next to you forcibly took away your new color pencils or the boy seated behind enjoyed kicking you whenever teacher was not looking. Approachable and friendly have ensured their place in your memory, for life time.

Why school alone? think of your family. We have all had a Aba Mama or a Sudha Atya or a Aju dada who was, is and will ever be special. Other relatives also pampered you, yet these people had a special secret sauce which went straight for your jugular. They were always there for you. They were super affectionate. And you never hesitated telling them what you wanted. Whether it was watching Royal Circus from the first row or getting more than your share of cashewnuts and mangoes, they always made it happen. It was as though you were special in their lives, and not the other way around.

Comes the landmark of college.  Whether you were in a nerdy college like Parle or Ruparel, who made it as the President of the Students’ Union? It was Mr Charm. The guy who could be in 20 groups at one time (much before Facebook and WhatsApp) and all groups thought of him as their special friend. Affability was their middle name  and they were accessible 24*7 whenever anyone had a crisis. I talk of course of the times before the Students’ Bodies got politicized and money began talking loudly in these fora. Otherwise it was always Mr Amiable & Accessible who ruled the roost. Even in professional colleges like IIMs/XLRI/TISS, Mr Popular managed and ran all the events and the skunk-dos. And we “intellectuals” were more than happy to accept them as leaders.

Next stage: job and corporate India. In my 37 years of studying  corporate leaders, if there is one formula I have seen ALL successful leaders follow it is this simple truth : they are accessible, affable, amiable and available. I had the privilege to work under someone who was the epitome of these characteristics. I talk of course of Arun Bhende. Though from a premier institute like TISS,  intelligence was not his claim to fame. But his accessibilty and good nature ensured that when he joined Siemens, union leaders from all his previous companies still considered him as their chief adviser. He was always available to them and gave his time freely. His affable demeanor was such that besides unions, managements were also seeking his advice. And his contacts in the Government machinery meant that the third party to any industrial dispute: the Labour Commissionarate also sought him out for suggestions and guidance! (I often wondered how he kept chalk and cheese & oil and water apart!)

Professional things apart, anyone from Arun’s friend circle or acquaintances never thought twice before calling him for any problem, whatsoever!! I have seen Arun arrange buses for a union to take members on a morcha to Sachivalaya. And then telling the transport contractor not to charge as they are a union: “think of it as social service”. During the time of cooking gas shortages (none had 2 cylinders or piped gas then) I myself have been one of the many beneficiaries of getting out of turn allotment through his kind offices. Amul Butter shortage: call Arun. Party at home and you require Scotch: Arun. Hospital or school admissions were just too simple. Son needs a job: Arun. Daughter in law needs a transfer in a nationalized bank: Arun will find some contact. The day I thought he was not Arun Bhende but GOD himself was when someone called as a cat was stuck on a tree opposite his house at 4th floor level. He actually called Arun and asked what should be done. And imagine my sheer horror when Arun replies: ” Don’t worry, I know the Fire Brigade InCharge of that locality. I will ask him to send a snorkel to bring the cat down.” And all this done with a smile!! Affability, amiability, availability and accessibility personified was Arun.

I have seen this formula repeat ad infinitum. Think of your best boss : was he available to you anytime, everytime? Or was he grumpy and moody?  You will still recollect the smile which always played on this supercool boss’s face as he took things in his stride and made friends and followers, even as he solved problems.

Enough stories abound on the internet about Abdul Kalam as a boss in ISRO & DRDO. His people gave their best for him and the organization because their boss was always there for them. Think of other legendary corporate biggies: Rusi Mody, Sumant Moolgaonkar, Mr Gaitonde of Century Enka to name a few in the earlier generation. M/s Anand Mahindra, Nandan Nilekani,  Azim Premji ,  KV Kamath,  Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw,  Arundhati Bhattacharya,  Kishore Bayani. Need more names? Do you think any one of them would have been successful if they were not accessible to everyone in their team, approachable to draw out the best thoughts and plans their teams could come up with, and lead the teams with amiability and affability? A great leader is made finally by a team who give their individual best for the collective good. And that cake can be baked only by a leader who knows the secret recipe of these personal characteristics.

So you: Don’t try to be the smartest guy around. Be accessible to the people around you. And when they come to you with ideas or problems, be available to help them think it though and then run interference on their behalf. Be amiable and affable so that they love to work with you and give their best. Be affable and available so that your peers &  colleagues help keep your plans and ideas afloat. If you are able to do this, success will follow. This is the formula, the Golden egg which will give rich dividends in your personal and professional lives.

Don’t thank me, thank  Higgledy Piggledy, my black hen : vikas

PS: I owe the title words to KJo. He says he is a successful producer/director as he is affable, amiable, accessible and available. I rest my case.

 

Adoption, it’s about love…

We adopted Rashmi when she was just six months old. And she radically changed our lives. Zindagi ulat pulat ho gaee: the entire world, and our living, turned topsy turvy. And I would not exchange that for anything in life!!

Ours was a love marriage with a difficult and long courtship. All the traditional nautanki we are familiar with, through Hindi cinema. So after battling it out for 9 long years, when we got married we both felt getting each other was THE biggest thing: and we should enjoy that as long as possible. That meant consciously deciding not to have a child. Why children? we felt, after all, we have one another! After the proverbial 7 year itch started, we first questioned whether the decision was right. Then began countless efforts. When nature still did not “run its course” then the Dr.s and Clinics started. Both side parents were apprehensive but supportive. We frankly told them : Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda all treatments are ok, but we will not go to Babas and Mandirs. After 2 more years of frustration and pain, one fine day Vinita (who is a professionally trained social worker) broached with me the possibility of adoption. Full credit to her maturity! And Barkis was willing!! Then came convincing our respective parents, as we wanted the baby to have acceptance in the family, and for that grandparents’ blessings were sine qua non. Armed with their support we registered for adoption.

Both of us were very clear from day 1 that we wanted a daughter. Simple logic was that daughters are more loving and giving than sons. Their relations are long term. And parents have a preeminent place in a daughter’s life, throughout her life. Unlike a son whose loyalties are divided. I was a son and so this was personal gyan. Plus we had enough anecdotal evidence all around us. So we applied only for a female child.

Lo and Behold we get a call from Vatsalya ( an adoption agency near Kanjur) that 3 baby girls are available and can we please come and make our choice.

??!!Select?!?! We were aghast.

Both of us felt we have no right to play God. On what basis do we make a choice? Skin color? features? hair? We went at the appointed time and told the authorities that we do not want to select. They were adamant. We have made 3 babies ready wearing new clothes and spruced up etc. so see all 3. All our objections and hesitations were overruled. Reluctantly we sat. Mulling in our minds that the first child shown to us is ours.

Sukhada- one who is joyful- was the first child brought out and put in Vinita’s lap. In a moment of divine intervention the baby looked at Vinita and smiled. Proving her name: being pleasing, agreeable, gratifying. So overwhelmed were we that that small, minuscule bundle outweighed the entire universe for us. We were complete. Fulfilled. Joyous and gratified beyond compare.

Again we requested the authorities that we did not want to see any other child, as our decision was made by Sukhada’s smile!! But we all know how authority behaves. We had to see 2 other children and felt so sad that we could adopt only one. But Sukhada was ours from the first moment she saw us and we saw her. On 18th May 1993 (our 13th wedding anniversary) we brought Rashmi home from the orphanage. Much earlier  we had decided on the name “Rashmi” -meaning ray of sunshine. The baby was indeed bringing hope and light into our lives.

Another call we had made was that we would not hide from society and friends that we were adopting Rashmi. Our families were supportive a priori. We were staying in Atul township then – a colony of around 1200 households, near Valsad, in Gujarat. The day we brought Rashmi home we saw a different facet of Atul & Gujarat, and of people in the township. For the first 10 days or more, every day about 70+ people would come to see and welcome Rashmi. Like the Biblical Wise Men, all came bearing gifts. Looking at the amount of gold & silver trinkets, toys and clothes that came into the house, Vinita and I were shell shocked. Our typical Bombaiyya thought was “how are we going to return all these gifts/favours?” But Atul and all Atul-ites showered so much love on tiny Rashmi that it felt as though not us but the entire township had adopted Rashmi!! We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of love. Rashmi’s family was no longer the Shirodkars and Pandits but the entire Atul.

She had a magical childhood in Atul. Vasudeva Kutumbakkam ( the world is my family) was true for her. Every evening we had to search for her from house to house by telephoning far and wide to bring her home to sleep. This was best exemplified when we shifted to Mumbai after 6 years, and Rashmi still smitten by the company township culture, went out to play in our Andheri colony. And when she came back at night her first question to her mother was: “Aai sagle asa ka mhantat ata jewaila ghari javuya? Amhi ekatra ka nahi jevu shakat?” ( Mother, why do people say now let us all go to our respective homes for dinner? Why can’t we all eat together?”) In Atul she always was fed wherever she was. Remember vasudeva kutumbakkam. But then Rashmi had to grow up and understand mine and yours in Mumbai.

While it was easy to tell society and friends about Rashmi’s adoption, one looming question which daunted us was when and how do we tell Rashmi? All literature on adoption said the parents should be the ones who share this information with the child. But how do we raise the topic? how would she react? What if she rejects us and says she wants to search out her biological parents? Vinita and I agonized no end. Finally when Rashmi was 8 years old we planned a holiday to Darjeeling.  To tell her on that trip was the plan. We stayed in a typical British old school type of hotel. Rooms actually had fireplaces and wooden fire was lit in evening.

One evening we all 3 sat down and Vinita told her she was not born from her womb but from our hearts. How we always wanted a girl child and since it did not happen naturally we went to Vatsalya. We told her about the orphanage and about adoption. And how, by legal process, she was now our daughter. She had 2 questions.  “When we go back to Mumbai can we visit Vatsalya? I want to see the place and play with the babies there” Second one just blew us away. “Aai can I tell Ashuti and Urvi (her 2 best school friends) about this?” We told her of course you can. It is yours to share. But please understand everyone will not see it in the same way, blah blah blah. But just think about the attitude of the 8 year old. She was completely cool about it. All our agonizing and concern was of no avail. Hallelujah!!

She grew up as a free and happy child with a mind of her own. I still remember she was all of 10 years in one of the father-daughter moments  I was telling her to do something. She refused and told me “Baba it is my life”. A 10 year old. I felt I was slapped on my face. Feeling hurt, I retired to my bedroom. But then sense prevailed and I realized the truth of her sentence. Yes indeed, it was her life and she had to make her own choices herself;  and learn & live as she wanted.  Another example: her academic performance was never brilliant.  In 8th standard, she sat down Vinita and told her : ” Aai I want to be a designer and an artist. So all this History and Geography and Science has no relevance for me. I will not fail . But I will study just enough to get 60% + . Don’t expect me to study hard and score like others”. She went on to Srishti School of Design in Bangalore and specialized in Textile Design and is now working in Raymond’s Design Department!

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In Srishti as a part of her Induction programme, all students were told to prepare a manifesto. A personal statement. What they stood for. Rashmi spoke on Adoption!!! Imagine a 17 year old teenager, staying in a hostel first time in life, standing in front of 80 new classmates, publicly telling she is adopted!!! I have always wondered where she got this courage. She read out her manifesto entitled : Adoption, it’s about love

In that (and we too got to read it later on mail) she spoke about how her parents will always be Vinita and me, who brought her up and gave her love. But at the same time she wrote : “I can never fully understand the circumstances of why my biological mother made her choice, but I have to give her the benefit of the doubt, simply for the fact that I “do not know” the circumstances”. Further she says  ” my biological mother has every day of her life to wonder if she did the right thing. There cannot be a day that goes by that any mother doesn’t think about the child she let go. It’s common sense people. But they didn’t hate you, and they darn sure miss you.” And with that Rashmi finds it in her heart to  forgive her.  Imagine the maturity of a person who is able to say that. Never before had she ever raised the question or spoken about her feelings about her biological parents. And when she does speak, she says she forgives !!!! And still thanks her. And tells us all: “As for the biological mother, be thankful that she gave you the chance at any life, instead of making you an abortion statistic.” When did our little girl grow up and become so mature to think all this? And aver this publicly?

Daily we thank her for being our child.

She is truly our Sukhada: Agreeable, pleasing , gratifying. Our joy giver. Our joy. Sometimes Vinita and I regret having changed her name. She was rightly called Sukhada.

Thank you Sukhada. Thank you Rashmi.                                                                                       Heaven must be missing an angel, for you are here with me: vikibaba

PS: anyone who wanted to read Rashmi’s manifesto, pl send a mail to me on vikas@basilhr.com

The Sounds of Silence

In the  early 60s Simon and Garfunkel sang: “Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision … that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence”

What is this sound of silence? Remember the most severe punishment given to man is solitary confinement: where he can talk to no one, and hear no one else. But even that imposed silence has shown great resilience. In school/college I read Papillon, the autobiography of Henri Charriere, who escaped his incarceration in French Guiana. His loneliness and imposed silence actually became his strength. I was so impressed by this story  that I even considered getting a tattoo made of a butterfly (papillon) on my chest. Fortunately tattoo artists were few and far between then. Or take the more recent case of Nelson Mandela. Large parts of his 27 years in prison were spent in solitude and reflection. And whatever that silence spoke to him, made “Madiba” ( Father of the Nation) successfully dismantle apartheid, as the first elected Black President of South Africa. His inspiration? our own Bapu, Father of our Nation, who actively propagated the power of “moun vrat” whether to silence the feuding Congress leaders or to end the religion fired Hindu Muslim riots. Even his policy of non-violence was a silent reply to the violence of the British. Finally the “Empire where the sun ever sets” bowed down. Indeed, so great  is the power of silence!!

My personal brush with the power of silence was when I first enrolled for the Vipassana meditation course of Goenkaji at Igatpuri. Having been a part of a garrulous HR profession, and a successful IR manager of large plants at that, I was curious to explore the power of silence. And  10 days I spent in “arya maun” ( when you walk with your eyes to the ground so that by chance you do not catch some other person’s eye and have a “conversational exchange”…through the medium of eyes! Those 10 days have been the most eloquent period of my life. Going within, exploring oneself, listening to the silence within, and all around you, were spiritually awakening.  At the end of 10 days, you just don’t want it to end. Much like the peace and quietude you feel after an amazing concert. When the silence speaks so much,  words become meaningless.

But then what about the real world? I always wondered how Gandhi must have managed the silences of Kasturba!! Breathes there a husband (or a boy friend) who has not got the “silent treatment” from his significant other and understood the power of silence first hand? It goes somewhat like this: ” What happened?” “Nothing” “But then why are you silent?” (No answer) “If you are feeling something, why don’t you say so?” (Silence) “Would you like to tell me what is wrong?” “Nothing” “Please…will you say what you are thinking?” “There is no point. It is better I remain silent” Tell me truthfully, how often has this dialogue played out in your life? Of course, let us not blame wives and girlfriends alone. Our mothers’ strongest punishment to the family was the same: utilizing the power of silence. So we know the strength of the unspoken word. If you have hurt someone, silence can be their loudest cry. By their silence and ignoring you, they are giving you a signal. Silence can sometimes be so deafeningly loud!

Much later, Garfunkel talking about The Sound of Silence summed up the song’s  meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly intentionally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”

Is this not a travesty of justice? People in love should be ebullient and suffused with laughter and good feelings. Their cup should be over flowing, and they should just not have enough time and space, to express their love for one another. But what we actually see and experience is the deafening sound of silence. Is this distance and separation ingrained in the very concept of love? Is it by chance that all “true” love stories are stories of unrequited love? Heer Ranzha; Romeo Juliet; Shirin Farhad are all cases in point.

And yet silence can be healing. It can be empowering. It can be fulfilling. To me, true love is finding that someone with whom you can sit and be silent. Silence is heavenly. Silence is holy. Silence is healing. It is only people who are comfortable with one another, who can sit side by side and be silent. In his characteristic style Woody Allen says “God is silent. Now if only man would shut up!” In speaking about silence, you have already broken it!! Silence is not a weakness : in fact it is a strength. True love and silence are blood brothers & conjoined at the hip at that.

As our dear Gulzar tells us so well: “Pyaar koi bol nahin , pyaar awaaz nahi
Ek khamoshi hai, sunti hai kaha karti hai…
…Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do, koi naam na do” True love by its nature is silent. It speaks a language that is beyond words. It truly imbibes the sounds of silence.

Which is why Jalaluddin Rumi  said: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”                                                                                                 So be silent. Enjoy and revel in silence. Let silence engulf you and take you beyond.

Come, let us jointly immerse into the sounds of silence: vikas

 

My Guru Rashmi

” A city without streets, a king without treasury, a merchant without a business, a face without a nose, life without wisdom and a life without a guru, is all considered the same”.

Indeed, life comes without a manual or a clear rule book on how to play the game. Though you have no map nor any directions to chart the course: what you do have is your learning. You can learn on the fly : as you veer and careen through the course. And you can rely on the Mentor, Guide, Teacher, Guru to teach you the way forward and make the crazy carousel ride of life – a little more predictable, a little less difficult.

Nearly 20 years ago, when my daughter Rashmi was just 4 going on 5, as a Trustee of the local school I was invited on Guru Purnima day to talk about my Guru and my learnings. I chose to talk about my 4 year daughter as my Guru and what I have learnt from her. 20 years later I think those learnings are still relevant and so I thought of sharing these with you.

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A Guru is an aspiration. A Guru is an inspiration.  These are the tings which have inspired me:

  • Rashmi’s original name was Sukhada. {more of that in some later blog} “Rashmi” means a ray of sunshine: while “Sukhada” means happy/joyous. And that was the first learning I got from Rashmi: she was (and is)  always happy, full of joy and looking forward for the next adventure and new experiences. Her ‘happy meter” is forever positively charged and she never seems to feel sad. Watching her face the sunshine and the rain brings its own message : am I using the dark blacks and blues too much in painting my life? Can i use more yellows and reds? Rashmi has shown me it is possible.
  • Trust & Love everyone: whether it is a street side stray cat/dog or me, often I think they are the same to Rashmi. Everything around her appears perfectly cuddly and lovable to her. Even as a 4 year old child in Atul, she was more than happy to take off on 2 wheeler rides with whoever was passing on the street. Whether it was a ferocious local gangster on his Bullet or the Guest House attendant on his bicycle: whoever crossed the main road in front of our house was regally stopped and asked for a ride. The car wallahs and the scooter wallahs all obliged this precocious child and dropped her back with her hands and pockets full of candies and sweets they lovingly bought her after the royal tour.
  • Immediately on return Rashmi would set off to distribute her “loot” to her friends. Even at home if someone got her a bar of Cadbury chocklate : we had told her to share. And we found that this girl would share till the last piece. When there was only one piece left in her had: if my wife or me would ask her “where is my share?” Rashmi would willingly, smilingly give away the last piece. Sometimes I would caution and tell her: if you give the last piece away, you will have none left for yourself. But that never stopped her in giving. Sharing her toys was another grief for my wife and me. Whoever came home went back with gifts of toys which Rashmi wanted them to have. There was no attachment to her clothes, toys, games or food items. When we tried to make her wordly wise and say you cant give all your things away: her simple question was: “why not?”  I have yet to get an answer to that one.
  • Hold no grudges was another way she operated. In children’s fights I have seen her being beaten up  and once even badly bitten by another child. We were of course upset and tried to keep the kids apart. The very next moment Rashmi wanted to play with the same aggressor: without any rancor or ill feeling. There were occasions when we felt it had gone too far and tried to scold or separate the fighting kids. Rashmi would turn against us and say “He is my friend. Let him do what he wants. You don’t interfere. I am ok”.
  • Another uncanny skill was forgetting the past: the minute it was over, it was over!! There was absolutely no carry over. If you are upset and angry, you would take some time to overcome that. But not Rashmi. For her, what was done was gone. She always looked forward with aspiration and hope and  never was burdened by acts of omission or commission in the past. Her whole approach was look forward and carry on. Let the past lie dead on the path: unremembered and uncared for.

On that fateful day 20+ years ago when I went to speak about my Guru in the school function. I talked about these characteristics of my 4 year old:  Being happy and positive always; Trusting and loving everyone around; Having no attachments to wordly things: Holding no grudges against anyone and Forgetting the past and carrying on. And as I talked I realised that our Hindu & Vedic philosophy tells us exactly the same formula to be happy.

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What do our Scriptures say? Live in the present : forget the past, don’t worry about the future. Live in the moment. Enjoy whatever is happening around you. Trust your fellow beings and love them with all your might. And forever Be Happy and think positively and positivity will surround you.

My little one was intuitively living the Vedic philosophy and teaching us the simple formula for leading a happy life. And, I am happy to tell you, even after growing up, my daughter has NOT grown up. She continues in her childlike faith and trust of all around her. She loves everyone apriori : sans cause and sans expectation of any return. ( Which I must say with shame today, we try to correct and tell her the practical aspects of life & living). While having all, she is still detached. And she lives the moment. Happy to seize the day and live in the present. And so I still admire her. And still consider her my Guru. And hope to work towards imbibing some of her abilities and mindsets. Am sure I am and will be a better person because of her.

 

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Love you hamesha Rashmi: vikas