Parables & Stories from Vipassana

I went for my 4th Vipassana Meditation course in April 2022. What has always fascinated me is the oratory skill of SN Goenkaji & his ability to draw on stories, examples, parables from every religion under the sun, to drive home Vipassana concepts for his audience. Goenkaji does not want us to take anything on face value, on pure faith. He exhorts continuously that we must trust & believe ONLY our experience & sensory inputs. No ideological discussions, but only focus on your own experience. I had written in 2018 on what is vipassana and the underlying concepts. Those interested can check out the old blog at https://vikasshirodkar.blog/2018/11/07/vipassana/

Here I want to recollect some of the great stories & parables I heard which Goenkaji uses to elucidate his points & explain. So here goes:

#1) A rich man was enjoying his sumptuous lunch one day, when a Bhikshu came & cried out begging for alms. The rich man’s daughter-in-law, shouted from inside,” Maharaj, go elsewhere to beg. Here my father-in-law is himself eating stale/बासी food.” The Bhikshu went ahead, but the father-in-law was upset. He called his daughter-in-law and asked her “why did you say बासी भोजन/stale food? Here I am eating the choicest cuisine, rich with fruits & exotic vegetables, garnished with dry fruits. Why did you call it stale/बासी?”

The Daughter-in-law replied,” None of this is due to your own effort or earnings. You are eating off the earnings of your ancestors, you have contributed nothing. So is it not stale?”

My Learning: Have new thoughts and pull your own weight every day, Never live off past legacy.

#2) When Mohammad Paigamber started preaching, not everyone appreciated his teachings. Some were strongly opposed. One such person used to always disrupt Mohammad’s meetings & vitiate the atmosphere. Some of Mohammad’s followers used to feel very bad & they decided to confront the opponents to teach them a lesson. A meeting place was fixed. Soon the debate between the two sides turned acrimonious. When tempers rose further, it came down to physical fighting & a melee ensued.

Mohammad, seeing this, quietly left the place. His supporters sought him out later & asked why did he run away. Mohammad replied,” When the fight started, I saw the Farishtey/Angels flew away and left the room. Hence I too left!!”

My Learning: Peace and friendliness is godly; always stay on that side.

#3) An old woman once came to a Vipassana Camp set up in a rural environment. While coming, she got alongwith a cloth, draw-string bag/बटुवा. In that she was carrying 30 Rs her life’s earnings, an ornament/हार which she had got from her house & a small piece of sweetmeat/बरफी. One day, when she had gone for meditation, she found the bag/बटुवा missing from her residential quarter.

She became highly agitated & started crying loudly, beating her chest, moaning her loss. Others tried to control her & tell her she is disturbing others’ meditation but she was unconsolably crying out aloud. Every camp resident started searching high & low for the bag but it was nowhere to be found. She was wailing loudly about the loss of her money & ornament. So Goenkaji suggested taking a contribution from all. In place of her lost Rs 30, a total collection of 100 Rs was made and put before her. This was significantly more than her loss. But still she wailed & cried. “What about my ornament?” It was an heirloom, I was so attached to it” etc. The collected 100 Rs could have easily enabled her to buy a new ornament. But she continued to cry & repent her loss!

Finally someone saw that, a monkey on a nearby tree had the bag. Monkey had made of with it, seeing the colorful embroidery. The monkey had no use for the 30 Rs or the ornament. But it was merrily enjoying the sweetmeat/बरफी, sitting atop a tree. People chased the monkey with drums and sticks. Finally the monkey dropped the bag & made off with the sweet. The bag with money & ornament were returned to the old woman. Then only she stopped crying & focused on the vipassana teaching!!

My Learning: The concept of मैं/मेरा I & Mine is so deeply entrenched in us, that once it awakens, it does not allow us to look at anything else. Stay away from मैं/मेरा (I & Mine): many doors will open!

#4) There were 2 close friends: one was blind, the other handicapped. They used to beg for food & live together. One day the blind friend had a fever & could not walk. So the handicapped friend told him to rest & said he would go & beg for food & get some for his friend. While moving around the village, at one house, he was offered Kheer (sweet rice gruel). The guy had no utensil to take the kheer in, so he cupped his hands and the Kheer was poured in. He wanted to take the Kheer for his friend, but it started dripping from his cupped hands. So rather than waste it, he drank up the kheer. When he reached home he told his blind friend that he had got kheer, but could not carry it back for his friend since he had no utensil.

The blind friend had never eaten Kheer in his life and asked what is kheer? So the friend tried to explain ” It is white and sweet” The blind person knew what is sweet, but had no concept what is white. The friend told “White is like the crane” The blind friend had not seen a crane. So the friend caught a crane and gave it to the blind friend to feel & “see” what is a crane. The blind friend touched & felt the crane’s body & exclaimed ” I now understand. The kheer is twisted. तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है!!!”

My learning: Perception is important and if you do not perceive holistically, you may go on a total tangent & err terribly.

Trust you enjoyed these stories which have practical wisdom & learnings beyond compare. Next blog, I will tell you some more stories and parables from Vipassana course, which created deep learning for me

Bhavatu Savv Mangalam: vikibaba punter

Zindagi….ik paheli (Life…an enigma)

जो उलझी थी कभी आदम के हाथों,
वो गुत्थी आज तक सुलझा रहा हूँ|
(that which got entangled by the hands of Adam, even today I am trying to unravel that knot) Indeed Firaq Gorakhpuri said it rightly. From times immemorial, life has truly been an intractable puzzle. Generations before me, and people certainly much smarter than me, have tried to understand life and it’s conundrums. But the jury is still out. None are able to make sense of the constant twists and turns. While the What & the How are somewhat intelligible, the Why still eludes us and we are all the time wondering how to play the cards Life has dealt us.

The constant refrain is of wonder….wonder Why this is happening??? And Why is this happening to me???? The questions continue. Over a period we see the answers to the same question changes. Very similar to a roving spotlight that reveals more and more of the object as the spotlight moves. But try as we will, we never get to understand the whole picture, see the entire object, understand life in toto and what it entails!!!!

The whole experience is akin to the words of Adeem Hashmi who sings वो के ख़ुशबू की तरह फैला था मेरे चार सू,
मैं उसे महसूस कर सकता था छू सकता न था|
(It was like a perfume that spread all around me; I could feel it but I could not touch it) That truly is the beauty of life. We are in the fish bowl. We are surrounded by the water. We sense and feel the water and all that it envelopes. We see the other fish…swimming, struggling, moving all around us. But we can only “spectate”. The “साक्षी भIव sakshi bhav” propounded by Hindu & Buddhist scriptures as the ideal mindset to be in, while in the world.

See everything as a spectator, do not involve, do not entangle. Much like the glob of mercury which changes shape even as you touch it, you can never hold the mercurial Life, as it will always shy away, transmute and tease you as you go closer. Grasping never lets you hold the sand of life. The particles are too thin. You must keep an open palm, not try to hold or grasp, but rather keep your self open to experience the sands of time and the grains of Life. They are free agents and will not be molded even as they shape you.

हम किस को दिखIते हैं शब-ए-फुरकत की उदासी

सब ख्वाब में थे रात को बेदार हम ही थे (To whom could I show the sadness of the night of separation? All were deep in their dreams and I alone was disturbed in the night). (Taashshuq Lakhnavi) Travails of the Life you face are indeed so personal that try as you will, you may never be able to get others to understand and live your pain. Possibly that is why Voltaire averred,:” Man is a social animal, but everywhere he is in chains”.

The chains, the walls around us, the constraints, the loneliness, the pain….all are real and tangible. To you. You are confined only by the walls you build yourself. And all this is creating & shaping your Life/experience. A signature experience. Living together, having the same roof, traversing the same path, experiencing the same friends…still we all lead very different lives. Even couples are independent logs floating down the same river, parallelly, but independently; together yet separate. So the faster we understand Firaq Gorakhpuri who tells the Powers that Be भरम तेरे सितम का खुल चुका है,
मैं तुझसे आज क्यों शर्मा रहा हूँ|
We must quickly see through the irony, the mischievousness, the sheer tyranny of Life and living in the garb of joke, to be able to maintain our keel and dignity amidst buffeting storms and towering waves of the perfect storm that we call Life.

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood…” begins the famous poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W H Auden.
Some of you may know the poem by Auden, inspired by the painting by Breughel, of Icarus falling from the sky into the green water to his death. Poets and painters understand suffering, and the related phenomena: how others shy away, pretend not to notice, like the ploughman working his field, and the passengers aboard the delicate ship that sails calmly on. When a stupendous flight of Icarus to the Sun goes unnoticed, who indeed are we mere mortals?

What makes understanding & living Life difficult is our very human-ness. Being human we soon become enmeshed in all that surrounds us. We talk of My family, My child, My house, My Friends, My Company, and so on. As Firaq Gorakhpuri observes मुहब्बत अब मुहब्बत हो चली है,
तुझे कुछ भूलता-सा जा रहा हूँ|
Being too close to the problem, our independent identity ceases. We soon become a part of the problem and so cannot find a solution, as we are as much a part of the problem, as we are a part of the solution. Identity fuses together. Try a simple experiment to understand what I am saying. Move a chair while standing independent of it. Easy? Now sit on the chair. Firmly, with both your feet on the ground. Can you move the chair now? The same chair is impossible to move now. Because you are too close to it. Only distance will help you take an objective stance. मुहब्बत हो चली है then independent POV is impossible. It is natural then that तुझे कुछ भूलता-सा जा रहा हूँ| The human condition and its dilemma is well captured by Adeem Hashmi’s couplet ये भी सब वीरानियाँ उस के जुदा होने से थीं, आँख धुँधलाई हुई थी, शहर धुँधलाया न था| (All the barrenness has come after separating from her; my eyes have got clouded but the city still surrounds me). However much you try, the situational reality remains the same and continues to haunt you.

Given this background and the negativity all around, I take heart in the words of Napoleon,” I am driven towards an end that I do not know. As I reach it, as I become unnecessary, an atom shall suffice to shatter me. Until then, all forces of humankind can do nothing to stop me”. Remember, the bigger they are, the harder they fall!!

सितारों से उलझता जा रहा हूँ,
शब-ए-फ़ुरक़त बहुत घबरा रहा हूँ|
…...विकास

( I am fighting with the stars, as the night of separation comes close, I am afraid….vikas)

PS : Gratefully acknowledge Shri Krishna Sharmaji’s blog https://samaysakshi.in/blog which has been an inspiration for many of the sher quoted here

What Freedom Means to Me

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me/ I am a free human being with an independent will” postulated Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre. I will tell you what freedom is to me. No Fear. Walk where your heart leads you. Sans all restrictions and burdens. And yet Voltaire averred,” Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains” . Societal, Familial, Collegial, Organizational to say nothing of Religious and Ideological … pressures abound from all directions. Even my own history & experiences serve to bamboozle me. Slowly Freedom becomes a chimera we all admire & aspire for… but like the horizon, it fades further as we move towards it. And, those who do not move, do not notice the chains that bind them. And thus remain in the false impression that they are free!!! So, immediately after India celebrated it’s 75 years of Independence, I am sitting down to understand what freedom means to me.

If I look back in my own life, freedom was choosing to study Humanities/Arts when all my well-wishers wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer. Freedom was deciding to marry my cousin when others were proposing alternatives. Freedom was deciding to adopt a baby girl, and not a boy. While all these were decisions of importance, Freedom also was declaring that now that I am in a house of my own, i will not force myself to eat everything & clean my plate, as was expected in my father’s house. Rather petulantly I declared I will “waste” food & not force myself to eat all. Not showing obeisance to elders, refusal to touch their feet as expected in Indian society; Wearing dark shirts and light color trousers, when everyone went for the other way round, all were an expression of freedom. Wearing crumpled clothes & hair very, very short was freedom. Every rebellious act could be a statement of freedom. One followed Robert Frost in letter and spirit who said,” Freedom lies in being Bold”.

To me 3 names come to mind when I think of Freedom. Krishna, Savarkar & Mandela. Let me explain. Mythologically, the story of Krishna is a classic mix of freedom and free will. We are all aware of the events and activities surrounding Krishna’s birth in prison, Vasudeva carrying him out on that fateful night of torrential rain, Krishna being brought up by Nanda and Yoshoda. As Krishna started growing up his divine/free will started exerting and the actions that he took…killing of Puthana, Trinavrata and Bakasur all show actions taken to rid the surroundings of nefarious demons who were making the life of the common people difficult. Krishna’s role on Mahabharata & the expounding of the Bhagwat Geeta give us the importance of decisive action in life. The entire concept of Krishna Leela is a classic example of freedom of will & acting to ensure greatest good of the maximum number. The mythological stories of Krishna or Vishnu or Ram all underline the importance of doing the right thing and following the dictates of the heart, boldly and free of any restrictions.

Talk of Freedom, and to every Maharashtrian, the one name which shines the brightest is that of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Savarkar’s iconic escape from the ship, which was carrying him back to India, while it was docked at Marseilles is a story often repeated when people talk of the love for freedom. His incarceration at the Cellular Jail (Kaala Pani) in the Andamans physically imprisoned him, but most of his time was spent writing books, essays, novels and poetry which were nationalistic in fervor and urged all Hindus to agitate for freedom. Freedom was his first love and literally he laid his life down for freedom of thought and expression. To me George Orwell’s words ring truest when we think of Savarkar’s contribution,” If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. The clarion call of Savarkar rings loud and clear even now.

Historically Nelson Mandela is the 3rd person who comes to my mind when we talk of freedom of action & thought. This champion of Freedom, just like the other 2 we referred to above, spent a large part of his life in prison. Having been born in the Royal family of Thembu, trained as a lawyer, Mandela got into ANC early to oppose apartheid. He flirted with communism, was arrested many times for sedition. He negotiated an end to apartheid and paved the way to the first Multi Cultural General Election after which he served as the 1st President of South Africa in 1994. Mandela believed and professed that “Freedom is something that dies unless it is used” (Hunter Thompson). Under his government, South Africa made great strides in reconciliation between country’s multiple racial groups. Revenge was eschewed and people were free to profess & live with their differences. The secret to Happiness is Freedom. The secret to Freedom is Courage. Mandela taught this truth to a hurting nation.

So what does Freedom mean to me? Freedom is being what you are without having to seek anybody’s permission. Accepting yourself as you are. Accepting others as they are. And no one makes an effort to change the other. Let everyone be. Respect and encourage diversity. As Hans Christian Anderson taught us through the Fairy Tales we all loved and grew up with,” Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower”. Virginia Woolf says the same thing less romantically in A Room of One’s Own ,” Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”

Take inspiration then from Independence, & be a Zealous Warrior to guard Freedom : vikas

Action Orientation

To Do or Not to Do? Should I? Can I? May I? Could I? To be? or Not to Be? The perpetual question!!!… whose answer keeps changing with the passage of time. “Yes, let me move forward”. “No let it be”. Hip Hop, On Off. Debate and Consternation: never translating into action.

Intellectually we all know smoking is bad. Liquor is harmful to health. Sweets are not good for a diabetic. Regular exercise is beneficial in the long term. Procrastination does not help. But all that knowledge…how often does that translate into action? so what is the gap here? Is this the famous Existentialism Dilemma propounded by Sartre? or is this the philosophy propounded by the Nihilists that life has no intrinsic meaning or value.. so why do anything at all? The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus lists 157 synonyms of “action”; still there are many we have met who shy away from all 157; they are content remaining in suspension, on the horns of the dilemma, never choosing any action & hence similar to mythical Trishanku remain perpetually hanging, between 2 worlds.

Inaction helps none. That is why Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said”. There are many who speak well, the spin doctors & artists, but the world respects those who can act & not only talk. Modern management guru Simon Sinek puts it more graphically,” Words may inspire, but only action creates change.” Every new product we see, every new land discovered, every boundary crossed are all evidence that actions speak louder than words, and these actions are actually shaping & creating the world we live in. Merely knowing is never enough. We must act on the knowledge. And this action has the power to change you, change your surroundings & change your world. Inaction then is possibly the biggest mistake you can make.

So why do we not act? Why are we afraid? Do we lack the confidence that we will be able to overcome whatever challenges & difficulties that may come our way? are we so cocooned in our comfort zone that we do not want to see or venture outside? In the comfort zone there are no surprises, no stretch, no new experiences. But correspondingly there is no growth also. All “magic” happens out side the comfort zone. Only when you leave the Comfort Zone behind you, you will go into the Growth Zone.

Prizes are won by people who go onwards, leave the familiar & seek newer pastures. These are the mighty men & women who have done new drug discovery, found new continents, enlarged the frontiers of knowledge, innovated & invented all the products and services we take as normal today. They were able to do this and make the world a better place because they dared & acted on their dreams. Mary Angelou reassures all seekers,” The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place the new steps of change” On your part, you must TAKE ACTION. In the final analysis, the difference between those who dream & those who fulfill their dream is action.

Thomas Jefferson put it so well,” Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask, ACT!!! Action will delineate & define you”. All the leaders we respect, whether it be Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela or our own Gandhi; or modern business leaders like Bill Gates or Elon Musk or Azim Premji or Anand Mahindra or Kumarmangalam Birla or Gautam Adani : all have grown from strength to strength as they seized opportunities that came their way & acted with confidence and speed. They were well ahead in the race due to decisive action implemented with alacrity. Look at how Karsanbhai Patel of Nirma gave a run for their money to the well entrenched Unilever and its professional management. Our home grown brands like Oberoi and Taj are ranked with the world’s best hospitality chains because of their constant attention to acting on feedback and continuous improvement initiatives, rigorously implemented. Dare to Dream, the life story of Rai Bahadur MS Oberoi by Bachi Karkaria is a must read for anyone wanting to know the facts behind the rags to riches story. The daring steps & risky decisions that he took laid the foundation of a great business empire & brought up this first generation entrepreneur to the World’s Great list.

Underlining the importance of Action, long ago, another great master Carl Jung said,” You are what you do, not what you say you will do” That quote always reminds me of a school time riddle: there were 7 birds swinging on an electric wire. 4 of them thought they will fly away to a nearby tree. So how many birds are left on the electric wire? The correct answer is 7, as 4 only thought they would fly away. They thought, but did they? or Did not? Thinking is not action. And there if you ask me lies the main issue. We think a lot. But we do precious little. Thinking about a solution and acting on a solution are 2 very different things indeed.

So if we go back to our first question to Be or Not to Be, To Do or Not to Do, my unequivocal answer is Be, Do, Be Bold, Be decisive, Follow the heart and Kiss the World, as Subrato Bagchi says in his life story. The existential dilemma is often a fight between your heart and your head. There are always pros and cons. Somewhere there is always a doubt what would happen. But we must over-leap the doubt and ACT. Think, the future depends on what you do today. Do; don’t prevaricate, debate, or deliberate. The analysis phase should be quickly over & take the leap of faith remembering Martin Luther King’s famous sentence,” You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” Act and the world will be at your feet. One step at a time!

Remember,” The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it”. These words of Karl Marx are also inscribed upon his grave!!

What more can be said on the power of action? Be a warrior: vikas

Parables & Stories from Vipassana (2)

Stories & Parables have been used by teachers since times immemorial to drive home their thoughts & increase learning. Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism….all have their stories. I heard some great ones, in the Vipassana Meditation course, I attended in April.; this is an attempt to share the stories with you for your learning & entertainment. This blog is Part 2 of the one I posted on 11/5/2022. Read, think, learn & enjoy.

5) Buddha once told that there are 4 types of people in the world: Type 1 are people who are in Darkness & they are running from there to Darkness. Type 2 are people in Light but they are running towards Darkness. Type 3 are people in Darkness, but are running towards Light. Finally the Type 4 are people who are in Light & they are running towards Light.

Obviously the Type 4 are the best hope for mankind as they know where they are, they are living their life well, & they will continue to be in Light. Type 1 are the worst off: they are in Darkness but they continue to hurtle towards Darkness.. These are shallow & foolish people who cannot pull themselves out of darkness/ignorance. They will blame Fate & Destiny. But they will not take charge of their situation & help and support each other to move ahead. Type 2 have lost their way. They were in Light but due to some external or own compulsions they are choosing to go towards Darkness. Not much good can be expected from them. Type 3 were in the Dark but have found their mistakes, are ready to change & are positively oriented to wards Light/knowledge/salvation. We need to analyze where we stand &, in the long run, move towards Light for the best outcomes for ourselves & the community.

My learning: First thing I need to understand where I stand & what is my future 0rientation. Next I need to use this to leverage and help myself & others to move towards Light.

#6) When Buddha’s influence started to spread, the entrenched priests & the religious system resented the fact that people were drawn to Buddha’s thinking & stopped the rituals & practices, which was their source of income & influence on the janata. They decided to hurt Buddha’s clean image, to wean the people away. A good looking girl was influenced to go into Buddha’s ashram every day. The girl would sleep under a tree at night, and in the morning go into the village with disheveled hair and crumpled clothes & tell stories about how she enjoyed the night in Buddha’s bed. This continued for a while. After a few months she tied some wooden sticks to her abdomen to create an impression of a pregnant woman, a big stomach carrying a child. Alongwith her instigators, all the Bramhins and religious henchmen, they marched into Buddha’s ashram: the girl accused Buddha of having slept with her & made her pregnant.

With a calm and equanimous mind, Buddha just smiled : he saw through the girl’s game. He did not defend himself against her diatribe. But just then a rat entered the girl’s sari & gnawed at the rope that held the sticks together on her stomach! The sticks got dislodged & fell to the ground, with a sound. The falsehood of the girl & her supporters was exposed.

My Learning: a clear conscience can never be shaken, as Truth is the strongest Defender of who you are.

#7) A devotee’s father died & was cremated with full Hindu rites & rituals. Thereafter the person came to Buddha and asked him to something special, some कर्म कांड, a ritual which would ensure a place in heaven for his father. Buddha told him to go to the market, get 2 earthen pots/मटका, fill one with Ghee, one with small stones, and meet him at the river side. The man rushed and got the 2 pots as instructed. Buddha asked the man to put the 2 pots in the water. Then Buddha asked the man to take his wooden staff & hit both pots hard, so that they break.

The one with Ghee..all the Ghee came out and started floating on the water. The stones and pebbles in the other one sank to the ground level under the water. Buddha then told the man how can we reverse this? how do we ensure the stones float? and the ghee sinks to the bottom? The man told Buddha that is impossible. Buddha explained to him, Similarly if your father had done good deeds in his life, he will naturally rise to Heaven. But if there are bad deeds in his past that would drag him down to hell.

My Learning: As you sow, so shall you reap. Past actions cast a long shadow into the future.

#8) A King and his Queen, regular practitioners of Vipassana, had built a meditation center where they meditated regularly. One morn, the King told the Queen, “I had a strange dream, that you are asking me, who is the person I love the most in this entire universe”. The Queen retorted,” that is really strange as I had a similar dream that you are asking me who is the person I love the most in the universe. So let me accept, when I thought about this question, I realized the person I love the most is myself” The King replied, “Interesting but in my dream I also told you that the person I love the most is myself!

They went to Buddha to ask him the interpretation of their dreams. Buddha complimented them and said: all veils have dropped away. You are left with the ultimate trust. Indeed each one of us loves oneself the most. But we try to hide & couch this. You are now so evolved that you are facing this directly.

My Learning: Face the Truth squarely without trying to hide anything. That way you are closest to Nirvana/Salvation.

#9) Another story of Mohammad : He used to daily follow a particular route to go to the masjid to pray, by a horse-cart. One of the ladies who lived en-route was anti Mohammad’s preaching. Every time Mohammad’s horse-cart went from the road in front of her house, she would climb to the first floor balcony & empty her garbage on the cart!! The garbage would fall on Mohammad & spoil his clothes. He used to take it in his stride, not react at all. He would go on to the masjid, clean his clothes & body, and then go & pray. This routine continued many times. And Mohammad’s response was the same: ignore the provocation & continue what he had set out to do.

One day, when Mohammad crossed that lady’s house no garbage came down on the cart or Mohammad. He asked the driver to stop the horse-cart, got down, walked into that lady’s house. He climbed up to the first floor and very solicitously enquired after her health. Mohammad said to her, सब खैरियत?? Is all well? I was surprised that no garbage has come on me today. I hope you are healthy and well. Is there anything I can do for you?. Mohammad’s behavior shamed the lady so much that she fell on Mohammad’s feet & asked forgiveness for her pettiness. Later she became a strong supporter of Mohammad.

My Learning: Rise above pettiness. Time will prove you right. Just be patient.

#10) A man came to Buddha and asked him,” You are so evolved. A great Master. So many come to your discourses. You guide all of them. So does everyone reach salvation?” Buddha counter questioned him, where are you from originally? Your language, body structure, clothes show that you are not from here in Shravasti” “No” said the man, “I am from Rampur”. So Buddha asked you must know the road to Rampur well? Yes of course was the man’s reply. So Buddha continued, whoever wants to go to go to Rampur must be coming to ask you for directions? Yes they do , said the man, I explain the whole road to them well. So once you explain, do the people immediately reach Rampur? No said the man, they have to travel, walk the path & take the effort and then they reach. The same is with me, said Buddha. I am a Teacher. I know the road to salvation. Merely having me as a Guide will not help. Every person must take efforts & walk the path himself to reach the destination.

My Learning: You can be shown the path, but it is your efforts that will take you forward. With all Buddha’s knowledge/प्रज्ञा, the only person Buddha can save & take to salvation is Buddha alone. I must take my own efforts. No one can save me, save & except myself.

All these stories & anecdotes are Guide Posts, Lighthouses that show us the path. Use them judiciously to direct your path. And be ready to take the effort yourself, to walk the road. For that there is no substitute!!

All the best for your journey : vikas

Guilty, as charged!!

The Human Condition and Guilt are intricately enmeshed. Not a day goes by without regrets, a feeling that I should not have done what I did, & then agonizing over past deeds and their outcomes. While doing something makes one feel bad, sometimes we feel guilty without any act or commission. Thoughts, plans, emotions also take us on a guilt trip…how can I think like this? why am I planning to do this? how can I feel so negatively about that person? all of these are rabbit holes dragging us down in a negative spiral…and the omni-present guilt!!

Sounds familiar? Each one of us understands the truth of Gorky’s words as life goes on and we learn to introspect. Having lost our innocence, we soon experience Al-Rahbani’s wisdom as we continue to careen on the incessant treadmill we call life!! This goes back to Voltaire’s aphorism: Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains!! and do we feel happy? No we bristle against the chains & feel guilty in the process. दिल वो है कि फ़रियाद से लबरेज़ है हर वक़्त, हम वो हैं कि कुछ मुँह से निकलने नहीं देते|What could have been, always over-shadows what is in front of us; we perpetually chase a chimera, wallowing in guilt, & feeling miserable in the process.

अपने ही लाश का खुद मज़ार आदमी

And yet, feelings of guilt have their place: when you are contemplating a course of action that would hurt or harm. Going to War, Firing an employee, Insulting someone, Bullying & Bull-dozing ones’ POV, Cheating or misleading….all of these are classic examples of the acts that make us think about consequences & how history would judge us.

Guilt awakens and ripens in a social context. I am always concerned how others would see me, whether I would be “found out”. Guilt comes when you are not sure whether you did the right thing? whether you will be saddled with outcomes you had not bargained for?? Zig Ziglar puts it so well, ” With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt”. But breathes there a man who will always be on the side of Integrity & Correctness? We know that even Saints have a past. And it is when you pass the path of “brimstone and fire” you will rise anew: but for that, we must go through the deep valley of Guilt and atonement.

Possibly the dilemma & consequences of guilt & a wrong act are best captured in the anguish of Lady Macbeth. Having killed her King, she loses her sleep, dreams of her dastardly act, & keeps washing her hands to rid them of blood. Her guilt keeps the blood on her hands fresh & visible, leading to the famous words, ” Yet here’s a spot…Out, damned spot; out, I say… What, will these hands ne’er be clean? … Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” (Act V Scene 1). While Lady Macbeth feels guilty, think about Kansa who killed 6 children of Devaki immediately after they were born. Did he feel any guilt? Rather he felt righteous. Genghis Khan first tasted war when he was 9 years of age when his father was poisoned & he was held captive. His notoriety ever increased till he died 65 years of age. Nowhere is there any mention in history of remorse or regret for the barbarism that his armies unleashed & Genghis Khan himself led.

Guilt as an emotion has been around since the definition of good & bad, correct & wrong. The Biblical reference of Adam’s Fall from the Garden of Eden, the practice of Confession and Absolution all have an underlying logic of guilt. If you do not go to Church regularly, if you do not confess, you would burn in Hell: an euphemism for the pangs of Guilt which would rack & wreck you. But then, why go so far, to understand the all-pervading nature of guilt ?

Our mothers & wives keep us well aware of the power of guilt. ” Eat all that is on your plate, there are people who do not get 2 square meals a day!!” “Alcohol/Drinking is bad. If you continue like this you will bring ruin on to the entire family” “you have so many advantages that people do not have. When will you learn to value them?” Anyone who has been on a diet to reduce weight has felt the weight of guilt on his conscience. Why did I eat that sweet? Can I take a “cheat day” today instead of next week? Guilt keeps us guessing as we careen down the diet plan. Sometimes I feel Wives and Mothers are there just to tell us what we are doing wrong & what we need to atone for! If not at home, there is the boss at the office telling you, in full stereophonic sound, what you need to change & how. When he stops, our colleagues & peers take over driving the Guilt Train, explaining in great detail what we did wrong & how it has hurt them.

जाये तो जाये कहाँ समझे गI कौन यहाँ दर्द भरे दिल की जुबान

Is all this blame game totally objective? Am I really guilty as charged? Is there a lot of subjectivity at stake here and what if all my accusers were wrong? Is Justice ever Absolute? Are Guilty verdicts turned in by the Courts & Jury a true reflection of causality & consequent Guilt? If they are, why do we have Courts of Appeal? How often does the Higher Court over rule the judgement delivered by the lower court? If that is possible, what about a Higher, Higher Court to stand in judgment over the Lower Court’s decision of Guilt? Where does all this stop? I have very often wondered about the mindset of the condemned living out their last days on the “Death Row”. Do they feel guilty?

Do they repent what they did?? Did Ram feel bad about subjecting Sita to an “agni pariksha”? Did Sita regret crossing the “Laxman Resha”? Did Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Bormann, van Ribbentrop, Joseph Mengele ever feel guilty about the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust? The social context of Guilt gets exacerbated when we talk of the Holocaust, as even today Neo Nazi groups are ready to defend Hitler & the Nazis & even walk the path shown then!!

So who is Guilty? Who is not Guilty? Like most emotions and feelings…it is all in your mind! A Mussolini justifies inequalities. A Martin Luther King stands against it. A Gandhi gets freedom for a nation through non-violent Satyagraha. But does that make a Subhash Chandra Bose any less relevant? The sacrifices of Chaphekar Bandhu or Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev & Rajguru did not go in vain per Indians. But for the British? The revolutionaries felt no guilt on the noose. But, did Saunders regret his actions? Did the British rulers rue the Jallianwala Bagh? General Dyer was the toast of the British society when he was shot down by Sardar Udham Singh. Who bears the guilt? Britain became Great on the loot and plunder of Africa and Asia. But History has never shamed or blamed the British. It is said the Hunter will always be the hero, till the Lions learn to write their own stories. So indeed, Guilt is a construct, a concept, up for interpretation.

I go back to Shakespeare’s Macbeth to conclude:
“And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death… Life’s but a walking shadow… It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

So do not get waylaid dear friends by Guilt as you traverse this tortuous path. Learn to Let Go. Move forward and be ready to face the new sun with a smile on your face. Shrug off the negativity and guilt. It is just sound & fury, signifying nothing. Feel and Heal!!!

I will end by reminding you: Let It Go! Never let the past weigh you down. The lighter you travel, the faster will be your journey: vikas

Hey Ram !

Ram, Ramu, Ramchandra Rao is no more.

My partner in Basil HR Advisory left for his heavenly abode on 17th Feb night. I was away at Surat in an L&T program, a client we had worked on together since 2015. One of our first clients, after starting BasilHR in 2014 Oct. It is a testimony to Ramu’s contributions and commitment that since 2015 we have been regularly working for L&T Hazira!! In the process there have been multiple line leaders of L&T who co-ordinated & directed our cultural transformation initiatives. Yet the succeeding generation of leaders kept us engaged…the biggest certificate for Ram sir’s strategic orientation on how BasilHR can add value. The ultimate proof of this : L&T team actually observed 2 mins silence, to pay respects to the departed soul on 18th itself. I can’t think of another example where a large corporate does this for a mere external consultant.

But then, Ramu was never a mere consultant. He got involved intricately with whoever he came in touch with & left an indelible mark. Having studied in Darbhanga, Bihar, Ramu’s chaste Hindi diction & his wide ranging vocabulary, would automatically put any Bombaiyya hindi-wallah on the back foot. His repertoire of curse words and off-colour anecdotes would put many a sailor to shame. But that was a put on persona.

Other times he was a true “ladies man” immaculately dressed with total, upmarket branded clothes, properly polished shoes with laces!!! so well groomed that one could easily take him to meet the Queen & he would be totally at home there!!! Or to any client, or prospective client. With his most prim & proper board room behavior he could charm any client. And when he spoke, people listened. His ability to work through objections & suggestions others made, blending their ideas with his agenda, made us a very successful team. All our present clients have been giving us repeat business for years & years. Because of Ramu’s demeanor, BasilHR became the first port of call for many clients who required HR support.

This meant we were on the road, together, for 20 plus days of a month. we travelled and worked together so very much that we were like a married couple, still in love!! And a more classic Odd Couple you would not find after Walter Matthau & Jack Lemmon. Every which way we were perfectly mis-matched. To his broad picture, world view I was the nuts and bolts guy. To his sartorial elegance, were my crumpled shirts and mis-matched trousers. When I met him I was shocked to hear he had 800 Rs haircuts and regularly indulged in grooming makeovers, while my criteria to select a barber was just close distance from home & cap of 80 Rs haircut!! His love for food, against my “”Lunch/Dinner is just a time to get through”. I think the only thing we both agreed upon was our passionate love for our drink: but here also he was a sophisticate Whiskey guy; while I am a committed sadak chaap Old Monk drinker. But still, after all the hurly burly is done, we both loved drinking.

Possibly that is not fair. Another thing we both thought important was family. His eyes would light up everytime he talked of his grand children. His affection for his 2 daughters continued unabated till the end. Family is my priority, too

What always surprised me was his outgoing nature & ability to have a truly mixed caboodle of friends, belonging to all strata & factions of society. Builders, Professors, Contractors, Doctors, Businessmen, Politicos, Academics, Corporate Professionals all considered him as one of their own!! Despite such a wide spectrum of friends, he was always hungry for more contacts. He was a pied piper let loose: he could get along & befriend anybody, from a canteen worker to a CEO. Always ready to help, taking on other people’s battles endeared him to many! I have often see him work his charm on all & sundry and come out of every interaction with more friends, more people wanting to go out of their way to help him.

For an introvert like me, forever wary of speaking to the other sex, Ramu gave me an insight how Krishna must have been with the Gopis. From the first glance, Ramu had made a connect. And could always find things to talk. His light banter always charmed, and I have not seen a single lady who could resist his charm. Well dressed, soft spoken, neatly coiffured, he had the entire audience hanging on his words. And he could get away with any comment, any innuendo because of his charming smile & engagement with all.

He openly admitted being an XLRI graduate by accident. His brother, an IIT-ian, was the brain in his family. Ramu was often at the receiving end from his parents, due to the odious comparison. But he remained true to his core. Living in a small town, (where everyone knew his father), meant when Ram had to use the town’s Christian Cemetery as his smoking lounge! Advantage: no one came there! So he & his merry band from school sat on the grave stones & smoked. Before going home they ate raw mango leaves to mask the smell. Post marriage he used chewing gum to mask the smell of cigarette & liquor on his breath. Yet he was honest to admit: ghar walon ko sab pata hota hai, they just pretend they do not know, to protect your image.

With such a rich & varied people orientation, it was no surprise he was very successful HR professional. In Indal, VIP, Wockhardt, Hinduja Group, and GVK, he led his team to great heights. He was happy with the fact that many of his chelas became HR heads with much larger roles than what he had ever played. He felt beholden that he could recount 20/25 names of people who worked in his team & then rose to be Heads of HR in different companies. In the course of our travel, I had the opportunity to meet many of them & they all treated him with the deference & respect due to a true Guru, who led by example & groomed his team to go to greater heights by his challenges.

For me personally it is a great loss. I can never meet another partner who could challenge & jell with me at the same time. I feel super proud of what we achieved together. The value add we jointly created will live on beyond him. And will keep reminding me & our clients that we had a Giant walking amidst us. A Giant with a heart. A Giant with a gentle step. Suffused with love for all. If I miss him so much, I can well what his family must be going through. He loved his daughters and his grandchildren and often talked of the support his wife gave him through his journey. Ramu would want them to be happy. So I hope they find their solace soon.

To them and to his many many professional fans i will only say झालेत बहू होतील बहू परंतु ह्या समा हाच!! ( There were many before, there will be many later; But no one will be quite like this one!)

Let us be happy that we met & enjoyed with Ramu for the years we did.

Ramu keep loving & blessing us as you always did: in grief, vikas

PS: My wife who is my QC for every blog told me that writing about his smoking & drinking, is it ok? I told her that was the Ramu I loved & so would not like to edit it out. I hope you, my readers, agree

To be or not to be

Deepika Padukone at the height of her career & success gets into depression and needs professional help. One of the highest-paid actresses in India, her accolades include three Filmfare Awards. She features in listings of the nation’s most popular personalities. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018!! And, she suffers from depression!!!

Deepika is not alone. Abraham Lincoln, Halle Berry, Dwayne Johnson (the Rock), Lady Gaga, Princess Diana, Michael Phelps winner of 28 Gold Medals in Olympics, Anne Hathaway, world’s highest paid actress, are all famous people who have publicly admitted being victims of clinical depression & suicidal thoughts. Tennessee Williams, America’s most famous playwrights, could not bear a string of flops after A Streetcar Named Desire & The Glass Menagerie, and had to be institutionalized. As Kristen Bell put it succinctly,” “Anxiety and depression are impervious to accolades or achievements. Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain.” Eminem, Johnny Depp, are cases in point. Ellen Degeneres, being thrown out of her most popular sitcom because she gathered the courage to declare she was gay, pushed her into depression. Consider, Catherine Delevingne, the most sought-after supermodels in the world. By age 15, Delevingne was rich & famous, but was also hit with a “massive wave of depression, anxiety, & self-hatred.” Delevingne said, “I was packing my bags, and suddenly I just wanted to end it. I had a way, and it was right there in front of me. And I was like, I need to decide whether I love myself as much as I love the idea of death.”

Jim Carrey easily makes the short list of history’s most influential comedians. The funnyman shocked a lot of people when he acknowledged he has spent much of his life dealing with depression. After the second of his two failed marriages, Carrey sought the help of a psychiatrist who prescribed him Prozac. Though Carrey admits the antidepressant helped him out of an initial jam, he also realized that he couldn’t be one of those who stay on the drug forever. “You need to get out of bed every day and say that life is good. That’s what I did, although at times it was very difficult for me.” Carrey credits a healthy diet & natural supplements for his improved mental health. The question still looms large: why does a comedian suffer depression?

All these and more examples only underline the huge challenge we face in our repressed society. If this is the state of our so called “successful people”, who seemingly have everything going for them, pomp, glamour, public acclaim, what then would be the state of the average man on the street? Mental Health issues are rampant, but at the same time there is a large scale connivance afoot to push this under the surface & not take the help required to overcome these issues. Rarely is the mold broken. Anjelina Jolie-Pitt & Harrison Ford were possibly lucky that they could control the negative spiral and use their work to climb out of severe depression. Yet the most capable Guru Dutt succumbed to his desire to commit suicide. Deepika’s personal struggles gave rise to The Live Laugh Love Foundation a non-profit NGO to bring awareness to mental health in India. In 2016, the organization launched a program called “You Are Not Alone”. Facebook is working with the organization to prevent suicides from being livestreamed.

Both society at large, as well as movies & fiction, tend to gloss over what the person goes through. खुल्या सरखो कर्ता (acts like a fool) is the shorthand mostly used to lump the inexplicable behavior of our near & dear ones…..merely because we do not understand it & do not know how to deal with it. Unable to appreciate fully the import of what our loved one is going through, we tend to give facile advice, simplistic solutions and generally tell the person to get his/her act together. As we continue to push back & not take cognizance of the gravity of what the other person is going through, we tend to drive ourselves further & further away from the person suffering & push him/her into a corner. And the isolation of the person who is suffering takes it’s toll. S/he just does not understand why & how you cannot see the seriousness of what s/he is gong through. Your lack of empathy typically serves to isolate & withdraw the person who is suffering, as somehow the message they get is….you do not appreciate their challenges and reality & so there is no meeting ground for resolution.

The reason why I have listed so many illustrious examples is just to drive home the point: depression is real. It can hit anyone at any stage and situation. And we all who are supposedly learned, educated, forward thinking must accept the fact that this major issue needs to be taken far more seriously by us, than we have taken hitherto. The challenge is to change our mindset, be more sensitive. Empathetic. Caring. Understanding

Recently the song from Marathi film Redu written by Guru Thakur is an inspired piece of advice:

फाटक्या झोळीत येऊन पडते/ रोजची नवी निराशा

सपान गाठीला धरत वेठीला/ कशी रं सुटावी आशा

अवसेची रात नशिबाला /पुनवेची राख पदराला

होईन पुनव मनाशी जागव / खचून जाऊ नको

येईल मुठीत तुझ्याही आभाळ/ माघार घेऊ नको

उगाच भयाण वादळ वाऱ्याच्या / पाऊल रोखू नको

साद घाली दिस उद्याचा नव्याने/ इसर गजाल कालची रे

देवाक काळजी रे/ माझ्या देवाक काळजी रे

Transliteration:

In my torn bag falls/ Always new disappointment/ Dreams are held at ransom/How can one leave hope?/Moonless night is in my fate/ New moon’s ashes in the padar (पदर means पल्लू. Basically, it means you are getting purnima’s ashes, so in other words, disappointment)/Yet, the new moon will happen, awaken (your) mind/Don’t lose all hope/The sky shall embrace you/ Do not turn back/During the terrible storm for no reason/ Do not stop walking/A new tomorrow calls you/ Forget the mutterings of the past/

देवांक् काळजी रे God cares

माझ्या देवांक् काळजी रे My God care(s)

Overall, indeed, there is a lot to look forward to. Forget the past. And sally forth boldly to face the future. Knock adequate doors, some will open. And you will find a new way out of your conundrum. The trick is to not lose hope. Big Shots are little shots who kept plugging away. Life is positive and we must look on it with hope and positivity.

इसर गजाल कालची रे, देवाक काळजी रे, माझ्या देवाक काळजी रे

देव बरे करो : vikas

Happy 2022 (100)

A milestone brings with it some unknown joy….a lump in the heart, a positive valence, a looking forward, brighter expectations. The human mind is so funny, every week we look FW to the Sunday, every Monday signals a “new” week, a new beginning. So an year end and a New Year is expectations multiplied literally like a second coming of Christ, something to look up to, something which we believe will be a harbinger of new directions, new achievements and new experiences.

Coming from the trough of 2020 & 2021, the watershed COVID years, Lockdowns, Deaths, fears of the virus: I feel, already, 2022 is overloaded with our expectations for a better future. The Pandemic year has shown us what we can bear. And we all have found in ourselves mountains of resilience and valleys of forbearance. On this background, we all wish that the new year may remove all the negative energy and enlighten our lives. Will 2022 fulfill our cherished dreams or will it be a damp squib, more of the same thing? A year of “same difference” rather than heralding a New Normal, a New Next as all public pronouncements make us believe?

For the https://wordpress.com/post/vikasshirodkar.blog also it is a significant milestone. This is my 100th post since I began 4 years ago. So these questions dog me personally too. Will I turn the corner, now that I am 100 posts old? will I write something different? will my readers continue to remain engaged? will I be able to create a new experience? Will I be able to share my thoughts and questions? Will I be able to live up to the promise I had made in my first blog?

That fateful day as I stared at a blank computer screen, looking for inspiration, wondering what to write? and how to write? I had reminded myself of the famous exposition of Sir Philip Sidney, ” Fool , look in thy heart and write.” The journey has been interesting for me, writing about various subjects which interested me and offering the blogs to the readers. Always excited when I got feedback, correcting me, complimenting me. Every encouragement, building my resolve, to keep blogging.

We all could take inspiration from the great advice of Meister Eckhart ,”Be willing to be a beginner every single morning”. There is a stupid joke which goes, “when is your birthday? And the answer from a dolt like me, ” Every Year” Whichever day you were born, is every day not a “birthday”? Are you not reborn every day? Do you not have a chance to reinvent yourself and chart a new course every day you are alive?

In India, we have a practice of celebrating a newborn’s “birthday” every month. With every passing day, the child is learning new things, getting shaped and honed. The practice of celebrating every month commemorates this fact. It is sad that we stop it once the child is one year old. But really till the Death Day, every Day is a Birthday and every day in an year is New Year beginning with as much potential and promise as the transition between 31/12 and 1/1.

The Greek Philosophers really understood this continuity of life. Every end is a new beginning, like the fluidity of a circle which is continuous and has no start or end point, Every full stop heralds the start of a new sentence. Truly, Life goes on. As Seneca had observed, ” Every new beginning comes from the end of some other beginning’s end.” Obviously, the time for new beginnings is NOW. New Beginnings are sometime camouflaged as painful endings. But with every closing door, another one opens: if only we look around for new openings, new beginnings, rather than fill our eyes with tears, for the door that closed. The Beginning is always TODAY. TODAY you can begin to become whatever you want to be. TODAY, not next Monday, not 1st of next month, not 1st Jan, not await the “auspicious” day. Today brings its own magic which will see your plans through. Socrates guides,” The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new”. And build the NEW, NOW. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Carpe Diem….seize the day.

So really, I have great hope and positivity for the future. Call it 2022, or call it tomorrow. Next week, Next Month all is good if I begin with a positive resolve in my heart. Tomorrow has to be good, better, best. After all we are going to spend the rest of lives there. The Good Book ( Revelation 21:5) promises, “Behold, I make all things new” . Do not listen to the defeatists, there are many in the world. Chart your own course. Spread positivity and light. Remember, the world is changed by your example, not your opinion!

To return to my personal milestone: I am happy that you, my readers, have welcomed my outpourings, my posts. You have complimented and loved some (Being a Good person had 7970 hits on LinkedIn and What HR has taught me 11,702); pilloried me for some (Sentire Ergo Sum 32 hits; A Hero’s Journey 40 hits); but, all in all, have been very supportive of me. From one icon of Smilie or Thumbs Up to long, page full comments as feedback, I have enjoyed it all. So to me 2022 will not be a new year. It will be more of the Same Difference. I will keep posting. And I will keep looking forward to your feedback. The harsher the better so that I can find my groove. Frankly, I am a masochist at heart!!

So 2021 is about to end. Hope you have captured all the learnings and are ready to move on. New Beginnings in 2022. I have reached a milestone of 100 blogs. The 101 blog topic is already in my mind. New Blog in 2022. The cycle continues.

The Circle never ends. Join me in the journey ahead.

Love: vikas

“I am sorry!”

Just 3 small words!! They should be easy to say? But they always get stuck in the throat!! Though a poor cousin of the more illustrious phrase ” I love you” , this one “I am sorry” is perhaps the most under used part of our vocabulary. Though the chances to say sorry are legion, & we continue to create newer opportunities by the dozen every day, still we will try every possible subterfuge to avoid accepting I did something wrong. One of the most profound interactions that can occur between people, apologies have the power to heal humiliations, free the mind from deep-seated guilt, remove the desire for vengeance, and thus ultimately restore broken relationships. But do we say we are sorry?

Have you ever wondered why saying sorry is difficult? Clearly it is our ego that comes in the way. Firstly we believe we are infallible. To accept our mistake requires humility. But we are full of the opposite: our pride, comes in the way. Even when the mistake is obvious, it takes courage to eat the humble pie & accept your fault. Traditionally we are wired to defend ourselves, argue, to try and prove that the other person actually erred, & you are the wronged person, someone who needs the apology, rather than accepting that I need to make an apology. This is not a good place to be in, since as soon as you accept that you made a mistake, you are ready to move on. Remember Robin Sharma,” There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. …From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher”.

Think about it…. Saying sorry & learning from the mistake is far better than the others who are stuck there quibbling over right and wrong & trying to apportion blame. Think of your life as an open book. Move forward, close a chapter & start afresh. “Proper apologies have three parts: 1) What I did was wrong. 2) I feel bad that I hurt you. 3) How do I make this better?” as Randy Pausch has noted. While 1 & 2 are important elements, the real focus should not be on the past, but on the future…how do we make it better? “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” said James Joyce. It is not the mistakes we make but how we correct them that opens newer opportunities, leading to newer futures.

If you understand apologies better, what is involved is the heaviness of shame, guilt, and humiliation, that the person feels when he considers his act & wonders whether to apologize. Riddled with it is also the initial reluctance to apologize, since it involves accepting that you are wrong. But if you can jump over that chasm, you will be charmed by the simplicity of the act of apologizing,.. It is not really an Everest you made it out to be, it is just a step forward. And if your feelings are genuine & you can convey the heartfelt remorse, more often than not you will be met with the spontaneous generosity and forgiveness on the part of the offended. The cathartic feeling lifts both involved. The new-found warmth unleashes the transfer of power and respect between two parties. And this is where I am Sorry & I Love You both phases & phrases merge and you emerge stronger and more empowered than before.

I recollect 2 occasions of saying sorry which left a deep impact on my life. Here goes:

Very early in my career….1982, 2 years after marriage, I had got a job with Siemens. First time working in an MNC. Within a few weeks of joining the new job, was my wedding anniversary. First anniversary in Mumbai, surrounded by family, having recently shifted jobs & location. Everyone was invited to a big bash at home in the evening. Much planning had gone it to make the party memorable. Went to office in morning, promising I would be home by 6 pm, to help before guests arrived. Something came up in the office, I forget now what it was. 6 became 7, 7 became 8 and 8 became 9 pm. Guests had arrived, food was getting cold & I was still in office. I had called at 5 pm & told I would be late. But after that somehow I could not or did not call again. Obviously, this was well before the cell phone era. At 9 pm my resourceful, journalist father-in-law decided he should call Siemens’ Head Office & find out where I was. The Security Guard who picked the phone just said office is closed. Not to give up, my FIL used his contacts & found the residential telephone no of P. W. Khandekar, Personnel Director of Siemens India and called him up to say that I , a rookie new joinee, had not returned home from office. And could he help? PWK being PWK, he called the office, made the Security Guard climb up to Personnel Dept on 3rd floor, locate me in the conference room & tell me to go home immediately as PWK the Personnel Director was holding, on line & wanted a report that I had left office!!!! Imagine my embarrassment in front of new colleagues & bosses. But a Director’s orders have to be obeyed. I went home fuming & angry at the supreme embarrassment in a new company & amidst new colleagues. The party celebrations were a wash out. All had food and left. And I turned to my wife of 2 years & roundly berated her for insulting & embarrassing me. Needless to add, we slept with our backs to one another, anniversary regardless.

Next morning, I had convinced my FIL & my wife that they had stepped way out of line by calling PWK, a Director at home, for a husband missing a dinner. Sheepishly I went to office, sought an appointment at 5th floor with Khandekar & sallied forth with butterflies in my stomach to apologize to him. When I entered his cabin, I began profusely saying sorry. PWK looked at me top to toe. Asked me to sit down. I feared a sack, 1 month since joining. And then PWK spoke,” Why are you apologizing to me? Go home and say sorry to your wife!!! what you made her go through was terrible.” End of interview. Have never forgotten the lesson. (Sotto Voce : I am still apologizing to Vinita after 40 years, he he ha ha)

The second episode: I was an Asst Manager in Industrial Relations assisting the Chief Manager IR Policy, Mr Arun Bhende. I was deputed to handle an IR Crisis which had developed in our Nashik factory. Having just 3 years experience till then under my belt, all in recruitment and training functions, never worked in a plant environment, I went with much trepidation. Bhende’ one line direction to me was IR is practical logic, so do whatever you feel is right, I will back you from Head Office …..a tall order. But I took to IR like a fish to water, quick decisive, fast actions, & move forward was my agenda. Every evening I used to call to brief Bhende…more to restore my own confidence, to sense-check what I was doing. Bhende was always supportive. On one evening call, Bhende began saying, shall we brief Pandit ( our Executive VP). Brashness of youth took over, “Boss Pandit is fool, He does not understand IR. He is theoretical. He has only handled training” etc etc. All along Bhende is trying to stop me, ” Arre Vikas, But he is our super boss, we must put him in loop” etc. And unstoppable Vikas machine-guns on, “You talk to him if you want, I don’t want to talk to that impractical chap” & so on. Finally Bhende tells me, when I stop to catch my breath,” Vikas, Mr Pandit is in my room, you are on speaker phone, & he is hearing all.” My immediate reaction was to disconnect the line. Went all cold inside, thinking what a hole I have dug myself into. अभी तो जॉब पक्का गया. You don’t insult the top gun in HR in a feudal company like Siemens, you just don’t. After an hour of walking in the plant, I called back Bhende. His advice, come to Mumbai tomorrow, meet Pandit & apologize. That trip Nashik to Worli was the worst I have done. Continuously agonizing how will I broach the topic? How can I cover up? My goose looked well cooked. I reach Pandit’s room in Head Office ( incidentally the same room which Khandekar used to occupy) & as soon as I entered, Pandit begins,” Ok, now I know what you think of me. Impractical am I? A fool?” I am sitting with my head down, wishing the chair would swallow me. ” Sir I am sorry. I over stepped my boundary”. “No no, it is ok Now at least I know exactly your opinion of me” Don’t know which Fairy Godmother interceded on my behalf, but Pandit’s next words were,” Vikas you will be a senior manager some day. Do be careful. Don’t talk so loose. See where & to whom you are talking” I sheepishly yes sir, yes sir-ed my way out of the cabin. Truly admire the largeness of Pandit’s & Khandekar’s heart that they accepted my apology & taught me life’s lessons in the process.

To end this piece , I truly admire the Jain practice of मिच्छामि दुक्कडम् at the end of Paryushan. All greet each other as Micchami Dukkhadam i.e. I ask for your forgiveness for any harm I did to you knowingly or unknowingly by my words, actions or by my feelings. In effect what they are saying is “May my bad deeds (dushkrut) become fruitless (mithya).” ” May all the evil that has been done be in vain”. What a concept!!! What an Universal Apology!!! The power to heal & forgive comes through so strongly.

Most Humbly I accept, I am flawed, I err, again and again.

Micchami Dukkhadam: vikas