Jab we Met

Unabashedly I am a confirmed movie buff. Since school times, till the lockdown there was not a week gone by, when I did not see a movie. And that too in the theaters. During school time I stole money from home, lied to my parents, did whatever had to be done to indulge my addiction. Post lockdown I have switched to OTT platforms and do binge watching. Just yesterday, I was up till 3 am to complete a series as I just could not leave it half way.

Though I plead guilty to this movie mania, no movie has made me more mad than Jab we Met. I have watched this movie 68 times, 40 odd times in part, as it was on when I switched on the TV, & then I had to watch till it ended. But 25 plus times I have watched it beginning to end, waiting for ad breaks to get water or make water. I believe, therefore, I am well qualified, 68 times over, to write why I like Jab we Met *ing Shahid & Kareena. So here goes.

A simple plot of a distraught, rich kid, ditched by his beloved, getting on a train and having a ride of his life. Aditya meets Geet, a chatterbox, who forcibly befriends him and changes him totally. Till interval. And post interval, the roles reverse: Geet is in depression, & using the same things Geet has taught him, Aditya brings her out of depression and helps her face life. Simple story, stitched together with some amazingly beautiful songs, and mind shattering learnings in the shape of pithy dialogues that rock. Which is the subject of this blog.

Early in the film, in a run down Hotel Decent in Ratlam, Geet helps Aditya deal with his royal ditch. She asks Aditya to burn a photo of his erstwhile beloved & flush it down the drain. ” जला दो साली को…. and just flush her out of your life” What great advice to solve hurts and pain & rejection!! First Aditya objects to this बचपना. And after doing this Geet asks him अच्छा लग रहा है? And Aditya realizes that the childish action has indeed helped him overcome his pain. Imagine, how often we “lovingly” hold on to our pain, put-me-downs, and rejections!! is it not better to just flush it all out of our lives??

A little later Geet and Aditya are sitting on a bridge overlooking a lake, and Geet suggests that they jump in the water. Aditya refuses, but Geet persists with the clincher argument, ” बचपना किया, अच्छा लगा ना ? अब पागलपन करके देखो” They both jump, frolic in the water and come out giggling and happy. Their relationship takes a new turn here. To me what this episode teaches is the importance of Letting Go. Jump. Do things you have never done. Experience, Try out. Transcend your boundaries. You have nothing to loose but your limitations, as Aditya learnt.

Later when Geet is running away from home to meet her paramour Anshuman, as a friend Aditya, is worried & is trying to hold her back. He tells her what Geet is doing is wrong & will hurt others. Geet not only holds firm to her running away plan, she actually encourages Aditya to run away with her, & counsels him,” देखना जो होगा वो अच्छा ही होगा. इसीलिए मैं वही करती हूँ जो मुझे सही लगता है” How many of us follow our heart? actually that is the way to happiness and to the Right Thing. But we let our head overrule our heart. We intellectualize, we think, we analyze, we prevaricate….and we lose the courage to do what our heart believes, what is right. And after the event we invariably curse ourselves and feel if only I had followed my heart, if only…And come the next dilemma we again suppress our heart!! Follow Geet: do what your heart tells you. You cannot go wrong!!

Doing what your heart tells you is actually priming the pump for success and joy. As Geet tells elsewhere in the movie,” जो कुछ इंसान असल में चाहता है ना.. real में ..वो उसे मिल ही जाता है” What a lovely crystallization of the Power of Attraction…of Positive Thinking…of Affirmations…of Visualizations. The only question is do you trust yourself enough? is your desire really that strong? Is your hunger that sharp? Can you focus on your heart’s desire to the sheer exclusion of all else? If you can, success has to be yours!!

Challenges will be there. Adversities must be faced. But keep the confidence alive that this too shall pass, seasons will change, things will happen in my favor. Geet is running off from her home, she knows her family will be upset, she does not know what future has in store for her; but in the midst of this agony, she regales Aditya,” ये जो बुरा वक़्त है ना ? देखना, हम इसके बारे में सोचेंगे और हसेंगे” Be Positive. Look ahead with confidence. Things will turn for the better. I just need to keep my faith & look ahead towards the sun. If is not by chance that this dialogue/situation is picturized in the night, and Geet is telling Aditya to be strong till the next dawn.

Where does Geet garner all this confidence despite all misfortunes and difficult circumstances? Geet answers that early in the movie when she tells Aditya, “मैं अपने आप की favorite हूँ”.

How many of us can say that? we are rather constantly berating ourselves. We focus on our faults and short comings. And the game goes to the one who focusing on strengths & leveraging their own confidence to add sharpness to their innate capabilities. We need to re-think all the negativity and turn it on it’s head. Modern management is also stressing on understanding and leveraging our strengths rather than trying to overcome weaknesses. Weaknesses take much more effort to over come. Rather, if you are good at backhand tennis, try to take all shots on your back hand, if you are a hook player in cricket, go FW and take your hook shots. You are more likely to succeed this way. Be your own favorite, Enjoy yourself.

So you see, Jab we Met is no mere movie. Imtiaz Ali, the Director, has crafted sheer poetry on film. And in the process left us with some very great learnings. I will end with the last one: when at the end of the movie Geet has to decide between Anshuman and Aditya, she tells him one of Aditya’s own earlier dialogue,” मैं सिर्फ अपने दिल की सुनने वाली हूँ. फिर सब ठीक हो जायेगा” Truly if we gather the courage to follow our heart, we will always be on the right path. Faith in yourself, Trusting the process. Openness in facing life. Accepting what comes your way. Understanding that whatever happens, happens for the best. Relax. Don’t agonize. Go with the Flow. The river knows its way…just float!

I end with words from a song from the movie, looks like it has been written by me, for Jab we Met

छोड़े न छूटे कभी तोड़े न टूटे कभी
जो धागा जुड़ गया वफ़ा का
रास्ते मिल जाते है मंज़िलें मिल जाती है तुम से ही, तुम से ही

Thanking Imtiaz & the powers that be for Jab we Met : vikas the incurable romantic

P.S. Many thanks to my niece Minouti for encouraging me to pen this one

Ça va sans dire !!

This French phrase means : It goes without saying. Night follows Day, ca va sans dire! A mother will always love her child: Es ist selbstverständlich! Time gone can never be recovered, ¡Por supuesto! True love can never be forgotten, बेशक ! Rules of arithmetic will remain the same, यकीनन !!

There shall always be a day and a night, until the world meets its end! We shall always hope to sleep, and wake up to see another day! Such is life! So very often, we do not worry about causality. We just careen from one event, one experience to another without thought, without analysis. We have forgotten, Life is a gift; each day is a chance to do better, to be better, learn as we go along & become more erudite, more skilled, more happy as we live. In the Quran, God says that he created Day and Night, for us to remember him and to thank him for his blessings. They are a continuous chance to correct our mistakes, to do more good deeds, to learn more, to teach more, to help this world thrive again. Unfortunately the stark reality is that: So many people have a life, but, few people are living. Really, & Actually Living.

As humans, we consider ourselves at the top of the evolutionary totem pole. According to Hindu mythology, after going through eighty four lakh yonis, one gets the birth of a human being. And the Hindus always consider, it is a privilege to be born in India as it is a “Dev Bhoomi” Whether we believe these popular myths or not, we must acknowledge the fact some direction setting, some spiritual goal is indeed a part of the Indian Experience. And we can see and feel that every Next Gen is smarter, more evolved, capable and skilled than the generations that preceded. But, Are we using that knowledge, the evolutionary smartness to be better, reach out, and make a difference? Judge for yourself!

Some things seem to be viewed in similar ways by many people, and I think we should take another look at these, and truly question them. In our search for our own truth we need to ensure that we are not acting like sheep, merely following herd behavior. Even when many go through a common experience, the way each person is affected by it, understands it, and learns from it is very often different. We have all experienced this. Some mental calibration is thus required regularly in order to get the most out of the life we are privileged to lead. Consider e.g. that things are often regarded as opposites, things like black and white, day and night, light and dark, are obvious examples. Is it so? Challenge it!!!

A more open view might say, they are opposite sides of one coin. I would go a little further and suggest to you that they are actually part of the same thing. Just as the coin cannot exist without its two sides, I would suggest that our world cannot exist without these so called opposites. “They give us a spectrum to exist in, a matrix, or framework, that stretches between the two extremes (or polarities) to include every variation of light and shade that we sense or experience in-between.” says Julia Woodman, in No Paradox – Living Both In and Outside of the Matrix.

Remember, Nothing changes if nothing changes. The night has taught me never to fear the dark times, by giving way to the dawn of a new day. My partner calls this the महा मंत्र of Life. Continuous Change is the only constant and so I must be in-charge of the changes around me. To get new outcomes we must do things differently. If we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get what we have always got. If I want new results, better outcomes, an enriched life, I must let go of my past ways and accept that I will do different things. Then only can I get different end results, reactions or payoffs. Ça va sans dire !!

Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish author says it so well, “Did you have a sad day? Don’t worry, you have all the night to compensate for it! Did you have a sad night? Don’t worry, you have all the day to compensate for it!”. Look ahead. Take charge and move. जीत आपकी ही होगी.

Rhonda Byrne popularized this visualization and affirmation technique in The Secret. Why go that far, our own superhero SRK in Om Shanti Om avers,” कहते है के किसी चीज़ को दिल से चाहो, तो पूरी क़ायनात उसे तुमसे मिलाने की कोशिश में लग जाती है!” ¡Por supuesto! as our Spanish brethren say.

Ajay Ghogavale crooned so well in Redu movie. See what he sings while reassuring us देवाक काळजी रे

होणार होतला जाणार जातला
मागे तू फिरू नको
उगाच सांडून खऱ्याची संगत
खोट्याची धरू नको
येईल दिवस तुझा हि माणसा
जिगर सोडू नको
तुझ्या हाती आहे डाव सारा
इसर गजाल कालची रे

Transliteration: Whatever is to happen will happen. Do not turn back. Don’t leave the company of the good, and run behind the bad. Your day will certainly come, do not lose hope. The whole game is in your hands. Forget what happened yesterday.

To that extent our direction is set. Decide what you want. And with dedicated focus pursue it till it is yours. And to emphasize the learning, SRK reaffirms elsewhere in the same movie,” इतनी शिद्दत से मैंने तुम्हे पाने की कोशिश की है…की हर ज़र्रे ने मुझे तुमसे मिलाने कोशिश की है”. So decide your goals, clarify your expectations and bring a commitment and effort that drives you forward always. Remember the Madhavan advice in 3 Idiots: बच्चे काबिल बनो, काबिल.. कामयाबी तो साली झक मारके पीछे भागेगी!!


To end, I echo C. Joybell who says: “The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.”


Joyously accept both & enjoy your journey: Ça va sans dire, says vikas

देवाक काळजी रे
माझ्या देवाक काळजी रे

What a lifetime in HR has taught me

I am a die-hard, confirmed HR professional who has spent 32 years in Corporate HR and now 6 years in HR Consultancy. But it was Serendipity that brought me into HR. As a student, I was a English Literature aficionado and my career objective was to be an English Professor. I chose Humanities in my 9th standard in Senior Cambridge, much to the chagrin of my parents. When I came into college, an Uncle advised Psychology, rather than Literature. I went into Psychology only on the promise that if I did not like it, I would be able to transfer back to Literature in 1 semester. I continued & after my MA in Industrial & Organizational Psychology, the field of Management beckoned and I went for Fellowship in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations. And thus became a Personnel Officer.

Many opportunities came for me to change my field. But I remained glued to Personnel/IR/HR as I was enjoying myself too much. This is a field where, my fellow professionals would agree, every day is a नया नाटक: you are never bored, always challenged, forever stretching & continuously struggling… learning all the way. That is why even after 34 years in the job, I still am happily giving consultancy in the same field… as engaged & enthused, as I was in my first job in HCL. HCL, Siemens, Atul, Johnson & Johnson & finally General Motors. Had the opportunity to work for some great companies and learn a lot. And at 65 years of age, I am still learning daily as I work with a diverse set of companies. Family owned companies, Professionally run large corporations, Educational institutions, Co-operatives…all have taught me a lot. And I am sharing with you What a Life Time in HR has taught me.

First learning was that HR is an opportunity to serve others. Many friends unfortunately see HR as a power center, a chance to control, to say no, and throw the policy book at the employees. I have rather looked on HR as a chance to help others, support them and serve them & indirectly their families. To my HR team members, my challenge was, when an employee comes to meet us, can we begin the meeting by saying,” My answer is YES! now tell me what is your question?” By this simple mind change, the focus is on HR to interpret policy liberally, make exceptions when they are justified, change the policy book if it is restrictive. Good managers are not afraid of discriminations and bending rules. Find the logic for it, convince your stakeholders, But SERVE. HR gives us that chance and I have learnt a lot from that.

Second thing that HR has taught me is Gratitude. As a black sheep in family, choosing Humanities, everyone had written me off. But I rose to be an Asia Pacific Director in Johnson & Johnson. I feel grateful for what HR gave me. When I was travelling 20/22 days of the month for professional commitments, for the support my wife & family gave me I feel grateful. The colleagues and friends who helped me achieve professional goals, the brilliant colleagues I met in Siemens & General Motors, the Union leaders and workmen who guided and piloted my decisions, creating a safety net all around, that I would not break any bones, regardless of the mistakes I made….I feel immensely grateful. As HR we hear so many sob stories, hear so many challenges that people face, difficulties they need to overcome. Compared to their stories, I have indeed had a smooth sailing, for that I am grateful.

Third learning was Humility. I have always tried to underplay the fact that I was a first Class First in BA & in MA, that I went to IIM Calcutta…that was because I saw so many smarter and more capable people around me. The chance to work with all these brilliant minds, who were much better at planning & execution made me a humble learner. All my peers and bosses have taught me. My team members and so-called subordinates were such great self-starters that I quickly learnt to get out of their way & let them run with the ball. The accolades we received were always because I was surrounded by people better than me & they helped make my path smoother, the goals achievable. My worker friends in Atul & Siemens and J&J & GM still continue to mentor and guide me. I feel like the Chosen One, one who has received more than what he can hold, and hence so very humble.

Every HR professional knows that solutions which work with one individual do not necessarily work with another. The same solution may work today & fall flat tomorrow. Most of the decisions we take in HR have long, long lead times, before we get to know whether the decision was right or wrong. There are no magic wands and spells which transform in the tool box of HR. All this, teaches me the virtue of Patience. HR is like farming, planting seeds and nurturing their growth…all in its own time. You cannot hurry the process and soon you master Patience. Patience while dealing with a plethora of “customers” & problems, both internal and external. Hand holding and waiting for the “flowering” and ensuring that during the wait, people trust the process and remain positive … certainly, this teaches Patience.

HR is about Human Relations. Human Relations require an investment of time and great effort, a commitment to the long term. There are really no shortcuts in Human Relations. But possibly the time has come for us to put the Relations back into HR. Even in today’s fast-paced life, the fundamentals of HR do not change. People basically turn to HR to get a sympathetic ear. They do not expect us to solve all 100% of their issues. I have found that if you give them a patient listening, half of the issues die out then and there. Somehow we have to make that journey from a Human Being to BEING HUMAN. The positivity you build by BEING HUMAN can open many doors and help you cross many fjords. Are you ready to BEING HUMAN?

I remember when I went IIM Calcutta for my Fellowship interview I was asked why do you want to join HR? Impromptu, my answer was ,” Everyone makes their own career…as HR I want to make other people’s career”. It was just a smart & sexy answer at that point of time!! But the last 34 years, I have day by day lived the truth of that pronouncement. HR gave me a chance to put Others before Self, work on making other people’s careers and in that process I have led a very fulfilling life.

So I end by repeating with ABBA:

If I had to do the same again, I would my friend…..vikas

Words I have lived by

As I fast approach my 66th birthday…and given that I have no intention of living beyond 70….there is more to look back upon, than look forward to. In one of these introspective, retrospective moods I thought I must catalogue the WORDS I HAVE LIVED BY : words that have inspired & helped, supported & motivated, driven & directed me.

Being a Literature aficionado, I was privileged to read & internalize words, thoughts & images from diverse authors & other sources. English, Hindi, Marathi cinema has contributed a lot to my make up. And now of course, the all pervasive, super invasive Social Media shapes me, as much as it shapes you. But even in this cacophonic overload, some words survive, stuck as they are in my heart and head. I realize they exactly are the Words I Live By. This blog is an attempt to share some of these quotes with you.

Had read somewhere, possibly Kahlil Gibran’s advice:, If you have 3 Dirham, Spend 1 Dirham on food, so that you may live; Spend 1 Dirham on buying a Rose, so that you may know why to live; and Spend the last Dirham on a Book so that you may know how to live”. Having been surrounded by words through my life time I do believe:

At the start, I quote Walt Whitman , the Father of Free verse, words I resonate with:

Yes I am large. Most of the time goes in establishing boundaries and exploring new horizons. and as you go forward you understand the truth of Tennyson’s words, “I am a part of all that I have met./ Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough/Gleams that untraveled world/Whose margin fades/For ever and for ever when I move…” And, I continue:

I take solace and draw strength from 2 aphorisms fundamental to Hinduism:

I do believe God has made us in his own image and He is constantly telling us, ” Not my will, but Thy Will Be Done”. But in our Human condition we continue to be afraid and look out for clutches. Sad, since we are complete in ourselves. We need to remind ourselves:

To me it is obvious that we are put on this Earth to succeed and if we are still breathing our mission is not over. Trust the process, JUST BELIEVE

The Free Will believers will readily accept that I can choose a different future. But a different past? think about it. Past is what you carry with you in your mind & in your heart. Who stops us from setting the burden down? We only need to leverage our ability to Let Go.

“Yes Father, Yes” I have with great humility understood that our plans and efforts take us only thus far and finally you must ACCEPT & say, “Yes Father, Yes” . Remember John Lennon:

A King asked his Shaman to capture the wisdom of the world in a few words. The Shaman spoke the wisest words ever:

As a career HR person, I have had my share of battles & arguments, My discussions & debates. Till someone told me : Discuss (v) late 14c., discussen, “to examine, investigate,” from Latin discuss-, past participle stem of discutere “to dash to pieces, agitate, strike or shake apart,”. And Debate (n) early 14c., “a quarrel, dispute, disagreement” (now archaic), from Old French debat, from debatre. Sense of “contention by argument” That revelation made me silent. I learnt to keep my counsel to myself. But my faith was, there is no problem which together, all of us, cannot solve. I got a lot of backing from:

In my life, I have chosen to stand on shoulders of giants, and thus got to see farther and see better. But, as I live my life, I keep reminding myself of Einstein’s golden words:

We all would do well to remember this exhortation as we must go forward with enthusiasm & energy to conquer the challenges before us. Every challenge strengthens me and makes me more capable, more competent; indeed, a better leader:

A true leader knows his real mission is to create other leaders. When the Disciple overtakes the Master, curiously the Master is the happiest as he knows he has given back in full measure, what he has received. Just like, as parents we are happiest when our children succeed : that was our fondest dream. We owe this debt to Life itself, as Kahlil Gibran reminds us:

I have spoken of many commandments & made many pronouncements, so I must hasten to add 2 caveats which have kept me steady:

So where does that leave you? Confused?? That is good. As a teenager, my daughter Rashmi used to wear a T-shirt with a blurb: ” If you are not confused , you really don’t know what is going on!!! WAKE UP”

These Words to Live By are then wake up calls. Think about them. Mull over the meaning. Contemplate how they apply to you. So I am giving a bunch quotes which have been rules for living my life:

To end, I must 1) share with you my 5 best friends who have stayed next to me all my life and guided me to all the answers I sought; and 2) a quote I read first in MC Chagla’s autobiography, which puts a wistful smile on my face towards the dusk of my life:

If you did not like my list of Words I have Lived By, I will say:

And if you indeed liked what I shared, I would urge you to draw up a list of Words that You have Lived by. It is your own personal Geeta, Bible or Koran: The Holiest of Holy Words which guide Your life. And don’t tell me it is impossible, as:

Au Revoir, सुखस्तू पंथु, अलविदा, বিদায়, Arrivederci, Auf Weidersehen, Adios, See you soon: vikas

Deception

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact: Arthur Conan Doyle

Imagine a party hall, a birthday party in progress. Children screeching and screaming, running helter-skelter. Snacks forgotten. Sound levels reach a high point. And suddenly, with one announcement, all children settle down. Total hush descends on the audience; & from the wings comes, dancing, THE MAGICIAN!!!

From his hat comes out a seemingly unending handkerchief. Hat is put back on the head. Lo and behold!! when he takes it off with a flourish, out fly 2 pigeons. And even as the children are agog, many more magic tricks with balls, bells and fire regale the audience. Why only children, we all love to watch David Copperfield carve a woman into two! We know it is all false, but we are totally taken in by the deceptions mounted live or on TV.. This fascination has been the same from Houdini’s days till now! Charming deceptions…. Gullible lies…. Enjoyable subterfuges.

Yet deception is always not welcomed. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first begin to deceive!!” Walter Scott admonished in Marmion ages ago. But, if you look around, we do not seem to have got the message yet!! Deceptions continue unabated. Truth and propriety are out of fashion. Possibly the last bastion of only Philosophers & Theorists. Under the guise of practicality and expediency, you see corners being cut, reality being twisted & turned and deception becoming the norm of our mutual dealings. What prompts deception? why do we travel this self-defeating path?? Really worth thinking about!!

Webster defines Deception as “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid,  the act of deceiving”. Deception refers to the act—big or small, cruel or kind—of encouraging people to believe information, that is not true!! Magic shows are the most charming creation of alternate reality. So are movies… Bollywood or Hollywood. We happily get into the magic world of cinema and make believe & even after the movie is over, we find it difficult to shake our heads out of the make believe world, we were a part of in the darkened cinema halls.

But deception always is not so innocuous. Lying is a common form of deception—stating something you know to be untrue, with the intent to deceive. While most people are generally honest, even those who subscribe to honesty engage in deception sometimes. Studies show that the average person lies several times a day. Some of those lies are big (“I have never cheated on you!” ” I never lie”) but more often, they are little white lies (“That dress looks fine” ” You look slimmer after the diet program”) used to avoid uncomfortable situations or spare someone’s feelings. Every reader can look within and confess: breathes there a man, or woman, who has never lied?

According to one count the English language has 112 words for deception: Trickery, fraud, deceit, hypocrisy, cunning, treachery, guile, duplicity, insincerity, legerdemain, dissimulation, craftiness, fraudulence, lie, cheat, bluff, sham, snare, hoax, decoy, ruse, artifice, subterfuge, canard, feint, wile, hokum, leg-pull, imposture, snow job or even porky. Language reflects social mores and norms: so what does that statistic tell us about how often we practice or come face-to-face with deceit? Good? Bad?? Ugly??? or is it just our social reality?

Admittedly, trust is the bedrock of all social life. Whether it is a 1-on-1 interaction of a Mother & Child, or 2 lovers romancing one another, trust is a sine qua non of social interaction. Even Organizations and Governments are built of trust and mutual belief. In any of these micro or macro relations, deception is frowned upon. Deception undermines Trust. This is fundamental. And since a shared view of reality, is essential to all human enterprise, Truth prevails. Still, at the macro level, look at the statistics WHO publishes about Prevalence of COVID19 across geographies; or the statistics on Education or Employment that different Governments publish. Do you believe the BPL (Below Poverty Line) numbers your country publishes?

Action plans and future directions are predicated on these published data points. What if you cannot trust them? What if vested interests are manipulating the data? At the absolute micro level, think how life would change for a teenaged girl based on how she interprets ” I love you” said by her friend. Is he truthful? Can I trust? What if he is cheating me? Deceit can take Life on very very different paths. Remember the Ministry of Propaganda (Misinformation) that Goebbels ran so effectively for Hitler. Even today’s governments & organizations have a lot to hide. Which is Julian Assange’s claim to fame through WikiLeaks. We are never so easily deceived as when we imagine we are deceiving others Rochefaucauld warns us in his Maxims.

There are sins of commission and sins of omission; omitting information and concealing the truth are considered lies when they are done with an intent to deceive. In addition to statements that are false, deception encompasses statements that misrepresent or distort facts as well as the withholding of information. Recollect the Mahabharata where Dharmaraj himself deceived his Guru: अश्वथामा हतो, नारो वा कुंजारोवा अहम नाही जIनंती People can lie through outright statements or by strategic silence. Krishna’s deceptions changed many a history, but his most charming deception was making every Gopika feel he was dancing only with her, playing the flute purely for her joy!!

Lies are like wishes—often, what is said are things we wish were true. Recollect your answer when someone asks you your weight… the answer is always aspirational!! Or your reply to wife’s query ” how many drinks have you had today?” Is the answer ever true? A large body of research identifies three major reasons why people lie: to get something they want, so-called instrumental reasons; to protect or promote themselves; and to harm others. Avoiding punishment may be the main motivation for both children and adults. This applies uniformly to personal and professional lives. When the boss asks about the progress of an important project, on a scale of 1 to 10 for truthfulness, where does your answer lie? Remember, truth is always easy. It is Deception which is difficult. Ask any politician or an advertising executive!!

So is deception good or bad? Can we avoid it totally and become Raja Harishchandra in real life? Is deception, exaggeration or hiding the truth, the social grease that makes the wheels go around smoothly? I leave it to the reader to decide where he stands on this one. But if someone tells me he has ALWAYS been truthful, and NEVER deceived even a whit, I would say GET A LIFE! The social reality of today is a “fabricated” reality, a manufactured one depending on what you are playing for, and with whom. Truth is a destructive, burning ball of fire and deception is smoothening the sharp edges, sugar coating it where required, reducing the burn or the heat if you will….and ensuring people move towards a shared reality, maybe cut and pared at its edges, different from the Original, but something which helps us all to coexist and work together.

Celeste Epiphany-Waite sings it so beautifully

Hear my voice, Hear my Dreams/ Let us make a world, In which I believe

Hear my words, Hear my cry/ Let me see a change, Through these eyes

Hear my voice, Hear my dreams/ Let us make a world, In which WE believe

Remember Baudelaire: “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”

Do not be deceived: vikibaba punter

a friend in deed…

“Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof”. Richard Bach’s exhortation rang through my heart & mind when I heard about Jayant Tanna’s death.

Jayant & I go back a long, long time. I met him first in 1982 when I joined Siemens HO in Worli; and for the past 40 years we have celebrated each others’ lives & milestones like true brothers of the soul, bound by respect & love for one another & our entire families. The man whose philosophy was to “Live Life Kingsize”, burning the candle from both ends for a larger glow all around, & a “devil may care” attitude and outlook for the future…I truly got jolted when I heard Jayant is no more. This blog is a tribute to my friend and an attempt to recount some of the lessons I learnt from Jayant, which helped enrich my, and my family’s, life.

When I joined Siemens HR, I was a very withdrawn & introverted soul…absolutely the opposite of Jayant’s personality. Jayant was full of energy & laughter, ebullient & loud, challenging & confrontationist, suave & well dressed, a real “ladies man” : point-by-point, everything that I was not!! Other stark areas of difference were: beautiful handwriting & a way with numbers. And why not? He came to HR after spending 20+ years on the commercial side. The whispers in the corridors were that he had had a falling out with his Business Head & the Functional Corporate Commercial Boss & so Jayant was parceled off to HRD, a nascent effort of Siemens Personnel Department; cobbled together with an outdated EDP Manager; an electronic Microscope Sales Head (as that Business was stopped); 2 young turks, fresh MBAs in HR; all under an ex-Internal Audit Manager as our boss. Viva la Human Resource Development. The-then Personnel Director had put together this motley team to change the way Siemens looked at its Talent Management & Development!

I don’t think we had much impact on the organization and its people processes, but from Day 1 Jayant took me under his fold, with the express purpose of changing me & making me more effective & less scared of the big, bad world. One of the first learning from Jayant was : NEVER TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY. Jayant was the proverbial bull in the Siemens HO ever ready to pick issues and people by the horns and toss them around till people got the message. Still remember a placard he made in his beautiful cursive hand to announce to the passers by,” If you have Nothing to do, Please don’t do it here”. This because Siemens HO building always had many visitors from other offices and factories, who were wandering around “like cows looking for grazing grounds & green grass” (Jayant’s words) wanting to chat with someone till their next meeting. So, “please don’t do it here”.

Another major learning from Jayant was to laugh everything off. Jayant could puncture the ego, or argument, of anyone with his earthy, common-sensical questioning. Forever with his feet firmly on the ground, he made it a point to flatten all kite-flyers and theoreticians with his heavy hand, interlaced with humor. He had a style of laughing loudest at his own jokes, and continuing to laugh till such time you gave up your inhibitions & joined his laughter. More senior & serious opponents invariably brought out the “best” from Jayant as he stooped to scalp & conquer anyone who stood in his way. Just to exemplify, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi had just been released and there was lot of talk how Hollywood had omitted Sardar Patel’s character…a strict no no for many Indians. Jayant classic counter was, “So what Richard Attenborough has also omitted my father’s role in the freedom struggle! Sardar may be imp to you, my father was more imp to me!” How can you counter-argue with that? Siemens was full of pompous egoistic souls, so that Jayant had much fodder for his mills to grind.

Jayant joi-de-vivre was legion. He loved parties and was always the soul of any party he attended. He had such a strong animal magnetism that all action always circled around him & his victims. Fun loving to the core, he was a great singer & a fabulous cook. He sang from his heart: the entire song/lyrics/mood was etched on his expressive face. A more solicitous host I have not seen. Going out of the way to make everyone comfortable and engaged were second nature for him. Exotic recipes brought out the best in him. Burmese Khow Suey, Grilled Chicken & Rice casseroles, Mexican & Turkish dishes, Barbeques, Smoked dishes, so many firsts we have had at Jayant’s house. Once I have stood next to him drinking my rum while he cooked Chickoo halwa for full 4 hours to get it perfectly right. His experimentation in the kitchen was always blessed, & we ended up stuffed to the gills every time.

Even till the very end, his love for life and people shone brightest in his eyes and body language. Giving & entertaining was like second nature to him. And all this he did with genuine, heartfelt love. Accepting others as they are, and loving them to the hilt, the greatest extent that he could love, was his strong suit. Never did a word of criticism or censure escape his lips for any of his circle of friends & acquaintances. He embraced people just as they are and loved them to the best of his ability. Even if others had some words of criticism of mutual friends, Jayant always sprung to the defense and explain the other person’s point of view. He managed to carry himself like the lotus in the pond, aloof, unsullied and standing tall. In Jayant’s loving presence, you ended up feeling big and tall yourself, & forgot your own pettiness, in his benign presence.

Always one to challenge rules and processes, he made me more confident in bucking the stream and standing up for my own thoughts. He had a way to go quickly to the root of any issue & then think of innovative, different solutions. Explaining his differing point was second nature to him and he was ready to debate and argue till he convinced you or got convinced himself. An out-of-box thinker he brought me out of my own box, the boundaries I had set for myself, and helped me overcome my resistance to think radically. He showed me how important it was to sometimes throw the baby with the bath water, and begin afresh. For Jayant manner of thinking, nothing was ever anathema and the solution sets were always infinite. This insight helps me even today.

I will indeed miss this great friend who helped me become what I am & throw out many of my shibboleths and pet peeves. Not only me, but my wife and daughter were privileged to be amongst his favorites, & both have gained enormously from his undemanding & unquestioning love. A towering presence in our life, a guiding post who helped us find our paths, an epitome of accepting and all-encompassing love is no more…and the world is poorer for that, we all are at loss.

Jayant, dear friend, Keep the seat next to you warm….keep the beer chilled…I look forward to being with you soon….we shall keep the party rocking in your inimitable style

खुब जमेगा रंग… जब मिल बैठंगे तीन यार…. आप, मै और अपनी old monk: your friend in grief, vikas

… to forgive is divine!

Lockdown weighing heavily on my head. No/minimal work happening. Being a movie addict, I lapse into binge watching of Netflix & Amazon. This, to the utter disgust of my wife. And being at the receiving end of brickbats and burrs from rest of the family. All for my excess “screen time”. Yet, unapologetic, unabashed I continue. And sometimes hit a streak of sheer gold. One such good watch was Amish Grace. Directed by Gregg Champion, based on a book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. This was a hard hitting movie which challenged and clarified the esoteric concepts of Love & Hatred and of Forgiveness & Revenge. Let me tell you why I considered Amish Grace one of the most powerful stories I have seen: one that has the power to change you, if your heart is open!!

The plot is simple. Set in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania it showcases a typical American madness. A shooter enters the one-room Amish school in 2006 and holds hostage 10 small girls. The teacher runs out of the class to summon help; the Police arrive soon. And then Charlie Roberts (the intruder) shoots 10 girls and then turns the gun on himself. For America this is neither new nor unique. Every couple of months one hears of a random shooting spree on an academic campus or on the subway where scores of people fall prey to the mania of the shooter. What makes Charlie Roberts’ story so unique is the aftermath : how the Amish community handled the crisis.

Whenever I read about these senseless shoot-outs I always wonder what prompts such action? How can a person go through with such a dastardly act?? In this case, Charlie was trying to punish God!! He was raving against God’s injustice. Why be mad at God, you ask? Charlie & Amy have lost their daughter Lisa the very day she was born. Charlie is so angry and hurt, that he wants to purposely do evil, to spite God and His world! Armed by this logic, he goes to a local Hardware store, buys guns, goes to the unguarded Amish school with 600 rounds of ammo. He asks the boys in the school to leave, as in his mind God has taken away his daughter, & he has no quarrel with boys! He shoots 10 girls before killing himself! Of those shot, 5 died on the spot or later; while 5 others, had to undergo long hospitalization to recover.

For America, such shootouts and deaths are common. What makes the Nickel Mines story unique is that the Amish community came together to FORGIVE!!! Forgive their children’s killer!! and his family!! A most powerful scene in the movie is immediately after the news broke out, and everyone is in shock. The Amish Levi (priest) and other seniors go to the shooter’s house to meet his widow. The widow, Amy is also in a state of shock and cannot understand how a caring and loving father like Charlie could harm other children. She is distraught with grief. When she sees an Amish delegation, she fears the worst. But she faces them as she realizes “they have a right to be angry”. Imagine her total surprise when the first words she hears are , ” We are sorry for your loss” ” My loss?” Amy asks, confused in facing the community seniors who have lost small children. And the sanguine reply is, ” You lost a husband. Your children lost a father. We grieve for you as well. We harbor no anger for Charlie. We come here to tell you we forgive him” “we will not allow hatred in our hearts…we would like to offer our help. We are your neighbors”.

Arguably, the biggest pain any parent can face is the loss of his/her child. Remember Sholay,” एक बाप के लिए सबसे बड़ा बोझ है उसके बच्चे का जनाज़ा” But here are people who rise above that grief and talk forgiveness!! One of the parents puts it thus,” My daughter died this morning. It is a deep wound. But she is in Heaven with her Father now, and she is at peace”. To the younger sister, the father explains the empty bed, ” She is sleeping in a better place now, little one!”.

The mother cannot understand the Amish Levi & her own husband going to meet Amy Roberts & publicly declaring Forgiveness for Charlie. According to her, Charlie’s senseless act was unforgivable. Her plaint is, “God has shattered my heart & I will not betray my daughter by forgiving the man who murdered my daughter” She challenges her husband for his forgiving stance & screams, ” I dare to hate the man”. The father explains his forgiving stance beautifully to his younger daughter. ” This hate you have inside you, How does it make you feel? Do you feel good? Hate is a very, very harsh thing, with lots of sharp teeth, and it will eat up your whole heart and leave no room for love. What great advice!! So very often we are so angry with another , we hurt ourselves in the process and vitiate our own life. Buddha puts it as carrying live coals in your hand, to throw at another person. But, first you burn your own hands!! We do not understand that, “we do not have to carry all this terrible hate around in us, if we don’t want to; if we are willing to forgive”

That was the logic of the Amish in forgiving Charlie Roberts. Can we imbibe that in our lives? Or would we rather make our hearts the battleground torn between Hate & Love, between Forgiveness & Revenge? Do we not realize that to forgive makes it easier to go back to our lives? Or are some things totally unforgiveable? If my daughter is dead, have I not suffered enough damage already? To keep the Hate in my hearts actually hurts too much. Can we choose love, instead? Easy to say, but difficult to implement.

We tend to put ourselves into the role of meeting out justice for the wrongs committed. But is that our role? Can we choose love instead? In the final analysis, we all deserve forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does not even mean a pardon. But we need to accept that if we hold on to our anger & resentment, then it is only ourselves who are being punished. If someone is purposely doing evil to you, all the more reason we should forgive. But remember,” Forgiveness comes from an open heart & it comes without conditions, or it does not come at all.” That is why, when Amy Roberts herself says I do not know how to forgive Charlie, the Amish ladies who have all lost dear daughters, go up to her and say,” We will pray with you. None of us is alone“. It requires a strong faith to take this position. Do you have it in you? That is the question the movie asks each one of us.

Faith, when everything is going our way, is not faith. It is only when things are falling apart that we have the chance to make our Faith real. Can you? Do you?

This movie challenged my deepest conceptions of justice & fairness, of love & hatred, and finally of Forgiveness & Revenge.

Explore your own thoughts and let Amish Grace take you on this deep journey.

For as ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly father will forgive you also. Mathew 6:14

May you find your own answers in your heart: vikas

Awards:

Humanitas Prize

Winner of the MOVIEGUIDE Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring TV Program of 2010

Grace Award for Television at the 2011 Movieguide Awards

Amish Grace broke network records in multiple demographics, with more than 4 million viewers, becoming the highest-rated and most-watched original movie in Lifetime Movie Network’s history.

Mindfulness

Don’t you worry. This is not going to be a heavy, philosophical blog. It will be light. And fun. Just come with me on this journey…

But before you read further, I want you to do an exercise. Just take a pad and a pencil. Don’t read further. Just do it offline, on paper. Not only mentally. Write down 2 things that are going well in your life just now. Something which is making you happy, something you are grateful for. Next, write 1 challenge you are facing just now. It could be in your personal life or your professional life. Life is not all hunky dory. We all have challenges. Write the big one in your life just now. Finally, write down something you are looking forward to, something you have worked on and are expecting the result in the future. Title the 2 good things you wrote as Roses. The challenge you wrote as Thorn. And the last one is a Bud…waiting to blossom. Done that? Great. Keep aside your Roses & Thorn & Bud. We will return to it later.

So let us return to our topic: Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Most simply put mindfulness is just being in the present. Clued in to your body. Experiencing in full what is going on in and around you. Paying full attention to what you are doing, what is happening in your life just now. Aware of where we are, what we are going through. In this moment.

Unfortunately we are used to living in the past or worrying about our future. Our minds are fully invested in this. What happened yesterday? Why he said what he did? Why did she behave like that? OR what do I need to get done tomorrow? What are my commitments? Where do I need to be? with whom? and doing what? Tomorrow occupies our mind. Or yesterday. Never TODAY. Never NOW. Consciously turning my energy to the Present, the Here & Now…simply put, that is MINDFULNESS.

And this mindfulness is a powerful tool to deal with our life. Especially in the Covid19 times of stress and tension. A new powerful mantra : what Eckhardt Tolle had called The Power of Now. This gives us emotional stability and new found confidence. Mindfulness gives us mental clarity even in these times of uncertainty. By focusing on the present, you are not stymied by the monsters of the Past or the demons of the Future. Rather a la Odysseus you can chart your path between the Scylla & Charybdis to emerge victorious.

Today’s Gurus have complicated the simple concept of Mindfulness i.e. Being in the Present. Search and you will find tomes on Mindfulness Meditation. The Zen, Buddhist, Tibetan & Vipassana approaches to be mindful. And the modern gurus of Self Help selling their packaged versions. But shorn of all its rhetoric, Mindfulness is a basic human ability to be fully present and aware of what we are doing and where we are and not be overtly swayed by things around us or over-whelmed by external things. Centering in your mind and being aware is Mindfulness. And even when we are swayed away, mindfulness is there to snap us back into the present, and get us closer to the here and now. Mindfulness helps build mental agility and develop a mind that is focused, curious and creative. It helps to take steps towards a strong mind that is resilient, less prone to interruption and maintains focus. And thus be far more productive and happy than we all are now!

So let us get back to the Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud exercise you did at the beginning. Tell me , what did you feel as you wrote down the 2 good, happy things in your life which make you feel grateful? Even in the Covid times we all have some good things going in our lives. We all have Roses to be grateful for, if only we look!! And the Thorn? Life is not a bed of Roses anyways. Unto each life some rain must fall. All of us have some challenge or the other. And the challenge or the problem, actually be thankful for it. Problems are a sign that you are alive. You are moving forward. else there would be no problems. We can be thankful for the Rose or blame the bush for the thorns. But there are no roses without the thorns. And yes indeed the Thorns protect our Roses. And finally the Bud. We all have something we look forward to, we have sowed the seeds of efforts, but the flowering is yet to be, But the Bud is a sign that you will soon be rewarded. You will be happy. Something good is on the way.

In my training programs I use the Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud as an icebreaker. And boy, does the ice get broken!!! People confess they felt good recounting their blessings. They acknowledge that the Book of Life is still positively balanced. There are so many good things happening. ” I still have a job” ” My family is healthy” “My father had Covid but he recovered” ” I had a challenge, but help came my way” So many positives. So many good things to be grateful for. And yes Thorns are there, but once I am aware of the Thorn I have an opportunity to mitigate the risks, think of a strategy, plan actions and overcome. If I look at the positives, then the thorns do not deter me. I know Thorns are an integral part of the Rose experience. And then there is always the Bud to look forward to. ” I will be eligible for a promotion this year” “Post Covid, the business is getting back to normal, slowly, but surely” ” My child has got admission to a foreign university, her life is just taking off” ” The Vaccine is here, we have found a way to fight back”

The Rose, Rose Thorn, Bud is a mindfulness exercise. It focusses us on our present. What is happening in my life now. And just this focus, this investing our mental and physical energy on the present, starts a chain of positivity. Carpe Diem! our ancestors told us. Be in Present….the Hindu philosophy exhorted. A famous quote, sometimes ascribed to Eleanor Roosevelt, goes “ Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery. And Today is a Gift. that is why they call it Present”.

Indeed being fully present is the best guarantee for a bright future.

So what are you waiting for? Be Present, Be in the Present. Be Mindful. Mindfulness is not in the head! It is not a special thing that you do!! You do not need to change. Anyone can do it. It is a way of living. Mindfulness is a quality we all already possess. You just have to learn to access it.

Be Mindful, ergo, Be Happy: babavikas

In praise of the lockdown

In April 2020 just when the Lockdown had started, I wrote a blog entitled A Crisis too Precious to Waste (https://vikasshirodkar.blog/2020/04/09/a-crisis-too-precious-to-waste/) wherein I argued that there can be many learnings, many positive outcomes of the Lockdown….if we keep our minds open and learn.

10 months after that, I sit to express my gratitude for situations we all faced! Were it not for the Pandemic and the consequent Lockdown, I would have been a different person: more arrogant, more self-centered, a much poorer version of what I am today! Indeed, it was a crisis too precious to waste!! And I am grateful that I experienced it and became all the more strong, physically as well as psychologically! Lockdown taught me new skills and capabilities, a fresh perspective of looking at life, and so many other positives outcomes that I can truly say that I come here to praise the Lockdown, and thank the circumstances it brought into my life. The rest of the blog I will enumerate and illustrate all that we have to thankful for.

Numero Uno will always be the family and friends: the people who make our world go round. The forced isolation brought the family closer. Whether the family members were co-located in a house, in the same housing society, in the same town, state or country….regardless, family members closed ranks and were available to one another. The sense of imminent loss cemented relationships & brought everyone closer. More frequent interactions and more emotional bonding were the bedrock which defined a new cadence of reaching back and forth, taking relationships to new heights. Due to this, the value of friends and family got recalibrated. Phone conversations became deeper and more fun. And if by chance you got a chance to meet in person, each of those occasions were looked up to and acquired a touch of celebration. I still remember with goose bumps, when our front doorbell rang for the first time in months. Sheer joy! & the thrill repeats even now, as the visitors are so few and far between. Who could say that the sound of a doorbell would be so much valued! Literally on a meeting by meeting basis, day by day basis I saw that Life is Good!

That was on the social front, but the benefits of Lockdown on the personal front were much deeper and wide ranging. Firstly, the sheer ennui and boredom, brought on a spate of reading, learning and in other ways enriching myself. Time hung on hands, so doing something was imperative. Suddenly curling in the bed and relaxing was anathema. You wanted to fill available time with action. I must have attended 100s of webinars & TED talks and also ran my share of webinars & talks for my normal audiences like management schools, but also diversified into clubs & other social groups. Suddenly, one was more busy and engaged than ever before. And when you got a break from the round- robin of facing screens, you turned the focus inward and faced yourself! Boy was that fun!!

The 20 minutes 2ce a day meditations became nearly continuous. Mindfulness was the name of the game. Being connected, remaining in the present, looking at the river of time flowing by made you naturally introspective and one emerged with many, many gems from the riverbed. To recount the most precious jewels I gleaned: suddenly I realized I can do much more than what I had thought possible. Whether it was the humdrum tasks of washing utensils and sweeping & swabbing the house or the more esoteric finishing a book a day : all acquired the sheen of gaming. You were constantly challenging yourself: and emerging a winner. Yes I discovered I was made of sterner stuff than I had imagined. I am not the spoilt, pampered, rich brat but I am a Force. In a unique way, even the opposite was equally true. I realized that one can do with so much less. The irrelevant needs and desires got pared down and basic things gave the same or more joy! I can, I will, & I did!

As you can see, self-love peaked. Earlier, I had held myself in poor esteem. Felt I have never struggled or stretched. Never gave myself much credit. But here I was learning and growing daily, happy and happier as days went by. Besides adding self-sufficiency to my repertoire I became a much more grateful human being. Things I used to always take for granted: a roof over my head, a soft clean bed, no concern of where is the next meal coming from, a loving family to care and cherish me, friends who called and enquired if I needed anything, even clients who were extending their resources and hands for help : I re-evaluated all and I realized I am indeed privileged. Regularly I recounted the hundred odd things I need to be grateful for.

All these ruminations had the spin-off, off-label benefits of bringing in humility alongwith the contentment. So many times I realized I have NOTHING to ask for and EVERYTHING to be thankful for. Just a brief phone call from my daughter was the new definition of happiness. Happiness truly acquired different dimensions: a sister calling to say she misses me; an octogenarian uncle making a videocall to sing a song; my bro-in-law creating a homeopathic concoction which has kept us safe & healthy; being served my favorite dessert of Bhappa Doi on my birthday; my wife, despite all the constraints, trying to make innovative & interesting meals day after day. Days turned to months and months too dragged on, but “what is happiness?” transmuted its core and became simpler, and more longer lasting, as the days rolled by. I am sure this simpler, changed definition of happiness will remain unchanged in the new normal! Indeed I have changed, & the pot of happiness has got entrenched deep in my heart. Now I do not have to chase the rainbow outside! Having always been an introverted loner, I have had the advantage of re-evaluating loneliness and coming to terms with what I am and what I really want. Another gift which I had not asked for, but I got from Lockdown.

But then Man is a social animal. As the lockdown rules ease and we struggle to come to terms with the new normal, I am also learning new ways of working. Collaboration takes on a new meaning in the remote and virtual world. Experiential trainers like me have to master newer technological solutions available today to create the magic of virtual teaming. Mutual dependency and working together in this new world, under the new rules, will call for radically different skills which we had developed in the past….yet another chance to learn afresh & master newer areas. I have no doubt that Camaraderie and Brotherhood of Man will take center stage, and with the new tools and techniques we will continue to march forward. As we prepare to do that, let us look back on the Lockdown as a positive interlude, a subterfuge created for us to revalue all that we have, and all that we do, so that we go forward into the New World with vigor, confidence and an indomitable spirit with our new learnings!

Indeed I have a lot to thank the Lockdown for.

Guruvarya Lockdown Namah !!! vikas

Alone, at last

I remember in the New Empire cinema hall there was a long passage, parallel to the back of the auditorium. When you traversed the entire length, you came to the Canteen counter which served tea and delicious samosas for patrons at interval. Opposite the canteen counter, was a large, full wall painting done in characteristic Mario Miranda style. It showed a scene of a movie being shot. The whole wall was crowded with clap boys, make-up artists, spot boys, people holding reflectors, assistant directors, camera men, dialogue prompters, hangers on and, of course, the Director in his chair. In front of them all, was a hero and a heroine getting ready to enact a romantic scene. And the hero, oblivious to the sea of humanity surrounding them, looking soulfully in the herioine’s eyes says, ” Alone….alone, at last!” The irony of the comment and the picture never left me, though I must have seen the drawing 50 years ago!

I feel exactly like that just now! It is the festival & holiday season. And anybody worth their salt are on vacation. Some in the hills, some at the beach, and yet others in transit. I am alone at home. Wistful. Missing all. Relatives and Friends all far away. And I : Lonely. Miserable. Monarch of all the emptiness I survey around me. Engulfing, throttling, all pervasive silence.

Nida Fazli sang corrrectly: ग़म हो कि ख़ुशी दोनों कुछ देर के साथी हैं 
फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है…

दुनिया जिसे कहते हैं जादू का खिलौना है 
मिल जाये तो मिट्टी है खो जाये तो सोना है

{Translation: Whether pain or joy, both are companions for a while
Later it is just the long road; no laughter, no tears What we call as the world is a magical toy
If found it is earthen, if lost it is golden}

All who were going away asked me to accompany them. It was my decision to stay back. Be alone. In love with my solitude. I must understand the depth & beauty of my loneliness as: अच्छा-सा कोई मौसम तन्हा-सा कोई आलम 
हर वक़्त का रोना तो बेकार का रोना है.
{You need a good season and some quiet moments
Complaining every moment is a futile complaint}

When I am so confused, I take heart in Simone de Beauvoir’s words: ,” I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger” This reassures me that the भीड़ के बीच अकेला feeling which so many film songs allude to, is indeed a reality. Even in this space, I am not alone!!! I have every right to be “mad with anger” a la Simone, and continue to feel ambivalent about the cards that Life is dealing me. Being in the game, I need to carry on, feel engaged and play my cards to the best of my ability till the Grim, Solitary Reaper arrives and I move to another table, another game. फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है!!

The basic problem is ambivalence. The fact that I do not know what I want: Be alone OR be in company? Society OR Solitude? But as I experience my present time, being alone… I must confess, I feel happy & good. No adjusting your needs and demands to fit in with someone. Freedom from pressures. Do what you please. Float above the sea of expectations. Go Under OR Stay Afloat. Suddenly it dawns on me….I am happy!! Misanthrope & Masochist that I am, I actually like my own company I can stay away from forced festivities and feel morally superior that I am diffrent. Do rituals and prayers, midnight masses and congregations actually alleviate your loneliness? Or do they just deaden your real feelings? You get so caught up in the rituals and cacophony of others around you that your inner rebellious child is silenced. Rather, let it cry out aloud! I am happy with that misery. and loneliness!! But then I get reminded of the words of Honoré de Balzac, “Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”

Possibly there is no clear answer to even this human dilemma! In another context Arthur C Clarke puts it succintly, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”. My introspection just now is prompted by being alone in festive times, but then each and every one of us must face this question openly and squarely. Are you comfortable with your solitude? Do you like to be alone? Not surrounded by books. Not using books, and others thinking, as the first line of defence. But genuinely with your own thoughts, views and opinions. Not drowning your feelings with loud songs and music. Or a drink or two. Taking time off to just be. Savouring your own company. Happy under your own skin. Holding your own self dear. Jean-Paul Satre warns, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Accept, Acknowledge, Admire : that is the Grand Path to overcome all adversities.
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If you think about it closely, all great things, all precious things are lonely. Remember Steinbeck in Of Mice & Men,” “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” But then so what? The road less travelled is worth exploring. Maybe after a short torturous walk we will open into the Valley of Flowers. Pursue it.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love puts it beautifully,” When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

I am reminded of another great ghazal of Ghulam Ali:

किया है प्यार जिसे हम ने ज़िन्दगी के तरह
वो आशना भी मिला हम से अजनबी के तरह … बढ़ा के प्यास मेरी उस ने हाथ छोड़ दिया
वो कर रहा था मुरव्वत भी दिल्लगी के तरह
{translation: I loved him like life itself But that lover met me like a stranger He increased my thirst but then abandoned me He was showing affection too like a joke)

To end, remembering Joseph Conrad: We Live as we Dream…..alone: vikibaba

PS My biggest critic, my wife, on reading the draft said too many quotes…..maybe I am trying to reassure myself that I am not alone on the dark side of the moon? many other greater human beings think alike. And so the quotes.