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

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

“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

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.