Guilty, as charged!!

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

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

अपने ही लाश का खुद मज़ार आदमी

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey Ram !

Ram, Ramu, Ramchandra Rao is no more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be or not to be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

फाटक्या झोळीत येऊन पडते/ रोजची नवी निराशा

सपान गाठीला धरत वेठीला/ कशी रं सुटावी आशा

अवसेची रात नशिबाला /पुनवेची राख पदराला

होईन पुनव मनाशी जागव / खचून जाऊ नको

येईल मुठीत तुझ्याही आभाळ/ माघार घेऊ नको

उगाच भयाण वादळ वाऱ्याच्या / पाऊल रोखू नको

साद घाली दिस उद्याचा नव्याने/ इसर गजाल कालची रे

देवाक काळजी रे/ माझ्या देवाक काळजी रे

Transliteration:

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

देवांक् काळजी रे God cares

माझ्या देवांक् काळजी रे My God care(s)

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

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

देव बरे करो : vikas

Happy 2022 (100)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love: vikas

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

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

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

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