Reality: Yours? or Mine??

In my 60+ years of living, 40 years of marriage and 35+ years of working there have been many thousand occasions when I have wondered whether the other person is listening? Am I making my point understood? Are we understanding one another? or are we seemingly together, but really on totally different planets?

Am sure you all have also experienced this sheer chasm…and wondered who is to blame? Am I not able to explain properly? or am I speaking to a blank wall? Communication, by definition, should enable transfer of meaning and sharing a common understanding. But actually, the mind maps and pictures of the speaker and the listener are so diverse that we might as well be sowing seeds in the wind. Even when we are going through a common experience together, your experience and mine, your reality and my reality are the proverbial East is East and West is West and Never shall the Twain meet!!!

curve

It is not by chance that Javed Akhtar wrote that beautiful song: ये तेरा घर ये मेरा घर, किसी को देखना हो गर, तो पहले आ के मांग ले, मेरी नज़र तेरी नज़र. I am always taken in by the irony: the movie is Saath Saath, so we are supposed to be together, and yet Deepti and Farooq realise that if anyone else has to see my reality (my house, in the lyrics) then they must give up their own नज़रिया , their own perspective, their own sight – if you will – and be willing to see with my eyes, my perspective, my नज़र.

In today’s times,  we all have our own weltanschauung, our own world view and … as the Bard says, “Ah!..Therein lies the rub!”. Can you identify 2 people or 2 groups or 2 communities or 2 countries who see eye to eye on everything? Do people have the same reality? Dr Raghuram Rajan resigns…media erupts with opinions and interpretations. Dr Urjit Patel is appointed…the same. Urjit Patel resigns…nothing different…millions of contradictory opinions… Mr Das takes over….even his graduation and post graduation specialization is up for scrutiny. History will bear me out, when Sir C D Deshmukh took over as the first Indian RBI Governor in 1943 there were enough detractors who questioned that appointment. Look elsewhere, you see more of the same.

fight

Is the Prophet’s birthday to be celebrated as a holiday and an Eid or not? You will get different answers if you ask a Sunni or you ask a Shia. Leave aside festivals, the fact that Shias and Sunnis have been at loggerheads for generations is because they do not share a common worldview. Lenin, Stalin and the Bolshevik Revolution.  Chairman Mao  and China’s Great Leap Forward campaign to aggressively move China from an agrarian society to an industrial one might have been driven by a positive vision of Mao for his countrymen. But how can we forget, it resulted in the biggest famine in history between 1948 and 1952, resulting in deaths of  20 to 45 million people. Even these numbers differ, depending on whose reality you trust?? All the Wars & the Crusades, Hitler’s genocide, today’s terrorist attacks are living examples of how everyone’s reality is different, and how far a human being is ready to go to champion and profess his own point of view. Against these backdrops, we must also acknowledge the Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings and Nelson Mandelas and Aung San Suu Kyis who drove a positive weltanschauung  for themselves and for their brethren being driven by their own  reality, marching to their own different tune. And yet all of them have been opposed in their times.

So I conclude that we all live in our own worlds, surrounded by our own realities. There   is precious little that we can share because we just do not share the same space, the same reality, the same worldview. And the classic thing is :  we are all Hitlers and Mussolinis and Steve Jobs and Jack Welchs  in our own right!! We believe our own “reality” and believe our “reality” is the best interpretation of the Absolute, (मेरी साडी तेरी साडी से सफ़ेद कैसे)  and all must follow our “reality” and those who don’t, well….!!!! Our efforts to convince others of the “real reality” (of course, our pet version) increases and that to me is the genesis of all the violence;  whether in thought or in acts, between individuals or teams, between groups or communities, between religions and countries.

around

It would be good for all of us to understand quickly and then remember…. there is NO objective reality out there!!! We all are really like the famous five blind men who are trying to “see the elephant”. We all have our own different perspectives and small “pieces” of reality and have convinced ourselves that we know it all. But the fact is none of us have really an overview of the entire elephant…objective reality is much too larger for us to grasp. This would still be alright, were it not for the fact that we are too full of ourselves, too much in love with our own experience and too dismissive of the others’ perspective. and not sensitive enough to the others’ experiences and their own brand of “reality”.

lack of communication

I heard from SN Goenkaji an anecdote that helped me see this conundrum in a new manner and clarified many a confusion. Let me end by recounting this story. There are 2 friends – one blind and one lame – who would beg together to fill their stomachs. Comes a day when the blind beggar is very sick and cannot go out to the village with his lame friend to beg for their dinner. The lame friend moves around alone seeking alms. He is not lucky till he reaches the last house, where the lady tells him, she had made खीर ( sweet rice porridge) the earlier day and can give him the leftover. She asks him if he has any utensil to receive the खीर in? When the beggar says he has none, she asks him to make a bowl by cupping his hands together and pours the खीर into his cupped hands. The lame guy cannot carry the खीर in his hands back to his friend and so he eats it from his cupped hands and finishes it all. When he reaches back to his blind beggar friend, he confesses that he had only got खीर and since it was dripping out of his hands, he ate it all.

The blind man has never seen or eaten kheer before and so asks ” What is  खीर?” The lame friend replies it is white and sweet. “White? what is white?” Now how does the friend explain white to a blind man. Fortunately the man sees a swan fluttering around. He catches the swan and thrusts it in the hands of the blind friend and says, “this is white.. the kheer is like this”. The blind friend feels the curved back of the swan and gets a flash of brilliance, and says, ” Now I understand. तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है !!!!”

We all are alternately playing the role of the blind man and the lame. Unfortunately the lame is NOT leading the blind. Each is stuck to his own reality. And wonders why it is difficult for the other person to “see the obvious”!!!

The earlier you understand, तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है the better off we shall be: vikas

dreams-and-reality

 

Vipassana

Vipassana  विपश्यना  is एक विशेष तरीके से देखना

Vipassana, seeing things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for all ills, an Art of Living!! Unfortunately, this knowledge disappeared for many centuries from India. SN Goenka learnt this technique in Burma, where it had survived in a pure form; and brought it back to India. It is now taught at various Vipassana centers all over the world.

This technique in the Theravada Buddhism tradition involves concentration on the body or its sensations, and the insight that this provides. In Vipassana , or insight meditation, the practitioner consciously explores the body and mind. The goal is to be साक्षी an observer with complete equanimity and stay away from being भोगी an indulgent participant, buffeted by your experiences. One works towards going beyond attachments and angst, for the final experience of Impermanence: understanding that all experiences, all attachments, all anger: finally, अनित्य है, नश्वर है !!!

Vipassana enables self-purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind (आनापान meditation). Then, with sharpened awareness, one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. This truth-realization by direct experience results in mental purification.

I went for a 10 days’ retreat to Igatpuri to learn and practice Vipassana meditation. During these 10 days, the meditator must observe आर्य मौन Noble Silence: no communication at all with anyone. No talk, no phones, no gestures or expressions at all: total withdrawal from all things external. You try & establish a deep rapport with what is happening inside you : observe, meditate, reflect, think!! You wake up at 4 am and are up till 930 pm: in this 12 hours are earmarked for meditation and 5 hours are intermittent breaks for daily ablutions, washing, eating, and walking exercise, if you so desire. Tough and serious work. Intense concentration. Introspection. Plumbing the innermost depths. All in grand isolation.

Many friends questioned me & pinched me to write about my Vipassana experience. I was very, very hesitant. Vipassana is so  experiential that I really wondered how will I be able to explain someone, who has not been through that experience, as to how I felt!! Imagine meeting someone who has never eaten a mango in his life. He asks you to describe : how does a mango taste? Can you explain that in words? will he ever get what you are trying to convey? You can describe the color, smell , look, size: all external parameters. But the flavor, the taste? To understand that, your friend has to eat the mango himself!!! Nevertheless, I will attempt here to describe some of the external dimensions which really impressed me.

giri

As administrators, the Vipassana Dhammagiri, Igatpuri folks take the cake. You need to register online. The confirmation comes to you in mail. When your reach the venue, accommodation allocation happens effortlessly. And that evening there is a precourse talk, just to make you aware of the timings and locations and then the course starts. Someone in this batch asked how will we know what to do when. The answer was disarmingly simple: “When the bell rings, if you are in your room: go to the Dhamma hall (Meditation Hall). If you are in the Dhamma hall, go to your room. That is all!!!”

Simplicity and frugality typifies it all. Residential areas are functional but complete. Water Coolers and Toilets are provided all over the campus. Dining area is clean and well maintained. In silence you go in a que: there are clean thalis and spoons, food is spread out, you help yourself. The food was simple but tasty. Not once was anything inadequate or not available on time. Seamless administration!!

Every meditation session begins with an audio recording of Goenkaji, where he instructs what we have to do today. And then the rest of the day you sit & practice what has been told. If there are queries you can reach out to the live teacher during the breaks. All other times you practice what was instructed. In the evening, the last session is a video recorded lecture of Goenka where he takes stock of what we did today, what are the bases for it, and what will we do tomorrow. In these sessions, I realized they have brought down the meditation technique to a matter of science; with perfect  timelines and predictability. That is why Goenka is able to speak specifically to the 3rd day experience, 5th day experience and what are you going through on 7th day etc. Human experience is indeed common!!!

Goenkaji is an amazing speaker. He brings to life even a dry and dull subject like Dhamma or Religion. He talks of Shuddha Dharma, something which is much more fundamental to the human condition, beyond any of the isms like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity or Islam. Using simple day to day examples Goenka builds on his theme of Shuddha Dharma and exhorts you to give it a try. He quotes from nearly every religion and every major saint to support his thesis of the universality of pure Dharma.

Per Goenkaji, Dharma is like the universal laws of nature: applicable to all, without exception. Pure knowledge. Not theory nor intellectual argumentation;  ना वाणी विलास, ना बुद्धि विलास, just experiential knowledge प्रज्ञा. Beyond all the religions and isms is this प्रज्ञा Pragya which is nothing other than प्रत्यक्ष ज्ञान something which you experience.  I will illustrate this with an example from Goenkaji’s own discourse. 

Knowledge can be of 3 types: श्रुत प्रज्ञा Shrut Pragya; चिंतन प्रज्ञा Chintan Pragya & भाविक प्रज्ञा Bhavik Pragya. Shrut is what is reported, what you have heard. Chintan is what you understand intellectually. Bhavik is what you learn by experience. Think of a person who hears of a new restaurant which reportedly gives excellent food. He reaches that place and sees the menu card which describes all types of exotic dishes. All this is Shrut Pragya. He then looks around and sees others eating with great gusto. Smells the lovely flavours. Sees the expressions of satisfaction on others’ faces. So he feels this is indeed a good restaurant. This is Chintan Pragya. But when he orders the food, gets it delivered to his table, samples it, and experiences himself that indeed the food is very good: that is Bhavik Pragya. Vipassana invites you to the journey of Bhavik Pragya. For sure it will change your life, the way you think!!

Before leaving for Vipassana, I had written a piece Does God Exist? The answer I got after my Vipassana course is that Yes God-lihood exists…within you. The Good Book tells us: Seek and you shall Find.  Kabir says ‘तेरा साईं तुज्झ में, जागि सकै तो जाग।” What you seek is within you, you need to bring it forth.

Do not be like the person Kabir describes: जिन खोजा तिन पाइया, गहरे पानी पैठ,
                                                                              मैं बपुरा बूडन डरा, रहा किनारे बैठ।

So eat the mango yourself, and experience the taste: vikas

Explore:      http://www.giri.dhamma.org/

vipassana-end

Does God Exist?

You are reading the blog of a confessed agnostic. But life has taught me to remain silent about matters of the faith. I do not champion any point of view and keep my own counsel when these matters are discussed. But I was not always like this…

Earlier I was a vocal atheist. I felt it was my bounden duty to show the “right” path to my misguided and “blind” brethren. I would challenge and argue, try to convince by logic : in matters of the heart!! Needless to say, a la the Bard, it resulted in “much sound and fury, signifying nothing”. I do not think I managed to convince and change the heart of a single believer! Rather they showered pity on me: I was a misdirected soul for them!!!

Earlier than that, like all others, I was a Believer once. Those were the growing up days, when whatever your parents/elders said, and what you saw all around you – the social espoused reality – was the way to be. Then in the growing up phase, one questioned everything, challenged all things and then decided to bury God, Faith, Religion …whatever did not stand to empirical proof was a no no; scientific temper ruled!! One attended the lectures of Jiddu Krishnamurti in JJ School’ sylvan premises, and bought & devoured his books. Though one understood nothing else, one phrase caught on…“Let us question…”. So alongwith JK we intellectualised, debated, and with JK tried to “go deeper to understand and see it clearly” and found no proof of God !!!

question

Then the phase of rabid atheism where one took joy in asking awkward and difficult questions. And though the Believers did not squirm or go red under the collar, we still felt morally and intellectually superior after every argument. So then what made me go silent? why did I stop arguing on matters of faith?

I went through 2 experiences which showed me how shallow and foolish I was. I understood that I know so very little that I must remain silent, rather than open my mouth, & prove to the world what a complete idiot I was.

As I plan to go for 10 days Vipassana course from today, I am again accosted with the question: how come a guy like you wants to do a meditation course? Is this really your cup of tea? What do you expect to get out of this? These questions made me go back to those 2 “moments of truth” in my life, which gave me a feeling that I understand very little in this space.

The first of these Faith Moments of Deep Learning was when 2 colleagues from Johnson & Johnson took me, forcibly, to Tirupati. They were avid believers and felt if I am in the presence of Balaji, I could not but be impressed. Most reluctantly I reached there, went to the  330 am Kakad Aarti. And when the doors opened, and we went into the sanctum sanctorum, the presence and the vibrations in the inner room were so strong that I felt something very different. Try as I could , I could not look into the eyes of the idol. The peace and solace I felt, was totally out of the world! I never wanted to go out from there!! Fortunately our “guide” told us we could stay back between the 3 aarti darshan tickets he had bought. So literally from 330 to 9 am we were in the Holy Presence. In between, the doors would open & shut, and some people went out and another group come in. But I was totally lost to the world, for the entire duration. I have never felt that comfort and joy I felt there. Even when we finally came out, I was a zombie: not knowing what was happening around me. I felt like someone had entered me and expanded me so much that I was striding the entire world!!!!

reaching

The second Faith Moment was in Shirdi in Saibaba Sansthan. Here we took the darshan and then were taken to an ante-chamber. There was a bed against the wall and a black & white lithograph of Saibaba standing under a tree looking straight at you. Looking straight into your soul. Apparently Baba slept on that bed. Though there was a sofa opposite, I felt like squatting on the ground. Again the vibrations in the room were so strong, that I was totally shaken up. I felt I was being buffeted by sea waves; I was riding the winds. I truly felt omni-present and withdrawn from my body & my physical limits and felt that I was enmeshed, one with the entire universe. What a powerful feeling! I just shut my eyes and floated….

Both these experiences taught me that my knowledge, my brain & my body was severely limited. There are many things beyond me. I do not understand so many things. And so why argue or reject?? Just say I do not know and keep quiet. Absorb and feel; rather than analyze and understand.

J Krishnamurti had said: “Belief has no place where truth is concerned.” I realised these are non-overlapping circles, and each stands glorious in its own space. More recently Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev observed; “If you believe there is God or if you believe there is no God, you are both in the same boat : you believe something that you do not know!”

fun guy

We know MK Gandhi often took recourse to fasts to solve issues. Once Nehru asked him, “how will your fasting help? There is serious rioting going on and how do you think your fasting will help?” Gandhi’s reply was करके देखो” “Do it yourself and see the result” 

My advice to those who question me for Vipassana is the same: करके देखो. There is no way I can explain what one goes through, the feelings and the experiences one gets…करके देखो!!! The 10 days of Arya Maun or Noble Silence purifies you. Takes you to a place where there is no negativity, no angst, no jealousy, no ill-will. Pure brotherhood. Joy. Sheer heaven on earth!

Rather than belief, I am with Sadhguru who says “If you say I do not know, the longing to know will arise within you; if the longing arises , the seeking will arise; and if the seeking arises, the possibility of knowing exists.” Be open to that possibility. Vipassana will certainly create that opportunity for me…

As Vipassana’s teacher SN Goenkaji puts it “Bhavatu Savva Mangalam!” : May all beings be happy. To which dear readers you can reply with me: “साधु साधु साधु “. So be it!! Let all be happy. 

Bless me that I may have the longing and seeking: vikas

end

Heartbreaks…they go on…

Last I wrote on how skinned knees are easier to cure than broken hearts. I got some shocked reader feedback….how can I bare all about my broken heart on a public platform??… is it not too personal a story??…etc etc

Till people read my examples and understood that am talking of intense disappointments and let downs…whether done to me …or done by me…and then got what i mean by heartbreaks. It was not a bare all, no holds barred story of unrequited love confessions a la Hollywood style, but rather the day to day jolts and falls we all go through.

Am reminded of the famous Sardarji joke. Santa slips and falls off a banana peel one day. The very next day when he sees another banana peel lying on the road, he curses aloud,“धत्त तेरी की!!! आज फिर गिरना पड़ेगा!!” (Oh Heck no!!!! Now today I will have to fall again!!!!)  

Life is all about facing disappointments and pain, and carrying on despite it all! Napoleon had remarked that there is no brave soldier…one who is not scared…all soldiers are scared in the throes of battle…but a good soldier is one who is scared and still retains his ability to fight and follow his orders. Life’s battles continue to prepare us to be better soldiers…one who retains the ability to fight back and continue despite all the setbacks, the knives in our backs, the large let downs, the broken expectations and the unfaithfulness of our friends. Sara Teasdale (The Collected Poems)  put it ,well,“It is strange how often a heart must be broken/ Before the years can make it wise.”

heartbreak

I, for one, tried to follow other smart people’s advice and suffered the same fate as Agatha Christie who noted: “Everybody said, “Follow your heart”. I did, it got broken”. Or see the immortal love queen Marilyn Monroe’s famous musings:  “This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go… As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up…” Rather, I have reconciled with the view that the heart was meant to be broken and the road to true happiness is paved with many sad events, disappointments and longings.

The present crisis in my heart’s journey is seeing my daughter off… as she goes abroad for further studies! The feeling that she will not be around daily is disconcerting and disturbing. That she will be alone in a foreign land, fighting her own battles, resolving her own issues and far, far away from my watchful eye is heart rending. But alongside this feeling is the basic question: am I unhappy because she will be away? or am I more disturbed by the fact that she may actually not miss me at all? She has a new life opening up before her. So will I be redundant in her life? The dilemma is similar to that of any father at the time of marriage of his daughter…while he wants her to be happy in the new household that she is going to be a part of…there is also a sadness and grief of the emerging gap in your own life, your own family, your house, your own heart…. Mineko Iwasaki knew his stuff when he observed: “Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.” 

knew what

All of us who have loved and lost know: Once you had put the pieces back together, even though you may look intact, you were never quite the same as you had been before the fall. Augusta Webster sings of this state ” we two shall still meet day by day,
But never more shall heart respond to heart.
Two stranger boats can drift down one tide,
Two branches on one stem grow green apart.
Farewell, I say.”

Farewell. God Speed. All the Best. I for one aver and understand: we must open our hearts and be ready for the fall. Know our heart will break, but expose it anyways. To complete Marilyn Monroe’s earlier quote: “…Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” 

So to my daughter and all those who regularly and routinely break my heart, to my sisters, brothers, friends and lovers, to all my well wishers and ill wishers, I say what Augustus Waters tells  his lover Hazel in the Hollywood blockbuster The Fault in Our Stars: “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you”.

ways to die

The quintessential philosopher of today’s nihilistic times Albert Camus has the last word on this: “It is necessary to fall in love – the better to provide an alibi for all the despair we are going to feel anyway.” This appeals to my misanthrope heart and mind. But for you, my dear positive readers, I end with our favorite ABBA

Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end
You will have no time for grieving
Chiquitita, you and I cry
But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you
Let me hear you sing once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita
Try once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita

 

So dear daughter,and all my heart breakers, I end echoing Nayirrah Waheed:              “you                                                                                                                                                      not wanting me
was
the beginning of me
wanting myself
thank you” : vikibaba

end

Skinned Knees, Broken Hearts

Sometimes I wish I were a little kid again!  Skinned knees are easier to fix than broken hearts!!!

It is still raining in Mumbai;  and on my daily morning walk, I managed to slip/slide/glide over a largish speed breaker and found myself descending to the road surface, with great speed! There was nothing I could do in the seconds that intervened, between my insight that I was falling, and my landing unceremoniously on the wet street, face down!! During the fall, I had bent forward, landing hard on my left knee, which slid down the bump. The first thought was that this will result in a bruised knee and shin: which will pain for days. Curiously the second thought was : this pain and hurt will be much better to bear than a broken heart!!

knee

Being 62 years of age, one has had ones’ fair share of falls,  and broken hearts!!! Lives there a man who has had a charmed existence, happiness and success always, and nary a broken heart? I doubt it very much! Expectations and desires (despite the Learned Buddha’s exhortation to avoid them) are a part of our make-up and human story/history. And so breathes there a soul who has not experienced the pain of a broken heart?

This sharp pain of a broken heart begins early in our lives. As kids, it is the refusal by our parents to buy the new toy we have taken fancy to. Why, it may even be our Mother’s refusal to take us with her, when she is all decked up and leaving for a formal dinner. My heart also broke when my elder sister refused to take me in her playgroup as I was too small, and worse, I was a boy! The first unrequited crush on the English teacher. The fair girl in class whom I dared not speak to! My new cycle involved in an accident; with me tearfully looking at the mangled frame. My father’s job transfers which made me say Good-bye to friends made with great difficulty. Losing my first Chinese ink pen. A friend refusing to trade the WWF picture card, that he already had a duplicate of !!!! How many times has the heart broken? How many times one suffered the ignominy of “defeat”, of missing something that your heart desired and wanted so badly?? It was a sweet time of grieving- your heart was broken, but your life was changing. Many times you counselled yourself: “It is ok Vikas, life will be different when you grow up! You don’t have to depend on others. You can take decisions yourself. You can get (or take) what you want”!!!

1broken-heart

Then you grew up. And then the heartbreaks continued. Unstoppable, the heartbreaks were now more severe. Took longer to get over. The young roly-poly Bengali History teacher whom everyone in class had a massive crush on. Not getting admission in the academic course you had set your heart on. And to make it worse, your friend securing admission and he and his family consoling you, “Surprising how Raghavan got in? You were always better in class and we always expected you will walk in with flying colors. So sad you did not get through” Adding insult to injury; breaking, nay crushing your heart even more. Not getting a job offer from your dream company on campus. Being turned down for promotion. First time you get an average performance rating when you believe you have excelled in all projects that year. Your BFF letting you down. Girl issues. Boys’ issues. Heartbreaks galore. Making the logical you, ask a fundamental question: What is stronger than the human heart, that shatters over and over again, and still lives?

Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald, illustrious litterateurs,  had a most tumultuous marriage. Their very public confrontations were full of accusations, cheating, nervous breakdowns all fuelled by generous dollops of alcohol. Zelda observes ” No one has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold”. When F Scott died, they were estranged. Another brilliant author, Oscar Wilde was in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1891, this was looked at in askance and Douglas’s father disapproved of his son’s liaison. Oscar was accused of acts of gross indecency and convicted for homosexuality. Wilde concludes in one sentence, “The heart was made to be broken”.

In Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk has a great insight to share:“The one you love and the one who loves you are never the same person”. But how many of us understand this fundamental truth? Rather we are enamoured, star-struck, infatuated; sometimes with the very concept of love. Edgar Allan Poe captures this well, “We loved with a love that was more than love”. In India we are all brought up on the Bollywood version of all sacrificing love, which stands tall when all around is crumbling, and is still able to belt out a heartfelt Laila Majnu or Heer Ranjha song. What we ignore is that the line after तेरा मेरा प्यार अमर is the earthy  फिर क्यों मुझको लगता है डर? The English poetess Emily Dickinson who never married or had children summed it up, “If I can stop one heart from bleeding, I shall not have lived in vain.” 

Confessions.jpg

In The Wizard of Oz, young Dorothy gives great advice to Tin Woodman, “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.” Is it hard to let go? Would you rather hold on to something that was not real anyway? No matter how bad your heart is broken, the world does not stop for your grief – it moves on, and expects you to move and play your part down the road. In the hoary Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet B Stowe puts it so well,” Of course, in a novel, people’s hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us.” Look back on your own life, all the heartbreaks you experienced over the years, only made you wiser, taught you life, showed you how to live. Remember Nicholas Spark, “The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…”

So let us sing alongwith Jaidan Taylor:

Cause, baby, I could build a castle/Out of all the bricks they threw at me/And every day is like a battle/But every night with us is like a dream

Baby, we’re the new romantics/Come on, come along with me/Heart break is the national anthem/We sing it proudly

Concluding with Violeta Parra: “Don’t cry when the sun is gone, because the tears won’t let you see the stars.” : vikas

end

 

 

 

The itch to blame

The itch to blame and tame is with all of us….yours truly,  leading the pack! You decide whether you are guilty, by your own reckoning :  & then decide whether it is worth reading this blog OR you would prefer to skip it!!! I will not blame you….as this introspection has taught me a lot….

The blame game starts because one feels helpless, frustrated and ineffective. Rather than take responsibility for your situation and own the consequences, you find it easier to blame the circumstances, the situation, others involved, even luck or destiny, family or karma….but always something external, which has caused this outcome. You, of course, are blame-free and above it all. Which explains why Douglas Coupland observed “Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of the chaos”.  Very often, we need to take a hard look at our preparation, our efforts. But we are comfortable finding a peg to hang our failure on. As our own local saying has it “नाच ना आवे आंगन टेढ़ा”.

Yogi Berra the iconic baseball player captured this attitude well when he said “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I just change the bat. After all….how can I be mad at myself?” And this happens to the best of us. We all would do much better if we learnt to not spend time finding others to blame. We put in too much energy in finding excuses for not becoming what we are capable of being. Our approach should rather be to grow out of our past and get on with our lives, by putting our energy  and our own self on the line.

blame-and-shame-game

My favorite poet Rainer Maria Rilke puts it so well “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty”. What a thought!!! For the Creator, there is NO POVERTY. You are limited by your own imagination and your effort.  So should we not keep the itch to blame in reins?

One more aspect of the blame game is true since times immemorial. Aeschylus the first great Athenian dramatist observed in 5th Century BC “Everyone is quick to blame the alien”.  We all draw such a close circle around oneself, our own way of thinking, our favorite theories and even our pet peeves that anything which is different is “alien”. And we are quick to blame, reject, question, doubt, ridicule and run down whatever does not conform to my worldview. We refuse to respect diversity and we are not intellectually honest to accept that “I do not know it all” : the other person’s POV may be different; but it could also be right. In fact social reality is multi dimensional and just because I see things in a particular way, does not mean that is the “right” way. Others can, and do, view things very, very differently.

blamemyself

This perspective is especially critical to remember when there is a power differential between the two parties. Otherwise the blame game can easily deteriorate into the “tame” game. Recollect our childhood Aesop fable about the Big Bad Wolf who blamed the Cute Little Lamb for polluting his drinking water in the flowing brook. When the Lamb tried to protest that he was downstream,  and Wolf was at a higher level and so how could the Lamb pollute the water? the Wolf’s famous reply was ” Well if not you, then it was your ancestors who muddied the drinking water” And so the Lamb is still to blame  and will be eaten by the Wolf to teach a lesson. Any excuse will serve a tyrant, as Hitler proved to millions of Jews during the Holocaust. Blame game often ends with a overpowering desire to tame the opposing point of view. Why Hitler? let us remember our own bosses. And we will easily see that the itch to blame and tame is omnipresent. Even in family, my daughter thinks the same about me.

Yet truly, if you see life in it’s full-blown glory, you will see also it’s rich diversity. In India there are sharp contrast between the haves and the have-nots. So while we have the richest private residence in the world Antilia which is valued at USD 1,000,000,000, we also have 62% of Mumbai’s population living in slums as per HT report (9/8/2018). There are stark differences in lifestyles of the people of Mumbai but somehow we have mastered the art of peaceful coexistence. We do not question the propriety of either a USD 1 Billion home or the fact that compared to the 1991 Census there is a staggering increase of 50% in the population of slum dwellers. The beauty of our pluralistic society is seen in the fact that the street children are happy, while our rich, nouveau rich and middle class children are unhappy, stressed and hassled. In the rainy season I truly admire the resilience of the street urchins who are gleefully enjoying the rain. While the kids who are bundled in cars or school buses fret and scowl!!! Fortunately, we have not yet gone down the Kenyan and Nigerian path, and there is still no strident blaming one another or forcible taming of the other side.

Picture1

The cartoon above says it all: we must learn to cope and ignore. Rumi puts it so well : The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore. Wish I had got this advice much earlier in life. Blaming and efforts of taming would have been much less. Recently I came across something interesting about sunflowers. We all know that sunflowers follow the direction of the sun and turn to face the Sun. But what happens when it is raining? and there is no Sun? Apparently sunflowers turn to one another and bask in the reflected energy and positivity of one another. How beautiful would it be if we humans learn this skill from sunflowers; and rather than rue the absence of the Sun, take joy and energy from the glory which is all around you; get energized from one another. Overcome the itch to blame, shame and tame. Rather revel in the people and energy around you. Remember Creation knows no Poverty. You need to ask for the riches. Ask and it shall be given!!!!

I close with memories of a beautiful abhang of Tukaram: लई नाही लई नाही मागणे देवा Here Tukaram beseeches Lord Pandurang to give him just enough cloth to cover his body; just enough food to fill his and his guests’ stomach; but continuous blessings of the Lord…he wants nothing more. All blame vanishes, as sunflower-like I turn to all, in a most positive way. The only taming I do is of my own self.

Live life; Love life: vikas

yourlife

The Gift of Advice

The Bard had observed “Neither a lender nor a borrower be, for loan oft loses both itself and a friend”. Shakespeare might as well have spoken about the fate and prognosis of advice, instead of a monetary loan. Like money, advice often distances both the giver and the receiver. And truly genuine and “good” advice may end up alienating friends.

We all are always ready to give advice. But at the same time , consider our own selves to be above the need for any guidance/advice. In fact, advice is the cheapest currency in social interaction, as everyone is very liberal in sharing and giving advice.  And yet when the transaction reverses and we are at the receiving end of any advice, our approach u-turns and we feel we are on top of the situation, we understand every nuance of the case and so there is no need at all for us to get any advice from anyone else. We live Benjamin Franklin’ wisdom “Wise men don’t need advice. And fools won’t take it”

As evidence I put forth experiences we all have had in dealing with the people closest to us….our wife and our children. Breathes there a man who has not felt the frustration of trying to get his significant other to follow a course of action,  that you see as perfectly logical and “crystal clear”, being fought tooth and nail and your better half obviously sees it very, very differently, and wonders why you cannot see it her way (“be reasonable, do it my way”)!!! The problem becomes far more acute, when you have children who are growing up. Whatever you tell them seems to be wrong from their perspective!!! And if you persist in trying to save them from a certain fall down a deep precipice, the response you get is “Baba let it be… Let me get my own experience… You just can’t see it my way… Why don’t you leave it to me?” leading up to the final retort ” Will you please get off my case??!!”  Experiences with family and friends have proven that to profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it!!

children advice

On one side of the spectrum is the faith and trust of Henry Ford who avers “I believe God is managing affairs and that He does not need any advice from me. With God in charge everything will work out for the best in the end”. But how many of us have the same faith and trust? In the short run, we feel the need to tinker and turn; especially if the events are happening in our friend’s life. We are quick to put on our thinking hat, sharpen our claws, and dig in…shovelling loads of “good” advice and opinions to illuminate our “dumb” friend’s path!! We gleefully forget the axiom of Samuel Coleridge “Advice is like snow…the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks in the mind” .

It is good to remember the age old wisdom of Cicero “Nobody gives you wiser advice than yourself”. Caught in a difficult and uncertain situation, we find ourselves confused as to what is the right way out of the maze, and so so we open ourselves to counsel and advice. Even this would be fine if we had the demeanour of Thornton Wilder “My advice to you is not to inquire why and whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it is on the plate”. Even when we ourselves have sought intervention or indulgence of friends, we still want to second guess, twist and modify their advice, and remain in control. Which would be OK (remember Cicero?). But unfortunately we hear only what we want to hear, we listen only to what we wish to. We fall into the trap defined by John Steinbeck “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway”.  And thus we lose out on a fresh and different perspective, a contrarian view, an alternate approach which could have better resolved the issue on hand. Getting external help is based on the faith that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried!!! So indeed there is great value in sound and independent advice.

fight

Having said this, I do not deny that sometimes you have to consciously UNFOLLOW some people in real life. Some of our “friends” have given rise to the euphemism “with friends like these who needs enemies?” All people in your life are not around to smoothen your victory path and clap for your wins. Some may not necessarily guide you on the right track, they may not themselves know what is good, or in the worst case, lead you down a garden path strewn with bristles & thorns to enjoy your discomfiture!!! After all, it takes all types to make the world. And this makes life interesting!!!! But one needs to have one’s own lodestar, one’s own  litmus test to separate the wheat from the chaff; to know the right path and stick to it! Elon Musk suggests “It is important to have a feedback loop…that is the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself“. Sound advice to keep us on an even keel and our life on the right course.

need-advice-question-marks.jpg

I cannot pen an article on Advice and not give you some of my own. So here goes!!! These are my “parasmani”, my lodestars, my touch stones to check if the advice I am being given is right for me.

  • Do what is right, not what is easy. Remember Abe Lincoln as a child, accepting he cut the tree.
  • Face your fears. Neil Armstrong’s colleague was to  be the first man on the moon. He hesitated. NASA ordered Neil to step forward. Rest is history.
  • Make small changes. Rome was not built in a day.
  • Expect less, Give more. Hands should be stretched to Give, and not  only to Take.
  • Learn to say no. A reluctant, half hearted Yes is a life waster.
  • Admit what you don’t know.  When you say you don’t know and then you learn, you are saying  you are smarter now, than earlier…every day…every way become smarter and brighter.

Vade Mecum (Come with me) : Drink deeply the Elixir of Life. Use these “Philosopher’s Stones” to convert all that comes into your life to sheer gold!!!

Remember the best project you will work on is YOU. PT Barnum (The Greatest Show on Earth)  while convincing the “human abnormalities” to agree to public display left some great advice : “No one ever made a difference by being someone else”. And as you live this joyous life, you must use all the gifts that you have got; all the advice that well meaning folks have showered on you and craft the way ahead to be a shining star. When looking back does not interest you anymore, I would say you are doing something right. The Ark was built by a novice, while the Titanic was designed by professionals. So do not hesitate. Chart your own journey. And be happy.

Be you. The world will adjust : vikas

flow

Now…Now…Now

Long long ago, in my 30s, I had read a Zen Koan. It was about a Zen monk who is running, to avoid being eaten by an angry tiger, pursuing him. As he rushes to save his life, he falls into a precipice, a deep gorge into which the monk will fall to certain death. Desperately, the monk reaches out and grabs a shrub growing on the rock surface. Temporarily it arrests his fall. He is hanging onto the shrub, looking down on a sheer fall of hundreds of meters, considering his imminent death. Just then he sees a ripe berry on one of the branches of the shrub. He plucks it and eats the berry. And then says: “wow, that berry is so sweet”.

Story over. The end. For years & years, it left me wondering : what was the import of that story? Till a time when I grew wiser (??; arguable, I can already sense my friends sniggering) and understood that the Monk epitomised living in the present. Being in the here and now. And enjoying what you can, when you can. One of the most influential philosophers of the modern day, Eckhart Tolle has penned a whole book “The Power of Now” to celebrate living in the present. Tolle says “You cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the Now”. If you live with your whole heart and being in the Here & Now/the Present, then you understand the nonchalance of the Monk as he stares at imminent death and still enjoys the juiciness of the berry. Naturally he says ” that berry is so sweet”.  In his death, he teaches us to live Now.

h&n

Truly we should understand that we must enjoy Life Now. This is not a rehearsal!!! we pass this way but once and get only this chance to play the game right. So why mope and tarry? Play boldly. Experiment. Whatever happens, trust that it happens for the right reasons. So do not fight the consequences. Learn to enjoy all outcomes. Napoleon Hill, the famous author puts it well, “Don’t wait. The time will never be right !” The present FIFA matches we all are seeing shows this courage on every striker’s face. When you have executed your play and gone forward, and have reached striking distance: now you must take your shot. The opposing Goalie will try to stop: but the sheer energy and enthusiasm that erupts in the entire stadium is all egging you on to take your shot. The time is Now!!

mart

This is not new wisdom. Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161-180 CE, best known for his Meditations on Stoic Philosophy, exhorted us back then “Confine yourself to the present”. One of my favorite English Romantic poets John Keats puts it graphically, “Now (is) a soft kiss – Aye, by that kiss, I vow endless bliss”. That was in the 18th century. Closer to date, Osho observed, “Now is the only reality. All else is either memory or imagination”.  Despite all this good advice, we tend to live everywhere but in the present. We bargain away today, living continuously in the past memories. Successes of the past make us happy; but we continuously relive all our past miseries. Yet a car cannot be driven by looking only at the rear view mirror!!! New and vibrant reality is constantly unfolding ahead of us. We need to understand this reality and act in the present.

The other mind game we play is living in imagining the future. Had read somewhere that Tomorrow is a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored. Consciously and deterministically we must withdraw from the mystical future: focus our attention & act in the present. Results are intricately tied to the present. It is said that there are only 2 times in life: Now. Or too late.

clock

History is replete with examples where companies (and the individuals therein) did not capitalise on their innovations and discoveries in time and left it, till it was too late! Most famous example is  digital photography : Kodak owned the patent but kept it away as  executives thought it would affect their photographic film business.  Affect it did,  as Sony and Fuji walked away with the entire business, forcing Kodak to shut down!! Motorola stuck too long to its traditional cellphone designs and did not leverage its Razr brand or couple it with a smartphone, until the Motorola brand itself was run into the ground!!! Another example is of DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) . While IBM dominated the mainframe computer business, DEC emerged as the “owner” of the minicomputer space from 1960s to the 1990s. In 1993 its rank was 27 amongst the Fortune 500 companies!!! But it lost out totally by not entering the workstation and personal computers business quickly enough. This is what has given rise to the famous epithet: The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now!!

doit

Consider the phrase: “Life is nowhere”. How did you read this? Life is no where? Or…Life is now here. Success obviously belongs to those who realise Life is NOW HERE. All our actions and reactions have to be tempered in the present. And we will reap the benefits also in the Now. As James Joyce has noted: “Hold on to the now, the here, through which all future plunges into the past”. What beautiful clarity!

Let me end with another favorite Zen story. This is about a very beautiful lady monk, who was in a Monastery.  Despite following her vows seriously, a male monk developed a one-sided romantic interest in her. He started keeping messages for her hidden at places, where she would find them. Naturally, she was disturbed and did not know how to stop this. One evening, when all the monastery monks had assembled for the evening prayers, she stood up in the middle of the gathering of monks; and said “You who love me and keep sending love notes surreptitiously, if you truly love me & want me, stand up now. Come and embrace me in front of this assembly”. When shocked silence followed and no one moved,  she again said ” If you cannot profess your love NOW and HERE, do not bother me again”.

The time, friends, is NOW!! Do not tarry. Do not postpone.  Remember, Tyrion Lannister’s revelation in the Game of Thrones, “You are in the Great Game now. And the Great Game is terrifying”. All the best in your battles.

NOW…for ever…Now: vikas

end

Contemplation, Rumination, Introspection

We are in the Holy month of Ramadan. This is considered the most sacred period of the year in the Islamic culture,  to mark that Allah gave the first chapters of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad during this month.

Is it a happenchance that all major religions/ethnic groups have a month defined? Christians observe the month of Lent; Jains follow Paryushan; Parsis have their holy month of Bahwan; the Maharastrians have their Shrawan. Typically this is a month of introspection, of prayers, abstinence, and….gratitude. Gratitude for being alive. Gratitude for the good life you enjoy. Gratitude for your friends and family. Gratitude for all the things bestowed on us by the Almighty…by whatever name you call him.

The Arabic root of the word Ramadan/Ramzan is Ramida or ar-ramad which means scorching heat or dryness. Experiencing that, burning your negative thoughts & actions, and emerging into the joy of munificence, celebrating life and experiencing joy of both Cleansing and Community  is what Ramadan is about. It is believed that the gates of Heaven are open in Ramadan, and the gates of Hell are closed! Prayers offered in Ramadan give you the highest Thawab – spiritual rewards!!! In the final analysis, Ramadan stands for contemplation & rumination; introspection & learning; reflection; self discipline; self control; sacrifice; empathy & charity and through all this :  self purification.

A Muslim pilgrim prays at the top of Mount Noor in Mecca

Lent, Shrawan, Bahwan, Paryushan, like Ramadan are characterised by prayers and withdrawal into self: a time to take stock and balance your life’s books, if you will. A space and time for renewal and recommitment.

Ideally this sort of intense soul searching should result in much greater sense of clarity and acceptance; more trust in self and/or the powers that be;  and finally, gratitude. This triumvirate of Acceptance; Trust & Gratitude can guide our lives through the most challenging situations and circumstances. But we humans are indeed the most difficult to predict and understand.

When things are going well: we will find the roots in our efforts and convince ourselves that we deserve no less!! It is always our own actions; our karma; our purushartha that is giving results.  But as soon as the first thing happens that is not as per our desires, we find external factors to blame. In India often it is our Naseeb/Fate/”Vidhi Likhita”. Or the politicking ways of others who do not want us to succeed. Constant refrain in difficult times is always : God why me?

look

There is a classic anecdote of Arthur Ashe.  The legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery. From the world over, he received letters from his fans. One of them conveyed: “Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?”. To this Arthur Ashe replied: The world over-50,000,000 children start playing tennis, 5,000,000 learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach the Wimbledon, 4 to semi finals, 2 to finals. When I was the one holding the cup, I never asked god “Why me?”.  And today in pain, I should not be asking GOD “why me?

Curious indeed are the ways of the Allah! Unto each life some rain must fall, as a saying goes. We all know the well reported case of Anant Ambani’s weight loss. Earlier whenever we saw the over bloated Anant on the cricket ground with his svelte mother our hearts bled for the Ambani family. We pitied Mukesh Ambani despite all his riches; looking to the overweight human balloon. His 108 kg weight reduction may have set the balance. But think of Sridevi. Despite all those Botox injections and trying to look younger than her debutante daughter, her untimely and unnatural end made her a matter of  abject pity. It is said that “God tests his true soldiers” but what a debonair Shashi Tharoor  or the once powerful Indrayani & Peter Mukherjea couple are going through makes the question “Why me?” look legitimate.

To me, all these cases prove another truism: all bills must be settled in this life, before you go yonder. Great riches gotten through questionable means; great power wrested by a hungry soul – all will have costs attached. And unlike Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey we do not get an external picture to sully: the gashes and wounds go directly to our souls and bodies; besides creating challenges for our families. e.g. those who knowingly smoke and drink will pay for their indulgence in other ways. What you do in this life catches up with you here and now.

That is where these Holy Months come in giving us a chance to review the life hitherto lived. It is never too late to make amends and go back to the Right Path. The concept of Jainism is a powerful one here: the Paryushan ends with a wish ” Micchami Dukkhadam” : which is shorthand for saying ” if I have hurt you or harmed you by my actions or thoughts in any manner: forgive me.” Introspect and repent and make amends,  for Christ will be born again heralding hope and peace in the time to come. The main message of all introspection and self learning is positive: accept; trust and move forward in gratitude.

thinker

Arun Shourie whom we have all known so well for his public life as a brilliant economist, Editor, author, Minister shared a very moving personal story of his son who  suffers from cerebral palsy. Dealing with his son and now aged wife who are both totally dependent on external support Arun’s advice is that we must “learn to love till it hurts” . Calling himself the “servant -in-chief” to both of them, he quotes the Dalai Lama ” If you want to be truly selfish, help someone.” To this line Arun adds his own twist : “If you want to be truly selfish, help someone – who cannot do anything in return for you!!”.

What better advice can come to us in the holy month of Ramadan: accept others for what they are, trust all, love till it hurts, give till it hurts; and be grateful for all that you have, and be doubly grateful that you are in a position to share your fortune and give to others: as you have received!!

Ramadan Kareem : shukar guzar vikas

 

 

 

 

 

Humor: Underutilized? or Over-rated?

Dr Suess said correctly: “From there to here, and here to there funny things are everywhere”. But do we see the humor and acknowledge it? Do we keep our eyes and hearts open and understand the “dark” side? OR do we shy away from fun and  laughter? and feel it has low importance in our day-to- day living?

Think about it.

Whether it is movies or books: the tragedies walk away with glory; the comedies never get their due. Even look at authors…the comedy writers actually have a difficult task on their hands. Thinking of situations and dialogues which will bring out the juxtapositions and ironies of life and people, the element of surprise and suspense, the unexpected happenings : all of which give rise to a chuckle  or a smile from the reader or observer: a very difficult task indeed. But Literature and Drama recounts the tragedies as the greatest productions, which get remembered the most!!

Even in corporate lives we are forced to remain staid. No exuberance. Don’t show the joi de vivre. Business is serious stuff. Don’t smile too much….and never, but never laugh aloud. In the corridors of power and upper echelons of management, humor is looked down on as a dilution of the sanctimony of business. It seems like the lofty goals and objectives of the corporate world must be achieved with a serious demeanor. If you have a frown on your face and a “no nonsense” hard nose expression, you will be more respected and your efforts applauded more. Literally you should not giggle or laugh your way to the ‘Finish’ line: as you need to project the sheer dint of effort and seriousness of purpose to commemorate the achievement. Higher the success achieved more seriously must you project the struggle of reaching the goal. As if…if you laugh as you cross the end line, you are undermining the success itself!

Contrast this with the king of comedy Charlie Chaplin pronouncement: “A day without laughter is a day wasted”. On an individual plane, we all understand this truth. We want to be happy and smiling and laughing in our personal and familial lives. We enjoy company of those who make us laugh. We do not want to be around people who mope and crib all the time : they suck out even our energy. And yet we do not value those who make us laugh. We admire the “dark arts” but the proverbial Joker is considered lowest on the totem pole of society.

Are we afraid of the sarcasm side of humor? the loose comment which actually is an insidious cannon aimed at flattening the listener? We all know people who use humor as a defense, a wall to keep others out or to protect their own brittle egos. In such cases humor loses it’s innocence. It uses guile, an artful deception, duplicity to project friendliness but actually hurt and harm the other person. Truly it is not such humor which brings joy and smiles. Such a person is not actually funny. They are just being mean and trying to fool their audience by hiding behind their “joke”! Erma Bombeck noted correctly: ” there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt”.

humor-in-a-difficult-situation

In another perspective, Will Rogers reminds us : “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else”. Unfortunately, often we get so immersed and involved in the story and it’s developments, that we fail to retain a sense of objectivity. We invest  heavily in our own position; or in the opposition of someone else’s position that it becomes a “do or die” situation. Naturally we cannot see the humor in the situation. We have gone so close to the problem that it’s tentacles have enmeshed us: making us apart of the problem and depriving us of the “outsider” view which would have shown us the ridiculousness of our position and thus enabled us to escape it’s grasp and think of an easy solution. Taking oneself seriously is possibly the biggest dis-service you can do to yourself.

My 35+ years corporate experience convinced me that we do not laugh enough in the office space. Most laughter is contrived: like when the Boss or the Super Boss makes a joke and I have to laugh the loudest to provide evidence of my great sense of humor.And even as I laugh I am looking at the Boss to see if he is seeing that I am laughing at his pathetic asides!! Equality and camaraderie, which are sine qua non for humor to flower, are conspicuous by their absence in corporate boardrooms.

So where  does it hurt? In my opinion, humor has great potential and great power. It equalizes social and corporate power distances. It can be the oil and grease which  smoothens relationships.  It is a door opener: allowing easy entry into conversations and issues. When tempers are running high and positions are taken, humor can change equations and open closed minds. It brings much required levity to unnecessarily serious situations and people. It is a simple and readily available solution applicable in most distraught conditions and with the most difficult people. It has fantabulous stress busting capabilities. It is an sure charmer which endears you to the audience making you the soul of the party. In case any reader wants to understand more benefits of humor in social interactions I would welcome you to read anything by Oscar Wilde and/or PG Wodehouse and feel the calming effect and innate charm of humor in their own hearts.

Life has taught me to be a continuous learner. I never make the same mistake twice. I make it 5 or 6 times: just to be sure!!!

Hoping you learn to laugh at yourself:  joker vikas

writinghumour