three lives. one lesson.

Rajnikanth. Sachin. Rahman.

To many Indians, these men of extraordinary achievements form the modern trinity. All are worshiped, rather than merely admired. All of these men are Gods of our country – men that have not just made the country proud, but brought glory and fame to the chosen field they have been involved in, for several years.

One’s in the Tamil Film industry. One’s in the music production industry. One’s in the gentleman’s game of Cricket. Yet a common thread flows through all of them. Different be their fields of expertise, different be their range of achievements, different be their age groups – one common string ties all their lives together and stands as one of the finest examples of inspiration not merely to men and women of India but also to every human across the globe.

My admiration of these men began from a very early age. At first, quite obviously, it was Superstar Rajnikanth and his cinematic charisma and style. Sachin arrived next thanks to those cricket telecasts in those times. Rahman was the last piece but quite simply the gem to top the collection. Together, these three men – more precisely, their lives – have taught me what I could not have ever learned, no matter which school, college or university I attend. The lives of these three men possesses such enormous value and lessons to be followed that it simply is immeasurable.

Today, each one of these men is at the pinnacle of his game. Some might disagree, but that count, I believe, is very meagre. Who else could break all existing ticket-booking records of many U.S cities but Rajnikanth? Who else could make and break records set by the legendary Bradman or Gavaskar but Sachin? And who else could win a double Oscar in his very first nomination but Rahman? Each of them, we find, has reached a top spot from where there just doesn’t seem to be any looking back left.

But behind the largest fan base, first 200 in ODI and double Oscars, we all know there is a story of struggle and determined confidence.

Rajnikanth, as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad had to take a loan for joining the Film Institute. Sachin was out for a duck in his first two ODI’s and was bleeding from the nose during his first Test tour. Rahman was going through one of the worst financial crises in the family when he began to compose for jingles.

Sure we all agree that each of these men had what is absolutely required to make it big in any field. Guts, dedication, confidence, sacrifice, hard work, faith in oneself and perseverance with patience. But this was not all. Even today, each is bogged down with pressure. Be it the pressure of politics and upcoming projects, or the pressure of winning a World Cup or that of winning at the Oscars, Golden Globes and more, each of these men still has a life that isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Struggle is a part of their lives. And still they manage to come out at the top of their profession – and give better than the best every time.

This, in my humble opinion, is because of their down-to-earth character and absolute lack of ego which keeps them grounded no matter how high their fame flies. Every time, before the camera, or on the ground, or within the studio, these men see themselves as fresh entities about to deliver their best, never thinking about the result, or the image, or the value derivable out of the work. It is as if these men think of themselves as new entries in their field and strive to make a huge impression.

And it is all possible because they are simple; because when our life lacks the complexity and complication of unnecessary elements, our thoughts are clear and crisp and our ego has no place to thrive. When there is no ego, we are receptive to everything and are able to make decisions rationally. It is at this state of mind that one can completely give one’s personal best in whatever it is we are doing.

If at all I derive any lesson from the lives of these people, it is this: whatever we do, whatever we achieve, whatever we accomplish, is a result of a billion things, incidents, people and events. To take it as a personal victory, ever, is the easiest way to fool ourselves. And to remain humble, simple and thankful for all the billion things, incidents, people and events, is our duty.

From Shivaji Rao Gaekwad to Superstar. From Dileep to Mozart of Madras. From Sachin to Master Blaster. Each is a different track, reaching different goals. But one inspirational lesson I learnt from these guys is that to be humble is the greatest thing one can achieve, in the face of a million failures and successes.

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unexpected but welcome memories

(photo credits: net_efekt)

This morning, in college, as I walked the corridor towards my classroom, a very familiar, a very benevolent and a very mesmerizing scent breezed past. A gardener was just watering the mini-lawn in front of the corridor and as the scent of the freshly watered grass and mud reached me, I remembered the small but beautiful park, near where I stayed in Ahmedabad. I can’t think of any particular reason but the strongly captivating scent that brought back those wonderful memories.

The park holds a very special place in my heart – I have written elsewhere about that brief microsecond where I felt as if I had merged with the microcosm and attained bliss right here in this park.

Every night, my roommate Rahul Purohit and I would take a stroll in this park/garden. We’d take our bottles to fill them with the cool drinking water available here. After three of four rounds of walking around, we would sit on the lush-green grass, which stayed eternally fresh, and talk about everything under the sun – about office life, career prospects, future plans, girls in office, bank clerical examinations and more.

One of those days, rain began pouring all of a sudden. The downpour became very heavy within a matter of seconds. Rahul and Manu Agrawal (another roommate) were in the mood to get drenched, while I was not. So they handed their mobile phones to me and I dashed off to the shelter of our room. They came in drenched like cats, dripping water, but surprisingly, the downpour had been so heavy that I was as much drenched as they were.

Rahul is a Gujarati with a Marwari descent. Manu is from Uttar Pradesh (Pratapgad) but he too had a Marwari ancestry. I am from Chennai with a Maharashtrian descent. But what mattered there, at that garden, during those long walks and longer talks was that we were all one and the same. We were friends sharing not just the room but our thoughts, our love and our mutual understanding and respect

And in the end, that’s all that matters because all you take with you is beautiful memories.

an ode to the bus-conductor.

Standing at #2 in population – probably set to beat China there.

Much more than “thickly-populated” city.

Not exactly a pleasant weather.

Office commuters and school/college-goers peak hour.

And no matter what, people will still be there to jam-pack the public transport system.

At around 8.00 a.m, during the peak commute hour here in Chennai, that’s pretty enough to add to the frustrations of a bus conductor. It is hardly possible for a commuter to find a very calm, composed, friendly, swift and understanding bus conductor here, during the peak hour. One could find that occasional happy conductor, cracking a few jokes here, or sharing a lighter moment there with some well-known passenger, during the off-peak hours. But between 8.00 and 10.00 in the morning, blood boils at room (read bus) temperature.

Surprisingly – and not so surprisingly for some of my fellow passengers in the 12 B route – I found one unique bus conductor in whose honor we dedicate this post here.

The job of a conductor is not so easy – shunting between the same bus depots, along the same route, day in and day out, multiple number of times and managing a heck load of other things on the way, including unruly passengers and absence of spare change – but it is a job nevertheless and they have to do it. Like those frustrated or indifferent bank clerks and officers at the counter, these bus conductors soon lose sense of being polite, helpful and friendly. Probably given a different circumstance, they would reclaim all those qualities but the peak hour changes the variables in the equation and you end up facing an angry conductor who’d not miss a chance to scorn, scold or, at least, shout at you.

This man conducts a bus that is often jam-packed – even during non-peak hours. Fortunately enough, I have been in his bus many times now. The first time I boarded and bought a ticket from him, his calm, friendly and patient demeanor was instantly conspicuous. He is swift, undoubtedly, but never easily angered by anything. He has this uncanny knack of getting the commuters standing on the foot-board to get back up inside – to safety. There is something totally pacifying and friendly about him and that makes him well-known amongst the regulars that commute during those hours.

In these days of mechanic tempo and temperament, this man sure has been doing a great job. Kudos to him and to other bus conductors who have been like him. Their greatness may go neglected in the din of our daily lives, but I am sure their good-nature will bear a rich dividend in their lives and families.

(technically, this is not an ode – probably not even a standard-quality prose – but readers are requested to override that line of thought and bear this piece of prose instead).

all we know, is nothing.

As for me, all I know is I know nothing. – Socrates.

A few days ago, as my cousin sister, Gayathree, and I sat speaking about what we usually end up speaking about in our chat-conversations, something happened. It was a moment’s event; a few seconds of time was probably all it took. But the effect, I presume, would be eternal and I pray that it stays so, for it holds such value and would keep me as grounded as I need to be.

How often do we go about, assuming our knowledge (although severely limited) about certain things in life are far more than what is sufficient or necessary? How often, does our ego persuade us to overrule and underestimate the value of certain things – until and unless, of course, something happens, and someone comes to enlighten us on our prejudice.

Though the lesson I learned from this incident which happened about two days ago is, according to me, quite old and universal, the way in which it unfolded is what makes me write this post.

My cousin, although she might deny what I am about to state, is a very knowledgeable person on Yoga. Now, there are two forms of Yoga – the physical (Hatha) and the metaphysical (Raaja). She has been through Hatha Yoga from a very famous training center, and thanks to her wonderful spiritual insight, knowledge and training, her understanding of Hatha Yoga and her line of thought is quite rational and many times, illuminating.

Nevertheless, whenever she had spoken about Hatha Yoga to me, I have always maintained a distant and indifferent shade of response although hiding it from her lest she should feel offended. Ever since I read the book on Raaja Yoga (by Swami Vivekaananda), I have always held it superior to the Hatha form. Though this may be true in a metaphysical sense, the truth is that Raaja Yoga only builds on Hatha and a clear grasp and realization of the need for Hatha Yoga is quite necessary in order to proceed towards Raaja Yoga.

But one clear statement, and the precise form it was made in, put things in a very clear perspective for me. All the while, I had been quite affirmative that Hatha Yoga was a mere physical exertion – with, of course, a considerable level of mental awakening and exercise. And though truth be that Raaja Yoga deals with mind more than Hatha Yoga does, without the foundation, of what use is the construction of a building?

So, she began by narrating me of the days she’d think about why people go through such obscure and odd postures. If at all for physical strength, the problem still stays that Hatha Yoga keeps you only in firm physical shape – but you lose your mortal frame anyway! Why go through such tough, rigorous and lengthy process – and then arrive at a seemingly comic or at times tragic postures – where a very high level of energy is spent or utilized and end up losing the very body that you have taken care of so well?

Then, she said:

You strain your body so that your mind becomes relaxed. For if your body relaxes, your mind wanders and there is no focus. But when you do Hatha Yoga and try to achieve those obscure positions, your mind has only one thing to do – focus on arriving at that final posture. That’s what justifies those obscure aasanaas of Hatha Yoga.

For a few seconds, my mind went as blank as it could – not because it tried to digest the information but because it was reeling under the hit. For so long, I had held Hatha Yoga at the bottom of the list; it suddenly grew out of proportions and became, in one swift instant, as important and in certain angles, way more important than Raaja Yoga. I realized, for probably the nth time, that I had prejudiced against something that was way too important and necessary. This Hatha Yoga is the foundation for mind-control. And mind-control is the foundation of Raaja Yoga.

For the reader, this may not come as either a shock or a surprise. But on a very personal level, the impact of the lesson – that even though I had tried my best not to be judgmental, that even though I had tried my best to refrain from being prejudiced, without a possible consciousness about its existence, I had been totally judgmental and prejudiced against Hatha Yoga. And the day it dawned was the day it struck hard.

Whatever Socrates said, rings loud and clear in my ears. As for me, all I know is I know nothing. If Socrates himself said that, I have strong reasons to believe and realize that I know far less than what he knew.

A Tale of Special Siblings

Technically speaking, this post is a redundancy of an universal truth. But I am a human, with emotions that are often hard to suppress – especially when I form a special bond in such a short term that I am yet to fully grasp the rapid progression of the bond under such a short period of time. That is what prompts me to write this special post – dedicated specifically to my newfound, but by far the best, sister (whom we shall refer to as IR for brevity) – which is nothing much but a testament to the fact that love is God and nothing else.

This post is short and all about relationships, bonds and the three stages, through which every bond that I have forged in my life, passes.

The first is the starting point of a bond or a relation where two random strangers meet or get to know each other. The second is a matter of how and under what circumstances and conditions the strangers became acquainted. It is a stage where you either become good friends and something on those lines, or you become truly close. The second stage is also where you might become quite addicted at times, and love the time spent with this friend. There is the occasional fight or misunderstanding, or may be not, in some cases.

Then comes the final stage.

The final stage is where this acquaintance becomes something like a part of your body. No matter what, you intuitively know that this special friend has become a permanent entity of your life. This is where you treat them as your own. Customary obligations, formality, civil honors and everyday greetings no longer matter between you and this special friend. It goes beyond a regular friendship.

I have been fortunate enough, since my school days, to have gotten a few such relations. My friend Ramarathinam is a fantastic example who’d prove my point beyond any shadow of doubt. There were many such friends in college too, with Sudhir, Arunan, Rakesh, Vijay, Prem, Guru, Vinoth (not in any order) etc. By the sheer fortune of being on the same lane as Sudhir, we have become closer still and share a very good brotherhood that is hard to attain even amidst true brothers.

But what makes this newfound bond so special is evident from the fact that I have spent something like half-an-hour to write this blog post – occasionally hitting the wall and not knowing how to proceed further. I am still at a crossroads and at a loss of words to describe how I got a sister as good as IR. 🙂

To cut a long story short, the three stages usually take years to cross by. With Rams, it was through tenth form, eleventh form and twelfth by the time the third stage was attained. With college friends, of course, it was clearly three years. But with IR, and I am so stunned as I type this, it was just three days. Of course, IR is a very open-minded, chirpy, highly friendly, hyperactive and lovely human – one with a very open frame of mind, a very passionate and loving nature and very active socializing capability. This is what became the foundation stone for our special sibling bond.

We became an instant brother/sister duo – as crazy in spirit as can be expected. “Offliners” and mind-blowing revelations cemented our relationship forever. Today, as I look back, it is just a few days before that we began to chat. But it seems as if we have known each other for several years. Life, truly, is a consortium of moments that one can hardly grasp. To relish, to experience the bliss and to feel it, is all we can do.

Thanks IR. You reinforce my belief in Anbe Sivam. You reinforce my belief in true love towards every being in this universe.