Saturday, August 22, 2009

Every Second Counts....

I just finished reading “Every Second Counts” by Lance Armstrong, the sequel to his widely acclaimed (and extremely inspiring, I may add) book ”Its Not About The Bike”, and have this insatiable desire to talk to people right now, because what I read in these two books, a lot of it found resonance with me and my thoughts. I would urge everyone of you to pick up these 2 books and go through them, not because they offer some heavy management fundae about life & success, but because they have a quality most books of this genre rarely have- simplicity and uncluttered thought!

For those of you who don’t know, Lance Armstrong is a 5-time winner of the Tour de France, supposedly one of the most ardous and demanding sporting events of the world- a cycling course that takes the contestants 21 days to cover entire France- with all the hills and plains and countrysides, eventually ending in Paris. Lance is a cancer survivor, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, and given by many doctors a 20% chance of surviving. He survived, defeated cancer and his opponents to become the undisputed cycling great of all time. And in these books he has taken the reader through his journey through his entire process of being diagnosed with cancer, going through the painful journey of chemotherapy, coming out of it and winning the tour.

But its not only about that, in fact, that is only the backdrop, the wider message is what he lays more stress on, and what led me to get typing. How many of you remember that line from the Spider-man movie- “We all have a choice”? Never was a truer word spoken, and a simpler one at that. But, being simple as it is, it also gets one thinking, thinking about life in general and the way we live our lives.

We all do have a choice, and that applies to every moment and every occasion of our lives. We can choose to feel good or bad, to be rude to someone or nice, to keep standing on the sidelines and not care about things, or roll up our sleeves and jump in and make a difference.

It’s a bit risky to offer advice, or lecture about how we should live our lives. Someone famous or successful can do that, but I can always be told to mind my own business, or asked what have I done about this, but the problem with being a thinking person is that there is something always knawing away inside us somewhere, something that keeps asking us if this is the life we want to live all our lives? This waking up every morning and counting down to the weekends (come to think of it, if we keep living for the weekends our whole lives, we would be alive for only 2/7th of our lives, for the rest, we would be barely existing!), bitching behind someone’s back, complaining about our bosses and colleagues, feeling jealous of our friend who has a better car/house/wife/husband than us, etc etc. Well, I sometimes feel, the best answer to this can be got by asking yourself a simple question: “How would you like to be remembered?” The scariest thought for me is the thought that when I am old and look back at my life, I don’t want to get the thought “What might have been, if I had decided to live my life that way”.

The problem that most of us (and it includes me!) face in these situations, is that we become so ensconced and comfortable in our daily lives, so taken by the luxuries this life has to offer, that it becomes a difficult thing to comprehend taking a risk. It’s a comfort zone we move into, and human beings, by their very nature, are averse to change, there is an inertia inside us that always tries and keeps us where we are, irrespective of what we might think. Or, like many of us learn to compromise with our dreams, because of circumstances, or a multitude of reasons.

They say there are two options: love what you do, or do what you love! The only problem, according to me, with the first option is that it somehow represents a non-fulfillment of our potential or the purpose we have come into this world for, and is thus, to a degree, unacceptable to me. Of course, many of us might already be doing what they love (and I count those souls blessed!) or have learnt to love what we are doing, or at least learnt to put our lives in a kind of a comfort-inducing pattern which somehow fills up our days with activity, and helps provide for our comfortable lives.

But, for the rest (which includes me), we need to keep looking, keep searching for that one thing we have been sent here for, and keep searching for some more meaning in our everyday lives, as well as keep searching for that courage to take the plunge when the realization dawns! But till the time we get there, I have a few suggestions to make our lives feel better, and to feel more alive (I have tried this and this works!). In fact, its simple really- be nice to people! Yes, ridiculous as it may sound, it’s a great way to feel more alive. And here, I mean anyone you come in touch with, it can be your driver, your servant, the traffic policeman, the cafeteria boy in office, absolutely anyone! Give them a smile when they look at you, and you will see the impact! Trust me, its much easier to be nice to people than to be rude, and when we are nice to someone, we are actually being nice to a part of us, and that’s why you will always feel bright and happy when you help someone. Its actually yourself you are helping- small things, join an NGO in the weekends, spend an hour of your week’s time with poor kids or old people, sponsor a child’s education, and I promise you, you will instantly feel more alive. You know why? Because this is precisely what distinguishes us from animals, the ability to feel/care for someone else apart from ourselves!

And of course, meanwhile, we will keep looking for that answer that eludes us for the time being, and which will ensure we live everyday of our lives, and don’t just exist, and when time comes to walk into the sunset, we do so with the satisfaction of a life well-lived! God bless!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mile sur mera tumhara!

Some years back, when we were in school, there was this lovely jingle on tv (Doordarshan then), “Mile sur mera tumhara, to sur bane hamara”. I don’t know how many of you remember that, but it left an indelible mark on my mind, it was one of those innocent ideas we grew up with. All those people from different parts of India, walking and running together, singing songs in their own languages, and eventually everyone joining together and singing the above lines, it was a beautiful piece, and if you ask me, nothing has managed to capture the true essence of our country better than that 5-minute long song. It somehow told me that I am a part of a country whose strength lies in its diversity, and that somehow, in some strange manner, the diverse parts come together to form a beautiful homogeneous whole! And somehow, the whole always manages to exceed the sum of parts in this union.

Today, on the 62nd birthday of our young nation, this is the first thought that comes to my mind. Think of it, in how many countries on this earth would you find such an amazing range of diversity, starting from the 28 states and numerous union territories, to the amazing number of languages being spoken there, the diverse set of customs, the huge range of food habits (ranging from the mouth-watering paranthas & chicken butter masala in the north, to the dal-bati-churma in Rajasthan, to the hilsa & sweets in Bengal, to the vada-pav and pav-bhaji in Mumbai, to the spicy Chettinad chicken & biriyani in Andhra, right down to appam and stew in Kerala!), the amazing dance forms (like chou, bihu, kathak, bharatnatyam, garba, bhangra to name a few) that are as diverse from each other as salsa, tango and jive, the different dress materials, the different weather patterns in different areas of India! Think of the geographical diversity, ranging from the Himalayas up north, to the gangetic plains down below, to the Thar desert in the west and the lush green paddy fields in the east, the beautiful hills of the “seven sisters’ of North-east, to the huge coastline along the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, well I can go on and on, but you get the point!

Before leaving home, I, like many others, believed anything south of the Deccan is South India, and therefore, similar. Little did I know that Tamil Nadu and its people are as different from Karnataka and Andhra as Punjab is different from Kerala! Truth to say, I got a feel of the real diversity that exists in this country only after I left home, and that is when I truly fell in love with the idea of India! Its mind-boggling, to say the least, and if you take some time out to think of the diversity that exists, and inspite of which we manage to function as one country, united at our heart, you know why an author once proclaimed that “knowing India fully can take a lifetime, and that knowing India is like taking a peek into your own soul”.

There is a file line between nationalism and nationalistic chauvinism, a line I don’t intend to cross even given my love for my country. There are a lot of ills that plague us today, ranging from terrorism, both internal and external, the ever present spectre of corruption, which some people claim has become an inseperable part of our daily existence. There is of course, the ever-present threat of poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy & unemployment, which in turn give rise to a host of other socio-economic-political issues.

But, the eternal optimist that I am, I see scope for hope and positivity. Economically, we are ever improving, and do have sound fundamentals, we have an effective judiciary in place, and most importantly, I see the political scenario changing, slowly, but still, changing and for the better! I have always maintained that the politico of any nation is its most important section, if only for the sheer reach and scope of its influence. And herein, I see more and more sections of youth taking an active interest, more political parties realizing that they need to cater to this demanding vote bank, and I foresee a gradual cleansing of our political system in years to come (well, this bodes well for me too, given my own political ambitionsJ).

So, I end this on a positive note, with a hope and prayer, and a call (as always) to every one of us to keep the faith in our country, and start taking active interest in the goings-on of our country and our system, and I promise you guys, tomorrow is always gonna be brighter! Jai Hind!