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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

When the thought of dying can lend purpose to living

I find the thought of dying a very motivating thought.

Don't get me wrong but I do feel that the thought of dying seems to give life much more meaning than it would otherwise have.

It is the phenomenon of darkness that accentuates the splendour of light. It is the sameness of black-and-white that throws into focus the beauty of the diversity and vividness of colour.

Similarly the undeniable endgame of dying brings with it a sense of purpose and even urgency to the process of living.

I am not discussing here subjects like “life after death”. That belongs in a realm that I am neither particularly knowledgeable about nor exactly interested in at the moment.

My thoughts about dying are more in the context of what it means to life.

Imagine this. You could live for a thousand years. And let us assume for the moment that you could be fairly healthy for a large part of this lifespan.

So how would you live your life ? Chances are that you would spend a large part of this rather casually. Without too much thought about what you are doing, what you should do, what you could do and so on.

Why ? Because you have so much life to look forward to that there is a tendency for the mind to slip into “sleep mode”.

Now imagine that you have just five years to live. You are still healthy, still capable of doing a lot with your life – but you have just five years.

Chances are that you will not sit on your bum, letting the inevitable passage of time just carry you to your end without your doing something with the time you do have available to you.

So it all comes down to the most elementary of principles. When something is available in plenty, it loses its value. The price of a product decreases if its supply increases.

And THAT is the reason I consider the thought of dying a very motivating thought. Motivating in the sense that it puts living, and its value, in perspective.

So what does this mean for living ?

It actually depends on one’s perspective.

If you don’t really care about what you actually do over your lifetime, then it does not necessarily mean much. Whether that lifetime is 30 or 50 or 70 or 90 years, it is just a number of minutes that you go through while you can. To use a cricket analogy, if you are playing a five-day Test match that looks like it is going to be a draw in the end anyway, you just play out the match till it is officially called off on the last day.

On the other hand, if you do care about what you would like to see as having achieved in your life when you are reaching the end of it, then you become rather conscious about what you do. You begin to measure yourself against the goals you would like to achieve.

So should you care or not ?

In the true spirit of not being judgemental, I will not attempt to moralise on “right” and “wrong”.

If you don’t care, fair enough. It does mean your life is probably a bit “easier” because you are not chasing a dream, you do not have expectations from goals that you still need to achieve. You just live each day as it comes, day after day. Sure, you have daily demands on you - but they are more sustenance-related, not lifetime-dream-related.

But the flip side of this is that, when you look back on your life towards the end of it, you may not find something that you feel particularly satisfied about. You lived your life – but did you actually DO anything with it ?

Am not suggesting anything. Remember, I am non-judgemental. “To each his own” I always say.

Even for those who care about a sense of having achieved something in their lives, it is a very varied landscape out there.

Most people do not have lofty ambitions of “changing the world” or “making a difference”. They are quite happy to scope their ambitions around their own personal well-being and that of their families.

Fair enough.

If your life’s ambition is to educate your children as well as possible in order to give them an opportunity to lead comfortable lives, then THAT is your ambition. If you look back at your life and feel you have achieved this, you have every right to feel contented.

Then there are those who do have ambitious ambitions. Of, perhaps, bringing about change in society.

Like Mahatma Gandhi. It may not have been a conscious ambition when he started out in his career, it may have been triggered by one incident in Pietermaritzburg, but it did result in him setting out on a path to bring about change in society.

So it is something that may just develop one fine day and may become a purpose that you wish to pursue in your life.

Whatever it is, remember, it is YOUR personal ambition for YOUR life. You are not leading somebody else’s life. And it is also something YOU set for yourself – that is, if at all you want to, in the first place.

People may – and probably will - judge you. All your life.

Society loves to judge individuals based on its own yardsticks of success and failure. Often these are based around manifestations of material well-being. The prize is “respect” and “status” in society for the “successful”.

Nothing wrong at all with that – if you are comfortable with this. After all, each one of us lives in this society. It is not always convenient or practical to be a non-conformist. It is much easier to “go with the flow”.

At the same time, if you are not comfortable, it does make sense to think about what YOU really want to do.

Remember, you can fool the entire world but you can never fool your inner self. If your sense of achievement or purpose comes from something that is very close to your heart – whether society respects it or not – and if you belong to the “I want to do something with my life” category - you would be well-advised to avoid regret later in life by just following your heart and giiving it your everything.
Remember, Mahatma Gandhi was not comfortable with society in his time. So he chose to define his own rules of the game. In his case, not just for himself but for millions of others who came under the influence of his thoughts.

Not all of us have these world-changing ambitions. Not all of us are in a position to even do this sort of thing. There are many practical constraints (some imposed by society) that dictate our behaviour on a day-to-day basis. And while it is wonderful to have lofty ambitions, it is probably good to keep them at a realistically achievable level.

But, coming to the point of my whole article, do we even know whether we have ambitions for our lifetime ?

And if so, what they are.

And whether we are making progress towards achieving them.

In the hustle-bustle of day-to-day life, it is very easy to just get caught up with all things mundane. After all, survival on a daily basis also often seems to be a challenge.

But I believe, whatever be the daily challenges we face, it is important – for the long-term - to take a distance from them and introspect for a while. On whether we want to have a purpose in our lives and if so, what it should be.

We owe it to ourselves. I refuse to believe that in our entire lifetime we cannot find the time for this bit of introspection. We will be hugely doing our own selves an injustice if we do not take the trouble to do this.

For, there is nothing more regrettable in a person's life than regret itself.

Ask a person who does not have many days to live. He will be able to explain this to you much better than I am able to do here.

Yes, indeed, I find the thought of dying a very motivating thought.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Life is a melody of love - "Ek pyaar ka nagmaa hai"

Today evening, while heading home on the motorway, back on my way from Amsterdam, I had an interesting experience.

Well, about as interesting as one can have alone in a car. :-)

It was not rush-hour – I had consciously ensured that I would not hit rush-hour traffic.

So here I am, listening to BBC4 on the radio and comfortably hitting 120+ km, as is quite normal for me at that time of evening.

And getting overtaken by cars doing way more than that . The speed limit is 120 but seriously, you can hardly be blamed for doing more than 120 on a five-lane highway if the traffic – and the absence of (or disregard for) radar / cameras - allows you to step on it.

So I pass the exit for Schiphol Airport – and screeeeech !!!

I am rudely awakened from my semi-attentive mode as I notice that the traffic all around me has come to a sudden halt.

In a few meters, the 5-lane drive is becoming a 4-lane one. The rightmost lane is being closed.

Obviously this results in some slowing down of traffic.

But there is “slowing down” , there is “bumper-to-bumper inching” - and there is a “grinding halt”. Regular long-distance drivers on highways (I must confess I am not one) recognize all these situations, the last one obviously being the most dreaded one.

I found myself in this last category – NOTHING moved in my lane.

For a brief period, I toyed with the idea of trying to move to another lane – but then decided to drop it. Yes, it looked like the other lane was moving a bit – but if my experience in queues (whether immigration or check-in queues at airports or any other type of queues) was anything to go by, any energy expended in this direction would only be futile.

So I stayed in my lane – and just waited for the traffic to move.

It took a while – actually much longer than I expected. Which sort of surprised me because we still had four active lanes. And this was non-peak. So what was the big deal ?

Well, the big deal – which I got to know only a bit later – was that further on, the 4-lane had become 3-lane.

And even further on, the now-3 lane had become 2-lane. So yet another lane had been shut off.

I still do not know why all these lanes had been progressively shut off. There was absolutely no sign of any accident or road repair work. But it did make sense to me that if you convert a 5-lane motorway to a 2-lane one (that too not very far from the airport), the chance that traffic will build up is not entirely unrealistic.

The only saving grace is that the weather was very good. Had it been snowing or icy, it would have been a mega-drama.

As it turned out, the traffic came to a standstill.

Not being very much used to these situations (like I said, I don’t spend very much time on a daily basis on the roads), I just had to sit and twiddle my thumbs. Well, not literally of course.

In this situation BBC4 was beginning to get to me. It was all very nice and there was this conversation going on which, for once, had nothing to do with the financial crisis (thank God for that !).

But I wanted something relaxing, something soothing. Something that, even if I had got stuck for another 30 minutes, I would still have been cool about.

I switched from radio to CD.

Now it has been a while since I have last listened to CDs in my car. The default has always been radio.

I did not even remember what CDs I had in the car.

So I switch from radio to CD – and then this song plays.

My mood completely changes.

I listen to it. And then go back to play it again. I listen to it. And then go back to play it again.

For somebody who does not have any “intentionally soothing” songs in his CD collection, I cannot think of a more random soothing song. At least amongst Hindi film songs – which is pretty much what I have in my car.

So here, ladies and gentlemen, I present you the song that played in my car today. It is a lovely, lovely song.

In fact, the song itself literally translates to “life is a melody of love”.

Ek pyaar ka nagma hai

I have tried to translate it below for those who do not understand the lyrics. It is such a beautiful song, this is the least I could do.

(My translation is not a literal translation – it is a contextual translation. I think some of the originality will be lost in translation anyway but if anything is incorrect (or somebody can come up with a better translation), please do let me know. I will be happy to be corrected).

First the transliteration :
Ek pyaar ka nagmaa hai
Maujon ki ravaani hai
Zindagi aur kuchh bhi nahin
Teri meri kahaani hai

Kuchh paakar khonaa hai
Kuchh khokar paanaa hai
Jeevan ka matlab to
Aanaa aur jaanaa hai

Do pal ke jeevan se
Ek umr churaani hai
Zindagi aur kuchh bhi nahin
Teri meri kahaani hai
Ek pyaar ka nagmaa hai

Tu dhaar hai nadiyaa ki
Main teraa kinaaraa hoon
Tu meraa sahaara hai
Main teraa sahaara hoon

Aankhon mein samundar hai
Aashaaon ka paani hai
Zindagi aur kuchh bhi nahin
Teri meri kahaani hai
Ek pyaar ka nagmaa hai

Toofaan ko aanaa hai
Aakar chale jaanaa hai
Baadal hai ye kuchh pal kaa
Chhaakar dhal jaana hai

Parchhaiyaan reh jaateen
Reh jaati nishaani hai
Zindagi aur kuchh bhi nahin
Teri meri kahaani hai
Ek pyaar ka nagma hai

Then my rather feeble attempt at translation into English :

Life is a melody of love
It is the flow of waves
Life is nothing more than your and my story

Life is about finding and then losing
It is about losing and then finding
It is about coming and going

From the few moments called life, we need to steal a lifetime

Life is nothing more than your and my story

Life is a melody of love

You are the current of the river
I am your (river)bank
You are my support
I am your support

There is an ocean in our eyes
Brimming with hope

Life is nothing more than your and my story

Life is a melody of love

The storm HAS to come
But after coming, it has to go too
These are but transient clouds
They have to fade away after hanging over us briefly
Only shadows remain
Only marks (signs) remain

Life is nothing more than your and my story

Life is a melody of love

That's it. Simple - yet profound.

The traffic clears after a while – but I have long since not bothered to keep track of time.

For I am lost in this most timeless of melodies. Admiring the music, admiring the simple yet absolutely meaningful lyrics. What is a few moments of waiting in traffic when you are confronted with such profound wisdom !

(Those who understand the sensitivity of the song in the context of the film will also appreciate its picturisation. This is no ordinary love-song.)

Anyway, I hope you listen to it and enjoy it as much as I did today.