Sunday, September 21, 2014

Monday Musings 211 – Ehtraam Naseer

Monday Musings 211 – Ehtraam Naseer

I recently read an interview of the legendary Naseeruddin Shah as his autobiography hits the market, where he outlines his definition of destiny/luck. What he broadly says is that while he was still studying acting, he realized that he was not really cut out for the mainstream cinema, however he sensed that occasionally there were some movies being made, which indicated that soon a time will come where such cinema will definitely be made aplenty – and when that day would come, he better be ready. So Naseer, the perfectionist that he is, prepared himself all those years, doing odd roles, however relentlessly working, preparing, and chiseling himself for that day when movies of the kind that he wanted would be made. And when that day did arrive, Naseer dazzled on the celluloid, literally dominating the world of parallel cinema. He prepared himself for his destiny.
I find this tale quite inspiring. I find the idea of ‘preparing for ones destiny’ quite powerful and liberating.

Destiny in common parlance is associated either luck – which is happenstance, the grand arch of time which makes you be at the right place at the right time with the right people. The invisible hand of chance is too strong in this postulation and hence quite limiting to my taste. Playing poker has better chances.

The other definition of luck is a preordained path or destination that has already been drafted by someone else and by implication it means we are only playing the role that has already been scripted for us. We will reach where we ought to, the subtext being, irrespective of what I do or don’t. When one throws in the role played by, for the want of a better word, God, then things become murkier. This model takes all power of self selection, self direction and self formation away from the protagonist and binds his movements and his script in the hands of some puppeteer. That puppeteer despite his alleged divinity is not acceptable to my sensibilities, even though I might acknowledge some undefined power that exists.

Naseer Saabs model is beautiful in its simplicity and by giving the power of decision in the hands of the hero; it also is uplifting and energizing. I also draw lessons in the corporate world from Naseer Saabs theory. Do I know what kind of professional, manager or leader will be required in my chosen field a decade from now? Am I at least studying the winds of change if not decisively understanding them, to know where that future might lie? Am I preparing hard enough, long enough, patiently enough in the wait of that day? If destiny is about being prepared, then the whole idea of success and how it is achieved undergoes a change. It moves from the unknown to the known and from the uncontrollable to controllable. What is the proportion of time spent in the pursuit of that preparation versus the time spent in agonizing in the wait of that glory?

The best are those for whom the future does not matter, for they enjoy the present – the second best are those who prepare for the future for they craft it – the worst obviously are the ones who wait for it.
Ehtaraam Naseer Saab!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Monday Musings 210 – The wheel of fortune

Monday Musings 210 – The wheel of fortune
Indian world view is essentially cyclical – whether it is notion of time or life.  Time has four yugs – Satyug, Dwapar, Treta and Kalyug, which is inconsequential in itself – of greater significance is the fact at the end of each cycle spanning all four, time is expected to begin again. Life too is cyclical, swinging between life and death only to reappear as life again. Compare this to the western worldview of linearity where time moves in only one direction and so does life. Time and life once gone never comes back.
This Indian worldview of cyclicality shapes our reaction to things generally. I have been at cross roads to my own reaction to this subject. The western notion of rationality which has been accumulated through years of education and reading,  fights for space with the essentially Indian ethos which has been a part of growing up years, upbringing and social values.
I see the swinging wheel of fortune around and I notice its patterns. May be I am noticing it more now with my heightened consciousness about it. I see individual fortunes swinging from one extreme to another, sometime waxing and waning owing to omissions and commissions of individual brilliance or stupidity and sometimes for no reason at all, euphemistically called as destiny. Sometimes I see abject poverty and failure accompanied with proverbially silver linings and sometimes fortunes hide much grief, unhappiness and poor health. Small towners are more philosophical about it and I get this strange feeling that they are also better at dealing with it. My bias also is that the corporate-wallahs take their fortunes more for granted and with a misplaced sense of permanence, for reasons only known to them.
Every time I see great fortunes, havens of prosperity and abundance being marooned into deprivation, I wonder about the fickleness of it – and I also ask how much is my Indian-ness responsible to my reaction to it. Rationality would have demanded that I analyze reasons thereof so that I find a source of the decay, while the notions of cycles make me conclude that this is the essential nature of things – what shined, will corrode. It begs, nay demand that I treat my own fortunes and good times with humility and with heightened sense of impermanence. Success must rest lightly on the shoulders for it is like a butterfly.
I also see green shoots emerging in families which have spent decades in deprivation and darkness. Rationality would have demanded that I analyze reasons thereof and that I find a source of that resurrection, while the notion of cycles make me conclude that this is the essential nature of things – what has been corroded will reclaim it shine. It begs, nay demand that I treat my own struggles with hopefulness and with a heightened sense of impermanence. The journey must rest lightly on the shoulders for it too is like a butterfly.
I see the above two lines cross in many ways. Sometimes I see success hiding so much and of failures revealing much more. Amongst friends, families and colleagues, I see the beginning of the end of good times crossing concurrently over the beginning of the end of bad times – and the recognition of the cycle makes me deeply thoughtful.
I guess this is a sign of getting old – very old.