Friday, March 13, 2009


We lie almost every day. You, me, all of us, even those who claim that they never lie at all. If you are wondering how, then this is how it is:

"Hi, how are you?"
"I'm fine."

Only after answering the question do you realise that you have just lied. You are not actually fine. You had a fight with your spouse. Your child is unwell. Your job is on the line. You are worried about money -- where is the next instalment going to come from? You are unable to find a match for your daughter.

In short, there is something that makes you feel miserable sometime or the other. And yet to smile and say, "I'm fine." What a lie. When I have this how-are-you question thrown at me every morning and evening, especially after I sign on to g-talk, I wonder if I should unburden my mind share the trouble that's weighing me down. Then I realise, what's the point? The other person will just be nice and patient with me and make sympathetic noises, and that does not really solve my problem. So I end up saying, "I'm fine, what about you?"

We are all people with problems. That's one thread that binds humanity -- problems. It's not surprising, therefore, that Paris Review, which has published some of the best anthologies in the world, also came up with an anthology titled, People With Problems.

What sets apart one human from the other is how they deal with their problems. Someone's child dies and he becomes a mental wreck or turns to god; while another recognises that death is inevitable and till such time it comes to claim you, life has to go on. The latter, in my eyes, is a true yogi, because he recognises facts and does not take refuge in false faith.

Kabir Bedi is one man I admire. I have never written about him in my posts, but if there is a man I would like to be, that is Kabir Bedi. There are many men who are tall and handsome and well-sculpted, but this man is also erudite, charming, suave and has a philosophical air about him. Shobha De, in her autobiography, made fun of this philosophical side, which she believed was assumed. But I, as a lay viewer/watcher, believe that this is the side of Kabir Bedi that illuminates his persona and makes him so irresistible.

Anyway, coming to the point. The other night I was watching clips of Riz Khan's interview with Kabir for Al Jazeera channel on Youtube. One must watch the grace with which he answers the question about how he dealt with his wife's and son's death, one shortly after the other. Without losing any of his charm in front of the camera, even though one could see his eyes quickly travelling back in time, he effectively drives home the point that one has no choice but to accept the fact that life goes on.

I think the thought of mortality is the biggest source of unhappiness. And when I say mortality, I don't our own mortality, but that of our near and dear ones. That's something that keeps us on our toes throughout the lifetime, even though we know we can do zilch about it. The thought of poverty is the second-biggest source of unhappiness: what if I am left with no money tomorrow? What will I eat?

And when the combined fear of mortality and poverty grips you, then you are as good as dead, unless, of course, you understand that life must go on and you must make the most of it as long as you are breathing. Most of us do that, actually, but only instinctively and not with a sense of awareness. But then, if you start doing things with awareness and not instinctively, then you become a yogi and are no longer a mere mortal.

Come to think of it, it is the acknowledgment of the simplest things in life that distinguishes a yogi from a mere mortal. The yogi knows that nothing is permanent -- not life, not money, not relationships. He knows that everyone has to die one day, including the near and dear ones. So why get worked up if they are dying? It's like the last day at college: people have to part ways, because you can't stay in college all the time. If anything is permanent, that's you, your own self. And if you keep digging into it, you will find God. And once you find God, does anything else matter? Suddenly you find yourself on an elevated seat from where you watch the world like a theatre. At times you are so moved by the plight of an actor that you come to his rescue and perform a miracle. That's a yogi.

The mere mortal, as in the bhogi, knows these things too. But he, like an ostrich, refuses to acknowledge them. He somehow believes that he is entitled to be insulated from the vicissitudes of life, so he runs from temple to temple, asking for infinite money, infinite fame, and infinite addition to the lifespan of people dear to him. And when he realises that nothing is infinite, he is heartbroken and crushed. He becomes a person who has a problem. Like you and me.

The answer to all our problems is simple: break free of all attachments. According to me, happiest is the man who has no family or friends or relatives, and who lives on the pavement and fills his stomach with the bread thrown at him by a passerby. He is a man without worries: he has no bills to pay, he has no family to feed, he has no one to shed a tear for and, above all, he has no fear for death.

Most of us fear death not because we are scared of dying (because most often, death doesn't give us a chance to think), but because we wonder how our near and dear ones would react if we were to die. We worry about how they are going to cope with it, and therefore we are scared of dying.

Ah, why such morbid thoughts. Let's talk about the state of elevation and happiness. And some of these could be achieved if you read Paul Brunton's A Search in Secret India. In the book, written in the early 20th century, Brunton narrates his encounters with many Indian saints, including Ramana Maharishi. And almost all of them told him the basic thing: "Before you seek answers to other questions, first look into yourself and find out who you are."

Now that makes life so easy. Who are we? If you think hard, the first answer that comes to your mind is that we are mere toys at the hands of a bigger, unseen force. And that unseen force has the power to fuck up our lives at any point of time. But till such time the unseen force decides to do that, why not live life to the fullest -- that's the only thing in our power. And once we exert that power, we just might bring the unseen power to its knees. In that sense, it is not really a lie to say, "I'm fine."


Anonymous said...

So...How are you?

Anonymous said...

Now, I was on a spin reading this...
I will think twice before asking anyone how they are

Anonymous said... me thinking....Mr.Ghosh the philosopher! :)

Anonymous said...

BG: Why do commentators always think that they are obliged to take away a lesson from your posts?

Anonymous said...

Despite all the problems very few people tend to say "I am fine" mostly people will say "Cholche" even if they are fine, so that Buri Nazar Na Lage. In the part of the world I am, I have noticed a certain group here will say upon asking "How are you doing today?" their answer is "I am blessed" So this is looking at things in a different way...

Anonymous said...

nice article BG, I think you may have already watched it, This is Randy Pausch's interview, 3 months before he died after he got diagnosed with metastatice pancreatic cancer. pretty inspiring.

Paresh Palicha said...

What'll you call a person who keeps oscillating between being Bhogi & a Yogi?:-) BG you have great scope of becoming a New Age Guru.

VeeKay said...

"The answer to all our problems is simple: break free of all attachments. According to me, happiest is the man who has no family or friends or relatives,"

Well said but not that easy to practice, but if one starts looking at life objectively one can reach there, without breaking the attachments to the family and relatives.

Gayathri Varma said...

Very true!
Happiest is the man who is of all bondages and ties, free to roam the earth and live the way one to discover nature and also discover oneself through without the obsession of the well being of loved on...ah, what bliss!...but then, we make our own choices in life, don't we?

Anonymous said...

i am fine too.. but Kabir Bedi is yuck!! and this piece is soo well written..