Monday, 12 December 2016

The tug of Life

I am but one individual, yet I have multiple roles to fulfill. I am but one person, yet I have many different dreams. I am but one human being and I guess that is where I have one responsibility and one reality - to acknowledge and appreciate my mortaliy. It is my responsibility to acknowledge it, so that I never get complacent or inhuman in my dealings with others. It is my reality to appreciate, so that everyday I can enjoy the beauty that the world brings my way. And only with this realisation will I be able to do justice to all my different roles and achieve my varied dreams. This truth of life, the one that will finally decide if it was a life worth lived, gives meaning to all that I struggle for. 

A few years ago, walking along the holy Ganges in Benares, the Benevolent One told me that everyday one should cross a crematorium. A much younger and a less wiser me was stunned and a bit taken aback by his statement. He for one has always known my thoughts before I have, and so instantly he said it's because that is where your Lord Shiva resides. I took heart and smiled in relief. Today, older and wiser I understand what he actually meant - everyday we must acknowledge our mortality, because that is thought, which destroys all our sorrows and unwanted agony. I have not been able to achieve that level of calm yet, but now whenever I am troubled by my ego or arrogance in personal interactions I turn to this thought. In the long run if it won't make a difference, holding on to that ego or arrogance is not worth it. So I try to drop it. I am only trying and I will keep trying. In time my success or failure will be there for my inner circle to assess. 

At work though it is a different approach. A little aggression is needed, at times, to get just that most important but that last amount of work done. I have been known to have felt extremely guilty after having been tough at work. At times I have even spoken to friends asking if they have lost their patience because someone would either just not do what was asked or would not understand and keep repeating mistakes. And at that point, not taking a tough stand could result in missed deadlines or unmet performance targets; both of which can cost the company and other colleagues very dearly. So I may be guilty of seeming to be unkind and harsh, but in the long run I believe it to be a requirement. 

A few years ago, at a leadership training session, all attendees were asked to write their own one line obituaries. It was probably  the toughest assignment I have ever done, but one that I will never forget. I wrote my tombstone that read, "The change maker, hand holder and smile provider." I was a banker then, but nowhere did the words deal maker, money spinner or go getter, appear in the shortlist I put together. It was an exercise that made me think of what I really wanted from life. The answer emerged - to create something, to positively impact lives, to minimise suffering and struggles and to be there for the ones I love. As the answer emerged, so did the opportunity; and I moved to manufacturing. 

The last three and a half years I have probably grown, learnt and contributed the most in my short life so far. But when I look ahead I have so much more that I would like to do, understand, and give, that I do not want to lose a minute of this precious life. I don't want to waste time agonising over what I missed, but I want to cherish and build on what I have. I don't want to ponder on the what if, but I want to seize the moment and see if it is where I find my treasure. I don't want to have to regret, but I want to say what I feel.

I have never lived a life that would conform to a type. I have borne enough burdens of expectations of stereotypes. I can only live if I can stay true to my unique style. And just for that I will have to remember that just like life, every moment is transient. It will all only make sense when it all comes to an end. But before the curtain drops, I need to play my part, say my lines, sing my songs and laugh out loud. Only then will there be an opportunity to stand up and ask if I did justice to the role I was handed...

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