Volume 10 : Issue 4

Published : Oct. - Dec. 2011

Group : And Life Goes On

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By Arun Babani

Living by A Line

I guess everyone keeps a line or two by his bedside to live by. I've had my share of such telegraphic messages too. At sixteen we heard Henry Miller say, “Always Merry and Bright”, and fell in love with the expression. At the prime of youth it sounded like a sunshine song; no matter if our throats weren't clear, and our guitars were not tuned; but it was our song and we began to sing.  At eighteen we met Osho who said “Be Authentic”. I promptly put the commandment on the cover of my college journal; soon I got into trouble; I didn't realize that to be authentic means to be vulnerable; not to wear a mask meant trust everyone with innocence. But, said Osho, “It is better to be cheated than cheat.”

Later, another line came by from another Master, “To want to be extraordinary is the most ordinary thing in the world.” To learn this when you are twenty is a calamity; when everyone is in the hysterical race to prove their extraordinariness, we were left with no shadows to chase! Wisdom being a delight is also a cruel teacher! Nonetheless, I have even today tried to live by the line that spelled magic for me a generation ago.

A line, rather a Haiku from Basho, the Zen Master, most favourite of Osho, was the next to inspire us; “sitting silently, doing nothing; spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” What an intoxicating line to live by! Osho people made a few variations on that one. “Don't just do something. Sit there!!” , a line that was made into a poster, a card and a book mark. “Isness as usual” was another such variation on the same theme of slowing down, traveling inwards. These lines came at crucial junctures of our lives, and we trusted the truth of each of them, and sincerely tried to “follow” and live by them. They became the “Maxims” we emulated and practiced.

Then came a devastating line from U. G. “Not knowing is your Natural State.” Statement with tremendous energy behind it. Out went all the Psychology, all the Spirituality, all the wisdom learned so painstakingly over three decades. Here was a line that just took the air out of the mystic balloon, so to say! A line to live by becomes operational in one's life only when it hits you like a thunderbolt, and you laugh with relief, just as you take a deep breath upon unloading a great weight from your head. This line from U. G. (there are others like, “You don't have to do a thing” or “Fortunately there is nothing to be got from all this”) is a swish of a sword that cuts, and cuts in such a way that you don't even bleed!

The line just clicks, at the right time, and your life changes, something like when you are traveling and you see a milestone indicating an arrow for the opposite direction; you just turn around, trusting the validity of its claim. You have changed direction. It points East when you are headed West. Now you are relieved to have found the way, you are happy! When a line shows you the way, it becomes a Guideline. It is perhaps such atomic messages given by Masters to intimate disciples that years later turn into proverbs that a civilization believes in and possesses. They contain the search and the subsequent answers to deeper longing of man to say Hello to his Creator! These lines are the clues to the creation of which we are a part! My mother gave me one such line to get by in the world, actually it is a Doha from Kabir that is a great lesson in Social Psychology; “Kabira khada Bazaar mein, maange sabki khair, Na kissise Dosti, Na kissise Baire.


The Great Denial

I am a journalist and have been one for the past 40 years. I know for a fact that in the world of newspapers, magazines, media and society there are no hardcore facts, only poetry. You can write, 'Janam, Janam ka Saath', or you can also say, 'Zindagi na milegi Dobara'! Depending on what you want to say. You can prove, with figures, that India is on top, or you can also prove with equal authority of facts and figures that the nation is underdeveloped. You must decide at the onset what you plan to write and the facts, figures, logic will go to bed with you, happily. Society, dumb that it is, worships the authority of black printed ink. The expert advice. And it is all about songs, poetry, imagination. These, not hard facts, are the real heroines. Look at the sluglines of advertisements : “Because you are worth it” of “whatever it takes”, or “It happens” and the magic of these tiny mantras is that it really begins to happen! It takes some poetry, imagination and spicy lines to tick human beings and they fall flat on your feet.

The writers, journalists, the so called artist fraternity came to know of this wicked alchemy of words, phrases a long time ago. It is known as the power of blah! Poetry is used imaginatively to convince anyone to do or buy anything, even poison. It only needs to be authoritative. An orator like Hitler could repeat lines powerfully and millions followed his crazy dictate to kill. Sheer poetry at its best. The society, by and large, doesn't care about the whereabouts of facts and figures. It only shakes hands with anyone who makes them shit in their pants.

It's the same with Gurus, Swamis, Acharyas who know how to cleverly play with words and use the authority of tradition to prove any blasphemy as most pure, holy and divine. The artists, film makers, poets keep uttering contradictions and get away simply because of their respective calling and the public gladly wags its tail. In Hindi movies, a superhero justifies murder, blackmail, corruption simply with the help of a hypnotic dialogue writer. I have heard Gurus call 2, 3 or 4 different names to a same thing and call it 'the mysterious immensity of life!' It would be truer to call it Shero-Shairee. The poetic justice, of which everything in society is a part, except ofcourse the humble daal-chawal.

Everything in human language is rather fluid, flexible and fleeting. The meanings of yesterdays have been replaced with today's meanings and nobody seems to have noticed. Who cares, as long as my sleeping pill is available at yesterday's price off the shelf! The newspaper carries dark black headlines every single day, often cancelling the shocking news of yesterday without so much as shedding a drop of ink. And the reading public who has the time to think and write the kind of story I am writing, in the middle of midnight? And for what? For whom? Oh, my God. . . . . . . . where did I keep my sleeping pill?