I had the pleasure and privilege of watching the Kathak Maestro, Pandit Birju Maharaj perform live yesterday! And what a treat it was! The show was supposed to start at 6pm. At 5.45pm I saw the legend walk in – before time! Dressed in simple and elegant Indian Kurta-Pyjama and an overcoat, he looked like an epitome of grace and humility. He responded warmly as the crowd greeted him. When someone clicked a photo of him without his permission, he graciously paused and posed. I saw a sense of regret and apology on the person who was trying to click his picture without his permission – when she noticed the gracefulness that the maestro demonstrated despite that. I thought to myself, that’s what legends are made of! A capacity to transform people just by being a great example of what they wish to see in others. I saw him walk in with a walking stick – and I admired his spirit to be there. When I read that he would be performing, a part of me wondered how.
Inside the auditorium, they had made announcements to not click photographs or take videos. However, some people still tried that and the organizers gently came and requested people to not do so. I was impressed with how they handled it. And I was wondering what has to happen for humans to respect the privacy of others and maintain it. It looks like we can’t enjoy anything in life unless we click a picture of it.
Anyway, after two and half hours of performances, the maestro finally came on stage. The energy in the crowd changed. He had been speaking a few words here and there before that, and he stole the hearts of the audience with his simplicity and humour. He humorously spoke about the clothes that people currently wear in the movies these days – how sometimes they forget stitching fully and leave big holes in between, how sometimes the cloth is just not enough to cover the body etc. The audience was laughing. He mentioned that when he is invited to teach someone in the film fraternity for a movie, his first question is – “Kapde acche pehan rahe ho na?” (You are wearing good clothes (in the song), aren’t you?). Well, the way he said it, with kindness and humour (not with any judgement), I loved that. I don’t know if I have been able to do justice in capturing all that here in the writing. To talk of something without condemning others is a wonderful skill.
So, when he came on stage, first we heard a fantastic poem that he had written on Radha and her mischief – which was beautifully expressed and rendered by his disciple, Saswati Sen. When we thought that was great, the 79 year old maestro took us by surprise. He took to stage and swept us off our feet. He danced, or shall I say he lived the dance. For him, everything is a dance. He spoke about simple things in life like writing a letter, talking to a friend etc and transformed them into magical dance moves. It was like as if everything about life could be expressed through dance. And even the simplest of things looked great when it was thus, expressed.
While everyone else danced beautifully, he poured life into dance gracefully. It appeared as though he lives to dance, he lives in dance and he lives for dance. In 3 sentences, he depicted 3 stages of life – childhood, adulthood and old age. And in 15 seconds, he showed those 3 stages in a manner that we will never forget. What expressions! What elegance! What grace! What joy! He even expressed thunder, lightning and peacock dance through dance. You name anything, he can weave it into a dance. For him, life is a dance.
I felt proud to be an Indian as I walked out of the auditorium last night. The colours, the vibrancy, the culture, the art, the dance, the humility – Wow! Truly, we are one of a kind! The more we live on these and the more we revive these, the more we may find the beauty of our existence. My gratitude to him and all the great proponents of Indian arts and culture for keeping it alive and inspiring us.
Why would you worry about being shattered, if you can rebuild yourself
Why would you worry about people’s judgment, if you can be kind to yourself
Why would you worry about recognition, if you realize how good you are
Why would you worry about losing someone, if you know to trust yourself
Why would you worry about something going wrong, if you believe you can make it right
Why would you worry about failing, if you are willing to learn from your failures
Why would you worry about future, if you are confident of your present
Why would you worry about falling, if you have the courage to rise every time
Why would you worry about growing old, if you are content with yourself
Why would you worry about dying, if you are living every moment
Why should fear hold you down, if you can touch the skies with faith!
Keep the faith! Trust yourself! Reach for the skies!
2012 – I went home for my birthday. Daddy was very excited. He always was about any of our birthdays – be it my mother’s, sister’s or mine. It meant a lot to him. He’d do anything and everything to ensure we had a great birthday. I remember when I was a kid I used to invite friends for my birthday almost a year in advance, dream of what kind of cake would I get, how many chocolates to buy etc. Clothes were the best part – Daddy used to get me the most exquisite dresses from the best of places. I remember one of my birthdays he got me a beautiful golden brown frock that I absolutely cherished for years. Every time I wore it, even strangers would stop to compliment me. I had my first Puma shoes when I was 3 years old. I had matching pink shoes for a pink frock. The best part was I never had to ask at all. Daddy used to get us the best of stuff during all his travels. I used to be so excited when I knew Daddy was coming home and used to literally wait for him at the doorstep so I could tell all my stories and also excited about what would come out of his suitcase. He always had something for us. Something awesome!
Anyways, back to my birthdays. It used to be like the most special festival for him. I had a guitar cake, Mickey Mouse cake, turtle cake, house cake and what not. So when I grew up, and started studying and working, being away from home, I used to always head home for my birthday. Because I love to see the delight in Daddy’s eyes trying to do everything to make me feel super special. I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. My Mom would make specials, he’d go shopping and get my favorite food, invite people over or take me out somewhere, buy me the best of clothes – ah! What a special time! Why would I ever miss that? So, until 2012, I was with Dad and Mom for all my birthdays. 2013, I couldn’t go home because I had to go for a training. 2014, I decided to not make a big deal of my birthday so I had a very lonely and quiet birthday in Bangalore. And then life struck a different chord. Suddenly Daddy fell ill and by end of 2014, he moved on. 2015, on my birthday, I felt bad – I was looking at the old pictures of my last birthday with him in 2012. If only I knew that I wouldn’t have any more such chances to see the delight in my Dad’s eyes, I would have perhaps rushed home for my birthday on 2014 too and spent it with the person I love the most and the person who loves me the most.
Likewise, his birthdays were the biggest festival for me too. No matter where I was and what was happening, I always went home for Daddy’s birthday. Nothing in the world was more important. I’d wait for this festival all year round – planning and dreaming of how to make it special. I remember I stayed up all night blowing 50 balloons for his 50th birthday. On another one, I gave him a surprise by coming home from Mumbai, early in the morning, even before he woke up. When I wished him, he thought it was my sister and turned around. Imagine his surprise when he saw me standing there. He jumped out of his bed and was super thrilled. The entire day, whoever called to wish him, he kept telling them, “Narmada came all the way from Mumbai to give me a surprise at 5.30am.” And each time he said that, I loved the delight in his voice. There was only one birthday that I missed of his in my life and I sent him a very special something that day. As soon as he received it, he sent me a message saying, “You are mad, in a sweet way :).” I had a big smile on my face when I read that. I saved the message.
Today I know Daddy is around me somewhere. While the body is gone, the soul lives on forever. But I miss seeing the twinkle in Daddy’s eyes when he wished me. I miss his charming voice – and the wonderful, elaborate, heartfelt words he used to say to wish me the best of everything in life on that day and always. I miss the excitement he used to generate to do so many things on my birthday. I miss his excellent choice in selecting the best of dresses for me (he never bought me 1; he always bought me multiple dresses for any occasion). I miss the warmth and positivity that he exuded. I miss the way he made me feel like I am his little princess – not just on my birthdays but every day! He always used to say festival is anytime when we are together. And he ensured we stayed together amidst all the transfers. It was only at a much later stage in life when I had to go elsewhere to study and to work. But I used to go home every other weekend. We couldn’t stay without seeing each other for too long. When I went back to my place of stay and called Dad to say I reached, the first thing he used to ask was, “Nana when are you coming again?” And we both would start planning my next trip. 🙂 He believed that people may forget what we say, but they never forget how we made them feel. He always made me feel loved with his kind and gentle presence. Never a foul word or a bad temper. Pleasantness personified. I was always fascinated by him and I wish to be like him.
For some strange reason, last year November 16th, I began drawing a Disney princess and wanted to write on it, ‘Daddy’s little princess’. I just started coloring it, when I got a call from Mom that he had a fall and was badly injured. I was in tears and rushed to the airport and reached the hospital. The wind-down started and in 45 days, he left his body. Life is full of strange signs and signals. I thought I’ll write about how I miss my Dad on my next birthday in 2016. But then I thought what about others who may be having their birthdays between now and my next birthday? What if my message goes out a tad too late for someone else? What if you have someone very special in your life and you have a special day coming up, and you are wondering what to do? What if this story could play a role in influencing that decision? Because we always choose to learn from each other’s experiences, we can make better decisions before life calls ‘the end’ on either.
Below is a picture of those brightly lit up eyes and that million dollar smile of my handsome Dad on my birthday. Priceless isn’t it?!!
Teach only if someone wants to learn
Speak only if someone wants to listen
Give only if someone wants to receive
Advise only if someone is willing to seek
Anything can work only if there’s a want. Where there’s a want, there will always be a will and where there’s a will, there is always a way. Truth be told – anything has its value only when there’s a want we hold. A dream that doesn’t exist cannot come true. A want that doesn’t persist, may not be valued too. It doesn’t mean we have to hold back all the time. We can create a compelling want in people. People are the way they are because they haven’t experienced other ways of being. Once they experience or get a taste of a new way of being, a powerful self, a beautiful relationship, the human mind will never settle for anything less knowing that it is capable of something better. We can create the want, build that dream, set the example and be our compelling positive self that the world would want to learn from our excellence. We can listen to our experience, gain from our gifts and seek our perspectives.
Half the struggles in the world are because we want someone to learn something, do something or accept something even if they are not ready for it. We tag our success to somebody else’s willingness to receive what we want to give. There is a certain amount of ‘I’ness in our transactions.
- We want our children to study well and become something. But do they want the same thing?
- We want someone to apologize. But do they feel it?
- We want someone to learn from our experience and change from our feedback. But do they see the need for it?
Not everything in life has to be enforced. We seem to be flooded with lots of options and yet have no choice at all. Each person makes the best choice available to them. We may think they are being stupid or difficult. But how do we know what criteria of theirs is getting fulfilled by being so? Sooner or later we all arrive at our respective destinations. Whether in our way or theirs, people reach where they want to reach. There’s learning in every route, in every step and every journey. Each person is unique and so is their journey. They may have a journey that is very different from ours but it is significant in its own way. In that difference lays their learning and ours.
We might want others to learn the way we teach or be the way we want. No harm in wanting something. But it is good to be aware that it will happen only if it is in line with their life’s story and what they want for themselves. Being aware of that will help us accept whichever way it goes.
Differences in point of views are not worthy of creating difference between two people. Different perspectives can
co-exist because they each are here for a specific reason and they each fulfill a purpose by their presence. Honest points of difference are learning opportunities. What is it that we can learn from an opposite point of view or an opposing force? This is a great question that helps us perceive differences healthily and enables us to accept, learn and grow.
We might be upset and pick a fight because someone is not listening to us despite of us repeatedly telling them. But did we stop and wonder – why should that person listen to us at all? Why should things be the way we want? Can we adjust instead? Our way perhaps is more effective but it may not be what the other person wants now. They may want something else. Perhaps because there’s a different learning they are seeking currently. We can’t dictate the rules of their game unless they are seeking our inputs. And even when they are seeking, it doesn’t guarantee an acceptance. They still have the choice.
“Those who wish to sing will find a song!”
Who do you learn from? Do you have criteria for someone to be your teacher? Do you have clauses that you will consider someone a teacher only if you feel they are more qualified than you in some way? I thought like that once upon a time. I thought the teacher has to be all perfect and really know what they are talking, should be humble, polite and all that. Only then would I consider them my teacher.
However, when I finally met my Guru, he dispelled all my myths. I realised that if we are nit picky about our teachers we’ll perhaps get to learn something. But we might not be able to see the value in the vast majority of people around us who definitely have something to offer. And if we are open to learning from anyone, the world is our classroom, every human, our teacher and our learning possibilities, limitless!
If we explore this thought a bit more, we realize that we unconsciously learn a lot more from trying or difficult experiences than a formal teaching. Every time we come across a person being difficult, we learn how to navigate our way with them. We learn patience. Every time we come across a situation where there is no one to help, we begin to help ourselves. We learn being self reliant. Even if a teacher taught a concept wrong, if we seek to understand that better, we learn that concept in depth. When someone doesn’t teach well, we understand what not to do while teaching. When a business goes wrong we learn what to do and what not to do the next time. When someone doesn’t treat us right, we feel hurt and realize how important it is to treat people right. We learn to lead by example. The examples are a dime a dozen. We will find greater value in every person we meet when we drop our criteria to learn. To be a student then, there’s only one criterion – and that is ‘to be willing to learn’. If you can be a student, anyone can be your teacher!
On this teacher’s day, I thank my Guru for enabling me to see a teacher in every person and a learning opportunity in every situation. I also thank all the people in my life who have been teaching me something in their own, unique way. Thank you and happy teacher’s day!
The best of teachers and the not so great of experiences, both can be great teachers that we learn from. A teacher doesn’t need to know everything under the sun, for us to learn. Remember, a paper with our answers determines our degree at the end of a course more than all the lessons during the course.