Positivity Unleashed

The contemporary age with its deep rooted and overpowering technological backbone (nee underbelly) and increasing focus on materiality has led to feelings of anxiety, despondency and mental stress becoming interminably enmeshed in our psyche. The outbreak of the pandemic has only served in facilitating such feelings to scale galactical heights. Factors such as the mega-scale of personal loss and its accompanying grief, economic stress, a future which, for most of the marginalised and weaker sections, is riddled with uncertainty, a recovery from which is nowhere visible on the horizon, has only led to feelings of negativity suddenly and most apparently becoming widespread and dominating the personal mind-space and mental landscape. The world and society have, rightfully and rationally at that, been busy focusing on the economic and well-ness fall out of the pandemic, but sadly, it seems, feelings of negativity, despondency, despair and hopelessness seem to be pervasive and all encompassing and would take their own time in receding into oblivion.

While I have written about how many high-achievers and successful human being spanning diverse fields of endeavour have dealt with failure and its accompanying negativity (notably Tennis Champion and Human Rights Activist, Arthur Ashe, successful writer JK Rowling, cricketer Gundappa Vishwanath etc), considering the magnitude and pervasiveness of the present-day mental epidemic, I thought of adding my two cents to the issue by referring to a couple of Hindi movie songs, Bhajans (Hymns) and some quotations which have provided me solace in the hours of deep despair — might sound cliched and hackneyed but is that not the way sermonising happens.

For starters, I have become addicted to repeatedly listening to the song “Bahut Diya Dene Wale ne tujh ko” (translated into English — “Providence has given you enough”) from the 1962 movie, “Soorat aur Seerat” sung by the Evergreen Mukesh, which goes as follows:-

“bahut diya dene wale ne tujhko
bahut diya dene wale ne tujhko
aanchal hi na samaaye to kya kije
bit gaye jaise ye din rainaa
baaki bhi kat jaaye dua kije

jo bhi de de malik tu kar le qubul
jo bhi de de malik tu kar le qubul
kabhi kabhi kanto me bhi khilate hai phul
waha der bhale hai andher nahi
ghabara ke yu gila mat kije
bahut diya dene wale ne tujhko
aanchal hi na samaye to kya kije

denge dukh kab tak bharam ke ye chor
denge dukh kab tak bharam ke ye chor
are dhalegi ye raat pyare phir hogi bhor
kab roke ruki hai samay ki nadiya
ghabara ke yu gila mat kije

bahut diya dene wale ne tujhko
aanchal hi na samaye to kyaa kije
bit gaye jaise ye din raina
baki bhi kat jaye dua kije”

The song which is highly inspiring and mood-lifting (the effect compounded by Mukesh’s melodious voice and Roshan’s soul-stirring music) essentially seems to convey that providence has given you enough, if not a lot, if it does not fit into your receptacle or mind-space — what do you do. While a literal translation of this evergreen song might not do justice to the vernacular version, the essence goes as follows:-

“Almighty God has given you enough,

If it does not fit-into your mind-frame what do you do;

Just as the taxing past has gone by,

pray that balance days will also pass;

Whatever the master has ordained for you accept it,

Sometimes thorns also are home to delectable flowers;

There might be delays in God’s kingdom but no injustice

Do not start making excuses in panic;

The thieves of happiness cannot deceive you for long,

The night will only dissolve into a lovely sprightly morning.

The river of time has never stopped and never will”

While going through the process of translation I must confess to have not attempted a literal approach but tried to extract and bring out the essence. This song has found a permanent space in the folds of my inner-self. It provides immediate solace and a somewhat ready-made pathway from despair to equanimity and solace.

The other thing that has deeply inspired me and provided a great degree of balance is the Hymn “Vaishvava Jana To” written in the Fifteenth Century by the Poet Narsinh Mehta in Gujarati language. The Hymn which is partly lyrical and partly ethical entreats human being to be compassionate, respectful, loving, kind and caring towards every living being and talks about the life ideals, mentality, virtue and thought processes one has to following in life goes as follows:-

वैष्णव जन तो तेने कहिये, जे पीड परायी जाणे रे ।
पर दुःखे उपकार करे तो ये,मन अभिमान न आणे रे ॥

सकळ लोकमां सहुने वंदे,, निंदा न करे केनी रे ।
वाच काछ मन निश्चल राखे, धन धन जननी तेनी रे ॥

समदृष्टि ने तृष्णा त्यागी, परस्त्री जेने मात रे ।
जिह्वा थकी असत्य न बोले,परधन नव झाले हाथ रे ॥

मोह माया व्यापे नहि जेने,दृढ़ वैराग्य जेना मनमां रे ।
रामनाम शुं ताळी रे लागी,सकळ तीरथ तेना तनमां रे ॥

वणलोभी ने कपटरहित छे,काम क्रोध निवार्या रे ।
भणे नरसैयॊ तेनुं दरसन करतां,कुळ एकोतेर तार्या रे ॥

An English translation of this hymn goes as follows:-

“Call those people Vaishnav who feel the pain of others,
help those who are in misery, but never let self-conceit enter their mind.

They respect the entire world, do not disparage anyone,
keep their words, actions and thoughts pure,
the mother of such a soul is blessed.

They see all equally, renounce craving,

respect other women as their own mother,
Their tongue never utters false words,
Their hands never touch the wealth of others

They do not succumb to worldly attachments,
They are firmly detached from the mundane,
They are enticed by the name of Raam,
All places of pilgrimage are embodied in them.

They have forsaken greed and deceit,
They stay afar from desire and anger.

Narsi says: I’d be grateful to meet such a soul,
Whose virtue liberates their entire lineage.”

The above hymn which is universally chanted and heard, transcending all boundaries whatsoever, seems to disseminate, compassion and a considerate attitude towards all fellow human beings. Of course, the entire process is mutual — feel compassion for others before expecting anything in return. As the first two lines go- a rightful being is one who understands and appreciates the pain of others — overcoming the self- expanding your vision can only serve to severely mitigating your internal stresses.

Thinking about making the best out of a seemingly hopeless situation and a perceived never-ending abyss of suffering, I was also reminded of an iconic dialogue from the 1960 Bollywood hit — “Mughal E-Azam” (so effectively recreated on stage in the musical directed by Feroz Abbas Khan). The story is set in the 16th Century Mughal Court of Emperor Akbar and the liaison and affairs of heir to the throne Prince Salim with a courtesan — Anarkali (so effectively portrayed by the iconic and eternal beauty Madhubala on screen). When Emperor Akbar objects to the liaison and admonishes her with the prospect of a bed of thorns for the rest of her life, she responds with the iconic dialogue — “Kanton Ko Murjhane ka bhaya nahin hota”“Thorns are not scared about withering”.

The dialogue might seem to convey a sense of hopelessness to me, it conveys the essential fact that, akin to a thorn which cannot decay and wither further, the feelings and fact of suffering can, will and are only bound to abate. Just as euphoria is transitory the depths of misery which one may have descended to is only bound to reverse its trajectory.

In this context I was also reminded of a quote that one of my revered teachers had written in my autograph book when I was about to leave school “The trying times of today will be the happy days of tomorrow” — well I laughed and smirked at it then and my imbecile mind then found it to be somewhat inane but decades later and much wiser for the experience — have realised the depth of the message and the sheer and innate transience of suffering and misery.

I would also like refer to a quote which my beloved (Late) elder Sister frequently used to recite to me whenever I had or was tending to plumb to deep-rooted despair and misery -in fact she gifted me a motif of the same which I still preserve and get inspired by almost three decades after she gave it to me and more than a decade after she was consumed by the heavens :-

“Lord help me to remember that,

nothing is going to happen to me today,

that you and I together cannot handle”.

Before closing I would like to quote from the bestseller “For whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway seeming to convey that a positive thought process and resultant today will only lay the ground for happy tidings in future :-

“Today is only one day in

All the days that will ever be;

But what will happen in,

All the other days that ever come

Can depend on what you do today”.

Physiologists and wellness experts do talk of breathing exercises, behavioural therapies and myriad other techniques most of which are time-tested and have their definite utility and undeniable benefits (some of which I have also followed with amazing results) but these seemingly elementary, may be commonplace and sounding too good to be true rendition of songs, hymns and a minor recalibration of thought process in moments of despair and mental stress is what has worked for me the most.

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