When I was a few months old, my grandmother had my horoscope made. If my virtual reader has no idea what that is, then it is sometime that astrologers write up about the future of the person based on the position of the planets at the time of his birth. It is considered superstition in most parts of the word (it should however be pointed out that Newton, Kepler and Galileo made some part of their living writing up Horoscopes for the rich). In this part of the world ( Class Kerala extends India) horoscopes still command some respect. I think it is because there some astrologers are considered good and that old habits die hard.
Anyway, my horoscope is considered a piece of work, in that it proclaims great things for me. According to my stars, I will be rich, and successful. Go Me!
There was a point in my life, when I used to look up my horoscope from time to time – needless to say, this was the low self confidence phase during mid teen – and I have derived no small satisfaction from my predicted future.
Then one day, a few years later (from then) and a few years before (from now), I happened to find out that the librarian at the University was a good palmist. This was Varanasi , where people routinely flock to die and where Gods are very much alive and walk around smoking pot, and so palmistry, astrology and what- not-ology are not only easily available but also more widely believed than the General theory of Relativity. I walked to this man one day and asked him to read my palm. He did not hesitate but warned me that he would be very blunt in his interpretation.
My palm spoke a different story- instead of the life of riches and yaying success, it showed a life of struggle and hardships with failures and setbacks. “This is a bad hand” – he told me. I nodded. This wasn’t the first time that someone had lamented at the state of my palm. My palm is criss crossed with lines (thought lines) and each line is crossed this way and that. A reclining old man had once told me that I would suffer in life. My uncle, who is widely considered a good reader, had always fallen quiet upon seeing my hands. I was prepared to hear my librarian’s verdict therefore.
But it set me thinking nevertheless. I did not handle dejection well. My life until then had gone smoothly. I had been an academic achiever. I had good grades, got into a good university and was now doing a PhD. I did have one bad experience and was already over my first incident of depression. (Did not know then of course that there would be a second). I wasn’t very fond of my university but had mastered the art of surviving there (stay numb, stay low). I had huge ambitions – unstructured and ungrounded – but wasn’t working towards any of them. I had recently discovered God and was in the process of finding out more.
But, what if, My life does not turn out the way I want it to? (this is kind of a given: the old Man proposes, God Disposes kind of thing) but what if, worse, I fail at everything, face strife after strife and struggle all the time? Would I have the strength to face that life? Would I be happy or could I be ever happy?
This was a striking question – if my palm was indeed my destiny, and struggle was to be my life, What was I to do?
I came to two conclusions:
1) If this was to be the case, then there was nothing I could do to change it. So be PREPARED.
2) Even if I have a lot of struggle, it doesn’t mean that I am a failure.
Preparation does not mean buying all kinds of insurance and resigning into a post world war bunker. It means – and I learnt this idea very late and is still in the process of truly understanding it – it means that you need to have a state of mind where there setbacks don’t make an impact. I found the closest description to this in the GITA – let the mind be a clear sky where thoughts fly across without tearing apart the screen. It is of course a great challenge. Only Gods have such a mentality. Imagine, who has the will power to face defeat after defeat and yet not only be not dejected but also be upbeat and positive? I don’t know anyone. But clearly, if my life is to be struggle, then I have no other option….?
I looked around at the lives of people who are considered successful and great. I looked at the lives of the characters from Indian epics. They all had shit lives. I mean, look at Ram – a prince, beloved son of proud father, a great good guy – yet lived in forest for 14 years, had his wife stolen, had to fight gruesome battles, then separation from wife and children – what a pathetic life. Yet, we never hear him complaining, he was always what he was supposed to be – strong and a source of strength to others. When we speak of Ram today, we don’t count what he did wrong or what he suffered, but of what he earned and accomplished. Look at Gandhi – the father of a whole nation, a legend sans time – but again, a life of toil. I would never swap my life with him – I can’t bear that much load. But there people did not let these strifes bother him, they did not let their spirits down. They lived the Gita. They lived the Gita. They lived every verse of the Gita.
I am not a Gandhi. or a Ram. I am a 24 year old, who goes to bed at night after jerking off to Internet porn. Why can’t I live the Gita (minus the porn)?