As we celebrate the 72nd Independence Day, the aspirations and hopes of our people soar like the ‘bird-machines’ in the sky. After all it is ‘freedom from’ a few things and ‘freedom to’ something. Not for a bit am I influenced by the tall claims of leaders speaking on this occasion. My ears are to the ground and I can sense it all around me in the everyday lives of ordinary people. It is not lost on me that amidst the din of economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech, indeed the common man has benefited over the years and is more empowered than before.
Vikram, the young, friendly neighbourhood dhobi chatted up with me recently after a hard day’s work. He had a two-wheeler, a smart phone, latest TV at home, 3 assistants to iron the clothes, pick up and drop at customer’s places and more than enough orders to be able to refuse a few. He said I bought a new business at a premium ! He added, compared to earlier years he is able to charge more for less work. Also the new generation customers living in nuclear families do not haggle about the prices unlike the older generation who want more for less. He wasn’t complaining about working until 10 pm every day after which he would enjoy time with his family. He was excited about his future. About being able to buy a piece of land in his hometown. About constructing a new home for his parents and farming. His ‘mast’ attitude uplifted me.
Lalita, the housemaid was content working in 2-3 homes. Well-dressed, with a smart phone in hand, latest gadgets at home, she found time to participate in ‘satsang’ every Sunday and shared her learnings from those ‘tattva’ sessions with my sister regularly. Heard a lot of this repeated by a motivational speaker / spiritual guru a few days later in a packed hall. I was amazed that Lalita living in a chawl was living and practising spirituality in her daily life. She had found freedom from her drudgery.
I am sure each of you will find many such Vikrams and Lalitas around you who are far different from their parents doing similar jobs decades ago when you were much younger. This is today’s Bharat doing us proud. Small stars of prosperity and hope that have risen from the masses and made a life for themselves. While this is true, what is also true is that Freedom needs to be enjoyed with restraint. Reckless use of the so-called free resources is resulting in calamity and untold misery which we are witnessing currently. With great power comes great responsibility. As a young nation, we are enjoying the power today but can we exercise it with restraint and responsibility ? Then and only then, the hard-fought ‘Freedom from’ and ‘Freedom to’ will be more enjoyable and long lasting.
Last Saturday at the monthly Pink Hope Connect Talk (a voluntary cancer survivors group programme), Dr. Kumaraswamy, a senior oncologist made a dramatic opening on the topic “How to reduce the chances of cancer recurrence ?”. He said “My objective is not to Answer any patient questions but just to Empower You. Don’t ask will I be cured ? What answers can doctors give ? Answer lies within You. Ask yourself how to prevent recurrence. Focus on what you can do rather than on focussing what doctors are doing”.
What followed was an amazing eye-opening talk on the Power of the Mind, Power of Positive Thinking, Power of Fear (yes he said fear is good if used well), Power of Being Active (activity is the elixir of life), Power of Spirituality, Power of Creative Visualisation, Power of Healthy Lifestyle and most importantly the Power of Altruism. Let me dwell a bit on the last one….He said leading an altruistic life (helping others, living for others) on the principles of “I’m OK. You are OK. They are OK. It’s Ok” is far more beneficial than constantly worrying if the disease will strike again or not. Did you know that practising Altruism increases the body immunity and enhances the NK cells (Natural Killer cells) thereby reducing the chances of recurrence of a disease ? How beautiful ! Helping others helps you too. What a simple yet profound way of life !! At the end of the impactful session, it was clear – “Cancer or any other disease. There is no miracle outside. It is all within YOU”.
This talk echoed the message of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda (International President of Soka Gakkai, a renowned world-wide Buddhist voluntary group that believes in creating value and everlasting peace through Human Revolution). He says “we are capable of maintaining a sense of connection with others, and through this can offer moments of authentic happiness to those around us, bringing our humanity to an ever-greater lustre.” When I look back on my life, knowingly or unknowingly I have been practising altruism in one way or the other. Message for me is to step up further.