Before 14th June, I only liked Sushant Singh Rajput as a great actor, given my penchant for cinema and the avid movie buff that I am.
And then 14th happened.
I was taking my weekend power nap, when I was jolted awake by my daughter who just uttered that SSR had committed suicide. I jumped out of the bed and rushed to the television, in utter disbelief, only to hear the corroborative narration that an entire shocked nation was hearing.
It catapulted me to my sophomore years when I was gallivanting away from my college in my mofussil town and my close confidante … my friend in all deeds & misdeeds came chasing in search of me, the chain of his dilapidated cycle having failed as usual and he jumped down as blurred out… Divya Bharti is dead. Those were the days when news wasn’t a 24/7 gory business and I had to await the next days newspaper to get the details of the unbelievable painful tale of the death of someone whom I simply adored … along with millions of other admirers.
It was the first time that I had realised that these screen deities were also human beings… flesh and blood… and it hit really hard… this couldn’t be happening … it was just not possible… should I still chase my dreams of becoming an actor.. or is my dad right and engineering is the real thing… crazy random thoughts… it took an investment of some stolen money on a leading film glossy that carried the painful details… conspiracy theories … the picture of the place where the deity had fallen… intact… shattered… window without a grill… drunken parties till late nights… mother and father… separate accusations … the entire month was a nightmare..
And now this. As I .. glued to myriad channels.. where the merchants of pain spread their investigative paraphernalia and sold their sordid tales of grisly details… it is here that I discovered the extraordinary human soul behind the actor’s mask. And hitherto unknown facts came to my notice. The melancholic pain has consistently been increasing by the passing day. Inspite of the fact that other than the bond of humanity I had nothing binding me to this great soul. I tried searching for reasons on why I was suffering from so much distress on SSR giving up on life. Why did my eyes water at watching Dhoni the movie.. that I had already consumed a dozen times before… Why did the lines… Bin pooche mera naam aur pataa…. Rasmon ko rakh ke pare… Chaar kadam bas chaar kadam…. Chaldona saath mere… suddenly acquire a new lugubrious context…
Was it because of him being a fellow Bihari? Was it because that we tend to relate more to the success of the underdog stories? Was it because he left without according the basic etiquette of explaining his reasons to the masses who worshipped him and thus became enigmatic and the conundrum was killing us…
All the research that I set upon only disclosed a far superior quality of intellect behind that disarmingly enchanting endearing smile… a thinking brain… an intellectually advanced lifeform with an enviably fine balance of emotion between the heart and the mind… a positive persona with indefatigable zest for life and a passion par excellence to chase and achieve the extraordinary in the mediocre maze of this existence… It is here that I connected. It is here that the spark of pain became unbearable. A relationship between a thinking intellectual soul and another is one of the finest bonds that unites the known with the unknown … converting stranger souls into bonds of familiarity… based on mutual respect and admiration. This explained the lump in throat and the wetness of the eyes of my mind at every mention of the excellence that rid itself of a lifeform.
The pain now is more severe. For now, all the claims of depressive state of affairs or the compulsions imposed by the heinous conspiracies of the invisible omertà or the struggle cum failure stories, or the myriad relationships souring… nothing really justified the exit of a reasonably intelligent soul. As one who related to the same and may have borne the brunt of similar or far more devastating colourful blows of fate, I couldn’t for the respect of existence, in any order condone or corroborate any cause as worthy of depriving the already intellectually bankrupt existence of the times that we suffer.
I tried to look for the reasons in the immediate postings of SSR on his various social platforms and found these relevant random thoughts that perhaps joined the dots…..
April: What if consciousness is not something special that the brain does but is instead a quality inherent to all matter in the universe?
May: The Avatamsaka Sutra describes enlightenment as an awareness of the “interpenetration of space and time.” One can’t help but wonder if Einstein’s theory of relativity that unifies space and time was just a stroke of genius or also a glimpse of the divine. June: Blurred past evaporating from teardrops. Unending dreams carving an arc of smile. And a fleeting life, negotiating between the two…
All the above point to an extraordinarily advanced computation of the unseen aspects of existence or its meaning. The negotiation between thé blurred past evaporating from the teardrops and the unending dreams attempting to carve an arc of smile seem to have failed. The fleeting moment when the negotiations failed, SSR decided perhaps to merge the consciousness with the matter. Perhaps in such a random moment of some advanced realisation of the meaning of life… he merged with the divine. As SSR prophesied in one of his several musings…somewhere between the neurons of his passion and the narratives of his circumstances… he was born… lived… dreamt… and died…
And he converted his dream of being eternal into an immediate reality. May not be a right way to do so.. but who are we to judge the brightness of an exalted soul that might have sought and achieved enlightenment. History is abound with hundreds of stories of enlightened souls who never lived thereafter with the masses post enlightenment of the kind where the mysteries of life seem to have disclosed itself to them. Life is simply complicated. It’s the most misunderstood concept and the reality of death has only compounded the conundrum. We keep chasing death in the garb of living life. We surrender the genetically intelligent neurons to the narratives of mediocrity.
A dear friend if mine passionately attempted to mull about as to who we were to say that this lifetime is our entire book. That perhaps this may be a chapter… biding by its allocated time within the limited confines of the words and pages allocated to it. There may have been many chapters before or many ahead… Perhaps..
I fell for this concept.. And it is here … that with so much pain at the departing of such an inspiring soul as SSR.. it is but with respect we must accord his right to have refused to grant right to the limitations of the pages and words and spaces et al by ending the chapter consciously… perhaps he intuitively knew about the excitement and comparative superiority of the quality of the upcoming chapter… or perhaps the powerful omertà of the universe had authored the chapter to end thus.
Whatever be the case… the heart rules over the mind here and no explanation lessens the pain of reaching the last period of this chapter. The reader, who falls in love with the tale .. shall always have to bear the pangs of pain at the ending of such a tale. Many more tales may come… yet the nostalgia of the tale so loved shall continue to stab the memory… especially, when the author chose to end it at a sharp heartthrobbingly & mysteriously incomplete abrupt juncture… with no climax in sight… well the pain of suffering such a story that never ended and yet ended is only known to such unfortunate readers like us.
Hoping that SSR moved on to a happier chapter as he wanted. This ununderstood ending.. for sure will join the list of many such burning .. soul stirring … intellect confusing unanswered list of enigmatic queries that I have been collecting since my chapter began… to be asked and answer sought only from the supreme author.
In the lines of Kaifi Azmi Saab:
रहने को सदा दहर में आता नहीं कोई.
तुम जैसे गए ऐसे भी जाता नहीं कोई…
डरता हूँ कहीं ख़ुश्क न हो जाए समुंदर
राख अपनी कभी आप बहाता नहीं कोई
इक बार तो ख़ुद मौत भी घबरा गई होगी
यूँ मौत को सीने से लगाता नहीं कोई
माना कि उजालों ने तुम्हें दाग़ दिए थे
बे-रात ढले शम्अ बुझाता नहीं कोई
साक़ी से गिला था तुम्हें मय-ख़ाने से शिकवा
अब ज़हर से भी प्यास बुझाता नहीं कोई
हर सुब्ह हिला देता था ज़ंजीर ज़माना
क्यूँ आज दिवाने को जगाता नहीं कोई
अर्थी तो उठा लेते हैं सब अश्क बहा के
नाज़-ए-दिल-ए-बेताब उठाता नहीं कोई
At the risk of uttering a generalisation, which has been said to be the true enemy of mankind, I daresay that if it were to be ever attempted to understand what prohibits intrinsic potential of human capital from converting to delivered reality, it’s the spirit of incompetence, FOMO and mediocrity mindset of the men/women set over them.
Incompetence begets Incompetence. Incompetence promotes Incompetence. Incompetence recognises Incompetence. Incompetence favours Incompetence. For its the most viciously lethal & a treacherously silent killer of excellence that organisations acquire in the form of extraordinary talent but nurture and acclimatising it towards averaged mediocrity. Incompetence is the harbinger of the corporate food chain which cannibalises competence in favour of its own ilk, albeit proportional to its owner’s absolute vested powers.
Incompetence in itself isn’t treacherous. It’s advocacy and subscription as well as its tacit promotion is treason. It’s the here and now crisis that comes forcefully between actualisation of an organisation’s intrinsic inherent potential and the actual abysmally accepted achievement of incompetent targets. No Organisation worth it’s salt ever hires an underperformer, knowingly. Only the good and the excellent make the cut in lateral hirings. What then goes wrong when over time these resources who were hired for their ability to deliver and perhaps a proven track record of achievements, go on to become average and underperforming castoffs. Who went wrong. What went wrong. Who is to be held accountable. Why does the perpetrator go scot free and the unassuming victim penalised in various forms.
In 1999 two Cornell psychologists – David Dunning and Justin Kruger, in their eponymous Dunning-Kruger Effect propagated a cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. And not only do they fail to recognize their incompetence, they’re also likely to feel confident that they actually are competent. Mark Murphy speaks about this in a Forbes article where he analysed that it’s this very cognitive bias why some people think they’re great… even when their performance is terrible to say the least …
Once I stumbled upon this theory, a lot became crystal clear to me and many a vainglorious cavalier behavioural pattern of some people in positions of influence crystallised into a symptomatic trend of what is eating away the very pillars of values that any organisational entity propagates to stand on. However, We in the fraternity are yet to find a L,T & D or OD cure or worse .. even a behavioural vaccination that can insulate organisations from this treacherous epidemic. This… due to continual lethargy and inability and lack of intentions.. so to say.. of the decision empowered honchos over the decades… which has now acquired terminal stage of ailment in the corridors of corporate leadership…
Over a period of time… number crunchers with scant regard to ethics or processes or abilities, sycophants who crooned hosannas in glory of their masters, epitomes of mediocrity who with unenviable ‘abilities’ to please their masters, masters who themselves climbed the ladder on similar exalted grounds of incompetence and saw mirror images of their “competence” in these puppy eyed glorified fawners, have given rise to a decadent breed of swathes of averagers. In the swamp of this rot.. the superlative sparks of excellence have been savagely extinguished … sacrificed on the altars of mutual respect/empathetic comatose conscience of the leadership of the averagers ilk.
How long will the Ekalavyas have to chop off their thumbs to favour the rise of the Master’s Favourites. How long will the Karnas continue to be beheaded deceitfully in the garb of righteousness that is decided by the few. How long will the Ashok Khemkas of life keep getting booted out every six months to a new city to accommodate the vile… How long will the meritorious sacrifice his/her rightful due since he/she did not lower his/her standards of competence to kowtow with the incompetence of the majority… How long will the average merit the exceeded personal expectations ranking of the mighty against those who actually exceeded the expectations which were not aligned to the actual considered factors of the masters mediocre expectations.
Leadership which keeps consistently turning a blind eye is equally complicit in the crime. This is organisational treason. This is corporate treason. Any wilful covert acts of treachery … which can be detrimental and devastating to the state.. country or an organisation is treason. Retribution for treason across ages and across geographies have been uniform, owing to the heinous and loathsome nature of the crime. History also has been testimony that those who turned a blind eye to injustice weren’t really spared the larger net of harm over time. Across the ruthlessness of timelines, infallible giants like PanAm, Kodak, Nokia, HMT, Enron, Kingfisher, Yes Bank, Polaroid, Yahoo, Motorola… and so many of them bit the dust as they were victims of consistent incompetence of some leader or the other there.. somebody who tolerated mediocrity of intellect… someone up in the hierarchy who was willing to accept low standards of delivery … and who slowly, gradually and consistently compromised on performance, excellence and foresight…. these are treasonous actions that merit the highest form of punitive accountability … for with their action millions of shareholders, employees and gigantic valuations had to succumb to obscurity and bear the savage barbarous brunt as a resultant of the actions of few incompetents.
However no amount of punitive action can ever suitably account for the murder of competent dreams, strangling of well deserved aspirations, culling away of slabs of time spent in the hope of justice someday… worse … the bestial destruction of innocence that all management theories or education ever propagated… that excellence is rewarded and competence will empower you to succeed in your chosen career…
Who will be held accountable for the defiling of the aspirations built on the foundations of delivered excellence or the promise of extraordinary latent talent waiting to be guided to deliver by the incompetent mentors who are entrusted with such competent team members. Surely not the conspirators who across ranks are in cahoots to acclimatise the eager ones who want to challenge the status quo.. live the organisational values and pursue the vision and mission with religious fervour…. for these innocent imbeciles are yet to learn to read between the incoherent lines of mediocrity that are chanted and disseminated by the entire heinous hierarchy.
As long as incompetence will continue to be deceptively rewarded in the cloaks of transparency that doesn’t exist except for in the devious opaqueness of the perpetrator’s minds… this treason against the organisation will continue to haunt the potential of the organisation… and the threat of gradual obliteration will continue to hang. Values of any organisation are to be treated as verbs by the top nouns of the management. Else … all indications in any case are predicting doomsday…
The only leverage that any brand has its ability to visibly translate its claims of integrity into action. And it’s the only legacy that any leader worth his salt can ever leave for posterity. And an organisation that doesn’t endeavour to keep its handful of employees happy in lines with its visibly practiced values … can never expect to gain the trust and respect of the proportional numbers of customers and stakeholders it wishes these employees to delight ..
I was having a chat with a very dear friend who was narrating an incident where a toxic senior at workplace was becoming overwhelmingly unbearable. In line with the conversation, I tried explaining the management of both toxic as well as adorable people that we meet in the journey of our lives referring to a train journey in India.
If you have traveled on a long distance train journey here, you will know what I am about to tell. Seated at a window berth ensconced in a small cubicle you are exposed to the vastness of this piece of continent of this planet. Large swathes of land pass by for hours at a stretch while you recollect how people quarrel back home for inches of land. In such interesting journeys, I have had the endearing opportunity of meeting some very interesting people. Be it the First class where I have met retired commanders of the navy now brokering arms deals, giving me invaluable insights on myriad topics ranging from the mindsets of the MOD babus at south block to how Kurian the father of milk revolution was eventually shortchanged at his own territories. In the second AC I have met plant heads talking about the intricacies of managing plants along with a ringside view of their insecurities which don’t differ much from the air conditioned corridors of multinationals or service industries, Pensioners with their woes of age and offspring management, astrologers who have raked it big cashing in on the human psyche, govt servants with diverse opinions on varied governments they served etc etc..
I have also sometimes had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with rude co passengers fighting ferociously over luggage space beneath the berth or switching the fan on or off as the case may be and ensuring that the remaining journey passes by enduring the emitted bone-chilling coldness of Siberian deserts.
But why am I narrating all about a train journey in such detail.
Well, Life is almost like a train journey, is what I told my dear friend. The journey is not the destination. Neither is the destination the only purpose of our lives. In varied circumstances and needs we undertake various journeys and reach various destinations for various purposes. We get to meet adorably wonderful people and abhorrently toxic people. When we meet the wonderful ones, you get a feeling that you have forged lifetime relationships and that may be true too. But that doesn’t mean you let go of the journey or your destination and become their guests for lifetime since you liked them a lot. And when you get to meet the toxic people, you eventually learn to ignore them almost like how your nose is not obstructing your eye from reading this article. It has learnt to ignore any impediment to its vision at a young age itself. The co-passengers of your journey do not define your journey or its destination or its purpose… they may add value or be an irritant as the case may be, yet they are nothing to your plan of things.
One needs to learn to learn from the experiences and keep moving. The toxicity of any individual can only impact you if it is allowed an entry into your scheme of things. And this decision is yours to make. People will come and go in your life. What you choose to do with them, the learnings they give, the experiences that they impart is absolutely your decision. How much importance you may want to accord to their endearabilty or despicability is totally your choice. And your choice will have its bearing on the quality of the journeys you have to make. At the end of the day, we cannot ignore the fact that the destination will come and you have to alight from the train and carry on chasing the purpose of your journey. Nothing is really more important than you, your journey or your purpose.
Enjoy your journeys, chase your purposes with passion and learn to exhilarate while having great experiences and ignore any meaningless temporary toxicity of any other passenger. You are the owner of your feelings. You are the owner of your mind. Let the mind not dictate to you what you ought to feel or not… As you saw through the window, it’s a very large expanse of universe that we are living in and there are so many places we do not know of or so many people and dialects and nature that we aren’t yet exposed to. What is for sure is that if this journey wasn’t up to the mark, the next one will be. Hope and opportunity are actually infinitely provided by the infinite source. Choose to own your experiences, journeys and destinations.