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Monday, February 29, 2016

Reflections on ‘Aashirwad’, Rajesh Khanna and the essence of the Bhagavad Gita

Everything is impermanent. Everything, including your own body, will soon perish.

The TOI story 
A story in the Times of India this morning on the demolition of Rajesh Khanna’s erstwhile bungalow, ‘Aashirwad’, on Mumbai’s tony Carter Road, got me to pause and reflect.

The property’s new owner is bringing down the bungalow to redevelop the estate and construct a new building. The bungalow is iconic for many reasons: Rajesh asked for an advance from noted Tamil producer Sandow Chinnappa Devar, which came in the form of Rs.5 Lakh in cash in a suitcase, for buying the bungalow from actor Rajendra Kumar; Devar in turn signed-up Rajesh for ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ but Rajesh wanted the script re-written and entrusted the project to Salim-Javed; so, in effect, ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ became the first film that the writer-duo got joint credit – and payment – for! The truth is that had Rajesh not wanted to buy that bungalow, he may not have done ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ and had he not done the film, Salim-Javed would not be the legends they are today! The film ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ also marked a critical, upward, inflection point in Rajesh Khanna’s rise to superstardom – the first in Bollywood!

‘Aashirwad’ was also home to many of Rajesh’s relationships – the more known among them being the one with Dimple Kapadia, who he also married; the one with Tina Munim; and, in his later years, the one with his live-in partner Anita Advani. It was on the terrace of this bungalow that, according to a close friend and film journalist Ali Peter John, Rajesh Khanna in a state of drunken stupor, envious and enraged over the aura of Amitabh Bachchan that had taken over the Hindi film industry, looked up at the sky and howled: “Oh God, why me?” So, ‘Aashirwad’ has seen a lot – it has seen success, superstardom, relationships, break-ups, failures and falls. Maybe many, many, more untold tales lay hidden within ‘Aashirwad’. But now ‘Aashirwad’ is gone. Reduced to dust. Just as the superstar who once proudly lived in it has since long been reduced to dust.

When I read the story of the bungalow’s demolition, it struck me that ‘Aashirwad’ was but a metaphor. All our stories will end up that way too – as dust! I remembered how, when our Firm’s fortunes came crashing down, and we had to close down and vacate our office, I physically shredded each of our key statements of intent – our Purpose, Vision and Values statements. It was a numbing, cathartic moment for me. This was a Firm that I had dreamt of becoming a global icon in the consulting space, this was a Firm that my wife and I had grown with love and passion, yet, it had been reduced to nothing – and as it lay defunct, lifeless, it, eerily so, appeared that I was performing its last rites that day in 2012.

As I sipped my filter coffee, and brought my attention back to the ‘Aashirwad’ story in today’s TOI, I reflected on the essence of the Bhagavad Gita:

Whatever happened, it happened well.
Whatever is happening, it is happening well.
Whatever will happen, it will also happen well.
What of yours did you lose?
Why or for what are you crying?
What did you bring with you, for you to lose it?
What did you create, for it to be wasted or destroyed?
Whatever you took, it was taken from here.
Whatever you gave, it was given from here.
Whatever is yours today, will belong to someone else tomorrow.
On another day, it will belong to yet another.
This change is the Law of the Universe.

I believe intelligent living is about pausing and imbibing this learning. Nothing belongs to us. Everything and everyone will be gone some day – including you and me! Clinging on to material possessions and stances and opinions is a total waste of energy and precious time. If we review our lives closely, deeply, we will find that all our insecurities and strife comes from whatever we are clinging on to. The moment you let go of whatever is possessing you, consuming you – a habit or a position or an object or a person or a relationship – you are liberated. You are free. It is only when you are free that you can experience Life – and its magic and beauty – fully!

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