Just recently as I was sifting thru the ashes of my grandmother trying to find the last few solid pieces of the bone (to be taken to Haridwar to be immersed in the Ganges – a hindu tradition), I reflected on the purpose of life, on the way human beings are judged and how life is really so short. When we are born we are about 7 pounds and the lifeless pieces of bone that get left behind in a small sac are also about 7 pounds.
Some gut feel encouraged me to visit her during the last week of her life and I spent a few precious hours with Biji (as we fondly addressed her). Her rhetoric hadn’t changed in years. Worrying about the unmarried, the unwell and the childless in the family. At 88 She had an elephants memory and a sharp mind. The welfare of her 6 brothers, 4 daughters, their kids, and about 100 souls on her direct radar seemed to be her sole responsibility that she felt God had bestowed on her.
The futility of her worries almost always irked all her grandchildren till we laughed and made fun and she would get annoyed. But what a towering personality she had. Everyone was scared of her out of respect and then one day she didn’t wake up. Passed away peacefully. And emotionally orphaned so many of us.
At the funeral I was overwhelmed to see over 350 people who travelled from significant distances for this 88 year old woman and that’s when I got a rather significant lesson of life.
In this short and insignificant life (on which I wrote a piece in my earlier blog) and on your last day on earth, no one will judge you for the car you have driven, or the size of the house you had built or the money you made in your life. For ‘some small time’ people will remember you for the love and affection that you left behind and the respect you garnered through your deeds.
We fretter way too much about updating our career resumes and LinkedIn profiles. All of this is important as a small means to an end and in the 80 year runway that a human being has, – Yes do give importance to the career resume. But don’t leave the sight for a second of Your life resume.
The only thing that matters (as David Brook says) is the obituary/eulogy resume.
This 88 year old partially educated woman who had weathered the partition of India – lost her husband at 44, a son when he was 38, and always had a bare hand to mouth existence had an almost perfect eulogy resume – and that I figured out when I saw the moist eyes of some 350 odd people.
Does anyone remember Babur in 1526 and how the Mughal Empire was established. In years between 1526 and 1857 (merely 331 years) art, architecture, language, textile, shipbuilding and steel-making was so evolved that by 1750, India produced 25% of the world’s industrial output. No mean feat by any stretch of imagination. No one on this planet has been able to replicate Shahjahan’s Taj Mahal built in 1632 despite all the architectural advancements. Pertinent to note that Shahjahan died a prisoner – not able to fully appreciate his creation.
Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Mughal died in 1862, a despondent, in Exile, a prisoner and with no control over the legacy of 4 centuries marking the end of one of the greatest Empires.
You will be remembered if you create a Taj Mahal (symbolic). Else you are just wiling away time in a futile hope to leave a mark. Bill and Melinda Gates will be remembered for having eradicated so many diseases on a major part of this planet but God-No – not as much for Microsoft. Anyone who judges you on a so called QOQ or YOY and anyone who feels pressured by the same is a just an inconsequential organism in the spectrum of humanity and evolution.
Would anyone remember the stock price of Amazon or Apple, 50 years from now. The infinite powers of evolution would have made present innovations and technologies obsolete in less than 50 years and most of the companies and human beings alive today – would be dead.
It amuses me when I hear of jargon such as ‘wealth creation’ ‘competitive advantage’ ‘barriers to entry’ ‘sustainability’ etc etc. It’s all so shallow and meaningless.
Endeavor to do something remarkable that will last beyond a quarter or a year or 10 years. When collectively each one on this planet endeavours to create a symbolic Taj Mahal, many Taj Mahals will eventually come up.
Grandmother operated her life in a binary manner. Pass/Fail, Good/Bad, Right/Wrong. It surprises me that everything in the present world is grey nowadays. He is good – but, he is right – but, we should do this – but, I agree with you but letme come back to you …….
In this short life have the courage to stand by your values and convictions. Love and befriend humans and do it with all heart and unconditionally. Hate – and do it with grace and enough vengeance that only the fittest survive in the interest of humanity. People who compromise on principles and values die every single day in an already short life.
I will miss you Biji – you led a simple and graceful life and your death taught me the life resume I would want to build.
Manu also writes on Huffington Post
Manu….spot on !!
Manu sir, this was one of the best read offlate.
Simple life, and how we love to complicate it all the time.
Pls keep writing and sharing
What a complete wake up call! In the humdrum of livelihood living is getting lost. Our compasses need to be reset.thanks manu
Manu ji. This is a lovely tribute to the soul that's passed away and an awakening call to the ones who are sure to. Indeed – one must endeavour to do good, to remove / dilute the ills around.
Manu Boss……Lovely article….this article is making me re think on the paradigm of life
May all these pages fall asunder and their ink dim with age, but he who wrote the verses(above) will ever be remembered by me. Fantastic piece Manu. Thoroughly enjoyed it today and will always be a reference for future. Thank you for sharing.
Excellent writing Sir…
As Tagore said "It is very simple to be happy in life, but it is very difficult to be simple in life"
such a beautiful well written article! loved it!
How True! It is so simple yet too complicated for Humans today to understand. All we need is to stop for a while, corner ourselves from the hustle bustle of life and rethink what a blessing we have called LIFE!! We need to find out in true terms what BEING HUMAN truly means!! Very nice article! Thanks
Beautifully written sir,a great reminder and a tribute to grandmom..may God help her soul rest in peace.
it's about a humble acceptance of the truth that we do not own anything. .wealth..relationship ..status etc
acceptance that whatever we have is not ours..acceptance that we are just a temporary safe keeper of things..it will come thru us and stay with us for a pre destined period and change hands to a difffent safe keeper..it wil be all returned to its true owner,the Almighty..
This life is just a test and an amusement..real life awaits!
A beautiful tribute to your grandma manu.. ..may she rest in peace. …
You're right. ..we do need to sit back and take a look at our lives. ..Happiness does lie in the simplest of things and actions. ..which we tend to forget in our mundane day to day lives. ..
Your grandma's generation was a class apart… they were simple and graceful…. And yet had the grit to bear all the ups and downs of life and still have time for others…
Beautifully penned my friend. ..God bless
Thanks for this Manu. Today I will try to write my obituary and reflect on my life's resume so far!Its so difficult to be a nice and kinder person in this world. But this post encourages me to be a better person.
Great one Manu. Spot on and Sorry to hear about Biji.
Sir, That's spot on ..