Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Art of Self Effacement

The Art of Relinquishing .

At a social club get together, my father and his cronies were discussing about the gen next. Almost all were  bragging about their respective children and their achievements. They were all well ensconced in their careers. My father was always a shade reticent. His concepts of doing 'well' were  a trifle different. He believed in being a complete man. A man who was not slave to convention, a man who dared to try, a man who took sole responsibility for whatever happened, a man with compassion and courage, a man who evolved continously, and who competed only with himself to aim higher, go further. A man who was magnanimity personified. A man who helped graciously and gracefully never belittling or reminding the recipient of his largesse. A man who religiously visited the remand home and taught the Guru Geeta to those children of a lesser God. A man with  a tall and imposing figure.
                His friends were really gloating about how their sons had made it big in their chosen careers.
His friends' faces and demeanors indicated a sense of pride, marvelling on their skills of parenting, flaunting their pedigree as it were.
My father was an achiever in his own right. Coming from a rather mofusil village from Konkan, he was totally self made, and had groomed himself over the years into a top level executive in the corporate world. When he decided to hang up his boots, almost all his friends and well wishers expected him to live a very sedate, tranquil, retired life. That was not his call. He set off all over again. He registered his own placement firm with barely 2 employees.
  A new beginning, in an area where not many  knew him. He had to start all over again. Almost everyone was rather critical of his venture or rather 'adventure'. My mother in her own inimitable tone responded with a  'How can I convince him to take it easy' look. After being at the pinnacle of corporate hierarchy for more than two decades, he effaced himself. He divested himself off his ego, identity, position almost overnight.
He would have to go to meet prospective clients. Often it could be the very people who waited outside his office when he was in the saddle. He would sit outside their offices patiently without any trace of discomfort. His self esteem was never subservient to any position or post. His happiness, joy de vivre was in working hard, sincerely and intelligently.
As a teenager, my father was a role model in many ways. He was very disciplined, never given to any vice, kept himself abreast by subscribing to Time and Newsweek, keeping company of well read and articulate people. He would goad me to  inculcate the good points of every person I came across. He honed me to become a collage of all the virtues that could be imbibed from successful people.
In the twilight years of his life, he taught me the art of deconstructing the very identity that he had so painstakingly sculpted.
My father finally made his point in the ongoing discussion with his friends.
"All parents teach their children to become someone. Its excruciatingly  difficult  to begin all over again as a nobody. Identities are great but if one  becomes a slave of that identity then the identity works to our detriment. The real Master  is one who can discard this cloak at will and yet identify with the true Self who exists independent of any robe.
I am trying to teach my Son  the art self effacement at the appropriate time. I hope he will master the Art  of being 'No One' which is much more difficult and important than the science of being Someone.

Dedicated to my father on the occasion of Father's Day.

The Inheritance

The Inheritance

All through my life, my relatives and friends were in awe of my father. He was a role model to many. Was highly educated, had a striking overbearing appearance,was self made, highly disciplined, intelligent, and sauve. He truly had a larger than life, gregarious exuberant personality that anyone would instantly get attracted to.
My mother was not so highly educated, but was gifted in the arts domain. She was almost a professional singer, was a talented artiste and painter, and above all a very efficient home maker. She brought us up in austerity, never belittled  my father's modest means when they both were setting up their lives. Her demeanor and attitude portrayed an abundance in frugality, affluence in austerity.
With the passage of time, as i made a career as a neurosurgeon, almost everyone insinuated  my academics and intelligence being the sole legacy of my father. As i started weilding the pen and contributing in the Speaking Tree column, everyone concluded that i had inherited this legacy from my father too. He was quite a prolific writer, and had written two books
' The Lighter Side of Management'  a satirical take on the corporate culture and then another more academic one titled " Knowledge Managment".
I did garner accolades and appreciation and felt very trite and smug with the inevitable comparisons to  my father.
In a lighter moment one day, my mother happened to express a trace of regret about not contributing  anything significant as a legacy from her side.
I really felt a trifle sad as i heard these words but it triggered my thought process in a totally different and rather tangential direction.
       As i reminisced about my childhood  i remembered my mother being very happy with the smaller pleasures of life. She never harboured any greed or lust for comforts, appliances or lifestyles of  the people around, which she did not have. She had an air of contentment, a realistic, grounded attitude that had the fragrance of happiness. She was very home proud and added that  intangible element to the nest, which makes all  the difference between house and home.  She never  gave my father any indication of inadequacy, financial or otherwise. She made all of us feel rich even at the end of the month when the finances were stretched thin. She convinced me effectively, the sheer wastefulness of buying new shoes when there was a small hole in the sole of the ones I was using. She was diplomatic and skillful in ensuring that we  never got the impression of living frugally. She always ensured that there was always enough of surplus food to go around for the unexpected visitor. Never heard  the sound of insufficency, the sound of scraping the bottom of the serving bowl. We were never affluent but her resourceful, and measured approach always ensured an inexhaustible supply of the necessities of life.
After those pensive and poignant moments, I caught my ageing mothers hand and told her that she had passed on the greatest gift as her legacy.  The gift of contentment. The  wisdom of knowing that  wealth was more than  affluent lifestyles, expensive attires or swollen bank balances. Wealth was a state of happiness and contentment which money could never afford. Wealth was the value system that made all of us conscientious and conpassionate. Wealth was a state of mind.
         I was left wondering  with doubts about what was a greater legacy.Was it the virtues and skills to acquire the means of prosperity or then a mindset that saw prosperity in whatever the means could afford.