Graphic of a man in office wear casting a shadow of a superhero

Whole and Soul

I have never had a role model. And for a long time, if only for a bit, that would weigh me down. Especially when I would see others happily citing everyone from Gandhi to Branson to Chopra (both Deepak and Priyanka). I used to wonder if something was amiss in my personality development by not having some big footsteps to follow.

Bollywood actor, Boman IraniThe closest I have come though has been Boman Irani. Mainly because he “made it” “quite late”. (At 44, my present age. And I trust I am still “struggling”.) Boman comes across as a nice and genuine chap, with no airs. I even used to follow him on FB, and found his shares the most sincere of the few celebs I would follow. He even liked a comment of mine on his very cute grandson. But I eventually unfollowed him. While I wasn’t looking at him as a role model, somewhere, this celebrity follow thing doesn’t work for me. No offence, Boman. Although if I were to catch him in person now (I did see him during the launch of his first Bollywood movie, Ram Madhvani’s Let’s Talk, back in 2002), I could still go schoolgirl-blush on him. Yup, he’s cool.

I eventually figured it out. When you are as individualistic and hatke (unconventional) as I am, you can’t have a role model. You are your own model, and perhaps for other individualistic and unconventional folk too. So, I started feeling easy about this don’t have a role model thing, and started allowing myself to just be myself.

And then, Guru Dutt happened.

Guru Dutt in his introductory shot from Pyaasa

Guru Dutt in his introductory shot from Pyaasa

When I started watching his movies in this intense discovery phase of mine, I could identify with the “tortured creative soul” he was, and not just in his movies. (GD is one of those few artistes, if not the only one, who put out a lot of himself, along with his world view, in his movies.) It was easy: I am a tortured creative soul myself.

And as I started and finished watching all his movies (directed, produced, acted) and started and am on the way to finishing all books on him, I began feeling more and more of a kinship with him. The same feelings of humanism toward the world, the same feelings of not being accurately understood by others, the same desire to be and remain a purist – or as I say, a truist (all themes in the glorious Pyaasa), the same desire to be uncompromising (brought out to a brutal extent in Kaagaz ke Phool), and the same anguish that comes from having these attitudes and making the choices that go with these.

Somewhere, across the time-space continuum, across the close to 10 years between his death and my birth, across the over 50 years after he passed away that I discovered him, getting to “get” him only through the written word (others’) and created visuals (his), I find that he could be the closest person I could come to be emulating. (I have been telling my friends that GD’s spirit, or a part of it, like the horcruxes in Harry Potter, has entered mine, perhaps explaining my newly acquired obsession of him.)

Of course, highly individualistic as I am, and no matter how immense I find GD, I could never want to become a clone of him. So, maybe not role model, but perhaps, and given that he is no more in the earthly realm, a… soul model?

Guru Dutt as an older man in Kaagaz ke Phool

Guru Dutt as the aged Suresh Sinha in Kaagaz ke Phool

 

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A poster of The Peanuts Movie featuring Charlie Brown

Irfananta: The Peanuts’ Life

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Charlie Brown can’t fly a kite.

He destroys the new neighbour’s (the red-haired girl) fence the day she is moving in.

He doesn’t get to perform his act at the school talent show as everyone else before him (he is the last in line) has taken up too much time. To make things worse, his sister, who precedes him, can’t get her act going. (He comes to her rescue, taking on the costume of the cow. The act’s a success, and so’s his sister, but not he.)

He leaves his book report till the last weekend, then decides to read ‘War and Peace’ (the same one by Leo Tolstoy), manages to finish it over the weekend (how?), manages to write a decent report (after one botched attempt), and then sees it sliced to smithereens by the still-loose model plane.

And when things seem to be turning around for him – he gets a perfect score in the test and becomes an overnight star – at the award ceremony, on receiving his paper and realizing it’s not his (in a mix-up during submission, he had written his name on the wrong sheet), he decides to own up. Much to everyone’s disappointment. Or maybe, expectation?

Seriously, Charlie Brown just can’t seem to get anything right.

So, when his name is picked up from the bowl for who’d want to be his summer pen-pal, why, when the rest of the class ignores him, does the red-haired girl, the girl of his kiddie dreams and sighs, choose him?

Charlie Brown wants to know this badly, and makes a dash for the bus – the girl is going to leave on it for the summer. He finally manages to fly the kite, or rather, the kite flies him. And reaches just when she puts her foot on the bus stoop.

“Why?” He quizzes her. “Why did you choose an insecure, wishy-washy failure?” (Have never before heard any words that depict a state of mind so perfectly.)

Her reply is sweet and simple. “I don’t see all that… I see someone who’s brave (brave enough to own up in front of the entire school)… Someone who’s compassionate (compassionate enough to forego his chance and help out his sister)…”

And Charlie Brown is sighing again.

Life should be a Peanuts’ movie.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy in a warm embrace

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Irfananta: Infinibliss

My physiotherapist friend, Dr Badrinath, is a follower of Infinitheism. Infinitheism, as he has explained to me, is quite simply about growth – in every aspect of life. The way I understand it, it’s about unlocking the infinite potential each person has within themselves to thus see the infinite possibilities/opportunities available to them – again, in every aspect of life.

Infinitheism_Logo

Dr Badri is quite a committed follower – he goes for its sessions regularly and, in his consulting room, there is the Infinitheism founder, Mahatria Ra’s photo frame with a quote, a book series, and a calendar. I joked one day, “This place is like a shrine”.

But I knew of Infinitheism before I met with Badri. I first came to know of it through its flagship store in Phoenix Mall, Velachery, and have since then read a couple of issues of its monthly magazine, Infinithoughts. Each time, there have been at least a couple of articles that have resonated with me.

Infinithoughts_PleasureOfPain

Badri and I have discussed the faith a few times. But a month back, he suddenly popped me an invite. “There’s a session this Sunday morning, at 7 am. Come along.”

I am not religious, although I do practice the Buddhist philosophy and path to some extent, but that’s more as a way of life than a faith/religion. Infinitheism doesn’t profess to be a religion either. Also, as I was exposed to it already, it took just one more push from him for me to agree. I also believe that if someone insists on you doing something, there must be a reason to it (which you may not see just yet), and you shouldn’t resist for the sake of it.

So, that Sunday saw me waking up at 3.30 am, completing my morning routine (without skipping breakfast), and leaving home to wait for Badri at the decided time. He was 45 minutes’ late, but we still managed to get there with some time, and the last few seats, to spare.

Following are my impressions of my first Infinipath session. Going by it, I guess I’ll be going for a few more.

Infinisilence

Once we entered the hall, we needed to maintain absolute silence. It’s rare nowadays to come across a space filled with about a thousand people and absolutely quiet. But it’s then that you notice how empowering that silence can be. It’s like you’re getting the energies of all those people without the distraction of all that chatter.

InfiniMan

Bang on time, Mahatria stepped in. A few started clapping, but he asked them to maintain the silence. Glad for that, as by then, it felt like one’s energy was growing, feeding on that silence.

MahatriaRa

By first impressions, Mahatria is like any other new-age, spiritual guru from India. 50ish, dressed in a white kurta-pajama, with a beard, and salt-and-pepper hair in that beard and scalp. But a few minutes into his discourse, some of the ways in which he stands out from other religious leaders begin appearing. He is quite an orator – clear, solid voice, contrasted with the impression you have of a soft-spoken guru. And can he make people laugh (examples coming up). My reaction at this was, “He’s like a stand-up comedian…”

Incidentally, I can “afford” to say all of the above as Mahatria himself announced to the gathering, more matter-of-factly than arrogantly, “You may have an opinion about me, but I don’t care what you think about me”. So, he should be cool, I guess. (Hope the same about his followers.)

Infiniwisdom

He traversed many points that speak to me, and many others, I’m sure. “You are just one breakthrough away…”, “Getting something shouldn’t have to be such a struggle…”, “There’s a reason for religious practices…” “Why stop at this (indicating a lower level)? Aim for this (indicating something higher)…” But won’t go into these as they are best understand live – no, not even on the webcast. The winner, though, was the topic for the day…

Infinidoing

He began this with the raging fire of the time – Maggigate – and shared something simple, profound, but rapidly-becoming obsolete: How humans were only meant to eat things that perish, rather than things that expire “within 9 months from manufacture”. He then effortlessly wove this with how fast our lives have become today, with special thanks/no-thanks to digitalization. We seem to be in a constant spin of do-do-do. If we continue at this pace, soon, we won’t be able to do anymore. (This may already be happening, with recent reports of several mid- and senior-level employees at IT firms being laid off and 20s being the new 40s in terms of age-related diseases.)

That’s why, he provided as a salve, we need to bring in some… Non-doing. Some time in the day when we are not doing anything, but just being.Infinithoughts July 2015 issue cover (on non-doing)That’s also why, he offered as age-old evidence, in any religion, the scriptures/priests insist on you doing nothing in the midst of or after a ritual – as a few moments of peace and calm for you to reflect, instead of rushing to the next item on Wunderlist.

Non-doing

But Mahatria didn’t leave it at that. He actually practised what he preached, and made us too. (And of course, joked about it too… Cue typical Indian accent: “So, someone asked me, how to do non-doing?”) Requesting everyone in the thousand-strong audience to cooperate with silence – he imitated some typical disturbers, who now suddenly need to clear the throat that was alright so far or address that itch where there was none before – he started preparing us for a group meditation session.

MahatriaRa_Meditation   Infinitheists_Meditation

Giving us instructions and then demonstrating (and adding that he’s demonstrating for effect, but that we should do so silently), he gradually led us in. With his guidance, we slowly started wading in…

And then came the bowling ball: “Think about your source of faith…

Momentary anxiety…

For a full minute, I felt like nine pins. Most others would have no shocker at this, as they unquestioningly follow the religion/faith they’ve been born into and hold as a bedrock. But for someone who doesn’t follow any religion (but his own path, dare I add), what does one cling to instead of religion? For sixty seconds or so, my boat was rocked more than Pi’s, as I kept searching in my mind – and hurtling far, far away from the purpose of meditation (to find peace and calm)…

Calm restored…

I guess you need your vessel rocked from time to time, for that’s when you dig deep in and know what you’re made of, or in this case, what gives you energy. I won’t answer what gives me my faith here – we all need to find and develop ours – but suffice to say, the meditation after that went the way meditations should go.

When it concluded, about 15 minutes later, I felt I had been transported to my Goa vacation of five years ago: cloudy skies, haze of rain, cool winds, gurgling sea, unpeopled stretches of beach, me walking those stretches, with just me for company…

Infinicalm

Mahatria concluded the session soon after, stating it’s best to wind up in that sublime state, played some spiritual music to keep up the atmosphere, and soon people started making their way. (Many went up to embrace him – that’s a practice, I gathered.) But Badri doesn’t do that, and I wanted to maintain that peaceful feeling, so we exited slowly. So much so that, as we eventually came out, he asked me how I found the session, and my response was a spontaneous yet soft, “You know, for things like these, one should come without company and go without company…” He understood. We had a short chat over (his) breakfast. And we split soon after.

Infinipractice

If you know/practise it, meditation (or in this case, non-doing) doesn’t end at one session. When sharing my thoughts on that Infinipath with Badri the next day at his clinic, he provided, “Mahatria is a man of action”. That’s why he demonstrated non-doing at the session after the “gyaan”. And he urged us to practice non-doing for the next 21 days at least – until the end of the month. (They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit.) So, without pushing us, he meant for us to continue it. Obviously, for our own good.

Infinieffect

So, the crux question. No, not the one about source of faith – as I said, that’s personal and you have to find yours. But the question: Have I been doing non-doing for 21 days?

Oh, yes. And the results, it seems, are beginning to show. Yesterday, my mom noted, “You’re looking younger”. As I’ve been discussing my spiritual practices – Buddhism, yoga, meditation, Infinitheism, non-doing – with my mom, she knew where it’s coming from. But I guess someone else would have asked further: “Wow, so what have you been doing?” My response would have been an honest “Nothing”.

If you’d like to know more about Infinitheism, visit their site: http://www.infinitheism.com/