Die To Live Again
I was staring quietly down the runway as the Boeing made a quiet turn and revved up the engine for the final take off. It was one of those extraordinary evenings when the tired rays of the fading sun lit up the distant green, in an everlasting golden hue. As I watched through the aircraft window, my memories took me back four decades to the lawns of Hastings College on Judges Court Road, in Kolkata. It was a quiet winter evening. Sunday 21 November 1982, 7 pm.
That evening was full of expectation. The erudite elderly gentleman who sat on the wooden floor of the podium spoke softly and with conviction, starting perhaps hesitantly, often asking questions without waiting for a reply. “To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion. It is only in that state that one learns and observes.” Those were some of the first words I heard from J Krishnamurti (K) and I remember them vividly.
He went on to say that knowledge is always in the past, always incomplete, always limited. By then, I was completely confused. Little did I then realize that my young, racing mind would start asking questions. Questions that would make me restless and trigger an avalanche of reactions many years later.
After the plane took off for Mumbai, I opened my laptop and rushed through my final Budget presentation for the Bayer Board. And there was a gleam of confidence as I looked at the final presentation. I had success written all over myself. I was merrily contemplating my next European holiday with my wife and daughter and the huge variable pay at the end of the year to add to all my professional success.
But I found my thoughts racing back yet again to 1982 and K’s talk that evening. There was so much to reflect on. What place has knowledge in human relationship? Why have we accepted thought as the only instrument man has? That instrument has created havoc in the world. Isn’t there some other instrument which thought has not touched at all? Have I ever tried to observe without the word? What is desire? What is the cause of fear? Is there psychological time at all? I had carried all these deep questions somewhere within me. Did I ever listen to myself? Did I listen to my instincts at all?
My thought spree halted as the plane landed at Mumbai airport. But by then, a lot had changed. Such was the accumulated impact of that evening in 1982 and the churning that followed. I had made up my mind! I would quit the corporate world and ‘start life afresh’! And that happened without any effort once the Board meeting was done with in Mumbai. The very next morning in fact (after discussion with and support from my wife).
Ten years have passed since. I have found a new freedom and so much more meaning in my daily existence. Freedom from the existential pattern of a “successful” workaholic submerged in the stifling world of materialistic gains. I started playing music again. My nimble fingers tried to create a few uncorrupted notes upon the piano, not with an end in view but with a new found cadence, blissful and carefree.
And then I started a Chess Academy for street children. There were seven internationally rated players at the end of the first year. I realized that you did not need theory to express ideas. The innocence of the street children was uncorrupted, yet infectious. Some of these youngsters had magnificent on board ideas and a strange rhythm in untold consonance.
I too restarted my chess….playing with the same intensity and freedom as I did when I was in my early teens. Somehow, it seemed much more fun now and my ‘move’ combinations grew intuitively and manifold. I also remember how I got support from friends to build a recording studio for the visually impaired. I named it Trinayan (the third eye). This was the first of its kind in the country. The visually impaired too started recording music and playing chess with the same zeal and enthusiasm. We created music together too and some of them formed the first blind tabla band in the country.
And so, everything seemed so extraordinary in my simple life and I was living again. I had ‘started afresh’ on my own terms. But, strange as it may seem, the seeds were sown with those first words which I heard from K in 1982. ‘To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion. It is only in that state that one learns and observes.’