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Of Dr 'Kamaal' and Karma !!

By: sydbarett Posted Jul 29, 2015 General 608 Views
(Updated Jul 30, 2015 08:04 AM)

When former Indian President and architect of India's missile programme suddenly collapsed while delivering his lecture at IIM, Shillong, it triggered a plethora of emotions inside of me. However, not all of them were about Dr 'Kamaal'(as Amul so wonderfully renamed him). Frankly, I hardly knew much about the great man. Nor did I ever make any conscious effort to'follow' him. His loss, although distressing, did not feel'personal' in any way. But the photos confirmed my worst suspicions. The death itself, more particularly the manner of it, disturbed me a lot as once again I found myself grappling with one of Life's pivotal questions.

Its a question that seems to have preoccupied Indian philosophers/thinkers much more than their Western counterparts. 'Karma', as we so impressively, if at all a little bombastically, love to call it. That question concerning our attitude towards'Work', its importance in our lives, that'duty' we must all strive to fulfill, that'charge' we must all seek to discharge:-P We many not like to'Work' but we do love to discuss about it:-P

Much of Indian thinking on the matter seems to have been influenced by Gita and that oft(mis/)quoted phrase "Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshu kada chana.". Which literally translated is understood to mean "One must perform his duties without worrying about the results/proceeds". And like most oft-quoted quotes, this one is open to interpretation too. The most common interpretation being that one must continue to'Work' selflessly till one is rendered invalid! For obvious reasons, this interpretation is popular with HR managers too since it gives them the warrant to expect round-the-clock, drop-dead workaholism without any commitment as to the rewards.

Much as I'd have loved to debate on it, the'rewards' are beyond the scope of the current blog. I'd rather concentrate on the "Work" part for the moment. What is the definition of Karma/'Work' in the above quote? Is it a 9-5 job that yields money to support myself/family? Most of us may have no idea what our'Karma' is, much less the conviction to discharge it.

Assuming for a moment that for most of us,'Karma' is indeed synonymous with our careers, do we continue to discharge it until such time as we ourselves stand discharged? Should we train ourselves on'Work' for the initial 20 years of our lives and spend the balance in putting those skills to'Work'? Is Human Life(for the moment we'll excuse other forms of life from this debate for fear of offending animal activists) all about working one's as$ off till one drops dead? While employers always seem gung-ho about overquoting this(and related) dicta to bolster work culture, they will very conveniently forget other philosophies/dicta originating from the same set of scriptures. No one for instance talks about the concept of'four ashramas', which lay out importance of dividing the Lifespan into four quarters of Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa.

You might ask why this debate? Because everyday, I see my parents/guardians/eldelry relatives falling prey to this argument and wanting to continue to'work' forever. And I believe it'll be much the same with others too. Whether this desire stems out of a fallacious interpretation of the Gita or whether its attributable to that human foible of outliving/outworking one's peers', I have no idea.

I do not know what Life is. Nor what I'm supposed to'do' with it. But what I do know for sure(and I'm willing to wager my last penny on it) is that I'm not supposed to'work' till I collapse on a dias. I'd like to see the elders around me living a respectful life of retirement and spending time with their near and dear ones. If their near ones are busy'working', spending time with themselves, doing things they have always wanted to do but couldn't ever find the time.

The human race has talent for a lot of things. Things much better than dying "in harness" at the age of 83!

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