Flying On The Wings of Fire…

“Death’s got an Invisibility Cloak?” Harry interrupted again. “So he can sneak up on people,” said Ron.                                        – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.

The invisible cloak of death covered Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and took him away in a moment.Although death and its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be. While this event is painful we still embrace the eventuality. His greatness was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst – a caring leader who made time for all and opened the doors of Rashtrapati Bhavan for all. Dr Kalam once said, “I should not be the only one to enjoy the grandeur of this wonderful place…the history, the rich library, the legacy of our country. I want everyone to do the same, especially the youth.” He truly believed that the ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful force on this earth.

A great believer of the heritage we have inherited, he always said that the youth of our country have grown up with our Abdul-Kalam-Thoughts-wallpapers-images-pictures-2-300x196value systems, they will uphold it. Fulfilling his vision for the youth and our country is something that we can all strive for in our own way. Dr Kalam said that all of us do not have the equal talent, but all of us have equal opportunity to develop our talent. Let us show our respect to him by helping create those opportunities for everyone.

One of life’s lesson we can learn from Dr Kalam is how to handle failure. He once told a group of children that dealing with failure is a national character. We, as Indians have to work on building that character. His own example of handling failures in life is to be admired and followed. As a student, he was very keen on becoming a pilot in the Indian Air Force. He worked towards that and applied to the IAF. There were nine vacancies and he, unfortunately for the Indian Air Force & fortunately for the rest of India, was the tenth candidate. As a result, Dr Kalam did not selected. Was he disappointed? Yes, he was. Did it stop him from becoming successful otherwise? No, it did not. That is why I say, unfortunately for the IAF and fortunately for the rest of India…because he could not become a pilot and fly, he became a scientist who developed air crafts and missiles for the country. His passion for flying made him find alternate channels to live his dream.

One of Shakespeare’s quote from Romeo & Juliet makes perfect sense…

“When he shall die,
Take him and put him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

While it is natural to mourn the death of a great one, it is also important to keep him alive by working towards fulfilling his vision. Dr Kalam set out such bench marks for all of us to follow and achieve. Having personally heard him on a number of occasions, I once had the opportunity of interacting with him for a few minutes. I walked away from that interaction with so much food for thought. I shared with him about two people who had worked with him in the Ministry of Defence and the same two men had influenced my upbringing and my life…Dr Kalam remembered my father and my god father and told me I was lucky to have been influenced by such stalwarts. Not only did he remember them, he also remembered their little quirks and idiosyncrasies.

The human heart is always greedy for more. Yes, I wish you were with us for a few more years to continue guiding us, to continue helping us grow. You have also left us with so many aspirations and dreams for this country. So, today, more than grieving for you Dr Kalam, my way of paying tribute to you would be to strive to make some part of your vision a reality.

Honouring you Sir…

We stand here and watch them bury you today,
They say you are gone, left this life behind,
That’s not true, for in our hearts you will forever live,
In our thoughts you’ll always be there for us to find.

We honour your life with flowers and speeches,
We honour you with the love in our hearts,
You will never and can never be replaced,
Even in your death you set a standard apart.

You were one of the greatest this country has seen,
You inspired millions to never give up on their dreams
Your memories will be honoured, your life celebrated,
Your vision for all of us will be turned into a reality.

I know you look down from that missile you created,
I can feel the pride you have for everyone of us,
You give us strength and the will to continue
And will be for as long as we are alive.

You showed us that life is not just the here and the now,
It is then and there as well,
Your death, as your life, taught us the greatest lesson,
That we should not on our failures dwell

Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.

Rest in peace Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

A Music Concert That United The World…

“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.”
 Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Live Aid Logo

Live Aid Logo

Thinking of the Live Aid Concert held thirty years ago, those words made a lot of sense to me. I was in one of my “walk down memory lane” moods, just after my man had shown me a video of Cliff Richards singing Bachelor Boy and was also very nicely reminded that I hadn’t blogged for a very long time.

I know a lot of people in my generation will remember that event. I was in my first year of under graduation and was madly in love with most of the singers who performed in two different places simultaneously. It was truly a one of a kind concert. Sixteen hours of music from the who’s who in the musical world, 72,000 people at London’s Wembley Stadium, 100,000 more at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium and nearly two billion TV viewers at home watched more than 75 popular acts & some of the outstanding performers teamed up in interesting combinations, including (temporary) reunions of three of the most important groups in rock history. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Black Sabbath & Led Zeppelin reunited to perform for this event.

The inauguration of the event by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the excitement of the performers and audience and

Live Aid Inaugaration

Live Aid Inaugaration

the triumph of technology combined with sheer good will – all made it hard to forget. A lot of us still recount how some of the acts were performed….Mick Jagger and Tina Turner in a very Vegas like act with Jagger changing costumes mid song (bizarre is how some would define it), Sir Elton John belting out five of his super hits, including ones with Kiki Dee and George Michael and Sir Paul McCartney singing “Let It Be”.

My personal favourites were also there Bob Dylan, Queen, Sting, Bryan Adams, U2, Tome Petty & Phil Collins. Phil Collins riding high both as a solo star and as Genesis front man at the time — thrilled the audience with his humour and singing. With the help of the Concorde supersonic jet, he played solo sets at both the London and Philadelphia shows. Plus, he played drums for both Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. After he was introduced on the Philly stage by Jack Nicholson & Bette Midler, listening to him sing, “In The Air Tonight”  & playing the piano, was treat beyond words.

Live Aid was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, the singer of an Irish rock group called the Boomtown Rats. In 1984, Geldof

David Bowie, Chris Taylor, Brian May, Roger Taylor, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Bob Geldof at Live Aid, Wembley Stadium-1985

David Bowie, Chris Taylor, Brian May, Roger Taylor, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Bob Geldof at Live Aid, Wembley Stadium-1985

traveled to Ethiopia after hearing news reports of a horrific famine that had killed hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians and threatened to kill millions more. After returning to London, he called Britain’s and Ireland’s top pop artists together  to record a single to benefit Ethiopian famine relief. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was written by Geldof and Ultravox singer Midge Ure and performed by “Band Aid,” an ensemble that featured Culture Club, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, U2, Wham!, and others. It was the best-selling single in UK to that date and raised more than $10 million.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was also a No. 1 hit in the United States and inspired U.S. pop artists to come together and perform “We Are the World,” a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. “USA for Africa,” as the U.S. ensemble was known, featured Jackson, Ritchie, Geldof, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, and many others. The single went to the top of the charts and eventually raised $44 million.

The event had Bob Dylan, Keith Richards & Ron Wood (both guitarists from Rolling Stones) performing. Some artists’ works speak for itself and some artists’ works speak for it’s entire generation – that’s the power of Bob Dylan’s contribution to the world of music. To be called America’s voice of freedom is no small achievement and he once again proved it on stage that evening when he spoke about the plight of the American farmer. This actually led John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson & Neil Young to organise Farm Aid, a concert that was held a few months later and has continued to be held every year, except for two years.

Queen in action

Queen in action

Beatle Paul McCartney and the Who’s Pete Townsend held Bob Geldof aloft on their shoulders during the London finale, which featured a collective performance of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Six hours later, the U.S. concert ended with “We Are the World.” Live Aid eventually raised $127 million in famine relief for African nations, and the publicity it generated encouraged Western nations to make available enough surplus grain to end the immediate hunger crisis in Africa. Bob Geldof was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his efforts.

In a lot of ways, to me this global charity event was like the final fanfare of the musical industry. The kind of reverence the world had for pop music and it’s stars came to an end during that period…with the internet changing how music is heard, downloaded & stored, the reduced combination of acts of kindness, influence and music or even the absence of a younger version of Sir Bob Geldof willing to take the lead to bring musicians together for an act like this. I have always wondered…why couldn’t we have another Live Aid?

The picture that will remain forever in my mind, will be that of the audience – the real stars. Real stars for  no one could

The enthralled audience...

The enthralled audience…

have worshipped and enjoyed music as much as they did on that 13th July 1985. Deliriously happy, swaying their hands and pumping their fists in unison to Queen’s Radio Gaga, clambering over shoulders to listen to Sting sing Money for Nothing with Dire Straits or join the artists in the two songs that will represent musical harmony to me – Do They Know It’s Christmas and We Are The World….that ecstasy transformed millions of living rooms that day, when the proxy audience was glued to their televisions and donating their money. Live Aid created a surreal, magical experience of listening to thrilling live music…something I will never ever forget in my lifetime.

Because Love Is All There Is…

“Why is it,” he said, one time, at the subway entrance, “I feel I’ve known you so many years?”
“Because I like you,” she said, “and I don’t want anything from you.”― Ray Bradbury. 

I chanced upon an article in New York Times and it has left a deep impact on me. And because it is about love, Valentine’s Day seemed the right day to write about it. This is the story of Isaiah Berlin and Anna Akhmatova. For all my readers who do not know them, Isaiah Berlin was a 20th century political theorist, philosopher and Anna Akhmatova was a great pre revolutionary poet. Berlin met Anna in Leningrad in 1945 one night, when he was hanging around with a friend.

Berlin walked into the apartment to meet a beautiful woman, powerful, but wounded by the atrocities of war. Her HVDhusband was executed in 1921 on false charges. She had stood for 17 months outside the prison, vainly seeking news about him. Like all strangers meeting, Berlin and Anna met. Their conversation was restrained, talking about war experiences and British Universities. People came and went.

By midnight they were alone, sitting on the opposite sides of the room. She told him about growing up, her marriage and her husband’s execution. She recites Byron’s “Don Juan” with such passion that Berlin turned his face to the window to hide his emotions. She then recited some of her own poems, breaking down as she described how they led the Soviets to execute one of her colleagues. By 4.00 in the morning, they were talking about the greats – Pushkin and Chekhov. Berlin was impressed with the light intelligence of Turgenev, while, Anna appreciated the dark intensity of Dostoyevsky.

Deeper and deeper they delved in their conversation, baring their souls. Anna confessed to her loneliness, expressed her passions, spoke about art and literature. Berlin did not want to break the spell of that conversation…so he refused to go to the bathroom also. Both of them had read the same things, knew what the other knew, understood each other’s longings. That night, Berlin’s life came as close to as it ever did to the still perfection of art. When he finally pulled himself and went back to his hotel, it was 11.00 am. He flung himself on bed and exclaimed, “I’m in love, I’m in love.”

The night Berlin and Anna spent together talking stands as the ” beau ideal of a different sort of communication.”  It’s that communication between individuals who felt that knowledge most worth attending to does not need data, but, in  great HVD 1
works of culture, in humanity’s great storehouse of inherited emotional and existential wisdom. Both came from a culture that encouraged people to possess a certain intellectual scope to lead an interesting and fulfilling life.

My own experience has been when you have such life altering conversations, it is because my man and I have done our reading, discussed big ideas and big books (classics & neo classics) that have actually taught us how to experience life in all it’s richness, make subtle emotional and soul searching evaluations…and not judgements. This can happen when both are spiritually ambitious, combing through the common language of literature, written by amazing geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves.

That night, Berlin and Anna experienced a beau ideal of a certain kind of bond. A bond that is felt once or twice in a lifetime. Just that much, because I would like to call it a sort of love bond that depends on a lot of coincidences. For Berlin and Anna, it was piecing of the jigsaw puzzle…a puzzle that seemed incredibly complicated when they were introduced in the early part of the evening. As the night progressed, they discovered they were the same in many ways. There was such harmony that all inner defences crumbled in one night. This communion that was intellectual, emotional, spiritual, created a combination of friendship and love. It was an important night for both. For Berlin, it was an event that left him HVD 2totally changed. For Anna, it later turned in to suffering. The Soviet government tortured her for cavorting with a British spy. Her son was imprisoned and Anna expelled from the Soviet Writers Union. Yet, she never once blamed Berlin for all this. Instead, she continued to write about the luminous magic of that night.

I am not sure how many people want this kind of a relationship or life today. How many actually look beyond the transactional aspect or the utilitarian moment of our lives? How many couples or partners can say “I am all the more enriched, fulfilled and empowered because of this one person, who liberates me in more ways than one?”

I can say that with a big smile on my face, and…in my heart!

Happy Valentine’s!!!

 

Climb Every Mountain…

” Climb Every Mountain”…the popular song from the movie “Sound Of Music” has always fascinated me…not just for the lyrics, because it also brings forth a thought, question to my mind. Why is it that some people take up challenges that others would not dream of?

The mountaineer’s obsessions with Mt Everest has  always fascinated me. It’s a dream I can relate to. Then there are people who let go of everything and indulge in bungee jumping. There’s one lot who love water and go white water rafting at the drop of a hat…I have done that when I had access to rivers.

Why are people risk-takers? What makes a person take high risks and do dangerous, even life-threatening things? Some people love speed and the thrill of racing; other people are into extreme sports such as ice climbing, and bungee jumping.

Is it the fame and fortune, or is it the sense of inner fulfillment? Is it physical challenge, or is it the mental or spiritual challenge?

Here are some thoughts shared by people I spoke to.

“Some people are addicted to taking risks. Other people just want to feel extremist. Most risk takers are men. Is it because men have more curiosity? Most women always think twice about taking risks because they are more rational than men. Men just want to feel extremist, take things to the edge, and get their adrenaline up high.”

“In my opinion, risk takers always have very similar qualities. They want to try something new and enjoy the thrill. These people aren’t conservative, and they love freedom.”

“The first time they do something, many people feel scared to do extreme sports; but when they do it several times, they feel excited and thrilled. Only the first time is difficult. Many risk takers are addicted to taking dangerous sports to the edge. They more they do it, the more they want to do it.”

All the above resonate one thing…there are people in this world who who want to step beyond the normal, because normal is boring. They are willing to take risks.

Risk-taking, which one researcher defines as “engaging in any activity with an uncertain outcome,” arises in nearly all walks of life. Asking someone on a date, accepting a challenging work assignment, raising a sensitive issue with a spouse or a friend, confronting an abusive boss–all involve uncertain outcomes, and present some level of risk. Understanding the psychology of risk, understanding why some individuals will take chances and others won’t, could have important consequences in everything from career to personal relationships.

Researchers don’t yet know precisely how a risk taking impulse arises from within or what role is played by environmental factors, from upbringing to the culture at large. The perception of risk also changes from person to person. Risk is very widely different in terms of what kinds of risks people are willing to take and the subjective reasons for why they take risks. Rather than being generally risk-seeking or risk-avoiding, people are a complicated blend, Elke Weber, a psychologist explained. ” A person might be risk-seeking in a recreational risk way. But that person may be risk-averse in financial situations. They would do bungee jumping but wouldn’t invest in the stock market .” Likewise, a financially reckless person who is willing to wager everything in a game of blackjack might never attempt a controversial joke in a conversation with strangers.

Having taken a few risks myself…all I can say is that being naturally optimistic helps me decide easily. Miley Cyrus comes to mind here with her song…

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s a climb

That’s what life is all about also…sometimes its not about the mountain, it’s only about the climb!!!

I would love to hear from you about the risks you have taken or if you know people whose stories you would like to share…

Have an adventurous day 🙂 🙂 🙂