Yes, Together We Can
by (Capt) Ravi K Mahajan
5. CHANGE the only CONSTANT
To Improve is to Change.
To be Perfect is to Change Often.
‘A rose is not a rose, if it stays forever’. Goes one saying.
When I was young, I wanted to change the world, but found it difficult. Then I thought, if not the world, let me try and change my country, but there again I failed. Well, then if not the world or the country, I thought of changing my town, where again I failed. By then, I had become quite old, failure being my permanent companion. After having failed to change the world, country, and town, I thought of changing my family before I went for my final journey, but no one would listen to me. With Wisdom of more than five decades, when I looked back, I realized, if I had changed myself at the right young age, I could have changed my family. Then my family could have changed the town, which could have changed the country. Finally, my changed country, could have made an impact for changing the entire world. Now at this ripe old age, I wish if I had changed the way I wanted others to change, I could have accomplished much more.
Change is always happening. It may not be observed immediately, because mostly, change is so gradual that it is not noticeable. A bunch of beautiful flowers, kept on the table, looks so colourful and fresh but next day, same fresh flowers have wilted. There was a time, when we used to play cricket in MRC ground. Now there are multi storey complexes. You can’t recognize, it’s the same place. When I was studying in Agra College in 1960, there was a huge shed for bicycles. Now, you see only a few bicycles, but hundreds of two wheelers have taken their place. Near our house in Besant Nagar, Theosophical society road used to be so lonely, that I forbade my children to go that side after sunset. Now, it is difficult to even cross the same road, any time of the day.
All the above and hundreds of other examples of constant change in our lives and around us, are there for all to see, which proves that nothing is permanent in this world. In 1963, I came for army training in OTS in Madras (as it was called those days), I was the second youngest cadet in our entire Battalion of about 600 Gentlemen Cadets. Nowadays, I find myself, if not the oldest, but definitely one of the oldest wherever I am. With grey hair, wrinkling skin, soft muscles and a weak heart, I cannot imagine that it’s the same me. When I was posted in Ladakh during my army tenure, I could climb those rocky hills in rarefied air, as good as running. And now even a little brisk walk, makes me breathless.
‘Well, those were the days, my friend. I thought, would never end’. But things end, things change for the better or worse. That is the law of the nature. Nothing remains the same. ‘Impermanence’ is the permanent law of the nature. And nature does not provide us any choice on this law. The earlier we accept it, better off we are. This change will be everywhere. It can be in your home, as the children arrive and grow, you might feel the attitude of your spouse has changed. You might think that he or she does not give you the attention or respect, which you were getting earlier.
As the business is growing, you can see many attitudinal changes in your staff, colleagues or boss. In fact, your own attitude would have also undergone change both at home and in office, but it is difficult to see your own change. Aim of writing all this is that, since the change is the law of nature, if things or attitudes have changed, you must accept them and modify and change your attitude accordingly. Those who do not change and remain rigid, blaming and complaining, are not very successful or popular and may be, despised by others.
Change of mindset, with time and circumstances, is the answer towards a happy and blissful living. We either change our thinking to learn and grow, or stagnate with a fixed mindset. When we are practical and flexible enough to change, world is ours to get the best. On the other hand, when we are non-flexible and rigid in our thinking, rejecting new ideas and workable ways, we shall definitely fail to progress and grow. For our survival and growth, change and adaptability is a must, otherwise we should be prepared to perish.
Then why do we resist change? Why are we, mostly, averse to the change? It is, perhaps, the fear of uncertainty, and lack of confidence in the new system. It is also that we are afraid of losing out on life, its pleasures we seek, happiness, comforts, of which we have got used to. We want to keep enjoying all those moments. But nature is very intelligent and ushers change so that its bounties, whether Pain or Pleasure, is evenly shared by all creations. That’s why, night is followed by day, winter by summer, cold followed by hot spell. Just think over, if permanence was the law of the nature, pleasure, happiness, victory and joy would permanently remain with some, while some others would remain in pain, disappointment, displeasure and fear, always. No wonder, nature made fair laws to be followed by everyone. A person is born, turned to adolescence, adult and then same person grows old to leave this planet, once for all, to make a place for someone else, who would also go through the same cycle.
Relationships also undergo change. In a household, initially, parents take all the decisions, but as children grow into adults, they start taking the decisions and parents have to give in. Somewhere, deep within us, we have craving or wish to have absolute power over all the things around us. We do not accept others as they are but want them to change as per our desires, which is not possible. This is one single factor for most acrimony, rancor and bitterness within the people. Those who change, adjust to people and situations or are flexible, are always happier, than those who do not change, are bickering or blaming others. Choice is yours.
It has been my observation that when we have to do the things ourselves, we are quite liberal, tolerant not very particular about things, but when others have to do, we want a perfect job done or are critical of the work or job accomplished. Such an attitude again adds to lots of ill feeling, unhappiness and disharmony. This amounts to hypocrisy or double standards which would be resented by others. So here also a change of attitude would help us.
Purpose of writing all these things is that off and on, in life, you would come across such things or situations and feel miserable, thinking that these things are happening to you only. It is always easier to meet such situations, if you know about them, and also know that such things are common and happen to everyone. Mantra on change is simple ‘If circumstances cannot be changed, change yourself’. As Charles Darwin said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change, survives best’. In our life also I have observed that happiest are those, who change with the change. Very few things in life are in our control. So best attitude should be ‘Change what you can. Accept what you cannot, with grace’. Cribbing over the circumstances, blaming someone for them and constantly complaining bickering about them, makes your own life miserable and those of your near and dear ones. Leo Tolstoy has also said ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself’. So, whatever you want to change, start from yourself.
For growth, mental, physical or financial, change is must. We are most comfortable in our mother’s womb. But we must come out and grow. Then mother’s lap is most comfortable. But for growth we must move out of it and see the world. First step is crawling then sitting, then standing and walking to see the world and grow with the world. Then to seek education and become worldly-wise, we must go out to school, then college and so on. All through, what happens? From a comfortable position, we go through uncomfortable transition to progress and grow. That’s how we achieve what we have in life. So, very aptly said in beginning of this lesson ‘Change is the only constant in life’. The moment one stops growing, decay starts. So always keeping thinking, changing, moving and growing.
Starting from childhood, as you grow older, physical body changes on its own. Your physical body and muscles etc. develop to the maximum, up to about 25 years or so. Then, for few years, there is not much change but after around 35 years, deterioration in physical strength starts appearing. Process is slow but only after few years, the changes like weakening of muscles, graying and thinning of hair starts, then the skin starts wrinkling, wounds taking more time to heal etc. etc. As the body becomes weak, diseases such as diabetes, high or low blood pressure, heart or liver problems and other countless problems may start appearing. All these things are normal and natural and must be accepted as they are. Of course, proper and timely physical exercise and medication must be taken. One of the most important and simple principal of life is that, you cannot fight the age and you must accept the physical body changes, which are normal, and you must age gracefully.
Trying to hide the actual age, dying hair or other such gimmicks are common these days, both in men and women. But, people can easily make out. As things change with age, let them show, as it is happening to everyone, not only to you. It is better to age with honour, dignity and grace, than try all those deceptive techniques, to look younger and become an object of hidden ridicule.
When you are a child, you call most elders as uncles and aunties. But as you grow old and gray, slowly, you will find the children or younger people calling you uncle or aunty. Well, best is to accept this change also gracefully. Why I write this is because, very pathetically, I have seen many persons telling the children not to call them uncle or aunty. Which again makes them an object of ridicule, may be behind their back. If children have started calling you uncle or aunty, they must have put you at par with their own parents. Even if they are wrong now, they shall be right in a couple of years, when you, definitely, will look like an uncle or aunty, what children are calling you. So why hide the natural?
As you grow old, you have to change your thinking process and style also. Make it more mature and dignified. I have seen many relationships soured, because of the erratic leftover behaviour of the past by one person or both. I have seen it happening between couple of my common friends. Once, I was pleasantly surprised to get a telephone call from a childhood friend. During the conversation, I gave him the telephone number of another common friend in another city and asked him to get in touch with him also as he also will feel very happy. I came to know latter that as soon as he called him by his childhood pet name and in the same tone and style of the childhood, which the common friend being called, did not like at all. Thus, a warm childhood relationship turned sour in no time, as one person was not able to change his mind and tone with age, while the other had.
There is nothing in this world which cannot be done better, made better or lived better. But for doing better, getting better or being better, attitudinal changes are required. Since, every change in our lifestyle or personality which we have lived for years, involve pain, it s resisted. But in life, there are no gains without pain. Since, it is not easy to let go off old ideas or ways, we hold on to them, as they are familiar.
When we enter a party hall, whom we are looking for? Always the familiar faces. We always find it easy and convenient to meet any familiar person or familiar situation, irrespective of how difficult or troublesome it is. But, for our progress and growth, we have to meet new persons and situations and win them over. Once we know this new person or situation, they also become familiar and we would find it easy to deal with them. Any change is difficult only in the beginning but change we must.
Biggest enemy of change for the better, is our familiarity with the old ways, which we would want to continue as it is. During the coronation of queen Elizabeth, prisoners were given general amnesty. A murder convict was housed for years, in an underground cell having no light or ventilation, tied with iron chains all around. His only contact with the outer world was, some jail employee would place his food in his cell. He had lived this wretched life for years. When this convict was brought up for release, breathing fresh air, seeing sunlight, free from iron chains after years, he was totally perplexed and dazed. His stinking rags were cut open, was given a bath and dress to change. But he could not bear all those good things, because of his unfamiliarity with the changed circumstances. He ran back towards his underground cell, saying ‘I don’t like it here. Please, for God’s sake, put me back in my cell. I like it there.’
This is only a small example, how we resist change. We all, in various degrees, are like this prisoner of familiarity in our day to day life. Left to ourselves, we would like to continue as we have been doing because that’s the way are used to, that’s the way we find it easy and convenient. All these technical innovations, modern gadgets and implements, the way we live, have been brought about by those who thought of better ways through change. Imagine if no one had thought of change, we would still have been living as primitives. That’s where we humans are different from animals who can’t think.
On the national level, its only through change, we can bring progress, prosperity and growth for our people. Yes, no doubt, when progress and growth comes, some people will definitely benefit more than others. But if its for overall betterment, we should not resist the change which is a must. Moreover, we must not overlook the future prospects. Many changes may look bad presently but good in the long run. May be our children and grandchildren will thank us for that because their results will be seen by them, may not be by us immediately. Simple example is the delicious fruits we eat today. If someone had not planted those trees many years ago and had thought only of himself, no fruits would have been there for us to enjoy. We must be mature enough to look for overall good not only the present good and never let such serious matters be politicized which is very common in our country. Politicians can only think of their present good and their remaining in power. They are not concerned about future and how your children or grand-children whom you love so much, would live.
There are so many examples of change on the national level because of which people have prospered and grown when foreign capital has come to our country. No doubt foreigners must have benefited a lot, but so have we. I remember when banks were computerized, there were so many strikes and agitations. Can you imagine, where we would have been if there had been no computerization in banks or other areas. In 1991, when reforms were ushered in, there were so many protests and agitations. Have you forgotten ten year wait for a scooter, five year wait for a car or seven year wait for getting a telephone connection. Imagine the condition of our country, if government of that time had succumbed to public pressure, agitations or trade union pressure for not bringing in much needed reforms or FDI to the country. Where we would have been now if there had been no opening up of Telecom, Insurance, software, import policies? As for jobs, we have taken away millions of jobs from US by providing cheaper but equally efficient services. What I want to suggest is that we should learn to handle and live with competition rather than running away from it.
About two years back there were agitations against nuclear treaty. Whether we should go ahead with it or not. Then agitation against Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Now, agitations against retail FDI. I am not for or against any of these, since I am not qualified enough to speak anything for or against these complex issues. But we do have the examples of other countries before us. China, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines have all gone in for retail FDI. What is the position there? We also have examples in our own country wherein retail chains have been operating long enough for us to assess.
Why WE THE PEOPLE have given ourselves over to the politicians to take such complex matters to the streets, agitations and non-functioning of Parliament, who see only their own benefit, how they can get into power or retain the power they are holding. There are very many well meaning experts who should decide such matters on behalf of public. Before independence, we were slave to the British. Let us not become slave to our unscrupulous politicians now. No politician will ever want priority given to education because if people are educated, they can think on their own. Politicians can only think of their vote banks and present benefits. Nothing for our future or the future of our children and grandchildren
So, my dear countrymen, be mature, be wordly-wise and think of your own good by your well-meaning friends and experts, rather than going to the streets on every conceivable matter. There are enough people in this country who can guide us, who want to help. Let them decide rather than those who know nothing of the matter and see an opportunity of coming to power or retaining power, somehow. It is your sacred duty to educate everyone on such complex issues. Many times, our present good and future good will clash. Today’s sacrifice for our future good for our children have to be there, otherwise how can they eat fruits. Past is gone but for future ‘Best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. Second best is now’ Let’s not be selfish with our children only.
One of the things which can block the development of our true potential, is the fear of giving up good for the better. Our desire to improve or transform our personality, can only be accomplished through change, which must override all negative influences such as our desire to continue on the familiar lines as earlier. Our determination or commitment to transform and change, is the first and foremost step on which our empowerment will rest. Always keep that Intrapersonal mode on, in your day to day life, which means always be ready for honest self analysis, introspection, self improvement and empowerment through change wherever, felt or needed.
Do not let the development of your true potential be blocked by your old outdated but familiar mindset, which is most powerful part in a human being. Human brain or mind is so powerful but extremely soft matter, encompassed in hard skull. Most of the time, with old ideas and rotten thoughts, mind becomes as hard as stone. In this hard stone, which our mind might have become, because of the old ideas and outdated thoughts, you can neither put anything inside it, nor can you retrieve it. It is not of much use, nor is it productive.
God has made our brain soft like sponge, to enable it to absorb whatever new ideas it gets from outside and also dispense those ideas and thoughts, whenever need arises. Such working is possible by sponge, not by stone. So, always be open and receptive to change, to new ideas. Minds are like parachutes. They work best, when open. Mind must be molded such, that it is always receptive to the new ideas and knowledge, which would bring in us, the desired change. Physical changes can be seen, but mental changes can only be felt. Our thinking which generates from our mind, must always be receptive to change.
Germinating seed is, perhaps, the best example of change. When seed falls on the ground, change emerges. It must absorb water, then sprouts. As said by Jesus Christ “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single see….But if it dies, it produces many seeds”. Whenever we give or lose something, we must gain something else in proportions must larger than our loss. This gain or loss may take its own time but is always there nevertheless.
The main principal of life is that change empowers life. Any progress in life requires change. As we are growing old, attitudinal change or personality change makes a person more and more mature, which means he must look and act his age. During the course of your life, one may suffer from a broken heart by experiencing the loss of a loved one, our mental and physical health would also diminish with age, loss of life sustaining income or any of the innumerable bad things which can happen, once you are old. Learning to handle all those unfortunate changes, is one of the most important lessons and a big challenge in life. It can be very heartbreaking, if we do not know how to handle change.
Relationships may end. Loved ones with whom, we have spent our entire life in company, may die or become severely handicapped or terminally ill. As we grow old, realization that many of our cherished goals, may have gone unrealized and now the time is almost up. At one stage in life, one might have felt that such terrible things would never happen, but now all those and many more unimaginable ones, are happening. How does one deal with such a situation, in which pain and loss is growing every day, without any one to share the agony and accompanying feeling of loss.
There are no magic formulas to deal with these normal situations. Well, first of all, one must always expect such things to happen, specially in old age. It is not such a shock if something, you have been expecting, happens. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. You must invest in goodwill and relationships, when you are young. Umpteen cases, I have seen, persons in high positions, having spent their life in arrogance and personalized glory, fall to the dust all alone in their old age, because they never cared for anyone during their heydays.
Money is not the only investment you can make for future security. You cannot live by money alone. You have to have true and lasting relationships, once you cross, say fifty. Older you grow, more you need them. Hence, the need to invest in relationships when you are young. Also note one thing. As you grow old, it becomes more and more difficult to form meaningful relationships. Hence, the need for building strong, lasting, meaningful relationships from early age, as a safe investment in future.
Financial security is a must and well planned in advance. There are so many old age homes these days, where one can shift for the sake of company and security. One must never hesitate to take this step, thinking what people will think. Normally, if it is a good home, you will get all the requisites and needs, which are a must in the old age, respect, security, company, nourishment, entertainment and medical attention. So, if you are financially secure, always consider the option. Do not hesitate, simply, what others would say? Everyone has a right to his opinion. Let them.
I feel sorry that readers may find a few paragraphs above regarding old age, little depressing. But these are the facts and realities of life, which cannot be wished away. I have seen it happening to lots of people, not necessarily, it will happen to anyone in particular, but it is always better to face the facts, face to face. Aim of writing this book is to express truthfully, what I have seen and felt in my life. Since, everyone is different, you have to think it over, then only apply and adopt. If you are lucky that these things do not apply to you, at least you can advise and counsel others. It’s always better to know.
In life, memories of the past are nostalgic and one likes to talk about them. So do I. How things have changed in last fifty years, is mind boggling. From simple carefree college life, to present professional life full of responsibilities and commitments. How limited pocket money changed to present unimaginable high incomes compared to those old standards. Hunger for good food, clothes, any other thing was insatiable. But now that excitement is missing. Deepawali or Holi, any festival meant unbound enthusiasm and excitement. Now the festivals come and go. How a plate of samosa with tea, available within a rupee, have given way to pizza costing hundreds but hunger has vanished. How motorbike always in reserve, changing over to a car costing few lacks, but except for office, hardly any other place to visit. Telephones and mobiles have become so cheap, but none has time to talk. In Agra, our house was always full of relatives and friends, visiting or staying. Those customs and relatives, simply seem to have vanished never to return, perhaps. Where are they?
My father bought me first ‘Hercules’ bike when I was in high school, way back in 1958. That joy and excitement is missing all the time even when I buy a new car these days. My mother was a very good cook, so is my wife, Madhupriya. Still, going to a restaurant was great experience, which one looked forward to. Now, I do not like to have outside food, excerpt for a hearty breakfast of Idli, Vada and Pongal from the nearby eating joint. At the onset of winters, new sweaters and jacket used to bring ultimate in excitement and joy. Well, that joy and excitements are missing though life goes on at a much faster pace. Those were the days, my friend, I thought would never end.
One certainty about life is that it is very uncertain. We often try to live as if everything will remain the same, but it does not. We are often, fearful of what lies ahead. We are fearful of moving forward, trying something new or changing direction. It’s all because of our unwillingness to change or handle uncertainty. Most of the times, after having got over that fear of uncertainty, we are always glad that we took that important step towards change, which is progressive, growth oriented and good for us, bringing happiness, joy and serenity in our lives.
Purpose of life is to be happy and live it well. We can only live it well, if we have that burning desire to improve upon, what we have become used to living. This improvement can only be brought by changes, which may be little painful initially. Change can be incorporated only if you apply and adopt what you read in the various lessons discussed in detail in this book. Because the end result is good and rewarding, you will also welcome the changes you can bring in yourself by reading, adopting and applying most of the lessons on you. This will also be the motivation and inspiration for others to change, seeing you. Through change only, we can change our destiny, our community, our country and our people.
Keep a tight reign on your Temper. Never take action, when you are angry. Procrastination works fine, when you are angry. Never decide anything, when you are angry. Take time, cool down, think coolly and then decide or take action. Both Humans and Steel lose Value, when they lose temper. Remember, ‘Anger’ is only a letter short of ‘Danger’.
Do not speak ill of anyone, but Speak all the Good you know of others. A Good Tongue is a Good weapon. When you think Good of others, they will always Think Good of you.
Spread Goodness, Spread Happiness.
Goodness and Happiness only, will Rebound back on you.
Both Goodness and Happiness are for sharing.
They Multiply, when Shared. Grief divides when shared.
Face Facts and Problems, Boldly and Squarely.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.