The Elusive Beauty
It was a Saturday and, as usual, there was extra hustle and bustle at the ‘The School Of Happiness.’ There would be special sessions in the school every Saturday, when eminent speakers would come to talk on different subjects. The school auditorium would usually be packed on each such occasion but, it seemed, today’s was the largest audience in all these ten years of the school’s existence. Ishika’s friend Anirudh, the well-known wildlife photographer, was the speaker this Saturday.
‘The School For Happiness’ was doing quite well, and it had also earned a very good name for itself. Tisha, the founder, had put her heart and soul into it and was happy at the way it had blossomed. It really had helped innumerable people in their lives, by bringing clarity in their thoughts and showing them the way to streamline their thoughts and actions, in that order. Tisha’s father-in-law, Harry, was no more. Tisha lived by herself, completely immersed into running the school. Her daughter Ishika worked in another city, and visited her quite often.
After the classes through all weekdays, Tisha had kept Saturdays exclusively for these sessions, where people would come and talk about their experiences and thoughts. Ishika, along with her friend Anirudh, had reached early morning itself and were now helping Tisha with the arrangements for the day. People arrived and got seated in the hall. Without any delay, Tisha welcomed Anirudh on the stage.
“Good Morning, friends! Glad to see you all in such large numbers. The numbers are heartening, because I know you all have come for real-life lessons, to improve your own lives. As you all are aware, every Saturday we have a guest, sharing with us his/her own experience in life. These real-life experiences are indeed invaluable, for they help us to introspect and, if need be, realign or reaffirm our perspectives. Today, I would like to invite Anirudh Goswami who, I am sure, would be known to many of us here, as a multifaceted personality. Anirudh, could you please come and share your thoughts with us?”
Anirudh, with sure and calm steps, came up to the stage. He took the mike from Tisha’s hands smilingly, and addressed the people.
“A very good morning to all of you present here. I have heard a lot about this school, ‘A School For Happiness.’ It actually makes a lot of sense to have such a school, where they teach you to be happy, one of the most essential things in our life. Happiness lies to a large extent in our own hands, through the choices that we make in life. These choices, though, may need to be improvised, as we move along in life. The crux of the matter is the power of adaptability; the power to change, depending on changes that happen around us.
If I may say so, my own life is a good example of this. I did my chartered accountancy, and joined one of the leading firms of chartered accountants. I was doing quite well, both professionally as well as personally. My childhood friend, Niti, had become my sweetheart and nothing could be better in life. I had a very close friend, Raman, who ran a small chain of hotels. It was his family business for the past two generations, but he did not have any interest in it. He was an artist, and painting was his passion. After his father’s sudden demise he was forced to take over the business completely, but he was doing a pathetic job of it.
One day we were having coffee together, and he was venting out his frustration. I felt really bad for him. On the spur of the moment, I offered to help him. Since the hotels were doing poorly, Raman didn’t think twice about giving me free rein. It took me a week to go through the details of business of all the five hotels. The disinterest of the owner, reflected everywhere. The staff, the conditions of the rooms, the food, everything depicted pure mediocrity. I suggested changes in all areas; in not much time, my interest showed freshly painted rooms, beautiful plants all around added to the greenery, multi-cuisine restaurants, an upgraded gymnasium with spa, and all the other necessities and a reduced tariff. With all these changes, within a year, the business started flourishing and, in the next two years, it had become a profitable venture. I was by now on a complete high at this success and, with Raman’s willingness, took over the business by putting in about 70% stakes in it. I quit my job and now I started expanding this venture, by acquiring new properties all over the country. I was on this spree for the next two years, putting my heart and soul totally into it, along with all the wealth that I had accumulated over these years. I had also borrowed a lot of money from the market, and then, when I was going great guns, the unexpected happened - Covid-19 pandemic broke out all of a sudden. I was finished, well, rather, almost finished.
All these years, when I was completely involved in growing my work, I had put my personal life on the back burner. Niti did not agree with me on this. She wanted us to get married and pursue our professional dreams along with our personal ones, together. But I was on a high and I wanted to achieve my vision which, according to me, would demand nothing less than my whole self. So I persuaded her to wait for a few years, while I sought to achieve my goal at work. I realise now with hindsight, that this decision was a mistake on my part. Personal life is never a cost that one should pay, to attain professional success.
With my decision of postponing our marriage for a few years, Niti, who was a wildlife photographer, took up a long-term project at Masai Mara, Africa and went away. With the Covid-19 pandemic, as you would remember, the world had almost shut down. The travel and the hotel industries were badly hit. I lost all my money and did not know what to do. I had put all my eggs in one basket, and now the basket had fallen down. What hurt me the most was that I had failed to achieve my vision. This was a huge lesson that, many a time, many things beyond one’s control can completely overturn the cart of your dreams. But, more importantly, I learnt that such unexpected failures may sometimes point to the need to make fresh choices in life, even though, your earlier choice was not necessarily a wrong one; The fear of failure is a big stumbling block for many of us to move ahead, afresh. We do not need to prove ourselves through our actions and through results, all the time; the ease with which we can shrug off our setbacks, and make new choices, is actually what speaks for us.
As soon as international travel resumed, I took a flight straight to Masai Mara to surprise Niti. And surprise her I did! One look at her, and I wanted to marry her there and then. But now Niti was adamant! She would have the wedding only in the presence of families from both the sides. I too agreed with her on this. Now I had time on my hand to think, and I found solace in Niti’s company. What a fool I had been to prioritise wrongly, and put my work over my personal life! I started taking keen interest in Niti’s work. I would see the amount of patience one needed to have, to get just one shot of an animal; capturing one expression, one moment, needed endless hours of wait. Somehow, the thrill of photographing wildlife caught on with me. My interest in it grew rapidly, and very soon I was actually assisting Niti in her job. I picked up from her the expertise, and the skill, in every area of photography. After sharpening these really well, I managed to bag a project for myself. It was to shoot a black panther that was eluding everyone for years! Nobody had actually seen him long enough, to be able to shoot him. Only a fleeting glimpse could be seen, after weeks, and all tricks to capture his movements had failed to yield any results.
I took up this project as a challenge to myself. I started going to the part of the deep forest early morning everyday, and plonked myself, ready to click the black beauty, any moment of the day. I would return home only when it got dark, and this was my routine every day, seven days of the week, for two years. I managed to get some enviable shots of the elusive black panther. I made a short film out of these: ‘The Elusive Beauty’. And, many of you would perhaps know, this film won the best film award at the ‘Global Talent Hunt’. That was the beginning for me in this field and, since then, there has been no looking back.
My dear friends, aiming high is always desirable, but it is prudent to be ready to accept unforeseen obstacles that might come and stand on the way to achieving our goals. We should know the difference between ‘Determination’ and ‘Stubbornness’. Also, we should not measure success by only one parameter; the biggest success is to master the art of ‘Adaptability’.
The equally important thing to take care of is to always strike a balance between our professional and personal lives. Both are independent, and yet, they are complementary to each other. One of these should not pay a price for the other. Like many of us say, we have to necessarily put in long hours at work in our early years, in order to achieve our career goals. But then we all need to entertain our personal goals as well, which too are equally, maybe more, important. We are a result of our conscious choices, hence it is very crucial that we make these choices holistically. We all have heard of the famous African proverb, haven’t we?
‘If you want to go fast, go alone;
If you want to go far, go together.’
Life indeed is more beautiful with all its myriad hues; only one colour may not be able to do full justice to it.
I will end my rather longish talk with a few lines of the beautiful poem that I live by;
‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling -
‘If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same ….
you’ll be a Man, my son!’
Anirudh stepped down from the stage, amidst a huge applause and a standing ovation. Tisha came forward and hugged him.