Burdened and Buttonholed; Beleaguered and Besieged.
Well, that’s what Kushal felt, as he walked his way to home. With slumped shoulders, shuffling gait, and a seriously sad face, he looked like the one who had just attended several funerals in a day!
The truth was, he was a running a race that had no finishing line; a vicious cycle that had no ends. Did he dislike what he was doing? No, he absolutely loved it. It was his long-cherished dream of opening up his own CA firm. Didn’t people say that to pursue your passion is to pursue true freedom?
The trouble was, sometimes, pursuing your passion can end you in a self-inflicted prison! What with the piles of pending files, morass of due dates and deadlines, battling cases in courts, and devouring weighty books daily to update himself, he had literally become a humorless human, a mundane man, a mechanical machine, a puppet without purpose, and what not!
“You’ve forgotten to smile and laugh…you had an amazing sense of humour…but now… ” His wife, his friends, his loved ones all now said the same thing. He had not cared at first; dismissed them. Didn’t they know he was following his dreams, fighting tooth and nail, toiling day and night to achieve success, to make a good living? He was a responsible family-man, a husband, a father, a bread earner. No, he cannot afford to be callous and careless, he cannot waste even a second pursuing purposeless hobbies!
Now, however, their words rang in his mind. The truth; the bitter truth.
He longed to be free; craved for the escapades; he wanted to smile, to laugh out loud! He wanted to sing and shout and travel and dance! Yes, he craved for joy…pure joy!
“I want to be happy!” Kushal blurted out to himself in desperation. He was alone in the street and wanted ease out all his tensions. “I want to feel the joy of life!”
“Then who’s stopping you?” said a voice.
Kushal stopped and looked around in surprise. He was not alone in the street. There was an old man, in fact a neighbor he hadn’t ever talked to. Kushal didn’t even know his name. Apparently, the old man had heard him shouting like a maniac!
“I–I, I am sorry….” Kushal said, visibly embarrassed. “I…I’
“You don’t have to sorry,” said the old man kindly, “Sometimes, what you are looking for is simply in front of you. But we, for all the funny reasons, always look elsewhere.”
“I…I don’t understand…” Kushal said hesitantly. He wanted to get out from here. He didn’t want anyone to think he was mental.
“You will understand….” The old man went on gently, “When I was your age, I too felt the same: the assault of daily responsibilities, the never ending race to finish the backlog, the torturous pressure to make the ends meet…and so on. But I tell you what son: these all happen in our mind. Ever heard of Mark Twain, a famous writer?”
“Yes…” Kushal nodded, puzzled, not understand where this conversation was headed.
“He said: Half of the troubles in our whole life never actually happen! They just happen only in our mind!”
The old man’s words hit home. Kushal couldn’t agree more.
“And you know what I did?” the old man resumed. “Well, I’m not going to give you a lecture about meditation and yoga and balance and what not! Indeed, these techniques should be adopted. But as of now, I would tell you a laughably simple yet profoundly effective way to feel the pure joy of life! Just after you wake up tomorrow, do these things: Sing a lively song at the top of your voice, smile a lot even if you don’t like, laugh out loud for no reasons! Just do it! Act like a madman! A happy madman!”
“Just do it! Even if you don’t feel like doing it! Just pretend. Fake it till you take it!” the old man winked at him and walked away, leaving Kushal pondering.
The next day, Kushal woke up in the morning feeling the usual exhaustion and apprehension to face the day ahead. Then he remembered what his old neighbor had said the last night.
Without any preamble, Kushal stood in front of the mirror, and began to laugh. At first, he felt odd. It was funny the way laughter was coming out of his mouth.
“Ha! I’ve even forgotten how to laugh!”Kushal scolded himself. Then feeling the funniness of the situation, he burst out laughing. And suddenly, he found himself laughing his heart out! His wife and children came dashing to his room, looking thoroughly bewildered. They exchanged perplexed glances. Had Kushal gone mad?
“Come now, you all!” Kushal shouted to them. “Laugh out loud! Kick the tensions out!”
And seeing Kushal in unusually hilarious mood, they all burst out laughing. Kushal doubled up in laughter. A wave of ecstasy and exhilaration washed over him like never before. It was liberating. He felt free! He had never until now understood why laughter was the best medicine or why several old men and women always met in the garden below and laughed their heart out like madman. Now, he did! Sometimes, it’s very good to be mad!
“Oh…Ha, ha!” Kushal clutched his stomach that now ached, and sat, all smiles.
“It feels so good, papa!” the children cried with unison, chuckling and chortling. “Let’s do it every day!”
“It’s been so many months since I saw you so much happy!” said is wife happily.
“Yes!” Kushal gushed with delight, “And now it’s time to sing!”
And so they sang whatever songs came to their mind, old and new and evergreen. It went on like this for an hour.
A few hours later, as Kushal walked his way to his office, he felt light headed and content. His mind chattering had seemed to stop and he had more reasons to be grateful for. He knew that life had its own share of troubles and pains. But then, it also had its share of thrills and pleasures. He vowed to himself that every day, just for half an hour or so, he would do something creative -whether any fun- activity or hobby or anything - to feel the pure joy of life.