It was an unforgettable train journey for the strange way it ingrained in me an invaluable lesson in motivation. I was going through a bad phase in life, grappling with problems that seemed insurmountable. Seeking relief I had journeyed far and wide, that led me to strange places and strange people. I encountered men and women who claimed divine powers, prescribed strange incantations, baffling rituals and bizarre remedies. I frequented different kinds of places of worship of different religions, read prayer books of all kinds, some to be read nine times, some others 11 times and yet, a few others twenty eight times every day!
Many a time I was asked to wear threads of various colors, symbols, and rings of different precious stones. Astrologers blamed the planets, and I spent a considerable amount of time, on newspapers and magazines, tracking which planet was moving from which ‘house’ to another one. Numerologists advised changing my name itself to change my fortune! Palmists were concerned about the insufficient swellings on my palm which they called ‘mounts’. They pored over my palms with strong magnifying glasses as though they were scanning the lunar surface for alien life! Gemologists wanted me to wear a variety of expensive precious stones. Face readers fathomed hidden enemies. Many soothsayers deciphered past lives and the ‘sins’ committed then that were now coming to seek revenge.
Many other Nostradamuses claimed that it was anger of the ancestors, serpents and wandering strange spirits. Vastu specialists advised demolishing part of my house. Faith healers demanded that I convert to their religion. But, nothing worked, as even the Gods find it difficult to untie the mischievous knots made by crafty humans. It is no wonder that Wallace Stegner said, “We are the most dangerous species on this planet…”
The train came to a halt at a station and a noisy group of people bustled into the vacant seats next to me. Soon, they were ordering the vendors and the TTE came respectfully and enquired about their comfort and needs. Obviously, they were Railway officials on duty, hence the servility of all the staff on board the train. As the train started moving, they all gathered around one person, who appeared to be the boss. They were soliciting his views on a variety of subjects ranging from politics to current affairs, and he was loudly airing his views.
Disinterested, I slid into my own thoughts and was ruminating over my problems, when suddenly the words of the ‘boss’ pierced my ears. “Will one failure or success constitute your whole life?” I was jolted from my reverie and the words seemed to penetrate again and again into every pore of my body. “Will one failure or success constitute your whole life?” It was the Arjuna moment for me, Satori instant in Zen. What pearls of wisdom was he uttering? It was as though he was directly addressing me and shaking me from my helplessness.
Life cannot be a string of successes. There is bound to be rejection, struggle, and disappointment. We may even forsake our original values, dreams and passions. But, the power of the human spirit to overcome impossible odds is unbelievable. The power of perseverance, indefatigable will power and determination, can go a long way in boosting morale, notching up the inspiration levels and give us a lot of hope. Most people think failure is the end but, if you can get past that misconception, chances are you will taste success. A Jewish proverb states “He, who cannot endure the bad, will not live to see the good.”
As I jumped, invigorated and with a resolute new will, the train slowed down to halt at a station. The ‘boss’ and his group stood up and headed towards the exit door. Soon, they had all de-boarded and were proceeding to the main station. I stood at the door watching the group go out of sight. A silent praise for the unknown Guru was all that I could offer as Guru Dakshina.
Dr. G Shree Kumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph.D (Narcotics),
Former Director General
National Academy of Customs Excise and Narcotics,
& Multi Disciplinary School Of Economic Intelligence,India,
Fellow, James Martin Center For Non Proliferation Studies, USA.
Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration,
Syracuse University, U.S.A.
AOTS Scholar, Japan
Registrar, Yenepoya University, Mangalore – 575018, Karnataka State, India.