WHAT REALLY DEFINES ‘A SUCCESSFUL LIFE’?
Six months since Akshay. Time continues to be slotted into ‘with Akshay’ and ‘after Akshay’. Terrorism continues as well and even as we feel extreme sadness at losing more bravehearts after Akshay, there have been some major successes in eliminating terrorists like Burhan Wani’s successor. The really good news came when Major Gogoi decided to do what he did. He gave us all more reason to be proud of our brave and intelligent soldiers, and for once, the mood of our people is clear. The end justifies the means and lives of innocent citizens were saved by his action.
The dates around the 29th of every month are particularly difficult for us – hearts weighed down by sorrow and minds dominated by thoughts of our very own ‘Star’. The day before yesterday, I was sitting on our bed, lost in thought, when Naina came and climbed into my lap. I smiled at her and she beamed back at me. When I asked her if Sangy was studying upstairs, she said ‘mumma is looking at her book…I think so she is reading….I think so she is missing papa…..’ I asked her ‘did you give mumma a huggie and a kissy?’ She nodded, her big cutie pie smile lighting up her face and eyes, even as she gazed intently at me. ‘Yes’, she said, and added ‘mumma also gave me a huggie and kissy. Now you can also give me a huggie’. I held her close and instantly felt comforted.
A month or so earlier, I was in casual conversation with two young working women on a flight. They were planning their career-growth paths. One of them wanted to shift to an international airline and the other wanted to do an MBA to ‘succeed in life’. As always, I was caught unawares when she suddenly asked me what my children were doing. I responded with the truth of Akshay’s martyrdom. Shocked, she said- ‘aapne use fauj mein jaane kyon diya? Aunty, jaane nahin dena chahiya tha (why did you let him join the Army? Aunty, you shouldn’t have let him)’. I had no answer other than ‘Akshay bachpan se hi jaana chahata tha (Akshay wanted to do so since childhood)’, and thankfully, the other young person rescued me by saying ‘the loss is tragic but you must be so proud of him.’ I came away, this time managing to stop the tears from spilling over, but wondering what ‘success in life’ really meant? In writing this piece today, I am seeking answers and also expressing my views.
People talk of ‘success’ with reference to ‘doing well’ in exams, landing a ‘good’ job amidst competition, finding the ‘right’ partner to marry and ‘settle down’, climbing the ‘career ladder’, staying healthy while ‘getting old’ and such other things, as a yardstick to measure a ‘successful life’. Without going into the dictionary definitions of success, here are my thoughts (for whatever they are worth), gathered out of experience and maturity.
Basically, answering three questions can define if one has led a successful life.
- Have you followed your heart?
- Have you made people around you feel good about themselves and others?
- Have you achieved what you dreamt of?
That Akshay followed his heart (and even wore it on his sleeve!) is well known. All my posts on Akshay have been on how he always knew what he wanted and never wavered from the path he chose. He wanted to wear the uniform for his country and he did. While doing what he wanted to, he never took his relationships for granted. He made a success of every close relationship by giving it the importance it deserves. For Girish, me and Neha, he was the perfect son and brother and in Sangeeta’s words, he was the best thing that ever happened to her. All of you who have known him have given us so many insights into the remarkable way he related to people. That takes effort, but Akshay always made it look so effortless! So he definitely aced the first two questions.
Which brings me to the last and most difficult of all questions.
Did Akshay achieve what he dreamt of?
To be fair, only Akshay can answer this question.
First of all, not everyone has such specific dreams- I know I never did. No such big dream propelled me towards a goal. Wherever life took me, I tried to do my best.
Since destiny has decided Akshay cannot directly answer the question, will we know?
Strange as it may seem, insights seem to come from Akshay when we least expect them to. He is making me believe in little miracles.
At home, Sangeeta and I have our chats as we continue to bond over Akshay. Sometime in April, she spoke about wanting to hold on to all that Akshay and she had put together with so much love. The thought led to her decision to rent an apartment close-by, so as to accommodate all their belongings. This way, she also planned to re-create the loving home they had shared with Naina and Bingo. Their belongings had been packed way back in September 2016, for the move from Kolkata to Nagrota. When Nagrota was attacked, they were still staying in a guest room because they hadn’t been allotted a house. Except for clothing and some of Naina’s toys, most of their stuff remained un-opened in Nagrota, and until now, in Bengaluru as well.
While unpacking after 8 long months, Sangeeta found a book. In his neat handwriting, Akshay’s precious thoughts sprang at us in poetry form. It seems as if Akshay has chosen to answer the last question himself. This is what he has penned.
POWER OF WITHIN
Shadows of Midnight
Woke This Lad Up From His Slumber
For He Knew What He Had To Do
His Life Had Suddenly Turned Meaningful Too
Discussions with the Almighty
Contemplation with the Priest
Support of His Kith And Kin
Finally, His Determination Within
He Fought For What Is Right
He Fought With All His Might
Shifting From Stern to Bow
Towards The End He Dreamt So
He Changed the Norms
Jumped Across Unsurpassed Falls
Climbed Unsurpassed Heights
He Knew He Had To Last the Fight
He Raced Ahead Steadily, Surely
Took A Chance When All Else Failed
He Hadn’t Learned ‘Looking Back’
And He Knew Not How to Stop
When the Climb Got Toughest
The Weather Roughest
He Saw the End He Had Dreamt Of
From This Battle He Learnt
That The Toughest Battle Was Within
The Biggest Challenge Was Following His Dream
He Conquered When the World Never Saw…
He Needn’t Be Seen…
For He Had Achieved
The Screaming Pride of His Heart Within….
Yes, Akshay, you achieved your dream…and made us all so very proud too. Yours was a very very successful life. While the sorrow of loss continues to bring tears, there is also wonder….. and I am truly astonished at how Akshay overcame every obstacle in life, converted failure into success, faced death with courage, saved lives and became immortal. He also experienced deep love and married young, became a father and showered Naina with love she will never forget. And all this before he had turned 31.
My friend Sucheta, who has experienced great personal loss has her own thoughts on early death. She says those who go away in their prime are blessed. They experience the best in their lifetime and called away after making their mark, they are spared from experiencing grief over loss, infirmity of age or the painful wait for release from severe illness. The thought that my raja beta is blessed is comforting. We all know Akshay continues to be part of us and that is how it will always be. Until we are.
And like her papa, Naina is already winning hearts. Making friends with everyone around….. and charming even the oldies comes naturally to her as well -age and gender no bar! The little ones know how to be joyful and we have so much to learn from them. No matter what the difficulties and tragedies, they instinctively know how to bounce back and embrace life the very next moment.
Even as we try to teach her things, Naina is teaching us much more. We are benefiting from her most important lessons on how to love, be loved in return, to wipe tears quickly and smile more often. Akshay for sure is beaming with pride at his little bundle of joy.
Thank you once again for staying with us on our journey after Akshay. I do hope you will help us learn more about the mysteries of life by posting your thoughts and comments on this post.
Take care. God bless
P.S. Apart from delving into my world of thoughts, I also searched for answers in trying to be objective about what a successful life really means. Staying clear of the mundane definitions of ‘education, career and money’, here are some tips that may resonate with many of you as well.
- Have the courage to draw your own road map for life.
- Understand that life is precious and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Continuously remind yourself who and what you’re grateful for, and show them your appreciation often.
- Be generous with your soul. Be compassionate and empathetic towards your fellow human beings.
- Have a collection of memories. Some that make you laugh, some that make you smirk, some that make you cringe, and some that make you cry.
- Love…. Love deeply. Love fully. Don’t ever let fear prevent you from experiencing the greatest feeling in this life. Love your family, love your friends, love your partners, love children, love strangers, love yourself. Immerse yourself in love — it’s worth it.