We are a rather strange species, if you ask me. Strange because almost always, we want something different from what we already have. Our capacity to be selfless is as immense as our potential to be selfish. I can vouch for this because I saw myself as a kind person, and didn’t think I had it in me to cause pain to my loved ones. Yet, when propelled by my desire, I inflicted it upon them effortlessly.
One morning, I got up, got ready, went to work and did not go back home in the evening. Instead, I boarded a train to take me away from all my certainties, from the people I loved and from the wealth I owned. Giving my family no warning, no indication even, I simply walked away although I knew full well it would be a point of no return.
It’s not that I didn’t think about their feelings. I did, but chose to ignore how they might have felt because I couldn’t postpone my inner calling any further. I no longer wanted to get up every morning, work the entire day, come home in the evening, eat my dinner and go to sleep just because everyone else was doing it, just because it was considered ‘normal’. Who decided what was normal anyway? If I had to live my life by the rules and conditions set by others then what was the goal of my life, what was my individual purpose—if there was any?
Before me lay the material wealth I had earned painstakingly over the last decade. But cars, properties and a bank balance were lifeless things at the end of the day. They always had been. I wasn’t born with these possessions and they certainly wouldn’t go with me after I died. What was the struggle of life about then? And, whatever it was about, was it worth it?
Countless times, I had given myself the consolation that I would find the purpose of my life one day, but this consolation was wearing thin while my questions beat like muffled drums in my head. With each strike, the sound was getting louder, getting closer. It began to drown out all the music around me: the melodious songs of the birds, the pouring rain, the compassionate words of my mother and the caring ones of my father; nothing was audible anymore, let alone joyous.
Leaving behind everything I had worked towards, razing all that I had built and abandoning everyone I had ever known, I felt indifferent towards my own past. An uninterested stranger. Just as the advancing dawn erases the existence of the night, my departure from the material world wiped away my life as I had known it.
From an Internet cafe, I sent emails to my family and close friends, saying I was going away and didn’t know if and when I would return. No emotions, no sentiments tugged at my heart when I deleted my email account, destroyed the SIM card, gave away my phone and broke up with my material life of three decades. Casting away the labels that defined me—son, brother, friend, CEO, MBA, colleague—I walked out of the store and into a new skin.
This new existence was utter nakedness; no, not in physical terms, but in being nothing, having nothing, not even an identity or a name — the life of a monk. It was only in this state of emptiness, as it were, that I could be filled by what I sought most desperately: a true inner life.
Above is the prologue from my upcoming memoir slated to be released next month (November 2014) by HarperCollins Publishers India.
Loving is inevitable. Giving is optional.If my writings have helped you, please consider contributing.
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