It  happened during our visit to our daughter  in the US recently. Our dutiful daughter put an aging TV set in our bedroom, for her aging parents. However, I couldn’t get the TV to work, no matter what I did with the remote. Sometimes, there was a flicker of light or a glimpse of some images. We could even hear the audio, but the picture never stabilized. I told my granddaughter about the problem. Her response?

“At least, it gives you hope.”

From that moment on, that device became the ‘hopeful’ remote.

Fast forward to my son’s home. His TV and the remote worked perfectly, in his hands. Once, I expressed a desire to watch a  cricket match that only came on very late at night, due to the time difference between India and Canada. He patiently explained how the remote worked and I was a good listener. At around 4 am in the morning, I went down to the living room to try my hand at it. After a great deal of effort, I finally got the picture, but there was no sound. I pressed a few more buttons, more or less at random, and then there was no sound and no picture. I was left with only hope for a better future with more success. I looked around the room and there was a beautiful coffee maker with all kinds of buttons and displays. Just looking at it gave me great hope; maybe, one day, I will muster up the courage to actually use it.

Fast forward to my own home. We have a smart TV with three different remotes: one for the TV itself, one for the sound bar, and one for a little box that connects us to more channels. All the remotes work perfectly as we know what each  remote does and understand perfectly how to use them.

The Bhagawada Gita says that following one’s own dharma is better than following someone else’s dharma even if it seems more attractive. Change the word “dharma” to “remote” and the statement becomes relevant to today’s world. Follow your own remote and you will achieve success in life.

For me, the remote is symbolic of my spiritual journey. My internal remote helps me see the world better, as though it is a TV screen. If my internal remote works well, the picture is clear, otherwise it gets foggy, or simply disappears.

I suffered tragic losses as a teenager and, at that point, the battery on my remote simply died and the picture went blank. With time, the batteries got re-charged, with great help from spiritual beings like the Bengali saint Anandmayee Ma. Campus life at IIT Kanpur was also a great help. This campus has many amazing features but the best thing about it is the amazing library. It has a vast collection of books and magazines on almost every topic under the sun. I read all the books on spirituality that I could find; I even learned yoga on my own, with the help of books from the library; in those days, there were not too many yoga teachers around in Kanpur.

When I stepped out of the campus into the real world, the  internal remote became a little harder to use; the picture of the world outside was very blurry, with too many inputs. The business world is full of dubious characters who are out to either get you, or get something from you. In the real world, I got married and discovered relativity.

Einstein’s theory of relativity is comparatively straightforward and easy to understand. You just have to work your way through pages after pages of mathematics to discover that time and space are all relative. However, there is no mathematical formula to explain human relatives; Einstein would have been baffled completely.

In reality, dealing with relatives is not too bad for men. We can change channels very quickly by just pressing a button on our internal remote. For women, it is much, much harder. They have to leave their own home, come to a new home, and get no time to figure out how the new remote and the new TV screens work. More often than not, the picture gets all muddled up, with several channels displaying at once.

Things get better when both husband and wife try to figure out the remote together. If one partner misses a button, the other can find it. Things get even better with the arrival of children. As we all know, they are much better with gadgets than parents, and they can figure out remotes very quickly. They even know, instinctively, which buttons to press when dealing with their parents. Children cause a lot of pain when they are born but they also give us immense pleasure. This pleasure-pain relationship continues all our lives.

Luckily, my wife and I are both on the same spiritual path. We meet the same self-realized people, we go to the ashrams together, we do our practices together. We work the spiritual remote together and, it really helps with picture quality.

We survived the pandemic together. It was a period of great discovery as we had more time to browse  TV channels together. The biggest discovery happened when we found Om Swami ji on you tube, just by chance. We were immediately attracted by his clarity of thought and his simple, eloquent language plus his gentle humour. We sensed he spoke only from his own experience . He spoke our language, in our words, using our metaphors. As NRIs, we could relate to him completely.

Our remote is in good shape now; we see things with more clarity after listening to Swami ji. The problem, now, is with the TV set. It is getting old, and the components do not work as well as they used to. The picture quality is not there, the colours are not so sharp anymore and the best remote in the world cannot keep it working much longer.

Maybe, it is time to replace it with a newer model.