Did it really happen? Yes it did, the warmth of the blood sprinkling out of my intestine just made an impression on my senses to acknowledge that the acquaintance with a bullet is no more restricted to a cinematic experience but my body has just been subjected to it. Pain is still in queue to meet my senses as it is still busy negotiating with reality, if it really happened to me. The mind was oscillating from believing it has happened, to “no it can’t happen to me”. The thud sound of me falling on the ground and the head banging to the concrete pathway did the trick, ultimately my mind reasoned and accepted that I am going to die. Suddenly that thought crossed my mind, which comes so often to my mind, especially when I am leaving home to say bye to my parents or my wife. The thought of wanting to see them at least one more time, wanting to return back. This thought just jolted my mind and motivated to live little longer, just to see my mother back in India one more time. All the leftover energy was channelized to help me pick my mobile and dial 911.
All the recent arguments when she thought she was not good with me was causing enormous pain to her. Gargi was inconsolable, unlike all other emotional moments when she ensured to hide her tears from the world, this time her mind and heart was more than engrossed with the chances of not able to say ‘I love you’ to me again and getting an answer back ‘I love you too’. She just reached the hospital and after few steps, her feet collapsed and she fell down. Obviously her mind and feet were not in synch. The hospital corridor was full of security personnel and few my office colleagues, all puzzled off course. Everyone was shocked there obviously, but in the midst of this, I heard someone saying Kuli and Jason have been taken into custody by Pittsburgh police department. Someone clarified almost immediately, “they are just there at police station for questioning as they were accompanying Mush on this official trip”. There was lot of pain, fear, confusion and anxiety all around. Nothing of this sort had ever happened to many in their proximity and experiencing this in a foreign land was even more frightening. Few doctors came out of the operation theatre, Gargi gathered all her courage and strength to stand up and take a step towards the medical team. Just before she could spell out what she planned to ask, “How is he?”, her vocal cord gave up, wanting to cry hard but choked up. A part of her was evaluating all the good deeds she has ever done in her life and was anticipating God’s grace in exchange, from the doctor’s lips’, “he is out of danger”. It was not to be though, not yet. The surgeon announced, “Mr Mumshu Mishra is in coma, his intestine is heavily damaged along with part of the lower backbone”. The news was as bad as his pronunciation of my name. My name is Mumukshu Mishra, one who aspires for Moksha – liberation.
“Hey Kuli, I must tell you, you were great with your presentation for the ERP selection. It was exactly what manufacturing stakeholders were looking for, it gives enough insight to the stakeholders to ponder upon”. These words coming from client IT director was really heartening for someone who has just delivered his first major delivery. Jason was very happy with what Kulveer presented on the last day of the workshop. I interrupted in the meantime, “So Jason, what are your plans, are you leaving today only? If not, you can join us for dinner tonight. We are anyways going to spend our weekend in New York and go back home on Sunday evening”. It’s Kuli’s first trip to New York and he wanted to make best use of it. “Oh, so your family is also with you guys?!”, Jason asked. I presumed that Jason wanted to understand if our families are cool with us spending our weekends without them, so I explained to him. “No, this is purely old college mates trip. In fact me, Kuli and my wife have been batch mates during our college days. So, she understands fully, old buddies need a boys trip”. I guess Jason understood it and somewhere I felt he was envious of us for how we were going to have our boys time. He is in his late 40s and this is the time when I believe most people are faced with the self-inquiry, if they are still young. One wants to prove to self, they still have that in them or many a times a desperation to live whatever is left before they touch 50 mark. The best way to feel young is to socialize with the young ones and talk young. “Let’s have a toast for Kuli tonight”, Jason declared. We decided to meet at the Indian restaurant Utsav which was close to Time square, in two hours.
We decided to take the cab rather than taking metro from Secaucus. Since this extended stay after the conference was personal, we moved to a cheaper hotel in NJ and Secaucus being the closest one from NY, it was most appropriate for us. Kuli was very happy and excited. He was peeking out of the cab to see the skyscrapers for most of the time. We reached Utsav just in time for what we had decided beating the NY traffic. Within 5 minutes or so, Jason was there as well.
“So you are non-vegetarian and you drink alcohol as well, while Mush neither drinks nor he eats meat? Many Indians, I have seen not only don’t eat meat but they feel very strongly about it. But then many like Kuli do eat meat and this makes me think it cannot be something fundamental”, Jason observed and inquired. I have often explained this to my American friends when asked and I have often sensed a presumption of hypocrisy and inconsistency in our belief system. I have also seen many of fellow Indians, going all out to bash our social practices before an American assuming this makes them look progressive in front of them. Suspecting Kuli could also follow the same route for it was his first such non official interaction with an American, I quickly jumped in and addressed the question by explaining the diversity of India and deconstructing various beliefs and hear-says about Indian culture. While we were deep in this conversation, Kuli already had consumed couple of pegs and was all set to show his philosophical side to us. Kuli belongs to the class of those poor fellows who carry so many unexpressed desires and thoughts within, wrapped under the worldly roles and responsibilities which they play with full honesty. But it is not so difficult to get them reveal their inner side. Give them their booze and they will snivel it all. “Don’t you get tired wearing this fake mask all the time”, Kuli banged his glass on the table and looked straight into my eyes. He declared, “you are a lucky bastard! You get everything so easily, things for which others need to earn through lifetime’s hard work”. I somehow knew what was this about. The astonishing part for me was that, this was playing in his mind to this extent and intensity that he just could not hold his angst against me with few pegs of drink, that too in front of our client with whom we would be mostly showing the best in us. It was as if he had been waiting for the best time to insult me and he chose this stage. Jason was still figuring out what was my being lucky to do with the subject we were discussing, it came from nowhere. He could clearly make out, something was not good between us. “Being lucky is a good thing, don’t we always wish good luck to our loved ones”, Jason tried to lighten the moment. “Not when you know the person is a serial offender of depriving someone else’s right, just through his luck”, Kuli responded while maintaining his stare at me. Jason was quick to reason Kuli, “That is what luck is all about, isn’t it? Luck is a big business in America and everybody celebrates it. You would see those big casinos in every corner. There is full scale gambling industry which transacts millions of dollars daily. So if you want to measure your fortune, no good place than America. Actually you have Atlantic City only couple of hours drive from here. We can all go there tomorrow and see how lucky is Mush”.
“Go for it, get corrupted for once Mush”, Jason yelled from behind, while I was standing tentatively in front of the big fortune wheel slot in Trump Taj Mahal. I never liked being in casino, at least as a player. As an observer, I would still fancy my chances to see a place with so many emotions meet together to take control over a supposedly normal human being and get him/her behave abruptly. Here I was as a player, not feeling good about myself, but I did not want to make much fuss about morality, ethics, my philosophy etc. I decided to play. It is interesting, the moment I decided to play the fortune wheel slot, I was looking at what were the big jackpot amounts to be won and my eyes got stuck at number two from the top and it said 1.0 million dollars. In two minutes I was half through what I would do with the money, like clearing out all the debt, the home loan which I took from the bank, buy a land for my dream project, going back to India immediately and what not. Even though short lived but it was a wonderful feeling and I could reconcile with my mind and quietly admitted as to why people gamble. Human mind is funny, it has the ability to merge irrational thought with a rational one to derive a real plan. I started with my victory amount of million dollars and then planned for my future and very soon all my plans were covered with 90% money still left to be spent and this lead me to think winning million dollar is not possible and I should reduce my expectation. My new figure of winning amount came down to 100K dollars. Fortune wheel was the most expensive slot, it costs $100 for each person. I realized I did not have cash, so I borrowed it from Kuli to buy my ticket. We were in the queue with at least 30 odd people ahead of us. Soon the queue was cleared with no win reported as yet. Kuli and Jason tried their luck too, only to realize their $100 wasted. Until now, logically I should have reasoned myself to forget about my calculations from the expected win, but on the contrary the logical and imaginary both sections of my mind were active in believing that I was going to win. And the illogical I, was right, I won. “I told you, how lucky this bastard is”, Kuli shouted. Jason’s eyes and mouth both were open for an extended moment which clearly has to do with the insanity he had just witnessed. I had just won 300K dollars.
It is quite a weird feeling, as if I am watching my own body, supposedly in coma, lying on the hospital bed with so many machines, tubes fitted to my body to ensure it continues to be called as alive, and doctors team was working on me with scary tools. Probably they were going to cut my body for the surgery like I had seen so many times in movies but this time it was my own body and it was frightening like hell even though I was not feeling any pain. I decided to take my mind’s focus to something else to ignore that uncomfortable feeling of seeing myself operated. Since, I had experienced a strange Kuli, my mind decided to investigate the root cause, and it immediately flashed the memory of Sep 2010 party which I had hosted for the team to celebrate my onsite opportunity to travel to US: “Hey Ravish, did you hear anything from Kulveer, when did he leave?”, I inquired about Kuli’s whereabouts while we were waiting patiently for him. I myself called him couple of times only to hear switched off announcement from the pretty Airtel lady. This made me assume he is traveling through metro. We waited for another 30 minutes outside the mall and then we decided, it is better to reserve the seats in the restaurant and wait from there. What a timing to enter the restaurant, my phone was ringing with Kuli’s name flashing. “Reached?”, I inquired immediately, only to hear “Sorry” from the other side. Kuli expressed his apologies and said he has to go back home to attend some surprise guests and that he had already taken return route metro but could not call due to network issues. I had hardly anything left to say than just saying “we will miss you in the party”. Everybody cheered and congratulated me in the party for getting selected for the new onsite opportunity. Well, the party was over and I was returning home, not in a cheerful mood though but with a very heavy and sad heart for what I learnt about Kuli through few of the conversations in the party. What I gathered in the party, totally contradicted what Kuli told me for why he could not make it. Apart from this, there were few more things which came up from the chit chat with the team. Saket, Ravi, Nilanjana and Surabhi, all shared something or the other, none in a complaining mode though but in various different contexts which lead me in the same thought. And all these talks made me feel like, I have been such an idiot to be ignorant of how frustrated and disappointed Kuli has been all this while. Onsite position in USA was the final nail in the coffin. The seed was probably sown three months back when I was suddenly declared project lead, one who has been consistently average grader and more importantly a fresh entrant to the team, as against few seniors in the team and someone like Kuli who had been in this project since its inception and by far the best performer. Suddenly I was seeing many things which were in front of me since long but I somehow missed to realize. I was not mad on Kuli for he lied to me, instead I was feeling so bad for him. I could imagine how uncomfortable it would have been for him in the party. Somehow a feeling of guilt was creeping in my mind for how Kuli had to hide his inner emotions and had to pretend as if everything was okay. I decided to go straight to Kuli’s house and talk it out, I just couldn’t imagine to face him in the office with these unresolved issues. Kuli opened the door and his expression was exactly like he was caught red handed. “Let’s go for a short walk”, I insisted and Kuli having imagined what is going to transpire in this talk, he quickly agreed for a walk outside. For the first five minutes it was all silence, we both did not know how to start the conversation. The sound of our slippers through the cement pathway was so loud in my brain, I decided to do the talking and escape from the slipper’s noise. “You have problems with me, you should have spoken to me”, I urged Kuli. He immediately responded, “Is it that straight, what do you expect me to have told you?”. He just got his opportunity to vent it all out, he asked me in return, “You tell me , who do you think is more deserving to lead this team and then get this onsite opportunity”. I was actually not prepared for this kind of direct question, rather a declaration that I am worthy of nothing, like whatever I have achieved or was rewarded with, it was a fluke and I did so by stealing away someone else’s right. “Kuli, I have always maintained that you are one of the best resource that certainly qualifies you as a deserving one to lead any team and to get all the best opportunities be it onsite position or whatever, but it just happened that this new management felt that I could be probably useful as a leader and one who could be the front face for our customer. It is never about questioning your capabilities but probably is making best use of available resources. We both have studied together in same college, you have known me from days beyond our workplace, don’t you see any good in me? It is just a chance that right now some of my qualities stuck with our account manager.” I tried to reason him with my perspective. He was in no mood to hide any of his emotions now, he just went on pouring all his mind, “Here you go. Yes, the best and probably the only quality of yours is, you are born lucky. You get everything so easily. Look around, don’t you see people working like hell to even earn a penny and you get all the big things which people would dream about, in a gift wrapped with fine decorations with a tag sticking which reads as your ‘achievements’. I have a word for it, ‘shameful’. On top of it, you have audacity to roam around wearing a mask of sadhu, preaching gyan to everyone. You keep on telling people that you desire nothing, you are not ambitious, you don’t need wealth, you flaunt being a kind person through your charity. People can be fool MM, but I know exactly how you play it. You don’t need wealth but you need everything which is bought through wealth. All your stuff are expensive, I have not seen you traveling by public bus, instead always travel by reserving a taxi. Basically you always live like a Nawab and pretend like a Sadhu. Isn’t it ironically hypocritical! You tell stories about how you want to run away and teach in your own school established for poor kids, and then you would grab the first opportunity to go onsite and earn green dollars. Why don’t you stay here to fulfill your dreams of wandering in India, constructing your school, writing, filming and what not. Leave this job for others who are ambitious, materialistic and at the same time focused and hard working for their goals which are not in the dream but are there to be measured and realized.”, Kuli was continuously speaking, probably he knew once he stops he might be back in the world and he would never speak again about these things. He just wanted to say it all. Those sentiments of his were really painful for me, part of me was shocked but then one part had started to search the logical explanation for this. Regardless of it being justifiable or not, I was fuming with anger, I mean how could he think so low of me. He knew me for so long, I have been the first one he looked up to, for help and I always went extra mile to help him. Didn’t he know my passion, how emotional I am for few things. I had answers for all his charges, but I was in no mood to answer him. Why answer someone who is supposed to be knowing all this and is just putting blames on me for his failures. “Ok, stop it now, enough of it. You have so much of toxin in your mind for me. I can’t do anything about it and I do not owe any explanation to you. You have to resolve it yourself. Let me also tell you, I have been confused and not sure if I wanted to go abroad, but I am clear now. I am catching my flight to US on 17th October.”, I had to stop him and shout out loud with what I had to say. I immediately took off from there, leaving Kuli in that parking lot.
It was 11.15 PM and my rickshaw was still crawling in the Connaught place traffic. It would take another 50 minutes or so to reach Gurgaon. I was somehow not irritated with the traffic today, instead I was praying for getting more time on the road as I was floating in pain for what I just had to hear from Kuli about myself. There are times when it is extremely painful to discover that your friends, loved ones whom you expect to know about you, your pain, your struggle, but they are so engrossed with their issues that they don’t have a second to spare for you. And here I was with the other extreme where my friend, who I thought knows about me was accusing me of something of which I thought I have been victim myself. When would my chance come to earn empathy from my loved ones. The deep sadness I was in that moment suddenly drawn me into the memory lane, back into college days.
Salman shouted, “Guys, I am going to the hostel, have to reach college within an hour. Anyone wanting a ride can join me immediately”. We were practicing on the cricket field adjacent to the hostel and Salman was referring to the third semester result declaration in sometime in college when he said he has to reach college within a given time. I was in a peculiar frame of mind. I always thought, or may be it was a pretense that the result would not matter to me and I always played my part to live that thought by not studying enough. But in some corner of my heart, I knew that it did matter, at least to a part of me who had been constantly believing that I am the best but failed to establish through certified results. This state of tentative mind goes back to my schooldays when I surely was a bright student but did not have results as per my expectations or rather my father’s expectations. Despite all the distractions I was enslaved with and lack of my honest hard work as compared to what few of my classmates used to put in, I firmly believed that I was unlucky for I never topped. I think, at some point of time I accepted my fate of being 2nd/ 3rd best, than ‘the best’ with the level of commitment I could afford for studies. It was actually the lack of appreciations in my life, which led me crave for it and in turn feel so strongly of me being unlucky. The appreciation which I was looking for, was from my father who was never satisfied with what I was to offer in terms of results. He was the best during his schooldays and he wanted to hear the same about me from others. I was a different child though, introvert, emotional, observant, curious, imaginative but not focused at all. But after all I was a child of the same society with certain definition of success and it did play significant role in shaping my psychology and my reactionary behavior during that period. There were moments when I tried to reason myself about my results, the other part of me had ample examples and reasons to convince me that I was unlucky. I had reached to a point where I was struggling within myself to convince if I was of any worth. By then, I had lost all interest in studies. I kind of started hating books. My aim was to get just enough marks to be in “first class” grades which I always managed through minimal effort. By then, my parents were also convinced that I was unlucky which in a way provided a lot of relief for some time by easing the burden of expectations. The motorbike honk was loud enough to bring me back into the presence. “Hey Salman, let me come with you”, I reserved the back seat of Salman’s motorbike. In an hour, I was in the college before most of my hostel mates, which was actually a rare sight for many. I was among the exclusive few who had lowest attendance for continuous two semesters and we were rewarded with letters sent to our home. There are moments when you are faced with your nightmares which you are not even ready to imagine. It was the same feeling while standing in front of the notice board and seeing my semester result, my heart was crushed and the heartbeats were producing the loudest sound ever. First time in my life, I had failed, not in one but three out of the five papers. That sinking feeling is still so fresh in my mind. I remember everything around me was moving, I could not hold to stillness of anything. My dad’s face was flashing and the only thing which was coming to my mind was to run away from everything. First time the feeling was not so much for what to answer to my dad but it was more for the possibility of him accepting the defeat and the fact that his son is no more going to win glory for him. Suddenly the moving objects and the constant vibration sound was put to rest through a pat on my back, I turned back to see the anxious face of Kulveer. “How are your marks, MM?”, he asked. My classmates called me MM, not just as short form of Mumukshu Mishra but it worked well for my short height as well. Before I could say a word, he announced his result along with his disappointment of coming second ranker to Harish in the same breath. He then went on telling the story of how he lost it by a margin of just five marks which he lost only because he was letting someone to copy his answer sheet. I did not even wait for him to complete his blabber and walked away. I always had this in my mind that I am not the God’s favorite child for the kind of misfortune I had been carrying but it was by far the worst feeling in my whole life. I could not accept that there would be a day in my life when I will be standing as a failure like this. Those classmates of mine, whom I was teaching about how to solve the most complex problems of toughest papers, were congratulating each other because they had just secured distinction marks. Kulveer, was telling me stories how frustrated he was for not announced as the topper, and in this he forgot how he was taking my help to understand the Boolean algebra and other concepts of digital electronics. No one would care to remember how bright I was and would only conveniently remember the result because that helps them claim how talented they are. All this because the cruel God chose to make me so unlucky.
I reached home while my mind was still trying to reconcile the paradoxical situation with two extremes about myself I was faced with –One, Kuli’s allegations that I have achieved everything only through my luck, second, my memories of college day when I was crushed to find myself convinced of being the most unlucky person and having contrary thoughts about Kuli as to how an average student like him could earn all the glory by putting hours of mugging up the books.
One thing which everyone, especially we Indians are so sure about, is our belief in the US law and order, thanks to Hollywood movies. Over the years we have seen movies advertising FBI’s capabilities only affirming our belief that nothing can go wrong with such security system and if at all it does, culprits would be caught in no time to only enforce fear of law. How ironic is it to look upon my almost dead body and confess that it took this situation to make me question this notion of being secured. I now realize, it takes just a moment of getting shot to suddenly change the whole perspective. I was not sure if I would be able to go back and tell everyone of how and what I think about it now. Suddenly the statistics of so many shootings, abductions, robbery, drugs crime which I always knew but never made any deep impression to my mind were making so much of sense to me. It has been more than 30 hours when I was shot in the North side neighborhood of Pittsburgh and nobody including the Police had any clue about what has happened. I just heard someone saying Kuli and Jason are taken to Police station for questioning. That is expected as they were the ones who accompanied me on the New York trip and then to Atlantic city and so far, at least this was established that the shooting was somehow related to the big cash resulted through my ‘luck’. What is unexpected is the direction this investigation is about to take. Cops had already spotted multiple bank transactions by Kuli with significant amount. There was an eight thousand dollar amount transferred to his Indian bank account, which he had deposited to his US bank account in last two days. And then some five thousand dollars cash was found from his apartment which were of the same series of cash won by me from casino. Not only this, but he was spotted in the East Hills neighborhood a day before this shooting took place. Kuli is going to be one of the suspects in not just my case but also in the killing of a homeless named Jordan Carmichael. Oh yes, that poor fellow whom I had wished to use as my subject to fulfill one of my unexpressed dream is now a lifeless subject for the law enforcement agencies.
I had always wished to see an out of the world expression on the face of someone defeated in the worldly race of life, who is hopeless at the core and who has retired from dreaming without any expectation of any kind of miracle. I just wanted to meet that person and make him believe that anything is possible. I always wanted to hug that person and cry myself out on his shoulder to say ‘Thank you’. I almost achieved that moment and was excited as never before. My accelerated heartbeats along with my visibly blushing face were only proving the ecstasy I was experiencing. In my excitement to rush to this moment, I did not even care to ask for his permission and I lifted the loose plastic, to enter Mr. Jordan’s tent. Are you kidding me, he was sleeping in the dark. I was expecting him partying, enjoying and what not. I tried to awake him, “Hey Jordan, wake up man, it is time to celebrate”. There was no response so I torched my phone to illuminate the tent to check what is going on. What was there for me to see was something which I had never imagined in my wildest of dreams. First sight was of Jordan’s face with his stoned lifeless eyes, immediately the torch focus shifted to see the dark and thick blood stream coming out of his chest. Scared would be an understatement to describe my state of mind. Before I could collapse there, the trembling hand of mine was accidentally repositioned to change the focus of the torch to illuminate a face just behind Jordan’s body and that person had in his hands a gun pointed straight on me. I had a clear view of the face, it was a white man with both of his eyebrows and nose pierced, with some strange tattoo on the left side of his face. I learnt the phenomena called ‘instinct’ in true sense on that moment. With death in sight, my body responded immediately without wasting even a fraction of second, it stopped trembling and I performed my best dive outside the tent in the same very moment. All I wanted, was to reach to the end of this street to merge into the rather busy second avenue street. Just before I could take pride in my sprinting ability, my feet collapsed resulting me fall flat on the ground. The momentum helped my body roll on the street for couple of yards to finally stop just eight to ten feet short of the second avenue signboard. It was probably after I finally stopped rolling and attempted to make moves to stand up and run, I realized that it was the bullet piercing my body which has caused my fall and not my feet. Did it really happen? Yes it did, the warmth of the blood sprinkling out of my intestine just made an impression on my senses to acknowledge.
“It is still not making sense to me, I am experiencing something which is easily out of the world”, Jason finally uttered few words after an extended period of silence while he was trying to believe if someone’s luck could be this predictable. The other night Kuli was visibly complainant of me being so lucky to deprive deserving ones like himself. And now after what Jason witnessed, he was tempted to surrender to this whole idea of luck and destiny. Luck is something which he always believed in but it is the rareness and the unpredictability of it which makes it luck. What he just saw, was crazy, as a logically highly improbable thing happened with certain degree of predictability. The rationalist Jason needed some explanation and he immediately reserved the time for it, “I need a drink guys, probably that could help me settle with this absurdity”. Kuli too had a perplexed look on his face, he was dealing with too many emotions at that moment. At one hand he was jealous and extremely frustrated for why not he is the chosen one, on the other hand he too was fairly amazed to witness the extent of how lucky I was.
“So, do you have anything to say about this?”, Jason just gave me a look without expecting an answer in return. He ordered his drink and continued, “So Kuli’s observation must have some background, right?”. I had my orange juice served and I could not find a timely excuse to delay my response. I myself was pretty intrigued with what has just happened. Jason and Kuli’s spoken and unspoken expressions were strong enough and were making me feel guilty for winning this sum. I mean how ironic was that, we were still not in celebration mode but questioning how could I win. I took my two minutes to regain my sanity back, which I was confident would provide me some explanation to this situation. And I was back seeing things and in control of my thoughts. I asked Jason with confidence in my voice, “Jason, what do you think would have been the response of the owner of the casino if I were to go to him and tell about my victory? Would he be amazed and react like we are doing at the moment or he would just do a courtesy congratulation? Off course the later is more likely to happen, you would agree.”. “But this does not explain anything, it does not help to exonerate you from the label of ‘lucky’”, Jason added while taking the sip of his whisky. Kuli was quick to add, “You do not have any defense Mush, it is now well established what I always knew and was trying to tell yesterday. You know, there was a time when I had started Justifying your achievements but what happened today has only confirmed my original thoughts about you”. I patiently heard both of them and then reacted, “Both of you, if you can give me a moment, I can try to explain it, or rather bring some sense to this phenomenon for all of us while interpreting it.”. “If you can explain it, it would be one of the biggest secret of mankind revealed to me, please try”, Jason smiled and nodded to convey his agreement. “Jason, it is not a secret of the scale you are thinking, I will explain how. But for Kuli it is very important to understand as it could bring him lot of peace if he could try to understand what I have to say, he really needs it big time”, I tried to say these words in a very light way but hoping Kuli would receive it in a serious way. I looked deep into Kuli’s eyes and loosen my emotions, “Most of the incidents and facts, you use to charge me that I am undeserving of my achievements, are actually personal ones. These interpretations of yours are actually not so much about me but are about your own expectations. Leave this casino thing for a moment, I will deal with it little later. Let’s address all other possible instances where you felt I was extremely lucky and got my results not because I deserved it. During college days, if I can jog your memories, until last year of the college, you did not have any such complain against me or my luck. It was only during last year of college when I proposed Gargi and she accepted, adding to it my final year grades were shooting up, made you realize that I am unnecessarily lucky. Do you remember, when 2nd semester results were out, you had casually mentioned to me that I was extremely unlucky, as, according to you, I was among the brightest students and my grades were not doing justice to me. I am sure you would have forgotten, but I remember it very clearly, as it meant a lot to me then, for someone expressing so much of confidence in me while I was struggling in proving myself to others and my grades not helping me much. Then I was the unlucky fellow, right? Come to my selection as the lead for this assignment at onsite, you have the best person in front of you in Jason who could answer if his choice in me was correct then or I got lucky. My point is, the whole talk about one being lucky or unlucky is dependent on who is the observer, how much he knows about the context and if he has any personal emotion involved with the thing which as per him makes one lucky”. I was really charged up while letting out my emotions. These dormant emotions of mine were stimulated through Kuli’s pinching commentary on my life achievements. In addition to the then circumstance, interestingly it was the performance of my brain which was to my surprise lightening fast, was uninterruptedly providing me every possible points to present my case. Kuli was clearly not expecting a resurgent me and hence he was not at all amused. All these years he presumed my silence as my admission of his belief. “You know, everyone in the world including you and me gets to experience being lucky and unlucky both. The more you are passionate about your dreams, the more you crave for a thing, chances are you would be frequently tasting luck either sweetly or bitterly. The one who is indifferent to results, but is immersed in a task and focussed in enjoying the ride, hardly gets to think if he was lucky or not”. I thought I just nailed it but not quite yet. Jason was a true rationalist and he was not going to leave it easy so he drew to the fundamental question, “This is indeed an interesting philosophical take on the subject but it still does not explain why I should not call you lucky after you managed to win such a huge sum which is like one in a million kind of hit”. “Hey Jason, I am not trying to prove that it was not about luck. Let me say it, I am very lucky. But since I have been subjected to this situation from other side in past which led me to think deep about it and seek answers of what exactly is this phenomenon, I thought to share my findings. Just hang in for sometime with me and you may get some answers”, I said. I further continued after I emptied my glass, “You know, I really needed answers for myself, may be just to console me as I was extremely frustrated with almost everything in my life. I was continuously failing in whatever I tried and kept blaming it to my luck. It went to the extent that I became atheist and started arguing that God does not exist. It was odd for someone of a very orthodox Brahmin family which was God believing and fearing to the core. The problem was, I was blaming God for my failure and was simultaneously trying to prove that the reason of my failure does not exist”. I could not stop myself for a laugh on my self created paradox. After a very long time I saw a calmer Kuli who had a smile to share as well. Everyone loves hearing stories and somehow my story which was more of a preaching, stuck that interesting chord and both Jason and even Kuli who rarely took interest in such talks, were now arrested in listening to what I had to say. We were hungry so we ordered some snacks while I continued with my hate story with God. “Really, I had to reconcile with the existence of God with the admission that I am not his favorite child. This used to frustrate me even more as to why me. There were moments when I used to wake up in the middle of a night and cry while talking to lord Hanuman and ask him why he does not love me. The innocent me used to wonder, there are others who only pretend to do good things or they do in fear of God whereas I did out of my beliefs in the nobility, but still I would fail but these fakes would enjoy all the success. With all my pretense of my disgust with the lord, I had always that in some corner of my mind that he is very kind and someday he would be kinder on me as well. I do not remember an exact moment or a day when I realized I was converted as a believer but I do remember that precise moment when things started changing. It was when I took admission into college after the school was over, I moved to hostel and I got lot of time with myself without being continuously conscious of being gazed and judged by myself on the matter of my ability to come true to my father’s expectations. Suddenly I sensed lot of freedom from the tensed self, I was relaxed and first time in my life was out there to enjoy every moment of it. I started expressing myself more often and suddenly the introvert me was seen cracking jokes. For many in the college I had a great sense of humor making me a very charming person. In between, there were these moments when semester results would be declared and the ego in me would remind me of my misfortune, but these were now just the temporary outburst within myself and I quickly restored to my new self who hated to be sad. My failures became very important ornaments to me, they gave hell lot of meaning to my thought process. Kuli, you would remember there were occasions when you tried to remind me how careless and irresponsible I was with my studies and how great I could have done, had I been little serious. And you were always disappointed as you would find me either in the cricket ground or watching movies or roaming around girls hostel, but never in the classrooms. But it was not that I was not gaining knowledge, I think that was when I started to blend all my skills of scientific investigation with my spiritual thinkings with a fresh view and that did wonders in familiarizing me with enormous aspects of the truth. The lack of expectations loaded by my ego, allowed me to see things more clearly. I was so much in experiential mode that I hardly had time to spend on books. Slowly but definitely, I became someone who was more accepting and less complaining, simply because my degree of expectations from life had got a serious dent”. I sensed while listening to my story, Kuli who was a part of this story in someway, was little mellowed. Jason was loving it and so was I and while we all were immersed in it big time, I realized that the matter I wanted to address was “what is luck and can it be explained rationally”. I was now conscious to bring the narrative around ‘luck’ and I continued, “You know it is funny but since I became ‘wiser’ in dealing with the worldly definitions and when I was not chasing the success so much, the worldly success started happening to me. Majorly I was not rejoicing such moments for I had lost the crave for it but a part of me liked it as well, not to the extent that I would go extremely happy, but yes, I liked the appreciations, the applaud and mostly when my father would be visibly ecstatic and proud of my success. In all that, I somehow got caught up in the worldly race without exactly the intensity and desire to win, but just to disburse my duties. I would get decent results and the lack of my interest would let others, who knew about my passiveness, to attribute ‘luck’ to my success. Some, mostly my competitors, started calling it my hypocrisy as well. Basically I was performing against their expectations to be declared as lucky. Part of my mind always remained with my dreams and since I was consistently drifting from it due to my other worldly engagements, it started making me restless. I also sensed a significant depletion in my ability to dwell into the mystic zone through which I could derive lot of my answers. It was like I was given a box of wisdom which I had earned through my previous mind journeys but now I have been deprived of the control over the rein of this chariot which could take me into my amazing imaginary world familiarizing with wonderful ideas. Now, as part of this world I am speaking more and thinking less, just spending what I had gained through my earlier journeys. Let me give you another example out of my journey of luck. Have you ever seen a horse race? People put their bet on different horses and try their chances of winning and declare a horse lucky based on the result. Do you think the horses which are cursed or applauded after the race ever wanted to win the race. It is quite possible that they are racing just because this has been made their routine while their mind being somewhere else. Would these horses think in terms of luck, but the betters would certainly be tagging lucky and unlucky to those horses based on their performance against the associated expectations”. Jason suddenly interrupted, “Mush you are scrutinizing the whole concept of luck from the angle of human expectations and desires and the degree of attachment or detachment to the outcome but we are missing one very important aspect, which is the probability of the outcome. At the end it is the performance against the probability which qualifies one lucky, isn’t it? It is regardless of what one expects or not expect, if one outperforms the odds he or she is declared lucky”. For a moment I felt little irritated as it appeared as if Jason was not listening properly and he was still stuck at the same idea about odds and chances, but suddenly my mind sparked and I felt that everything was fitting perfectly into the well crafted script. I started speaking with a design in my mind to route them to my understanding, “A little while ago, I was telling that it all depends on how much one knows about the context and if one has some emotions involved while evaluating the luck factor. The first part of it would exactly explain the probability aspect. Let me explain it through an example. In a race, if you already have knowledge about the participating horses to the extent that you know which horse is going to win or in the case of a slot machine in casino you are the one who designed the algorithm of the machine and you know the winning number already, this neutralizes the probability factor right? There would still be people who would be putting their bet and praying for their luck, only because they do not know the result. And I am fine with this system of not knowing the future, as this is how it must be or else there would not be aspirations, dreams, and life, but again it is all about the balance. Ignorance and future knowledge could lead to two extremes, former can make one too much reliant on luck, fortune etc, the latter extreme is even more dangerous as it disturbs the whole fabric of existence and life. Just imagine, if we had the capability of knowing what is coming, how would that world be, boring! in fact there would be no world, nothing, just a static dead. It is another topic and I just do not want you guys to get bored with my blabber but in short both these extremes could make one karmaheen, not doing their job as they are supposed to”. Kuli was listening very quietly so far and was trying to digest and make sense of these things and simultaneously was measuring his journey as to where did he erred. He cleared his throat, more than for being able to speak properly, but as a natural instinct of announcing a tentative entry into the conversation, and softly said, “My family is also a religious, we also believe in God but ultimately I have been taught that only hard work pays, what you do is what you get. But I have seen throughout my life ample examples where someone who is non deserving gets a great deal of success with minimal effort. For instance, I have done all the hard work required, more than anyone around, and I am not comparing with you, I understand you are talented but still, do you honestly think I deserved only this much?There are many resources in other projects, other companies from our college who were far less talented than you and me but they are hugely successful, more than even you. Then there are cases like someone winning a lottery. I mean, knowing it in advance would remove the probability factory but it would still be a case of undue or unexplained advantage to few, Isn’t it?”. Jason nodded in agreement with Kuli and said, “Kuli is spot on, I do understand your theory of known and unknown which causes the anxiety but fact remains, we have situations where one happens to take away big, far more than what he or she deserved through his/her efforts. I feel that it certainly deserves a noun and what is the harm in ‘luck’? ”. I knew this was coming and was quick to respond, “That is the whole point, whom you are declaring as undeserving is a circumstantial hazard which creates a certain perception due to limited knowledge. It is your understanding of the context and not the whole truth. Simply put, everything has a reason, nothing is random in this universe howsoever discrete it may look. But yes, I agree we need definitions, identities, names for the things which we perceive, as the perceptions are what form our context. They are essentials of the gigantic cosmic play which is what we call as life, world, universe and what not. Luck is no different. The need to interrupt or revisit the fundamentals of these definitions, are when they start overpowering the root and create confusion by pretending the root themselves. Kuli’s psyche for instance have been adversely impacted and he definitely needs answers which could settle lot of his frustrations, you might not need it for that purpose but then you seem curious to know which is why this conversation. I am only trying to withdraw you guys from being a participant and enroll you as a watcher for a moment”. I was feeling happy not only for I thought I made a great case but also because I sounded very intellectual to myself. Jason was listening very carefully. All his life he had been subjected to a certain kind of life style through his upbringing and his educational training. His understanding of life was limited to just three things – be a good man, work very hard and enjoy the life to the fullest. This understanding of his translated into a very fixed routine which consisted of never forgetting to do social etiquettes, occasional donations to church, facilitating every possible needs and demand of his family, for maintaining himself as a good man, always be on top of his professional responsibility to serve his instincts of work hard to achieve his aspirations and watching movie, participating in social events, never missing his family vacations for the enjoyment part. This orientation of his never let him exposed to other aspects of life. The conversation we were having was very new to him but it somehow touched a chord and drawn him into thinking. Kuli was on the other hand was in confused state of mind. He was calmer than before and came to some compromise for his problems with me but my explanation of deserving and non deserving was in a way justifying his failures and his ego was resistant to this idea. “Guys, it is now late and we shall go, we have to leave early tomorrow for Pittsburgh”, Kuli interrupted. Jason looked at his watch, it was announcing 12.40 AM which was late by his standard as well, but he was not ready to leave at this point as he was really deep into it and his curiosity still had some thirst left. He responded to Kuli, “Man, this is a special day, we don’t win this huge bet everyday. We can stretch our celebration a bit. Let’s stay a little longer”. He then turned to me while ordering for a fresh peg and said, “So what you are suggesting is that there is always more to it than what we sense it is. But isn’t it just a theory, I mean it does explain many unexplained things like ‘luck’, but only theoretically. We do not have any evidence to tie a reason to such events. In one of the documentary on Netflix or somewhere which I do not clearly remember, it talked about Indian beliefs and it specifically mentioned rebirth and stuff like that. I have a feeling that your explanations are coming from that belief system only. The point is, it is just a belief but not complimented so much with evidences”. Jason was smarter than I thought, I did not expect him to correlate it to Indian spirituality this quickly. But it actually saved lot of my effort and time to bring him to my narrative. I had spent years to dwell into such thoughts from so many angles that I was convinced having most of the answers, at least for Jason. The only answers which I would not have, would be for my own questions. Anyways, I asked for two minutes for a leak which I could also use to arrange my thoughts in the best manner to derive some meaning for Jason. I was back from the restroom and started my narration, “You know, I am really appreciative of how you sensed an element of rebirth concept in my talk, that was really intelligent of you and also confirms that you were listening very carefully. Coming to your doubts over the authenticity of belief system, I only have to say, yes it is just a belief, the belief over the experiences lived by our ancestral seers and then recorded for the generations to come. Aren’t all our actions based on some or the other belief system. Aren’t all the scientific inventions or discoveries or theories hinged to certain beliefs. Now, do not confuse traditions with the fundamental spiritual beliefs. Traditions are symbolic appropriation of the spiritual ideas for normal human beings who might not have the ability to comprehend those complex spiritual ideas in its raw form. Down the line, these traditions might get construed in diverged meanings based on contemporary needs or take altogether a different route but it is the human ignorance and not the spiritual belief to be blamed for.
“The whole universe is a manifestation of a causal propagation process, every moment infinite explosions of ideas and incidents are taking place, causing billions and trillions of ideas /incidents being instigated through respective root ideas. Many ideas or incidents die in the process to leave no impact or minimal impact while few sustain through the supportive environmental progression to leave greater impact. The Hindu philosophy explains this causal phenomena through ‘Karma Siddhant’. I would be using few Sanskrit terms which would be non-translatable in nature but I will try to explain them as needed. You can associate Karma to actions we perform and Siddhant is a proven theorem or formulae. Our belief is that everything in this universe has a cyclic nature. Likewise there is a karma cycle which resides in the root of any other perceived or unperceived cycle. Simply put, any form in this universe takes birth, lives to perform karma, dies and then ultimately is born again into a new form according to the karmic residue of past life. Every being has an inherent and intrinsic nature which is called its ‘Dharma’, and it has a great role in what kind of karma is performed by the being or what kind of result is derived through the performed karma. If the karma performed is in alignment with the Dharma, it is destined to give positive result or it would leave a residue for future results with a favorable perception. One may call it as karmic transactions, with each leaving a debit and credit attributed to the affected or involved parties of any form. Mind you, unless you clear off all your transactions, meaning, you pay all what you owe to respective parties, you cannot withdraw from the business of what we call as the karmic cycle. Any karma which has a motive or emotion attached to it, is bound to create a spiral series of other karma and respective residual imprint. On the other hand, any karma performed, which is detached from any motive but is like a Dharmic expression, meaning ,which happens almost naturally, does not leads one in another cycle. The latter are the ones which is advised by our forefathers to retire ourselves from this cycle and attain Moksha. You know my name Mumukshu is derived from the same concept which means who desires Moksha”. “Oh wow, so this is all behind such a weird name”, Jason smiled. I further continued with the momentum I had gained to explain my favorite phenomenon, “When a child is born, the usual thought is that it is beginning from zero but just think of this karmic theory which says, even though it is a start in one frame or connect but the child has its own karmic residue from past life which plays important role in its future karmic inclination and results it produces through its karma. One can call it as ‘Prarabdha’, which is closely related to a ‘lucky’ instance. The karma just performed is what one could see to derive their degree of expectations but the prarabdha impacting the result which is related to karmic residue from past life is unseen and imperceivable through senses and hence we tend to device a term called ‘luck’ to describe it. I have a great example which I think would make lot of sense to you as this would not have mentioning of such heavy and indigestible terms from Sanskrit”. The idea stuck to my mind while I overheard someone at the adjacent table mentioning about his saving in the bank account. It suddenly flashed a series of thoughts in my mind. I did not waste a minute and jumped to explain my just discovered thought, “We all have a bank account and we deposit our earning in it. Just imagine a situation where, God forbid, an accident happens while we are driving back and it causes injuries to my head to the extent that I lose my memory. I move back to India to start a new life with a new self identity. After few years, I start working on a simple job with the remains of my past instincts and newly learnt skills. In this new life, I make new social relationship through my new lease of worldly transactions which are mostly derived through my new motivations and struggle in this new life. These new relationships and worldly encounters earn me new set of happiness and sorrow, new set of debits and credits. One fine day, I receive a letter from PNC bank from USA along with a check of final settlement of 50K USD for a investment I had made while I was in US. Now this would be like a lottery to me and to my new acquaintances for whom I am just a poor chap with limited financial worth. Now, what would you call this as, a lucky coincidence?”.
“What is the plan now Mush”, Jason gently turned to me for a brief moment to ask and then restored his eye sight on the road while driving. His question had an element of curiosity to know if my plan would be in coherence with the heavy talks I had just delivered. We were going back to hotel after, easily the most eventful day of our lives. Kuli was tired enough and was lying lifelessly on the backseat. My response to Jason’s curiosity was what jolted his senses to arouse a bodily reaction. “Jason, you know my mind is right now in too many thoughts, jumping from one imaginary scene to another. I think this is a defining moment of my life, God has given me a chance to accelerate on the road to my dreams. Well I cannot stop thinking about my school which I always wanted to build. Then, I can wander into the jungle, cities, villages, in Himalayas and all those exciting places in India and meet people, laughs with them, cry with them, share with them. I would enjoy the luxury to go for long trips and most importantly doing nothing but thinking, without having to worry for my job. By that, I am reminded that the first thing I would do is, resign from my job and do a handover to Kuli”. All of us laughed together as soon as I was finished with my resignation plan. While we were still laughing, Jason jumped in saying he has a news for Kuli as well, “Kuli, so the casino turned out to be lucky for you as well, now you would get that managerial role, you were always eyeing for”. Kuli was like stumped, his laughter was suddenly sounding unreal as he was probably on board with a new series of thoughts, is it really possible, what if, what should I do next, etc. “By the way guys, you know very well how much I hate casinos and it was only for you guys that I happened to play and won this huge sum. I have to share some of it with you guys”, I smiled and announced my will to Jason and Kuli. I knew it would be very awkward situation for them so I again pressed my intention that it is actually very selfish of me and they do not have to speak a word but only accept what I have to offer. There was a brief moment of awkward silence and I had to say something to end it. I said, “Sorry guys, you can speak in case you think my offer is too little” and everybody had a extended laugh this time. Once we settled with our laughter, we took a deep breath and I had one more ask for them. “I need your help for something. I promise you, it would not just a help for me but a lifetime experience for you as well. If you are thinking you just had one tonight, you are mistaken and I promise, you would confess the same later”. Kuli promptly asked, what is it now which you are so certain to be even bigger experience. I urged them to listen carefully and not ridicule the idea, “You have to search for a candidate for me, someone who according to you is the poorest and miserable creature you might have seen, who do not have slightest of hope in his or her life. The whole idea is to surprise that person with the magnitude of our donation. I just want to see a hope and belief in that person’s eyes that it is possible, miracles do happen. Guys, we have got a chance to witness that moment, let’s do it”. This was the second time both of them were caught perplexed with what I had to say. Jason again turned and just had a look at me without saying anything. “Guys, I do not know what you are thinking about me at the moment. Possibly you might be thinking, I am slightly out of my mind and unable to think straight, throwing away my money possibly to prove a self created image of mine, right?! I just want to say, do not worry so much for me. Just join me in experiencing something out of the world.”, I was confident, to have convinced them. We were back in Pittsburgh on that weekend and for next three days we were on a run in spending dollars. I shared twenty thousand dollars with both of them of which five thousand was for donations. I had a condition on the mode of donations, it had to be done personally to the actual recipient. I wanted them to experience it while being in the proximity of the recipients. I had often seen different homeless person on different days near the traffic light in front of Robinson township Ikea store. Then there were Giant Eagle and Walmart stores where I could see homeless people. For next two days, I met at least ten homeless people and donated them a sum of the range of 500 to 1000 dollars. I gathered enough courage to hug one of them, otherwise I would leave immediately as I could not face the person. The other day I visited North side with Kuli on Jason’s recommendation. Jason was right, I got my candidate for my dream project, which was to change someone’s life upside down, to witness miracle. Mr Jordan Carmichael was to receive 50K US dollars.
Have you ever tried thinking about death. I mean how would one feel on that exact moment of finality? I have often tried to think about it, the best way is obviously to virtually create the moment of own death. As soon as I used to get immersed to that thought of dying, a stream of thoughts would occur in the concurrently active auditor me and would be asking some pertinent questions to the dying me. Are you sure these observations are not unreal? You do not have single account of a dead person about how it feels while dying. Aren’t the imaginary visuals of death based on your own past learning through movies, readings etc? We see things as we are conditioned to see it through our continuous training of ‘what is reality’.The fact is, we are unable to see majority of things around us, unable to hear most of the sound vibrations in the vicinity, only because we do not have knowledge of its existence and hence we are not trained about it. Often we observe that once we learn a new word we start hearing it in so many conversations, when we meet a person first time, we start noticing that person in the neighborhood who lived there for years. Again the reason is we see what we are conditioned to see. It is quite possible that animals might be seeing different things in the world than what we see. Aliens, if they happen to visit earth might see creatures which we never saw. Most of the humans see similar things because more or less we are trained to think and perceive in similar way. But even in humans there are cases when two different people see very different things in not just an abstract but even in an absolute physical scene . So the question is, if there is anything which could be called as absolute reality or everything is personal or relational reality based on the observer’s developed biases?!. At the core, quantum physics debunks the perfectness of a particle or a wave and facilitates space for the paradox. Now, since human civilizational evolution has been nothing but defining things, so one has to choose from the possibilities of their liking to draw the picture of their own reality. Death should not be any different but a perception based on how it has been described by the wise. Same goes for the experience of death as well, the mind must be creating an illusionary picture of the death even before it arrives believing that it has arrived. But hold on, if death is the end, of which nobody has any preconceived knowledge or has been revealed by any dead, then it has to be an original experience of the dying entity. It was becoming too confusing and I was caught in a self created loop of thoughts. While the multiple me, was still in this deep deliberation, I suddenly saw a sudden hyperactivity in the the hospital corridor. A medical team was rushing to my room after the nurse reported some of my vital’s readings from the equipments. I was now convinced that I was going to die. I was feeling bit of anxiety while waiting to face death, but then something was weird, as I was not feeling a thing. I could see the team of doctors working on my body and the machines showing pulses confirming I was still alive. How could I see my own body from a distance and not feel a thing of that body, am I now a ghost and departed from my body. But how could I, as I am not dead yet. Oh this means, the thing which I am feeling as myself is different than the live body lying on the bed there. In that moment I was probably computing faster than any super computer, I was having millions of concurrent thoughts, millions of memories flashing in front of me and I was slowly elevating away from my body. After a while, the thought of that being my body was evaporating fast and there was almost no association with that body left in my thoughts. It became a just a body like many other bodies I was watching. In that very moment of disassociation from the body, I felt a blast within me which instantly scattered me to every possible space I could imagine. I was in that room, in the space, in the ocean, in the air. I was filling the space faster than light but yet was unable to feel self. I was able to see so many things simultaneously, things which were beyond geographies like my mother in India, my siblings in different cities of the world, my wife Gargi in the hospital corridor. I was able to see things simultaneously irrespective of the timestamps as well. I was looking at my childhood incidents, and guess what, I could see an eighty year old Gargi looking at my portrait. Just when I almost concluded that I have achieved Moksha while floating in the great gigantic ocean of the cosmos, I sensed the sobbing of my mother, it lead me to hear sobbing of my father and then of my siblings and Gargi. Suddenly all the strings of associating me with my relations were reactivated and I felt like arrested, chained and suddenly forcefully sucked from my momentary feeling of omnipresence to a definitive pointed realization.
I was no more Mukt but remained as Mumukshu, the one aspiring for Moksha!