Quite recently, a friend admitted over beer: “I can’t take it anymore…I don’t know what my life’s purpose is…I think I should die!” I restrained myself from sermonising about the whole ‘purpose of life’ issue and trying to make him see that our purpose in life IS to find a purpose. Instead, I just sat back quietly drinking the tangy Corona in little sips from the bottle directly. I was at a famous cafe in Mumbai and was surrounded by young, beautiful looking people- did all of them have a ‘purpose’ in life? I was looking at a twenty-something guy across the room. Did he have a purpose in life? Does the girl sitting at the table opposite to us have a purpose in life? The steward served us salad and smoked beef. He was a little bald man with a French cut beard. Did he have a purpose in life? Did I?
In the last half decade I have moved in and out of jobs, jobs that I thought were ‘well paying’, ‘exciting’, ‘has the potential for good exposure’, ‘glamorous’, ‘that would take me places’, but never ‘all-of-the-above-all-at-once’. And hence I was once again back to square one- looking out. And surprisingly enough the whole thought of quitting and chilling at home excited me. It was a disturbing thought though: loving doing nothing. How can I, being the careeristic girl that I am, love doing nothing?
We went Dutch on the bill and took a cab. It had started raining and I left my friend at his place before heading home. At night as I lay watching the rain lash the window pane, I couldn’t help but feel utterly confused regarding where my life’s purpose lay. My friend had tickled that part of me that I never wanted to think about. Now it started chasing me like my own shadow. I have to find a purpose. That friend never called the next two days. A little worried, I called him from my office on the third day. When he finally answered the phone, he sounded miles away and I though I heard the sound of surf. “Hey, I was a little worried! Where are you? Are you okay?” “Oh I’m fine Debbie! And guess what, I think I know my life’s purpose now!” “And that would be…?” “Debbie I am back in my hometown. I am trying to get a license to open my own photography studio!” It’s gonna take a while but I know that once it happens, you’ll be the first one to know!” “Wow! Thats great! I’m happy for you! But what about your job?” He worked with an advertising agency that paid him enough to maintain a plush one bedroom apartment in a city like Mumbai. “Oh I quit it yesterday!” Trust me Debbie, it feels great!” “Oh! Wonderful! Well, congratulations! Hey…uh I’m gonna have to call you back later…You take care and good luck!” “Thanks Debbie! I’ll call you!”
I didn’t want to admit it but I felt a sweet pang of jealousy along with the happiness that I felt for this friend who had a very unusually quirky but creative bent of mind. So he’s finally doing what he loves to do. Is that it? Our purpose in life lies in doing what we love to do? Is it that simple? Yes. But we have to take it with a pinch of salt. Doing what we love to do may not get us that so-coveted corner cabin in office with the full view of the city. It might not get us that car or home loan that we so patiently wait for. It might not get us through the day without having to think how to cut costs and spend wisely (which your’s truly is very poor at!). It might not get us the gym membership to rub shoulders with the hot babes and hunks. It might not get us those Friday night passes for the hippest club. It might not get us the BlackBerry/iPhone/PDA, the Mac Book, the Sony Bravia, the Rs 100,000 painting for the living room, the hi-fi surround sound car audio system, the Gucci and the Gabbanas, the Choos and the Ferragamos, the twice-a-year-getaway-to-Rome/Paris/Morocco, the sea-facing apartment, the powder-blue matt finish wall paint for the bedroom, the Doms and the Perignons in your cellar every month, the classic collection of leather-bound-rare-books in your library- that you are never gonna read, just show-off, the Rs 1000 haircut every quarter to keep you looking like a million bucks (not well and wisely spent though!) phew! I can add a thousand more items to that list of ‘things-we-can’t-get-without-a-regular-well-paying-job’. But wait a minute, do we really need all of those? ALL OF THOSE??
Think about it. How does it matter if an apartment is sea facing or hill facing. How does it matter if your bed room wall is yellow instead of powder blue (matt). What should matter is if we are happy, at peace with ourselves and our work. What matters is if at the end of the day we lay in our beds thinking- bloody good day, can’t wait for tomorrow! This will happen if and only if we do what we love to do. Now comes the next and the more difficult step. Once you have found out that you are gonna be happy doing what you love to do, you have to then look for what really makes you happy. And so, with that thought in mind, I took a cheesy, silly quiz on the Internet (the site was called- OneTrueThing.com or something like that!) to determine what I really love doing.
Five questions and fifteen minutes later I was almost about to give up when one question really got me thinking: “What was the one thing you did in the recent past that really made you happy?” Ouch! That has got to be a ‘blank’ for an answer! No, wait! And I thought and thought and couldn’t comw up with even a word that described the moment when I had really been happy. But somewhere at the back of my mind, it was lurking. Deep down the darkest recesses, the dwindling smoky shadow of a beachtown, a huge camera, two young students, the choppy Indian Ocean, long rides through unknown shanties, freshly caught sea fish fried in masala, the joy of having captured the perfect sunrise, the perfect wave, the perfect coral, the perfect angle, the perfect top-shot, the euphoria in the edit suite at the break of dawn- the hope of an Oscar, the sorrow of not being given the best documentary trophy, the tired smiles at 5am, the heavy hearts full of passion, the minds laden with ideas and creativity…It broke away and came surging through my cerebral cortex like a meteor. It hit my memory and burst into a brilliant flash of light illuminating my mind. The warm rays of the illumination reached my heart and I thought, I had finally found out what I really want to do in life.
The saddest part was, it took a stupid quiz on the Internet to awaken myself from the dark slumber of ignorance when the light was always shining inside me. I closed the screen and turned away from the computer to stare at the darkening sky. A Rabindra sangeet set on Raag Malhar crept into my mind. I hummed to it softly. My fingers formed deft movements and my feet slipped out of my heels and tapped out the rhythm. I suddenly saw the huge office windows melt away and as the cold rain-laden breeze caught my hair, I could hear something calling me. It was art, creativity, it was dance, music and poetry- things that my life is incomplete without. I know that I am not here for long. I know that soon, I would be somewhere else. I know that soon, I would break away…
I learnt a lesson- our happiness depends on what we love doing. And if you think of money, be rest assured that if you are passionate about what you love and do it whole-heartedly, money is bound to follow, instead of being stuck in a ‘job’ wasting your life chasing behind money.