By Shivi Verma
When people pick up the gauntlet thrown by life, they change the course of their lives and that of their community indelibly, says Shivi Verma
Many years ago when Doordarshan was the only channel on TV, a science-based programme hosted by actor Naseeruddin Shah called Turning Point became the talking point of the nation.
It premised that if Indians, who were largely tradition- and custom-bound, explored their scientific temperament, the nation would emerge from sloth and inertia, embarking on the road to dynamic leadership. And prophetically it has happened so. India, the youngest nation in the world today, is bursting with a youthful vigour which is unprecedented.
Turning points are those crucial shifts that change the course of human life and history. Big or subtle, sudden or a result of piecemeal engineering, they help to propel the evolution of man and his society. Apparently it is the ever-evolving soul of man, its aching pursuit for enlargement, expansion, knowing, and self-exploration, that generates a tipping point from where a new chapter unfolds both for the individual as well as for the collective. These shifts happen with or without our collective engagement, almost with a will of its own, signifying the unfolding of the human race’s destiny. Turning points are not always spiritual in nature, but are spiritual in essence.
The greatest of scientific inventions and discoveries, which have driven human evolution, were impelled by man’s quest for freedom and knowledge.
|Edward Jenner discovered the power of inoculation and saved the coming generations from the deadly smallpox virus.|
The progress of humanity has largely been orchestrated by the birth of such progressive ideas, as well as by overthrowing societal oppression and injustice.
When soldier Mangal Pandey rebelled against the British Empire by refusing to bite the bullet filled with cow fat, he gave voice to a suppressed and seething nation. Though the mutiny was crushed, it gave birth to the irrepressible spirit of independence and self-rule among Indians who had largely resigned to their servile fate.
When Swami Vivekananda captivated the audience of Chicago with his rousing speech, it forever changed the manner in which Indians thought of and perceived themselves. It was one of the finest turning points in Indian history.
Currently, the world is locked in a battle of the sexes. While on the one hand women are embracing opportunities for self-growth and empowerment…on the other hand they are facing a terrible backlash of rapes, murders and mutilation, brought on by a resistant male sex. The resultant outrage and outcry will gradually lead to a more egalitarian space where men and women will coexist with dignity, freedom and mutual respect.
How they occur
Mostly turning points are rooted in tragedy, suffering or prolonged injustices. Still others are orchestrated by encountering an influential idea or a person.
|“The best things in life cannot be seen or touched…they have to be felt within the heart.” -Helen Keller|
When the Wright brothers began to build an aeroplane, the world laughed at them. Today if two boys were to attempt to create a time machine, people would call them fools. But the Wright brothers determinedly changed the way human beings travelled…shrinking distances covering days and months to a few hours. That was a turning point after which human life never remained the same.
When Christ allowed himself to be publicly humiliated and crucified…it proved to be a huge turning point for people living in state of perpetual spiritual darkness. Those who had throttled their conscience were rattled to the core of their being, and a new epoch in human evolution…an era of the compassionate human being …emerged after that.
When a frail 72-year-old, Anna Hazare, sat on Jantar Mantar in the year 2011, protesting against corruption in politics, the nation converged around him…shouting for transparency and ethical governance. And the Lokpal Bill which had been gathering dust since decades finally got passed in Parliament.
Similarly, turning points are historical moments in an individual’s life when an incident, a person, or an idea changes their lives forever. When such a change takes them one level higher in their growth, it serves the purpose it has appeared to fulfil. However, it can also happen that the individual does not rise to the challenge. That a job loss, an accident that deprived them of their sight, or the presence of an oppressive person in their lives, sends them sinking into despair or despondency. Either way, it remains a turning point. However, in this article, the focus is on those who respond to the challenge given to them; when the person decides that what she has is not enough. That her belief in her limitations is illusory. Instead of succumbing and giving in to despair she confronts the challenge and emerges stronger, wiser, kinder, bigger.
Why turning points occur
Life is ceaselessly looking to balance itself. Even in the deepest state of inertia and inaction something is churning and taking shape. The velocity of time forces people to change, shift and take leaps in evolution. The fearful may try and delay the turning points for several lifetimes… but they cannot completely evade it. The turning point can be huge as in the case of Columbus discovering America; or as small as a meek and oppressed wife firmly saying no for the first time to her abusive husband or in-laws. But the changes that take place after that affect not only their lives but that of those around them. When my aunt got married into a big but a highly conservative household, she was openly derided for wearing salwar kameez instead of the traditional sari with a pallu around her head. But she did not cave in. This resulted in finally other daughters-in-law following suit, and comfortably moving around the house in clothes other than a sari.
Turning points are nature’s way to help you discover or balance yourself. For an extremely practical left-brained person, his turning point may be finding his emotional, sensitive, and creative side. For an excessively emotional person, finding his calm and objective side. For a fearful man, it may be finding hidden sources of love and courage. For a daredevil it may be respecting life…either his own, or that of others. All the progress in the world has arisen by those who successfully responded to an adversity or an opportunity.
Says sociologist Nirupama Gandhi from Mumbai, “Turning points are the conclusive proof that all of us have a destiny which the Divine ceaselessly directs us towards. Many turning points are sudden, surprising and catch us totally unaware. Only later when we look back do we realise that it was a turning point. Some turning points are self-induced such as getting married out of the community, or shifting from the rat race to a vocation that calls to you, but mostly it is the universe that engineers it through opportunities and challenges. A turning point is a kaleidoscopic change in your life. A new pattern emerges which is different from the old. The best turning points are those created by God.”
Though the lever of change is always rotating on its axis certain incidents or people do help to trigger this process.
From the very beginning I was an inquisitive child who raged with unanswered questions from within. The incongruity between the ideals I read about in books, and the harsh outer world, tore me apart. Nothing made sense to me. Finally, when I was 23, a friend suggested with great conviction that God was real and I should talk with him. Intrigued, I began to meditate and sure enough the Divine responded in tangibly undeniable ways. I was surrounded by miracles! Life began to smile and make sense. But the charms of the inner world became too attractive for me to want to dabble with the outer world. This tilt created another form of imbalance, and I sank into depression. I knew that the balance could only be restored through dynamic action but I lacked the courage.
Then marriage happened. Coming in close proximity with an action-oriented person dispelled the fear of interacting with the world. My husband, my second teacher, became the second major turning point in my life. Under his encouragement, I flowered. I became a balanced person. Someone who was deeply spiritual…yet actively engaging with the world. My spiritual experiences which were earlier confined to myself found an outlet through Life Positive magazine. I began to affect and simultaneously get affected by people through the publication.
Turning points in people’s lives
The present times are particularly suitable for major changes in people’s lives. These are times when shifts are happening from the material to the spiritual, from illness to wellness, from fragmentation to wholeness. Unavoidable incidents are compelling people to evolve. Catastrophes like cancer and loss of job are forcing people to introspect and change.
Says Anand Tendolkar, a corporate trainer, “I was 38 and working as a client services director in a leading advertisement agency, when a check-up at the doctor’s revealed that I had had a mild heart attack. On deep introspection I found that my heart was no longer with the job I was doing. I wanted to do something more meaningful. I learnt Reiki and switched from being a corporate executive to being a corporate trainer, coach, and facilitator.
“When my wife passed away last year after a five-year battle with cancer, it signified a second turning point. I became sad and lonely. At that time my guru Dadashreeji entered my life and created a great internal shift. The wall that I had built around myself fell away. I became much more open to sharing myself, revealing my vulnerabilities, reaching out and asking for help. And help started coming my way. I used to be a very achievement-oriented person earlier. My focus is now on contribution. Achievements are a byproduct of contribution. My work and reach both are increasing and expanding because of this shift in attitude. Today, I have begun to honour and respect myself like never before. I have fallen in love…with myself.”
Severe trauma can suddenly shift the inner fulcrum and people dredge up unknown sources of strength from within in order to survive and conquer.
Says Sophia Roy, in charge of the corporate guesthouse with Air India, “I grew up without a mother and got married at the age of 17. With no training and no experience, I was riddled with confusion and expectations in my marriage. Suddenly, my husband and I went through a steep financial crisis. We had no money. I began to feel even more lonely and deeply desired to have someone who could hold my hand and say that he was there. At that moment I decided that after so many years of longing to have someone for me, I was going to be there for myself and those around me. I took up a job which earned me Rs 300 a month in the early ‘80s. I started selling saris. Internally, I blamed the absence of my mother for the sorry state of my life.”
|“Dr Newton’s love and healing touch helped me handle the death of my son Capt. Sameer in a battle with the insurgents.” -Sophia Roy|
Jagriti Swaroop, a banker from Agra, was a docile housewife who was content looking after her family. She had no ambition to make a career. One day her husband got killed in an accident while returning from work. Jagriti’s small and happy world came crashing down. Her relatives advised her to seek the shelter of brothers or brothers-in-law. But the plight of a widowed sister-in-law and the depressed state of children living in similar conditions, filled her with dread. “When my elder brother-in-law suggested that I dump my belongings somewhere before moving to live with his family…I was immensely pained. I also felt inspired by another widowed sister of mine who had built a successful life after the death of her husband. I decided that I would not let the life of my daughter get spoiled by my inaction. For her I shifted to another city, took up the job in the office of my husband, learnt to drive a scooter, exercised regularly, and handled all the challenges that come with being a single parent.” Today Jagriti is a proud owner of a car, a beautiful house, and her daughter is studying to become a fashion designer. She is today one of the truly affluent ones in her family.
Says Anjana Barot, a Mumbai-based occupational therapist, “I was always confused about whether I should listen to myself or to the wisdom of others. Actual confidence in myself and the way I chose, happened to me when a kid who was blind, had flexed limbs, and was unable to walk, was brought to me after most doctors had given up on him. Contrary to all the diagnoses, I felt that the child could heal and survive. I worked with him for one-and-a-half years without giving up hope and with faith in my inner voice. Gradually, the boy began to sit, see a little, follow sound and babble a little. Suddenly, the boy’s family migrated to America. I was disappointed since I had worked a lot on him. After six months I received a call from his mother to thank me. He had begun going to school, his vision was close to 40 per cent of the normal, he could communicate with other children, could stand on his own, and even walk with other children. That event turned out to be a watershed in my life. I realised that my biggest learning was to have faith in my own knowing rather than the theories propounded by people and the establishment.”
When the person is ready, even a book can become a turning point in one’s life.
Writer Chitra Jha’s son, Shurjo, joined Swami Kriyananda’s ashram, Ananda Sangha, after reading the phenomenal book, The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. It had such a powerful influence on the young Shurjo that he chucked the material world, and embraced the spiritual path completely. “Why should I settle for anything but the highest?” he said.
Apart from such personal stories of change and transformation, socially too the world is caught up in the sweeping winds of change.
Awareness generated through social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook is spreading like jungle fire. Ice bucket challenge gets converted to rice bucket challenge. The big efforts of small people are getting shared, recognised and lauded globally. People are joining hands…coming together…creating forums…networking across the subcontinent to speak up and protest against outdated customs and government apathy. Revolutions in Egypt and other countries are fuelled by the power of the people.
Charged messages on love, life, relationships and wisdom are giving hope to millions of tired souls. New opinions are getting formed, old ones are crumbling, and people are gradually coming out of their mental cocoons. Indeed…. times they are a-changing.
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