Once I went on an official tour to Assam and Meghalaya. In Shillong my colleague and I had some spare time and so we decided to drive up to Cherrapunji. The drive was very beautiful and we came across some rare natural beauty on the way. We ate our packed lunch on the way, sitting on a parapet wall on the roadside. The sight of the hillock on the opposite side was superb. So much so that despite being a steel man, I started thinking how beautiful the earth would have been without any steel. Anyway it was a momentary thought and after sometime we drove further.
At Cherrapunji we sat in a small restaurant, looking at the surroundings and tasting some local sweets. There we met a person who must have been in his fifties. By his looks and expression, he appeared to be an educated man hailing from North India. Perhaps he was the owner of or a frequent visitor to the restaurant. When asked he told us that he was from Punjab. One of our colleagues asked him how he had decided to settle down in Cherrapunji and how he liked the place. He did not like being asked all these questions saying these were personal matters and required a long time to explain. However, he told that he had retired from the BSF and most of his family members were settled in Canada. Since he did not like going there, he decided to stay back at Cherrapunji. He also said that he did not dislike anything except dishonesty and fraud. Though he did not hold a very good opinion about the locals, on the whole he liked the place.
This attitude of the man impressed me a lot. Obviously the matter was not so simple. He must have had deep wounds within him. Yet he had adopted a positive approach to life by refusing to dislike his environment. While driving back to Shillong we talked about him and we all appreciated his attitude. The whole thing set me thinking that there was a great lesson to be learnt from him. I, myself, believe in the same approach to life. When I decided to come to Calcutta, many friends and well-wishers asked me whether I liked the place. My answer had always been that I had never thought of disliking the place. And believe me I meant it too. I do not mean to say that there is nothing to dislike in Calcutta. In fact, there is plenty but what is the point in dwelling upon them? One can always identify so many likable things in any given situation and need not pay attention to others. If one can adopt this approach to life, life becomes much more beautiful.
To be fair in my assessment of the person we met at Cherrapunji, I would say that though he was apparently happy, there appeared to be some bitterness within him. That is why he did not like being asked about his personal life. This dislike was against his claim that he did not dislike anything. He also said that he did not like dishonesty and fraud. While he was correct from a worldly point of view, going a little deeper would reveal that even this dislike is negative. While things like dishonesty, fraud, ugliness, etc., are to be opposed, there is no point in disliking them. The thought of disliking adversely affects us and creates disharmony. This way we become the victim for no fault of ours. It is like saying, ‘hate the sin, not the sinner.’ If we follow this advice, peace will never be lost.
There is one more way of looking at things. The whole creation of God consists of opposites. In fact, without opposites, there will be no existence. For example, we can talk of the good only so long the bad also exists. Similarly, there is no meaning of pleasure without pain. This logic can also be extended to all other things. Beauty has to co-exist with ugliness. Piousness is to coexist with wickedness. Honesty is to co-exist with dishonesty, so on and so forth. If we accept this fact of life, we have no reason to dislike anything. All things have to be accepted as they are. The only freedom we have is to play our own role in the best possible way in given circumstances. Whatever way we approach, there is no point in our disliking a situation and by refusing to dislike it we can turn every situation into something we like.