When I was eleven years old, my poem was published in the newspaper. In a bout of inspiration and a bid towards flattery (totally assumed on my part), it was also passed on by a boy in a rival school as his own – in his school magazine. I decided to complain to his school authorities. I mean, how could he pass my creation as his own! Turned out he belonged to the family of the locals dons. Like the ´gangs of Wasseypur´dons – so plagiarism wasn’t even a crime in his book. At that age, the indignant me cared more about ´doing the right thing´ as opposed to the possible harassment I could have invited. But my mom put her foot down and said jane do – Let Go.
Cut to college and an older me was packing my bags at the end of vacations, to go back to my hostel in Delhi. In those days (and it amazes me now), there were no online transfers and no ATMs either. Every time we came home for vacations, we carried cash back. When my father was giving me the money, I asked him for small change. Surprised, my father asked me what I would do with the change. I told him about this girl who would travel with us – she never booked her tickets, piled on to others´ berths, and never paid for anything on the way. Whoever had the bigger currency note ended up paying for her. So we had all planned on carrying change. My father was visibly upset with my story, refused to give me change, and said – Let Go.
Over the years, I have heard this phrase many times from many people. Let Go. Like a new age mantra, it has been whispered in my ears and plastered on my (virtual) walls. A well-meaning ´let go´ seems to be the answer to almost all problems. I am guilty of doling out this panacea like a self-proclaimed agony aunt. Is it really better to let go? Or is it better to tackle the situation and get the better of it. If Kalidas had let go of his wife´s taunts, the world would have been deprived of his classic literary works. If Chanakya had let go, there would have been no Mauryan empire and no Arthashashtra. Legends are replete with stories of people who rose from dust because they were rebuked and then they refused to let go.
As human beings, we have emotions and expectations. We feel. We get hurt. We wallow or we hit back. Or want to. Or plan to.
We can use these emotions to change our realities. We may hold on to our pain and indulge ourselves in reliving it over and over. Or, we may use it as a stepping stone to uplift ourselves. Just like the old donkey who fell in the well and broke his leg. His owners, thinking the he would not be useful to them anymore, threw mud into the well to bury him in. The donkey used the mud to make a path up and out of the well. If we use the mud flung on us to bury ourselves, we must let go. Like a friend said to me: Sometimes you must let go – of things, people, and even memories¨. Because letting go unburdens you. It makes space for better things, and allows you to move forward. But another friend says, ¨letting go is just an illusion¨. Unless we can really move into the realm of nirvana, it is difficult to really let go. One thing may remind us of another, and memories come back to haunt us. We never truly let go.
If not letting go gives you passion and the wings to fly, and makes a great scholar out of a simpleton, then why let go? If letting go makes Buddha out of Prince Siddhartha, then isn’t it better to let go? Think – is it going to impact you in the long run, or is it just a temporary irritant? Is it about your principles and what you stand for, or is it your ego taking a stance? Will you allow your hurt to walk all over you, or will you use it as a means towards a positive outcome? I would say, choose your battles. Let go of the skirmishes, and hold on to what really matters.
Five months pregnant, I was at home when my elder sister gave birth to her second daughter. My aunt called to pay her condolences. ¨So sorry it’s a girl again. Four daughters and now two grand-daughters. Doctor is really unlucky¨. Quite obvious, she didn’t know Doctor’s third grandchild was also going to be a girl. I snapped. My mom was upset at my lack of manners. We have not been raised to talk back to the elders. But this was a matter of principle. I was that eleven year old who believed in ‘doing what is right’. This time, my mom let go.