Sunday, March 22, 2009

I AM!!!!!!, ...........BUT A SMALL COG IN THE WHEEL OF EXISTENCE

This happened last week. It all started with a phone call from my boss enquiring about who was the Commandant of Air Force Academy. My course mate M was the commandant, I replied, and enquired if there was anything that I could do, or find out. No, nothing. I was reading this article about a fighter pilot who participated, ejected and was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, he replied. He went on to give me a brief account of what transpired with regard to that fighter pilot and the story that he had been reading. The story goes something like this…….

Many years after the war, this fighter pilot ‘A’ is back in the US and is in a coffee shop when all of a sudden this gentleman ‘B’ walks up to him and inquires if A ever served on the USS KH during the Vietnam war. ‘A’ replies: “Yes”. “Did you eject from aircraft number X during the war, was the next question. He answers “yes”, but is intrigued, and asks a return question, “but how do you know all this?” ‘B’ answers that he knows all this, because he had packed the parachute on the ejection seat on which A had ejected, and survived. This is a story most fighter pilots would instantly relate to, and so did my boss, who had ejected from an aircraft in a nearly hopeless situation, 35 feet above the ground, in a descent. He and his pupil ejected safely, and survived. After reading this story my boss wanted to find out the name of the airman who had packed the parachute, so that he could thank him for saving his life. He had ejected in 1974.

It reminded me of my own ejection on 24 Aug 1984 from a Hunter aircraft, on fire, and out of control. I ejected, and am alive and kicking today. We celebrated this safe ejection in the officer's mess, but never once did it ever occur to us to thank that man who had been responsible to pack that parachute for us, another routine, and unglamorous job, BUT so very vital for survival, for us fighter pilots. This small incident set me thinking that I too need to find out the man who saved my life on that day, and to many other unacknowledged individuals who have helped me survive ….and also who are the others, I owe my continued existence to?? Is it God??

Yes, God, this I know for sure, but does He do it by Himself, or through others?? Who are these others? His creations, I am sure about that, but they profess different thoughts and ideas than my own. Are they the ones I owe my existence to? Couldn’t be?? Or maybe? Or is it? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I owe my existence to the unified existence of everything that God has created, irrespective of religion or every other artificial boundaries that we egoistic, self centred humans have created to separate us from each other. This is so very vital for us to understand. Why... and why now?? India which always understood this truth intuitively, has started to show signs of letting go of this inherent fact of life that is associated with India – India is not a geographic identity, it is an idea – an idea of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbam’, where every thing is one big family, irrespective of our differences in terms of caste, creed, religion or any other divisive factors. We have much more in common as humans, than we have differences.

Looking back…. My parents brought me in to this world. Many people, many more than I can fathom or think of, helped in the process, irrespective of their affiliations..… many celebrated my birth, many gave me love, and taught me all that I know today, many more tended to me when I was sick, many people researched the medicines that helped me survive, many produced the food that I consume every day, the list seems endless…..

Do I have an individual identity or is my identity just a reflection of, or a product of, the collective wisdom of this creation of God? The more I think of this, the more I am convinced that I will cease to exist when everyone else ceases to exist. My existence convinces me that I owe it to the collective wisdom of humans – irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender or anything else that lesser mortals try to convince me separates us, and profess to protect me from….. A la Varun Gandhi, Osama Bin Laden, or any other such misdirected individual. I AM……I am convinced, nothing more than a cog in the wheel of existence. How long can I remember this fact, is another issue though….. Life is so full of ‘maaya’. My senses help in furthering the illusion of my separate identity. In such times I always remember the prayer that was sung by the then Jaya Bhaduri in film “Guddi”…..

Hum ko mann ki shakti dena, man vijay karein……

7 comments:

Indyeah said...

Beautifully said sir!
There is something,some force that ensures that we live to see another day...it is only that belief that makes us go on with our lives...

We may call that force or belief by many names but the essential meaning remians the same...


The story you shared is so humbling...life is just about that one moment...a moment that can change things forever ...for us or for our loved ones...

Piper .. said...

Ohhh you can tell when something comes straight from the heart. This is one such post.
I wonder what was going on in your mind, as you ejected out of a blazing aircraft. You must write about it someday, Sir..
And btw, I love the song too. I always have..

J P Joshi said...

Indyeah: I do know that there is God. You are right, you can call that force by any name.... Life is one great fight between our five senses and the inner force trying to correct course at various times..... but the senses are overpowering for most of us, most of the times.

"life is just about that one moment...a moment that can change things forever ...for us or for our loved ones..." How true!!!!

Piper: This post was very spontaneous, but living up to the essence of the post is very difficult for mortals like me.... although I do try.

Yes, one second you are securely cocooned in a cockpit and the next you are blanked out... only to open your eyes and see the white and orange parachute over your head and rivers and rivulets (Hasimara, West Bengal in August) flowing about 12000 ft. below you, with thick forests and you hoping that you land up in a clear dry spot, so that a chopper can come and pick you up. The memory is still vivid in my mind.

I love this song too.....

Ordinary Guy said...

beautifully said JPJ Sir....

woooahh!! you have flown as well as ejected from a fighter plane....

The story was great... thanks for telling us this story.... coz I realize that I need to thank so many people in life!!

J P Joshi said...

Not an OG: Thank you. Yes, I have enjoyed every minute of my flying in the IAF, and have ejected too.

It is only when I sit by myself that I realise how much I owe to everyone around me, but as I go out again in to the world, I forget...ego takes over again.

Usha Pisharody said...

The story about the parachute is something I had heard elsewhere too, shared by someone in the Services. But of course.

No one would perhaps realize more, the credit, and the acknowledgement due to the hands that help secure one... be it it the one who packed that parachute, or the ones who taught us how to stand and walk, than one who is deeply connected with that inner self.

That shines through beautifully, for instead of just telling a story, and connecting it with an experience, you go on and relate it so lucidly to the larger picture.

It comes from the heart. And so it touches us too.

Thank you for that , Sir!

J P Joshi said...

Usha: Thanks for all that you have written. I am humbled. As I have grown in years, I have always felt that we humans have a much higher purpose in life than just earning money, but then, my senses and attachments tend to sway me away from that purpose....my weakness entirely... I donot value the quest enough, as yet, probably.

Thank you.