For my 21 year old friends
Or why I hate Vijay
Yes, you. The invincible, immortal ones. Hungry and smart. Just out of college, first job, good income, banging out code, making a dent, disrupting the old and stodgy. You have booked a house, paid off any debts your parents incurred, and are probably sending money home. Your life is a victory parade. You are awesome.
In Roman times, victorious generals were often feted before Rome in a parade to celebrate their campaigns and achievements. When the apex of the known world unites, and shows up in crowded throngs to congratulate you on your achievements, it can turn even the most even-headed person to arrogance and a belief in one’s awesomeness. Successful military campaigns may lead to the senate, to emperorship, to godhood. So, it was decreed that in the parade would walk a slave, the voice of reason, the calming influence, who would whisper into the hero’s ears, “Memento mori”.
You are only a man. Don’t let your head swell up. Remember that one day you will die.
“Who will cry when you die?” asked Robin Sharma asked in his famous book. There is the philosophical answer, which writers like him and me love to pontificate about, and write long articles and stories about. And then there is the real answer.
This is going to get just a teensy bit macabre, so if you are squeamish, I would suggest you click back to something more colourful and happy.
Who will cry when you die?
Your soulmate surely? The person that would have spent the longest time with, in your life in cumulative hours of wooing, courting, loving, fighting, living, doing errands, purchasing furniture/car/cars/sheets/houses, raising kids, watching them grow, loving them, loving, sharing your victories and your regrets, nurturing and being cherished by you.
There is a 50:50 chance of her being there to cry.
What about the two people that loved you most? Will they cry? Death is a horrible, horrible thing, but this is infinitely worse.
If they are lucky and if you are lucky, the answer does not include them.
The person who will cry is a stranger. You will meet him in a few years. Among the things this inconsiderate jerk will do in the first few months of your acquaintance is puke on you, pee on you and poop on you. And then smile without the slightest embarrassment. This presumptuous character is your boss from that day onwards — most of your decisions will be driven by what is best for him.
When you die, if you are, say, a Hindu, this man will speak for you and keep vigil for the 3–4 hours that the fire takes to liberate you from your mortal coils. He will intercede and beg all the Gods and spirits there may be over the next 13 days to grant you safe passage to moksha or the next birth as your deeds decree. Every year after that, in September, he will remember you, and pray for you.
This young man is the person that will cry. And there is not a thing you can do about it.
No, there is one thing.
Have some pity on him. Try to make sure he is not young.
Most people in their 20s are clueless babies. I am not talking about you, of course. You read, recommend and share dark sh** like this, you know that underlying our existence are the deep, yawning jaws of nothingness and you can clearly remember the dread in your belly when you thought about it, like intellectuals do without just sleepwalking through life. I am talking about other folks in their 20s. Even in their 30s, people are soft and weak. 40s is when they start to get a bit of sense and in their 50s they really start to gain some strength.
Make sure the man crying for you is not young. Yes, yes, Marry and have children Early, Die Late. The way to profits is Buy Low, Sell High. So what?
The dice that the Genes and Gods will roll for you are what they are. But, at least you can make sure you are not shooting yourself in the head. Most of greatness is not about doing great things but about plugging away and avoiding the stupid ones. Unfortunately, there are a thousand ways of shooting yourself in the head. Which brings me to Vijay. I really hate Vijay. Vijay has tried every single one of them. And he made them glamorous to an entire generation, if not two. If there was to be a recipe for longevity, it would basically be to see everything that Vijay does and not do it.
However, in his old age, he did improve his habits and hopefully that is the last one you have to keep in mind to live a long and healthy life.