Kindness costs us nothing

Written by on in Suggestion or two

Kindness costs us nothing. Why bother hating—if it’s far too difficult to prosecute or defend? Which it usually is.

Kindness. Let’s keep it in mind.

I want to add a sort of quick “disclaimer” here and let everyone know that I had no intention to jump into the fray over whether Sonu-ji one of my dear mentors has gone too far in expressing his wish for a moderation of the volume coming from loudspeakers near his home.

I’m neither pounding my fist to say he’s 1000% right and must be obeyed in any demand (even when disturbed from getting his rest—or his family members resting), nor am I disagreeing with him in any way. When I wrote this (actually some days ago) I sent it along to my web team and trying to please me, knowing I admire him as a wise man, they added his image to the post. Here’s another one in case you forgot who Sonu Nigam is:

First, he certainly has every right to express his concerns, and knowing him personally, I can assure everyone that his aim in tweeting or speaking out is not only to stir controversy—he wants everyone to respect each other’s rights!

When we see and hear people in public life going after each other in personal attacks, using antagonism and bombast designed to obliterate their actual or perceived rival(s), our best initial response is not a strong reaction and feeling of a need to respond in a similar way. Curiously, the usual expression for reactionary behavior is the phrase to respond in kind. Yet that usually literally means to respond unkindly.

Instead, we simply choose to apply some of the timeless wisdom first revealed by sages and gurus from our part of the planet. We pause. Enough! (We pause long enough to fully consider our options… to form not a knee-jerk, but a reasoned response).

Then we reflect on the impulses that may have triggered any resentment behind the antagonism, and we seek compassion for the people being triggered by animal instincts like to fight or flee.

This concept called the fight or flight response has been chronicled and analyzed as everything from deep psychoanalytical theory to pop psychology. The fact that it rhymes may have partly led to its popularity.

It’s also been attributed to what theorists describe as the reptilian mind (that can overtake and supersede rational thought when triggered), also termed elsewhere survival mode/instinct. Here’s a quick summary from

So the idea of the wisdom of avoiding a rush to judgment is a phenomenon with which modern global society has become very familiar—for at least several generations, and due somewhat surely to witnessing the tragedies resulting from exactly such dim-witted acts as wars and endless struggles for political/social dominance, we labor at length to find better ways to overcome our issues.

At first, it’s hard to remain positive amidst any serious (or perceived-as-serious) conflict. But eventually, we’re fortunate to survive the tough times; in due course we overcome our fears and petty self-limiting beliefs (by applying consistent self- improvement efforts).

At this point, reasoned arguments and the opportunity for persuasion exist in a continuum from “go with your gut” to “parse it, sort and deeply analyze it, run scenarios and choose (between) the best course(s) of action.”

In the end, the work required to reach our objectives seems not only manageable, but well worth the needed efforts.

The act of seeking enlightenment [or prayer] may infer certain logic to bear on the serious issues, or we may find insight from unexpected sources. In short, each issue, problem or project may need its own approach and the best one is only revealed as it is accomplished and proven in practice. For real—as they say in the States.

In other words, we make our dreams real and in the final assessment, that produces the only true testing and results for our dreams, plans, skills and decisions. We must also live with the consequences of those decisions: in whatever meausure be they good, bad or in-between.

Often-unseen wisdom: putting expertise into practice means more than simply doing the activity. It means developing one’s own methods and applying them rigorously and skilfully toward accomplishing one’s goals; in other words showing up knowing and then executing consistently. It turns out that’s the only way (I’ve found) to be in demand!

Practice (“wood-shedding”) makes perfect, but if my take on a song needs another approach, I won’t flog a tired horse/camel hoping to cheat the reality (or harm others). I may start again, but usually by the time I’m recording a take, how it’ll sound is only still (at most) partly mysterious.

Finding the spiritual essence

We must listen to our collaborators and authors/directors rather than go off as if only OUR takes matter. That’s why we named our forum Antara’s Bollywood Takes. It’s about my POV (and maybe yours)—‘take’ or ‘leave’ it/them, lol. Everyone has a POV. They/we all each matter, too.

By this, I mean to say that you are also not merely welcome, like any visitor or pilgrim, you’re also encouraged to express yourself.

I can verify that expressing oneself can lead to some very uplifting experiences, especially when one is unburdened of any associated guilt or resentment related to what one conveys through self-expression.

The notion of “safe spaces” for art/music and the ultimate value of having a trusted support network to be able to feel confident in a performance while also being free to simply “be oneself” cannot be overstated. Part of that support system (it’s identical for all humanity) is a need for rest and recuperation.

Sleep: it’s an undervalued necessity, and science has proven that far too many of us need more of it (please—take it from a NAP QUEEN). God knows I need my rest!! My footman Joe is practically an expert with DO NOT DISTURB door hangers. Take it easy on my mentors and B’wood celebs, too, okay? They mean you no harm. I can promise that!

Occasionally why not also give arguing just to be heard as aggressive an overdue rest? Those who promulgate one or another view or position or group interest: how about allowing other voices to be heard? Thanks!

One thing I’ve learned is to refrain from deeply emotional involvements in hurtful feelings. Often in India, political winds will change (or may be exigently sustained) via familial or religious/tribal cultural ties. Certainly that’s not unique to us here.

These are neither the only nor most expedient paths to mastery. One cannot simply buy skills or learning. Likewise, they aren’t ordained merely by birthright or from simply belonging to a class or social entity (sports team, criminal gang, temple, school, caste, etc.) by choice or birth.

Self-improvement occurs via actual actions like study and practice. There is however the “osmosis” argument (learning by forced association) for gaining some abilities via being in close proximity to one or more proven masters. Some people swear by this. Shouting your beliefs at others to the point of distraction (possibly even into temporary madness)? Also ineffective!

The danger in allowing oneself to consider one’s tribe or family like a militant faction is that it’s like being a carpenter with only a hammer for whom everything seems like a problem requiring resolution via hammering.

In the worst case, advocating for change by violence (physical/psychological) is foolish. The fact is, skilled carpenters use many tools for different activities… like musicians use instruments (including voices). Let’s remain creative and work with the right tools in the best ways. Violence solves nothing and only breeds more violence; it never really resolves anything amicably. Let fighters fight and dancers dance (and singers sing, but not super-loudly at ungodly hours that end up disturbing others, okay)? That sleeping baby cannot know that your noise was not intended to seriously upset her or him!

In this post, what I hope to do is simply to inspire you, dear music lover, to see that it’s seldom helpful or productive to observe and react to life’s many challenges as if the first response entails some sort of deliberate or egotistical, compulsive calculation.

For example, Maths is never affected by the gender or appearance of the one applying it as a science, nor where or when one applies it. Similarly, running a commercial enterprise is about more than being a tyrant with an iron fist. Getting on well with others is perhaps the most germane aspect of nearly every organization or business—it’s not merely unavoidable, it’s critical to success. If you (I realize this is a comical leap) cannot refrain from insulting my mentors, please hold your tongue before making yourself into a public nuisance.

Thank you. I’m not strictly discussing religion here at all, anyhow. I believe in freedom of spiritual practices, and how people choose to express their beliefs is fine so long as it isn’t hurting others.

I think that was roughly what the whole “controversy” stemmed from and again, knowing Sonu, he’s neither seeking more public adulation nor conflict with any religious group. He simply doesn’t seek conflict; the man is an artist doing mainly music. Please don’t intentionally bother him. We all deserve our peace and quiet to get rested for our next gig!

If ANY of those us who sing ever seems to be rather vocal, well that’s our job (to be vocal), so please don’t come down on us for doing what we do! I’m not suggesting to blindly follow artists, just please allow us to voice our opinions—like anyone would.

Sonu-ji needs no help to speak his mind, and I for one think he’s a good one to talk, while I also reserve my own right to express my thoughts as I choose, and likewise I defend spiritual peoples rights to express their beliefs (again, in every instance within reasonable limits, obviously without hurting others).

Hence every real-world situation does not require those of us who must handle it to first stop and ask, ‘Wait a minute, who am I and how do people of my caste or in-group deal with such matters?’ We should each know all such issues well prior to applying ourselves to tasks at hand and for projects upon which we embark. Those useless labels and stereotypes should all be discarded in favour of far-better understandings.

My point here is: Logic is simply logic, and irrespective of whomever is engaging in reasoning, solid and irrefutable logic has nothing to do with the identity of the thinker.

Logic is really about nothing more than reasoning… always based upon evidence—and not emotions!

Please check another beloved Bollywood celeb’s take on this alleged controversy. I respectfully consider Irrfan-ji a mentor, too, and I seriously suppose that neither he nor Sonu-ji is looking for conflict—about anything! Those guys have crazy-busy lives.

Rather than feel helpless to assess and deal with our challenges, we each try to embrace and deal with them to the best of our abilities. I respect everyone’s right to speak their mind. I look to smart people for their guidance; I also appreciate the wisdom of sages and gurus, with which we are abundantly blessed here in India!

While we in the singing world have a duty to reflect the emotion(s) embodied in the texts we convey in the songs we perform, somehow we cannot allow ourselves to be technically diminished, nor subject to exactly the fleeting feelings that may comprise our work products—as if the lyricist’s story truly is our own (while actually giving convincing performances as if they are).

In other words, as singers, though we can think of a story in the song as the singer’s story (as we realize it), we needn’t become so absorbed in it that we forget how to sing. An old lesson, lol. Still, we must endeavor to portray the full emotional weight of the song’s story, if any. This becomes a bit of a difficult balancing act.

It’s really a matter of balance plus practice. Like my teachers taught me, I want to empower you as a singer to both consider the reason(s) the song exists, and how to express all of that assuredly while maintaining enough oxygen in your brain to stay focused and so to avoid falling off the stage or cracking notes, lol. Deep breaths, friends!

When we fail to sustain both compassion for the singer/protagonist’s purpose or dilemma, and the idea of making it fully through the vibrato or smooth sustain of the very last phrase, we lose both confidence and connection with ourselves and our audience, and obviously the result is a less-enjoyable performance. Confidence is a big key to singing great takes.

One way to look at these types of musical performance scenarios is the cup half-empty vs. half-full conundrum.

In other words, one could express one’s assessment of a situation (e.g., some unanticipated outcome) as either: • no regrets or • full appreciation. The basic conclusion is the same. However choosing more positive perspectives adds to our power—it certainly doesn’t require us to become increasingly cynical.

This approach seems to work well for me in my personal relationships. I could say I have no worries, but I’ve learned that what we really have are actually unlimited blessings.

The first (less powerful/negative) perspective confines one’s mindset in an empty box (as if that’s a good situation!), but the second (unlimited point of view) is totally expansive beyond our current ability to even imagine.

I cannot even fathom what wonders it might portend for you and me. ;) Best wishes! This sort of intellectual freedom while on its face and by definition being limitless, can also seem rather daunting to less-experienced folks.

I have an even simpler way to view this process, to avoid battling with oneself and with or against anyone else… it’s embodied in a very straightforward concept that may seem new to some of us upon first reflection: KINDNESS.

The fact is, kindness costs us absolutely nothing, yet it can serve to support or accomplish so very much!

I feel that people are too quick to put every feeling or idea under a microscope or filter that depends upon the standard predictable ways people of their class or station in life require them to respond. What a self-limiting approach!

Do such people ever stretch their imaginations to at least allow for some possibilities that hadn’t already occurred to them? If not, they may suffer from a type of character disorder called narcissism. Here’s a blurb about that:

About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have significant problems with their sense of self-worth stemming from a powerful sense of entitlement.

This leads them to believe they deserve special treatment, and to assume they have special powers, are uniquely talented, or that they are especially brilliant or attractive.

[Sound like anyone you know or have admired as an artist? Artists aren’t immune from mental health issues that also plague the general population. I presume that we all knew this.]

Their sense of entitlement can lead them to act in ways that fundamentally disregard and disrespect the worth of those around them. If it applies to you, please get the help you need to stop abusing self and/or others!

I’m not posting here on the WWW to offer anyone ways to limit or throttle their creative impulses. The fact is, most great music teachers won’t show us how to LIMIT our emotions or how to make them fit into some arbitrary model that begs approval by some external expert.

What many great teachers instead do is to inspire us to truly give our best and most powerful interpretations (within the parameters that apply to the situation—a frightened girl singing about her own perceived powerlessness is not going to belt her song out like a Western European grand opera diva with years of training).

Obviously, that’s too simplistic of a model; singers need to portray more than deeply timid or aggressively bold characters. When we’re in concert singing featured hit songs in our own interpretations, we’re expected to put some of our own styles in the mix. But not so much style that the original meaning is skewed or ignored. 

However, even in the lattermost context it’s possible to “overdo” it. What I mean by that is to layer in too much technique or extreme emotionalism (where it may not be best applied, even for artistic effect).

If we maintain the wise approach I’ve learned from my father and others, meaning exercise kindness (for the song’s author & composer, for oneself and for the audience), we cannot fail! That may sound easy, but often it’s not. It can test our patience but it’s not a huge sacrifice and builds our strength.

Also, apart from any stage or studio performance (and during them as well—despite any tense conditions), being kind to oneself and to others only makes good sense. It’s really about survival too, believe it or not.

The Golden Rule isn’t purely unselfish or altruistic. It’s a very practical and pragmatic approach to all aspects of one’s own life!

KINDNESS: it’s FREE to express or accept. Usually the effort required to be just a bit reflective—more than reactive or clever—is again not costly, and can well bring a topmost result.

In my experience, that also means that no one song can present insurmountable obstacles, but likewise the artist will need to succeed in bringing enough to the song to give it its full due.

These are my own views, and if you cannot allow for them to exist within the greater realm of human learning, well then: obviously you need me or my crew to clobber you over the head with a brickbat, stick you with a knife and/or blast you with a lethal firearm! Just teasing. Please pay attention to my admonishments! They come from a loving place and you could ignore them only at your own peril.

You most likely came here as a music enthusiast and maybe an aspiring singer. The last thing I would do is to discourage you. Plenty of people seem to take it as their place to offer what they think is some sort of expert advice on singing when they haven’t had to prepare to hold forth immediately in a pressure-filled live situation. They’re called backseat drivers or armchair cricketeers.

The fact remains that the people who create art/music could use KINDNESS toward the best realizations of their words and music, too. Even if they make a minor error or two in their original composition.

Remember that if the most creative person in this song is supposed to be you as the performer, it’s also wise to respect yourself and be kind. That way, you won’t ruin yourself in one performance and you can do more of them, growing and improving along the way.

Those who purposefully seek after BEAUTY are more likely apt to find it than those out destroying everything they consider not beautiful. Still, those struggling with anything from personal issues like loneliness or maybe a desire for adulation without attendant work can surely benefit more from KINDNESS than from ruthless PUNISHMENT or condemnation. To be fair, brutal competition isn’t competition anyway; it’s actually little other than raw, hateful brutality.

Total cost for Kindness: zero! Well, a bit of restraint is often required. But inaction only requires pausing, not difficult effort.

A wise composer once told me that he writes the spaces (silences) between the notes as much as the (sounding) notes themselves. Food for thought to inquiring minds in a challenging artistic world.

In the process of meting out our acts of kindness, it soon becomes necessary to “walk the walk” congruent with the the nature of “the talk” (meaning our pretensions of claiming what we regard as correctness need to comport with humane actions sincerely extending concomitant human kindness).

It turns out that simply being kind isn’t actually very difficult. What seems to be more challenging to humans is to refrain from being unkind to others.

This ranges from a parent not hurting their helpless infant child [usually accidentally or ignorantly], to a sibling refraining (or being restrained) from mean or nasty hurtful acts against their brothers, sisters, schoolmates, etc. (really, against anyone), or on to parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, bosses, co-workers, etc. Where humans fail in these relationships, the consequences are often seriously disastrous.

The final thought we’re offering here moves the dialogue to an ironically wordy yet key twist in conclusion: overthink‘s proven inferior to expertise [which arrives over time and experience—how much we get is up to us].

Our aim here is to constantly strive toward greater expertise—this is the tack we take toward being both constructive members of society and [hopefully] respected creative artists. The critics among us can always battle for supremacy as the most hostile and fastidious top expert. I’ll settle for something a bit closer to simple humanity.



PS: Kindness is not equivalent to charity, although they’re often somehow related or in one or more ways connect our experiences; charity and kindness certainly aren’t competing for predominance.

One point we’ve learned (in part from having seen and lived through experiences from giving and receiving sides) is that exercising kindness doesn’t diminish anyone offering it.

In other words, the regular Olympic Games doesn’t suffer from the existence of the Paralympic Games (for competitors facing challenges both in the typical mental & physical training and competition directions), but also from personal difficulties or obstacles to training and competition.

One false idea we’d like to dispel is the thought that offering acts of charity are always purely sacrifices—as if we always forego (or lose) something.

What we’ve learned instead is that doing something for a family member, friend or stranger is not primarily an act of letting go of one’s own success or resources. It’s about extending ourselves in service—this extending supports growth in all beings.

Our ancient Vedas have taught us that kindness is integral to our ways of life and women are integral to its sustenance.

So what I’m expressing here is not a sexist point about whose role it is to promulgate kindness, rather I want to acknowledge that somehow we all need to “keep hope alive” (a favourite phrase of U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson) on an ongoing basis.

In my experience it took a decade-long grind after a series of lifelong preparations to be given a chance to sing a Pritam song in a Shah Rukh Khan feature film. That was an award in itself—but having taken so many preparatory steps to get there (here), like the effort to produce a finished vocal track or two, seemed almost effortless in the moment.

Instead of feeling spent and having given away our power to the audience, along with the excitement of seeing and hearing the final edited project plus the thrill of being recognized for our performance (of which my contributions were only parts; the music director, engineer and editor were also key to the quality of the final version) the results were much more exhilarating than draining—I can fully assure you of that!

Now… you’re up? Go for it!! You’ll never know your limits until you test and perfect the skills that allow you to test them (and thereby, yourself). Keep chasing your dream. Also, please: when you have a microphone in your hand, don’t abuse it, the sound crew or those who are forced by dint of loudspeaker-driven volume to hear you big and loud! Save some vocal power for your next slow number. The gentle souls among us will be grateful.




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