Aishwarya lived two floors above where I lived. My brother gave me the news. Was it a drug overdose or a suicide, they did not know? To me both meant the same. Aishwarya was getting thinner by the day yet her smile never faded. Even if I was focused on getting home she would always run towards me and greet me. “Akka (elder sister in Tamil) how are you?” she would ask. Despite her short skirts and coloured hair she was so Indian and endearing when she called out to me.

She would then show me one of her new acquisitions, new cell phone, outfit, hairdo or sunglasses and I’d point out to her that she needed to take care of herself else she would disappear. One day she told me that just in case any of her friends checked with me she had told them I was her real/blood sister? I smiled.

Some days she would speak of the shows or the beauty contests she has participated in. She never bitched about the other contestants, at least to me. A part of her was sensitive and refined and yet another could not grapple with herself and the world. Anger, loss of self- esteem and self- hatred were a natural outcome.

Aishwarya means wealth, greatness and power. True Aishwarya is finding all this within. An inner richness and healthy self- esteem is what we need to aspire for. But ask any Indian about Aishwarya and most likely they will associate it with the screen goddess who was miss world called Aishwarya Rai. This association is strongly embedded. Unfortunately the very same principles that were stabilizing factors are now being deranged through media created wonders. How can any teenager’s reality match up to the perfect waistline or storyline that has been created for Aishwarya. That illusion they aspire for is enough to take away all Aishwarya or self worth away. True Aishwarya is feeling valuable without having a million people endorse you. Or being the one selected to endorse a million projected needs. When we feel our life is of value how will we want to end it. That is why family is important, if not oneself at least another person makes us feel valuable, life seems worth living at least for them. In more singular societies we hear of not just suicides but group suicides like in Japan. When life is such a singular pursuit these youngsters chose company and oneness in death.

Most of us may not go that far but slowly start to kill our selves so that we can become blind to the speed with which we are moving towards our own death. We get so desensitized that it does not matter anymore. We may have moments of consciousness where we may see our own degeneration and our own dependencies. Waking up to our own self- delusion is definitely painful. So we may as well be comfortably numb. Alcohol abuse, drug abuse and tobacco abuse are all ways in which we escape into another reality. Alcohol provides us with a space where we can be in touch with our emotions. It is not uncommon to find people flying into rage, laughing uncontrollably, crying or getting mushy after a couple of drinks. Drugs provide an altered psychedelic or intense state of consciousness that is often confused with spiritual awakening or creativity. Tobacco provides one with false alertness and release. Apart from these we can also bury ourselves in other unnecessary pursuits, which are less apparent.

These are just ways we yearn to escape from our reality, the reality of helplessness and despair. The ultimate reality of course is bliss but to get there we have to face our own fears and insecurities and rise above it. So the climb may seem arduous, tiring and again like a singular pursuit in a desensitized world. And yet we can feel kinship in the few subtle people still around or the subtleties that are there in parts in some. Or we can draw inspiration from the great people who have lived before us, from nature, life and love for goodness.

In Yogic life emotions are important, not emotionalism. Hence we must work on recognising and releasing emotions rather than suppressing them or inappropriately expressing them. Refined emotions are the key to loving refined things. To love the highest or the cosmic potential in ourselves refined emotions are necessary. In a world of instant gratification long-term satisfaction is forgotten. A stable marriage where both grow together in love and wisdom is what refinement indicates. Nowadays when we want quick fixes it is easier to grow apart. If we want our marriage with the Lord to last we need to cultivate emotional awareness. Emotional sensitivity and stability is what needs to be worked on for Aishwarya to grow in us.

Despite achievements many face a lack of Aishwarya. Not intelligent enough, smart enough, talented enough, organized enough, assertive enough, brave enough, beautiful enough, patient enough. Even those on a spiritual path may feel they are not good enough. Since we sense this deep lack we may mask it with arrogance. Or we depend on others to give us this self worth. Self worth is different from narcissism or being boorish. Christ the master had hundred’s plotting against him and thousands abusing him yet it did not diminish his spirit. Neither did it prevent him from putting his foot down when he needed to. Sankaracharya says that the enlightened man walks through praise and abuse untouched. True Aishwarya is being in touch with one’s true nature, that is a reflection of the divine. You cannot take away or add to it. We may never be able to match up to the ideal of perfection we have set, yet let that not diminish our efforts or self worth. May we keep the Aishwarya in each one of us alive.