A Sack Full of Breaths

Anika’s Zen and The Power of Gratitude: A weekly column

A Sack Full of Breaths: Anika’s Zen and The Power of Gratitude

I lost a very dear ex-colleague and friend recently. We worked together almost 25 years ago. But some relationships stand the test of time and borders. His was one of them.

The Advertising Connection

We were in advertising together, at Grey, in Bombay, India. A profession that never sleeps, in a city that truly never sleeps! Many a campaign ideas, pitches, going back and forth on critical PowerPoint decks were done over tea, coffee or tequila, depending on what time or day of the week it was. I had no idea who he was, and he had no idea what I was going through, which can mildly be described as one of the darkest years of my life — but we co-existed like good colleagues and soon he went from being one of my deep crushes to one of my dearest friends.

Worlds Apart

He moved to Malaysia and I moved to the US. I reached out to him, when I knew that one of our annual holidays was taking us to Malaysia. Abhinav, true to form, dropped everything and we rendezvoused one late evening. Was I scared of venturing out, without a phone or any other means of communication, in an unknown country post 11 PM? Absolutely not. After all, Abhinav was there. I was so excited to reconnect and if felt like it was only yesterday that we were working together, though it had been more than 15 years!

Between sharing stories, laughing, remembering clients, colleagues and advertising moments, I had no idea how 3 large pitchers of margaritas disappeared. Next thing I knew I was throwing up like a college kid in the ladies bathroom of this hep Kuala Lumpur bar, not once, not twice but at least 3 times…with Abhinav sending random barmaids to check on me. Of course, you cannot tell that from these pics that were taken at 2 am!


Society is Not Ready for your Truth

One of the stories that Abhinav told me that night was that he was gay. It was something he could not admit when he was in India, as it was illegal 20+ years ago. I had no idea and words cannot describe how sad I felt at so many levels when I heard that. For one, every woman should have a dear gay friend — someone who can tell the difference between teal and aqua or between fuchsia and pink.

I am lucky to have many gay friends today but could have done with one, over 25 years ago. Abhinav being gay, was known to his siblings but not to his parents. I cannot even imagine the pain of living a lie, day in and day out. Not because you want to, but because society is not ready for your truth.

Karmic Connection

Abhinav recently passed away, rather suddenly, in Malaysia. He was surrounded by those who loved him and by strangers who, unknown to him, probably shared a karmic connection. As this was during the pandemic, his family could not visit him nor could his body come back to India for his last rites. What was left of him, came back in an urn and hopefully made it back to his mother’s hands. A son, who lived 52 years, reduced to a small urn full of ashes.

A Sack of Breaths

During my yoga teachers training course 15 years ago (yup, I am a certified yoga instructor, but that is a story for another time), I remember asking my teacher, ‘How can you explain the death of an only child, only 17 years old, to his mother?” And he said, “We all come with a certain number of breaths in our lives. No one can give us an additional breath, and no one can take a breath away. All we can do is breathe slowly and be grateful for the breaths we have, not knowing when our sack will get empty.”

A Reflection

Moments. Breaths. How many do we have and how many have we used already? Does it matter? If there is anything 2020 taught us, it is to be grateful for what we have, especially for our breath. Today, I am in deep gratitude for my sack of breaths and more importantly, to all those who have and continue to share their sacks of breaths with me. Including Abhinav. More so Abhinav.

Read my last week’s blog here.

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In deep gratitude, Anika

Anika Sharma is a digital thought leader, a mother, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. She was recently named as one of the top 150 digital global leaders to follow in 2021. When she is not busy working or raising her two teenage children, you can find her planting herbs in her garden, meditating with her friends, swimming long laps or filling rooms with her cackling laughter. Contact her at anikadas@gmail.com or on twitter

This weekly column on Gratitude by Anika Sharma, first appeared here: https://healthy-indian.com/lifestyle/daily-living/sack-full-of-breaths/

CX, digital, mobile marketing and Brand Leader with strong global understanding of strategy and the creative product. NYU Stern business professor. Tree hugger.