There is no teacher like adversity. The lines from Shakespeare’s work, As You like It, are a whole measure of truth packed into a few words. The duke is banished into the Forest of Arden. It proves to be a difficult time for one who has led a life of comfort and luxury and where pomp and show of wealth has been a part of life.
Away from all that, the duke learns some important lessons while battling the odds, as he is able to see the real face of life.
At some point in time in life, almost all men have to go through bad patches. Challenges come to men in many forms. Hunger, disease, frustration, unfulfilled dreams and aspirations, ambitions yet to be realized, expectations to be matched up to, poverty exploitation, and many more.
The best way to deal with hard times is to hold onto one’s patience and good sense. Endurance and fortitude can make this test of destiny easier to cope with. Anger, disappointment and impulsive actions are often the catalysts for disaster.
On the contrary, if virtue of patience is exercised then one can hope to gain much from the hard time that fall in one’s share. One has to only look around, and there are numerous individuals who have set precedents by their extraordinary resilience and tenacity in the face of troubles.
Santiago the fisherman in Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea is a matchless source of inspiration for those who find their hands full and feel that any more would break them. Even though the future may appear dark and the failures are repeated, the will to take on life as it comes should not die out.
There are several individuals who are severely physically challenged, yet they have made a mark through their steely resolve to overcome their handicap. One look through the life of people like Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking should make the ‘normal’ people count their blessing and stop wallowing their miseries. If there is a desire to do something; a fire burning within, then nothing can be a constraint. Rather, the hurdles and hindrances become the driving force.
A determination to crush the reasons for one’s trouble can lead to some astounding results. How else could India have won its freedom from over two centuries of oppressive rule? The victims of racial discrimination in South Africa fought and got back their freedom and dignity.
The Jews have always been persecuted as a race, but they have resurged like no other. Despite being the targets en masse in Nazi Germany, they have proved that it is very hard to keep them down. Today, most of the rich men across the globe who have made enviable empires are the Jews. It is true that adversity brings out the best in men. It takes away the smugness of individuals and communities, a feeling that is a characteristic of good times.
But not all men are strong willed. It is very easy to get bogged down by the troubles that lie ahead and finish off before even getting started. It is said that a battle lost in the mind is completely lost in reality. Hopelessness and anguish can cause nothing but damage.
One has to go through the rigours of life to become a better individual. Even the Bhagwad Gita says: “when the embodied living being controls his nature and mentally renounces all actions, he resides happily in the city of nine gates (the human body)”.
Simply, the outlook and approach to a situation changes its impact. Tough times can be viewed as hard task masters who are out to give some important lessons. There is no escaping them and playing truant would bring in more trouble.
The words of Francis Bacon still hold a lot of import. He expounds the virtue of fortitude and glorifies adversity- “It was the high speech of Seneca (after the manner of stoics) that the good things that belong to prosperity are to be wished; and the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired…… Certainly if miracles be the command over nature they appear the most in adversity”.
In the Indian context there is much to be learnt. Constantly under the shadow of a third world country tag, it has to fight its numerous battles, yet the nation is going strong. There are individuals who have braved tough conditions to emerge winners. These men have not only won for themselves, but have left a legacy for the nation, which it is proud of.
One such person whose life has been a lesson in persistent effort to conquer all is Dhirubhai Ambani, who rose from being a petrol pump attendant in Middle East to India’s biggest tycoon and power broker. Reliance industries is one of the most powerful and successful ventures today, an entity that is contributing tremendously to India’s economic growth.
This attribute of bounding back is not only restricted to individuals, but to entire communities and cities who are to be admired for the mettle they display in hard times. Gujarat is one such State, which has been struck after one disaster after another every subsequent year; floods, drought, communal clashes, earthquake, but it has resurged with full force to fuel the economy with an enviable growth rate. Then, there are cities like Mumbai that refuse to slacken their pace despite incidents like bomb blasts claiming several lives every now and then.
Hard times will be there. Life must go on. They only strengthen the resolve and impart lessons that will not be given by any teacher. One must fortuitously go through them and only then will one find,
“Tongues and trees, books and running brooks
Sermons, tones and good in everything “.