Thursday, January 16, 2014

To Arrive or Travel Well- You decide!

Just a few days are left for my marriage. 20 to be precise. I decided that having a good time in Goa with my friends, the so called bachelor's party would help me blow some of the steam ahead of such a huge event! I must say I had an excellent time in Baga, by playing in the Casino, Para Sailing, enjoying on the beach and overall just relaxing! As I left Baga to reach Madgaon Railway station which is around 2 hrs away by car, I realized that my train was 10 hours delayed. It was 9.30 in the night, that meant I had to stay overnight in Goa. I took a room in the nearby hotel and waited for the day to dawn. I couldn't sleep, lest I miss my train in the morning.
Next day as I went to the station early morning, I eagerly waited for my train. It was again delayed by 2 hours. After such a wonderful bachelor's party,it was highly frustrating to wait for such a long time. As the train arrived, I got into my coach and sat on my lower berth. It was a 2 tier A/c compartment which meant I would travel with great comfort. After sometime, the person who was in the upper berth arrived. Around the same age as me, the man showed absolutely no tiredness or resentment on his face. He was relaxed and greeted me warmly. Unlike me he seemed to have had a good night's sleep. He immediately occupied his upper berth and started to read some book.
As the train started I heaved a sigh of relief. I closed my eyes to get some much needed sleep. But after an hour my sleep was disrupted, as the train grinded to a halt. I woke up immediately and went near the door to see what had happened. Supposedly, the train had stopped to let another train pass by. I came back muttering in anger," First you delay the train by 12 hours then you halt for other trains to pass by! Is this justified!" My co traveller on the upper berth hardly seemed to care! After reading the book he had now earplugged himself and was swaying to the music! It seemed as if the external world was somehow just not able to affect his internal happiness!
The distance between Goa and Mumbai is usually covered within 9 hours along the beautiful Konkan route but this train which was behaving like a spoilt brat stopped and halted so many times that it took me 15 hours in all to reach home!
In this journey I must have lost my mind at least 10 times, cursed God, called my near ones and vented my dissatisfaction. And what about the guy in the upper berth. As you by now must have already guessed, the man was at ease. He read, listened to music, even opened his laptop and saw a movie, stopped a lot of vendors and ate wada pav, idli chutney, sandwich and what not and not to forget slept like a baby!! It seemed as if after the 15 hour journey when we both disembarked from the train, he was as fresh as a fiddle and I was as tired as a donkey who had carried some load on its back for hours together!
I can very well imagine him calling up his friends and saying that he had had a great journey from Goa to Mumbai!
What exactly happened here? While we both travelled in the same compartment under similar circumstances, the upper berth guy showed why he was above me not only in the train but also in life! He swayed like a daisy and flowed like a river! His life seemed so beautiful! He was not at all anxious to reach Mumbai, rather he was totally in the present, enjoying the journey!
His Behaviour reminded me of an old saying of the Great Buddha which I had read some time ago:

In life wherever I see,people are so anxious to arrive, that they don't care how they travel!

They travel like me! Just like how I did in my journey from Goa to Mumbai. What's the result of this? By the time I reached Mumbai, I was totally burnt out. I reached home and hit the bed. I wasted the entire next day trying to regain my lost energy! Where as I am sure, the upper berth guy got on with his work (which I am sure he would be very good at) on the very next day itself!

I am a Chartered Accountant (CA) and also a professional chess player. I have spent majority of my time working on these two things. Let me try to elucidate how this Buddha saying works in these two fields.

Chatered Accountant (CA)

Just yesterday I saw the results of 2013 November CA Final examination. It was a meagre 3%. Almost all the friends I asked had not cleared. But whenever I see people who have not cleared, I see a bunch of dissatisfied people! Now of course if someone doesn't pass an exam, he has to be dissatisfied! But the fact of the matter is, this dissatisfaction is not just for a day or two. It remains with them for the entire period of 3-4 months when they are preparing for their next exam which occurs biannually.The repeated failures have hit them so hard that they either stop caring about it or they are in perpetual depression.
I have seen so many CA students who say they are bad at solving sums in Accounts or Costing or Financial Management but they hardly do anything about it. The right way to go about would be to change the tactics and create exam like conditions at home, and start writing papers. Ask an experienced person to correct the papers and learn where exactly you are going wrong. But the students are too lazy to do that. Instead they keep plodding on their 100 times read classes notes and finally keep learning only what they already know. Their main talks are always related to "arriving!" That is becoming a CA! How life will be beautiful after it! But what about the travel? What about the journey! They don't really care! The result is very simple. Stress, bad health and depression!

GrandMaster (GM)

In Chess I see the "arriving syndrome" to a greater extent than anywhere else. Players just about anywhere in the world are obsessed with results, rating & titles. I am sure those who don't play the game think of it as a beautiful royal game. But let me tell you. Once you are into something and take it up as your profession, things start to get dirty!
All the time,chess players, keep seeing their competitors performance and try to compare how they have fared. "Oh xyz has already reached 2500, I am still 2400. We both were having the same rating a few years ago! What happened!" I hardly hear anyone saying, what an amazing combination you played in the 5th game or what an excellent opening novelty you prepared!
The life after becoming a GM enchants them.
Remuneration from the employer, great job in oil companies, appearance money in tournaments are the only thoughts on their mind. And what about the game of chess? What about improving one's game? Removing the flaws in one's play? That takes a backseat.
I always remember a few lines I read in the great book, Road to Chess Improvement written by the American GM Alex Yermolinsky:
 " Year after year I went through the same mesh system of qualification tournaments, only to prove once again that I was good enough to reach the First League but not good enough for the Premier. Seven years, man, It was going on for 7 years and back to square one every spring. I felt like like I was back in the junior years where in every tournament, it was someone else not me taking that next step. I could have easily quit chess but I never did! I worked hard on my games, on my flaws and the result was that I became a GM at the ripe age of 35 years!"
He then went on to win the American championships and the World Open so many times as well as the American Continental Championship!
Today everyone in the chess world knows Yermolinsky as a Legend in Chess. But it was only because he was wise enough to understand that more than arriving, he had to work on his journey.


We all need to arrive somewhere in life! Some need it for financial stability. Some need it for self satisfaction. Everyone has his or her pressing reason to become something! And I agree that achieving one's goals are important! But what have you to lose if you enjoy the process. What do you have to lose if instead of being anxious about reaching Mumbai, you enjoy the beautiful Konkan scenery on the way!
Your journeys in life will decide the quality of your life. After all, at the end of every achievement begins a new journey!
Dear Friends, I think its time for all of us to take the words of Buddha seriously. As a wise man had rightly said: "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, its about Learning to dance in the Rain!! "
The Upper Berth in the train is waiting for you. Why dont you grab it!! :)
                                                                      -Sagar Shah.



  1. Awesome Sagar bhai :) Many things to learn from it! One of the best articles you have ever written! Love it :)

    1. Thanks Swapnil bhai!! I am sure you are going to be a great chess player from India and not only a GM!!

  2. Dear Sagar,

    Very thoughtfully written...! Keep up the good work, I always enjoy your articles.

    1. It is so kind of you to not only write wonderful words here but to take the pains to find my number and wish me personally. Thanks a lot for this gesture! Really appreciate the same!

  3. wonderful, sagar.....lesson of life!!

    1. Rupesh bhai, I always see a smile on your face! I think this article applies very little in your life as you are already enjoying it!!

  4. very nice..... i am get refreshed after reading your articles.!!!

  5. What an observation? Sagar very nicely written but the best part of it is you confessed your weakness and you are open to work on it..Trust me people are so blind in life that they never confront and hence the growth is limited.. M really impressed keep sharing so even we can learn

  6. No good looking females in any of the berths?

  7. Your writing skills are awesome, I have read almost all your contributions on chessbase. Its amazing to know that you have such mental clarity at such an early age. People get old but not all realize that enjoying the journey is more important than the destination itself. Keep it up..
    Vilis Pawar