What is the right age to achieve something in life? Is 40 years, too less a time, or sufficient time to achieve something in life? In this context let me give you an example of 5 lit-luminaries of the 19th century who are more or less contemporaries and who became world renowned figures in their short lifespan. Let me start with Swami Vivekananda an Indian monk, a spiritual guru and also a lit-luminary, lifespan 12th January 1863 – 4th July 1902, a total of 39 years. Let me follow it up with American writer Edgar Allan Poe, born on 19th January 1809, died on 17th October 1849, a life span of 40 years. Then you have the French writer Guy De Maupassant, born on 5th August 1850 and died on 6th July 1893, a life span of 42 years. In the rostrum there is also, Nikolai Vasilie Gogol, a Russian writer of Ukraine origin, who was born on 20th March 1809 and died on 21st February 1852, a life span of 43 years. And last but not the least we have Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, a Russian playwright and short-story writer born on 29th January 1860, he died on 15th July 1904, at the age of forty-four. They all left behind a phenomenal legacy of success and heaps of lessons for the future generations within the ebbs and flows of their limited lifespan.
The mean life expectancy in the 19th century was around 40-45 years. Life expectancy today is around 72 years. There are two off-shoots to this. One, they lived around hundred to ninety percent of the average life expectancy of those times. Two, they only lived for around forty years—a time period, much too less, for any significant milestone achievement barring sports and some other similar careers. When we compare 40 years with today’s life expectancy, it is only around 55%. So then, does life-expectancy, has anything to do with your achievements. The case-study of the quintet says no. There are some more authors, poets and lit-figures from various other countries who created a name for themselves and died very young, say between the age of 17 and 35 years, but I’m not discussing them in this short hypothesis. So, isn’t it, the irony of nature that some in a short lifespan of 40 years make gigantic strides, while others don’t even do that in a century?
Second half of 19th century, when these five were alive and kicking saw some paradigm changes in their countries. Some major events were as follows. India had the First War of Independence in 1857. British East India Company was replaced by the British Crown in 1858. In Russia there was the Crimean War in 1856, Caucasian War in 1864 and the capture of Tashkent by the Russian Army in 1865, Sale of Alaska in 1867, Russian Turkish War in 1877, the severe famine in 1891, Death of Alexander-III in 1894, and the first party congress of Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). In America and Europe Slavery was abolished, first and Second Industrial Revolutions which overlapped with the 18th and 20th centuries respectively led to massive urbanization. Construction of Suez Canal began in 1859, connecting Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea that enabled a more direct route for shipping between Europe and Asia. The Islamic gunpowder empires (Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal) were formally dissolved and European imperialism, brought much of South Asia, Southeast Asia and almost all of Africa under colonial rule. It was also marked by the collapse of the Spanish rulers, Zulu Kingdom, First French Empire, Holy Roman and the Mughal Empire.
Even with all the hullabaloo in their country and continent there was still calm in these five luminaries. They had single focus, just like Arjun’s concentration—machli ki aankh (eye of the fish) and that was … write, write and write till their last moments. Though, born into an aristocratic Bengali Kayastha family of Calcutta, yet Swami Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his guru, Ramakrishna, from whom he learnt, that all living beings, were an embodiment of the divine self. Therefore, service to God, could only be rendered by service to mankind and a lot of that came through texts. In particular I must also mention that Anton Chekhov fell sick in 1885 yet he kept writing till he died of tuberculosis in 1904. Some of them even had financial problems leading to trying times to obtain education and some even had to support their education by writing scripts for magazines and even by selling fish. Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, the second child of actors David and Elizabeth Poe. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died the following year. He became an orphan yet he fought back to become one of the most formidable writers of short stories. When Maupassant was 11, his mother, an independent minded woman took a divorce from her husband and Maupassant thereafter lived with his mother who was the single biggest influence on him but that entailed hardships. Gogol lost his father at the age of fifteen yet he aspired to become a writer.
So then, what is the central idea of life? Well that is to have a mission within all the diversions. Nothing is possible without a mission. And if you can’t fix a mission for yourself follow your heart just as these luminaries did and that itself will take you to your mission.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai and Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida, India)
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)
AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K.)
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN
(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
RHYTHM … in poems
(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories. It is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)
Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June 15 & 20 2020; Indica 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu August 31 2020; Breaking Through the Chakravyuh September 30 2020.
(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)