Few days back the Dangal girl and winner of the national film award for best supporting actress and national child award for exceptional achievement, Zaira Waseem decided to bid adieu to what many referred to as a promising career in the Indian film industry citing that the line of work interfered with her faith and threatened her relation with Allah. Prominent people across ideological spectrum Bollywood celebrities right-wing trolls, feminists, liberals and Islamophobes may well judge the decision and impute reasons to it but the exit has reignited what is essentially a debate between materialism and spiritualism.
Zaira unambiguously attributed the loss of Iman and barakah to the decision of stepping out of the world of darkness to find true peace inside her. A fatiguing fight with her soul and procrastination to chose between the two worlds made her suffer depression for years. She touched questions on the idea of success, sources of happiness, peace and contentment and purpose of life and existence, questions which are at the core of debate between materialism and spiritualism and the nature of answers one finds to them largely determine nature of one’s existential purposes and orientations. According to Zaira achievement of material standards aren’t correlated with real success but merely delusions that deceive our conscience into unreal contentment. Transcendence over material interpretations, renunciation of worldly desires and association of peace and happiness with accomplishment of purpose of existence are fundamental to spiritual pursuit. Dominant part of our life’s struggle is driven by material pursuits and temptations for wealth, glamour and power which are external to us. All of us strive for peace and happiness but great majority of us take both long and wrong trajectory to the destination even though spiritual flight is both surest and shortest means to destination because happiness invariably lies within us. We all live life of delusions. We attempt to delude our conscience into believing the of the way we live our lives, twisting perceptions to reconcilable them with our lust. Any resistance by conscience is suppressed or procrastinated till we approach a stage where no options other than regret is left. Recounting her five years of industry life as a psychological struggle between what she calls “real” and “delusional self”, a volt- face at the cusp of superstardom is a symbolic of the victory of her spiritual resistance over material tyranny. Of course she found herself in the cross hairs since beginning of her Bollywood career and faced enormous criticism from conservative sections within her own community, Bollywood life too is neither reputable nor a source of women empowerment. The industry is marred by violence against women, substance abuse, gender bias, a business which thrives on the objectification of women. Women in Bollywood are fiercely coerced into perfect bodily ideals to stay relevant in industry. Actresses Tanushree dutta and Deepika Padukone have publically talked about this aspect of Industry life. A series of her social media posts by Zaira such as one mentioning depression on account of failure to choose between two worlds, other post enumerating two heart diseases as doubt and lust amply reveal a gradual spiritual transformation and not knee jerk reaction from a bullied moron. Although Zaira has apologised for any seed of temptation she thinks she might have sown in the hearts of people, she instead deserves our approval for the igniting the spark of spiritual resurgence.
(The author is a school teacher by profession)