Sridevi and Principle of “Fit For Purpose”

Popular Bollywood Actress and arguably the first female superstar of Hindi Cinema, Sridevi (Age 54) passed away in Dubai on Saturday.

Sridevi is the first Hindi film actress I remember from my childhood days. I remember “Kaate Nahin Katate…” from Mr. India which I watched in 1987 when I was 7 yr old. (Oops did I just reveal my age?). This was before I watched on screen Madhuri Dixit (Tezaab in 1988 and Tridev and Parinda in 1989). Technically Sridevi is the second actress I watched. I remember Mandakini from Ram Teri Ganga Maili posters (in 1985). But I didn’t watch the movie until much later. But Sridevi was the first actress I remember seeing on screen.

Anyways, to cut the story short, Sridevi passed away in a tragic way. Initially it was reported that the cause of her death was a massive cardiac arrest. Immediately the WhatsApp University Professors swung into action! There were many messages circulated on WhatsApp speculating the cause of cardiac arrest.

One of the common theme was that Sridevi had regularly undergone surgery and invasive treatment and was on Botox to maintain her as slim and trim actress, trying to defy her age and look younger. Several “experts” talked about the side-effects of such treatments and stressed that such a tragic event was bound to happen.

One other message, on a lighter note, said:

An interesting aspect to note: Boney Kapoor (Sridevi’s husband and film producer) who drinks, smokes and doesn’t follow diet outlived the fitness freak (Sridevi).

I couldn’t resist myself and replied:

Nothing can beat this extreme example. Khushwant Singh (99) outlived BKS Iyengar (96).

For the uninitiated, Khushwant Singh was a famous Indian writer, journalist who routinely indulged in wine and women, never exercised, led a life full of (so called) vices and yet lived till age of 99 years. On the other hand, BKS Iyengar was a Yoga guru who practiced Yoga till his death and spread Yoga all over the world. And yet he lived only till age of 96.

And immediately I got the response which I had expected. In fact, I had framed the point such that I would get this reaction so that I could build upon it.

One friend said: But look at the Quality of life. Iyengar Sir was so fit even in his 80’s and 90’s. Khushwant Singh could barely walk in that age. So Iyengar lived a richer and better-quality life.

That gave me the opportunity I was looking for – to preach one of the key principles I like: “Fit for Purpose“.

Fit for Purpose is one of the core principles of Six Sigma or Lean philosophy. It also forms the backbone of Quality.

How does one say that Iyengar’s life was of better quality than Khushwant Singh’s? Yes, his fitness level was far better, but what was the purpose for which they used their bodies? Khushwant Singh was not a Milkha Singh who would run 100 m race, nor was he a Jagjit Singh, who would sing for hours at a concert (and hence needed to maintain his vocal chords and throat). Khushwant Singh was a writer and a journalist – which meant that he had to have a sound mind, alert brain, working eyesight and decent hand eye coordination. But among all these, sound mind and alert brain were the key. And Khushwant Singh had both, till very end of his life.

People often rate physical fitness far more than needed. I am not saying physical fitness is not necessary. It is very much required; but only to suit the purpose. Because the incremental effort and resources needed for achieving that extra bit of fitness is wasteful; and at times it is harmful too. For example, a software engineer, sitting for 8 hours in office needs to be fit. He should exercise to keep himself fit. But he doesn’t have to develop 6-pack abs. I have often seen that youngsters these days don’t understand this basic concept of “Fit for Purpose” and they take supplements, pursue extreme diet, exercise far beyond capacity to “look fit” (i.e. muscles and 6-pack abs).

But are they really fit? Many youngsters who appear fit from outside die of sudden cardiac arrest, or commit suicide or cannot handle mental stress. So their body could be fit, but their minds aren’t. Is that the sign of fitness? In fact, many a times even their body is not fit. Muscle does not equal to fitness. Flexibility, strength, durability, sustainability etc are all characteristics of fitness. But people succumb to only one definition of fitness – muscular and toned body. The same is true in case of women – and then they join the race of being fit, as per the social norms. They follow diet which isn’t natural to them, use cosmetic surgery, use all sorts of therapy to “look young”. But what about “feeling young”. What about developing a sound and agile mind?

I think “Fit for Purpose” is a very profound mantra which can be applied in almost all spheres of life. At common minimum, all people should aspire to live a long healthy, disease-free and productive life. And that requires a body and mind which fits that purpose. Post that, depending on your profession or your goal you would need additional fitness, which you not only want to achieve but also maintain.

“Maintain” part is important. Acquire a fitness level which can be maintained steadily. And do not focus only on Body. Focus equally on Mind. In fact, for most people who work in usual professions, soundness of Mind is more important than that fitness of Body.

Always remember: Fit for Purpose!

Know your purpose, your goal or your role; and see what fits it. Don’t go by someone else’s notion or opinion.

This is true not only about the body/mind but even for how you lead your life.tub.

Was Sridevi leading a life which was fit for her purpose? Or was she overtly obsessed with fitness and indulging in wrong/risky means to remain fit? We would never know…

The latest news on the cause of her death suggests that she was drunk and she accidentally drowned herself in the bath. It is also speculated that she was depressed or was unhappy and hence not “mentally fit”. So the pendulum of speculation has swung from one kind of fitness (Botox and surgery stories) to the other (“mentally unfit”, depressed). Good for TRPs…bad for family and close relatives involved.

Anyways, hope the people see fitness in right perspective and do what is fit for themselves, not influenced by someone else’s notion of it.

P.S: The second profound principle I like is “Right First Time”. Will write about it some other time.

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