Monday, April 24, 2017


“Excuses are merely nails used to build a house of failure.”

- American Proverb

“So, the train was late, today,” I playfully teased the young-man who was almost fifteen minutes late for the session.

“Train was not late, sir,” the tall young-man corrected me, “I was late!”

“Wow! That’s something I loved,” I explained to the class, “That’s exactly what I meant by ‘Owning up… taking responsibility for one’s actions… It is the first leg of the stool called ‘Self-confidence.”

The boy wasn’t giving me any justifications for his late-entry. He wasn’t feeling anxious, guilty or scared… For, he had owned up his action… He knew, that if he wanted to be in time, he would … Trains were running in time… The weather was absolutely normal - no thunderstorm or hailstorm… There weren’t any bandh or riots… At home, everything was normal… the milkman, delivered milk in time, the paperwala dropped paper in time… the maid came to make rotis in time… mom had set breakfast in time… and, the Central Railways operated all their Mumbai locals perfectely in time…

Then, why was our young-man late?

I was there in his college to help him and his fellow-students how to build up self-confidence and improve their communication skills in life… “Your self-confidence is like a stool with three legs,” I was explaining to them, “Take responsibility for your success… Feel worthwhile… Feel appreciated.” I had learnt this lesson, long ago, in a little book called, ‘Changes’. “Till you do not take charge of your own success… till you do not stop blaming, justifying and giving excuses, you will not harness enough self-confidence in you… The blamers are the losers. Those who take responsibility for their success are the winners.”

And, right in the midst of this explanation during the morning session, the young-man appeared – fifteen minutes late – to testify:

“Hello, the train was not late… I was. Yes, I woke up late… Because I went to bed late last night… I did not give utmost priority to be here in time… I took it a bit casually… I could have taken an earlier train… I could have come early and spend some time in the college library… If I wanted it, I would have had it.”

I took this episode and said to the class, “This young-man has taught us, that when we own up our mistakes, and flaws, we invariably overcome them… We change for the better… we become self-confident in life.”

Later, during the session, when the young-man was on stage to speak, I prodded him to tell us as to what made him say, “Sir, the train was not late, I was late.”

The young-man recounted the story… “One day, when I came late and started blaming the train for my late-coming, our ma’am opened my eyes: “Never, ever blame the train and the Central Railway for your flaws… If you wanted to be here in time, you could have done everything required to be done to achieve that objective… Say train was not late… I was late.”

When you own up, excuses go… When excuses go, self-confidence comes!


Pic.: Azriel D'Souza

Sunday, April 23, 2017


My friend, Austin Coutinho, literally survives on the oxygen called ‘Cricket’. Is he a player? Yes, he was, once. Is he a coach? Yes, he was and he still is. Is he a mentor? He has always been, and will always be one. Is he a consultant? Yes, he is… and, too good in it. What else?

Here it is: He is a gifted cartoonist! And, rightly, has been spending hours and hours to give life to every cricket hero through his adorable caricatures… Every morning – perhaps when all of us are still asleep – he wakes up with a new idea in his mind… Sometimes, the subject of his creative work could be a Soccer star – a Messi or a Ronaldo… sometimes, it could be Usain Bolt or  Michael Jordan… or our own Sindhu, Sakshi or Dipa. Like me, there are several admirers of Austin… and we all look forward to see his fresh offering of the day… When we see it, our hearts smile!

“How does he do it?” I have wondered almost every day, “He is a genius!”

Once, earlier, when I had blogged about Austin, I had confessed. that making a commitment to create a cartoon or two everyday and spend your entire lifetime honoring that commitment to self… yes, without expecting any reward for it, takes tons of self-discipline. I keep telling our young-ones, who come to us to learn how to be self-confident: “Making a commitment and keeping it is the easiest and the best way.”

But, that’s also, ironically, the toughest way!

In life, we all are afraid to make commitments! And, there lies the root cause of our self-confidence problem!

Last summer, when we held our annual certification programme for our P.D. students, Austin was a guest of honour. We had released a book that day, titled ‘What Makes Me Confident’. The little-ones, young-ones and adults – yes, the book carried voices of all as to what made them confident. Austin was not only kind enough to do a write-up, but also was generous enough to do the beautiful cover… and, he did it with his unmistakable stamp: with caricatures of sports and other heroes!

Today, Austin had shared on his FB Page a picture featuring M.S. Dhoni with his tribute to the legend:
“What a genius! MSD with the RPS Book of caricatures. Honoured, Col. Shankar Vembu.”

I couldn’t resist replying:

“Austin, I keep telling our young-ones, that we all have to discover our respective 'stage' to perform... to display our genius.... and make a passionate commitment to it.... just as you have! So, to me, you are no less than a Dhoni or Tendulkar. For, they, sure, will look pygmies from that stage. Till our young-ones don't realize this, they will keep chasing an illusion. Keep displaying your genius, Austin… keep inspiring us to discover our own 'stage'... Loads of love.”

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,”  did Thomas Edison say this?

I have one more thing to add: Genius is also about finding our vocation in life – ‘our stage’… For sure, Dhoni and Tendulkar are not as gifted as, my gifted cartoonist friend, Austin Coutinho, is when it comes to what Austin does best… On that pedestal, yes, Austin will stand tall!

What about us, the lesser mortals?

Are we lesser, by the way… on ‘our own stage’?

Pic.: Austin Coutinho

Friday, April 21, 2017


Are we all shy people?

Well, most of us are… if not all. Majority!

Early this morning, Rakesh Menon, the founder and teacher of our Tai Chi group, was on stage organized by Chembur Festival Committee (2017) to promote health and well-being. Today, from 8 am to 9 am, our sir, along with some of our students, demonstrated to the participants the benefits of Tai Chi…

Rakesh Menon, our teacher, was brilliant on stage! I watched him closely… getting transformed – rather transcended – from ordinary to extra-ordinary… from real to surreal. I had one more live testimony to prove: It is your core strength… your niche… your own cherished domain… yes, it is when you operate from this space, you come about special, mighty… authentic. It is when you sing from there, dance from there, write from there, speak from there, teach from there, heal from there, play from there, paint from there… do anything and everything from there… yes, it is only when you rise up from there, that you stand out like a precious diamond…

Every precious diamond is hidden inside the coal… Every precious pearl is clothed inside the shell called shyness. Put the coal and the shell on stage… before the camera, canvas, audience… beholders… put the coal and the shell where they really belong, and they unfurl, shine...

And, they become an Amitabh Bachchan… a Shah Rukh Khan… a Marlon Brando… an A.R. Rehman, a Michael Jackson and an entire galaxy of stars!

For years, I have been telling this - from every platform, and from the top of my voice. That, there is no point in worrying about our shyness… That, our shyness is something amazing about us… That, if we learn to channelize it well, we can emerge like diamonds emerging from coal and pearls emerging from shells… That, when we know who we are, we simply shine, simply present our authentic self…

So, why worry about what we can’t do in life? We can’t do so many things… so many things. But, can’t we do one or two things brilliantly, with all our heart and soul… like painting, singing, composing, playing, writing, acting, teaching, cooking, serving, baking, training, peace-making, volunteering, organizing, healing, designing, selling, fixing, counseling, mentoring and, if not any of these, just being an authentic audience, a spectator… a beholder?

Everybody can be a great performer when he goes up on ‘his own stage’… ‘his on sphere’!


Today, after the programme, when I was telling Rakesh sir as to how delightfully I beheld him transform on Tai Chi stage, he simply blushed. He wanted me to tell it to all. So, I huddled many of his well-wishers together and said, “Sir transformed on stage as Amitabh Bachchan did in front of the camera… I call it ‘The Dance of the Rainbow.”


Pic.: Joni/Chetna Shetty

Videos: YouTube

Thursday, April 20, 2017


“People can become addicted to fame, money, and attention
as deeply as they become addicted to drugs.” 

In our college canteen, Mangalore, there was a rude waiter. He dealt with the students with his sarcastic comments and got away with it; but, not always. One day, he got the taste of his own medicine…

A student came to the counter and made a typical inquiry with the rude waiter. I reproduce, here, the exchange of their dialogues (with Hindi and English translation) in the local Tulu language as it carries its own flavor:

Student: “Bechha yenchina undu?”
“Garam kya hai”
“What is there hot (dish)?”

Waiter: “Bechcha? Dingeld genda undu.”
“Garam? Chule mein koyla hai”
“Hot? There is coal in the oven.”

Student: “Korle onji plate.”
“Ek plate de do.”
“Get me a plate of it.”

The waiter went inside the kitchen and returned with a plate of red-hot coal… and placed it on the counter with that arrogant look: “You think you are smart?”

The young-man did not blink… He pulled out  a cigarette, placed between his lips… bent down on the coal to light it up… and walked out of the canteen, like a Boss!

Yes, we, the spectators, applauded the ‘Boss’: “BRAVO… BRAVO!!!”

As college kids, we got our cheap thrills from roadside ‘shows’ like these… The above one actually happened in our college canteen when I was one of the spectators. Little did we know, then, that, four decades later, we would get to experience loads of similar thrills through social media and news channels, every passing minute!

Take twitting and trolling, for example…

We, the gullible spectators, are all waiting and watching: What next? Sonu Nigam has shaved his head knowing very well that  he did not do it for Mullah’s ten-lakh moolha… but, to get even with the him (Mullah)… Mullah has become even more adamant… Meanwhile, the twitter-followers, Facebook, WhatsApp, electronic and print media are having a field day!

The noise pollution created out of this is worse than that of the loudspeakers… It is toxic!

The Mullah says “Sonu does it for publicity, I don’t need it… I have more followers than him!”

So, it’s all about the number of followers; isn’t it?

Some days ago, in our P.D. session, I had given for Group Discussion this topic: ‘Have we all become addicts of social media?’

Without even a single exception, the teenagers confessed: “Yes, we have!”

And smile: “Not just we… Our parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins and even grandparents… all have become addicts!”

“You need to get in touch with your thoughts… trust your thoughts… and express your thoughts,” I repeatedly tell our young-ones, just to remind them, that they all have ideas, views and opinions… and, unless they get in touch with them, trust in them, they will not be able to express with self-confidence…

We all have our opinions… and, we have the right to voice them in an appropriate manner from an  appropriate platform…

But, what happens when we are ‘opinionated’?

Where is it coming from?


Pic.: Azriel D'Souza

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


“A flower does not think of competing
with the flower next to it…
It just blooms.”

- Unknown

I spent the entire day, today, with B.Sc (IT) students of a Mumbai college. They are all set to walk into their final year, in a few weeks from now. So, the college authorities are aware of the fact that these young-ones would need to be groomed so that they get good placement. I was there, today, to help them in their self-confidence and communication skills.

At their age, I was worse, as far as my self-confidence and communication skills were concerned. So, if I could do something about my problem, they, certainly, can do something about theirs… As I, always, say: “If I can, you, too, can.” But, after a pause, I add this: “I said, ‘You can’… not ‘You will’!”

Yes, I, always, hammer this truth into young-ones' skulls: “Till you do not make ‘I can’ into ‘I will’, your problem will remain your problem.”

Guys like me go there and share our ‘success’ stories before the young-ones… Those stories inspire them… And, when the young-ones deeply admire us for our confidence and communication skills, they do attract in them those qualities. The Law of Attraction gets in motion the moment they start loving deeply what they see in their icons and when they start desiring those qualities… “I became a teacher by deeply admiring my own teacher,” I keep telling young-ones, “and by desiring to become a teacher like my idol.”

Today, I reminded the young students about the same ‘Secret’ – the same Law of Attraction – that would bring about a change in them: “What you deeply like, you attract.”

In the end, I asked them this: “B.Sc. (IT) was a choice or an accident?”

Though I knew what the consensus would be, I wanted to hear it from them. Only a few said ‘Choice’… while the majority said, ‘Accident’… Yes, majority wanted to get into Engineering, Medicine etc. But, ‘marks’ did not support their dream… B.Sc (IT) was a reluctant choice…

I continued: “So, after two years, how do you see the situation? Those who got there as a choice, may or may not like it, now… and those who got there by default, now, may or may not like it, too... This is going to be your last year… So, if your heart is not here in it, how on earth can you feel confident about yourself? Ideally, in life, we all should do what we love… But, if our circumstances land us somewhere else, then, we should learn to love what we do… If we do not do that, we would just drag around… just survive… To live life with confidence – which I call ‘authenticity’ - we need to be passionate about the work we do… There is no option there… No escape route, no excuse. You are young-adults, now… You are capable of connecting the dots… you are capable of putting the pieces of your life-puzzle together… Do what you love… Love what you do. Your confidence will simply come from that… And, listen to this: With such self-confidence, you do not need anyone to teach you how to communicate effectively.”

It is the ‘inside’ that we all should focus on… The ‘outside’ just glows!


Pic.: Shraddha Sachdev

Monday, April 17, 2017


“Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.”

- George Herbert
Two days ago, I had an occasion to re-affirm my belief, that there is much more to our self-confidence than our looks, size and academic qualification. A gentleman, who had a couple of post-graduate degrees, including an MBA and PhD, wanted to meet me to discuss about his self-doubts. Similarly, a young girl, a college student, too, wanted to meet me to discuss about her self-doubts: her color complexion and size…

The gentleman was a HOD in one of the premier educational institutions in Mumbai. He was very articulate and spoke with good body-language… Before getting into the academic field, he had spent more than six years in the field of selling and marketing. 

“Why did you switch the field?” I asked the gentleman.

“I, always, wanted to influence people,” he said, “teaching, I thought, would be the best way to go about it.”

“Do you enjoy teaching? Do you feel you are able to ‘influence’ people?” I asked.

“Yes, I do,” the gentleman replied.

“Then, what is that weighing you down?” I probed.

“I want you to analyze if my communication skills and body language are ‘up-to-the- mark’… I think I am not good at them.”

“Up-to-the-mark!” I said, slightly teasing the gentleman, “Who has set this ‘mark’ for you?”

The gentleman wasn’t prepared for that… “But, sir, I am not sure if my communication skills and body language are ‘perfect’ or not… So, you can analyze them, I think.”

“And, you think I am an ‘expert’ in that job… ‘Perfectionism’? I teased further. I did not want to beat about the bush more… So, I straightaway came to the point: “Look my friend, you have come to a man who doesn’t possess even half of your academic qualifications… I don’t head a department in a premier educational institution… You have excellent command over communication and your body language is great… Why in the world do you need a ‘certificate’ from a guy like me? Why are you undermining your worth?”

The gentleman’s face began to light up. I continued, “You love your teaching job… You feel you are able to influence young minds… You also say that you are able to earn a decent sum of money… and, above all, you say that you are able to see a good future… Aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” the gentleman confessed.

“If so, that should be your certificate… Trust yourself… Put more love and commitment into your profession… Put all your passion and teach… There is no need to follow any ‘mark’… no need to imitate anybody… The only ‘mark’ you need to follow is the feeling within – whether you totally enjoy your work or not… whether you feel you are contributing for your students’ growth or not… Your communication and body language come from that inner space… and you are your own judge in this respect.”

Then, I said this, “Look at the irony, my friend… Despite even an MBA and Doctorate, you do not feel ‘good enough’… Is it not like being knee-deep in water and still dying of thirst?”

“It is, sir,” the gentleman confessed.

The young college-girl was dusky and plump. “I am good in studies sir… and my parents, relatives, friends and teachers love me,” she said while discussing her case, “But, my dark complexion and shapeless body disturb me… I feel low in confidence.”

This young girl was one of the ‘prettiest’ young girls I had met… I am not just saying this, I mean it. She was ‘beautiful’… She came about extremely sincere, teachable and warm. Yes, her skin was not ‘fair and lovely’ as she was brain-washed to believe… and, her size was not the one made popular by Kareena Kapoor…

“Darling, do you know that you are beautiful despite your dusky complexion and baggy shape?” I asked.

Darling only blushed!

“Your beauty stems from your self-confidence, and your confidence has nothing to do with your colour and size,” I assured the young lady, “Look at the substance hidden within and let it allow you to feel strong… Every fair-and-lovely lady or every ‘size-zero’ woman is neither confident nor awesome… Don’t get bogged down by a lie… Believe in your inner beauty and strength. Yes, meanwhile, you do work on your weight and looks. But, don’t let others decide how good or valuable you are.”

I could literally hear the sigh of relief!

Truly, there is much more to our self-confidence than our looks, size and academic qualification.


Pic.: Shoba N. Krishnan

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Dhruv Gupta, who studies in twelfth-standard (ISC), is one of my committed and intelligent students. After completing his high school in Punjab, where he grew up, his parents enrolled him in one of Mumbai’s reputed institutions to pursue his further studies. One of the reasons for this decision was that Dhruv’s maternal grandparents lived here in Mumbai alone. They needed care and support as they weren’t in their good health. So, I had the fortune of teaching Dhruv, first in his eleventh standard, and now in his twelfth. As our P.D. programme was approaching, I spoke to Dhruv about it. “It will give you an edge… It will help you to be confident and assertive,” I explained. Dhruv’s mother, who knew her son better than anyone else did, liked the idea when Dhruv consulted her. Shew knew that Dhruv was a shy boy and needed to be groomed in this area and, hence, was keen on him doing it. But, not his father. “Let him focus on his studies now,” he advised Dhruv’s mother.

Yesterday, Dhruv’s mother called me up from Punjab. “Sir, I want Dhruv to attend your P.D. sessions,” she said sincerely, “But sir, I have heard, that their benefit is only temporary.”

“Ma’am, you have heard it right,” I said to Dhruv’s mother with a chuckle in my heart, “If we pump people with self-confidence – like pumping hot-air in balloons – it is going to be temporary.”

“So sir, what should I do?” Dhruv’s mother asked me with all her honesty.

“Ma’am, trust me and send him,” I assured Dhruv’s mother “He is not a hot-air-balloon.”

I do not know if Dhruv and his mother know this: In Hindu Mythology, Dhruv was a little boy who given by God a place in the sky to shine. And why did God show this favour? For taking care of his parents. He is considered to be the brightest star… which, in the Western world, is known as the Pole Star!

So, if Dhruv knows the truth about him – his special benevolence from God – then, he will also know the place where he belongs in the vast sky…

A hot-air balloon?


It reminds me of a blog post I had written more than two years ago. I wish to share it, once again, as it perfectly fits the puzzle…


Balloons go up only when you fill them with air… the hot-air. So, if they have to remain up there, if they have to keep soaring high – then, you need to ensure that the hot- air lasts in them for a long, long time…

But, do you see balloons floating long enough in the air?

Well, let me talk about another kind of balloons, now.

As I had promised to my friend, Harish, I held, yesterday, a four-hour programme for his wonderful staff in a hotel. Harish was very clear in his objective: he wanted his young boys and girls to ‘aspire’ for a better life… a productive and contributing life. For that, he wanted them to be ‘inspired’… So, rightly, he had coined the theme for the programme: ‘Inspire and Aspire’.

Well, I gave my best… and, I could make out that they were all ‘inspired’… Yes, pumped-up with that hot-air. At the end of the session, almost all young boys and girls came up to me to tell that they were charged-up, now… That, they were, now, ready to aspire for a more productive life…

I was glad…

Their boss, Harish, too, was glad… But, then, he knew his boys and girls better than I did. “I only don’t want it to be a ‘Smashan Vairagya’,” he said apprehensively…

I loved that…

When you are in a smashan – a crematorium – and when you see the dead body going in flames, getting reduced to ashes… invariably, the experience can be moving, life-transforming… Overwhelmed by emotions, and struck by sorrow, you, indeed, start contemplating on the kind of arrogance that has marked your life… the blind chase that you have pursued… the pain that you have caused to your near and dear ones, the grudges that you have held, the vices that you have fallen prey to…. And, standing there, right in front of the burning corpse, you begin to repent in your heart and resolve to put an end to your blind pursuits, you vices… You resolve to be a good soul…

The flames of pyre have filled your heart with hot-air, now… and, you leave the cremation ground, the smashan, aspiring for a better life… A lot inspired!

This kind of change of heart is known as ‘Smashan Vairagya’… and, we all go through this kind of vairagya – ‘detachment’, ‘change of heart’, ‘inspiration… call it whatever you wish -  time and time again, yes, when we are in near the funeral pyre… My friend, Harish, knew that his boys and girls were very moved, very inspired, yesterday, when they were in my presence… He knew that many of them would cry in their heart, resolve to change their ways… Yes, aspire to be better souls, better employees…

But, then, the smashan vairagya lasts only till you reach home… Maybe, for some more days after you leave the smashan! Then, your old-habits come back to rule you… You start running after the same-old stuff that had made you blind and heartless… You start giving in to the same-old vices… start holding on to the same-old grudges…

The hot-air from funeral-pyre has gone… The heart is back to its old business!

So, looking at the sky, I am smiling now...  “How long the hot-air, which I had filled last afternoon, will last in Harish’s balloons?” I wonder...

I, also, wonder, “Is there another way to send balloons high up in the sky?”

Pic.: Hot-air Balloon Safaris, S.A