Saturday, February 17, 2018

SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE, ALWAYS PAYS FOR YOUR 'FREE LUNCH'








“There is no free lunch in life,” I told  Varun*, this morning. He had come to attend the Tax class (Direct Tax).

Varun’s parents, who are both doctors, are my friends. Some months ago, when Varun had decided to change his stream from Engineering to Commerce, I was approached to do two things: 1. To provide a solid foundation to Varun in important Commerce subjects like Accountancy, Costing and Taxation so that he would be able to take off smoothly. 2. To motivate him to be a self-starter and develop a winning attitude.

I have had wonderful experience over last two-three months. Varun has been very receptive and has not disappointed me.

However, as a young boy, Varun is no different from his peers… He loves to chill out with his friends, play competitive football and video games, watch movies and attend late-night parties… Move around with friends, both boys and girls… invite them over for lunch and sleep-overs… And, importantly, bully his kid brother, argue heatedly with his parents, and then sulk in his cave!

Yes, Varun is the typical young boy…  His father believed that if Varun did an internship in a good firm for some period, the work experience could bring about a shift in his son’s outlook towards life. “Nothing can replace the work experience… People become automatically responsible… Learn to respect the authorities; learn to adjust with their colleagues, value time and money, work hard and work long etc.”… Yes, guided by this belief, Varun’s father, using his influence, got the young man join a global giant, as an Intern in their Indian Head-office. Varun had taken a break from my classes for a week. However, on the very first day, after reaching home from his work, he had called me to say ‘Thank-you sir… The concepts which you had taught, and the advice which you had given, have been very useful here.”

I was happy to hear that…

Today is a Saturday… A day off for Varun. He had come to attend the Tax class. Before the class started, he recounted the week’s experience in his office. “I make it a point to reach at least 15 minutes before,” Varun said, “I go by Ola (Share) and come back by the Metro. The colleagues are very supportive and the work atmosphere is fabulous… They say, that I am lucky to get a break here… as the company rarely picks freshers… It generally picks people with 4-5 years of work experience…”

Varun was excited and proud.

Later, while teaching him about Perquisites (in Income-tax subject), I was talking about the meaning of Perquisites… which Perquisites are taxable and which are tax-free. “Free lunch and refreshment provided by the employer, in the office premises during the office hours, is one of the tax-free Perquisites,” I said.

Varun’s face lit up… “Sir, in our office we get a lavish lunch… Chicken is my favourite and it is served every day… Coffee, tea, soup, juices are served throughout and they are all ‘free’…” Varun had more to share…

“Now, freeze for a moment, Varun,” I said, “You say they are ‘free’ because you don’t pay for them and they are tax-free, too. But, are they not ‘privileges’ in life? What have you done to ‘earn’ those privileges… the break you have got in such an enviable organization, the golden exposure to grow with ‘the best’… the privilege of getting sumptuous food and beverages, all free of cost… the fortune of being able to commute by an air-conditioned taxi to your office during the peak hours… and, above all, to come home to relax with a loving and caring family… Are these not life’s privileges… and have they all not come to you  as ‘gifts’… all free of cost?”

Varun knew what I was trying to convey. “Yes sir, I am really fortunate. On the very first day of my internship, after dad came home, I expressed my gratitude to him… It was his hard-earned goodwill that has brought me these privileges… He has earned it for me. I know, he has paid a ‘price’ for it… and, there is no ‘free lunch’ in life!”

Somebody always pays for your free lunch, sir… Yes, somebody , somewhere, always does!

Work experience is, always, the best teacher in life. Students who ‘earn and learn’, invariably, do well in life… They learn life-lessons better and faster than those who only learn.

I am really happy for Varun… and, hope to see him blossom into a fine individual in life.

* Name changed


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.:Kamal Kishore Rikhari

Friday, February 16, 2018

THE REMINDER FROM A SUNSET AND A CEMETERY















“He who is not contented with what he has,
would not be contented with what he would like to have.” 

― Socrates

The desire to grow financially, improve the standard of living and secure the future of our family members – yes, I think, it is one of the most powerful human drives. The poor want to come out of their poverty and the rich want to become ever richer… The drive is the same… Only the sizes of their ‘wants’ – I said ‘wants’, not ‘needs’ – differ.

A poor man, who doesn’t have a house of his own, desires to have one of his own. So, ideally, with a small house of 1-BHK or 2-BHK, he should be content. On the other hand, a rich man, with a big mansion, should be content with what he has already got. But, the poor man desires for even better house and life style and the rich man desires for even bigger mansion, more luxurious cars and material things in life. It shows in their family’s lifestyles, including weddings and holidays.

In life, how much is really enough to make one happy and content?

No one actually knows!

The restlessness, meanwhile, makes all of us desire for more… work for more, build and accumulate more… all with the hope, that the future of our families will be secure.

My own experience has taught me this: Though we all need good amount of money and material possessions to live a happy life, our happiness doesn’t necessarily depend on our money and possessions. Our happiness – I am talking about a true sense of happiness – fundamentally depends on our attitude of gratitude. Unless, we acknowledge what God has already blessed us with, and unless we feel deeply grateful for that privilege, no amount of money or possessions can fill our hearts.

Greed is excessive desire. It comes from the lack of attitude of gratitude. The desire to accumulate more and more wealth and keep up with the Ambanis and the Adanis – yes, this desire comes from lack of gratitude in life. The funny thing is this: While the Ambanis and the Adanis, who, just a few decades ago, were like the rest of us here, are still desperate to accumulate more… we, here, are desperate to keep up with them!

Funny are the worldly ways!

I do not like to talk about Vijay Mallya or Nirav Modi. For, there is a Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi in all of us… We all play the same game as they played… Only the scale and size of our games are different. Our desires are same… Our methods are same… The name of the game is same… The only difference is: They played bigger games and we play smaller!

Some days ago, I and my family had been to our hometown, Mangalore, to attend the marriage of my nephew (my elder brother’s son).  For those couple of days, we were accommodated by my younger brother, Rony, in his new house. It’s a beautiful apartment – very spacious and with wonderful amenities. Rony has been working very hard in Kuwait for many years, and, he has rightfully desired, like all of us, to have a good house and standard of living. So, while staying in his house, I felt really happy for him. One evening, he took me to their terrace. “Dattu (elder brother), let me show you a beautiful sight,” he said as we landed on the terrace, “Look, here it is!”

What I saw was not only the captivating scenery of sunset… but also the grim look of the cemetery right across the road!

“Why here?” must have been the obvious question by everyone, who visited my brother’s house…  “Yes, why facing a cemetery?”

Before I could ask that question, my brother had an answer… “The sunset and the cemetery are the reminders for us,” my brother said, “that, no matter how ‘great’ you become in life, that’s where we all are going to be.” He concluded, “I like to spend a few moments here in silence… It is my meditation!”


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Chenthi Mohan/ Jouneys with Meaning

Thursday, February 15, 2018

WINK YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS







I once heard Oprah Winfrey saying in one of her talk shows, “Your fame only implies that more number of people know you than they know others.”

True. If more number of people know you (than they know others) for a good reason, you are obviously hailed as ‘famous’. On the other hand, if more number of people know you for a wrong reason, you are damned as ‘notorious’!

Often, people try to become famous by moving heaven and earth; but, they just don’t get there… And, sometimes, just by a ‘wink’, someone does…

Logic may not explain that phenomenon… Maybe Luck does!

How else will you explain this phenomenon called ‘Priya Prakash Varrier’ – the 18-year-old girl who ‘winked’ her way to overnight-fame?






My friend, Dr. Deepak, had a very witty way of telling the young ones, that they should not expect to get success or fame just the way they expected to get an instant coffee… “It takes twenty long- years to become an overnight success,” he would drill into their heads. The message, obviously, was: “You have to dream and slog - work hard and work smart… You have to fall and get up, fall again and get up again… You have to be patient, persevere and hang on there… till you make it.”

The young ones (and the old ones) who have made Priya famous overnight, are now left wondering: “Is it ‘twenty long-years’ or is it ‘twenty short-seconds’ that makes us famous or successful overnight?”

There is a lot more to success than getting more eye-balls. Priya is young… But, when I hear her speak to various TV channels, I am happy to see, that she is aware of this truth. I am sure, she will not get carried away by this frenzy and will tread cautiously in her career. It’s not the kind of success she truly aspires to achieve… “It’s surreal,” she confesses.

Lady Luck needs to be wooed by all of us, just the way Priya wooes her Valentine in the viral video. But, I still pray, ‘May it take twenty long-years and not  twenty short-seconds to succeed’…

It’s solid, and it’s real… that way, you see…

Meanwhile, let’s relish this fresh breath of air called ‘Priya Prakash Varrier’!






GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet
Videos: YouTube


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

BEFORE OUR PASSIONS TURN INTO OUR TRAPS





















“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos.

-”Tennessee Williams



There is a ‘trap’ in which we all fall into: Doing what we love the most!

Now, I may sound wired when I say this. “How can doing what we love the most can entrap us?” I hear this question.

Like the majority, I, too, believe in seeking happiness in life by following my heart… by doing what I love the most. And, therefore, I have chosen that path for being happy in life… I have done - and am still doing and shall be alwaysl doing – exactly the same…

Do what I love and love what I do!

But, along this path, I have realized this truth: Often, along our happiness path, we may be blinded… become mechanical, compulsive and even egoistic. What we love to do should come from a very, very clean space… and not from a need to prove our worth to others, seek others’ approval and validation, the need to be visible, feel praised and complimented… Yes, as I said, these needs can quietly sneak in and corrupt our hearts.

Thus, it is prudent to take, time to time, conscious breaks from what we passionately love to do… and let the quiet space reign over our consciousness… It is very meditative… Just watching the thoughts, including the ones that give us happiness or sorrow all the while…

There is a reason why I am saying all this, today. I am writing this blog after almost two weeks. To me, writing every day, even if it is a small piece, is a very fulfilling and therapeutic experience… I feel the happiest… I do not bother about who reads my posts or who don’t… It doesn’t matter whether or not my writing brings me fame or money… All that matters to me is to ‘express’… I have this need to do it, and, therefore, I do it…

But, as I said, this very need to ‘express’ can, quietly, turn into an ego-trip… And, that’s the ‘trap’ I was talking about at the outset of this Post…

We need to abstain from our passions, time to time… They call it ‘Retreat’… “Sharpening our Saws’…

So, what did I do during these days? Did I go into the mountains or did I got into a boat and just disappeared from the crowd?
 
Nothing of that sort… I was, in fact, in the midst of the thickest of actions… I had been to my home town to attend my nephew’s wedding – a big, fat Mangalorean wedding… There, I also got to attend a couple of other social functions… all were full of glitter. For a while, I felt completely uprooted… Then, quickly, I  decided to be ‘present’ there… Totally… With all my heart and soul!

Was that meditation?

I believe, it was!

I consciously chose not to worry about rest of the world… I chose not to bother about what to say in my daily Posts… My son’s phone, mysteriously, conked off the day we had landed in Mangalore… I gave away mine to him and remained without any so-called contact with the world for almost eight days!

The sky did not fall and my happiness did not desert me, you see…

All happiness and sadness stories are simply the stories we weave in our minds. That’s all…

This morning, I thought, I would write something around it…

And, I did.

I am as happy as the blue and white sky, up there high!

 P.S.: I had written this Post three days ago. Just did not feel ‘compelled’ to publish it!


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Suyog Surte

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

THE FIRST MOVE IS ALWAYS FROM MY END








I think, forgiveness does not necessarily need two people – the forgiver and the forgiven. One person is enough… and, that can be either of the two.

Yes, if I seek forgiveness from you and you forgive me, it is an ideal situation. But, in real life, there are no ‘ideal’ situations. The only ideal is: if there is no forgiveness, there is no peace… and, if there is no peace, Life is miserable. A hell!

I was talking to a young man a while ago, who was angry at his father. It seems, last night, a small argument lead to a physical brawl between the father and the son. And, the young man was not in a position to accept this behavior from his father. As I knew the father too very well, I got father’s version as well… Even he said the same thing, “I am not prepared to accept my son’s behaviour.”

So, what now? Is it a dead-end? Is there hope or no hope?

There is hope… Because, there are no dead-ends in life. For a sensible and teachable human being, all dead-ends are new turning-points in life… They are his opportunities to grow as a fine, mature individual.

I said to the young man, “Dear, do you know from where does your dad’s behavior come?”

The young man did not have a clue…

“Every adult has a child inside him… Often, this child has been wounded, not cared for, not been loved enough… Often, this child has been abused by his own parents. Have you ever thought about it? Till you do not empathize with this invisible condition of your dad, you will only conclude “He is cruel”… “He is unjust”, etc.

Fortunately, the young man was able to get my point. “Is peace important to you or not?” I asked him.

“It is very important,” the young man said.

“Then, don’t wait for your dad to make the first move,” I said, “Go and make the first move.”

The first move is always mine, if peace is dear to me. But, my ego doesn’t allow me to do it, I know. But, I also know, that it is less difficult compared to the weight of living under that heavy stone over my heart. A simple gesture like, “I am sorry dad for my behavior last night”…  yes, it takes a man to make this first move… It can melt my dad!

Will my dad forgive me?

Most probably, he will.

“Seeking forgiveness is a greater act of courage than forgiving your tormentor,” I told the young man. Then I added, “It is as courageous as forgiving your tormentor on your own.”

“Seek to understand and then to be understood.” Stephen Covey listed this as the Habits no. 5 in his revered book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

So, there we go, once again: the first move is always from ‘my end’… by being ‘Proactive’.

And, to sum it all: ‘Be Proactive’ was the Habit no. 1.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Avinash Mantri


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SLOW DOWN... LIFE IS CROSSING THE ROAD

















“Slow down... Life is crossing the road.”
― Debasish Mridha



Right now, my body, mind and heart – all three yearn to rest. “Enough of aggression,” I hear them remind me, “Slow down… Keep your tools down… Just yield.”

Almost four to five hours in the morning, today, I found myself in an aggressive mode – aggressive in the sense: I was result oriented, my words were piercing, patience was on the edge… and I could feel I was getting the work done from my students. Yes, there was that immediate sense of achievement…

But, when it was all over, I could also feel the vacuum… the energy was all depleted… all my students gone and I was left alone, here, to wonder: If there was another way of going about it… A way where my energy would be conserved, words not as pricing as they were and patience not as edgy as it was…

So, now, when I have dropped my tools and aggression and able to reflect, yes, I do feel, that there certainly was another way of going about my work….

But, I see my heart smiling… “Hey, was it not because of your ‘speed and aggression’ that you now value this state of yielding? How could you know what aggression and speed did had you not been in the fast lane?”

So, no regrets for being in a hurry. For, I am not glorifying hurry… I am only saying, without my speed, hurry and aggression, I would not have longed to be contemplative… I would not have valued the slowness and solitude.

I don’t think, Life can be sustained only in the slow lane. Yin and Yang – call it male-female, negative-positive, dark-bright, fire-water, whatever – are opposite forces; but, they are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. Therefore, I believe, we need not worry too much about the fall out of our speed and aggression, so long as we are able to reach the other hemisphere – slowness and solitude.

I had been a massive fan of Muhammad Ali. I saw the lightening speed of his glorious boxing-days dissolving into a painfully slow state, later in his life… Nature did it. “I am the Greatest” dissolved into “Allah O Akbar”… God is the Greatest! All his life, Ali took stupendous pride in being the fastest and the deadliest… only to realize, as Parkinson took a toll on his body and mind, that every step he took, every feather he lifted, every breath he inhaled… yes, needed the mercy of Allah…

So, like Ali, even if I do not wish to yield, the Nature does it on its own…

There is a time to slow down… Yield!

Everything around me has the mystical two sides… The sky explodes and the sky shies away… The Sun burns and the Sun calms down… The Moon blossoms into full glory and the Moon goes into hiding… The waves of the ocean come crashing mercilessly and then they go back as if they are powerless… The wind blows and the wind bows… The eagles fly and then they go to rest… The breath comes in and the breath goes out… The Lilies bloom and then they shrink… Even the lovers draw apart after their intimacy… And, yes, no one would have known what heaven meant if hell was not here… Without devils, angels would have never assumed their place in heaven…

Therefore, drink slowly, eat slowly, walk slowly, talk slowly, do everything slowly… But, not before you become strikingly alive to the speed, hurry and aggression within your body, mind and soul. The road to heaven is always through ‘temptations and sins’… Should our worldly imperfection be branded so!


Mike Vance said, “Slowing down is, sometimes, the best way to speed up.”   May I dare to say, “Speeding up is, sometimes, the best way to slow down”? 


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.:Kamal Kishore Rikhari


Monday, January 29, 2018

A FEW GRAINS OF MUSTARD


















“The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything;
the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing.” 




My problems and my suffering are always mine… They are ‘big’… till I see someone else’s problems and suffering and realize how ‘small’ mine are. When I am stuck in my own ‘selfish’ world of self-pity and blame, I can never see how small my problems and suffering are… It is all about I, me and myself.

Acceptance, I know, is the key to end my suffering. But, acceptance doesn’t come to me easily. When it does, it, invariably, comes via the long route called – ‘resistance’…

Yes, when I am grief-stricken, I cry and keep asking ‘Why me?’... I throw resistance… I remain a victim.

I have come to realize, that the state of acceptance is a state of grace…  Only prayerful and grateful hearts are blessed with this state.

Life has problems and I am not alone in this… There are millions of people out there with problems far worse than mine. So, there is no point in complaining… No point in blaming.

Yes, we need our dear ones to help us sail through our troubled times. They can’t solve our problems… as we can’t solve theirs. But, we can be fine sounding boards to each other… It helps bring in right perspective.

So often, when I am faced with challenges, ironically, I come across a soul who seeks my helping hand. And, in the process of helping him to sail through his troubled waters, I find the way out of my own!

This, too, I consider a state of grace!

A story in Buddha’s life comes to my mind…

A young woman, by the name Kisa Gautami, who is happily-married to a wealthy man, has just lost her one-year-old only son. Understandably, she is heart-broken and she takes the dead baby in her arms and knocks one door after another pleading if anyone of them can bring the baby back to life and end her sorrow.

No one can…

Finally, she comes to Gautama. “Master, have mercy on me,” she cries with her heavy heart, “Please bring my baby back to life and end my sorrow.”

The Buddha listens to the grief-stricken woman with lots of empathy and gently tells her, “Woman, there seems to be only one solution to your grief… Keep the baby here… Go and get me five-six grains of mustard from any house in the village where death has not visited.”

The woman feels relieved on hearing Buddha’s suggestion. She goes from one house to another but finds no house where death has not visited. She comes back to the Buddha, a lot peaceful, by now…

The message has gone home: “Life has problems (including death)… But, to suffer or not to suffer is, always, our choice!”

The great poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, had said it in his famous line: “Aur bhi gham hai zamane me”…

How true!

Our problems and grief, therefore, are small… nothing. Yes, whether we like to believe it or not, Life has graver problems and sorrows!

This morning, my brother, Vivek, had sent this video to me as his daily Good-morning message. I hope to end my Post with it…







GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Anil Bedi
Video: YouTube