Thursday, October 30, 2008

SUCCESS STORY

"All our lives, we just do three things: We stand, we sit or we lie down," says Byron Katie. "Rest is all a 'story' we make around it."

'Loving What Is', Mrs. Katie's path-breaking book, is one of my all-time favourites. Each time I am stressed out chasing my goals, each time I become overwhelmed by the perennial anxiety that runs through my search, I open the book and hear her say this:

"Honey, relax ... Give me one stress-free reason to keep, to hold on to, your beliefs about Success, your story."

I find none. And, I am, immediately, relaxed.

Right now, I am 'sitting' and writing this blog piece. I have not premeditated on what I have to write, nor have I fantasised about its success, popularity, money, awards - and all that which Mrs. Katie brands as 'story around the concept of success'. I am just flowing with my heart's yearnings, with no concept whatsoever, no expectations, no strings attached to my pursuit.

It is such a stress-free experience!

I read about Mr. Arvind Adiga, who recently won the 'Booker's' for his maiden novel - 'The White Tiger'. Incidentally, he hails from my native town Mangalore, and we both are the proud alumni of the same St. Aloysius College. Mr. Adiga is much younger than me. But, much high he has reached, just by a single turn of the wheel!

Am I jealous? Mortally, I am.

Mr. Chetan Bhagat's third novel - 'The Three Mistakes Of My Life' is lying before me. On the inside of the front cover, there is his picture. He looks so fresh, boyish and handsome ... and his profile reads: IIT, IIM(A). An Investment Banker, highly acclaimed author of three best-sellers, two of them already made into Bollywood movies ... Not every young man can dream of such achievements. Not as a writer, at least. That, too, in India!

Am I jealous? Mortally, yes.

So, my mind, sometimes - most of the times - asks: "What about me? When am I going to see that day?" And, a bad sensation is sure to run through my body, almost making my heart crippled.

Those are the moments, I take shelter in Mrs. Katie's soothing words: "Honey relax ..."

Before the Harry Potter's magic wand brought Mrs. J.K. Rowling this unbelievably stupendous success, both in fame and Pounds, she was a heart-broken soul; divorced and wretched. From the pits of such penury, she created this humble boy Harry Potter. Yes, just to keep her and her little daughter from dying. What happened from then on - is pure magic!

Am I jealous? Mortally, yes, I am.

I, some times, wonder: Why doesn't Ms. Arundhati Roy come out with more and more of award-winning books? Why did Mrs. Agatha Christie mysteriously disappeared when her first husband deserted her? Did Ms. Ayn Rand's life end on a happy note? Can I ever write as prolifically as these famous writers did?

I don't think I can.

The other day, some one asked me this: "Want to become as famous and as successful as Mr. Salman Rushdie?"

"No," I said, without even blinking.

Either I don't like Fatwa's, or I don't like his girl friends!

"Then, Honey, why do you want to become a famous, wealthy author? Why can't you just write, and relax," I hear Mrs. Katie asking me so sweetly.

This piece is complete. It is time to 'stand' and stretch a little. Maybe, to 'lie down', for a while ... till I 'sit', once again, for my next piece!


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE SPICE OF LIFE

"Mind your language; what do you mean by 'aarayela hai'," Dr. Dastana, aka. Mamu, warns his ward boy. The ward boy has just tried to please his boss, so sincerely, by breaking the bizarre news: Mamu's nemesis, Munna and his sidekick Circuit have entered the hospital with a king-size bed.

Munna is a man with a mission. He has dropped the desire to get married to Mamu's daughter, Chinky, and now obsessed with the desire to marry Dr. Suman. But, not before making Mamu's life miserable. "Vaat lagayega teri," he had vowed ... Like Chanakya.

Long before the movie ends, the frustrated Dr. Dastana - the upright Dean of the prestigious medical college - vows behind the closed door: "Vaat main lagayega teri!"
The very next moment, he beats with both his hands his melonlike head and bemoans, "What am I saying!" Mamu is unable to believe, that he, too, can succumb to such levels.

From a hardcore Gandhian to a hardcore terrorist, from the khamwali bai of Dhanukarwadi to the Dubaiwala bhai, and from the tambaku-chewing chaprasi of the Panchayat office to our sagely PM Mr. Manmohan Singh ... I don't think there is any one around, here or abroad, who has seen both the Munna-Mamu movies and not enjoyed them.

Yes, including their lavishly garnished lingo. Bole to the tapori language!

Some time back, I had been to one of my students' house. They had invited me to see their new house. When I entered their house, the house was already packed with guests. I was introduced to every one by my student, and I made my self comfortable. What shocked me was the way my student's father spoke. There is a 'famous' swear word in our Mumbai tapori language which starts with 'B' (sister). This man was using it as a prefix in almost every sentence that he was speaking. There were men, women and children, besides the family members, and nobody seems to have been offended! The man kept rattling, and others went about their lives as if there was nothing unusual happening around them!

"Maharaj, may I know why are late?" I, often, taunt the young boys who try to make their grand late-entry in my class. And, often, I hurl my missiles towards a young girl with, "Madam, may I have your attention, please."

I know it goes, because I am a teacher. But, I also know that sarcasm is an 'indirect aggression'. Still, I indulge in it!

"Oye, Hero," this is my wife some times. The 'Hero' may be either her shapeless hubby or handsome son!

"Abhe dakkhan," this is my son. The 'dakkhan' has to be, invariably, his 'dumb' mom!

Andrew Symonds, the Australian bowler, was 'disturbed' because our Harbhajan, it seems, had called him a 'big monkey'. The matter went to the Judges. My idol, Tendulkar, was called in to be a witness. Probably, Tendulkar was the only person to have heard what Bhaaji had said. It was not 'big monkey' as alleged by Symonds; instead, it was our own 'teri maaki'!

Believe me, Tendulkar said this before the Judge. The Judge was pleased; but, not Symonds. He is still hurt and still angry ... He still claims, that the 'Turbanator' had hurled on him the 'phoren sledge' - a 'big monkey' and not our 'desi gaali' - 'teri maaki'!

"Cool, Symonds bhai ... Tension nahin lenekha."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

FLY-BY-NIGHT

This is the story of Mr. Ranjan Parthasarathi. The teacher who is still in search of his students.

Albeit, the 'ideal' ones!

Ranjan, taught in a regular college the Marketing subject for nearly ten years. During all those years, his major complaint was, that the students no more respected their professors the way they did in his good-old-days. "I think, I am wasting my talents out here; these 'kids' don't appreciate my worth," he would regret. "I must teach in a proper Management School."

He did. However, just within two years, he was fed up with the 'attitude' of this I-know-all breed. He resigned, and did not work any where for a few months.

A tiger can never change his stripes. Can a teacher?. Ranjan was sure, by now, that his real teaching and training talents would be valued nowhere else other than in a Corporate set up. He, thus, began running around, aggressively pursuing his goal. Before long, he was handling half-a-dozen lucrative assignments. He travelled extensively, stayed and dined in fine hotels, all as part of his hefty fee-package. Still, his mind continued to be haunted by the same old ghosts. Ranjan was fed up, again.

"They are not at all interested. The Companies want to do the training programmes, because they have to; it's mandatory for them as per certain norms. The employees attend them, because they, too, have to; it's mandatory for their survival in the corporate rat race," Ranjan cntinued to vent out his frustration. "You get a stinking feeling, when you conduct your programmes, that they are there not for learning any new - life or work - skills, but for fun ... on a paid-holiday!"

This time around, Ranjan's frustration is even more. He is equally fed up with the attitude of the Management. "We are disposables ... They use and throw us. If you go, some one else is already waiting there out side their door. There is no respect for learning, for teachers. Loyalty is an old-fashioned idea, here. It is all so skin-deep ... Every one here is a fly-by-night wheeler dealer ... It is all Bang, Bang thank you ma'am."

Evidently, it has gone beyond the boiling point!

So, now what, Mr. Ranjan Parthasarathi - 'the highly-sought-after Management Guru' ... 'the Master Motivator of the Corporate world'...? Yes, now what?

Books? DVDs? Films? Or, a new chain of Business Schools ... with all those fly-by-night professors?

How about a much-deserved holiday with family? Of course, a self-paid one. Perhaps, you may choose to 'fly by night' to cut on the cost.

By the by, the students may appear ... when the teacher is ready!


GERALD D'CUNHA

MAY THERE BE LIGHT

"I am sick of these messages," he told me. "See this, I am deleting this, even without reading it. You can, then, imagine the kind of strain it has placed on my mind."

He was talking about the Diwali messages on his mobile phone.

I think he wasn't alone in felling so. I had already become sick. So sick, that, this Diwali, I sent just two messages, and then stopped. "What's the point in sending like this, like a herd - with no true feelings - just because every one is sending them to every one around? ... Who reads them, any way?" ... This was how I had already felt, even before this gentleman voiced his own irritation to me.

The Greetings-Card companies have shut their shops. Now, these cell-phone companies are cashing on this fashion. Yes, the only 'happy' people during this 'happy diwali' are they -- the cell-phone people!

If alone a thousand messages like these could make my life happy!

But, who listens? Who understands? As someone tells me as I write this, "What you think, just because you write this blog piece, all this is going to stop? Bhai jaan, jaisa chal raha hai, chalne do."

He very well knows, I possess no such illusions!

I thought of the Christmas cards, today. How, as the Season approached, we waited for the postman to bring them! How we read those wordings on the card, and particularly how we cherished those 'personalised' hand-written messages! How we decorated our cribs, our Christmas Trees, with our finest collection of years! How sad, bad and mad we felt when a card, from some one we loved, failed to arrive! And, how doubly delighted we would become when we found inside the envelope, along with the card, a long hand-written letter, as well!

Gone are those days. Now, sitting at home, you can beam across the glob a thousand Christmas SMS's - all by a single click on your PC ... and all free, too!

Pray, some one reads them, too!

I remember this 'odd ball' called Uncle Leo. He died at 85. Just three years before he died, he attended my wedding. In fact 'our' wedding, because, my brother Harry and myself - we both got married together. The next day, our mom handed to her newly wed sons two separate letters, beautifully hand-written, with some of the most exquisite wordings. Uncle Leo was our relative. But, we children had no much interaction with him. Yet, he wrote those letters to us, the young men, as though he would write them to his own children. Frankly, I wouldn't be able to exhibit such patience and care even at this age of 50!

That's why messages such as those of Uncle Leo are called, so fondly: 'Special'!
We cherish them for long, we remain humbled by them ... and, indebted, too.

And, these cyber-world messages?

My message box reads: 'EMPTY'!


GERALD D'CUNHA

P.S.: May there be joy, light and wisdom in your life ... I pray this with my true feelings!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

THE MELT-DOWN

The early eighties. Mr. Mukesh Ambani, like me, was in his early twenties. His dynamic father, the late, Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani, had set up the Reliance Industries and was relentlessly pursuing his dream of making it the 'Number One' Company in the world.

That was the time, I had just landed up in Bombay, to pursue my own dreams. I do not know about Mr. Mukesh Ambani, but, in those early days of mine here, I was too raw and self-conscious. I was desperately trying for a job to keep myself afloat. I had faced many interviews and failed. My self-confidence had hit the rock bottom. In one interview, the gentleman asked me the question:

"How much salary do you expect?"

I said, "Whatever amount you fix."

Well, in those days, I did not know: that meant 'the end'!

Any way, it was a small firm; and so, the kind soul, informed me that they would offer me a monthly salary of Rs. 300/- . Then, he assured me, that if I worked, with dedication, for a year or two, I could hope to earn a 'four-figure' salary.

I remember, after coming home that night, asking my uncle the meaning of that word with the ring - 'four figure'.

"One thousand is a four figure," my uncle informed me. "Don't forget, you have to pay me Rs.500/- every month for your boarding and lodging. So, you better tell him to start with a four-figure, directly."

I had no guts to go back. Leave alone asking for a four figure!

Yesterday's newspapers have a report about the losses incurred by the Super Rich of the world, in the current global melt-down. The report particularly highlights on the losses of the Ambani brothers and Mr. Lakshmi Mittal. Mr. Mukesh Ambani, the report claims, has lost the maximum: an incredible 99-billion dollars!

For a while, my breathing really stopped!

I first tried to convert that into the 'American million dollars'. I struggled hard with it.

Then, I thought I would convert that into our own Rupees, which was a more familiar vocabulary with me. But then, that sounded like a brain-blowing exercise.

Finally, I thought of a simpler idea: I made it a 'round figure'-- '100-billion dollars'!

Wow, what an idea! It was easy now: I had to just multiply it by 1,000 ... Then, by 50 ... And, finally, by 10,00,000 ... Lo, there it was - all in an understandable language:

Rs.50000000000000!

Yes, RUPEES FIVE LAKHS CRORES!

For this, all that I had to do was: to 'lend' Mr. Mukesh Ambani just one-billion dollars from my pocket. And, I did.

Now that Mr. Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man - and, who had almost started off along with me, in life - is my debtor. It's a mighty - super-rich - feeling! Honestly, I don't mind losing a billion dollars as bad debt, in the process of solving this great global-puzzle called 'melt-down'!

At least, in my case, that money (which I lost by lending Mr. Mukesh Ambani) wasn't there in the first place. So, what has melted down?

I don't know about him.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, October 27, 2008

THE SINDHI PEG

He studies in the Second year B.Com, and he is my student. He has been attending my classes for the past five months; and, during all these months, I have seen him wearing the same two shirts and trousers. But, they have always looked neat and clean on him!

I will call this young man Rajeev. Needless to say, he comes from a family where there are financial constraints. I haven't been to Rajeev's house. But, I can imagine the kind of 'care' he must be taking of those two pairs of his clothing's!

Meet Aman, who is in standard ten. He has more than two dozen pairs! Most of those Tees, Jeans, Jackets and Cargoes are branded ones and are from fine boutiques. And, this collection is apart from the normal school uniforms. Enter Aman's room, and you will step on his Tees, Bermudas, Jeans and Cargoes ... Yes, they lie every where on the floor. All his wardrobe isn't enough to teach our Aman what it mean to wear a 'neat and clean' set of clothes!

Perhaps, now, Aman's generation has just begun to hear about a term called - 'recession'. They are yet to experience its 'bitter taste'. What the well-off parents failed to inculcate, so far, in their 'well-fed' and 'well-clothed' kid, this harsh teacher, named - 'Tough Times', soon, would. Hopefully.

My grand father was alive when the World War I and the Great Depression played havoc, all over the world. My parents tell us the stories of the scarcity during the Second World War time. Hundreds of my Sindhi students still live in the 'Barracks'. When you visit their homes - no matter how enterprising and prosperous they have now become - you are sure to return ... learning a lesson or two on how to live 'within constraints'.

This community had to leave everything behind in Pakistan, when India was brutally divided, and, had to settle in these barracks with nothing in hand. They had to begin their lives all from the scratch. In spite of having prospered into a wealthy community, most of them have still retained their 'tiny huts', even now ... Probably, to keep alive the legend and pass on its legacy:'Tough times never last, but tough people do'.

It is, in deed, a priceless legacy!

I am fortunate to surround myself not only with hundreds of students from Sindhi community, but also to have so many Sindhi friends. Sometimes, when some of our families meet, we do bring to the fore this subject and make sure the legend is kept alive and the legacy is passed on. When the Whisky bottle is all empty, some one would place the closed empty-bottle, for a while, up-side-down. Then, releasing the cap so gracefully, he would serve to all of us that 'priceless' peg, by raising the toast, once again:

"Here is the 'Sindhi Peg' ... The one for the road!"

"CHEERS!"

P.S.: I have never tasted liquor, all these years; no, not even a 'Sindhi Peg'!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, October 25, 2008

PAYRE PADO BETA

"Payre pado beta," the mother reminded her teenager son, as I entered their palatial house. The son, my student, bent forward to touch my feet. A tall and handsome young man he was; but, his hand barely reached my knee.

"It's alright." Before I could complete my sentence, he was already standing, all erect!

I hardly felt his 'Payre pado'!

But, the mother did, immensely!

Bunty never, ever starts his car unless he does a small religious gesture before. His both hands touch the steering and his heart, automatically. Ditto before he enters his restaurant. His both hands go down to the floor and quickly to his forehead and heart. Never, ever would he talk to any one - even a waiting Income tax Officer - unless he climbs up his chair, lights an agarbatti, says five-minutes silent prayer with closed eyes and folded hands, then again touching with his both hands God's feet , his forehead and his heart. But, as soon as he climbs down, the first thing he does is: shower a heap of lavish abuse on his hapless waiters!

That's how it has been, with Bunty!

Anil, one of my ex-students, hails from a prosperous business family. Today, he is really a 'big' man. A couple of times, when I had some work with him, I had called him up to fix an appointment. He never gave me one; he took from me one ... and, he showed up at my place!

That's how it has been, with Anil!

I feel sorry for all of us, when I read those writings on the BEST buses, reserving seats for the elderly, handicapped and ladies. I feel disgusted - even funny - when I see those familiar scenes: "Uto; ye ladies seat hai." Or, a handicapped or an elderly person has to struggle to stand helplessly, even though the persons sitting on their 'reserved' seats have noticed them. Then, some one strong has to remind them sternly, "Dhikta nahin hai tumko, kya likha hai, uper?"

That's how it has been, on our BEST!

Yesterday, four of us - Dr. Lulla, Naresh, Vivek and myself - had to go to Santacruz. Dr. Lulla had asked us to meet him at a particular place so that we all could travel by his car. At the scheduled time, we three - Naresh, Vivek and myself - reached the spot where Dr. Lulla was waiting for us. I sat in the front, Vivek got in from behind, but I saw Naresh going to to the window and pleading Dr. Lulla to sit behind.

"It's alright," I heard Dr. Lulla telling Naresh.

"No, I look up to you; you must relax behind," Naresh tried to convince Dr. Lulla, who was even much younger to Naresh. "You are one of my idols."

Finally. Dr. Lulla had to give in. As Naresh drove us towards our destination, Dr. Lulla, in his inimitable style, began to pull Naresh's legs:

"Naresh, you know what? You are now the Lord Krishna, the 'Ratha Saarati'- the Charioteer. We are merely your 'Arjuna's'." He continued, "It is we who look up to you, for you direction ... You know, our fate is in your hands!"

On that highway - with that maddening traffic - I knew, it was. Naresh brought us back, however, safely!

Vivek is very friendly with his young Guruji. While every one around - the children, young ones and elderly - bend forward to touch the Guruji's 'Holy' feet, Vivek has told the 'Holy man' this: "At home, I don't do the same with my parents. So, I feel being a hypocrite if I attempt it here. The day I do it with my parents, I will do it with you, too."

Vivek's parents are not happy with their son's 'frankness' and 'liberty' with their Master. But, the Master is very happy with Vivek's thinking!

Manjeet always tells me this: "If we do the 'kar seva' at our homes with the same reverence as we do at the Gurudwara, then only the 'kar seva' makes sense. Else, it is just a mockery."

The Bible doesn't become less Holy, if some one refuses to read it, even spits on it. So is the case with the Guruji's feet ...

I am also talking about this 'Guruji' here ... whose feet that youngster, my student, had reluctantly touched ... when his mother, so reverentially, had asked him to do, saying:

"Payre pado beta."


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, October 24, 2008

YOU ARE A MONKEY

Some years ago, I had gone to meet a Builder. I had booked a flat in one of his projects, when the property prices were at their peak. When the market crashed, the Builder began to delay the work, and the buyers began to delay the payment of instalments. In my case, due to other problems involved, I stopped making the payments completely, even though the Builder kept charging interest. I had decided to get out of the project, either by selling the unfinished unit, or by surrendering it back to the Builder. But, because of the slump, none of these was happening. In the mean time, the bill amount kept mounting.

So, against this back drop, one morning, I took my younger brother and went to see this Builder. My objective was to negotiate with him, and find a win-win solution.

However, in the course of our discussion, the Builder went on the offensive. With his loud voice, he began to 'insult' and 'accuse' me in front of my brother and some other customers. I lost my cool, and began to defend my self, telling him clearly that he had no business to deal with me like that. I was equally flared up.

My younger brother, who was next to me throughout this show-down, wasn't.

When the heat began to subside, my brother involved. With a calm mind, he said something sensible that made both the parties to say 'sorry' and shake hands. We left the Builder's office, resolving our differences.

It happened about ten years ago. Still, even today, sometimes, when I replay that video in my mind, I can feel the heaviness in my breathing: "How could he call me a 'crook'?" ... "He better know who I am - a 'respected' teacher, a writer who preaches values to the world (including the Builders and their children!)" ..."Who is he to question my integrity?" ... and so on. Though these are just some passing thoughts - harmless - they, do pass by, like the dark clouds in the sky. I have no option but to watch them. Like a wonder-struck child.

Last week, I accompanied my friend, Naresh, on his visit to some one's office. The subject of discussion, though concerned me too, Naresh was doing the talking. Again, during the course of the discussion, one of the persons, across the table, turned very personal, with out any provocation, and began to slur. His body language was extremely volatile; and, before he could go out of bounds, the men around him brought him to his senses. Naresh was totally shocked; never to mention hurt, offended and even provoked.

This time, I, who was there with him throughout, wasn't ruffled. As it had happened in my own case, years earlier, when the dust began to settle, I said something sensible in a poised manner, and both the parties reconciled. We left the office, on a happy note ... though, Naresh still carried in him the 'residue'. He couldn't drop the episode, so easily. He kept talking about it for some days. But, now, the cloud seems to have passed fully.

When we were small, I had trouble with my elder brother, always. "You are a monkey," if I dared to rub his wrong side, I was sure to get from him this: "And, you are a
pig." Plus this: A whack! ..."Go, get lost."

I would get lost, with my complaints, to my mother.

"He called you 'pig'. Did you become one?" she would ask me wiping my wet face.

"No," I would reply, sheepishly.

"Go and play." The matter would end.

On the other hand, fearing the backlash, if my brother reported to her first, she would ask him the same:

"He called you 'monkey'. Did you become one?"

"No; but ..." My elder brother would reply.

"Go and play ... No 'but'."

We both would go back to play. By the time we returned home, late at night, we wouldn't remember about our tussel, at all. But, our simple mother would. She would lovingly instruct her two sons:

"Now, you little pig and you big monkey, both of you go and take bath. You stink!"


Years ago, when that Builder called me a 'crook', my younger brother kept quiet.
He knew, I hadn't turned into a 'crook', just because a stranger, in his loud, intimidating voice, calling me so.

Last week, when that man tried to bully my friend, Naresh, by calling him 'whatever' ... I kept quiet.
I knew, that Naresh hadn't turned into 'whatever' just because, this bully was yelling.

"No abuse has the power to touch you, unless you start interpreting it ... make a 'dramatic story' around it. Once you do that, it assumes the power, and you become powerless, a victim of your own creation." I had heard a spiritual teacher saying this.

But, there is always a big gap between: 'saying'... 'hearing' ...'implementing' ...
and, above all, 'being' ...

You see.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, October 23, 2008

THE DEEP OCEAN

They say, "The calmness of the ocean depends on its depth."

That's why, the ocean is so restless near the shore. It is, always, the periphery, the shallow shore, that is restless, agitated.

This morning, my wife said something, and I flared up. The fume lasted for, almost, an hour... But, now, the ship has moved much away from the shore ... The waters are still here; there is calm.

The READER'S DIGEST has sent me a small book as a gift for renewing my annual subscription. It is titled: "HOW TO WIN ANY ARGUMENT".(Publisher: JAICO BOOKS.) The author, Mr. Robert Mayer, has given the sub-title as: 'Don't raise your voice, lose your cool or come to blows.'

Well, except for the blows, everything else happened, this morning!

So, I thought, I would read the book again. And, Lo! This little phrase stood out:

'THE STILL CENTER'!

Mr. Mayer extensively quotes ancient Masters from the East - the Indian, Japanese and Chinese. One of the quotes is of The Tao Te Ching:

"Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength."

In my case, even the 'force' did not come to my help as far as 'mastering' my wife was concerned! So, I have decided to give up that pursuit. Maybe, when I am able to 'master' the self, I may be able to 'master' her, too! Let us see.

One thing is clear to me. For a ship to experience a calm, unagitated sea, it has to take a decision to move away from the shore which is volatile, even violent. It has to position itself on the 'still waters' of the deep ocean. There is no other way in which it can experience that peace, that silence. It takes those initial crucial moments - that risk, that courage, that vision and will - to achieve that. Above all, it takes that mighty desire, that intent.

All Masters tell us, that the only way to 'access' this 'still center' - the eye of the storm - is through meditation. Well, in the marine terminology, it is called - 'anchoring'. Our spiritual and Yoga teachers call it - 'Centering'.

I am also clear, that my agitation, my reaction, came from the fact that I wasn't centered enough, this morning. If I had, I would have, certainly, operated from the position of my 'strength', and not from that of my 'weakness'. Mr. Deepak Chopra beautifully illustrates this process through an example. He describes: what meditation does for our minds is just what washing does for a 'dirty' piece of cloth - Cleansing. You keep soaking and washing it, till there are no stains seen on it ... till it becomes what it was before - 'Pure white'.

Yes, my mind is that dirty piece of cloth. It needs to make a thousand more rounds to the 'dhobi ghat'!

Jiddu Krishnamurti and Osho - particularly the former - talk about a different form of meditation. It is known as - if at all by any name - 'Seeing'. They say, that you can not 'see' a tree 'fully and clearly' by standing close to it ... You have to stand sufficiently away from it, you need to 'detach', 'declutch', yourself from it.

I like this kind of meditation; I like to sit under a 'pepper tree' instead of 'the Bodhi tree'. Who knows, maybe after a thousand 'dulais' - and after a thousand blog postings - I may be able to experience the bliss of cruising along that 'still center'... and, smile like a 'Buddha' - every time my wife tries to 'stir' this ocean ... so faithfully!

Yes, who knows!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

THE LAW OF ABUNDANCE

This is my third post, today!

I am busy, as usual, with my routine work of teaching. I am also busy thinking, worrying, regretting and so on. The unpaid bills before me still give me jitters, and my dreams still keep dangling. And, look! In spite of all this daily drama, today, the spring in me refuses to cease. I am pleasantly surprised, awe-struck!

Life is full of abundance. I have no doubt about that. Still, whenever I get bogged down by the daily pressures of living, the doubt does raise in me its ugly head, and 'The Law of Abundance' does seem, at those moments, nothing more than a piece of theory.

The birds in the sky have enough to feed themselves, and the fishes in the oceans, too. The sun and the stars give enough help to every one here, and the moon, too. The wind is kind enough, as do the seasons. Every thing that God has made is for every one here. We are inheritors of this wealth.

But, then, all this sounds sweet in essays. When we see ourselves still juggling and struggling with our bills, when we see around us only a handful of people relishing almost ninety-five percent of wealth ... like others, I, too, often wonder: "Am I the inheritor?"

Yes, am I the inheritor?

Are you the inheritor?

Are we all?

Imagine music; imagine recipes; imagine dance. The more we create them, the more they come. Imagine the creation ... our uniqueness. In spite of all this population 'explosion', God hasn't given the same voices and finger prints to any two of us!

So has He done while bestowing on us the talents. It is we who shy away from encashing them ... our 'cheques' ...Yes, our inheritance.

I have come to trust in this truth. I have realised that God has given me the talents to teach and write. That, when I trust in this truth, and make myself 'available for creation', for manifestation, the spring of abundance begins to operate ...

True. The more I make myself 'available', the more I say 'Yes', the more forcefully will spring the abundance.

True. The 'blocks' need to dissolve. The abundance has always been there ... It only needs to manifest.

My worry about the unpaid bills is just one of those blocks. The spring from which these words flow - I am aware, now - is the reality of abundance. Right at this moment, the fear has dissolved ... the veil has been dropped.


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE LAW OF ATTRACTION

Last evening, I was sitting in my friend Sundar's third-floor-house. The hall room, in which we were sitting, had full-size French windows extending into the outside porch, where they had raised a small garden, with several plants. We were chit-chatting , sitting there, till eight in the night. I asked Sundar, all of a sudden:

"Sundar, you have kept your windows full open like this. There are so many plants there just outside, and there aren't any protective nets ... How come there isn't a single mosquito, here?"

"I don't know," Sundar told me, casually, "It has been, always, like this, here. We love to keep our door and windows all open."

"Don't tell me. At our place, we have to keep the windows closed before it gets dark. Even then, and even after spraying and switching on the repellents in every room, the mosquitoes harass us," I told him.

He laughed, "The repellents are supposed to repel; but, what an irony! They attract!"

I was curious to know why was his house free from mosquitoes, even though the evenings were mildly cold, and even though there was a garden just outside his large, open windows. I pressed him to be serious.

"Probably, as you approach each evening, you must be fearing the mosquitoes. What you fear, always, manifests," Sundar said. He added, " You must be, sub-consciously, 'expecting' them ... So, they show up. As much as the truth goes: 'What you love, your attract', truth also goes: 'What you repel, you attract'."

Well, I was quite aware of this famous law called - 'The Law of Attraction', ever since I was a toddler (Didn't my mom respond promptly, each time, as a baby, I screamed and squealed ... either by feeding me or yelling?). Yet, I did not realise, that it applied while dealing with mosquitoes, too!

"My Master tells us, with all his gentleness: 'Even if you are sitting in your closed-door, air-conditioned room on the 28th floor of the building, the 'rats and the snakes' WILL appear ... if you keep thinking about them, all the time. Every thing is manifested twice - Once you manifest it here, in your mind, and then, the Universe will manifest it there outside," Sundar quoted his Master.

The rats fear snakes, while the snakes love rats. And, we fear both rats and snakes.!

And, how beautifully 'The Law of Attraction' operates! Yes, the Universe 'loves' to create - manifest - for us, all that we fear and love!

On my way back home, I met Rohan, my student. He said, "Sir, have you watched this DVD?"

It was the famous DVD on the same law - 'The Law of Attraction'.

I had watched it, and also read the book version of it. So, I replied, "Yes, Rohan."

"How did you find it? Many of my friends are raving about it. So, I thought I should buy one, though it is very expensive," Rohan explained.

"It is worth it, Rohan," I endorsed.

For years, I must have spent a 'bomb' on every possible spray and a repellent, both at my workplace as well as my residence, trying to keep away these 'silly' mosquitoes, but unsuccessfully. I did not know, till last evening - and till my friend 'revealed' to me the 'SECRET'- that, 'The Law of Attraction' is simply there ... in operation, silently. Whether manifesting those 'silly' mosquitoes, or those 'mighty' mansions!

But, I have no desire to 'bottle up' this universal potion and sell.

And, I don't think either Sundar or his Master do!



GERALD D'CUNHA

THE OUTSIDER

"I did not realise that I was a Jew,
till Hitler made me feel I was one."

Every time I think about these famous words, I get goose pimples, all over my body!

I do not watch T.V. But, I do read the morning news paper. And, what could you expect on the front page - rather the entire news paper - today?

India had won, comprehensively, the Mohali Test match against the formidable Australia. My idol, Sachin, would be doubly delighted as he had scaled his own zenith. But, instead of reading about and basking in the glory of this beautiful moment, we stared at the dark news - the carnage and bloodbath - and sulked. At least, I did.

Did Sachin, my idol, achieve his 12,000-run-pinnacle in Mohali, Punjab? Or, did he, a Maharashtrian, achieve it on an 'outside' land?

My maid servant is a Maharashtrian. She does her daily rounds in four houses: Ours - the Mangloreans; our two neighbours' - one Keralite and the other a Bengali; the fourth house is that of a Bihari. This Maharashtrian lady earns her daily bread doing her rounds, quietly and gracefully, in our houses - all 'outsiders'!

And, she has no complaints about it. If at all she has any thing, that's only gratitude.

As I have.

Yes, for the inexpressible opportunity this Maharashtrian land has given me. For three decades, I have lived here ... and what a privilege that has been! Never, ever did I - even once - feel that I was an 'outsider', during all these years. Thousands of students whom I have taught hailed from all over India. They were Maharashtrians, Punjabies, Sindhies, Bengalies, Gujrathies, Biharies,UPites, Rajasthanies, Kashmiries, and they came from Kerala, Karnataka, Tami Nadu, Andhra, Goa and every nook and corner of India. I do not think, any other city, any other state in India - yes, including our national capital Delhi - can boast of this fact, this unique and 'exclusive' privilege.

People like me can only look back at it with gratitude. Maybe, in a silent pride, too.

What is happening outside, today, is not a new game. The political games are played by the politicians, and that is their job ... as teaching and writing is mine, as sweeping, sopping and washing are of our maid's. We are neither able to understand nor are interested in such games. But, then, when the outcome of their games hits us like a tornado, threatens our livelihood, makes us run for our lives ... probably, we can only be helpless.

Probably, we can help each other in our own little ways, by sowing our 'little good seeds';

Probably, we can be 'compassionate' towards those who mislead and are misled ... who hate, burn, destroy and kill;

Probably, we may say what Christ said from the cross, as he gave up his last breath:

"Father, please forgive them,
for, they do not know what they are doing."

I wouldn't, perhaps, realise, that I am a Manglorean - an 'outsider' - here, till, Mr. Raj Thakeray will make me feel so!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A DOG'S DEATH

I was meeting Arjun, one of my friends, after twelve long years, yesterday. We spoke about several things - family, friends, business, movies, the volatile markets, and, of course, Life. We were already together for about an hour. And, suddenly, I asked Arjun:

"How is Mr. Nath?"

Arjun looked at me, blank.

"Arjun, I said, how is Mr. Nath doing?" I repeated.

"You really do not know about him?" Arjun asked me.

"Really, I lost touch with him, completely," I informed him.

"He passed away about eight years ago." Arjun did not look comfortable talking about this man.

"What? He was not even fifty! What happened to him?" I wanted to know.

"A tragedy. What else can I say? He died a 'dog's death'!" Arjun was in pain to convey this. Still, he did.

I was acquainted with Mr. Nath for a very brief period. He was a highly qualified and brilliantly talented Corporate Trainer ... A thorough gentleman. When he spoke, people simply listened, mesmerised. He was extremely polite as well as persuasive. His mind seemed to be a vast treasure, full of ideas. No wonder, we always emerged moved and a little richer, after every interaction with this man.

The only thing most of us disliked - rather, were concerned - about Mr. Nath was his incessant habit of smoking and drinking. He was a chain smoker and he drank, quite often, like a fish. Many of us had voiced our concern before him. But, Mr. Nath being Mr. Nath - a great charmer - would always succeed in disarming us, without we, even, realising it.

But, never did he mention to us - even under the influence of alcohol - that, at home, he had a horrible time with his wife. Theirs was a love marriage, and an inter-caste one. His wife was a Doctorate. She headed a reputed institution, ran a NGO, travelled around quite extensively addressing 'social issues', was quoted frequently on news papers, appeared on several Radio and Television talk shows ... Yet, at the end of the day, behind the closed doors of her well-decorated house, she would turn into a 'Kali'. The flamboyant and charming Mr. Nath would turn into a mere slave!

This, none of us could see. What we saw and believed to be the the 'debonair demeanour' - now we understand - was simply a facade, a mask.

Did he drink and smoke so incessantly because of the turmoil at home, to escape from its pain?

Or, did his 'highly educated' wife treat him 'like that' - because of his habits, to 'straighten' him out?

We have no idea.

Yesterday, Arjun told me that he died with multiple complications. The major ones being: the throat cancer and breakdown of liver. He told me that his wife treated him badly even when he struggled to survive those last ordeals. There wasn't any body around when the end came. "He died a 'dog's death'."

They had no children.

But, they had 'loads of education' ... Clearly, that's not enough!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, October 20, 2008

THE GANGRENE

Both of us stayed in the same Housing colony; but, we belonged to two different 'camps'.

He belonged to the camp that raised the issue about 'corruption' by our Managing Committee. They circulated dozens of letters among the members accusing the Committee of 'swindling' of funds. And, we thought there wasn't any substance in theirs allegations, that they were only keen to 'throw' the Managing Committee out ... Therefore, we came together - after our every effort to reason out with them failed - to 'expose' them. The things came to a 'dead end', and , eventually, the Administrator came in to run our Society.

We stepped out; the members of the 'terminated' Committee, too, stepped out. But, our 'whistle blowers' are still after the ousted committee's blood. They want to come into the Society so that they can 'recover' the 'lakhs' of rupees of of funds 'swindled by the committee. They are waiting for that day ... with their swords still out!

Early this morning, there was only one auto near our gate. When I was getting in, I saw one of the active members of that camp limping towards the gate, and I asked the autowala to take the auto towards him.

"Thank you," he said, and helped himself in to sit beside me.

"What's the problem?" I enquired about his leg.

"A stepped on a nail, and I had ignored it," he told me.

"When did this happen?" I asked him.

"Almost a month now," he informed.

"My God! A month and still it hasn't cured?" I exclaimed.

"You know I am highly diabetic. I am on Insulin ... in fact, thrice a day ...So, the problem has aggravated," he explained.

"Have you shown to a proper doctor? What about the antiseptic treatment?" I questioned.

"Yea, every thing is being done; but because of my diabetes, the puss is still not getting dried up," he went on. "If it touches the bone, you know they may have to chop off my feet!"

I , almost, froze!

The discussion, thereafter, revolved around diabetes, its cure and how to live with it.

"Mine is hereditary. Both my parents had early diabetes. I have to take so many (showing his fist) tablets, besides the Insulin," he commented. "Now, there is only one thing I can do about it, and that is to live with it."

"That's true," I agreed. "Probably, if we learn to live with it with appropriate changes in our life-styles," I added.

"Where that is possible in a city like ours? The stress is so much, I can not even take a day's rest," he reacted.

"But, sir, what is the other alternative?" I expressed my concern.

"Chod do saab."

I dropped the matter.

"Kya hua, aapka Society ka?" the man-in-pain did not seem mellowed down!

"Chod do saab." I thought, with this, I, too, could make him drop the matter. Of all the things in the world, I did not want to spoil my peace of mind, that too this early morning, discussing about a subject which I was least interested in.

"Abhi jaldi election hone wala hai," he informed me.

"Hone do saab," I responded.

"Dekho saab, hum kisi ko bhi interest nahin hai; lekhin, public ka paisa vaapas milna chahi hai ...Hamara ichcha ye hi hai." Well, he was giving me a very valid reason as to why life in our city was so full of stress.

"Saab, woh public me main bhi hoon; mera bhi paisa hai." I thought that would be good enough.

Where enough? He went on and on to 'prove' that there was 'gross corruption'. That, they wanted 'isaaf, that they would continue to fight for the justice.

"Only if we are able to put behind our issues, forgive and forget, and go ahead, then alone I can see any hope here. If we continue to be adamant, I see only more disaster." I though at least, with that I could end the discussion.

"How is that possible? How can we leave 'corrupt' people like that?" It was clear, that he was still 'fit enough' for Kick-Boxing, despite his broken leg ... and, to the last round!

"Well my friend, if you think that's the best course of action, please continue. To me, only a change in our outlook alone can solve our Society's ills." I had no intention to hurt him more, by 'kicking' - by countering his allegations - which even otherwise did not involve me.

"Saab, aap toh bahut seeda saada insaan hai; aap ko kuch bhi nahin maalum, idhar kya kya ho raha hai." He was still in it.

"Haan saabji, bilkul sahi kaha aapne," I tried to ease his pain.

I instructed the autowala to take the auto till the doorsteps of his shop. "Sambhal ke," I voiced my concern as he took some time to alight, thanking me for the lift.

I, always, knew that diabetes was a genetic disease. That, the best cure for it was a change in our life-styles. But, I did not know, that there was this 'nameless' desease, which is even more complicated, even more genetic, than diabetes.

The puss was just a hearbeat away from the bone!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, October 18, 2008

THE BUFFALO'S BACK

'Bewda Louis', the whole village called him. At six in the morning, when the villagers just completed their daily routine of milking their buffaloes, our Louis completed his: he just returned from 'aunty's desi' joint. Unless Louis serviced himself with his early-morning quota, his pump wouldn't start; the tremor in his body would stop only after his pre-dawn trip to 'aunty's joint.

"Louis, why do you drink like this?" many would ask him, concerned about his health.

"Drink? Who drinks?" This was a typical reaction from Louis.

"Okay baba, you don't drink; we do," they would give up, at the end of the day.

Yesterday morning, I yelled at my teenager son, once again:

"Tuck your shirt inside properly; you are going to the school, and not to a cinema hall."

It was the typical morning 'hot' temperature. And, it was the typical dominating father.

"What tuck? This is perfect," yelled back my son.

"They will throw you out of the assembly, if you go like this. I have warned you many times," I reinforced my authority.

"Never. I am considered as one of the properly dressed students in my entire school ... And, this is for your kind information, okay?" the body language of my son brought the Satan out of my system.

"Put your hand down; don't forget you are talking to your father, and not your enemy," I blasted.

"And, you too don't forget, dad, that you are talking to your son," he countered.

"Who is a teenager," my wife, the great 'protective shield' of my son joined.

I knew I was in for trouble. So, I retreated, but never before grumbling and cursing in my mind, till there was nothing left to grumble.

At night, I was told by my wife that my son and five other boys were sent out of the class, for not wearing a vest inside their shirts. The teacher had refused to take them inside, unless they wore it. "Call your parents; ask them to bring your vests here; your wear them and I will take you in."

My son called his mother.

"Very good; I am not coming," she told him, bluntly.

"Please mom," he pleaded from the other end.

"I have other work, I can not come."

"Please mom."

"It will take half-an-hour."

My wife made a mistake by telling me about this episode. My morning confrontation with my son had left me bruised and hurt. I, instinctively, began to grill him:

"So, finally, you learnt a lesson; Didn't you?"

"What lesson?"

"Why did ma'am threw you out?"

"Because we had not worn our vests."

"Why didn't you argue with her?"

"Did we have to?"

"Of course, you had to. When I told you the same, you had to argue with me ..."

"Correction. The two situations were different ... for your kind information."

"Yes, there you were afraid, here you weren't."

"Sorry. Ma'am gave us a logical reason why we had to wear vest in this October scorching heat ... When she saw us drenched with sweat, our shirts stuck to our skins, she was concerned about us ..."

"And, I was not ..."

"Dad, what you want to tell; come to the point."

"The point, my son, is that there is an authority - some one you are accountable to - both at home and at school, and why? Every where else, too. You can't get away arguing, all the time."

"I only argue, when I see no logic in what the other person is saying ... Our teachers always give us a lot of 'space', we can present our views freely."

"Which your father doesn't give; he is unreasonably demanding, dominating; isn't he? My son, you very well know that I ,too, deal with youngsters like you, from dawn to dusk, and I have been doing it for the past three decades. You mean to say, I don't give them 'space', I intimidate them. Right?"

"Wrong," screamed my wife. "For three decades, you may have dealt with thousands of youngsters. But, he is your son, a teenager ... Have you dealt with any of your teenager son before?"

I hadn't. Nobody had taught me how to raise a teenager son. I had to learn it in the same manner my son had to learn to deal with his 'untrained' father. Both needed help, guidance and, above all, a great deal of wisdom. And, both did not know this.

All wisdom goes for a toss, when the mind is clouded by ego.

Louis's wisdom was clouded by 'aunty's' raw fanny. He never accepted the fact that he was a 'drunkard'.

I wouldn't accept the fact that, I, too, was insecure, fallible, ignorant, vulnerable... that I, too, needed help including from my own teenage son ... My ego-soaked mind wouldn't allow me to accept it. Acceptance, always, has come to me when I have stepped out of the 'ring'. Yes, when I have 'seen' the 'battle' away from the battle field.

It is a great relief to me, when I realise that, like Louis, I too am 'drunk'!

My illiterate mother would show us the buffaloes in the village and tell:

"A Buffalo can not see his own back. So, he gets a strange pleasure by laughing at the Buffalo in front ...'You shameless, your back is so ugly; why don't cover it?"

Thank you mom, thank you son ... and, thank you my darling - I am able to see my back, now.

And, you Louis, who never 'licked a single drop', ever!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, October 17, 2008

THE TOMORROW'S SUN

I remember my friend, Joe, today. He used his 'funny bone' well to his advantage in his selling career. I had never seen him dull or dejected, ever, for all those twenty years - running around the cities and villages - selling detergents. Yes, the Eskimos bought ice from him, believing that Joe's was the better ice!

And, naturally, when someone from his own 'tribe' ventured to sell his ice to this Eskimo - my friend, Joe - he would have fun dealing with him.

One day, a smart sales guy from a new company came to sell fans to him. "Sir, we give a life-time warranty," the young man tried to impress upon Joe.

"Is it?" my friend exclaimed his delight.

"Hundred percent right sir," the novice felt he was moving in.

"But, tell me, my friend: whose life-time? ... Mine or Fan's or your Company's?"

Within two years, the Company folded up!

Not long ago, almost all the credit card companies started 'gifting' us 'Life-time-free' credit cards. They thought they could make us, the 'gullible', their 'life-time debtors', and so, they showered loans freely on us - from left, right and centre. Before our life-time ended - and the tenure of the loans, too - many of these banks have killed themselves!

A few months back, every financial 'expert' harped on having a sizable amount of our investments in Equities and Real Estate - the two notorious cousins! Now, the markets have tanked; the 'experts' have gone underground!

"The good-old F.D's are back in fashion." ... Today's headlines.

"Life does not come with guarantees and warranty's," we all know it. But, still, we go about our lives either offering them to others or expecting from them. We fool around; we live in a fool's paradise.

Every empire has risen and fallen. Alexander and Ashoka's kingdoms are no more the lands of 'pristine glory'... They are ruins, now. Even the most enduring of the empires - the Egyptian empire - lasted for only three thousand years. You won't call Egypt a great nation, today.

How many young men, today, know who was John D. Rockefeller? They know who Bill Gates is, who Lakshmi Mittal and Ambani Brothers are. Perhaps, they need to be reminded that no empire - be it political, business or spiritual - yes, no empire comes with an 'ever-lasting' tag around it ... All of them come with a 'shelf-life', with the 'mortal' tag around.

'Taj Mahal' may be, according to the History texts, one of the "Seven Wonders' of the world. But, the same History books narrate to us the unbelievably lonely and tragic end of the man who created such a wonder - Emperor Shah Jahan. How his own son brought about this tragedy on his father - this legend is kept alive, even today, by the guides at the Agra Fort.

Never must've Lenin dreamt, even in his wildest imagination, that the USSR - which was once feared to be an 'evil empire' - would collapse so soon, and in such a manner, just like a pack of cards! But, when it did, it brought down, along with it, every statue of Lenin, from every public square.

The Nazi's fell; Hitler killed himself.
Sadam Hussein was smoked out of a hole; he was hanged.
Any body hears about Haji Mastan, today - except when some one plans a movie on this man?

Life is short. No matter who we are, there is only so much each one of us can achieve in our short life span ... Yes, be it Mr. Bala Saheb Thackeray or Mr. Amithab Bachchan. There is only so much we can achieve, before the curtain falls!

"Kal ka suraj kisne dhekha?" Has any one seen the 'tomorrow's sun?

Joe, my buddy, had seen. He used to tell us about it through this peculiar doctor's peculiar prescription:

"Here are three tablets.
Take one now;
one at night, before you go to bed ...
and, the third one you take tomorrow morning.
But, 'only' if you get up!"


GERALD D'CUNHA







Life dossn't come with gurantees

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ON THE OHTER SIDE OF THE FENCE

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."

A very old one?

But, whoever coined this line first, he must have been the 'original Guru'!

For me, the old is, truly, gold.

These days, writing my daily notes - the articles for my blog - gives me a tremendous amount of 'high'. Probably, I must have been, sub-consciously, dreaming about it ... It is, certainly, in alignment with my deepest passion: to share my insights with my fellow beings. The blog is just a natural extension, and I have embraced it, happily.

Yesterday, while I was so much charged and busy typing, my student Sameer, called me up:

"Sir, tomorrow is my exam; I have some doubts ... Can I come to you, now?"

I had finished their portion, with a good revision, and asked them to be on their own for at at least ten days before the exam - 'for better or worse' - as I always tell my students. Normally, they understand what I mean by 'for better or worse'. But, some, like Sameer and his mother, don't.

"Beta Sameer, can I help you with your doubts over the phone? You can save time ... Tomorrow is your exam, you see," I said.

"But, sir, there are so many of them. I don't think it is possible over the phone," Sameer informed me.

"But, Beta, I have taught you so well, revised it so nicely ... I have told you to be on your own, to gain your own confidence ... Now, how come you have piled up so many doubts for the last minute?" I was irritated.

I was in a 'flow', which was so blissful; I felt Sameer was 'encroaching' upon my privacy, he was ruining my bliss.

"Please sir, give him some time." It was Sameer's mother, this time, on the other end.

"Let him come ma'am," I sheepishly murmured, not having the guts to ruffle the feathers of a 'mother hen'.

By the time Sameer arrived, which was after twenty minutes, I had gone through my mental dialogues completely. Starting from Resistance, irritation, anger, blame, and even punishment and victimisation - every possible thought passed through my mind, till the unrest came to settle down in me. When Sameer came, I was ready to help him. He was there with me for two full hours, asking me all the possible 'stupid' doubts under this vast sky ... at times, giving me the feeling that, after months of teaching and revising, he was on 'ground zero'!

But, I wouldn't flare up! I joked with him; I did not blow things up when he failed to answer me for my simplest questions, even after 'clearing his doubts', now, for half a dozen times ... I kept saying, "It's alright; continue." I kept encouraging him, "Sameer, relax; tomorrow, in the exam, write whatever you can ... You will surely get through well."

Sameer was so happy. And, weren't I?

Why do I write my notes on the blog? I am a teacher, and I exist to help people like Sameer. True, Sameer comes from a well-off family, completely pampered and spoilt; and yes, he is used to only 'spoon-feeding', which I totally, and vehemently, detest. Still, consider this episode: I am having a blissful time writing about Life, Joy, Happiness, Success, Proactivity, Tolerance, Patience and all that ... and all that for my students like Sameer ... In the midst of this, Sameer calls up with his request ... I have two options: to stick to my gun, and continue with my blogging, or, to call him over. Imagine what would have happened - and it has happened with me,countless times, before - if I had taken the first route. I would have ruined my own peace; and, not to mention about Sameer's!

My choosing the second route did not happen naturally. I did feel all possible hellish thoughts inside my mind, before the better sense prevailed upon me. By keeping aside my 'heart's desire' for a while - yes, consciously - I not only succeeded in living in harmony with my conscience, but also succeeded in helping a guy like Sameer ...

For better or for worse, for a while, let us not judge!

Many a times, my greatest challenges come in this form. I am talking about the challenges on the way to my own 'personal' and 'spiritual' growth. A question, bluntly, stares before me:

Why can't I seek and experience the same joy and fulfilment that I, so desperately, try to find elsewhere ... by simply doing the thing I am presently doing - in the same enthusiasm, passion and spirit?

Why can't I fully appreciate and relish the grass on this side of the fence?


GERALD D,CUNHA

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE

POLITICS.

For many years, I kept guessing: "Why do they call it - 'the art of the possible'?"

About four years ago, in the AGM of our Society, I was unanimously appointed as the 'Returning Officer' for the forthcoming Society elections. Frankly, that's the day I first realised that such a term existed, and it meant: the 'Election Officer'!

Even though I felt highly honoured, I honestly revealed them about my 'ignorance' in all aspects relating to the Society matters. "Don't worry, we are all there to guide you," almost every one assured me. I became the Returning Officer.

And, what an experience that was! What an education!

There were two groups in our Society, and they were at loggerheads ever since the formation of our Society. They accused and abused each other, they fought like sworn enemies ... and, it seemed to all of us, that they were interested only in settling their personal scores. When two elephants fought, grass always lost.

I was 'nice' with both these groups. So, they had no issues with me when my name was proposed.

I am, by my nature, what my wife calls me - 'a stupid idealist', and what some of my friends call - 'a sentimental fool'. So, the moment I stepped into my house, I heard the obvious: "They chose a wrong guy; now, be ready with your neck ... My dear, that's not meant for 'delicates' like you; that's for the 'thick-skinned', the 'hard cores'."

If only I had paid heed to my sensible wife's counsel! But, I dreamt of the day, when all conflicts, all animosity in our Housing complex would be gone, and we all - yes, regardless of our castes, creeds, classes and causes - would, one day, come to stay in the 'paradise' ... Yes, happily ever after!

I got 'kicked', like a foot ball, from both the teams, right from the word 'Go'. I couldn't please any of them. Then, I became tough, spoke tough, acted tough ... and saw to it that the election was conducted in a 'free and fair' manner. They tried to bully me, arm twist me. But, then, by now, I had shown them that there was a 'fighter's streak' running through my veins. They left me alone for some time.

The election was over, peacefully. The ruling party lost, and some 'fresh and clean' young guys came in. But, the old story did not end. On the day of the transfer of charge, when I saw those two 'sworn enemies' still fighting, still reluctant to put behind their 'petty' issues, and see the 'bigger picture' and co-operate with the newly-elected committee -- I not only lost all my cool, I lost all respect to even the decorum, and vent out my anger and frustration, like a raging volcano... all in open, for all to see and hear.

Then, I froze. All went back to their homes -- yes, all the 'warriors'. I was left with only two gentlemen. One of them said, "Why do you get so excited and worked up? It is my Society, too; but, did I lose my head? Look, it's not all that worth."

The other gentleman was a witty one. He said, "My friend, rest asured, that the Sun will come out from the East tomorrow morning, too. You go home and sleep well. Who knows who will wake up along with the sun. None of us is going to take away our 'little huts' when we die." Then, he told me this, "Soon, you will see them glued together, as childhood buddies, and fighting against you and me."

And, how true the prophecy was!

When Mr. Amitabh Bachchan joined politics to lend hand to his friend, Late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, it was a 'sentimental decision.' Later, he paid a heavy price for it, and resigned. His remark that Politics was a 'cesspool' invited more ire. But, he knew it was, at least to guys like him , and went about doing what he was designed to do by the Nature - 'remarkable acting'.

Mr. Bachchan's close friend, Mr. Amar Sing, is a hardcore politician. Mr. Singh can accuse and abuse Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in the morning, and 'Canonise' her in the evening. While, their supporters, blinded by their loalty, may die of a heart attack fighting and arguing for their leaders!

True, in Politics, no one is a permanent friend or an enemy of any one! And, a short time span like a year, even a month, is a long period, there!

Today, I chose to write on this subject, because, many a times, I do feel desperate, and even guilty, for not taking any 'active role' in the matters of our Society and city. I think in terms of 'ideals', and that's where the seeds of my personal turmoil lie. I have realised that, now. I have realised, also, that there are hundreds and thousands out there, who are interested in such matters, and they are better-equipped mentally and skill-wise than I am. As far as I am concerned, I am of the opinion, that I must do in life, what the Nature has designed me to do. That includes writing and sharing with you my hard-earned insights. Yes, the insights earned even while trying my hand in some 'local', petty politics... which they call, so wisely:

"THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE!"

May the Sun come up in the East, every morning;
And, may the wisdom prevail on me, till it comes down, that:

"I AM NOT THAT SIGNIFICANT AS I THINK MYSELF TO BE, SOMETIMES!


GERALD D,CUNHA

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WILL IT RUN?

"It is looting," Nikhil screamed, showing to me the 'vadapav' he had just bought from a vendor outside my office. "Sir, look at the 'vada' -- it's smaller than a 'rosgula', and see inside this ... there is hardly any 'batata' there; eight rupees they charged for this ... It's looting."

"Why did you buy from them? There are so many vendors around," I consoled Nikhil.

"Sir, I was so hungry; and, I did not know all this," he said, "Any way, this is my first and last visit to that goddamn joint."

No doubt about it. Why Nikhil, nobody would pay a second visit there.

Who are they?

Jitesh, 30, is a graduate but unemployed for quite some time. Lata, his elder sister,35, is a divorcee having a 12-year-old son. Some time back, both approached me and said, "Sir, we have this shop here; we have not been using it. For so many years, we have been paying the Society maintenance and minimum electricity charges ... We feel the pinch now."

"Why can't you give it on rent to some one," I asked.

They narrated me some stories to convince me as to how many tenants cheated their landlords. "We don't want to lose this hard-earned property," I was told.

"Fair enough. Why can't you start something here on your own," I asked.

"That's exactly the reason why we have come to see you," they said in a chorus.
"We are planning to start an eatery here. We want to know - will it run?"

An eatery... where you sell some simple snacks -- such as 'Vadapavs', 'Paticepavs', 'Bajias' and 'Samosas' along with tea, and may be cool drinks. Add to them some biscuits and chocolates, even cigarettes and pan parag ... Why can't this eatery run? After all, the place is yours; even otherwise, you have to spend on the Society and electricity charges. All that is required: a few well-prepared snacks, reasonably priced, and, above all, a 'sweet tongue' to woo and keep your customers. What else is required? ... This is what I thought, instantly, as they asked me "Will it run?". Still, I took a long pause and answered them, this way:

"As long as you love people, and love what you do, not an eatery alone but any business will run. You need to do it for the right reasons, with far sight."

I doubt, they understood that language!

On this 'Dassera' day, they did the 'pooja'. From the next day, the eatery began to run. On the first day itself, I sensed that they wouldn't survive for more than a month!

Tea was served in the tiniest of the tiniest disposable glasses - at Rs.6. Just outside the gate, half-a-dozen 'chaivalas' sell their 'cutting chai' just at Rs. 2.50. A 'vadapav' - much bigger and much, much superior in quality - is sold all around us just at Rs. 5 or Rs.6. My student Nikhil has, already, told you why he was screaming: "It is looting."

On the first day, I patronised them only on sympathy. By the evening, I knew I wouldn't do that from the next day. Still, on the second day, Jetesh came to take my 'order'. I was busy, and I wasn't feeling the need ...Yet, I asked for a 'samosa' and a tea. In the evening, Jetesh came to me and said, "Sir, do you have a hundred-rupees change."

I remembered that I had to pay for the morning 'samosa' and tea. He collected the 'change', and left my office, quite satisfied. The hundred-rupees change, was blissfully forgotten!

That was my last order.

It's only about a week. I have given them a month. But, nobody, believes me that they can last that long!

Hey, meet Asrani 'chacha'. He is 78. He comes to you on his bicycle to supply you 'phenol'. He can speak fluent English, of course, flavoured with authentic Sindhi!

"I am in this business for the last fifty years. Mind you Sir, same business, same phenol, and I have not lost my customers," he tells you proudly, before pushing off the peddle.

When you tell him, that you don't need the supply today, because the old stock is still there, 'chacha' wouldn't buy that. "So what? It will be over in a few days; I am keeping these two cans here." And, he is gone.

"Chacha, money."

"You think, I will die so soon?"

He has to keep all the maid servants happy. Sometimes, he argues with them, when they complain about the quality, quantity or the price. Finally, he will find some new strategies to 'disarm' those ladies.

"I have sold my phenol to your grand father and your father, young man," he would lovingly and confidently remind a teenager, dare he challenge 'chacha's' credibility.

Time to time, 'Chacha' leaves behind a compliment: a toilet freshener, or a small soap to keep near your wash basin. He doesn't talk about it. He simply disappears. If you offer him money, "That's my compliment 'only for you'," off he peddles.

But, the next time 'Chacha' appears, you are bound to 'buy' from him some fresheners and soaps.

And, he will bill you for them, sweetly!

Nikhil is doing his first year B.M.S. Bachelor Of Business Studies. I told him about Asrani 'chacha', and teased him, "Look, you guys go to far away places on Industrial Visits, and you have a hundred Projects, Case studies and Presentations ... Why can't you make your next presentation on this 'Industrial Visit' which is there right under your nose?

"I swear, Sir," Nikhil agreed.

And, we agreed to title this Presentation - our Joint Venture - as:

"WILL IT RUN?"


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, October 13, 2008

WHEREVER WE GO ...

Yes, wherever we go, we carry ourselves!

About thirty years ago, I came to this tinsel town, Mumbai, hoping to do away with my nagging inferiority complex. I thought, "In a new and vast place like this, nobody would 'recognise the poor me', my past; nobody would know how 'bad' I am ... So, it would be easy for me to make a fresh start, with a new confidence."

But, it did not happen so. I brought with me my mind. And, my nagging inferiority complex was nicely wrapped inside it!

It took not just a change of place, but a lot more than that to shake off my mindset. One of those things -- and the most important one -- was the understanding that - "Wherever we go, we carry ourselves."

The place had nothing to do with my complex, my misery. My mind, my unexamined thinking, my ignorance had.

It took a hard look at myself to change that mindset. I asked,"Is living the life I long for absolutely important to me?" "Will blaming, endlessly, my circumstances -- my past, my enemies and tormentors -- end my misery?" "What would make me feel more confident and authentic: sulking like a victim, or soaring like a victor?"

Luckily, I got my answers. I chose to be 'proactive' about my life affairs. I decided that, come what may - I would refuse to handover the keys to my peace of mind to 'them' -- yes, to my 'perceived and dreaded' tormentors, my enemies.

Mandeep, an old student of mine, came to see me yesterday. She was just returning from her day-long part-time MBA class. It was a Sunday, and so, she looked quite tierd.

"I am not used to slogging like this on weekends. I was so used to my weekend off's for so many years. After slogging like mad for five days a week - almost fifteen hours a day out of your house -- I used to look forward to my weekends. Now, even they have gone; I feel worse!" Mandeep complained.

"If so, Mandeep, why did you enroll for this weekend programme?" I questioned.

"I had no other choice," she told me.

"What do you mean by 'I had no other choice'?" I persisted.

"My immediate boss has made my life a hell; I have joined this MBA programme, so that, after I complete it, I can chuck out this job, I can be free from this hell-fire." Mandeep was venting her anger. She continued, "Imagine, mine is a prestigious MNC; people die to get into my company. I have been working for this company for the past ten years, and reporting to this 'heartless monster' for last four years ... and, those years have been sheer hell."

"What are his issues? Have tried to discuss with him, or with any one else and sort things out?" I enquired.

"Oh, yes; I have tried all that. The problem is: his negative personality. Till it doesn't, change, nothing will." Mandeep was dead sure about it.

"Have you made any attempts to get yourself transferred to another division, or
another branch?" I asked.

"No use; I have failed," she quipped.

"So, you think by changing your company, you can get out of you 'problem', your 'rut'?" I pushed.

"Not just the company, but also the position. I want to go up the ladder ... so up, that I don't have to report to 'character' like him," Mandeep blasted.

"Do you think, the situations change like that? What if your next boss - the big boss - turns out to be even more monstrous? What if you yourself turn so to your subordinates?" I challenged her.

It was obvious, that Mandeep had never thought on those lines. So, she wasn't prepared to see the wisdom in whatever I was saying. She was, at least for now, believed: that, to change her state of mind, she had to change her position, her company. The people, places and positions held the keys to her happiness. So, there she was, frantically trying to do her weekend MBA in order to redeem herself from her hell-fire.

The famous Stephen Covey calls this: 'Working from ouside in' - in all his teachings. "To be effective and empowered - in whichever area of our life - we should 'work from inside out', " he emphasises. "The 'shift', the change, should take place, first and foremost, within you ... You must be the agent of change, the catalyst ...You must be the very change that you seek."

It is difficult to digest these 'truths and teachings', when we are so miserably cought up in our victim mentality. It takes a real 'awakening' to break free from it.

For most of us, the time hasn't come; our 'misery trip' isn't complete,yet. We still 'grieve and groan'.

Mandeep's time hasn't come. Her trip isnt't coplete, yet. But, I am very hopeful, that things will change for her, for better; that her hell-fire will die out; her tormentors will become 'gentle souls' ... and, yes, all this 'Corporate Politics' will, soon, come to an end and this world will be a better place to live in. Yes, I am very hopeful of all that...

But, not before she herself becomes a 'gentle soul'...

And, certainly, not before all this 'politics' ends in our own minds.

After all, the world is the projection of our collective minds; isn't it?

"Maneep, please, 'don't carry yourself' to whichever position, and whichever Company you intend to walk into, yes, once you coplete your MBA."

Good Luck,



GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, October 11, 2008

THE EMPTY ENVELOPE

"Look at these people; they are shameless, cunning," the middle-aged man remarked to me referring to a family which was busy relishing the 'maha prasad'(a grand dinner)sponsored by a big-hearted man in our Society.

"Why?" I asked.

"We have held three functions in our family during the last two years; they haven't attended a single," he told me.

"So? They must've had some genuine reasons for not attending. Don't you think so?" I reasoned.

"Yes, I know that reason," he reacted, visibly annoyed.

"What's that reason?" I pushed.

"Look, I know these 'characters' pretty well by now. The only reason is: money. This is free, you see; whereas for our functions, they had to put something in the envelope," his face showed the disgust. "They are not alone; there are thousands of people around, with such 'mentality'. You announce a 'free lunch', they are the first ones to show up."

I kept quite. Partly because, I was there eating the 'free dinner'; and partly because, I myself had 'skipped' so many functions over so many years.

"Was money the reason?" "Did I ,too, belong to those 'thousands' which that disgruntled man was referring to?"

I went back to one of my earliest experiences of weddings in 'Bombay' city about twenty-eight years ago. I had just started teaching then; I was young and energetic. I was popular; but 'broke' all the time. A North Indian student's elder brother was getting married. My student invited me, with a card, accompanied by the traditional 'gift'-- a small steel bowl. I had not heard of such a custom before. So, it gave me a pleasent surprise. On the wedding day, my purse was empty, as usual; and so, I skipped the wedding. "After all, I do not know my student's brother; it's okay," I justified myself.

After a few days, my student came to my class. "Sir, why didn't you come?" he asked.

Obviously, I wouldn't tell him the truth.

But, I loved the honesty with which those youngsters spoke and behaved. One of them pulled my leg, "Sir, you may have to return him the steel bowl; that's their custom."

He knew that I hailed from a village. I almost got up to return the bowl!

My mind goes back to my childhood days in my village. I still remember those days, and I can still sense the excitement, enthusiasm and pride when the village head would make those announcements in a wedding pandal, so loudly:

"A silk saree from bride's aunt," ..."A copper pot from bridegroom's uncle," ... "Six steel plates from bride's grandma,"... "One big pumpkin from neighbour, Pedru," ... "Rupees three from Carminbai," ..."Rupees two from Felisaab," ...and so on.

Oh, what an excitement; what a competition!

Undoubtedly, that would remain as the subject matter of our village discussion, for weeks to come.

In the same village, now the things have changed. The trend, now, is to write, proudly, and in bold letters, on the wedding cards those 'most respected words': "No Presents Please," ... "No Presents and Bouquets," ..."Presents in Blessings only," ...Or, simply, "Only Blessings."

And, undoubtedly, this,too, remains as the subject of discussion in the village. The hosts as well as the guests take a lot of pride in talking about it. It is a matter of prestige!

Here in Mumbai, I have seen some hosts refusing to accept the gifts and bouquets from the guests on the stage just because they had mentioned in the card - 'No Presents'. Now, they consider it as an offence to accept it on the stage, on the wedding day. I myself have come down from the stage, a couple of times, unable to offer my flowers. "Why couldn't they gracefully accept them, without making any scene on the stage," I have grumbled.

And, happily, I have seen many other hosts showing such grace and dignity on the stage.

"How much are you putting?"

"How much did they put on our son's wedding?"

"Eleven rupees! It is a shame on them."

Sounds familiar?

Simmi and Bunty, my students, hugged me on the stage on my wedding day, and said, so lovingly, "Sir, we haven't brought any thing for you." I pulled both of them close to me and my wife and hugged them very tightly!

They came to our place, a month later, with a lovely present, and we did accept it, gracefully.

And, how can I ever forget my student Pinky's wedding! It was in a Gurudwara,and I did not know the custom that one had to cover his head before entering it. I did not have anything to cover my head, and, so, I waited, nervously, for someone I knew to show up, so that I could 'borrow' a hand kerchief. Finally, someone showed up; I hurriedly entered the venue, wished the fair and bubbly Pinky, placing in her heavily decorated hands my envelope, and hurried back with even more nervousness.

Exactly after a month, I bumped into the newly-wedded couple in another reception. Strangely, Pinky, now turned Simran, was just behind me in that long queue to the stage. We were steps away from the stage, and the blissful Pinky softly whispered into my ears, "Sir, have checked your envelope?"

I looked at her, puzzled.

"You had gifted me an empty envelope," Pinky laughed, lovingly!

But, I barely survived!



With Best Compliments,


GERALD D,CUNHA

Thursday, October 9, 2008

NINE NIGHTS

The 'nine nights' -- 'the Navratri' -- just concluded yesterday. And, today is the tenth day -- 'Dassera'.

Like the Ganpati festival, in Mumbai, the Navratri festival has become a huge affair, and it keeps becoming bigger, grander, and more and more deafening.

My own Society had programmes lined up on all th nine nights, which included the mandatory 'Mata-di-chowki' and 'mahaprasad' - which means a grand dinner sponsored by some generous soul.

Just below our nose, live the MHADA residents. They are new-comers in this area and had just begun their Navratri celebrations last year. The Shiv Sena is their sponsor. This year, the size and scale of their operations would put any event manager into shame! That huge it was ... at least the sizes and the sound of their speakers and equipment. What a crowd-involvement - men and women, the children, young and adults,Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians ... Wow, what an exuberance, what a unity ... what a zest for life!

The police came on all the nights. But, it did not stop them from having their 'blast' till mid-night and even past mid-night.

There are exams going on for children; there are sick and elderly'; there are just-born babies ... yes, there are these realities around to be considered by sheer empathy, leave alone the the 'Laws' which are supposed to be 'obeyed'.

But, who cares!

When I said 'who' -- I meant 'all'.

None of us care. All that we are interested in is: the sadistic pleasure that we get when some one compliments us for organising our 'grand shows'.

Yes, the prayer is all a small - insignificant and irrelevant - part of this huge package. Hardly, any of us pray, there ... no matter how loud.

Maybe, the celebration - the gaiety - is prayer in itself. After all, what is the purpose of prayer? Is it not to to celebrate ... Celebrate life?

So, even though, personally, I can not relate to the kind of prayer that is offered during these 'sarvajanik' festivals, I fully relate to the fundamental truth:

"THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER IS TO CELEBRATE."

I am an ordinary mortal. I can not turn the tide, just because I don't like its fierce force or sound and, just because, I am scared of its destructive capabilities. Let the tide be ... Till the Sun, the Moon and the Winds favour it!

I thought, I would key in these nine prayers - one for each night - so that, today, on the Dassera day, I could offer them to the Lord:

1. Lord, make me feel worthy of your love and grace;

2. Fill me with gratitude: to you, your merciful Laws, to every human who makes
my life rich and fruitful, every opportunity that unfolds before me, every
triumph and every defeat, to every smile on my face or a hurt in my heart;

3. Fill me with wonderment. Keep me eternally in awe and reverence to all that
You have made for us, whose mighty secrets we all are struggling to
discover ... Keep me childlike ... ever innocent, ever awe-struck;

4. Teach me trust: In You, Your Laws, in people. and, above all, in my own
goodness;

5. Fill me with consciousness of prosperity and abundance ... Fill me with the
belief, that there is more than enough for every one ... that, the more we ask
the more we get ... the more we give the more we receive back;

6. Grant me the power of honesty and integrity ...particularly, in the face of my
adversity;

7. Grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the
things I can not, and the wisdom to know the difference;

8. Grant me the strength of tolerance and forgiveness ... not only towards others,
but also, towards my own self; teach me to empathetic towards every one,
particularly, towards those who 'hurt' me the most;

9. Finally, my Lord, help me from getting swayed by the 'greed' of material
prosperity. Instead, I beg of you to fill me with a strength that can help me
lead a life with grace, honour and contentment even when 'everything' is taken
away from me. Keep me secure in simplicity.


Nine prayers for nine nights. Frankly, I couldn't pray this way during all these days, and in spite of all those 'aarti's' and 'mata-di-chowki's'.

But, was that true?

Am I not praying this way, today, only because of them?

Yes, I am thankful for this festive season -- yes, including all the things I detest about them. After all, is this not one of my nine prayers:

"Lord, grant me the strength of tolerance and forgiveness ..?"

And, is not 'Dassera' a beautiful time to score our personal victory of the good over the evil?



Wishing you all a very happy Dassera,


GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

THE OPTIONS

I am at it again. Talking about the tough times: the collapse of financial system, world over, and, its bloody aftermath.

Just yesterday, I had posted my article -- "Who Insured AIG?" -- touching upon this subject. Yes, the subject of 'security' in life. And, today, when I read the report of bloodbath at Los Angeles, I thought I must delve into the subject, once again.

Who knows, what may trigger off my tomorrow's post?

Karthik Rajaram. How familiar the name sounds! And, how familiar his reaction to his tough times!

An extreme reaction?

Perhaps, yes. For, there were other options for him.

Perhaps, no. For, that's the only option, his mind - completely overtaken by fear - could see. At that point of time.

Karthik chose to shoot dead his wife, his mother-in-law and all three of his children, and ,finally, himself.

At, one go, his entire family perished ... His tough times ended!

In his suicide notes, Karthik talks about the two options he had before him: either to kill himself alone, or to kill all of them. He claims that he chose the latter.

But, were there only those two options?

Any one, who has gone through extreme tough times, can tell you as to why it is tough, almost impossible, to think clearly, when mind is all clouded up. The fog of anxiety, fear, shame and guilt makes you blind to all those options, makes you think like a frightened rabbit and run from the clutches of a wolf only to be into the mouth of a lion, directly.

Panic overtakes most of us. I have been in such situations many times before. In times like those, you feel extremely lonely and hopeless ... You find it difficult to see through the 'fog' of anxiety and fear. And, some of us, do take steps as Karthik did.

I said, "Some of us".

And, that's the 'saving grace'; that's the hope ... and, that's the delicate string upon which hangs that robust something called 'zest for life'. Yes, on what else?

True, we do have a hundred 'choices'. But, we need that intangible something called 'divine grace' to, even, 'choose from those choices'.

That was, perhaps, the reason, why Karthik's story ended that way. People with problems, a thousand times graver than his, have survived ... and there are millions of them around us to tell us the saga of their remarkable grit. Still, it is not the magnitude of the tragedy that stikes you, nor the array of choices laid before you ... But, it is simply that 'something' that saves you ... at that 'crucial' moment.

About you, I do not know. But, each morning when I wake up, this little prayer pops naturally in my heart:

"Lord, thank you for guarding me through the night;
Please guard me through this day, too ...
Please have mercy on me."

Love,

GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Who Insured AIG?

I asked myself this question -- when AIG, the world's largest insurance and financial company, began to sink, lately.

Its losses were so colossal in size, it took the government of the 'wealthiest' nation in the world to 'bail' it out ... Yes, 'bail' it out through billions of dollars worth 'soft' loans.

But, could any 'power' on this earth 'insure' AIG? Could any one foresee its doom? Could any one 'protect' it from such a disaster, or save it from plunging into such an abyss?

Yesterday's newspapers report about Mr. Lakshmi Mittal's monstrous 'wipe out' of wealth due to collapse of Stock Market. It is close to twenty-billion pounds! Yes, only so much ... and, that too, till that report was printed!

Today, the Stock-market report was even more shocking and scary. I just asked to myself: "What about Mr. Mittal?"

"He is 'Super rich' ... so rich that, these things wouldn't make a lot of difference to him, or people like him," a friend of mine, who is deeply into Stocks told me.

"I pray, they wouldn't," I replied. I did not want to argue, as I do not understand how the Stock-market or Real-estate market operate. I only murmured in my mind, "If so my friend, how come it affected a dinosaur like AIG?"

Hey, on does my 'security' in life rests? Yes, including my 'financial' security.

The mightiest and the most trusted and respected banks collapse; Real estates bomb; the Stocks nose-dive ... Yes, where should I put my money?

For most of us, our entire life-span goes in this endless juggling, this guessing, gambling and betting. We hardly feel 'secure'... leave alone enjoy our wealth or feel happy.

We put our money where those 'creatively and cleverly' designed advertisements lure us to. True, in those Banks, Insurance companies, Construction Companies, Credit card companies, Spas, Gyms, Malls, and yes, even in those swankiest of schools, Management colleges ... and, not to leave all those 'seven-star-hotels' life-changing/securing programmes!

My friend, Abhinav, who earns an astronomical amount of salary tells me, "If alone my happiness depended on my salary!" He continues,visibly moved, "My father was the lone earner in our house and he retired with a salary which was not even ten percent of what I am earning now. But, he raised seven of us, got my two sisters married into good families, got all his five children decently educated, housed us, fed us, entertained us ... and today, look, with all this two-people-salary and just two children to raise, we are constantly on gas -- leading life miserably and anxiously."

Again, the same question: "On does our security rest?"

Maybe in the answers. Maybe in the question itself!

I, for one, am still 'guessing','juggling' and, yes, 'gambling'... I am still asking and searching. I have tried to keep my life-style simple. But, then, that simplicity, too, is not enough to 'insure' or 'insulate' myself against -- what a wise man called it -- this 'hole in my soul': 'INSECURITY'.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

THE GULF-RETURNED

This is an interesting story -- with some strange co-incidents -- and, they had to unfold, mysteriously, on the same day.

The day was today.

I said 'mysteriously'-- because, *Salim and *Pravin (*not the real names), both my ex-students, had come to see me today. Consider this:

-- Both graduated from my institute about five years ago;
-- Both had finacial difficulties at home.

-- Salim was not comfortable with any fee-concession or a waiver; he was very
dignified, had high self-esteem. Thus, he would meet me privately, those days,
explain to me his home-situation, take a few weeks or months more to clear off
his dues. But, clear off he would, like a gentleman. Moreover, he would express
his gratitude, profusely, and do it quite often. After he passed out, he
kept referring my institute to his friends and, also, would speak very highly
about me to them. That was his way of repaying his debt to his teacher.

-- On the other hand, Pravin and his parents, would meet me, those days, with their
sob-tale, and convince me that they were unable to pay any thing. And, the
entire fee was waived off. In fact, Pravin studied in my institute, free-of-
charge, for solid four years!
But, unlike Salim, the words of gratitude wouldn't flow so easily from
Pravin's mouth; nor from his parents'. Maybe, they thought it was
their 'right' ... that, they were 'entitled' to it. Any way, I did not keep any
score-card, any expectations. What was done by me was done in good faith and with
good intention. I did not judge; I left it at that.
Pravin did come to visit me a couple of times after he passed out. Each time, to
let me know about his 'progress', his 'success'. And, each time he would
proudly 'boast' about his salary, his incentives, his lofty plans for the
future ... and I would listen. Maybe, that was his way of repaying the debt of his
teacher!
But, unlike with Salim's case, I was unimpressed here ... not touched... Leave
alone 'feel proud' or 'feel happy' for him. In fact, I would feel annoyed and
angry with his attitude.

Today, as I said at the outset, destiny desired that both these ex-students of mine should visit me. Myteriously, both are currently employed with big firms in the Gulf countries. Salim in Dubai; and Pravin in Saudi Arabia.Salim came with two of his former classmates (all of them my students)... and he came with a small token of love: a fine perfume. As usual, he reminded me of the good-old-days, and my gesture that had touched him. They remained in my office for about half-an-hour, and I must tell, that we all felt so nice. While they were leaving, I handed each one of them with a copy of my latest book, and all of them promised me of their 'support' for our activities.

Pravin entered an hour later. This time, he came to blow his trumpets even louder. He kept talking about his 'fat salary', his rapid rise in the organisation, and how other companies are trying to lure him with 'mind-blowing' amounts! Never for a while, he enquired about me, my family... And, never did I expect him to thank me
for whatever he had achieved today. And, a gift from him? Oh, forget it!

He was there in my office for about twenty minutes. I felt repelled, and when he left, my hands did not reach for my latest book. "I would rather give that copy to my faithful maid servent -- that illiterate 'moushi'." Yes, frankly, that's how I felt.

Incidentally, our 'moushi' was doing the 'the annual special cleaning' of our office.
There was a chair, which I had not used for two years, just because, a screw had come out. There was an old computer printer(totally out-dated)- lying in the pile for more than three years! And, there was this Philips three-in-one, untouched for one year, just because its C.D. player had some minor problem, and the cassettes section needed some cleaning. The radio section was working great ... But, I never played it as I was more comfortable enjoying music on my comp.

So, after Pravin left my office, something inside me compelled me, to instruct 'moushi' to sell off the old printer to a 'bangarwala'. She did and got for it Rs. 150/. I said, "Keep it."

Moushi's face lit up. So, did mine.

Then, I called my next-door carpenter and got the screw replaced, and the chair was ready for use, now. "Moushi, this is for you, take it," I said.

Maushi saw me in disbelief. But, then, I only smiled.

"Look moushi," I said. "You take this this music system, too."

She almost fainted!

I showed her how to operate the radio section, surfing through several F.M.stations... Moushi was so happy. And, me too.

I explained to her about the problem that instrument had and promised to pay the repair cost if she wanted it to be repaired.

"Saab, jo mila bahut hua."

As moushi left my office collecting the 'gifts', I felt glad that my two ex-students had visited me, all mysteriously, today.

Perhaps, it was to 'clear off' my own 'cobwebs' about helping others.
And, perhaps, to clear off the mess that had piled up.

In that silence, I thanked both my visitors: Salim and Pravin ... for bringing me this joy of imagining our moushi in her 'little hut' -- sitting comfortably on that chair and enjoying filmy music ... yes, perhaps, as she relished along some 'mast' biryani'!


GERALD D'CUNHA