Saturday, January 31, 2009

WELL, WE ALL HAVE TO ...

Ramesh has many Gods ... I am one of them!

For some of his problems, he prays to me.

Last night, when I saw his name, on my cell-phone screen, I knew, he wanted my 'Divine powers' to solve his new problem.

"Yes, Ramesh, tell me - what's up?" I came to the point.

"Nothing is up sir, everything is down," he complained.

"What is that? Tell me," I encouraged him gently.

"I need to talk to you in person," he informed, with a slight hesitation.

"Al right, how about tomorrow, at six in the evening?" I asked.

"That's fine," he agreed. Then, as I was about to keep the receiver down, he couldn't wait for another day to ask this:

"Sir, I become very angry these days? What to do?"

"Simple," I told him, "Just wait till six in the evening tomorrow."

He got the message, and managed to transmit a nervous laughter.

Imagine my plight. When he had called me, I was consumed by a very disturbing rage within myself. Something was nagging me so much, that it had reached the boiling point. I was finding it difficult to to deal with it ... My confidence was low, I was feeling depressed and bitter. Though I knew, that it would pass off eventually, at that point, I was acutely feeling the helplessness, and the isolation. "What to do?" I was wondering.

And, the answer came in the form of a phone call. Of all the souls on this earth, it came from Ramesh!

Let me tell you, I just laughed, and that's the end of my own rage, last evening. The lid was off the pressure cooker!

I am going to tell this story to Ramesh, today, when he is going to come. I do not know, whether it will help him rid off his own lid. Anyway, I have asked him to 'hold on' - 'Count ten' ... a ten million times - till this evening. That may help, perhaps!

Problems. It is another name of Life. We all know this. We know, that it is impossible to live life free from the problems. We know, that growth in life - physical, financial, intellectual, emotional and spiritual - is directly related to the way we deal with our 'personal' problems, our challenges. We know, we can not by-pass this route. Still, like a dog chasing its own tail, we run round and round and round. Yes, hoping that we can 'get' the tail ... or, 'get rid' of it!

Ramesh wants to get rid of his anger. He has come to me, his God, for that!

And, the God has his own anger ... and he prays to his own Gods!

For the last two days, my friend, Giri - after watching a Steven Seagal movie - has been bugging me to fit the dialogue he hugely liked in the movie. The strong man Seagal is threatened to be killed by his enemy. Unfazed by the threat, our hero lets his enemy know this:

"We all have to go one day.
The important question is:
Whether we go standing proudly on our feet,
Or, crawling on our knees."

What you think, dear Ramesh, we - you and me - should do?


GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, January 29, 2009

WHEN THE BLAME-GAME ENDS

He claims: "Something is wrong with her."

She claims: "Something is wrong with him."

They both want some one to 'fix' their partner.

"Why do you want me for that?" their counselor yells at them. "A carpenter can do it for you."

Today, Suchitra spent at least an hour in my office talking about her 'problem': Her husband.

He smokes. He drinks. He spends a lot of time with his friends, and less with her. He hardly talks with her. He listens more to his mother and sisters and hardly to her. He doesn't want her to talk much to her own parents. He doesn't bring her gifts. He doesn't take her out. He gives only Rs. 500 every month as pocket money. Their first baby girl is born, and she thinks he will be irresponsible.

And, obviously, Suchitra doesn't like any of them. She has kept telling him about that, and he doesn't listen.

She has gone crazy, mad.

"I can't live with that guy, unless he changes," Suchitra announces. "He has no respect for my feelings ... It is like living with a stranger, who doesn't' care."

"So, what have you decided?"

"I want my daughter's life to be secure. I want to open an account and start depositing small amounts for her future ... and, I don't want that fellow to know about it."

"Why?"

"Because, he will blow that money, too. All that they know is 'Kao, piyo aur maja karo ... Eat, drink and make merry."

"How much do you want to save every month?"

"Maybe, two or three hundred."

"And, you think your daughter's future will be secure; don't you?"

"She is just a little baby; if I start now, money will grow substantially when she will be ready for her marriage."

"And, what if she gets a 'fellow' like her father?"

Silence!

"What if, Suchitra?"

"I don't know."

"When did you last say something nice to your husband?"

Silence!

"Tell me, when?"

"I don't remember."

"And, something nasty?"

Silence!

"Don't remember?"

"All the time."

"And, you want him to change? Will you be able to see his 'little' changes ... if your mind is so obsessed about his flaws? Do you expect a comet to appear, the Heavens to announce, the earth to tremble ... when the change comes in him?"

"But, he should change."

"And, what about you, Suchitra? You don't have to?"

Silence!

"Okay, tell me this: What kind of relationship do you want, what kind of marriage, what kind of man? You define and visualise that first. Just like what kind of money you want after twenty years from now ... You decide, what YOU can do to achieve it. Yes, from your end. Take your little baby-steps towards this goal. Like, for a starter - be more tolerant, more patient; have faith, trust. Be generous is your compliments, and stingy in your criticism ... Make things that he likes to eat, say things that he likes to hear ... and, all the time, sincerely trusting in the process of your own change ..."

"But ..."

"But what? Which way is more empowering, less stressful? Is there is guarantee that by indulging in frequent showdowns, you can achieve your objective? If not, go this way ... Even if he doesn't change, you will not ruin your own soul - that's for sure."

Silence!

"No man has ever changed just because his wife had nagged him. Never. No man - even the worst of the species - likes to be reminded, over and over again, about his 'sins' by his wife. He has changed, if at all by any thing, in times of his own tenderness, when all his guards were down. When he was least defensive."

Silence!

"Suchitra, if you are really honest about it, if you truly, truly desire it, then you will find the necessary strength to make these little changes - these little deposits ... You will reach your destination."

Tears. Silence.

"Every one knows that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, at a time. What no one knows - rather, he fails to realise - is that with one step forward, if you take three steps backward ... it will take you to a land known as 'NOWHERE LAND'!"

More tears. More silence.

"Now, go in peace. The comet is looming large in the sky."



GERALD D'CUNHA

THE GOUND BENEATH YOUR FEET

A chill passed through my bones, early this morning. I read the terrible report on the newspaper: A man in California had shot his young wife, five little children and finally himself. The reason: He and his wife, both, had been fired by their employer!

The ground beneath their feet had, suddenly, opened ... and, he did not know how to save his family. By killing all of them, he saved themselves from the situation.

Or, that's what he thought he was doing, when fear took over his mind.

I met Mohit, a smart young man, on my way to work. Dressed in an impeccably fine attire, this fresh MBA graduate was on his way to his office. It was his first day!
We spoke about several issues in our brief encounter, including the tragic episode in the US. Mohit, too, had read it before he had left home.

"The problem with the American society is that they live on credit line ... Their lifestyle depends on it," Mohit told me. "In India, we have a conservative lifestyle, a good saving culture, a very fine family network ... We may not crumble so easily."

"True," I agreed with Mohit. "Only fear I am having is that, such lifestyle has already made roadways here. Malls, multiplexes, clubs, luxury holidays ... I don't think a conservative society can thrive along with these. If you get a complex when you drive your car within a year or so of its acquisition, if you are desperate to replace your cellphone, Laptop, TV with the 'latest' ones - even though the existing ones are good enough to take care of your needs - I think, it is a sign that the 'trouble' has pitched his tent here, already."

"The world has become a global village, today, sir," Mohit said, "We cannot isolate ourselves from the sweeping changes that take place all around us. All that we should remember is that we should not get carried away by the social glitter; we should keep our roots strong."

"You have conveyed it so beautifully, Mohit," I said, as we parted our ways. "Wish you all the best in your career," I added.

I was happy to note that a young man, just out from his college campus, was able to grasp the situation with such maturity.

Life situations shape us for the better or for the worse. They constantly throw before us the challenges, constantly test us, and make us realise - that, living with dignity calls for making our constant choices ... When we make the wrong ones, learn from our mistakes, make amends, and move on ...

It is about thirty years, since I first read Dr. Robert Schuller's inspiring book - 'Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do'. Tough times have come and gone in my own life, I have survived. Tough times still stare at me, even today, as I write this piece - and I know that like a hurricane, they will go back ... I will survive.

If needed, I will bend. If needed, I will strike. I will be 'prepared' all my life. As our former President had conveyed this lesson in such a poetic message:

"All your life, be prepared.
If you are an anvil, bear;
If you are a hammer, strike."

Is it not, then, the secret that can save us when the ground beneath our feet opens?

Perhaps, to discover and deploy this secret, we need one more thing: GRACE!



GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TO VIEW FROM A NEW WINDOW

That is difficult.

I am so used to viewing everything - viewing the world around me - from the windows I am already used to, the windows opened for me by 'others' ...

So, to open a new window, means I am 'aware' ... That, to genuinely appreciate anything in life, or any one for that matter, I need to view them with my new eyes, I need to open a new window ... Re write the whole programme on a fresh, blank CD.

Last night, I watched 'Slumdog Millionaire' with my family, and loved it immensely.

For almost a fortnight, we heard the heated debate so much, that it was very difficult to see the movie with new eyes. The mind had been influenced by the critics, film makers, actors respected journalists - yes, from a tycoon to a slum dog, every body had tried to 'comment' about the movie.

"Just forget about the debate - 'us' Vs. 'them', and simply enjoy the pure cinematic experience ..." a critic had written. "Don't watch 'Slumdog ...'. It sucks." This was the big mouth of Arindam Chaudhary shooting. "Awesome," this was Lorraine, my student. "Bloody Indian s..t! Now the world can see it on a big screen ... You know, all those 'Oscars' are for this s..t!" My friend Reddy was disgusted by the 's..t' scene in the movie. "Ratings make no sense for this movie ... You will anyway watch it ..." another critic had concluded with his two-and-a-half-or-so rating.

So, by the time, we had landed up in the multiplex, a hundred screens were already operating. It was hugely difficult to watch this movie from a fresh perspective, without being influenced by what others - both whom you respect or detest - had been saying.

And, surprisingly, all three of us left the theatre with the same feeling: It was a good movie. A simple story, brilliantly told on the big screen. For us, there wasn't a single dull moment. For us, it was a simple story set in our city's slums ... wrapped in all the hues that envelop the human dream.

I, a sentimental fool, could connect to this simple dream. My hardcore, pragmatic wife, too, could. My discretely choosy son, too. We all experienced the same tears and smile, same anxiety and jubilation. Nothing 'sucked' us; 'Oscars', did not matter for us ... There was a simple story - a Cinderella story - and it kept us glued.

Such moments are rare.

If we enter the cinema hall, already hoping to watch a dud show, what will we end up watching?

It can't be any thing other than what we had 'hoped' and 'wanted' to watch.

Some times, a fresh window just opens for us. I said, 'some times'. Most of the times, we watch the 'show' from the same old windows, with the very same eyes ... that we hardly find any thing worthwhile to appreciate ...

It happened just this morning.

We had returned late at 1.30 a.m. from the 'Slumdog ...' show. I used to wake up at five everyday for the past one or two months. I lacked good sleep. So, this morning I had decided to wake up late, and leave late for my work. At 9.30, when I reached our colony gate, there was only one auto waiting, and I got into it. Just a little distance behind me a lady and her young son were pacing up towards the gate. Normally, I call out to even a stranger and offer a lift. This time, I simply ignored them, leaving them behind to wait!

Why did I do that? It is very unusual - and unlikely - to happen in my case. Yes, but it happened. I simply 'ignored' them, almost cold-bloodedly, and proceeded.

Why?

Because, she had done the same thing to me, a couple of times, before!

I reacted from that level. I viewed it from that 'window' ...

And, I think, that was the 'Question' ... and that was the 'Answer'!



GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

THE WET HENS

When they were sitting here before me, I thought I was watching the latest SRK movie - 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi'.

They were parents, and they had come to my office with their 17-year-old daughter for her admission. He seemed to have hailed from Mars - was desperately shy and avoided eye contact as he spoke. In fact, he hardly spoke. She seemed to be a direct descendant of Venus - out going and out spoken. That tells as to why she did all the talking.

The daughter was cast in her papa's mould. She sat there just like a wet hen.

After the admission formalities got over, we started talking about other things. The mother seemed very concerned about her young daughter's shy and withdrawn nature. "She should talk; should mix up," the mother told me looking at her quiet daughter.

It was our first meeting, and I did not know them well. "She is fine ... a bright girl," I responded looking warmly towards our young girl.

"She is smart in every respect, sir; but, I want her to be bold as well ... She should not be shy; she should express," the mother clarified.

"I am sure, she will learn to 'express' her self effectively, soon," I expressed my hope, "She will bloom into a beautiful flower in her own garden." I gave a pat on the blushing young one.

"Hope so," the mother said, as she lead her husband and daughter back home.

Strange people meet in life. They become couples. Their children, too, turn out to be strange - some like their fathers, some like their mothers. Some shy and withdrawn, some expressive and bold.

My father was a born extrovert. Though he hadn't schooled much, he possessed with him a raw talent for singing. He loved to sing where ever there was a social gathering, and he did it with all his gusto. My mother was shy and an introvert.
On the other hand, my grand father - father's father - was a chronic loner. He was so shy, that he would disappear, all of a sudden, whenever a priest or a nun was scheduled to pay a house visit. He was a pious man; still, he would never go to the local priest for his confessions; he would pilgrimage, all the way, to some remote church, where the priest wouldn't recognise him! And, his wife - my grand mother? Oh, boy! She was a true-blue, gregarious woman. She loved to sing, dance, talk, argue and she had lots and lots of friends.

I have inherited the genes from my grand father. I am a shy person ... a desperate one in that!

"You are shy?" They, often, ask the live-wire SRK, in disbelief.

"Yes, I am," the Super Star confirms. "More than 80% of whatever I do or perform on stage, screen or in public - comes straight from my shyness ... I dread to walk alone to a shopping mall; I take my son along to make me feel okay," he said in a recent interview.

The formidable Amitabh Bachchan has announced this from every imaginable platform. Minus his nervousness and shyness, he is a dead actor, he believes.

And, I vouch for it.

Minus my nervousness and shyness, I wouldn't have started something wonderful like 'The Dawn Club'. I wouldn't have become that voracious reader, that passionate speaker and writer - even teacher.

I wouldn't have been writing this piece, these daily blog articles.

Like SRK, I, too, strongly believe, that whatever worthwhile work I am doing - that which gives me tremendous amount of fulfilment - stems from my shyness. I am grateful to God for making me shy like my mom, my grand father ...

But, wait. I am even more grateful to Him - for giving me the wisdom to 'understand' - and 'channelise' this 'energy' of mine. Yes, for something fruitful.

My mother never dreamt that I 'should' sing like my father. For, she herself couldn't. But, my younger brother, Rony, became a very popular singer. And, no ... my father never dreamt about him, either.

We all blossomed in our own 'private' gardens. And, we know, one day, our children, too, would.

And, I hope, the mother of my student, too, one day, will have in their garden a flower - as fragrant and distinct as the one God had, specially, planted in His Eden Garden.

This is my pat for the mother.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, January 19, 2009

THE DEAF AND DUMB

It is the fifth day today. And, she has still not turned up to her shop.

Five days ago, at nine in the night, I heard a huge commotion just out side my office. At the heart of the commotion stood two ladies, in their early thirties. They were yelling and accusing each other. A dozen small children watched the battle from the ringside.

The cause of the war:

The more sophisticated lady, a mother of two preteens, had accused - and whacked - the teenager son of the less-sophisticated other lady, the lady who ran a shop with her brother. Now, the second lady and her brother were up-in-arm against the other lady. "How dare you accuse my son?" this lady shouted. "It is the third time you have man-handled my son."

"Yes, I have. Because, he is a liar, a bully. He did his mischief for the third time, today," yelled back the other lady, the sophisticated one.

By now, a couple of her friends had come down to join the sophisticated lady.

"Did you see my son doing the mischief?" screamed the shop lady. "YOU are the liars; YOU are the bullies," attacked the brother.

"You idiot, mind your language. You have no right to talk to me like that," warned the cultured lady, pointing her finger like a sharp knife.

"And, what right you got to beat our child, insult him in front of other children?" asked both the sister and the brother who ran the shop.

"Insult? If he dares to do it, again, I will break his head, mind you," the unrelenting lady served the ultimatum.

I went to broker peace.

"Madam, can you solve the problem like this?" I asked the shop lady. "Please go inside," I told her agitated brother.

"First tell her to apologise to my son, then we will go inside," I was told.

"You fools, apologise? Where is he, I will do that with a thrashing?" the studied lady mocked.

"Now, ma'am, if you don't end it here, you are going to invite trouble for both of you. Please don't drag this matter far; don't further provoke," I advised.

"They are slum people; they don't know how to talk," the cultured lady threw down her gauntlet before her enemies.

Both brother and sister picked it up, right away, and went charging to the lady who had called them 'slum dogs' ...

I sensed trouble; and did not want to be a part of it. Quickly, I retreated to my office, and closed the door. Before the door closed, a resident told me, "Why should we involve, if they do not want a solution?"

That really made sense.

I did not bother to know what happened after that.

About half-an-hour later, I heard a bigger commotion, and peeped out. A police van had come, and the cops were shouting at the two parties, "Chalo baito; jo bolna hai, police station mein bolo."

By now, the shop people were joined by their one more brother and sister, while the sophisticated lady, besides her many lady friends, was joined by her husband. All had to rush to the spot, either from their offices or from their shops ... leaving behind their work.

I quietly closed my office, and went home.

The problem was not mine. And, no one wanted my solution, either.

The next day, some one told me, that after I had failed to broker peace between the two ladies, the cultured one had slapped hard the shop lady. And, before the men could exchange the blows, the blue van had come to take them all!

Now, the police cases have been slapped against each other. None of the sides is repenting. If at all there is any change, it is: they have become more hardened ... "to show each other".

Just yesterday, I bumped into the shop lady and her brother on my way. The lady's face still stood swollen, and she still looked agitated. "See sir, what that b...h has done to me," she showed me her face. "I am a divorcee; I am suffering from depression ... they very well know it. I had under gone an operation, they know it ... My son is helpless, they know it ... " she was going on and on.

"But, ma'am, what was basic problem, that started it all?" I asked, innocently.

And, I really did not know about it. The 'mischief'.

"She was lying, that my son had punctured her son's cycle ... and for the third time," she informed.

"Oh! I see." I sympathised.

All that we remember about the Great Second World War is: 'The Atom Bomb'! ...
and, that funny, little fellow called 'Hitler'!

Any body remembers any thing else?

Today, the 'mischief monger' was happily playing with all the other children, his friends. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue sky, came this missile:

"Preetam, did I tell you not to play with that idiot? Come home, right now."

The war was far from over!



GERALD D'CUNHA

I NEED THE WORLD

The world doesn't need me; I need the world.

I was talking to Rekha yesterday. She teaches in a reputed Management college, and she has been a very popular faculty among the students. She has made a conscious effort to go beyond the text books, organise special sessions and camps for their self-development as well, she has kept in touch with several of her ex-students through e-mails and her blog. They look up to her, seek her advice. And, for Rekha, helping her students like that comes naturally. That's her second skin.

"Many call me to be a training faculty, particularly for the corporate training," Rekha told me yesterday. "They try to lure me with good money; but, I tell them that I am not interested. It hurts them, and they even think I am crazy."

Rekha, like most of us, began with the same 'search' -"How to make it 'there'?" And, like most of us, when she made it there, she found it was all a mirage. She would always 'miss' it! But, unlike most of us, she realised, that she did not have to search any thing 'out there' ... that, the search light had to be turned within ... that, there was nothing wrong with the world, but in in the eyes that saw it.

She quickly began to 'simplify' her life ... drop the illusion that she had to 'fix' the world. She began to appreciate her 'vacant' time, for the first time - without feeling guilty about it. Loss of money did not threaten her; the old age and sickness - failed to intimidate her; the ailing parents were still the same ... she knew every thing would be taken care of, with out she having to bring down the roof.

Yes, Rekha had found her anchor in the timelessness of spirituality.

"When some one talks about all the personality development stuff, I simply do not get moved, no matter how many people turn up for their programme, and no matter how many millions read their books. What moves me is a simple story of how one became the change one sought in others, how he remained integrated till the end," Rekha told me. "Rest, for me, is just like any other business."

Integrity. Oh, that gap!

I can never find another test as challenging as this one.

Jesus Christ is all beautiful, so nice ... but in the Bible, from the pulpit. But, the moment He comes in your life as your husband, father or brother, I am sure, you would nail Him, again.

Probably, to me, too - for uttering that blaspheme!

"What anger-management? What Success?" Rekha asked me. "It is all so superficial, for me. There is some thing so simple yet so profound ... and we, in our race and rush, are completely blind to this."

How can we see it, when the search light is focused outside - 'out there'?

One blind man can not lead another. Nor can one unhappy man make happy another.

True, The world doesn't need me; I need the world ...

Because, the world is within me!



GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, January 16, 2009

HIGH NET-WORTH INDIVIDUALS

Mrs. Singh has two sons. The elder one does engineering, and the younger, first-year BMS. The two sons are as different as the two poles of our globe.

Being a simple and a typical hard-working woman, Mrs. Singh had been trying desperately to inculcate in her two sons the value of hard work and money. With her 'hard-working', first son, she has succeeded. With her 'easy-going', second son, she has failed. The first one saves, the second one spends. The mother wonders ...

Yesterday, she narrated to me this story - the 'Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani'.

All these years, they did not have a credit card. Surprisingly, none. Now, for certain reasons, Mrs. Singh wanted to apply for one, and the sales representative from a very reputed credit card company had come. He asked for her latest mobile bill. When he saw it, his face wore the familiar look of smelling some disgusting stuff. But, he did not mention what it was.

"Can you show me any other family member's mobile bill?" the sales guy asked. Mrs. Singh brought out her elder son's. The foul smell showed on the fellow's face, again.

Mrs. Singh did not know what was in the guy's mind. So, she asked him, "Any problem?"

"Ma'am," said the young sales guy, "your bill amounts are too small. We need bigger amounts to create a better impression."

Mrs. Singh had kept her monthly cell-phone budget below Rs. 600, and her engineering son had been prudent at Rs. 500. Obviously, that was nothing to 'show off' for your credit worthiness!

The salesman had conveyed this truth through his look.

"Oh! I see," exclaimed Mrs. Singh, "Is that so?" Then, she quickly rushed into her room to pick up something. "Is this okay to leave a good impression?" she handed over the paper to the sales guy. "Perhaps, this may provide me the required credit worthiness."

The latest cell-phone bill of her 'cool' younger son was Rs. 4,200!

"Yes! This is something!" jumped the sales guy. "Your work is done."

"Thank you my young friend for all the effort you have taken, and all the knowledge you have given," said Mrs. Singh to the excited sales guy. "You may keep your credit card with you ... I am happy this way."

The 'High Net-worth Tycoon' was my student. Last evening, his 'low net-worth mother' narrated to me this story - the 'Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani' - while enrolling her son in my class.

Her husband had been bedridden for years, and she had been struggling to keep their family afloat ...

And, to bring the the two poles of her globe together.


GERALD D'CUNHA

P.S.: She had made it very clear to her sons, that - they had to 'earn' their money to pay their phone bills. My student had to work like a true 'tycoon' ... to impress his mother, and the phone company.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MISSED CALL

"Hello, this is Gerry here. I saw this missed call. May I know, whose number is this?" I asked the lady on the other end.

"I have not made any call, sorry."

"But, ma'am. This number ... Is it yours?"

"I told you, I haven't called you."

"Can you check, if any one around you had tried?"

Dhud!

After ten minutes:

"I am very sorry. It was my dad's phone; he had tried your number," the 'young lady' was on the other end, once again. But, this time around, she was extremely polite and apologetic. "He wanted to enquire about my admission ... I did not know I was talking to you," she really sounded apologetic.

"It's alright beti; just be careful, next time," I advised.

"Okay sir," she promised.

This was yesterday.

About four years ago, one morning, I wanted to talk to Prashant, my student. So, I called his residence number. "Hold on," a rough and cold voice told me. A minute later, Prashant came on the line:

"Kya re?"

I almost died!

When I came alive, I barely could say this:

"Prashant, this is Gerry sir, here."

For a while, Prashant died on the other side, as well! Then, a meek voice announced:

"Sorry sir; I thought it was Abhishek."

It took me some time to realise, why Prashant's father's voice sounded so rude. He never liked Abhishek, Prashant's close buddy, to disturb and 'spoil' his son, by calling hundred times a day!

Well, I had to, once again, say, "It's alright; Just be careful, the next time."

"Okay sir," Prashant had promised.

Before the mobiles and the caller Id's came in the picture, one could fool around with the 'wrong numbers', and get away with it. I know about this man, in his mid-thirties. He was a notorious character, in this respect. If the number he had dialled turned out to be 'wrong' - and if the person on the other end happened to be a moron with his blunt - "Wrong number", this 'character' would be equally blunt to ask, "Why did you pick up the wrong number?" And then, if the person on the other end happened to be a young lady with her sweet, "I am sorry; you seem to have dialled a wrong number," ... this 'pest' would be equally sweet to her:

"But, ma'am, I am not sorry ... May I know your sweet name?"

Bang!

Now a days, I discretely call back. I learnt, with out any great difficulty, how to trace the 'habitual, missed-call' callers. "If it is important, they will call me again," I remind myself. "Or else, it is worth missing."

From bad experience, I am wary of calling back any local MTNL numbers. "Yeh PCO hai!"

"Every out-going call is a silent salesman." We had learnt about it in our junior college. "And, every in-coming call can be a potential business opportunity."

It's only after the globalisation and the Call-Center culture, that this lesson has been taken quite seriously, around.

The blunt telephone operators - the morons - are an extinct species, today. The dinosaurs!

Pheroza, my wife's friend and a colleague, is a senior citizen. She has been one of the consistent achivers of their company's sales targets. Pheroza has testified, and inspired, her colleagues, several times - by sharing her experience on the phone. She has turned the phone conversation into a 'fine art' ... and that's what, actually, it is. She has shared with them stories, as to - how she has converted the so called 'freaky wrong numbers' into 'big sales'! And, how she has made some 'big friends', too!

No matter how irritated you are, please don't show it to the person on the other end. That includes the calls from all those tele-marketing people, who call you up, a dozen times a day ... and, all at the 'wrong' time!

Am I being silly?

Maybe. At least, let's learn to be gentle, yet firm. Being assertive is only for those who want to know what is a high self-esteem all about. We learn patience only from our 'pests'... and, our impatience can cost us dearly, at times. I learnt it the hard way, one night.

It was 10.00 in the night. I had just reached home, after what can be called a typical 'bad day'. I was touchy, prone to be provoked.

"Dad," my son shouted, "Call for you."

A lady with a heavily loaded foreign accent was on the other end. She wanted to speak to my office assistant.

"Ma'am, this is my residence number," I told her in my domestic accent. "You can call tomorrow at the office number. Do you have it?"

"Yes, I do."

I should have ended the conversation there. But, being a nosy boss of my assistant, I continued:

"May I know who is speaking?"

"Well, I am sorry; I can not reveal that," the lady said with lots of confidence.

My ego took over from there.

"You want to talk to my assistant, and you say you can not reveal your identity?" I questioned, letting her know my own identity.

"I am really sorry; I can not do that."

I banged the receiver down.

After five minutes, the phone rang, again. It was the same firangi lady.

"Ma'am," I yelled, "I told you this is my residence number."

"Sir, I want to talk to YOU. I am Reshma from London."

My tail, at once, went in ... and, I literally froze!

Reshma, a very dear student of mine, was calling from London, after fifteen years. She always wanted to do 'something' for our Institute, her 'alma mater'. And, she wanted to do it quietly, with out my knowledge. She wanted to take our postal address from my assistant, and she had wrongly dialled my residence number, for that!

I did not know where to hide!

Luckily, Reshma was so dear to me ... that, despite my 'goof up', she arranged to send a 'big' donation with a big 'thank you'.

And, of course, with a big 'It's alright', too!

Now, we, regularly, remind each other about this episode, and smile ... Like good friends.

"Are you relaxing?" once, some one had asked him.

He jumped out of his sleep, and clarified, "No, I am Milka Singh."

I still thank Reshma for waking me up from my sleep.



GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MY NEEDS, AND MY WANTS

My needs keep me going, free; my wants keep me enchained, imprisoned.

I woke up, this morning at 5.00. A light, hot cup of tea took care of my well-being till 9.30. I had a bowl of salad, made of boiled peas, tomatoes and onion. I am really done.

For the lunch, I have packed for me two chapatis and a cauliflower dish. That would sustain my appetite till 5.00 in the evening. I will have a hot cup of coffee, and some toasts. I need not worry till 9.00 in the night. Some rice, daal and a vegetable dish ... the supper is over.

A good sleep of six to seven hours, till it is another morning.

What else is required to keep my zest for life on?

I read a lot.

I write a lot.

I talk to my friends, well-wishers and family members a lot.

I go out with my family to watch good movies, occasionally.

I walk some distance, every day.

I do some light exercises, including the breathing ones, every morning.

I like to enter the kitchen to cook, sometimes ... to clean up the mess that piles up.

I go to church, when my heart says - 'Go'.

I help the needy, quietly, in my own way.

I express my love, and I express my need for it, too.

I express my fears and insecurities, and ask apologies, too.

I go wild, at times ... and hurt others ...

But, then, when that leaves me in turmoil, I reconcile.

When others hurt me, I sulk, go into my cave ...

But, then, I come out, soon, taking my own hand ... "Enough," I shout at me.

Past is anger for me, too. It is poison, I know.

Future fills me, too, with anxiety. "What will happen?" is my question, too.

Sickness worries me, too ... So do my bills.

Dreams spring in my heart, too ... So do the disappointments.

And, in spite of being blessed by the same God and cursed by the same Devil, I have come to this simple conclusion:

That, if my basic needs are taken care of, that is enough. More than enough.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, January 12, 2009

WHERE THE SHOE HURTS THE MOST

We don't do it with outsiders. We do it - and do it again and again - with our own spouses. In our relationships ... the most significant area of our life.

We know, where the shoe hurts our partners the most. Because, we have come so close to each other. No one else knows the place, no one else knows what would make us break down - cry, depressed, go crazy, even angry and violent ... except our partners. And, when we shouldn't do it - we do it. We say something, do something - which we know our partners cannot handle, towards which they are vulnerable - and hurt them. We know where it hurts the most for him, or her, and cause that hurt.

Today, this simple thought came to me:

Do I know these areas where my wife gets hurt the most?

Do I hurt her, consciously, again and again ... by those words and actions?

Do I sincerely apologise when I hurt her?

Do I make my promise - to be more careful and caring next time?

How important is our relationship to me, its quality?

Which are those areas I am too vulnerable for hurt?

Have I - in a very defenceless state - let my spouse know about them?

Have I 'expressed my deep need' not to be get hurt?

Then this thought came:

Not to cause hurt to my partner, is within my powers. Apologising to her when I do, and making a sincere new promise - these, too, are within my powers. But, what about the hurts my partner may cause me, over and over again?

Well, I still have the choice, there. I would like to borrow from Dr. Stephen Covey from his famous "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People/Families".

The first habit is the most crucial. 'Be Proactive'. Be in charge of your own well-being. The rest of the habits are linked to this one.

The second habit: 'Begin with the end in mind'. In my case, the end - the goal - is the quality of my relationship with my spouse. I should decide, keep the vision before my mind.

The third habit: 'First seek to understand, and then to be understood'.

O God! This one is the most challenging!

Seek to understand when my partner 'hits' me where she knows hurts the most?

Yes. I am convinced, after all these years: that is the only way.

And, the only hope.


GERALD D'CUNHA

CROSSING YOUR RUBICON

Some time back, a friend of mine was driven to the wall. He had used all his strength to fight his battles ... Financially, the times were tough for him; it seemed, that all the taps, suddenly, had dried up. Then, like an oasis in the desert, came a substantially big assignment, all from the blue. And, he saw the proverbial silver lining.

The task was performed by my friend, to the best of his abilities. And then, came the 'invisible' enemy, again ... as if to frustrate my friend to death. They held up his fees, and started harassing him. My friend, first tried all the gentle ways - the noble paths. Then, he attacked them bluntly, ruthlessly. He spoke to them with the 'most straight forward' language he he could ever do ... and, after that, told them - "Now, do what you like ... To hell with my fees."

Within two days, the phone rang. The guy on the other end informed my friend politely, "We will courier your cheque in two days."

No 'ifs' and no 'buts'. The bluntness had paid!

"Be careful; handle the situation with caution." I had advised my friend, concerned about his 'tough times'. "You should not lose your money; you need it badly."

My friend did not argue with me. He went about solving his case, his own way. Then, he told me these two stories, from which he had found all his inspiration.

The first one:

The movie 'The Predator'. The incredibly tough guy Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a bunch of toughies on a mission. On their way, they are challenged by this invisible Predator - an alien. They fight and fight and fight, but only a loosing battle. The invisible enemy picks them one by one, and kills. Then, there is this scene which inspired my friend. One of the members of the mission is a Red Indian. Frustrated, and tired of trying all his 'learnt' and 'sophisticated' skills ... he resorts to the last skill which he inherently possessed. His native, survival skill. He takes off his shirt, pulls out his dagger ... and goes for the final assault on the invisible Predator. "To hell with you," he screams."You would anyway kill me; kill me this way."

He gets killed. But, not before he inspires hundreds of viewers in the darkness of the cinema hall.

The dialogue is mine; but, not the moral of the story:

"When nothing works, bank on your survival instinct. And, we all are endowed with one."

The second one:

The early days of the Israeli nation. After years and years, this nation - of great fighters for life - had found their land back, and they had put together a small nation, which they still believed was their 'Promised Land'. Their great tormentor Hitler had gone; now, the Arabs had sworn to wipe out this 'dot called Israel' from the map. It was tough time; they were just born and were surrounded by half a dozen cash-rich, and some crazy, Arab nations. Israel had no choice but to defend themselves against any probable invasion, any attack. Against this back drop, a reporter, once, asked Ms. Golda Meir, the hard-nosed, Israeli first-woman-Premier. "Madam," he said, "Is it true that your country has built a secret nuclear device to use against your enemies?"

"Absolutely true," Ms. Golda Meir shocked the world. "We have no place to go."

No wonder, this tiny nation - this 'dot on the map' - is considered to be a nation of mighty warriors!

My friend told me these stories, when I had expressed my concern. He, also, told me this:

"The only way to cross your river Rubicon is by burning the boats and bridges behind you ... There is no other way."

I think we all possess this 'native skill and strength' - the fighting spirit - within us. And, I seriously believe, when driven to our 'walls', we should bank on it ... the way my friend did, even when he knew that he was putting his 'next meal' on line ...

It is glorious to die this way ... Fighting with all that strength God has stuffed into our souls!

Julius Caesar had won; my friend had won ... And, I have all the reason ask: "Why shouldn't we?"


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE RAIN CLOUD

When I was in my ninth standard, we - my parents and we five brothers - had to leave our joint family, and settle somewhere else. I was the second child; the elder brother was still studying, and the younger ones, were too young to comprehend the impact. My mother had borrowed Rs. 500 from a kind neighbour, and rebuilt our home, from the scratch. Living with honour, with her head high, was more important for her than living in a constant hell of family discord. Those were tough times. The Bangla war was raging on the two frontiers of our nation. Millions of refugees had flooded into the Indian land, and there was a killing scarcity of food, oil and other necessities.

Here, in our village, ours was a different kind of migration. We were refugees of another kind. "Will India pass this test?" ... "Will the homeless millions be able to get back on their feet?" ... "Will our family get back?" ... These were the questions that ceaselessly haunted the nation, and us.

It is close to four decades, now. Our nation has passed this test. And, our family, too.

Yes, we all have survived ... and greatly!

Life is a movement. This one truth is enough to anchor us during the times of our 'tests', our crises.

Every thing - I mean every thing - that stares at us with its dreaded look, every thing that threatens us, intimidates us, paralyses us, makes us depressed and cynical ... Yes, every thing has to pass. Like a rain cloud.

The belief, that 'this is how it is' ... oh! It is truly liberating!

The rain comes when the cloud bursts. We should have faith. The patience.

The life-situations come and go - making our life a true 'Kurukshetra' ... our spiritual battle ground. If we believe in life, the life-situations - however grave and however complicated they may look like - will fail to dampen our spirits. The wars break out, and then they end; the famine breaks out, and then it ends; the tsunami strikes, and it goes ...

Life is a 'constant' movement. It lasts unscathed ...

I am the 'flint of this eternal white fire' ... called LIFE ...

The fire that doesn't die!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, January 9, 2009

THE SHOCK

Every one started running out.

In less than two minutes, the narrow lane leading to that spot was flooded with hordes of people - men, women and children. The shop-keepers left their cash boxes open and ran out, the house-wives left their doors open and rushed there, the barbers left their half-shaven customers on the chairs, the school-going children stopped there, the maid servants made their own group, a lame man, on his crutches, barely managed to park himself, there.

The crowd was still swelling ... and, every one was looking high up in in the air ... to 'him' who hung there precariously - from the leaves of that tall palm tree.

It seems, some kind and alert soul had called up the Fire men, and the Fire tender had just come. The frantic sounds of the bell and the siren had pressed the panic button - or is it the familiar curiosity button? - in all and sundry. Yes, the shop-keepers, house-wives, barbers, maid servants, school children and the crippled. Every one wanted to know what had happened, why the fire tender had come. And, now, they knew what it was. So, all of them were looking high up, at the palm tree, with bated breath ... They were anxious: "What will happen now? Will the firemen succeed? Will 'he' survive?"

The crowd was still swelling. The traffic had come to a halt, and everything else, there. Every one's eyes were fixed at 'him' - whose life hung, so miraculously, on those palm leaves. Now, they were wondering: "Will 'he' be saved? Or, will 'he' come crashing down to death?"

There was no time to think; one couldn't afford to make a wrong move.

The crowd was still swelling. Every one's heart was pounding like a plant. The life, there, had come to a stand still, except for this question: "What will happen to 'him'? Will 'he' survive? Or, will 'he' come crashing down?

And, lo! 'He' came crashing down, like a meteor!

"Oh! No," the scream rented the air. "What a tragedy."

Then, the crestfallen firemen began to roll back their equipment; the shop-keepers began to remember their open cash boxes; the house-wives - their open doors; the barbers - their half-shaven customers; the school children - their schools; the maids - their land ladies; and, the lame man - his crutches...

And, they all began to disperse, expressing their great disappointment and sorrow over the unfortunate victim. "He could have been saved," some of them argued.

Then, someone - who was the first to rush to the spot where 'he' had crashed down - lifted 'him' and declared at the top of his voice:

"He is dead."

The crow, it seems, had already died while hanging there ... Much before 'he' had crashed down. But, it was not the heart attack. It was the 'shock' - that the humanity cared so much for 'him' - that had killed 'him'!

The post mortem report confirmed.

In the next lane lay a beggar woman, for years - like an ancient ruin ...

It seems, 'he' was her best companion!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, January 8, 2009

THE BALANCE SHEET

I earn my daily bread by teaching my commerce students how to prepare a Balance Sheet, and - most importantly - how to tally it. You should see the the kind of excitement, joy and pride those students experience when their Balance Sheets tally in the class. The feeling is so mighty, that one who doesn't know what a Balance Sheet is all about - would think these students have just killed a man-eater. A lion!

Any commerce teacher, like me, will vouch for it!

It is only after they step out of their college, that they realise - that, it is not a big deal, not a rocket secience. That, your Balance Sheet can be designed - customised - the way you want it, and it suits you. Fatter, leaner or medium. Right, wrong or bogus. A hundred items you leave out, it will still tally. A hundred items you add, it will still tally. All that you should make sure is that" "For every debit, there should be an equal and corresponding credit."

Otherwise, it won't tally.

That's the 'great law' of of this rocket science called - 'Double-Entry system of Accounting'! The Italian genius, Luca Pacioli had fathered it, long, long ago.

Rest of the things - the fine art - about the Balance Sheet, we invented!

Don't' want to pay more tax? ( Who wants to? ) Keep away some of your incomes, or cook up more expenses, or ferry in some of your assets as expenses, or tow out some of your incomes as liabilities. That's all. Your Balance Sheet will still tally, and obediently.

If you do it intentionally, knowingly, to mislead some one - your I.T. officer or your competitor - your act is known as a 'Fraud'. Or, as that 'Watchdog', Auditor, howls in his language - 'Secret Reserves'.

If you do it unintentionally, in ignorance, by oversight, it is known as an 'accounting error'.

On the other hand, you want to show a 'rosy' picture - to impress your banker or the prospective investor - all that you have to do is: Jack it up, inflate it. Like, show more incomes, less expenses, or show your expenses as assets, or liabilities as incomes. That's all. The Balance sheet will faithfully tally.

Again, whether it is a 'Fraud' or an 'Accounting Error', that depends on your intention.

Our 'Watchdog', in his lingo, calls it 'Window Dressing'.

First, the students read about it in their class rooms. Then, in real life, they apply it.

We teachers, too.

The watchdogs, too.

The I.T. officers, too.

The text book authors, too.

The finance ministers, too.

Every body's Balance Sheet tallies. Only 'he' knows how it has tallied!

You doctors, please stop taking your dispensary collections in cash. If you do, show. And all!

You, the buyers and sellers of flats and bungalows, stop giving and taking cash on your transactions. If you do, show. And all!

Ditto for you all - the tuition teachers, maid servants, taxi and auto drivers, and you there, the beggars, even!

No 'offerings' in cash in temples, mosques, churches and Gurudwaras ...only cheques. Devotees please carry your cheque books when you pay a 'darshan' next time!

The Balance Sheet should tally, you see.

By hook, or by crook!

Why am I writing about - of all the things in the world - this piece of paper called 'Balance Sheet'?

Because, I feel 'sad' for Mr. Raju of Satyam. Sad for the way they are crucifying him for his 'sins' - of inflating his company's Balance sheets, for years.

Sad for that 'holier-than-thou' seat we have occupied, to nail him to the cross.

Like that 'good criminal' asked Jesus - when they were suffering and dying on the cross - to remember him ,that night, in heaven - I feel like asking Mr. Raju, to do the same.

In 'our' case, maybe - in hell!

Jesus might have been a 'holy man'. Mr. Raju is not. And, I am, most certainly, not.

I am Only a smaller criminal ... who tallies his smaller Balance sheets!


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE MEETING

"I am in a meeting; can I get back to you later?"

"Oh! I am sorry; don't bother, I will get back to you."

"Thanks."

"I can understand how hectic it must be!"

"It is not just hectic; it is crazy."

"I can understand. It must be very stressful, isn't it?"

"I leave home at 7.00 in the morning, and never reach home before 11.00 in the night!"

"Oh God! So late?"

"Sometimes, 12.00, and sometimes even 1.00 or 2.00."

"That's too much."

"That's killing."

"And the next morning, you have to leave again at 7.00?"

"Obviously. Who understands?"

"How do you manage all this?"

"I have to; there is no way out."

"Don't worry; things will be better, soon."

"I don't know if they ever will be, and when."

"I am sure, they will be - and soon."

"Hope so."

"Don't worry; I just wanted to inform you that I would be leaving for Dubai, tonight."

"That's great. What time is the flight?"

"11.30 in the night."

"I will call you before that."

"Don't bother; you focus on your meetings."

"Good luck to you; let's catch up, soon."

"We should. Good luck to you, too."


GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

THE MONK WHO BOUGHT ONE MORE FERRARI

All of us sell our 'Ferrari's' to become monks. The idea of becoming a monk is very sexy.

But, the irony is that, when we become monks, we want more of 'Ferrari's'!

Every monk wants to expand his kingdom. All that has happened is: from the kingly robe, he has, now, garbed himself in a ochre. The fleets of chariots and horses have, now, been replaced by the fleets of fine cars of all his affluent devotees.

But, a king will always be a king, even in the prison. At least, that's what he thinks ... while in prison.

As Saddam Husein kept shouting even from the gallows, "I am still the President of Iraq."

You leave the palace, wander in the wilderness, and then, sitting under the Bodhi tree, you become a Buddha, the enlightened one. Then, you go around preaching, spreading your enlightenment. Then, they come, raise monasteries for you, build the finest temples, place you on a golden throne, and raise one more kingdom.

And, they call it 'the kingdom of God'!

And, they buy more of Ferrari's for you. And, yes, you were the monk that sold your Ferrari once; you had left the palace, in the night!

Fourteen years of 'Vanvaas' can never make me a Ram. Nor can a fourteen-year life in a Seminary make me a Christ. And, I will never become a Buddha even if I spend fourteen years under the Bodhi tree, either.

The Gautama may have become a Buddha. But, till the end, he remained simple. Ditto for Jesus. Ditto for Kabir, Guru Nanak and Mahavir. They all sold their 'Ferrari's'... and moved on.

And, here are we ... the monks who sell our 'ferrari's'!


GERALD D'CUNHA

LIFE BEGINS AT SEVENTY-ONE

For her. And, for him, at seventy-two.

At seventy-two, I would be gone, perhaps. Even Gandhi looked so old at that age.

That is the age, when so many spend their time singing lullabies for their great grand children. That is the age, when some hurry up with their Wills, and some end up in old-age homes. But, this couple has great plans for their future. Their life begins, now.

She has just delivered a baby girl ... and, she yearns to have a son, too. Maybe, in two years from now.

He is ecstatic; just on cloud nine. To have this gift of life, he had to spend a fortune. A farmer from a remote village that he is, he had to mortgage his fields to fund their dream: of bearing their own child. They are not only proud of their feat, they are confident of paying off their debt, and bringing up their children.

Their life begins, now.

I am, almost, fifty-one. I have one son who is, soon, going to be seventeen. "One is more than enough ... too much!" I am liar, if I don't share how I feel sometimes. I am more consumed by the thoughts of his education, the cost of bringing him up, my mortgage payments, my dwindling income, my endless bills, my retirement, my old age, my health insurance, my final days ... And, I don't have to tell you, that all these thoughts consume me, like a hell-fire, in spite of my so called 'awareness'. Yes, in spite of my extensive exposure to reading, writing, teaching and preaching. I am still scared to keep my foot forward.

The ground may cave in! My heart freezes.

Life beckons for this couple at seventy-one and seventy-two.

"Who will take care of their children, say after another ten years from now?" A side of my brain asks.

"They, themselves," another side responds. "They 'see' a great future beyond that, too."

"Future beyond that?"

"Yes, to see that future, my heart must yearn for a baby, just as this village couple's did."

Oh, that innocence, that trust, that zest ... that never-say-old spirit! My heart yearns for a pilgrimage to their village, if not for a baby.

"Long live you ... whose life begins, now. At seventy-one and seventy-two."


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS

"Even Bill Gates has only twenty-four hours in his day. Not a neno-second more."

This is how I remind myself, time and again, when I tend to hide my inefficiencies with that universal excuse: "I have no time." I drill a big hole in my head, and fill this: "Buddy, even the richest man on earth made his billions, only with twenty-four hours."

"Did you read the book I gave you?" I ask some one.

"Not yet. I didn't find time," is his reply.

Now, he did not read that book, not because he didn't find time; but, because, I had given that book 'free' to him. Had he bought it, on his own, I am sure, he would have found the time to read it.

Because, we make time for all those things, that we 'choose' to do; the things we love.

Did I call my mom on her wedding anniversary?

No, I didn't. I don't even know the date.

Does it mean, I love her less.

She would be definitely emphatic: "No".

I do not remember the date, because, I have not attached a lot of importance to that; I haven't made it as my priority ... and, found my own ways of remembering her for all the good things she has done for me.

Fortunately, she understands all this, and never cribs.

Yet, look at this. This simple soul, with her advanced age, still remembers when comes the birthday not only of her five sons, but also of her five daughters-in-law as well as eight grand children. That is her way of remembering us, loving us; that is her 'value'.

Our mind has enough storage capacity for all the stuff we love, we value. The twenty-four hours the God has given us is long enough to fit in all the tasks that our hearts long to perform. It is only the stuff we do not love, do not value, that finds no storage place in our minds. Likewise, the day can never accommodate a thing which we do not love, do not value as important.

Rest is all a lame excuse.

You know it; I know it ... and, even my buddy - Bill Gates. The richest man on earth.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, January 5, 2009

THE ANT AND THE ELEPHANT

"170 cores within the first ten days!"

No other movie, in Indian-film history had made this much. And, the money is still counting. Maybe, it may cross 500 crores. The biggest, greatest and mightiest box-office hit of all times. May be.

The greatest movie? If only that was true!

The most hyped-up, cleverly marketed? Yes, that's true.

It is not even two weeks since I saw 'Ghajini'. And, except for the 'possessed' Aamir Khan's eyes and face - and, of course, his cute head - I remember nothing. So short is my memory!

I do not know about yours.

And, it is nearly a decade, now, since I watched 'Lagaan'. It was a three-and-half-hour movie. But, you ask me about it, I can recall it frame by frame. Ask me about 'TZP', I can replay it for you, all live. Still, these 'great' movies did not spin so much cash. Nor did 'Sholay' - hailed to be the greatest Hindi movie, ever made.

Sometime back - we saw a similar hype, similar hysteria - when Reliance Capital came out with an IPO of its shares. Within seconds of opening the bid, the issue was oversubscribed by several times. Never in the history, such a phenomenon had been witnessed, never had so much money been raised from the public, in one go; in a blink of an eye!

But, history had also not witnessed the kind of hammering the price received, within days. It tanked so much, that Mr. Anil Ambani had to take it personally upon him to compensate for the investors' loss, by an issue of bonus shares.

What goes up, has to come down. Boom is always followed by gloom, the famine; feasting is always, followed by fasting, the hunger. As in our Hindi films, at the end of the Holi song, Gabbbar is bound to come.

Still, we refuse to be pessimists: "What comes down, has to go up!" ...
When fasting ends, there will be feast, again ...
The heroes - Veeru and Jai - will come to redeem us from the bandits ... And, there will be a song and dance, once again!

We always peg it high ... Marks, money, madness - yes, every thing. We are the ants, and the elephant is our benchmark.

I was a huge 'hero' for my student Pratap. He used to go home and talk about me, quote me, try to even ape me in some ways. His simple mother had noticed this sudden madness in her young son, and warned him not to imitate an elephant. And, she would dramatize it, very colourfully, in their native Malayalam:

"The ant is watching when the elephant is busy unloading its big bowels, in a big way ... and it is fascinated, inspired, by the incredible sight. Then, it tries!"

But, this ant went about setting up a school. It did become an elephant!

We need heroes to inspire us; we need great benchmarks. We need a 'Ghajini', a Reliance IPO - the mighty elephants - to propel us to action ... to unload so much, and so fast, from our bowels. And, above all, we need a very short memory to perform all that ... for our instant gratification ...

and, for our fly-by-night glory!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Sunday, January 4, 2009

THE CLOSEST STAR

"Why do you write your blog? To preach others?" my wife asked me angrily. "You talk about self-esteem and sell-control ... you talk about anger management, all for the world ... all hogwash."

It was 8.00 in the morning. We both had dressed up to go for the Sunday mass. I had got up at 5.00 in the morning in order to help my son get up to study for his forth coming exams. As is always the case with him - and with any teenager of his age - he kept saying, "Only five minutes," "Only five minutes" till it became six, and then, seven. All along testing my patience, challenging me whether I could 'practice what I preached."

Often, I blow off. And, yesterday, I did, again. It was quite a deadly explosion.

He had hardly flipped through the books; and off he went under his blanket, once again. He was to reach his classes at 8.00 for the tests. And, he was still at home! And, that was - even after repeated reminders, even after exhausting all the patience at my disposal. We, too, were supposed to leave the house for the Sunday mass. We, too, were getting late. And, our son not only had to get ready, he had to take his breakfast, too... and he was cool and unagitated like the deep sea. And, that's when the killer whale exploded out of my own sea. I went charging at him, screaming and shouting, with all the anger and frustration which had bottled up to the brim. My son, a tall and head-strong teenager, wouldn't take such an aggression, all lying down. He retaliated, screaming back at me.

I flared up, like a volcano. And, that's what was unacceptable to my wife. She would not tolerate that behaviour from me, come what may. She would tell me that, right then and there, right in the eye of the storm, whether I would like it or not ... and, whether I would flare up further or not ...

I would always flare up further, whenever she barged in to save her little 'kitten' -or to tame this wild elephant. Yes, the elephant, in situations like this, had always gone wilder, more destructive.

The kitten was out of danger, by now. It was the war between the two elephants. "What is the use of writing all your books? Why can't you look at your own self?" "Why do you ..."

Son had already left for his test. His breakfast, tea - all remained untouched on the table. Only ten minutes were left for the mass. We were ready, dressed up.

Yes, I was dressed up. But, I wasn't 'ready'. My wife proceeded. I had no conscience to do that. Yes, what was the use? Jesus had said: "When you come to God's altar with your offering to make, and there if you remember your brother against whom you still bear a grudge, I say - go back to your brother, make peace with him ... and then come back and offer your offering. God will accept it."

Maybe, my wife was comfortable to pray for peace from the altar. I wasn't. I stayed back to allow the storm pass completely. It, soon, did. I went into a deep, reflective mode. I began to see the whole episode in right perspective. I saw the choice staring at me: to be 'right' ... or, to be 'kind', to be peaceful.

I chose to be kind, to be peaceful. I was ready for reconciliation ... to 'come home' ... to my 'Father's Home'!

The 'readiness' is the key for all changes in our life, all our spiritual growth. The 'Father' had made the arrangements. He had sent for me some of the finest articles on The Sunday Times (TIMES LIFE section). I was particularly touched by one titled, "Must You Understand Everything?" by Vinita Dawra Nangia. When the student is ready, teacher always appears. This article was written by the author, exclusively for me. I strongly felt so. There was this place, where she quotes Albert Einstein. The great genius, had said this just before the curtain was to come down on his life:

"Sometimes, I suspect that my life has been a waste. I enquired into the farthest of stars and forgot completely to inquire into myself - and, I was the closest star."

"Why do you explore into the galaxy outside ... why don't you explore into the star within you?" My wife had challenged me with the same thing ... but, may be, with a very blunt knife.

But, it was needed.

Yes, I was the closest star. I had do explore it.

In the evening, we had our church 'Family Day'. What a coincidence ... What an opportunity to 'come home'! We all attended it. None of us spoke on the morning episode, though. There was peace in the air. The winter night was unusually pleasant, yesterday. The 'Father' knew, we - yes, we all, His children - were coming; coming back home!

Today, at 5.00, I was waking up my son, again. He took time to be up. But, I was not in a hurry. I knew, the sun would still come up, as usual from the East, at the appointed time, even though my son would rise late ... and, the sky wouldn't fall ... and, the world wouldn't end. I had enough patience in my heart to wait for my son to rise.

And, at six, when he did, I greeted him with the warmest welcome I had ever given him. When he had settled, I offered him the finest tea I had ever made for him. And, a little later, when everything seemed perfect, both outside and inside, I sat near him, placed my hand on his ... and reconciled.

That was the warmest bonding I had ever felt.

That was the holiest of the masses I had ever attended.

I was at my 'Father's' altar with my offering. I felt His acceptance.

And, of my wife and son, too.



GERALD D'CUNHA


P.S.: I had typed the 'title' of this post yesterday (Sunday) itself. Yes, only the title. Today, I typed the article. Please note, the date of this post!

A FREE TRIP

I had heard about a 'Free Lunch'. But, never about a 'Free Trip'.

This July, I will complete 51. And, with that, I will also complete an equal number of trips around the sun ... and, all free!

And, I did not know about this!

Macklin, my nephew, today gave this 'good news' to me. Yes, in his comment on my yesterday's post - 'It Isn't That Bad'. He had written: "Life isn't that bad, in deed. In includes a free trip around the sun, every year ... Doesn't it?"

It does, Macklin. And, what a dumb man I have been. Blind, to be precise.

Every thing is taken for granted. My breathing, for example. It happens on its own, without any efforts from my end, without any charges to be made. Franky uncle was there in Bombay Hospital for nearly three months; almost for this entire period, in ICU. His children had to cough up over fifteen lakhs ... just to keep uncle breathing!

A night's electricity costs me quite a lot. Some pay it to keep themselves warm, some to keep themselves cool, and others pay so that they can see, function. Yet, the great heater called Sun, and those merciful seasons, all go unacknowledged, unthanked.

Rain comes and fills our lakes, rivers and streams. But, who pays? Who cares?
Yet, for some one who fills the bottles, buckets and pots in our houses, we don't mind paying by our nose.

Unless some one bills us for his services, we do not appreciate them. Never.

The heart has to skip some beats, or cross its speed limits. Then, we realise, there is something called a 'heart' inside our body.

The breeze has to come to a standstill, or start pounding us with a hurricane, a cyclone. Then, we start respecting it.

The river has to send a an angry deluge, and the sea has to erupt with a monstorous tsunami. Then, we turn towards them with gratitude, and repentance.

We have come here, on this planet, without a Passport or Visa. Yes, with a free entry. So, we expect our existence, here, to be all free of charge. We think, we are 'entitled' for this joy ride called 'Life'.

And, unless we are jolted out of this illusion, unless 'Someone' threatens to take away all this 'free stuff' from us ... yes, unless such time comes, we take them for granted.

Like I did, till my young nephew Macklin reminded me, today, of this 'free trip' that I have been making around the magnificent sun, for over fifty-long years ...

All without paying any fare, or attention. Or, due respect.

Thank you, dear. For jolting me out!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, January 3, 2009

IT ISN'T THAT BAD

Yes, it isn't that bad.

Life isn't that bad ... I have come, this far.

All the life-situations which I dreaded about, over which I had spent sleepless nights, have come and gone ... without taking away my life, or spirit, or hope.

Life isn't that bad.

All those difficult people, who I thought made my life miserable, over whom I had spent such a colossal amount of energy, are all, today, going about their lives, here and there. But, certainly, they are off my back; certainly, they no longer hold the keys to my happiness.

Life isn't that bad.

All those demons of my soul - fear, insecurity, lack, jealousy, anger, violence, greed, lust, unfaithfulness, arrogance, indifference and, above all, ungratefulness ... yes, all these demons have never, ever succeeded to take over my soul. Not completely; not yet.

Life isn't that bad.

All those worries over money - How will I sail through this month? How will I protect my tomorrow? What if I can not work from tomorrow? Will my savings tank?
What if my reputation tanks? What if someone takes it all? - yes, all these worries have failed to make my heart their permanent home.

Life isn't that bad.

All those misunderstandings, conflicts, loud arguments, cold sulkings, and all those fears of losing, or not being able to 'fulfill' the other persons' needs ... yes, all those guilts have not made my soul bitter, not made me a cynic. Not fully; not yet.

Life isn't that bad.

Life is good. Great.

Just don't say, "Nothing to complain about". Say, "Something to celebrate about!"


GERALD D'CUNHA

WHERE IS MY DAD, TODAY?

My dad died on 2nd Jan. Twenty-six years ago. We remembered him, a lot, yesterday.

My dad was a simple village man. Though his education was barely sufficient for him to read and write, he was a keen political observer. He admired Mrs. Indira Gandhi and America like anything. In fact, shamelessly!

Like any other children, we had given him a great deal of stress. His means were limited. He and my mom always juggled with finances to keep us going. Children, generally, do not understand how difficult it is for their parents to run a house, to raise their children. My parents had five children to raise. I have only one. If it is so difficult for me and my wife to deal with our situation, now, how tough it must have been for our parents!

That insight, that empathy, seldom comes when we are young.

It comes, when the time comes. When the coin changes its side!

I remembered my dad, a lot, yesterday. How nice it would have been for him, for them both, had we five sons hassled them less, had we understood their problems!

It may be late. But, it must be expressed.

Often, while talking to my only son, when I try to sensitise him to our realities, I talk about my parents to him. "Just imagine, son. Where are my parents, today? My dad is no more, and my mom doesn't live with me," I tell him. "They did their best to prepare us for this day. Whatever we are today, is it not because of their love and affection, because of the sacrifices they made for us, all those days? Look, life moves on ... Parents become old, sick and pass away ... Then, our turn comes ... Then, yours'. The coin keeps changing its sides, son."

If I do not live with my mom, today (She lives with my elder brother, in our home town), what guarantee is there, that we will live with our only son, tomorrow? I tell my son, "Look son, your mom had only one brother, and he is settled with his family in America. Your mom was the only daughter for her parents, and she lives here. Her elderly parents live, on their own, in home town. For whose sake, they made all the sacrifices?"

Is it early for my son to understand all this? I really do not know.

But, it must be expressed.

I know, the coin will change its side, soon!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, January 2, 2009

THE WOUND WITHIN

It seems, we, as a nation, have pinned all our hopes on Kasab. Our hope is: If and when Kasab is hanged, all our problems would end. The terrorism included!

"Why do you take so much time to hang him?" a young man asked. "Do we need any more evidence to prove the magnitude of his crime?"

"We can not do that in a democracy like ours," replied the other man. "A court has to sentence him after a fair trial."

"Fair trial?" the young man shouted. "You mean, fair trial for a monster like him?"

"Well, that's the greatness - or weakness - of a democracy." the other man said. "Every human being is entitled to defend himself."

"But, he is not a 'human being'; he is a heartless monster," protested the young man. "He needs to be treated the way they treat such savages in those Islamic countries: Gun down publicly; finish them ... Put an end to the story."

"Yes, that would finish a menace called Kasab. But, not the menace itself. He goes, and a hundred Kasabs are born. How will you finish them? Again by gunning them down in public?" the other man asked.

"What is the other option? Treat them with kids' gloves?" asked the young man.

"Look at this way. The men who groomed Kasab - the entire terror machinery of any kind - believe like you do: They believe that if they gun down, indiscriminately, people all around, and send shock waves the way they have just done in our city, they can solve 'their problem'. What is their problem? We, as a nation, as a religion, have been unfair to them! So, gun down some innocent citizens. They think, they have achieved their objective; they have solved their problem. And, what do we think? Gun down these monsters, and we have achieved our objective; we have solved our problem," said the other man.

"What should be done, then?" the young man asked.

"Stop pinning your hopes on Kasab," the other man replied. "His death makes no difference to us. It just makes us bring out our pent-up pain and anger. We will dance, rejoice, when he is killed, just the way they danced, rejoiced, when they killed the innocents. Don't forget, that they truly believe they are innocents, that they fight a 'holy war'!" the other man said.

"Yes, then what? What is the solution?" the young man was agitated.

"This," the other man pointed.

"This ... what?"

"First end your own agitation, end your own fire ... heal the deep wound within you," said the other man. "Unless you do that, you will not be able to 'see' any hope. The hope is within you and me."

The young man couldn't help, but laugh. "Crazy!" he swore, and went away.

Many years ago, my wife and myself, along with our two-year-old son had gone to Goa on a holiday. It was the tourist season. We came back with some bad memories. The worst one - the the most enuring one - was this.

We boarded the bus for our return journey around 3.00 in the afternoon. The bus was packed with families. There were some elderly couples, and many families with small children. The driver of the bus began to amuse every one, by cracking his filmy dialogues. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. "He is a Nana Patekar," some of them cheered him. What none of us realised was, how this amusement would, slowly and surely, disslove into our deadly nighmare.

The driver pulled his shirt and threw it on his cleaner. He drove with neck-breaking speed. He stood while driving. He passed funny comments on people who were moving by on the road. He abused the other motorists. And, laughed like a monster. He manhandled his cleaner by one hand as he kept driving with the other, at high speed. There was the substitute driver, who evidently remained subdued. Every thing was happening so fast that, we the passengers knew, by now, that there was something seriously wrong with this man. We knew our lives were in this crazy fellow's hands. Some one pointed this to him. The shirtless driver stopped the bus and challenged the passenger. It had turned dark, and we did not know where we were. We had small children who were watching the drama and crying. We decided to to be patient ... watch and wait. Yes, at a huge risk. After some time, the bus stopped for dinner. Some did not get down; some of us did. We spoke to the other driver. We asked him to take over. He seemed to be helpless. But, he assured us that nothing unfortunate would happen, that it was the 'routine' show for them. He asked us to bear with this 'pain' for an hour-or-so more. Then, he would take over.

We trusted this man.

During the dinner time, we saw more drama. The crazy fellow had ugly exchange of abuses with the drivers of other buses. The only thing that did not happen was: no one killed him, then and there. So, provocative he was!

Any way, the journey resumed with the same 'unpredictable' monster back on the drivers seat. Our fears became more intense, more crippling. "How long?" every one was almost, paralysed.

We had barely travelled a half-an-hour distance. And, this man stopped the bus, collected something and disappeared somewhere into the darkness. We began to wonder looking out of the windows. We couldn't see anything.

"What happened? Where is he gone?" some of the passengers asked the other driver and the cleaner.

"His sister's house. For bavdooch," we were told.

"When is he going to come?" someone asked.

There was no answer.

"Why can't you takeover?"

There was no answer.

Night journey. Unknown place. And, an unpredictable despot was driving us to and unknown destination!

I stood up and yelled, "Why can't we stand up to this bully, together? I think we shouldn't allow him to drive anymore. I don't' mind spending my night here in the bus. But, with this driver, no way I will travel with my wife and little child."

Some agreed. "But, what if ...?"

The resolve was weak. There was helplessness and apprehension in the dark air, thick as a fog.

And, lo, the monster returned. He quickly collected his shirt and something; gave some mouthful to his colleagues and off he went, again, back into the darkness.

The other driver - the weakling - now, mounted on the driver's seat ... and the journey resumed.

What I will never forget is this: The whole bus - the old, the young and the children - began to cheer and clap. So loud and so long ... that some one would think - we were just returning after winning a great battle, after vanquishing a mighty enemy!

Every thing that was pent-up in us, came out in that one, long moment. Yes, we celebrated our victory!

Our misery ended when that monster driver disappeared.

Now, we think: When Kasab goes, will also go our misery!


GERALD D'CUNHA

BE THE BLESSING

Sr. Dorothy is a live wire. You rarely escape from her without being 'charged'. I bumped into her, last evening, on her way to one of her regular house visits.

"Hello Sister," I greeted. "A very happy new year to you."

Sister stretched her hand forward to charge me. "To you, too."

"Give me your blessings," I folded my hands.

"My sister tells me, we should take blessing, give blessing ... and, above all, we should 'be the blessing'," Sister brought my hands down.

"Wow," I exclaimed, "What a thought: 'Be the Blessing'!"

Sister went on to share with me her interpretation of this phrase.

On my way home, I reflected on it. I remembered two similar statements I had heard or read before.

The first one. It was some years ago, when Fr. Rupak had dropped in while one of our Workshops was in progress. At the end, I had requested Father to share with the youngsters some of his insights. He drew on the board two pictures, and asked the youngsters, "Can you tell me what these are?"

"One is a SIGN and the other is a SYMBOL," the class had echoed.

"Correct," Father said. Then, he concluded, "In life, we do have this choice: to be just a SIGN POST, or the 'way and the destination' - the 'living SYMBOLS' - ourselves."

It has remained etched in my mind, even after years.

The second one. Dr. Stephen Covey talks about it in his remarkable book - 'Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People'. In fact, Dr. Covey quotes Gandhi there:

"If you wish to see the change in others, and in situations, first 'be that change'. Be an agent of that change - a catalyst."

It is tough. It is extremely 'proactive'.

Sr. Dorothy knew, more than her blessings, I needed to know this truth.

And, I did not escape from her without being charged!

The 'Sign Post' quickly disssolved into a 'Symbol' - a 'blessing'!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, January 1, 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR

"Happy New Year." It was our maid. She was the first one to wish me, in person, this morning.

2009 had begun.

"Happy New year," I fumbled ... Humbled by her 'initiative'.

I realised, the 'new year' had nothing to do with - who you are. It was 'new' for every one.

Just before she was to leave, I opened the the Christmas-sweets box. There were quite a few sweets still left, and still fresh. My wife can not have them; she is a diabetic. My son doesn't have them; he dislikes sweets. That leaves me. I have a weakness for them. Which means, I won't mind hogging them for another week, till there is some trouble in my stomach and chest!

I packed all of them in a container and said, "Bhai, yeh aap ke liye."

We had already given her on the Christmas day. So, she took it with a great deal of surprise.

As she was having her tea, I placed two cookies before her in a small plate. She quickly packed them. I replaced them with two more, so that she could have it along the tea. You know, she starts her morning from our house. She packed this one, too!

Then, she left.

I smiled, and began to shake my head. My mind went back to our childhood days.

Whenever there was a gathering in the village - a wedding, or a month's mind mass, or some one's golden jubilee - like so many other village women did, my mother, too, would not eat her share. She would bring it home, for her five sons!

Even I did it, as a child, for some years ... till I began to feel a bit 'self-conscious'. I brought it to my parents and brothers.

Today, when our maid tucked every thing inside, I knew: it was for her children; and, may be for her husband and in-laws. I truly 'felt' the 'happiness' from her wishes:

"Happy New Year."


GERALD D'CUNHA