Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE PASSION

The period of forty days before the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lent. To me, this is a very important time. It is the time to get inspired in life.

Christ barely lived for thirty-three years. But, what an incredible life that had been! He lived with such passion, that the end of His life is termed as 'the passion of the Christ'.

Swami Vivekananda, another hero of mine, too, died in his thirties. But, what a life that had been! What a legacy! Rarely, in history, a religious monk - a young monk - has evoked such respect, and such awe. Like Jesus Christ, Swamiji lived with passion, with completeness.

Here is my third hero - the remarkable Martin Luther King Jr. This American Civil Rights leader, too, died in his thirties. But, not before leaving behind such imprints, that wouldn't disappear for generations to come. This King was a Negro, condemned and humiliated as a 'nigger'. But, by the time his life ended, he had inspired millions, the world over, including the mighty heads of states - the Kings. Just one word is sufficient to describe this dynamic man's life ..., and, that is - once again - 'Passion'.

So, every time, the Lent comes, I remember my three mighty heroes ... their eventful lives, their purpose and passion ... and I get charged. To me, thus, the Lent is the time to get recharged, to commit myself, once again, in life. I need these icons to keep me going. I need the touch of their shadow!

I am 50. And, I know it is never the length of your life that is the yardstick, but the kind of your involvement in it!


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE GODSEND

It is widely believed - and, even proven - that, a teacher can not teach his or her own child. I have been a teacher for nearly three decades. And, with all my modesty, I believe, I have been a very efficient one in that.

Still, when it came to my own son - who is about to face his tenth standard ICSE Board exam in a few days - I found myself helpless. Nor could my wife break this resistance. It was evident, that the prophecy about a teacher's son was all set to be fulfilled!

Our son is multi-talented. He is a gifted child. We are extremely proud of him. He is good in sports; he plays guitar, and has a great taste for music; he is a genius when it comes to art; he reads a lot and loves to argue his points to the logical end; he has a remarkable hold on his language and he can express amazingly well in his writings ... His Principal and teachers praise him; his friends' parents, too.

As parents, what more could we ask for?

I think, both, my wife and I, had only one demand. We wanted him to develop an effective work culture, so that he could sail through his crucial exams with less stress. Some how, we failed to prevail upon him, in spite of all our love, persuasion, firmness, and even threats. He went by his own rhythm, at his own pace ... scoring low marks in his prelims and bringing us close to the edge.

Maths was his huge weakness. He kept avoiding it like plague, and we kept reminding him about it. Whenever we offered to help him, he would only say, "Not now."

"If not now, when?" we would voice our frustration.

We had enrolled him in one of the best coaching classes. But, all that had gone for a toss, and our son was there - standing on the ground zero. "Do you want us to arrange for some personal tutor?" we would ask. "I will tell you; relax," he would respond.

Of all the things in the world, "Relax"!

Our son is intelligent. He went by his own rhythm ... all along avoiding his nightmare subject - Maths. We remained anxious. But, I had this hunch: that something miraculous would happen and our good child would find help to dissolve his mental block. And, it happened just a week ago. All out of the blue, a retired and a very efficient teacher came on the scene. Mrs. Rukmini, was my colleague about thirty years ago. She wasn't married then, and we called her Chari miss. Today, at 68, she still has that child-like innocence and enthusiasm when it comes to teaching subjects like maths and physics. Yes, that is - after teaching for 47 years, and after her retirement! Teaching gives her immense joy and satisfaction. Her world is centered around her extended family of students, whom she teaches in few groups at her residence.

When my wife approached her for our son, she had already sent off her other students. So, our son caught his flight, when others had landed!

And, what a marvelous joyride it was destined to be! It was, in deed, a flight of fantasy.

A good teacher is one - who inspires thirst in a reluctant student. I have done that in my thirty-year teaching umpteen number of times. When parents come back to tell me about the turnaround, it leaves me with goose pimples. That joy is all worth it; it is bliss. It is the mark of a good life, lived with all zest and passion. I am moved to tears, every time that feeling runs through my being and overwhelms me.

Today, the role has changed, I can imagine the kind of satisfaction and joy a teacher like Mrs. Rukmini must be experiencing. Our gratitude for her oozes out of our being... It is her time, now, to experience those tears of joy. That lump in the throat.

As teachers, we sow good seeds. We touch lives. We transform difficult, young children. My hunch has, always, been inspired by this truth. I have, always, trusted in the universal law of 'good karma'. "What goes around, comes around," ... I have never given up on this law.

The lump in my throat and the goose pimples all over my body - as I am writing this - is a live testimony to this.

Thank you ma'am.



GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, February 27, 2009

GOODNESS SPREADS

When we stand close to some people, we feel repelled. When they open their mouths, it sucks! So toxic they are. In every body's life, there are at least a few such people.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some people, in whose presence, we feel extremely good. They don't even have to open their mouths. Their mere presence is enough. It wears an aura of goodness ... and, it just spreads. Needless to say, in life, all of us have at least a handful of such souls.

Today, I felt like asking myself: Where do I belong in other people's life? Am I repulsive and toxic? Or, am I gentle and good?

The feeling is a very strong one. The question haunts me.

I just felt like sharing this feeling.


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE AWARDS

A man is given an award - the Oscar, the Nobel or whatever - only by another man. Maybe, by a group of men. But, certainly, not by God!

I am a great fan of A.R. Rehman. When he received so many international awards, particularly the Oscars, for his music for the movie - "SLUM DOG MILLIONAIRE', I was hugely thrilled. The movie won, in all, eight Oscars. Yes, like every Indian, I, too, shouted in joy - "Jay Ho!"

But, then, I know it is not such a great music or a film that it is hyped up to be. The Oscar committee is, certainly, unaware of the incredible work of A.R. Rehman. It also doesn't know about the fine movies India comes out with time to time. I liked the movie 'SDM'. But, I did not come out of the theatre the way I came out after watching 'Lagaan', 'TZP' or the 'Munnabai' movies. I seriously feel these movies deserved recognition from international body.

However, an award is only an award - some people's opinion. It only reflects their judgement. Eight Oscars won't make 'SDM' a great movie for me. I will still bear in my heart the same opinion about it.

Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Prize for peace. It shall eternally remain as one of the great mysteries of the 'award business'!

Gandhi never needed a Nobel to make him whatever he was. And, I don't' think A.R. Rehman needs it, either. Their work is above these 'little' awards ... no matter how much glitter surrounds these awards.

Because, I seriously feel an award is as great as a man's judgement.

I have never agreed - in fact, been angry - whenever those umpires had 'awarded' LBW to another hero of mine - Sachin Tendulkar. And, you know how often ... and, how, unfairly!

So, let all those Oscars be only that - an opinion. A judgement.

Jay Ho!


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE FLOW OF THE RIVER

"Why has the flow of the river suddenly stopped?"

I posted my last blog on 2nd Feb. It is almost a month now. My friends ask me the question: "Why has the flow of the river suddenly stopped?"

Life is like a river. Its job is to flow; no one can stop it from doing so. And, if any one attempts to do so, it finds a new way to flow, a new direction. But, the essential thing is the 'source'. A river always has a source; it flows 'out' of it. It is only when the source itself dries up, that the river stops flowing.

I am still connected to my source; I am still flowing.

During these 'dry days', I was busy producing a small book for our Housing Society. I had titled it as: 'THE CHOICE... WITH A HEALING TOUCH'. It is a book of about twenty-eight pages. I poured my soul into it. Yes, the river did flow ... only in a different direction, for a while.

The book opens with this passage:

"What applies to an individual,
Also applies to a Society;
What applies to a Society,
Also applies to a Nation,
Applies to the Universe."

'MAN IS THE CREATOR
OF HIS OWN UNIVERSE.'

Is that not true?

Some of us are very keen to bring back sanity, unity and harmony in our housing Society. The process is frustrating. People are different; they perceive and react to situations differently. They get influenced by false propaganda, they accuse baselessly, they play mind games, petty politics ... and, they go on long ego-trips ... They sit on the judgement seat and condemn others ... And, when all this happens, it is but natural to give up your efforts, become pessimistic, bitter and cynical. Highly sensitive people like me, normally stay away from such work. My skin is too thin to bear the brunt of thanklessness.

I am clear about this: I do not wish to get sucked into the never-ending cesspool of Society politics. I will try my best, with some like-minded members, to work for sanity, unity and harmony. If our efforts succeed, well and fine. If they don't, we will - at least I will - feel that I have done my best.

And that is about it.

Just towards the end of this book, I have written this passage:

"It is such a pity -
that, we do everything else on this earth,
except - the LIVING!

Life is too short for keeping all our score cards ...
Who knows, whether we will see 'tomorrow's Sun?

And, most certainly, the Sun will rise
from the East, tomorrow,
at the appointed time ...
Yes, without any of us around!"

'PLEASE, FOR GOD'S SAKE,
SAY A HEARTY 'HELLO' ...
PLEASE SAY - 'IT IS ALL RIGHT'."

I am aware of my limitations as much as I am aware of my strengths. Some people do not change, some situations frustrate us, some people always remain insecure and toxic, while some secure and graceful. I am aware of the 'imperfect' world I live in. I am aware of the conflict and disharmony within me ...

That's why, probably, I scribbled these final words:

"Please pause here and reflect ...
Harmony can spring only from silence."

I do not know, what will happen to my Society. But, I know what will happen to me:

I will not cease to flow in harmony with my source.

I will not lose my sanity trying to make a cat bark.



GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, February 2, 2009

THE PING-PONG-BALL EXPERIMENT

You might have heard about this experiment, this story. I hadn't.

Last night, while having our dinner at a restaurant, a friend of mine narrated it to me. And, I was not only fascinated, but also felt unburdened. Inspired.

It seems, some laid-back fellow, or a restless kindergarten kid, one day, just decided to try this experiment. No one exactly knows, who it really was. Well, that's immaterial. What is worth noting, is the way this lazy, crazy idea caught on the imagination of the world ... For a whole two months, till the experiment concluded. This was how it was carried out.

This laid-back scientist, or the kid, would throw a tiny, frail Ping Pong ball into the Lake Victoria, the birthplace of river Nile - the longest river in the world. The quest is to find out whether this tiny, delicate stuff could survive the cruelest test: of making it to the other end, the capital city of Egypt, Cairo - about four-thousand miles down on the North. And, if it could, how long it would take for the little ball to conclude the expedition ... and, very importantly, to chronicle this saga of survival against all the imaginable tests and challenges. May be to learn something from all this. Just may be.

Maybe, because, lazy fellows and learning are two odd balls!

It took two months for the little Ping Pong to complete the expedition. It had to survive the hardest of the hardest rocks and boulders; it had to escape from being getting swallowed by the deadliest papyrus reeds that threatened from the sides of river; the little frail thing had to survive at least nine merciless waterfalls; then, there were the tests of the harsh weather, the lonely nights, the hunger, the fear and despondency ... The little fellow had to pass all these endurance-tests ... before emerging as a winner.

And, some one reported this experiment to a TV station ... Rest is a fascinating story of how the world sat glued to the idiot box, to check the progress of the Pygmy sailor ... The helicopters hovered over him to capture his gutsy journey, the TV stations showed the exact location he had made it to on a particular day, and at a particular time ... The elderly, young and the kids would debate on him. "Would he survive?" ... "What if?" ...

Finally, on 31st December, 1999, when the battered-but-not-beaten Ping Pong landed in Cairo, the world received him with hurrahs and hosannas. A little kindergarten kid lifted him to the delightedly tearful eyes of the world!

The small, frail Ping Pong ball had survived! He was the winner ... one who never gave up!

He had ascended up majestically with the gigantic waves, and descended down gracefully with the steep falls; he had valiantly bounced back after each cruel blow, and cleverly maneuvered out of every harsh tentacle. He had rolled on and on like a baby, and floated on and on like a butterfly ... And, in the end, he had stood out - there, under the spotlight - like a real, heavyweight champion!

This was the great Ping-Pong-Ball experiment. The story my friend narrated to me over the dinner, last night. I was as fascinated, and as glued, as the world had been when the little hero had compelled the world to sit up, and take notice of him.

"Just a small hole, a dent, would have destroyed all his chances," my friend explained to me. "Remember, just a tiny opening."

He was telling me this story - to dispel my gloom, to inspire me to survive ... against all my tests, and all my odds. "Success and dignified living is all about being pliable ... and making ourselves invulnerable to the so called harsh tests of life - the rocks and boulders, the waves and waterfalls, the reeds and loneliness ... Yes, it is about flowing down our rivers - our four-thousand-miles-long voyages - like a frail, little Ping Pong ...

And, yes, all along, not letting ourselves to be bogged down - by any thing, any one, any time ... Never!

Ever!


GERALD D'CUNHA