Thursday, November 26, 2009

A LIFE SENTENCE

Last week, we had been for the wedding reception of a cousin of my wife. It was in a swanky banquet hall and the ambiance was familiar: that of a traditional Catholic-wedding.

In a Catholic wedding, the programme, from the start to the end, is all well-set; it is predictable... You know what comes next, what the Master of Ceremony is going to tell next. And, for most of us, the one liners, the teasers and the jokes that the M.C. uses, are, often, too familiar. On this particular evening, the M.C. cracked the familiar teaser, while the bridal couple waited nervously before the lovely cake, about to hold the knife.

"Marriage is not just a 'word'," he reminded the newly-weds, "It is a 'sentence' - a 'life sentence'."

"Nice one," I softly said.

"What is nice in that?" reacted my wife.

Now, I knew that question was not asked to seek an answer, but to express a faithful wife's displeasure. It meant: "You old man, shut up."

"We, too, were warned with the same words by our M.C. about two decades ago," I muttered in my mind.

"So ?" I heard her screaming through her nasty look.

"Nothing, just watching as to who is going to grab the knife first," I meowed.

"Very funny," I was reminded.

"I know, darling," I agreed with my mouth fully shut.

"You know what?", that was the predictable question.

"That, marriage is not just a 'word'; it is a 'sentence' - a 'life sentence'," I clarified.

The D.J. went on a full blast... the confetti showered from the beautiful centre piece as the guests gave a long applause...

The bride was the one to grab the knife first!

"Did you see that?" the grin wanted to know.

"Yes, I did," I accepted the sentence.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE HOUSE OF TO-MORROW

Many a times, when some parents share with me their fears and frustrations over their children, I find myself empathising with them. I am able to understand their problems because I 'stand outside' and view those problems. I, too, have a teenager son. Most of their struggle is mine, too... most of their fears and frustrations... most of their dilemmas. So, empathy comes naturally to me whenever I counsel other parents. At times, I find myself quoting my favourite author, Kahlil Gibran:

"Your children are not your children...
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself;
They come through you, but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they do not belong to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of to-morrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For Life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far,
Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

I have never quoted for any one the entire piece. I have only taken a line or two from this only for the sake of 'effect'. Particularly, I have used the first two lines: " Your children are not your children... They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself."

Today, it struck me like a bolt of lightening: I had never read the piece fully all these years. Or, was it that: I had never understood it?

I have only one son. As a parent, I struggle while I raise him, educate him. I experience my fears, anxieties and frustrations... I get into my angry - some times, even violent - bouts... I slip into my caves, sulk, cry, repent... promise to myself, to my son, to be more caring and loving henceforth... but, then, again, I go back on my words... make the same mistakes. I struggle... I wander... I wonder.

"Your children do not 'belong' to you," I must've told this to other parents a thousand times. "You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of to-morrow, which you can not visit, not even in your dreams." Have I understood the meaning of these lines?

Each line, today, hit me with unbelievable newness. Probably, because, I felt the pain of my current struggle unbearable. Yes, maybe, I was thirsty for the meaning. "You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you, for Life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday." How true!

I may try to be like my son! It is mind-blowing!

And, finally, this: "Your are the bows from which your children, as living arrows, are sent forth... The Archer (God) bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the Archer's hands be for gladness, for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

Do I know that I am only a bow in the hands of God, the great archer? Do I know that He bends me so that His arrow - my son - goes swift and far?

Knowing is only one part of my growth. Living in tune with that knowledge is the most significant part. I am yet to grow here... My 'bending' is far from over...

After all, am I not an arrow shot by the same Archer from His another bow?


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, November 20, 2009

DO YOU REMEMBER?

"Do you remember this point...? I have explained it in the class many times." Sameer's face drew a blank when I asked him that question. His two friends looked towards him and began to laugh, poking fun at his ignorance. Sameer retaliated with some nasty comments... and some girls started giggling loudly... Looking at the funny girls, half-a-dozen boys got restless...

And, while all this was unfolding in my class like a fast-paced movie, I lost my head completely. Then, for the next fifteen minutes, I went on a rampage - 'the emotional atyachar'. I did it with such strong words and with such intense feelings... that the mutiny had to die down. By the time it did, it, almost, killed me. I was left with no energy... but, with a hell lot of turmoil within.

That was at 11.30 in the morning, while teaching the 12th standard students.

At 2.00 in the afternoon, I was teaching the T.Y. B.Com students. The class was packed, and I was in full flow. "Do you remember this point, Anand...? I have explained it many times, before." I did not realise, even faintly, that, the same question in the morning - in fact, just a few hours before - had let loose the demon in me to create such a gloomy hell. Anand's two friends were acid-quick to pull his legs... and the predictable sequence ensured. But, my response, surprisingly, was unpredictable.

"Gajinike aulad," I shouted unleashing a riot of laughter. Most of them had watched the funny face and dialogue of Archana Puran Singh in the trailer of the to be released Hindi comedy - 'DE DANA DAN'. In that scene, her hubby Paresh Rawal is shown lying in a hospital bed, and, on regaining his consciousness, asking his 'kadoos' wife - "Main kidar hoon?" "Tere saas ke wahan, Gajinike aulad," yells the vamp!

When Anand lost his memory for a while, I did not lose my head. I remembered Archana maami's outburst. And, that saved me from one more trip to hell. Instead, for the next ten minutes, the packed class was transported to a vibrant, fun-packed world. In this world, every one was happy... There was no preacher, no teacher, no bulldozer... there were only happy, spontaneous kids. Yes, like Amitabh Bachchan in another forthcoming release - 'PAA", I found myself trapped in the mind of a kid... and, I found myself laughing, enjoying... celebrating life!

And, yes, just a few hours after I had done exactly the opposite... ironically, under exactly the identical situation!

When I reflect on these two episodes, I can't help but laughing.

I am the interpreter of the stories. I am the translator. The stress is certainly not worth it. But, the joy is; the celebration is.

But then, I am just a human. I do slip into these occasional memory losses... and go on a rampage, creating hell... and, then, with all my innocence, I ask Archana maami: "Main kidar hoon?"

Do you remember?


GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

THE TEACHER APPEARS...

I teach my students how to solve accounting problems. As a teacher, we say so many things, so mechanically... that unless someone brings to our notice, we don't even realise them. Sometimes, we come to know about them when, in a healthy spirit, some students come forward to mimic us.

Last evening, I met a professional accountant. We had invited him to handle the accounts of our housing society. "We need you to set right all the mess, here. We want you to put our house in order," we told him referring to the accounting problems we were facing in our society.

"Sir, every problem has to be solved twice," the man told us, looking smilingly at me. "Once, here (He pointed at his head), and, once again, here (He pointed at the accounts books on the table)." Before we could react, he continued, "Sir, about fifteen years ago, you told this to us in the class when you taught us how to solve problems... Do you remember me? I was one of your students."

I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn't recognise the man after all these years. But, when he recalled those days, everything came back to me... Particularly those words which so mechanically I have been using for so many years: "Every problem is solved twice: once in our minds, and once again in our books."

Someone had understood the depth of those words. Last evening, when he, respectfully, 'mimicked' me, I realised, how much, we teachers, even when we do things so mechanically, influence our students... and, how mysteriously, a student can appear to teach us. Yes, the same lessons!

GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, November 16, 2009

SOMEONE... SOMEWHERE

"Someone is waiting for you, somewhere," this man tells me. "He needs your goodness... your helping hand... your healing touch."

Well, I know my fallible human state. I know how selfish I can be, at times. I know the kind of thoughts that dominate my mind... I know, how impatient and how harsh I act with my nearest and dearest ones, sometimes... In fact, most of the times.

And still, here is this man - a man I look up to in my life - telling me that I am good... and someone out there - somewhere - is waiting for my goodness, my helping hand, my healing touch!

Without an iota of arrogance, I did feel he was being sincere... that he was not trying to flatter me, give me a 'high'. My self-doubts did surface... I did feel for a while that I did not deserve such a fine compliment. But, within a few fleeting seconds, I was there savouring the power of this gentleman's words: "Someone is waiting for you, somewhere."

Why am I writing these blog articles? Each and every article, I seriously believe, is about my own self-development - an exploration into the nearest star... ME! I know, in each of these pieces, I share my dilemmas, my struggles and my little triumphs. I am sure, I am able to connect with many through my posts... I am sure, they may help someone, somewhere...

Yes sir, thank you for reassuring me: "Someone is waiting for me, somewhere."...

As I do for gentle souls like you, here.


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE RAT RACE

Competition. Still, Lata Mangeshkar has survived for more than sixty years in the make-believe world of glamour. In the same world, Amithab Bachchan has lasted for more than forty years. And, in an fiercely competitive world of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar is still going strong even after twenty years!

All these legends have survived in their fields, the fields notoriously known for man-eat-man kind of competition. They have seen the ups and downs; they have faced ridicule and destructive campaign against them. The critics and cynics have written them off several times... and, still, these 'heroes' have stretched their necks out... and gloriously!

On Saturday evening, I accompanied my son, along with my wife, for the induction programme of his NID preparation course. The National Institute of Designing, which my son wants to get into - we are told by the coaching institute - is extremely competitive. There are only 90 seats on all India level, for which thousands of aspirants are trying. The exams are not the stereotype ones; they demand one's creative best... one's ability to think 'out-of-the-box'. On Saturday, the speaker was trying to drill a hole into the youngsters' thick skull: "Wake up all of you - Sid's... It won't be a cakewalk."

The speaker was emphasizing on one thing more than anything else: Passion. And, I couldn't agree with him more.

I know, my son needs to have tremendous amount of desire for NID; he must make it a single-minded goal; he must be determined... He must plan in an organised manner, trade-off... give up on some easy-comforts... stop day-dreaming and approach his goals realistically... Maybe, he also needs a bit of luck, God's grace. But, when he has that 'Passion' - which the speaker was again and again emphasising on - I think, the rest will fall in place.

Lata Mangeshkar has survived; Amithab Bachchan has survived... and Sachin Tendulkar has survived. The rat race, the cut-throat competition - when were these things not there? Which field is free from them? There are only eleven seats in the Indian cricket team... and millions of young men are dying for them! There are only ninety seats in NID... and thousands of young men want to grab one of them.

My son is one of them.

Will he make it?

I do not know. I only wish and support... and try to motivate, counsel. The rest depends on his passion... the fuel that fires every rocket up into the skies. He needs to to have enough of it in his belly.

I know it very, very well.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, November 14, 2009

THE DHARMA AND THE KARMA

At 10.30, this morning, when I reached our Colony gate, there was only one auto waiting. I quickly boarded it. Just then, I heard one of our watchmen blowing his whistle. When I peeped out towards him, I realised that a young lady with bags in both her hands was approaching towards the gate. She wanted the watchman to fetch an auto for her. So, without realising that I had already boarded the only auto that was available, he had blown his whistle, so that she could board it. When I saw this lady with heavy bags in both her hands, and realising the fact that she would not be able to get another auto for quite a while, my immediate reaction was: I asked the autowala to make an about turn towards this lady.

"Ma'am, there are no auto's there out side; would you like me to drop you somewhere?" I said, in the most sincere and spontaneous manner.

"No," she brushed me aside in an equally blunt and thankless manner, continuing to walk.

My face fell for a while; my ego was hurt. I saw even the autowala laughing sarcastically. For the rest of my 15-minutes journey, this lady consumed my mind.

"Why am I doing these kind of things, only to be insulted, ignored, hurt?" I kept asking myself. "Why do I go out my way to please people?"

There was anger. First, at the lady for her impoliteness... Then, slowly, the anger was redirected at me - for my own 'stupidity'... And, finally, it was all over.

I did what I did, because that was what my deep being wanted me to do. I was in alignment with my Values. And, there ended my 'duty'... my 'Dharma'. I really had no idea as to how this lady would react... That was not in my control. So, what she did was in alignment with her Values... It was her "Karma'.

How else could I keep my sanity? How else could I stop myself from being a bitter 'fellow-being'?

The ancient stories are still there for us... to find meaning.

Once, on the bank of a river, a monk was bathing. He saw a scorpion drowning and instinctively placed his palm to save the creature from dying. The scorpion began to sting monk's palm, agitated and restless... and, finally, fell into the river only to go down again. The monk, once again, stretched his hands and lifted the little creature on his palms. The creature left more blows, more blood... and, once again, fell into the water. But, the monk wouldn't give up his efforts to save the scorpion... while the creature would not give up striking.

This went on for some time. A man who was bathing along the monk was amused and even shocked to see this drama. "Swamiji, why do you continue helping that creature, when all that you get in return are the thankless blows?"

"Well, my friend," said the monk. "Because, I am doing my 'dharma'... and that little creature is doing its 'karma'."

How else shall I console myself for the morning blow?


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, November 13, 2009

WHEN LOST IN THE TUNNEL

Often, I wonder: What it takes to keep faith in life, while things around us - our very life - seem crumbling?

It is tough to be hopeful, tough to be optimistic when we are faced with terrible personal crisis. Bitterness and cynicism seem to be natural... We tend to give up.

Almost a year has passed since the terror attack in Mumbai. The life in Mumbai is the classic example for the 'bounce-back spirit' needed to survive, and move on. It is the collective voice of humanity: "Let nothing bog us down; nothing!"

Mr. Kanga, the General Manager of The Taj Hotels and Towers, was 40 when the terror strike took away from him his wife and two little sons... his entire family, that was. On the one side, you see your innocent family being destroyed; on the other hand, you , as the Captain of the ship, have to save others on board... What a dilemma! ... And just thinking about it, sends chills through my spine! That is the true call of duty... That is true faith in life... That is grit. The true one.

Today's TOI carries an interview with Mr. Kanga. "Life is a roller coaster, with many ups and down," this remarkable man says. "Important thing in life is not to lose faith and hope."

My problems are nothing compared to what Mr. Kanga had to face. Still, my problems, often, intimidate me... I find myself bitter and cynical. Mr. Kanga's life is the beacon of hope for people like me... who are lost in the tunnel.

Friday, November 6, 2009

THE PANIC WISDOM

"What is going to happen, WILL happen."

But, I do not know, what is going to happen. I want only 'pleasant things' to happen... I do my best to avert the 'unpleasant things' from happening.

Well, I used the words - 'do my best' - almost mechanically!

In my case - and, I believe there are many to provide me company here - I go all the way to avert, to block the 'enemy'. And, when I find myself unable to block the invasion, I panic.

Some people are super cool... so cool, that, even if the bombs start falling before them, they won't run! They are on the extreme end of one side of the spectrum. On the extreme end of the other side, are those who panic even when they ‘imagine’ the word ‘BOMB’… leave alone ‘hear’ the word!

Where do I fit in? I really do not know. But, I do like to be there with any of these ‘extremists’. Both are equally dangerous. I have an extra level of anxiety, which I know is not good for my health, both physical and mental. I desire, and try to, reduce this level, to be less anxious… Learn to ‘let go and let God’. But, certainly, I cannot stand the ‘super cools’. They, I think, are too indifferent, too insensitive towards others.

If laughter should come to me, when I realize "It is stupid to panic" … I plead God to help me learn to laugh. Similarly, in life, at times, if fear and pain are what one should experience, I earnestly ask God to help me learn how to cry.

Panic is panic. Whether I like it or not, and no matter how much I justify about it… it plays havoc in my life. I am, mercifully, aware when I slip into a panic mode…and, when - again, mercifully - ‘some one’ pulls me out of the hole.

And, I am able to comprehend the power of the statement:

“Whatever has to happen, WILL happen.”

It is not a ‘cool’ wisdom; it is ‘hard earned’.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

IGNORANCE?

"Pain comes from fear. Fear comes from ignorance." I heard someone saying this.

Am I 'ignorant'?

Oh, yes... in so many areas of my life. And, I believe, each and everyone has his own areas. Each and every one has problems handling those areas... the areas of anxiety and fear... and, thus, of pain.

Just this morning, a solicitor I know spent at least half-an-hour talking to me. His teenager-son is in twelfth-standard science. He has been enrolled in one of the best coaching classes, with the hope that he would pursue engineering. Now, it is November. The young man has failed in five subjects. Both, the college and the coaching class, have asked the parents to see them about the son. Another thirty thousand is paid to a new tutor just to bail the son out in maths! Still, the things are going down the hill, with no hope whatsoever... The father is worried, frustrated and angry.

"Can you please talk to him, in your own way. I hope, he would listen to you," he pleaded. "But, don't tell him I told you to."

I knew the young man, and so, I assured the father that I would certainly make an attempt.

I saw an instant relief on the Solicitor's face!

We were about to part our ways, and I asked him about a property matter. For some time, I had been worrying about the matter, without knowing how to go about it. Many people had given many opinions... and , all these seemed to add to my confusion. So, this morning, when I asked the solicitor instinctively, he was more than willing to advise me. He did it for the next fifteen minutes, all free of charge... and on the roadside!

I experienced the relief in my heart.

Pain is always a discomfort we sense whenever we find ourselves in some tight situations. To me, it was the property matter; to my solicitor-friend, it was his teenager-son's growth. Both had difficulty handling our issues, both needed each other's help.

Were we both 'ignorant'?

No so long as we 'knew' we were helpless... that we were 'humans' and we needed a helping hand.

Fear is a friend... It is okay to be afraid, sometimes, somewhere.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

THE RAAVANA

"I am a fighter," he declared with tremendous amount of pride. I could feel the arrogance, the self-righteousness. "I like to fight with the system, and I don't give up."

The 'system'. What is that?

The Establishment, the Government, the Administration, the Family hierarchy... Our man likes to fight with all of them... and doesn't like to give up.

I said, "That's great. Some people are born to fight... You are one of them."

"The system is corrupt; there is no transparency... no accountability," he argued. "If you do not raise your voice, 'they' can and will do anything."

"True," I agreed. "Somebody has to stand up; and you do."

"I don't leave anybody... whoever it may be," he thundered. "I fight ... and I like it."

"All the best," I wished him.

Let him fight all his life; he likes it. It is his mission, his religion... He gets a 'high' form it. So, let him carry on.

What about me? Am I not a 'fighter'? Don't I hold the fort when I am challenged?

I do. I, too, am a fighter... and I like it. But, then, I know this reality: the system includes me... I cannot ignore me when I fight. I must fight the 'system within me'...

I find it funny when we remain busy destroying Raavana's ten heads... while our one head is so capable of causing such a colossal havoc.

Yes, I like to fight... I like to burn the 'Raavana within'. The system!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, November 2, 2009

THE END OF THE WORLD

It seems, our world is going to end in 2012!

I thought I should bring about at least one change in me before the doom comes. Yes, at least one.

Now, which one is that?

For fifty-one long years, I have worried about all sorts of things. Nothing of those things - the things I had feared - have come to pass... I have survived! Now, they say the doom is really approaching... just three years away from our doorsteps! I thought, if every thing is going to go in tsunami, inferno or tremor - whatever that is - why should I worry at all? At least, three years are left to enjoy this life. Yes, THREE LONG YEARS! Let me bring about, at least, one change in me before I go... we all go.

Suddenly, it hits me, again, that to enjoy life, I must learn to take things a little lightly. I must learn to laugh a little more... laugh at myself... not to take things - events, situations, comments, arguments and everything else too seriously. I must learn to let go my need to control, the need to be appreciated, agreed to, even respected and adored. Yes, all these things had been destroying my ability to savour life, for all these years. Now, if I don't do something about this, I will not even get these last three years!

How shall I bring about this change?

The world did not end though some things went wrong in my life. The world did not end though some people criticised me, disagreed with me, abused me. The world did not end though some life-events came harsh on me. No, the world has not ended; I have survived.

So, I think, it is time I did something different. When others enjoyed life, I was worrying. Now, when they worry, let me enjoy...

I deserve these three years, at least.

2012 is just a metaphor for me. That unless I do something about my old,worrying habit, the doom is just a few steps from my door. Something, inside me, guides me to see this truth...

I strongly feel, as I write this, that the world WILL end. The world of my gloom and doom!

Long live the prophets and the soothsayers!


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE BEAT OF A LEGACY

Passion is contagious.

On Saturday night, I went with my wife and son to watch "This Is It." I had been a huge fan of Michael Jackson - the star, the performer and the enigmatic genius. But, I had never been fond of his songs. Except for the famous 'We are the World', I have registered nothing in my mind!

Well, this admission may reveal my ignorance. I may sound stupid, even. But, honestly, I admired the man - the larger-than-life persona -- but, not his songs, his music. And, that is it!

But, let me tell you, the two-hour-long film left me breathless. In fact, it is not a film; just a documentary - compiled from the footage of the rehearsals Michael did with his musicians, dancers, technicians and production and direction team. Mind you, it was the 'practice session', the rehearsal... not the actual show. If I was left breathless, and crying, watching this footage-show, what would have been my experience watching the real one!

The man was, in deed, a genius! He knew his every note, every sound, every beat, every step... yes, not just his own, but of every performer with him, both on and back stage. He breathed music, and infused that breath in others. Such was his passion... so contagious!

I came home - all of us - awe-struck by the genius and the passion of Michael Jackson. At 50, this skin-and-bone man - even after enduring such an amount of personal hell in his life - was capable of dreaming so big, and inspiring a cross-section of generation. I was stumped by the blazing fire in his belly, his zest and curiosity which seem untouched by the harshness of life-situations.

I felt the sorrow. I saluted the man... who died with his boots on. Even after two days, the beat of his legacy is on: Either you do it with all your passion, or you just don't do it.

Thank you Michael. That is, truly, it!