Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WILL IT HELP?

Some days ago, a lady called me. She wanted to do the Personal Growth programme which THE DAWN CLUB conducted. I regretted saying that we conducted that programme only in the summer holidays. However, I could help her with our inspirational books. "Please come over... I will give you something to read," I told her encouragingly.

"But, will it help me?" the lady - who I was told, 23, and worked for a famous BPO - asked me.

I had already spent about ten minutes with her on the phone. I had asked her as to what exactly had prompted her to think about doing this programme. I, always do that with any one who enquires with me about the programme... Many a times, they think of doing the programme because of of embarrassment they encounter somewhere, or it could be due to the negative feedback from their bosses at the workplace... or it could be a nagging feeling of inferiority that consumes their mind... I, always, go into that. And, I have found that it helps them immensely to see the problem in right perspective.

So, when this young lady asked me sincerely - "Will it help me?", I was quick to respond, "It will."

There was a bit of hesitation. The lady was keen to do the two-months course. She hoped to conquer her 'blues' by completing this course. She was apprehensive about the reading material which I was offering her all free, and with all my enthusiasm. She was hoping to become self-confident on completing the course. She kept asking, "But, will it help me?"

I had come out of my class to talk to this stranger woman. I hadn't met her. I could have asked her to call me later. I could have told her "Sorry ma'am, we have no programmes happening presently. Please get in touch with us just before the next summer." Still, I was trying to help her in whatever way now possible for me... And, I was absolutely sure, if a person wanted to overcome a problem, then every little thing in that direction helped. In fact, the problem gets solved in bits and pieces... One has to take those 'baby steps' - the small steps, that too, one step at a time. I knew from my experience, that all these baby steps are helpful to stand tall one day.

But, when the lady on the phone hoped to stand tall by doing the two months course only, I knew that she was trying to escape from her problems. She was not honest as far as her desire to overcome her problem was concerned. If she was, she would have taken that first, little step...

"Ma'am, I have spoken to you for more than ten minutes, now. We haven't met before; we are strangers. Still, I have come out of my class to talk to you... and, here I am, trying to provide my inputs... Is it not helping you?" I asked the young lady on the other side.

"Oh yes, it does, sir," the woman was spontaneous in her answer.

"Then, please trust me. Every little step that you take to beat your blues is the right step. They are the scattered pieces of a puzzle called Life. You have no option but to put them together," I dramatised a little.

The silence was profound.

The next day, the young lady came over. I handed her some books and spent another fifteen minutes talking over the issues that burdened her. She looked quite relieved and grateful. "Thank you sir, for every thing," she said as she began to leave. "It will certainly help me... I know now."


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

REEL LIFE AND REAL LIFE

I watched the movie, 'ROBOT', along with my wife. Normally, we take our son along when we go to watch a movie. This time, my son's 12th standard term-exams were nearing, and my wife wanted him not to 'waste' his three hours watching this movie. So, we watched it secretly... and, both of us enjoyed the movie immensely.

"Don't open you 'big' mouth, " my dear wife warned me on our way home, "He has hardly done any studies."

That night, I could control my urge to open my 'big' mouth. The next day was a Sunday. I called my son from out. "We watched 'ROBOT' yesterday... It was mind-blowing. Go and watch today. It is a must watch for a creative guy like you." Then, I added the inevitable: "Don't tell mom that I have opened my 'big' mouth."

"Relax dad,"  my son assured me. When he was home, neither could he control his mouth.

Exams? "Just chill, dad."

I hadn't seen much of Rajnikant. I had never liked his acting... It was too loud, too gaudy for my taste. The Madras men are different... They always like larger-than-life stuff when it comes to 'filams'. The way they adore, rather worship, their film stars is peculiar to the place. Nowhere else do we get to witness this 'madness'.

Rajni is their God. And, in 'Endhiran' - 'ROBOT' - they have enough and enough of him. Their God, Rajni, doesn't age. He is eternally young, slim and handsome... He is an eternal lover... has the best babe around... He is tough, unbeatable... and can destroy an army of hundred villains all alone. He has the best of the best outfits, the finest sunglasses and leather jackets... and, yes, those expensive wigs, too.

Rajni doesn't grow old. Rather, the Madras men don't want him to.

What a pressure, that can be!

But, not for Rajnikant. The phenomenon. The simple guy who even did jobs of a coolie before he worked as a bus conductor... The guy who dreamt of movie world and did odd rolls... and, finally, the role of a Hero.

No, Rajnikant is still humble, still honest. He is 'fake' only for his movies... only to entertain his fans. That's reel life, and he knows it is okay only till the 'kick' lasts. At the end of the day, when the focus is out, you have to reveal the 'real' you... your dark, wrinkled skin, your bald head, your shapeless moustache, your simple comfort in that white shirt and 'mundu'. Rajnikant, I think, alone can do such switch over... It is a huge thing to do... Face the world, the glamour world, with that honesty, and true self.

Michael Jackson faked it in real life, and died, finally, under its weight. It takes terrific strength to do what Rajni is doing. Hats off, saar.

I like your movie, even more, because of this awe-inspiring quality about you.

Please, pass on a little of it to all of us, here.


GERLAD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

THE 'TREE'

As I opened my mails, this morning, the first thing that caught my attention was a Forward message from some of my regular friends. It was regarding the current turmoil on Common Wealth Games. There were amazing pictures of the facilities at the Games Village, which, we never, ever saw on any news papers or Television channels all these months. So stunning some of them were, that,  initially, I thought I was watching some 'foriegn' stuff! Then, my eyes fell on this famous, old caption:

"If you want to kill a tree, don't cut it; just curse it!"

Many, many years ago, I had come across this saying... and, I had, instantly, liked it. There is an island -  I do not remember which one, probably, West Indies - where the tribals surround a tree and, together, keep cursing it hysterically. And, they go back to their huts. In a few days, the tree would be gone. Dead!

"Jesus Christ," I remember muttering in my mind, after reading this story, "we all do this, every day! We all kill relationships, organisations, families, and our nation, too."

It was a long time ago. I had forgotten about that, completely. And, now, this mail brought back to me the line. I am simply gripped by its power.

The other day, I argued with my young son, that even if CWG games happen now - no matter how successfully or grandly - what is the use? So much damage has been done to our collective reputation, that the people who are so busy, so hell-bent in 'exposing' the blatant corruption seem not at all keen to have a good game, but to prove they are right.

Let me tell you, they can never be. Never, ever. I bet.

Bofors brought the Congress government down. That's all. Congress is very much there, now,  at the Centre... and, the corruption as well. By the way, what happened to Bofors? Who ate the money? By the way, who remembers the entire murky, relentless anti-corruption campaign?

And, IPL? Lalit Mody? Next IPL, I won't be surprised, if you ask me - "Lalit Mody? Who?"

It is public memory. It is short... very, very short.

The Common Wealth Games will conclude soon. The Media guys will loose interest in both CWG and Kalmadi, their main villain. If you and I think the media has helped to reduce corruption, we are fools of the first order. We, the great gullibles, have only helped them sell more copies of their newspapers or boost their TRP's.

And, you know, we forget, some times, that this has been an old 'game' that has been played by the self-interested players, the Charlatans, at our expense. We think, the corruption will go. Sorry. Not until we all - Media included - stand near the 'Tree' and start wishing it well; yes, with all our honesty, with all our feelings.

The 'Tree', my friends, is our dear, dear Nation!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LIVING IN FEAR

Some years ago, someone told me this: "Even our Scriptures tell us that, in Life,  Fear is our most loyal companion."

I have no doubts on that. I am 52, and, if at all, I have had - and still having - one steadfast, yes, loyal, companion in all these years, it is Fear. He (or She?) has never deserted me, even though I have tried my best to!

So, it is clear, that as the Vedas declare, this one companion, is sure to stick to me... My life-time glue.

Still, one thing I deeply desire in my Life is:  never to live in fear. Of any thing. Of any one.

Living 'with' fear, as the Holy Books say, has become inevitable. But, living 'in' fear is, certainly, not the thing the Holy Books want us to do. Living 'in' constant, nagging fear eats our souls, robs us of the charm of living... It makes us cynical, bitter, unhappy, even, dangerous humans... as the unhappy people are, often, the most dangerous ones. The Holy  Books want us to be  upbeat, zestful and happy in Life. They want us to spread happiness, make this world a better place to live in.

Fear makes us alert; it keeps us constantly grounded. It motivates us to do better, be humble and never, ever to 'play God' in our lives.So, it may be said, that God Himself may have planned the way it is. The Adam and Eve, I think, are just symbolic. When He gave the beautiful Eve to Adam, He must have, actually, given the maiden man his maiden, and life-time, companion - Fear. All was well in the Eden Garden till that Serpant came to tempt. Things have never been the same, ever since.

Now, I live in fear. Of people, events, and all sorts. I do put on a brave front and pretend as if all is well in my life. The truth is all is not well, because I live in constant fear. It is ironic.

This morning, I suddenly felt this: How long can I continue like this? Is it worth it? Can I do something about it? Can I remain predominantly more upbeat, zestful and happy?

It did not take even a few seconds to receive the answer: I was told by the innate voice within, that I can, and I should, remain upbeat, zestful and happy by honouring my companion - Fear, but, never yielding to the temptation that brings doom in my Life.

People are harsh, cruel... but, not all. Situations are harsh, cruel... but, not all. Then, why should Life be harsh, cruel? It is not. It is not.

Today, is the day to say 'Yes' to life... and 'Yes' to my life-partner - Fear. I am convinced, that knowing the difference between 'Living with fear' and 'Living in Fear' is akin to knowing the difference between the 'Garden of Eden' and the 'Hell Fire'.

GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, September 9, 2010

THE 'SPECIAL' DOG

I think, I had first read this story in Shiv Khera's famous book: 'You Can Win'. The story goes like this:

A man bought a 'special dog'. This dog possessed unique skill of running over the water. The man would take the dog along every time he went for hunting. When a bird was shot dead, the dog would rush to the spot, with lightening speed, to fetch the prey to his master. Undoubtedly, he was skillful even to fetch it when the bird had fallen in a lake or a river. The dog was special. He could run over the deep water! The man was very proud and happy too.


One day, this man wanted to show to one of his friends, what a special dog he possessed. So, he took this friend along for hunting. When he shot down a bird, the amazing dog sprung into action, and, in no time, was back with the bird to his beloved master.


"Did you see?" the man asked with pride.


"Yes," the friend replied.


"Can you tell me, why is my dog so 'different'?" the man wanted to be assured.


"Because, your dog can not swim, unlike other dogs." the reply was instant!


I love this story. Specially when I silently 'suffer' from persons even after reaching out to them 'self-lessly'.

"Self-lessly?" they would react, "No way."

"In life, suffering is optional," I have been told, "even though pain is inevitable."



GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

REUNION

Two years ago, I had taken an initiative to organise a reunion of all those students and well-wishers who had helped me found, and then run, The Dawn Club. It was taking place after twenty-long years. I had tried to contact almost every one whose helping hand had brought me till here... but, it was not possible to get in touch with all of them. Still, I managed to get in touch with as many as I could.

 I wanted to thank them, re-live all those golden memories... I brought out two books to mark the occasion... captured the beautiful moments, our fond interactions, on live video beamed on a mega screen in the auditorium... and, finally, the event culminated with a sumptuous dinner. I felt a lot relieved, content and even proud. It was around 11 in the night, and I and my wife were about to get into the waiting car to leave the wonderful auditorium and the just-lived memories behind. My mobile phone rang. It was one of my students who had attended the function. I thought he was calling me to thank me, compliment me for the 'great show'. "I did not expect this from you," he came straight to the point. I was caught on the wrong foot, completely off-guard. "What,?" I managed to ask him. "Did you forget my contribution? You never bothered to mention my name even once on the stage, leave alone felicitate."

I freezed for a while. I was to return home with golden memories, and sleep well that night. This phone call ruined my night... and many more to come.

Even in my wildest imagination, I could not have deliberately done what this ex-student of mine claimed I had done: to 'ignore' him. I loved all of them, I remember all of them, I am grateful to all of them. Period. A reunion was not required to express my true feelings. Still, I thought that would help. Possibly, it had exactly the opposite effect. I do not know how many more must have been let down by me, that night. One had the honesty to express. He did not stay for the dinner... When I tried to explain my innocence and sincerity, he was not ready to accept it...  My later effort to reconcile went in vain. Then, I declared in my mind: "Some relationships have a very high maintenance cost."

I chose to drop this burden.

Now, just last month, some of my early students - in fact, my first batch of students from the College where I first started teaching - got in touch with me. They were organising a grand reunion after thirty long years. (The Tenth-standard batch). They had arranged to personally pick up all their school teachers, who were now retired, old and sick. (Well, I still have some teaching-years left, I hope!).  And many of the students -  who are now doctors, engineers, professors, advocates, CEO's of companies and even simple house wives - had come from all over India and abroad... specially to be there in this emotional event. I was picked by a group of my old students... and I was so happy to meet them, receive their memento. We all had changed so much... We couldn't have recognised without introducing ourselves. I had lost contact with almost all of them. So, I was particularly happy, and even grateful, to the young organisers for enabling me to 'touch base'.

I predominantly operate from my heart. I, instinctively, decided to express my gratitude and affection to all those students and teachers - whether I had taught them or not, and whether those teachers were my colleagues or not - by handing them over my own memento... a copy of "Vaachas Chame' to all of them... Over one hundred and twenty!

There was a Divine, in fact mysterious connection, here. 'Vaachas Chame' was released by me, exactly two years ago, in the reunion function I have described above. The cost of printing and publishing this book - huge one - was entirely met by many of my students. Incidentally, none of these students, whom I was now planning to gift away the copies. I had decided to give away the book, with no strings attached to it... just the way my well-wishers had helped me create it. "This book is not for sale"... I had announced on the back cover.

So, when my turn came to speak, that afternoon, a dozen students came to the podium to stand around me... I spoke very emotionally, as I always do... and thanked them. Told them, how they were my 'lauching pads'... and how I shall always cherish them in my mind. I told them about my heart-felt souvenir - 'Vaachas Chame' - which I would be leaving behind for them. I told them about my three phone numbers, my email-id and this Blog... through which we all could remain in touch. Saying so, I left. The reunion 'celebration', I was told, continued till the wee hours of next morning. "I just cannot get over the hang-over," one of my ex-students told me, some days later. "Did you handover the book to all?" I asked him. "Yes, to each and every one," he told me."Great," I exclaimed, "Let's remain in touch."  "Definitely, sir," the response was genuine.

It is almost a month now. I have been dying to receive a call from any of those one-hundred-twenty beneficiaries of my heart-felt souvenir. At least one. At least one comment on my blog... or a 'thank-you' for the book, or "Happy to see you after thirty long years" ... whatever.

No. Nothing.

Am I grumbling?

Well, we all are strangers who meet briefly during this travel called 'Life'. We are happy, and grateful,  that we had this privilege. Yes, the privilege of  meeting!

I love all of you.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, September 4, 2010

WHAT IS THAT?

The more I think about it, the more I get convinced. That, in life, we really do not need much to keep us happy. Yes, I say this, in spite of the fact that, time and again, I feel the pressing need for money; time and again, my spouse and son keep cribbing about some comforts...

I am convinced, that at all levels of material comforts, one does not cease to be 'hungry for more'. If that is so, then, my happiness in life has nothing to do with the size of my bank balance or the type of gadgets that I try to flash. The more I link it to my possessions, the more and more insecurity I would experience. The more I de-link, the more secure I would feel.

Fear lies, always, in attachments... So do sorrow and my unhappiness.

Many years back, when I just began to go around talking about 'Success', I came across a very affluent, very successful businessman. He was a very generous soul, and helped a lot of needy people around. "Sir," I remember asking him with stars in my eyes, "How did you become so 'successful'?" He looked at me as if I spoke in an alien language. "What is that?" he quizzed me.

"What is that?" I began to worry. "What did I ask him?" I asked myself. "How did you become so successful?" Obviously, he was 'successful', in every sense of the term. He had wealth, fame, love and respect of people around... and, above all, he was generous in giving. "So, is he not 'successful'?", I pondered.

"What is that?" Today, I still consider this freaky statement of this gentleman, as a gentle reminder to keep me grounded, constantly. That, no matter how much you accumulate, you have to keep your definition of 'Success' simple, uncomplicated.

The last issue (August 29, 2010) of 'THE WEEK' magazine was the special edition titled: Mother Teresa at 100. Several prominent personalities, who had interacted with the Mother when she was alive, have written very moving things about her... How her ordinary ways, straight and uncomplicated,  have touched them, humbled them. Mr. Navin Chawla, who knew the 'Living Saint' closely, quotes her:

       "We are called upon to be faithful in life; not successful."

Well, I am yet to over come the impact!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, September 3, 2010

DAHI HANDI

Yesterday morning, my friend, Ashish, gave me a lift. In the car, Aryan, his 12-years-old son, was sitting next to Ashish. "Dad, is today Krishnaji's b'day?", the little one asked, with all his innocence. "Yes beta," Ashish replied, "that's why we call this day - 'Janmashtami', or 'Krsishnashtami'."

I was touched by the pure innocence. Just the previous evening, a local young man, a small-time businessman, had sent me an invitation. It was for the 'Dahi Handi' he was organising yesterday. "Rs. 1,11,111," his invitation had announced proudly. It had mentioned the names of some local political leaders, from a certain political party, who had agreed to be the guests of honour. The young man had flashed his king-size posters, with self portraits and those of some politicians, all over the nearby vicinity. It was clear to all of us that this man had political ambitions. And, he was investing heavily to prepare his ground.

That amount was nothing. There were dozens of posters flashing that amount. There were many with ten times that amount! All of them from the young politically ambitious local men. Many of of them goons. It was the show of strength, the political publicity. And the public, and even the Police, were happy about it.

In the evening, yesterday, I had been to a lawyer-friend's house. His  nine-years-old daughter was busy setting her own 'dahi handi'. A beautifully decorated earthen pot was laid in a slanting position on a table. The little one was now placing some white cotton in the mouth of the pot. I was curious and drawn towards the pot by this little one's enthusiasm. "Sweetheart, why is the cotton hanging out of the pot?", I asked with my own innocence. "Uncle," she said, " that is the butter. My mummy says, that when Krishna Bhagwan was like me, He used to climb high to steal butter from the pot." Then she added with her naughty grin, "That is why we call him - 'makhan chor'!"

"Is it?" I made the little one feel happy.

In the morning, before getting out of Ashish's car, I had given an assignment to little Aryan. I had asked him to make a small project on the similarities about  Krishna and  Christ. "You know Aryan, there are many things common about them," I had informed him. "You will be really surprised once you complete the project." Aryan's excitement could be felt. "I will definitely give you a nice gift when you come to me with your project by this month end," I had tried to lure him. "Yes," had declared the Aryan's fist.

Late at night, I, along with some of the office-bearers of  our Society, had been to the local Police station regarding some Society matters. A couple of young men had come there to lodge a complaint. They were all drunk. Their complaint was that another group of young men had hammered them. The officer on duty gave a mouthful in 'pure' Marathi before taking down their complaint. "I will put all of you, scoundrels, inside," he yelled at them with the choicest adjectives in local lingo. "In the name of God, you ruin our peace, here," he gave a piece of his own mind to his tormentors.

By the time I reached home, it was mid-night. My memory rolled back to my own childhood days. Close to our home, in our native village, the famous Krishnashtami Committee, would organise the 'dahi handi's' every year. That was all a centralised affair... people would line up for miles to watch the show... It would culminate with a special event: to reach the top of a very, very tall beetle-nut tree. The skinless tree would be greasy, and the young men, the Govindas, would compete desperately to reach to the pot at the top. Sometimes, even till the dawn, they would struggle... All this for the coveted 'pot of gold': "Rs.101"!

We would wait to see who would go home with the 'pot money'. And, we didn't mind, at all, receiving a mouthful from our own parents, when we reached home!

Nothing has changed. Except for the value of our 'Rupee'. The 'Pot' shall eternally lure all of us!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, July 12, 2010

PAUL'S PREDICTIONS

So, Paul’s prediction, once again, have come true! Spain won the football World Cup as predicted by him.

He is an Octopus, and I think, he lives in someone’s home aquarium. Wise fellow, this Paul.

“Do you believe in such predictions?” a friend of mine asked me last evening. The Finals were a few hours away. Paul had predicted the German doom; before that, of Argentina. Naturally, some fans are so angry with this Nostradamus that they have sworn to deep-fry him for their dinner.


I watched the match last night. Spain won. Paul, too

What difference does it make if I do not believe in such predictions? Normally, I don’t. But, I don’t tell this to any one with all my convictions,  whether any one – least of all an octopus or a parrot – can predict some one’s future. I have not laid any importance to such predictions… It is better to be anxious about our future and remain humble, slog it out… rather than ‘knowing the out come’ and going off to sleep.


The hare lost the race, because he had gone off to sleep as the poor tortoise slogged it out, slowly and steadily. Last night, both Spain and Netherlands slogged it out. I don’t think, believing in Paul’s predictions would have made any difference for Spain. They slogged it out. And, they slogged it out hard.


But, it is fun to be a little curious about our future… to peep and ask what is there in store for us? I am a Leo. This 24th I will be completing 52. The Leos are rulers, it seems. They are born to lead, they say. They are full of pride, it is said… they do things in style…with great deal of showmanship… That’s what Linda Goodman and her clan say about Leos.

For the past 51 years, I have been a simple soul… just simple homebound guy. What have I ruled? Which kingdom?

Well, let me tell you with all my honesty. I, too, read my horoscope. I like the good things in it and smile. I do not like the bad things in it… so, I laugh… even say, I do not believe in such ‘silly’ things. It is fun to be silly sometimes… There is thrill in it. Playfulness.

Who cares about Paul’s predictions? I think, we all do as long as those predictions suit our taste buds. Else, like the bitter German and Argentina fans, we would love to have Paul deep-fried for our dinner.


Meanwhile, let us go back to work… and slog it out the way Spain and Netherlands did, last night. I am curious to know, if Paul watched the game!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, July 3, 2010

YOU WIN SOME; YOU LOSE SOME

When Brazil lost in the quarterfinals, yesterday. I am sure, millions of fans, worldwide, must have sunk into a depression. Netherlands are a good side. But, certainly, no one had thought they could trounce Brazil the way they did. Brazil were the favorites… and for the millions of fans, they were the Supreme, the unbeatable… They deserved the Cup… the great glory of the shining gold!

But, the great Goliath of Soccer crashed… and, along with him, the hopes of several million fans, world over.


The second match, last night, was between Uruguay and Ghana. It was a late-night match, and I went off to sleep half way. In the morning, both, my son and wife, who had sat back to watch this contest, echoed, “You missed something.” It seems, this game had all the thrill, suspense and drama. Finally, in the penalty shootouts, Uruguay got in, and Ghana, who had stolen millions of hearts with their fine skills, got out. My son kept telling me that, it was one of the finest Soccer games he had ever watched.

My son had already forgotten the fall of Brazil that had happened just a couple of hours before. There were new Heroes, new hopes… and the little David’s to reckon with. I said to my son this: “I have this wired feeling inside me.” He looked up at me to ask, “What is that?” I told, “One of these little-known teams, the Underdogs, may take away the Cup.”


Who knows? Tonight, there is the real clash of titans – Argentina Vs. Germany. They say, they are the old enemies… and, the world is waiting for the evening to come.

In one of my earlier posts, I had written about K’nnan’s famous World Cup anthem – “Waving Flag.” I had titled the post as: “The Flag of the Underdog.” In the song, the singer from the poor country Somalia sings: “When I get older/ I will be stronger/ They will call me freedom/Just like a waving flag.”

The beauty of any sports spectacle is this: No matter how good you are, you cannot take any opponent for granted; you cannot afford to wear a bloated head on your shoulders. Please do not under estimate the grit of a David. If you win, you had better be humble and shake hands with the loser… respect him… tell him, genuinely, that he tried hard to win… Then, if you lose, take the defeat in your stride… Shake hands with the winner and congratulate him… Tell him, sincerely, that he deserved his victory. When you play, play a fair game; do not foul… And, if you do, there is a referee with a yellow and red card. You had better know that. Winning the cup is your goal. Pursue it with all your passion… but, then, be prepared to let go of it… Be graceful in your defeat and humble in your victory. Soar… and come down to earth. Sulk… and bounce back, again.

That is why they call this great spirit, this great attitude as: ‘Sportsmanship’. Nothing beats it in life. Nothing. “Say No to Racism”… this is not just a placard. There is great power in that statement. It takes enormous strength to appreciate and honour the skill and greatness  in my servant, my slave. Gone are the days of slave owners… It is a New South Africa, now… The Apartheid is history here… It is the land of Nelson Mandela. You had better know that this little ‘coloured man’s spirit could not be crushed even after twenty-seven years in the prison. You had also better know that even after twenty-seven years of torture, the human spirit has not been contaminated with bitterness.


It is sports, my friends. It is Soccer… It is about the Cup, the goals and jubilations. It is about the defeat, penalties, the red cards, heartbreaks and tears. It is about respect and dignity. It is about recognizing the greatness in others… their equal right to win. Above all, it is about recognizing our own greatness.


There is no spectacle in life as huge as sports… Like it or not. And, there is no school as fine as that, as well. Yes, you agree with it or not. If this one attribute decorates my life, I think, it is much of an achievement for me. In fact, I have hardly played in my life any indoor or out door sports. I have been always shy in this area. But, then, I have loved sports all my life… I have always loved to be a great sport. I think, when I am a great sport, I am a great winner. It doesn’t matter, who takes away the Cup. The Cup is just a symbol.

Brazil lost to Netherlands, last night. The incredible venue for this spectacle was named: ‘Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium’!

GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, June 24, 2010

THE GRACE UNDER PRESSURE

Some days ago, I watched the latest Mani Ratnam movie – ‘Raavan’. I did not like it at all. However, there is a line in the movie, which I liked immensely.

 Abhishek Bachchan is Beera, a Robin Hood-like hero who has kidnapped the police officer’s beautiful wife ( Aishwarya Rai) to take revenge on him. The police officer mounts an offensive and pursues this Raavan. Beera is a dreaded criminal for the Establishment, but a cult hero for his tribal folks. He is brute, merciless and highly volatile. Yet, he has failed to intimidate his delicate captive. For fourteen days, in spite of all the hardships he has caused, Beera has not been able to intimidate her. That makes him mad… His head spins… ‘Chaka, chaka, chaka, chaka….’. He admires this beautiful, frail woman … her grace under pressure … and vents out his frustration to his brother, “How can you kill some one who is not afraid to die?”

Perhaps, that was the reason why Raavan honored Sita’s modesty. In the movie, Beera has done exactly the same. He could have easily conquered her through his brute force; but he wants to ‘win’ her heart… and, he knows that is not possible with out her ‘will’.

Gandhi tells the masses referring to the British might: “They can  pick us, throw us into the prison, torture us,  even kill us… but they can not take from us our ‘will’ to surrender.”

So, in the end, the British had to give in. Raavan could rob Sita but not her will. Her freedom.

In Life, the tough times try to intimidate us. But, when we refuse to be intimidated – un afraid of death – they leave us alone. Even Raavan, the Lord of our tough times, has heart. Only grit can win that. Even this ten-headed monster is blessed with a single heart, not one more than that. If we stay put, the heads would begin to roll, one by one… Till, the monster realizes the truth: “How can you kill some one who is not afraid to die?”


It was Dr. Robert Schuler, who first made these lines so famous:

“TOUGH TIMES NEVER LAST, BUT THE TOUGH PEOPLE DO!”


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

IS THERE SCOPE?

Sweta comes about as a very confident young girl. Recently her 12th standard results were out and she scored 90%. She got 99 in Biology, her highest and 84 in English, her lowest... Her dream has always been to pursue literature. She is very fond of English language. She reads varieties of books, speaks very fluently, writes creatively. All these things Sweta does without being told…, and she does it for long hours. She is happiest when she is involved in these things. There is no strain, no fatigue and no complaints.

Sweta’s fascination for English language began when she was in fifth standard. Miss. Lynette, a young and pretty English teacher had come to teach the little Sweta’s class. This young teacher had ignited in Sweta the thirst for language… and, from there on, it was only English for Sweta. She would talk about it to her friends… She would dream about writing books, teaching in a reputed college and inspiring her students as her idol, Miss. Lynette did. “Prof. Sweta,” this was how many of her friends, even teachers, called Sweta.

But, now, the results have created a great deal of confusion as well as turmoil in Sweta. Looking at the top Biology marks, her father is keen, almost hell-bent, that his only daughter should pursue Micro Biology. Sweta adores her father and finds it tough to go against his wish. Suddenly, she has begun to doubt her abilities to do well in life if she follows her heart. Marks seem to be the ‘right indicators’, however hard she tries to overlook them and their significance. “Be practical in life, my child… and not sentimental,” her businessman-father tries to prevail upon Sweta. “But, no papa, I would be happiest doing what I deeply love,” Sweta gently protests, “I will be able to give my best, if I choose what I love… and, I will be able to shine, too.”

At Sweta’s age, the confusion is definitely not a strange reality. It is ‘the’ reality. There are millions of Swetas around who constantly battle these inner demons of doubt. Parents, usually, have good intentions… They always want the best for their children. The confusion does not spare even parents, no matter how qualified and successful they are in life. It is tough to go into your child’s heart and feel it, understand it and above all  honor it. The easiest thing is to lead the child going by what the parental heart says, what the Society says… and what the popular trend says. They call it ‘Scope’!


“Is there good scope if I take up this, if I take up that?”

There is great scope for any thing that you take up and put your entire soul into it. If you are passionate enough,  the Nature supports you… That’s Her way! She does not ask you for your marks… She asks for your passion, your dedication, your soul. When you show Her that, she shows you the sky… the vast sky and the billions of stars… and the place you deserve there…

Yes, there is ‘scope’ even though there are billions of them -  billions of ‘stars’ - already there!

Your finger prints, no one else has; nor your voice. God has made you special. If so, He must have thought of your place, too... your destiny in this world. The only thing, perhaps, God has not succeeded in conveying His children well enough is: Do what you love; if you cannot, then, love what you do. That is ‘your’ call… You can take this call any time in your life. In life, there is enough scope for anything and everything as long as it is done with great passion and trust. There is that 'divine ring of protection' for the one who says ‘Yes’ from within!


Sweta, it is okay, if, for some reasons, you may have to take up  Micro Biology. There is great poetry in that too… a great language, a great beauty. You need to just discover it… and, I hope, you would, if Life is precious to you… and if adventure, too!


Scope? Just look up tonight… There is enough place for you there. Enough for another trillion like you and me!

BUT, NOT NOW...

"Sir, I want my daughter to become a fine public speaker. Will your course help her?

"Sir, my son lacks self-confidence. Can you help him to be confident?"

“Sir, I want to improve my English... I want to learn how to speak fluently. Can you help me?"

The sir has this ready answer: "Of course, yes. I can certainly help. But… "

"But, what?"

"But, this." I tell them this little story.

Once, a Parish priest of one of the churches began to receive frequent complaints that many of his parishioners spent a lot of their time and money in the local liquor bar. Disturbed by this development, the priest decided to end this nuisance, once and for all. So, one night, dressed in his civil clothes, the Father stormed the bar. He was shocked to see, that at least twenty of his church members were having a good time there, all drunk.

"Your shameless sinners," the Priest did not waste his time to blast, "Get out of this hell." He thundered again, "Get out, I said. Get out… Right now."


Scared by this bombardment, all the faithful, at once, got out of the shady joint.

"Now, listen to me, you useless fellows," declared the Parish priest, "Those of you who want to go to Heaven, come and form a line on my side."


Instantly, every one of them jumped on to the Father's side and stood there in a line... except one. It was our Johnny. The Father was surprised. "And, you Johnny," he asked,” are you sure, you don't want to go to Heaven?"

Trying to balance himself firmly on the ground, Johnny quickly gave his response, "Of course, Father, I want to. But…"

“But, what?” the Father was impatient to know.


"But, not now!"

For now, our Johnny wants to have a good time on earth. Who wants to go to Heaven now? Let others go, if they want to. Let them die… Johnny doesn’t want to.


Yes, "But, what?" they ask me, too.

I tell them, "But, this: Every body wants to go to Heaven... But, nobody wants to die!"


"Of course, I can help you," I tell my own Johnnys, "but, not unless and until you are willing to get out your shady joints!"





GERALD D'CUNHA

WHEN ONE DOOR SLAMS...

In the Sanjay Bansali movie, ‘Black’, there is this scene. Michelle (Rani Mukerjee), the blind, deaf and dumb student of Debhraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) has just shown some arrogance and disrespect. She has thrown away her books and is stubbornly refusing to repent. Her eccentric teacher doesn’t wait even for a second to beat her blue. She is dragged to the typewriter, and there she is, rage personified. Then, she starts typing the brail… Till then, Michelle couldn’t go beyond even twenty words per minute. Now, angry, mad, hell-bent, she goes about hammering the keyboard and when the watch stops, the teacher is astonished. “Fifty words per minute,” he exclaims as his student has vented out all her anger and sorrow on the keys of her typewriter. She is calmed down; she is ready to listen, repent for her actions. The teacher holds his student and begins to go out, telling her beholding mother, “It is time for celebration; time for an ice cream.” The mother asks with a pleasant confusion, “Ice cream?”

“Yes ma’am, ice cream,” mumbles Debhraj as he fondly escorts his student out, “Life is an ice cream… Enjoy it before it melts.”

Many years ago, when my own students, with full of stars in their eyes, used to come to me with their autograph books on their last day, I would struggle for some nice, catchy lines. One of the lines that I would invariably find there, already, would be this one.


“Life is an ice cream; enjoy it before it melts.”

Did I hear that?

Michelle can not see. But, even before it is going to snow, she is able to sense it… and, when it does, she would rise like a little child and would break into a dance. She cannot see, hear or speak. But, when the singer sings, she can touch the singer’s lips and understand the meaning of those lyrics, feel it and move her self to dance.

This movie is inspired by the life of Helen Keller, who, soon after her birth, had turned blind, deaf and dumb. It was this remarkable lady, that gave hope to millions of less fortunate souls like Michelle. Long before I watched the movie, ‘Black’, I had read a lot on the inspiring life of Helen Keller. During these years, I had come across the famous lines of Mrs. Keller:

“When one door slams, another opens;

But, the sound of the slammed door is so loud,

That, we fail to notice the door that gently opens.”

Life has been always like that. One door slams, and another opens. Never without this rule; never.

Sweaty, my student was only seven. Her younger sister was five and the elder one was fourteen. One rainy day, when the three girls and their mother had been out of station, their father, a simple shop owner, was all alone at his godown. In a freak accident, the entire load of stacked goods came down crushing the man underneath. No body came to know about this and he lay there, dead in the pool of blood, for two days. Life was smooth for the family, until then. Now, the door slammed on them, brutally. What would they do? They were not prepared for this shock. The mother had never been to the shop before and, did not keep well too. The oldest girl in the house was only fourteen. A few weeks went by, and the frail lady decided to take charge. The shop was situated in a male dominated market. But, the lady treaded there picking up the tricks of the trade soon there after. The forteen-years-old girl started helping her mother by sitting in the shop for a few hours when her mother went home for rest. Gradually the hours prolonged… The girl spent more and more time in the shop, completing her graduation along… and enabling her two sisters to complete as well.

Every time I meet this gritty girl, I come out a little more charged, a little more hopeful about life. She has done her graduation in BMS. “I want to be a successful business woman,” she declares. “Soon, I am going to do my MBA, and I have plans to set up a chain of retail stores,” she beams.


The new doors do open… That’s the unwritten rule of Life.


The other day, I had a very tough time dealing with a rough and volatile man. He was simply unpredictable, emotionally volatile and suffered from a deep complex. The interaction was quite an unnerving experience for me. I was frustrated, even scared. But, when I took it as a challenge for my own personal growth, for my own learning and toughening, the entire perspective changed. I softened my approach to this man, held his hand and said sincerely, “I am really sorry, if I have heart you,” and the bully melted… yes, like an ice cream!

Whoever said it, he said it right: “Life is an ice cream; enjoy it before it melts.”



GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, June 17, 2010

THE CATTLE CLASS

Today, the SSC results are out in Maharashtra. I have received so many messages from either the students or their parents telling me proudly about the results. None of them has scored below 85%. Today, when some one says he or she has scored 89% 0r 93%, not many eyebrows go up. It is great news… but that news is so common, today.

This post is not inspired by these ‘achievers’, but by a ‘loser’. Just a stone throw away from my classes, this family lives. The young man has scored a Glorious 45%! And, understandably, the young man’s father, a simple office assistant, has gone crazy. “He has shattered my hopes,” the distressed father goes about telling. Their neighbour’s son has scored 92%... and our young man is not even half way this ladder!


“It’s okay; he will surely do well in life,” I consoled the father. “Do well? With 45%?” the look almost scared me to death.

Did I simply do a lip service to this heart-broken man, or did I really mean what I said?

About thirty-five years ago, one evening in Mangalore, I heard that the next day would be our results and I couldn’t wait till the next morning. I walked all the way to my school, reached there in the night, and rang the room bell of my Head Master. “What?” the Father, who was in his casual clothes, asked me. “Results, Father,” I replied. “Come tomorrow morning,” he closed the door.

It was dark, and I had walked such a long distance with such anxiety and hopes… I could not go back without the results. I rang the bell again. “Didn’t you hear what I said?” Father warned me to go. “Please father, just tell me my percentage… I will go,” I pleaded. “Or else what will you do? Sleep here till tomorrow morning? Sleep,” he banged the door, once again.

Ten minutes later, the door opened slightly, and slowly. “You fool, you are still here?” Father came out, held my hand and dragged me inside,  closing the door from behind. “You are so anxious, aren’t you,” he asked me with a sarcastic grin, “Don’t worry; you have not failed.” “How much Father?” I was restless. “47%!”


Well those were different times. May be, that is equal to today’s 59 or 60 percent. But, certainly, even in those years, it was classified as ‘Third Class’… which will always mean the ‘Cattle Class’. Here, in Mumbai, they so gently call it - ‘Pass Class’.


Hey, I am going to be 52 this year… and, I have survived. That is really a great news!

Mine was a different story… The childhood was, if at all any thing, very uneventful. Those days, the bright kids did score 75 to 85 percent. I don’t remember, how much a rank holder scored. But, not like today, for sure. For my illiterate parents, mine was an achievement… as my elder brother had failed in his 10th standard. For them, I was a ‘success’, an ‘achiever’. They celebrated my success and thought that I would do well in life.


“Did I?”

Ignorance may be bliss. My parents did not know the kind of marks other children got those days… So, they did not make a big deal about my 47%. But, this father in Mumbai is a well-informed man. He knows how much every one around his son has got and how much his own son. He, therefore, thinks it is all over for his son.

“Take heart, my friend,” I felt like telling him. “Look at me; I have survived with my 47%.” But, I did not tell him that. In stead, I told him what we regularly tell our Public Speaking students: “Some flowers always bloom late… But, when they do, they leave the finest fragrance.”

“Come on, that’s nice for you to say,” the man wouldn’t buy my pop or pep philosophy. “I don’t think 45% can leave any fragrance, tomorrow,” he mocked.

It was the result day. The shock was still to be absorbed fully… The man was heavily disappointed. In his view, his son stood nowhere in a world of ‘percentages galore’. I felt sad for him, and even sadder for his son. I only prayed in my mind for the son to be one of those ‘later bloomers’, like me. “There is place for us in this vast world, my young friend,” I wished in my mind, “Believe me, even with our ‘Cattle Class’!”


GERALD D'CUNHA

THE FLAG OF THE UNDERDOG

The Football fever has gripped the world. And, I am not spared.

Some days ago, I watched on our Lap Top, the movie of the eighties – ‘Escape To Victory’. I watched it with my son, and both of us really enjoyed it. It has a story set during the Second World War, which is simple yet powerful.

The Germans have never won a single football match against the British, and that is difficult to swallow for them. So, the Army chief wants to humiliate the Allies by trouncing them in a Soccer match. But, that would be a match of un equals as the best of the German players would be pitted against a squad from the Allies POW. And, that makes this movie so inspiring, like our own ‘Lagaan’.


Another reason why I liked this movie is that it has my Soccer hero, Pele… and his famous ‘bicycle-kick goal’. In the movie, the coach who selects Pele is highly impressed by the raw, inborn talent of this ‘Black Pearl’. “Where did you learn all this, young man?” the coach asks Pele. “Back home on the streets of my village in Brazil… where I played with oranges,” tells the Soccer Star. The match is terrific… the Allies, the underdogs, win… the thousands of spectators, go ecstatic at the end of the match… they invade the stadium like the surging waves of a violent sea… and escape to the victory.


It is truly inspiring!

And, now, the Football World Cup matches are on. What has made this particular edition already special is the opening song by K’naan – ‘The Waving Flag’. This young rapper was born in the war-torn and devastated Somalia. I still remember the TV images of hungry, dying children on the streets of this battered nation, where K’naan was born. It is ironical that the billions of fans, as they wave their own flags, are reminded by the flag of another kind. The flag of K’naan:


“When I get older,
I will be stronger,
They will call me freedom,
Like a waving flag.”


It is truly inspiring to think that this underdog freedom song of a poor, starving country was chosen to be the official anthem for this year’s football World Cup. No wonder they say Love and Freedom are two of the greatest universal values…


K’naan sings, the little children play… and we all smile through our tears in our drawing rooms!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

THE PUPPIES

My friend Giri conducted a Workshop for our young students this morning. He had called it ‘Success Mantras – 2’. Two weeks ago, he had held his first Workshop and called it: ‘Success Mantras -1’.

Giri conveys his message through simple games, which the young participants thoroughly enjoy. A very complex principle can be conveyed through a very simple game, and Giri is a genius in it. Two weeks ago, during his first Workshop, he gave the kids a simple activity of raising a tower with blocks. How simple! But, when the kids actually began to do it, they realized how hard it was. Most of them could not even go beyond five blocks! In the end, Giri revealed his first Success Mantra: Start on a sound foundation. “To achieve success, you need to first focus on the basic principles – the foundation,” he declared, “Else, my little friends, your tower would soon lean, collapse.”

In today’s Workshop, he dealt with another four Success Mantras. The last of the four hit them hard. It was a game of football, played by two participants at one time on a tabletop. The aim was to score the maximum goals. Each one was given three chances at one time and the game of soccer began. The young guns, when tried, focused not only on scoring the maximum goals, they also focused on ‘blocking the efforts’ of their opponents and minimizing their chances of winning. “Whether you like it or not, the moment you come into this world, you enter the world of competition,” Giri reminded the young minds. “It is a fact of life, and early you accept, the better for you.”

The young minds are full of innocence. They compete while playing. But, to comprehend a reality that the life is competitive was a bitter pill for them. Giri told them, “You have to choose the field you would like to work, the level of competition you are able to withstand and go about your life. But, you can not avoid it.”

Outside our classroom, there is a garden. In one corner of this garden, our students, particularly the girls, loved to huddle and watch about half a dozen newborn puppies. “How cute!” This was how all these young kids would exclaim. The puppies would be vibrant, full of life – jumping, playing, falling on each other… it was a delightful sight, the one that would fill you with sheer joy and evoke innocence. But, I had seen a very sad and strange reality about these little puppies, several times over, but had kept it to my self. Today, when our ‘classroom puppies’ felt the bitterness of the pill Giri had served them – and began to question him as to why one should focus on increasing his or her chances of winning/succeeding in life, he told them about the real puppies. “Have you ever watched puppies when their mother comes to them to offer milk?” Giri asked them. Goose pimples ran over my body! “Did he read my mind?” I asked in silence. “These kids have been blissfully watching those ‘cute little things’ all these days… Did he know that? Have these young kids of our class observed the sad and strange reality as I had?”

“Friends, watch this scene, whenever you get a chance,” Giri declared, “The mother would stand there offering her nipples only for some time. The little puppies, however hungry they may be, have to jump to get hold of their mother’s nipples, compete with their own bothers and sisters, pushing and pulling, stamping on each other… and get as much feed as possible with in the allotted time. Then, comes that moment: their mother would suddenly pull herself away from her babies – and off she would go, without even looking back to check which of her babies did not get the chance to suck her nipples, which is still hungry!”

There was a stony silence in our classroom. Perhaps, our puppies had noted this as I had. I am sure, Giri did not know this reality as he unfolded before us the bitter reality of a competitive world. There is only that much time for all of us… Our mother has come to feed us… but, we had better know she would go any moment.

“Some puppies grow up into healthy dogs,” Giri told our puppies, “sadly, some die within days, hungry.” Later, after every one had left, I shared with him my own dilemma. And, I was in for the final ‘mantra’ for the day. “The real tragedy of life is not ‘death’,” Giri quoted a philosopher; “It is what we lose when we are still alive.”

I felt relieved that I had still not lost my innocence. Yes, however competitive life might have been, so far!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, May 29, 2010

HEY, THEY COULD NOT TAKE ANYTHING...

A week ago, it was the plane crash in Mangalore. Today, it is the massacre of the innocent passengers by the Naxals. The TV channels show us the gruesome pictures, round the clock…; the newspapers bring us the same gory news just as we wake up.

But, then, all this will be forgotten in a matter of a few days. Then, that doesn’t interest us, any more. It is stale news. Something else comes… something more gruesome… interesting!

That is life, they say. And, life goes on! Public memory is too short… No one remembers for too long about any one, any thing. Hiroshima is history; Holocaust is history; Partition of India is history; the Vietnam War is history; Delhi Massacre of Sikhs is history; the Twin Towers is history; the pounding of Iraq and Afghanistan is history; the dirty spat between Shashi Taroor and Lalit Modi is history…

And, history is dead meat. No one likes to beat it. For, they know the dead meat doesn’t come back to life! Yes, howmuchever you beat it.

What about our ‘private memory’? Do we forget the pain and the loss, anger and the hurts so easily and so quickly?

Last week, I had to attend two funerals. Incidentally, both of them died in their late eighties. Both of them spent a significant part of their life trying to accumulate wealth, remaining stubborn and arrogant all the while with almost every one around, including their own children. One of them spent his last two years, like a vegetable, on the bed… unable to eat, move, see, talk, hear or remember. When he died, he was like a hard stick – just the skeleton! The other, spent months and months in the hospital, where his children – who never lived with him all this time - spent a substantial sum from his accumulation. Whatever is left behind, will be fought over!

The two gentlemen could not take anything with them. Nothing.

Our ‘private memory’ is not all that short. We hold on to our old hurts; we old hold on to our possessions… We remain arrogant and adamant. Yes, even though we know how fast the curtain is going to fall, and even though we know we may have to leave back, here, everything that we so cruelly sought all the while.

But, the TV channels are not interested in telling us about the two old men. Nor the newspapers.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, May 8, 2010

BUT, NOT NOW

"Sir, I want my daughter to become a fine public speaker. Will your course help her?

"Sir, my son lacks self-confidence. Can you help him to be confident?"

“Sir, I want to improve my English... I want to learn how to speak fluently. Can you help me?"

The sir has this ready answer: "Of course, yes. I can certainly help. But… "

"But, what?"

"But, this." I tell them this little story.

Once, a Parish priest of one of the churches began to receive frequent complaints that many of his parishioners spent a lot of their time and money in the local liquor bar. Disturbed by this development, the priest decided to end this nuisance, once and for all. So, one night, dressed in his civil clothes, the father stormed the bar. He was shocked to see, that at least twenty of his church members were having a good time there, all drunk.

"Your shameless sinners," the Priest did not waste his time to blast, "Get out of this hell." He thundered again, "Get out, I said. Get out… Right now."

Scared by this bombardment, all the faithful, at once, got out of the shady joint.

"Now, listen to me, you useless fellows," declared the Parish priest, "Those of you who want to go to Heaven, come and form a line on my side."

Instantly, every one of them jumped on to the Father's side and stood there in a line... except one. It was our Johnny. The Father was surprised. "And, you Johnny," he said, "are you sure, you don't want to go to Heaven?"

Trying to balance himself firmly on the ground, Johnny quickly gave his response, "Of course, Father, I want to. But…"

“But, what?” the Father was impatient to know.

"But, not now."

For now, our Johnny wants to have a good time on earth. Why Heaven now? Let others go, if they want to.

Yes, "But, what?" they ask me, too.

I tell them, "But, this: Every body wants to go to Heaven... But, nobody wants to die!"



GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, April 30, 2010

I KNOW ALL THOSE THINGS...

Last evening, I bumped into Mrs. Arora. I could read the discomfort which was writ large on her face. I knew the reason.

Kritika, Mrs. Arora’s teenaged daughter, had stopped attending our PD sessions. “Mom, I have done all those things… I know all that,” Kritika had told her mother. “I don’t want to continue.”

Mrs. Arora was not ready to agree with her young daughter’s argument. “Beti, you might have done some of those things… But, please remember, you have so much more to learn,” the mother had tried to prevail upon.

“No, mom. Please understand me. I don’t want to continue,” Kritika had made it very clear.

What could Mrs. Arora, the mother, do? “Well my dear, it is okay if you wish to drop,” she had told her daughter, “But, at least, meet your sir and inform him about your decision. Remember, he had specially come to our house to invite you for the course… He had reduced the fee for you by two-third of the amount… just because he is close to us… and, he seriously cares for you…and, most importantly, don’t forget my child, you have already attended four sessions without paying him a rupee. You have to see him before you quit.”

“No, that’s okay,” Kritika had countered, “What difference would it make?”

Mrs. Arora had slipped into a silence. Her young daughter was challenging her with the question, “What difference would it make?”

“Sir, I have no face to show you,” Mrs. Arora expressed her guilt when I chanced upon to meet her last evening, “I remember what I had told you.”

“That’s okay, ma’am,” I quickly attempted to ease Mrs. Arora’s burden. I added, “Let’s not forget that they are teenagers… They take their own time to appreciate certain things in life… It is best if we could give them that space to grow up.”

“But sir, I still feel guilty,” Mrs. Arora confessed. “She should have at least met you before quitting.”

“Ma’am I understand your feelings and I really appreciate that,” I told Mrs. Arora, “But, let me tell you, I am not hurt… I understand how teenagers react to such situations… Let’s not judge them from such yardsticks… They will change their views when their time comes. Just drop…All is well.”

“It is so generous on your part sir… Still…” the heavy stone on the mother’s head was refusing to come down.

“Come on ma’am, yes, even I remember what you had told me when I visited you house,” I tried to reassure the disturbed mother, “But, that’s al right… Kritika is a fine young soul.”

Tears rolled down Mrs. Arora’s cheeks on hearing what I had just said. “Thanks sir, I still wish, she had met you before she quit.”

I remained quiet and expressed my empathy. In my silence, I expressed to her, “Yes, ma’am even I feel young Kritika should have shown that simple courtesy. Yes, even I am angry, though I put on before you a magnanimous front… No, respect, gratitude and communication are simple values these teenagers should inculcate early in their lives… They should not take their privileges for granted.”

The mother had gone. The words which she had so confidently used to please me some days ago began to haunt me. “Ma’am, I have come personally to your place to invite Kritika… She should benefit from the course immensely… That’s my only wish,” I had told her. Then, a pause later, I had added, “But, Kritika should ‘value’ all this… She should not take the privileges for granted.”

Like an all-protective and proud mother hen, Mrs. Arora had let me know about her two children. “Sir, touch wood, so far my children, both my son and daughter, have grown up with those values. They will not do any thing in life to disgrace their parents… and, I am proud of that.”

“That is really great, Ma’am,” I had exclaimed in response, “You have been such an excellent mother.”

Against this backdrop, a daughter was sent to a place where, it is claimed, that they ‘develop personalities of young souls – like Kritika.”

This was also the reason for a mother’s tears!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

THE BUTTERFLY AND THE PAIR OF SCISSORS












Pic.: Aparna Khanolkar Sheth



Years ago, when I had decided to do something about my poor English, one of the things I did – and found it very useful – was telling a nice story in two tenses… Past and Present. Over the years, I have helped hundreds of people who were earnest to improve their English with the same method… Yes, write a nice story down in both the tenses… and tell it to someone.

Many years ago, my friend, Manjeet, had shown this slide story to me on his P.C. when I had gone to him to unload some of my life-burden… I came back a lot lighter and wiser, that morning…



THE BUTTERFLY
AND THE PAIR OF SCISSORS



PAST:

One day, a man was watching a butterfly emerging out of the cocoon. The butterfly was emerging very, very slowly. The man could feel the struggle and the pain the butterfly was going through co come out. He was moved to see the painful and slow process of birth… and, he really wanted to help the butterfly to come out painlessly, and fast. He wanted to rescue it from its pain and struggle.

So, he took a pair of scissors and gently cut open the cocoon, so that the butterfly could come out with least pain and fast. It did. However, that butterfly had to live for the rest of its life crippled, unable to fly.


PRESENT:

(One day,) a man is watching a butterfly emerging out of the cocoon. The butterfly is emerging very, very slowly. The man can feel the struggle and the pain the butterfly is going through co come out. He is moved to see the painful and slow process of birth… and, he really wants to help the butterfly to come out painlessly, and fast. He wants to rescue it from its pain and struggle.

So, he takes a pair of scissors and gently cuts open the cocoon, so that the butterfly can come out with least pain and fast. It does. However, that butterfly has to live for the rest of its life crippled, unable to fly.


GERALD D’CUNHA

BUTTERFLY

Sometimes, I wonder: What if the loving God – the all-merciful Father- had ‘rescued’ His only Son, Jesus Christ, on that night in the Gethsemane Garden?

That night, Jesus was in great trouble. He had foreseen the trauma that was to come upon Him. He was frightened, lost all His courage… There was that battle within him: to face the problems or to run away from them. He was confused; He was in terrible pain… and, He was lonely in His entire struggle. Even His loyal disciples had gone off to sleep, leaving Him alone in His hour of need.

“Father, do away this test from me; but, if it is Thy wish, Thy will be done.” The Bible says, that after pleading His Father this way, Christ had sweat blood! And, with that, He had risen up with all the courage in the world - freed from fear, pain and confusion - and come out from his hiding to face the bloodthirsty mob. The Father had not come forward to rescue his only son. He wanted his son to face His problems head on… and, grow from the experience… become tough, become mature… and, above all, come out victorious.

Had the Father rescued His son that night, there wouldn’t have been the ‘Passion of the Christ’… there wouldn’t have been the crucifixation… and, no resurrection. There was a prophecy to be fulfilled… Only, the Christ had to fulfill it… by carrying His own cross in this world.

This was how the Father loved His son. When the Son realized it, a silence came upon… The battle ended… So that, what was written could come true !

Some years ago, I encountered a similar situation of confusion, fear and loss of courage. I did not know how to solve my problems; I had lost all my courage… and I was filled with panic. I had spoken to many of my good friends and well-wishers… and, I had sought the help of some therapists and counselors. Though everything had helped me, I was still confused, scared and hopeless. I wanted someone to bail me out of my troubles… I wanted a redeemer, a Salvador – some one who could mercifully do away the test from me.

But, that never happened. What happened was this:

That early morning, I had been to my friend Manjeet’s place, to unload all my problems. I was unable to sleep the night before. And, I had landed that morning at Manjeet's place hoping against hopes… I was hoping for a miracle… perhaps in the form of a bailout from Manjeet. Manjeet spoke a little that morning; in fact nothing. He only switched on his PC, and showed me a colourful slide. In this slide, a man was shown watching a butterfly emerging out of the cocoon. The butterfly was emerging very, very slowly. The man could feel the struggle and the pain the butterfly was going through co come out. He was moved to see the painful and slow process of birth… and, he really wanted to help the butterfly to come out painlessly, and fast. He wanted to rescue it from its pain and struggle.
So, he took a scissor and gently cut open the cocoon, so that the butterfly could come out with least pain and fast. It did. However, that butterfly had to live for rest of its life crippled, unable to fly.

The slide ended with its moral. In life, often, we want to help others, save them from their troubles, bail them out of their pains. In our eagrness to help, like that man, we take the scissor, and cut open the cocoon… so that the butterfly can emerge without any pain, and fast. What we forget is, that the problems and pain in life are God’s way of making us come out stronger, beautiful and wiser. It is the natural process and we all have to go through it with a sense of reverence and acceptance. Yes, it is the Nature’s way of making us beautiful butterflies in life.

With out a word, Manjeet, my friend, had helped me come out of my own cocoon. I came out of my hiding to face my own bloodthirsty mob. The fear was gone, and the sky was clear. The strength had come back… and, I could see the light at the dark end of the tunnel.

Thanks Manjeet for not rescuing me that early morning.

But, didn’t you?




GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, April 23, 2010

YOU HOLD ME THE MIRROR

Presently, THE DAWN CLUB Personality Development course is in progress. I spend my summer vacation with these teenagers, and find a great deal of joy by helping them, grooming them. During the sessions, we have blast of a time… Jokes, stories, skits apart from Workshops, Speeches, Debates and Group Discussions.

I tell all these teenagers to be alert and watchful… remain always thirsty and open-minded. “It is your readiness, your openness that will decide whether you will gain anything from this course or not,” I keep reminding them, almost in every session. “Each one of you holds a mirror for others,” I tell hem, “Be awake… A teacher appears when the student is ready.”

In the last session, the 16-year-old Janvi failed to understand the meaning of my lines. “Sir, what do you mean by ‘holding a mirror?” she asked me, with all her innocence. I told Janvi, that if we are eager to learn, we can learn from any one, any time and anywhere. “I may be your teacher, but I can learn so much from you, if I am open, thirsty,” I told her, “Thus, you become my teacher… You hold a mirror to me, so that I can see myself well, improve, grow.”

I told them about Dhanya, one of the students in the class. “I have never seen her missing a class or coming late,” I told the class. “If she can not come, she would call me up, discuss her problem, and seek my permission. If she is stuck in a traffic, she would call me up or send a message saying ‘Sir, I may be late by 5 minutes,” I informed them. Then, I asked them, “Why does Dhanya do that?”

Some one said, “Because, being regular and punctual is a ‘value’ for her.”

I agreed. “I may be her teacher, but, I have not ceased learning. I liked this quality about Dhanya… and I try to make that quality my own. I try to emulate her. “If a certain session is good, she would send a thank-you message, even before she would reach home,” I added. “These are things in life for me to appreciate and learn… No matter from whom.”

I told them one of the Zen stories.

One day, a very learned, very famous Scholar from the West visited a Zen master. During the course of their discussion, the Zen master served tea to the Scholar. What surprised the Western intellectual was: even though the cup was full to the brim and tea was overflowing, the Eastern master kept pouring it in the cup.

“Stop pouring,” the Scholar shouted, “there is no place, the cup is full.”

“Likewise, my friend, your mind is full with your own ideas and opinions,” the Zen master responded, “There is no place there.”

“A sound advice,” Natasha, another participant,  voiced instantly. It was clear, that she had liked the story. Such instant  flash of enlightenment, in Zen terminology, is called – ‘Satori’.

“Sir, I have something to share,” it was Ekta's turn to be enlightened.
“What is that?” I enquired.

“Sound advice,” she replied.

“Go ahead,” I gave the signal.

Ekta began. “When you are in big trouble, and go to your parents for a sound advice, what you get is: 99 percent sound and 1 percent advice.”

I saw me in the Ekta's innocent mirror. I was smiling.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

THE DOG IN THE MANGER

This world is not flat, it is round. It has people of all types... not just one type, flat.

One of these types is known as 'Dog-in-the-manger types'. They will neither do any good work, nor will allow anyone else to do it. Aesop, in one of his fables, made these fellows very popular, very familiar. This was that fable:

Long time ago, in one of the villages, there lived a farmer. He had a couple of cows and a dog. One day, the cows had been out and, back home, the dog was hungry. He went around everywhere looking for food but in vain. Finally, he landed up at the stable and, found there some fresh hay in the manger. He tried to eat it, but he couldn't. "How unfair can be our Master," he cribbed,” So much for the cows, and nothing for me." Then, he slept in the manger, right over the hay, and declared, "I will not allow those cows to eat it, either."

In the evening, the cows returned to the stable, hungry. But, when they went near the manger, they saw the dog sleeping right over the hay. They pleaded, "Brother, we are hungry. That is our food and you are sleeping over it. Please vacate this place so that we can have our dinner."

The dog ignored the plea from the cows, and refused to vacate.

"Please, our brother," the cows cried, "Look, you can sleep any where else; but let us have our food."

"No way," the dog snarled at the cows, "You go and find your food any where else... and let me take my rest here."

"Try to understand our brother," the cows begged, "You very well know, it is night time, and we are hungry. You cannot eat the hay over which you are resting... but, that is our dinner. If you do not move, we will go hungry."

"That is your problem, not mine," the dog sniped. "Now, will you leave me alone, or else..."

Just then, there appeared the Master. When he saw the dog in the manger, with all his arrogance, bullying the hapless cows, he immediately picked a long stick and sent some nasty blows on the dog's boated head.

Yes, the world is round, and not flat. It has all types. It has these 'dogs' - sorry for that - who will neither eat what is there in the manger, nor will allow others, the 'cows', to eat it. Instead, they will sleep in the manger - right over the hay - and declare, "Let us see, how they will eat it."

For these 'dogs', the 'cows' cannot convince, leave alone 'teach'. Only the 'Master's stick' can!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NO MATTER HOW FAR YOU REACH...

Some day's ago, I was talking on the phone to my mother, who lives in Mangalore. The Konkani singing legend from Mangalore, Mr. Wilfy Rebimbus, had passed away a few days before. My mom was describing to me on the phone, with graphic details, about the final journey of this great man.

Wilfy. There mustn't be a single soul in the Mangalorean Konkani world - yes, all over the world - who hasn't heard this name... and his popular songs. We grew up on the diet of his songs. Every aspiring Konkani singer was baptized with his tunes... Every wedding, every function, every Konkani event was incomplete without a sprinkle of his songs. There were books, there were cassettes and there were CD's. There were Wilfy Nites and there were even movies with Wilfy songs.

Wilfy was the 'bench mark' of success and fame in the Konkani world. My own brother, Rony, began to sing Konkani songs when he was very small. And, like any other konkani kid, who dreamed to become a singer, he, too, grew up on Wilfy's songs. He took part in several prestigious singing competitions and came out with top trophies. Then, as the destiny would want him to, he was privileged to sing in Wilfy's famed group.

Willfy's last days were very painful ones. He suffered from cancer. He knew the end was near... and, he wanted to end it well. And, he did it the only way he knew: by holding a very special nite. He called it 'Wilfy’s Sentimental Nite'. Rony had, specially, come down from Kuwait to sing many of Wilfy's famous songs at this event.  A special collection of about 40 albums, beautifully packed, was released to mark this special occasion. Rony presented one to me on his way back to Kuwait. It was truly a sentimental present. He couldn't be there, personally, to bid farewell to his Hero. But, he recorded, with some of his friends in Kuwait, one of Wilfy's famous songs and sent it to Mangalore. It was played to the sea of grievers as Wilfy was taken to his final resting place. The gist of this song goes this way:

O Man!
Your life is such a short voyage
In this ocean called World;
No matter how far you reach,
You have to return…
To end your voyage
At your grave.

Well, certainly, Wilfy would not have approved this translation. It is just the essence of his creation. Rony sung it with all his heart and devotion… to bid his hero a tearful farewell..

No body has scaled Wilfy’s height in Konkani music. No body – I dare to say this - will be able to in the near future! He truly deserves the title conferred upon him: ‘Konkan Kogul’… ‘The Konkani Nightingale’. He will always be the ‘Pole star’… Every Konkani sailor will look up this star. We will all hum his tunes as we sail along this ocean, which he called ‘Somsar’ – ‘the world’.

Little wonder, my mom spent so much time giving me the details of the tearful journey of this Legend, this Hero. Her, Rony’s, mine… and of every one of us. She is our mother and who else knows her children better? She is proud of me and Rony, her sons. Rony, for his own fame and name in the Konkani music world. Me, for my own mark in my own world. She will certainly die a proud mother… and we say this without any arrogance. We know her, too. Only she can tell what, on that day, she told me on the telephone… from hundreds of miles afar:

“Son, Wilfy, our Hero,  has gone leaving behind a very rich, very enviable legacy.” Then, in a choked voice, she added, “But, like you, he died a simple man, leaving behind no money.”

Only silence could understand my mother’s choked voice.

Farewell to the one who inspired all of us to be true to ourselves. Yes, till the grave.



GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, March 19, 2010

THE ANGER AND SORROW

 The man who shot dead the young XI th standard student, yesterday, was a senior citizen, a retired customs officer. The girl was not a party to his anger... she did not belong to the family with whom he had picked his fight... she did not even stay there. Still, he shot her down.

What was his anger? His reason to kill?

He was angry, because of the civil work being carried out at the flat above his own. The work disturbed him... so much... yes so much that it made him pull his revolver and create a ruckus at the society premises... and, finally, kill that innocent stranger-girl.

The cops gunned him down, soon after that!

It is the death of anger... The end of ego. May the innocent and the ignorant, both, rest in peace.

Cops did not gun down Pravin Mahajan, even though he shot dead, in broad daylight, his own brother, his mentor - Pramod Mahajan.

What was his reason? His provocation?

Whatever they may be, Pravin Mahajan did not think he did anything wrong by gunning down his brother. He did not repent, regret... He remained in the prison... sentensed to life... He chose to be there, but he would not feel remorseful.

But, did Pravin Mahajan, actually, not feel sorry, feel bad for his act?

I think, Pravin Mahajan definitely must have felt bad, sorry. It is only that he was unable to gather courage to admit it in open. He must have battled this dilemma, this ghost within... pretending to be brave and self-sure... but, only to be crushed by the brain hemorrhage...then go into a never-to-return coma and, finally, succumb to death.

I seriously feel, had Pravin Mahajan openly, and sincerely, expressed his regret, his sorrow over his emotional act - the act of insanity - he would have survived... died a honorable man.

I also feel the same way about some members of Pramod Mahajan's family. They should have openly and sincerely forgiven Pravin. But, they held on to their anger, their sorrow, and their loss.

When anger and sorrow come together, it becomes poison. It makes some kill with their guns... and it makes some kill themselves.

Sin is a label. If I sin, it only means I have fallen from grace for a while... but not forever. I am not condemned to the permanent fire of hell. Every time I sin, fall from grace, I have an opportunity to come closer to God. I consider, sin is the passage I need to walk through before I can come closer to the gates of heaven.

I pray to God to give strength to that little girl's family. Lord, help them to forgive. I also pray to God to give strength to the widow of that custom officer. Lord, help her deal with her pain. Finally, the one's whose civil work had made that man go mad. Lord, help them to feel bad. Please keep Your gates open for all of them.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

THE LEAP OF FAITH

The other day, when somebody used the word - 'Compromise', I was quick to respond: "Let us not use the word - 'Compromise'... That is a 'cheap', rather, ineffective word. Let us use the word - 'Peace'." I went on, "Peace comes straight... with out any conditions, with no strings attached."

There was no discussion on that. There was silence... It was profound.

That evening, I found myself speaking fervently, with all my passion and strength... but, it was all a monologue, rather a soliloquy. I was telling them - the fighting parties, the parties who were unable to find a breakthrough - this. "A compromise comes with doubt, with suspicion from the mind; peace comes with complete trust, straight from the heart. Compromise means, I am ready, but I still don't trust you... I may not honour my promise, in case, you... Peace means, I am ready... and I trust you fully... I will keep my promise, and you too will, I know. I know. I know."

"How do I know? How do I know that your will keep your promise?"

"Well I know. I simply know... and, I want to tell, loudly and sincerely, this feeling of mine to you. Yes, I know, you will keep your word; you will trust me, too."

"It is okay, if I am hurt by you, in the past... many times that is... but it is okay. I can heal myself. I would be glad and feel loved if you could say that from your mouth - "I am sorry". But, even if you find it difficult to say that, at this stage, I will say that now, "I am sorry for whatever hurts I have caused."

"I feel exposed, vulnerable when I say that. But, I alone know, I feel good, light... empowered... strong... clean...even 'divine'. I feel close to God, I feel protected by him. I feel no threat, scare... that you may go back on your words, you may betray me. Because, I have done my best, I have given my all; I have not hidden any cards from you. So, what move will you take? - is not my fear. What move will I make - is only my only concern.

"Peace is my thirst, my hunger. I need it like my breath. I will die - spiritually - without peace. It is my moral weapon; it is my physical guard, too. I need no advocate, when I my self is an advocate of peace. For compromise, I need an advocate, a broker.

"Between you and me - my enemy - there is only that wall created by our minds, our egos. How can a broker break it down? I cannot break the wall for you... I can for me. So, here I am, with the pickaxe and sickle, ready to break the wall created by my own mind... And, I know that you too will do the same, soon."

It was late evening. I could see the setting sun in all its glory going about his duty, The sky turned colouful, stunning... all this so fast, so peacefully... and so far yet so near. A sunset was taking place silently in me, too. So, peacefully.

GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WHEN THE WIND SANG

One of the most profound, and blinding, realisations in my life is that, the world will go on smoothly - very, very smoothly - without me.

This means: My home will run smoothly... The lives of my wife and teenager son will run smoothly. Even if I am the CEO of my Company, the Company will run smoothly without me. Similarly, even if I am the Prime Minister of my nation, my nation will take its own course, even without me.

Life is too big, too eternal for me to control. To think that I can change its course, is to be arrogant. Every thing will be fine without me... the flowers in the garden, the fruits on the trees, the animals in the forests, the children in the schools, the machines in the factories, the clouds in the sky... and even the smiles on my dear one's faces. They will all be fine; they will be taken care of... Life is all merciful. It will protect.

This morning, I, once again, felt anxious. I yelled at my son, "There are hardly any days left for your exams... Do some thing." When I sensed he was not committing, I threatened: "I will take away the laptop... I will take away your mobile."

Did it make a difference?

I had resorted to these 'ultimatums' after exhausting all other methods. I do not believe in threats. I know they come from our insecurities, our fears. I know the best methods are the ones where I make my son realise the consequences of his choices... and, help him, if I can, to make the right choices for him. And, then, trust in the process, in the Universe.

I am an important person in my son's life. But, then, his life will go on smoothly without my yelling, my nervous breakdowns. This realisation doesn't come so easily. Often, we have to hit against a wall; we have to experience nervous breakdowns.

Did my father yell at me, experience nervous breakdowns? Has my life come, this far, smoothly? Is my father around? Has 'Someone' protected me? Will my son be protected? Will his life go on - without my laptop and cellphone?

The answers are blowing in the wind. The wind sings: "It's okay my friend... It's okay. After all, it's all about your own growth. You can only 'argue' it's not so... it's son's."


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, March 8, 2010

THE INNOCENT WEDDINGS

It is close to twenty, 'long' years! That's for our marriage. The count down has started for our Silver Jubilee.

A year is a long time not only in politics, but also in marriage. I remember, just a couple of days after our marriage, my in-laws had celebrated their wedding silver-jubilee. So, for them, it is the count down for their Golden Jubilee.

Why do I write about this subject, today?

Two days back, Alka had come to see me. "Our marriage did not work; we have separated," she said. There was no hesitation, no sign of any sort of stigma as Alka made that confession. It was plain and simple...

I was silent for a while. Just through an empathetic silence, my eyes conveyed to her my feelings: "I am sad; it shouldn't have happened."

Alka's marriage couldn't last for even eight months!

I still remember what I told them as I wished them on their reception night - "You make a lovely, happy couple... Wish you all the best." Both of them had bent down to touch my feet... and I had blessed them through my embarrassment.

They say, "No body walks into a marriage thinking of separation. Every body thinks, it is for ever." Then, why do marriages crumble the way they do, now?

I do not know. All that I know is this: two people - almost strangers - come together, hoping and promising to each other to stay together in good times and bad times. But, it is tough. When times are good, we are willing to stay together... but, when the chips are down, we have no patience.

My parents and in-laws had not studied as much as we have. They weren't as ambitious as we are. They were couples with simple aspirations in life... too old-fashioned to think of 'divorces'... too society-conscious, too God-fearing (or, say it - Priest-fearing) people. They never openly discussed their marital problems... They fought them out behind their closed doors, they worked them out... they compromised, reconciled... They broke their promises, but soon apologised, made new promises... and they kept going, yes, in good times and bad times alike. Staying together in marriage - 'till death did them apart' - was a deeply embedded 'value' for them. It was a very, very important priority in their life.

I think, the times have changed, and they are changing even faster with a lightening speed. We have so many options, every where. Yes, in married life, too. Don't like it, get out of it... We say this faster, and we move on in life. We call it 'fast life' - digital, cyber... or, cosmetic or skin-deep, if you like. One goes, another comes. Sorry, the another comes, even before 'the one' is still there!

I do not know, if our children would ever talk about Silver Weddings and Golden Weddings. I do not know, if the Priests would ever insist them to make that old promise - "In good times, and bad times... I shall live with you."

The less I 'know', the better. You may yell back at me saying, "You mean, ignorance is bliss?"

I never said that. But, 'innocence' is. At least, in marriage.

GERALD D'CUNHA