Saturday, January 30, 2010

THE MUD POT

"From where do you get the topics for your blog?" this man asked me. "From my daily life," I told him. "But, the 'daily life' happens to every one. The incidents you touch upon are common; still, how come only you notice them and not me?" he asked.

I was flattered... a bit superior to him. But, the next moment, I realised, the danger of acting from such a feeling. And, I told him about what I was feeling, the mundane human conflict. "I get my subjects from moments like these... Maybe, I am more sensitive and aware to these things... more available," I said.

Just then, my hand reached out to my mobile. The sms had been forwarded to me by my younger brother, Vivek:

"A mud pot having milk
is ranked higher than a golden pot having poison.
It is not our outer glamour but our inner virtues
that make us valuable."

I showed him the message. "Don't we all know this truth?" I asked him. "Need some one remind us about it?" Still, sometimes, the old truths suddenly stare at us point blank... Like a tornado, they hit us, unsettle us."

I shared with him one of my observations. The doodhwala, who supplies fresh milk in and around my office area, is known to me for the past ten years. I had taught his son five years ago, and, currently, I have been teaching his daughter, as well. The son completed his MBA from a reputed institute and now employed in a big multinational. The doodhwala's day begins at 4 every day. Then, he orbits around the area, on his bicycle the entire day... only to go back home to cook for his two dear children. He lost his wife when his children were very small. Today, incidentally, I had enquired about his son. "Today is his weekly off," he had told me. "The whole week, he works very hard, comes home late every day. I have told him to take good rest on his weekly offs."

"You have been slogging hard for your children so long and so hard," I told him, "What about you? What about your rest?"

"That is alright, sir," he brushed aside my question. "Let me give my children a good life. I am still fit."

And, incidentally, he had just come delivering milk to a family where highly educated - husband and wife, both doctorates - people resided. This family was one of the most disliked families in that complex. They never jelled with any other members, and so full of themselves - arrogant, mean and selfish.

Doodhwala, the sms, the conversation with the gentleman about my blog topics... All fell in place... to become this post.

"Need any one tell us who of the two is the 'mud pot' and who is the 'golden' one - the milkman or the PhD?" I asked the man. "Yes, our daily life is the real open university... When we are open, available... every thing makes sense, every dot seems connected."

We have to simply connect... That's all!.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, January 29, 2010

DOING MY JOB

Mr. L.K. Advani had visited a local college some days ago. One of the college trustees, a young doctor-friend of mine, had invited me; but, I couldn't attend the function. When I met the doctor the next day, I enquired about the function. He told me about what Mr. Advani had said in his speech.

Mr. Advani was addressing a mixed gathering of teachers, students and others. My doctor-friend told me that, Mr. Advani reminded the audience about the need to take India forward. To achieve this goal, he gave them a very simple mantra: 'Each one of you should do your job well... very well."

I was in the dispensary of this doctor for my check up. As he was treating me, he was describing me about the impact Mr Advani's words had on him the previous day. And, I could feel that!

"Wow!" I thought in my mind. "What a simple, yet powerful mantra that is!"

We do not see the solution that way. We see in terms of revolutions; we want big solutions. Moreover, we look for solutions 'outside'... The Government should do it, Institutions should do it, Politicians should do it, Police should do it. We rarely think that all changes begin with us... that, we are the catalysts of the change we seek. And, we rarely imagine that doing our respective jobs well - very well - is the way to take our country forward.

Politicians do a lot of blah, blah. Mr. Advani is no exception. But, this mantra was ,surely, no blah, blah. Mr. Advani did his job - his address - well, that afternoon. India will go forward...

But, let me do my job, too, well. Very, very well.

OLD HABITS

Some things, in life, do not change... our old habits, particularly.

I remember a childhood incident. Our eighth-standard academic year had just started. A cousin sister of mine had newly joined a school nearby, for seventh standard. I knew some girls in her new class, and I did not like them. So, I began to act as my sister's protective elder brother. I gave her advice - what to do and what not to do in her new school, who is good and who is bad, whom she should befriend and whom she should shun. "Those three girls are bad; don't become friendly with them... They will spoil you," I counselled her, in good faith. Then, I added those 'famous' words of caution: "But, don't tell that I told you this!"

Exactly after three days, one evening, the three girls with whom I had great allergy, gheraoed me outside my school. "What did you tell your cousin sister about us? We are bad? Not to become friendly with us? We will spoil her?" they screamed at me as other boys from my school gathered around. "No, no. I did not tell like that," I began to save my skin. "Don't tell lies, you coward," they warned me, and went away. The boys around me had good fun, as I lost all my steam.

That was in my village in Mangalore... and that was about thirty-seven years ago.

Here, in Mumbai, about a month back, another incident took place. I shared with a lady whom I knew very, very well some information about another lady whom she hated. This was done in one of our casual discussions, and all in good faith. But, then I did add those 'famous' words of caution: "Keep it to yourself... It is only between you and me!"

And, as they say, "History repeats itself," - exactly after three days, one evening, this lady, about whom I had shared a certain information, confronted me. "What did you tell her about me?..."

"Where is she, call her?" This time, I had some steam in me. "Let her tell that in front of me."

Somehow, I instinctively knew, that the lady - with whom I had such good rapport, and shared a few things so right and in such good faith - would not dare to face me. And, she didn't. This lady vented out her irritation for a while, and then went her way.

I had become wild at my cousin sister, after that school incident. Now, I became wild at this lady, too. "Damn it. One should never try to help anybody,"... This is exactly how I felt in both the situations. But, then... Yes, but then!

I could laugh at these incidents... I could laugh at myself. "Some things, in life, do not change," I consoled myself. "Particularly, our old habits. The dog's tail."


GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, January 28, 2010

MERCY

If I had gone to bed, last night, with thoughts of fear concealed in my heart, how could I rise, this morning, feeling confident, courageous? Likewise, if I had ended my night with a hundred complaints tucked under my heart, how could I expect to see a bright Sun outside, this morning?

When I first heard someone making this statement - "The greatest miracle you have witnessed, today, is the fact that you woke up this morning... that, you are alive, now!" , I had, instantly, loved it, felt inspired by it. Just to think, and feel deeply, that I had that privilege, that grace, is, truly, humbling. It is, truly, a spiritual experience. I completely believe, that, if I am capable of going through such a profound experience, I do not need to offer any more prayer. That feeling, that experience, itself is a true prayer. Whether I kneel down or raise my hands unto the heavens, whether I garland my Deity or chant before Him... I think, all this is immaterial. I just need to feel, deeply and truly, that I had this privilege, this grace... that, 'Some one' bestowed mercy on me... granted me one more day... one more chance.

Yes, I woke up this morning... I am alive, now! Yes, as I write this piece, I can feel the profundity of this statement; I can experience that touch of grace, that breath of mercy.

But, it doesn't happen all the time... in fact, most of the time. Most of the time, I retire, at night, feeling scared and anxious... feeling resentful, angry or sorrowful. I try to close my eyes with lots of self-pity or blame. And, obviously, when I rise, the next morning, I see the harvest of my seeds. Why am I not able to see this simple connection, this simple truth, so often? It is a great puzzle for me.

Life becomes easy, less complicated, when the gap between 'what I know' and 'what I do' becomes less and less... When there is internal integrity. Peace, that inner silence, comes with it... effortlessly.

So, this morning, when I am able to go through that less frequent experience of peace, I am able to experience, also, a prayerful state in my heart. I see myself saying, again and again and again - "Lord, thank you for showing mercy on me." Moments like these, help me realise the difference between the two prayers: "Lord, have mercy on me," and "Lord, thank you for showing mercy on me."

That realisation, too, is a miracle. Thank you, Lord.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, January 22, 2010

THE C.P.T.

Yesterday, at 9.15 in the morning, I was to teach a batch of CPT students. Everyone had come, except Roshan. His friends in the batch tried to get in touch with him. However, there was no response from Roshan either to the calls or sms's. We went ahead with the class. At around 9.30, Roshan's mother called me up. She was terribly disturbed. "Sir, this boy is out of our control," she told me, "I have been trying to wake him up right since 7.30, but he is refusing to be get off the bed."

This was not the first time Roshan's mother was complaining to me about him. Roshan is the only child of his parents. They come from a highly educated and well-off family. Their main complaint about their 17-year-old son has been: He goes to bed late, because he spends hours on the Internet, on his mobile, watching movies on Television or even reading novels. Often, he remains awake the whole night, and the next entire day remains on his bed. The day schedule, including his college and classes - all go for a royal toss. "We have done everything within our hands to make him realise, but all in vain. Though we keep telling 'We have given up on him', we cannot... We keep yelling at him, get worked up miserably... There are frequent show-downs at home and a hell lot of stress," Roshan's mother was trying to relieve her stress by venting out her frustration.

I could feel how disturbed she was. I empathised with her, urged her to be more and more patient. I told her that she should not give up on him... at the same time, not to become hysterical, neurotic ... With assertive and gentle communication she should convey to him that he is big enough to understand the consequences of his choices... and, show all the love, care and concern with a certain detachment. Eventually, it is all about his life. He will deal with it, any way.

Roshan's mother did not need a person like me to tell all those things. She is a very intelligent and well-informed lady. Still, it is her problem. Roshan is their only son. Her fears are her own, and her reality, too. Sometimes, we all need someone to remind us about the truths we already know. We know the bouncing boards, the mirrors... and the mirror holders.

Around 11, when we were about to wind up, Prince Roshan arrived. His mother had not given up, it was clear!

"Come, come," I said,without making Roshan feel more guilty. But, his friends had a spontaneous good laugh. They started pulling his leg, which, Roshan did take sportingly. I thought I would spend some time with him alone, after the class. But, just then Sarabjeet, a first-year-B.Com student arrived. And, I found myself talking to the CPT students.

Sarabjeet's father, a taxi-driver, suffered from a paralytic attack when Sarabjeet had just completed his SSC. Sarabjeet had an elder sister in college and a younger sister still in school. Mother was an illiterate house wife. The next two years, after Sarabjeet's father's paralytic attack, were real hard-days for them. He had to take up some part-time jobs as he did his junior college. And after he completed his junior college, he joined a call center with relatively a higher salary and continued his studies through correspondence. As usual, today, he had come to me for classes, straight from his night shift. He would be there with me for next two hours.

With Sarabjeet's consent, I spoke to Roshan and his batch about Sarabjeet. I could sense the openness, and, therefore, I conveyed all my feelings to them. "CPT is competitive. Once, you clear, to complete Chartered Accountancy, it is still tough. It needs you to be ambitious, focused, determined and extremely committed," I reminded them. "When you make your choices, consciously, there is a great beauty about the quality of work that follows. No one needs to coax you, remind you about your responsibility... No one needs to supervise or even motivate you. You do things that you love, as per your own wish and will, and you know that you do it for your own good." I continued: "Don't misuse the opportunities, don't waste your talents and blessings. Here is Sarabjeet. His life changed due to the hard blow Life left on his family. Look, he has to work and learn, he has to fend his family... his ailing father, his sisters who are studying."

Roshan and his friends were listening. I knew, they could connect to whatever I was saying. "You guys remain awake the whole night to chat with your friends or watch movies... Sarabjeet has to remain awake so that he and his sisters can become graduates, their house can run."

I, particularly, saw a different sparkle in Roshan's eyes. Certainly, the impact was felt. "We teachers and parents try to do that 'precious little'," I told them. "The rest, the real work, is for you to do. Life is a movement... Nobody waits here for anybody, long. It is not about preparing for your exams, it is about preparing for Life. It is universal, it is common... Yes, to you, Sarabjeet and me. It is the Common Proficiency Test... The CPT, young friends."

GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

THE GREAT SURVIVORS

Tamilnadu. When I was small, we called this state - Madras. My dad, though hadn't studied much, was a politically-conscious person. I still remember the heated discussions he would engage himself in, too frequently, with anyone and everyone he could. I first heard a name called Karunanidhi from him, amidst such passionate discussions. It is nearly fifty years, since then.

Today, Mr. Karunanidhi, 85, still rules this vast state. His political career spans over 60 years, and he holds the record of winning every election he contested during this long period. From the pitiable, dusty streets to massive express-highways, from the humble bullock carts to supersonic jets, from the silent/B & W movies to Maga-screen-multiplex experience... everything in this colourful state has changed, except this colourful man called Karunanidhi. I, sometimes, wonder: Are the people of this state not tired of him? How can they ignore so many young and dynamic men and women? What makes this man so enduring, and so endearing, as well?

To deal with my 17-year-old son, often, I find challenging. How fast the world has changed... with all the new gadgets and technology, the system of education, the exposure to all the stuff on the Internet, the onslaught of western fast life - from food to sex, from clothes to relationships! The kids and the young men, today, think drastically in a different manner. It is as if they come from completely another planet. Yes, at times, I do find it so, and, I am sure, I am not alone in thinking so.

And, look at this man called Karunanidhi!

On another side of our county, is this state called West Bengal, and that fabulous city called Kolkata, the 'City of Joy'. Calcutta of British became Kolkata of the Bengali's. Much has changed, here... but, much hasn't. The trams are still there; man-pulled rickshaws are still there; the Communists are still there; the Shanti Nikethan and Durga Puja are still there... and, above all, the legacy and enigma of a man called Jyoti Basu! I write about this man, today, because, he, too, like Karunanidhi, defied all the rules of this incredibly fast, digital world. Like Tamilnadu, West Bengal, too, is a state of highly intelligent, culturally rich, people. And, look, this state was captained by this single soul, uninterruptedly, for nearly quarter of a century! His political career spans close to three-quarters of a century! What an eventful life it has been! As if that was not long enough a life, now, his body will be available to the students to make use of in their studies. Jyoti da, will be enduring and endearing in death, too!

As one political commentator wrote in his obituary to Mr. Jyoti Basu, "Such achievements are tough to emulate, leave alone beat."

I am not very interested in Politics. I have never deeply admired Mr. Karunanidhi or Mr. Jyoti Basu, either. But, today, a thought was haunting me: "What is that so special about these two men? How could they survive so long, yes, even the two Atom Bombs? Suddenly, today, I felt every inspired by this phenomenon, this mystery, this magic. I truly felt, if these two men could survive so well amidst all the crazy change, why can't I?

That is a very colourful feeling!

Monday, January 18, 2010

LORD, TAKE MY HAND

My dad's sister, Aunt Mary, passed away on Saturday night. We attended her funeral service yesterday.

Aunt Mary lived for nearly 75 years. Her children are all well settled in life. She did suffer from diabetes-related problems, and, some days before her death, she had a stroke which affecting her brain and breathing. We knew, looking at her condition in the hospital, that she wouldn't live long. Death, in such situation, however painful for the nearest and dearest ones, is always a peaceful solution.

Yesterday was a Sunday. A large number of people had turned up to bid Aunt Mary the final farewell. When the coffin, slowly, went down, the famous hymn, written by Thomas A. Dorsey, was played on an audio:

"Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, and worn.

Through the storm,
Through the night,
Lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, Precious Lord,
Lead me home." ...

My aunt's death did not come as a shock to her children, grandchildren or any of her close relatives. Yet, we all cried as the hymn being played. Some did not cry, but stood there moved, in contemplation.

Truly, the moments, like these, are very spiritual moments. We need them to make us mellow down, make us humble and grateful. No matter what position we hold in life, what power and status, that is where we all are going to end up our lives with. We need those graveyard experiences to make us alive... to the gift of Life God has bestowed upon us. Yes, sometimes, we all have to 'die' to come alive... in Life!

"Precious Lord, take my hand.
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, and worn..."

Honestly, we can sing this hymn - and truly feel its meaning - only in such moments.

Good Bye Aunt Mary.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Saturday, January 16, 2010

CARE AND CONCERN

I am very fond of Byron Katie's book - 'Loving What Is'. She helps us deal with any problems in our lives - however complex they may be - with the help of a simple, 4-questions inquiry. She calls her programme - 'THE WORK'.

One of the things I liked in this book is this. She reminds us, that all of us mind only three kinds of businesses in our lives: Our own, Other's and God's. Stress, she tells us, is experienced when we try to handle the business of others and God. Whose business is it to stop an earthquake or tsunami from striking this planet? Can any of us stop them? It is God's business... Maybe, we can earnestly pray to Him. But, she simply argues, that when we see the truth that we can not do anything about an earthquake or a tsunami... that, it is for God, the Universe, to take a call on it, that we become stress-free, peaceful. Similarly, she prods us to think asking, Whose business is it to stop terrorism or a war, inflation or an economy-meltdown? Can an individual - you and me - stop it from coming? When we constantly worry about these things, she reminds us that we try to handle other's business. And, the more we spend our time and energy trying to handle the business of God or others, the more stress we experience in life.

Father drinks too much... mother throws things over it. Brother is into drugs... sister moves around with loose characters. The school teacher is too rude; the neighbour too showy; the Society Committee is corrupt... And, I worry over all these things.

Mrs. Katie argues: Whose business is it - not to drink like a fish? Whose business is it - not to go mad, not to throw things in the house? Whose life is it to stay away from the drugs, or loose characters? Will my life become any better if my son's school teacher becomes less rude, or my neighbour less showy?

The unexamined thoughts play havoc in our lives. While the 'concern' and 'care' are very important words in life... what we forget is that unless we first care for our own well-being, unless we show concern to our own life, it is futile and frustrating - in fact, stressful and painful - to show care and concern for others. It simply doesn't work. That's what Mrs. Katie attempts to drive home through her programme - 'THE WORK'.

Just as I write this piece, Akshay comes. Last evening, I had requested him to come today, at 9.30 in the morning, to help Karishma. Karishma had joined my class late. She had missed many classes even after joining late. Whenever she bunked my classes, she had never bothered to inform me, in spite of the fact that I had asked her to do so either by calling or through a sms. She would justify her absence, argue with me... and, leave me with a lot of frustration and inner turmoil. Now, exams are just a few days away. She has paid me fees, joined my class. I am concerned about her, I care for her. Her parents have difficulty paying her fees, and I want her to understand that reality, act responsibly. Last evening, when she had attended my class with Akshay, I spoke to her about all these things, and she promised me that she would be serious, now. I felt a lot relieved. I urged Akshay to come this morning and spend a few hours in my class to help Karishma in those chapters which she had missed. At 9.30 sharp, Akshay turned up, all the way from Navi Mumbai, yes, specially to help his classmate. "Where is Karishma?" I enquired. "Sir, I called her just now," he said. "What did she say?" I asked. "She said, she is not well.. not coming."

This is the stuff that makes most of us go mad, 'throw things' around. What a divine co-incidence, today! Of all the things in my life, I am writing, this very moment, on the subject of challenging our own thoughts.

Karishma has bunked, yet again. She may flunk. But, whose life is it, anyway?

"Honey," I can hear Mrs. Katie reminding me so lovingly. "In the end, the cat will only stare at you and cry 'Meow'."

Though we all know that we can never make a cat 'bark', we need someone like Mrs. Katie to gently remind us about this reality, to lead us through this path of awareness. We need a Karishma. A cat!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Thursday, January 14, 2010

THE HOLY COWS

Last night, I watched the India-Sri Lanka ODI Finals. I got to watch only the last five overs... and,India losing the match.

Strangely, nothing happened to me! No tension or anxiety, no anger or sadness, no frustration or depression. I just felt normal. But, the gentleman next to me was badly upset, depressed. Another man was angry; he began to hurl abuses on our players. Again, I did not find their reaction strange. I was normal, watching their behaviour, too.

But, just a few years ago, it wasn't so. I would die to watch an India-Pakistan match, and, in the end, if we lost, I would literally die!. Most of the India-Pakistan contests were known for their nail-biting endings. I would sit before the TV, glued, without any motion, sensing my heart racing, unable to breathe fully... my mind clouded, unable to think clearly. I would become sad and depressed, and, sometimes, angry, mad.

Then, why didn't I react at all, last night?

India is 'my' country... This is my belief. My country 'should' win... This is my another belief. I am emotionally attached to my beliefs. Hence, when things don't go the way I believe them to, I am emotionally disturbed. I become sad and depressed, or, I become angry and frustrated. So, if we get in touch with the beliefs behinds our actions and reactions - our behaviours, we can easily learn to handle some of our emotional problems... including a cricket match, of course.

And, how do our beliefs get formed? Are we aware, conscious, when they get formed? If certain beliefs of mine lead to stressful behaviour in my life, am I able to undo those beliefs? I think, I am. Now, this became one more belief... I invest my emotions in it, I pursue this belief... till I start feeling that this belief doesn't help me any more, causes problems in my life.

Thus, the only sensible way to deal with our emotional problems is to continuously remain in touch with them, remain in touch with the beliefs underlying them. No belief should be - and IS - cast in stone. It should be flexible, fluid... just as Life is.

And, there goes one more belief... and one more emotional attachment around it... and, perhaps, the seed of my joy or sorrow, anger or violence. Therefore, the need to be awake, all the time...

Yes, as I key these words, as well.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FISH FROM THE 'BIG' MARKET

I remember this couple in our village where we grew up. The lady hated to buy any stuff from the nearby 'small' market. She would always crib about the groceries, vegetables, fish, meat... everything from this market. Everything from there, for her, was either stale or sub-standard. She preferred the main, 'big' market at 'Town'. She would spend money and time to travel all the way out there and buy her 'bazaar', as she would love to call it. Her husband hated this obsession with the 'big' market. "Silly lady," she would tell us, "Even the rotten fish from this 'big' market is gold for her." Often, he would, quietly, buy fish or vegetables from the nearby market, and, at home, he would lie. As long as the stuff was from the 'big' market from the 'Town', the lady would be happy. Nothing should come from the goddamn market nearby.

We would have great fun whenever the man would narrate to us his adventures. That was over thirty years ago.

Here in Mumbai, I know one family. As most of us tend to have, I had my own biased opinion about the members of this family: The husband is a 'big mouth'... he drinks too much. The wife is illiterate, uninformed... she doesn't mix with others. The children are dumb... they don't speak good English. No matter how 'informed' and how 'smart' we are, most of us do suffer from this disease called 'bias'. At least, I do. And, I know, that it is despite my so-called exposure to so many good books, workshops, and training!

I happened to meet this 'uninformed', simple lady some weeks ago. During the brief conversation, she told me that she was returning from a camp organised by her 'Master'. I, casually, enquired about their organisation and particularly about the 'Master'. And, behold! For the next fifteen minutes, she gave me 'gyaan'. "My Master says, everything that we seek is inside us," she said with a lot of confidence. "He keeps saying, that his role is not to teach us any new truths, instead, to remind us about the truths that we have already known... but forgotten."

"How true," I echoed, "Please give me a book or a CD of your Master, if you can." I must tell you, when I said this to her, I was not honest. Though I love to read books and watch CD's on such subjects, when it came from a lady who, in my prejudiced mind, was a 'dumb lady' - my 'bloated' ego couldn't appreciate whatever wisdom the lady was sharing that evening. I was filtering whatever she was saying through my biased screen. I was judging her, throughout.

The next morning, the husband - yes, the 'big mouth' and 'drunkard', in my view - showed up at my office and handed over a Magazine and DVD of their Master. "Sir, you will surely like them," he assured me. "If you wish, you can join us with your family to watch more programmes at our place." "You know, sir," he continued, "I drink; but, let me tell you, what the Master says is something very simple yet so great."

"Thanks. I would certainly read the Magazine and watch the DVD," I told him, again, unable to accept whatever he was saying without the smoked screen.

The next day, late at night, I put the DVD on our laptop. As I began to hear this Master, I knew, I was listening to not only a great orator, but also some mind-blowing stuff. As the talk began to unfold, my wife and son, who, normally, stay away from such 'silly charlatans', pulled chairs close to mine and settled down. For the next one hour or so, we all were simply glued to the masterly presentation.

"Great!" This was the unanimous verdict.

"Who gave you this?" was the next logical question.

"Some one," I said, without revealing the identity of the family.

"But, who?" they persisted.

"Did you like it," I asked them, fully knowing they did.

"Of course; that's why we are asking you: 'Where did you get it from?' " they chorused.

"There are more DVD's, it seems. I'll try to get them," I quietly dodged their question.

The stuff was from the 'big bazaar'! I remembered the man from our village. He had taught us how to tell those 'white lies' to make even the rotten fish taste like gold. The only difference, in this case, was that, rotten was my own mind.




GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DOG'S TAIL

About ten street dogs - some big ones and some small ones - had surrounded him. They were so happy, so grateful to this man that you could feel it just by watching their tails... Just the way they jumped around him to catch those biscuits as he kept dropping them in their mouths. The show went on for about ten minutes, and the dogs - all satisfied and happy - went their way.

I happened to land at that spot just as the show was about to end. The man, who ran a small shop, had been doing this act for years. Obviously, this batch of the dogs is one of the many he had been serving all along. Today is a Tuesday. This morning, when I met him at that spot, he offered me the 'Prasad' from the famous Siddi Vinayak temple, from where he had just returned. A few yards away from his home, he was feeding the dogs.

"Just look at these animals. They are so grateful, so loyal... They are far better than human beings," I said to the man as I accepted the 'Prasad'.

"No, no," the man exclaimed with an honest smile, "Even the human beings are good."

I was stumped.

There was no criticism in the statement made by this man. It was the most sincere and respectful disagreement one could ever encounter. Yet, it had a piercing effect not only on my mind and heart, but also on my eyes. The words opened my eyes... compelled my mind to meditate on - and heart to realise - the magnitude of the impact our words, our statements leave on our well-being... All, without we becoming aware of it, even.

When I reflect on this episode, I am convinced that I wanted to impress upon the man by making that statement. What I did not realise was that it was still morning... My day was yet to start. How could I expect a good day when I was starting my day with such a loose statement? Are my fellow beings so disloyal, untrustworthy? What did I, really, mean when I said, "These animals are far better than human beings?"

The man was a simple shopkeeper. The statement,"No, no. Even the human beings are good," came from a simple, uneducated fellow being of mine. He had returned from the shrine... He was feeding the dogs - showing his care, making them happy. His day began with such acts, such words, such feelings and thoughts. And, mine?

I don't have to tell.

Most of us, often, are guilty of indulging in such self-defeating behaviours. And, we need a simple soul - and those delightfully wagging tails - to help us open our eyes, our minds, our hearts.

I, too, came my way, this morning, a lot happier, wiser and humbler. Of course, with that arrogant tail of mine, firmly tucked inside!


GERALD D'CUNHA

Monday, January 11, 2010

EVERYBODY'S SKY

"Everything, in life, happens at the right time, and for the right reasons." I was talking to a gentleman on some 'troubling' issues in his life.

"Maybe, that is so in your life," this gentleman was quick to react. "In mine, everything happens at the wrong time, and for the wrong reasons."

His life had problems; he felt, life was 'unfair' towards him. And, here was I, a 'philosopher', trying to calm him down with those famous - perhaps, outdated - words, "Everything, in life, happens at the right time and for the right reasons." Apparently, he had become tired and fed up listening to that 'Pop Philosophy'. He wanted to yell at me, "Stop that crap; give me something that works."

I had nothing else to give him, except that crap.

Is Life, in deed, 'unfair' to some like this gentleman? Does everything for them happen at the 'wrong time' and for 'wrong reasons'?

How can I answer these questions for others? I can answer them for myself. That is why that gentleman was so quick in his reaction: "Maybe, that's so in your life; in mine, everything happens at the wrong time, and for the wrong reasons." It is his life, his experience, his perception, his response and conclusion. My life, too, is filled with problems and challenges. And, as in everybody's life, my problems and challenges come without any announcement; leave alone my invitation. They try to intimidate me, scare me, frustrate me... try to make me cynical and gloomy. And, for a while, they do succeed. But then, there is something called 'zest' for life. I think, that is the anchor... It helps me regain my perspective, bounce back again and move on. It helps me to say, mostly with a smile, "It's okay; the dark clouds will pass... I will learn; I will grow; I will emerge stronger and wiser.

How can we ever feel grateful in life, for any situations - however good or bad they may be - without feeling zestful? We need to truly love life. We may not like our life-situations. But, Life is much beyond all our life-situations. Life is, always, simple, uncomplicated and even permanent. Peace has this nature... This quiet state of being. The more we react to our situations, the more ungrateful we become. The more ungrateful we become, the more sorrow, sadness and anger we experience. That is why it is said, "We can be peaceful even when we are nailed on the cross." Pain is there... very much there. But, to suffer or not to suffer... It is always our 'choice'.

And, that comes from our zest for life. Our love.

Tomorrow will, definitely, be another day. And, I know, there will be new problems and challenges. So what? May that be that way... as it has been always. How can I ask the sky for more sunshine, less of clouds? How can I expect different stars and a different moon? Everybody’s sky is my sky, too; everybody’s stars are mine, too. The moon, too. If that is so, every time I look at the sky, I have a choice: to sing in glory, or to whine in complaints. The choice is, certainly, mine.

I did not argue with the gentleman when he reacted. I try hard not to do the same whenever I gaze into the God’s sky. May He provide the wisdom to each of his children… That is His choice!

To me, everything, in life, not only happens at the right time and for the right reasons, it also happens for my good.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, January 8, 2010

PARADOX OF LOVING OUR ENEMIES

In my last post, I wrote on the 'Paradox of Money'. In today's post, I wish to write on another Paradox: 'the 'Paradox of loving our enemies'.

Who is an enemy? Does he actually exist? Or, does he just exist in our minds - a creation of our own perception, our distorted thinking?

"Do not tell me to be a Jesus Christ," this middle-aged lady retorted to me some years ago, "I don't wish to be nailed on the cross like Him." I was trying to broker peace between this lady and another one. They had a prolonged history of bitterness, distrust and animosity.

It is less than four years, since that episode. Presently, the two ladies have become best of friends. The equation has changed; both of them have come together... They have new, common enemies. I am one of them!

Life, indeed, is too short. These two ladies are the monumental example! In Politics, nobody is any body's permanent friend or enemy. A year, there, is incredibly a long time! Any change can happen... even faster than a miracle!

Well, I have come to believe, that, Politics, no matter how much we dislike it, does not spare any one of our lives. We ARE political in our thinking; we ARE politicians. Whether we like it or not; and, whether we agree with it or not. It is just a matter of degree, the size.

This morning, when I entered our lift, I bumped into this lady who did not want to be a Jesus Christ. "Oh, hi ma'am'," I instinctively exclaimed, as I closed the lift door behind me. "Good morning," I added.

A stone-like silence was in store for me. From the fourth floor, till we landed at the ground floor, the lady showed no response. "Bye ma'am," I said, as she hurriedly moved out before me, with the shrewdest front one could ever put.

Now that I am in my office, and, this lady... well, probably, must be at her residence. I am curious to know what must be going on in her mind: "You better stay away from me," or, "Don't try to impress me," or, "Your better know, I am still angry and not forgiven you," or, "Go to hell... I don't care." ... I am really curious to know what goes on in the mind of a person who is in her place.

I can tell you what goes on in my mind. I feel good about myself; I feel light. I bear no grudges against this lady... I never bore any, ever. There, certainly, has been some misunderstanding, which I, from my part, have tried to clarify, but in vain. I feel, I am in alignment with my core values: harmony, tolerance, forgiveness, humility and reconciliation. I think, after this morning's incidence, I came out a lot relieved, a lot light.

It is for me to 'choose' what is 'right' and what is 'good' for me... for my self-esteem and well-being. Similarly, it is for that lady to make her own choices. She chose the route she felt best for her; I did what I, instinctively, felt best for me.

Mind Games. Power Games. Body Language. Many insist on using these tools and strategies to deal with their opponents. "Don't' say 'Hello' to him," "Don't shake hands with him," "Don't give smile to him," "Ignore him," "Let him know that you are not weak; you are strong."... These are some of the instructions I have, often, received from some of my well-wishers. I love them, and I know they give me this advice with good intentions. But, what I do not agree is that I am not weak when I give smile to my enemy; I am not weak, when I say 'Hi' and offer my hand. I feel light, good... and, that is more important to me.

Probably, if I could feel equally light and good, after snubbing as that lady did, I, too, might have used the tools and strategies of Power Games. But, I have nothing to prove to any one. I need harmony within; and, for that, I have to be in line with my deepest values.

Living in this world means living with all sorts of people. I am one of the sorts. I know, misunderstanding is a part of our life. I also know, all misunderstanding can be sorted out if our personal intentions are clear, honest and good... If we 'will' and 'desire' peace.

Politics is a reality of our living. My life is no exception. Yes, politics 'governs' our lives. And, our lives, in deed, are too short. Please note, a year, in politics, is a very, very long time.

Ma'am I love you.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

THE PARADOX OF MONEY

The less you hold on to things, the more you own them!

It is, indeed, a great paradox of life.

One reason why we constantly experience lack of money in our life is because, we tend to hold on to it, hoard it, are suspicious about it.

When money comes in, however small in quantity, do we feel grateful for the inflow? When we pay our bills, do we pay with blessings to the payee?

The answer is obvious. When money comes in, we take it for granted; we assume that we are 'entitled ' to it. And, when we pay our bills, we grumble, we resist, we feel robbed by some one... and there is a nagging sadness, sorrow and even anger inside.

So, how can we ever experience prosperity? How can we ever feel content and happy over money?

On 31st of December, a surprise envelope came to me by post. I wasn't expecting at all the IT refund that day. For a moment, I paused and thanked. I could feel the gladness, fulfilment. It had nothing to do with the size of the amount; but, certainly, it had a lot to do with the depth of my thankfulness.

They call such surprises in life - 'Bonus'.

The more you expect, the less you receive. The more you hold on, the less our feel the ownership. I experienced this truth last evening, all over again. The Internet bill of our laptop wasn't the kind I was expecting. When my wife wanted me to pay it, I blasted at her and my son. The usage was really high; the bill was really high... and my temper, too! But, in the end, I could not avoid the payment. I had to pay... and, I did it with lots of resistance, grumbling, sorrow and anger.

The result? No doubt - pain and lack.

It is less than twenty-four hours since that explosion. Now, I don't feel the 'pain' at all. Hey, why did I sweat so much? Hey, could I save the situation? Hey, after all that emotional 'hatyachaar', can I be sure that the usage in the future will be less, the bill amount will be less, my temper will be less?

I have, already, dropped the incident behind. But, before doing that, I had to clear the clutter... I had to write this post... I had to 'bless' Reliance Broadband for sending such a surprise, which I mistook as a 'rude shock'.

It is for me to take care of my happiness... Not for 'them'. Yes, neither my spouse, nor my son and nor Reliance.

The less I tighten the grip, the more I shall experience the freedom.


GERALD D'CUNHA

Friday, January 1, 2010

GUNS AND ROSES

I ended the year 2009 at IMAX dome theatre, watching "AVATAR" with my wife. And what a way to end an year!

James Cameron must be a great dreamer - a great child dreamer. The movie is sur-real, unbelievably grand, huge and beautiful. Watching on a gigantic screen at IMAX made it even more magical. I still see it in my mind, still dream about it.

"Everything in this world is created twice," it is said, "First, in our minds, and then in the outside world." Every movie, every book, every work of art or architecture, every enterprise or empire... even war, even peace. 'AVATAR', I am told, lived in Cameron's mind for more than fifteen years. When it came into the world, it came so brilliantly. Shah Jahan dreamt of the Taj Mahal, Colombus dreamt of India, the New World...

Yes, every creation begins with a dream, in our minds, in our hearts. It has been always that way... right from the Genesis. God dreamt of this universe, this world... and it came to be manifested. Hitler dreamt of a world of 'Superior race'...and, we all know how he went about it! Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt of Freedom to the Negroes... and, we know how he went about achieving his ideal, his dream. Gandhi did the same, Jinnah did the same. Every creation is our own. We create our own world, our own universe.

Today, TOI has done something commendable: 'LOVE PAKISTAN' campaign. The front page is white, and the doves carry the message. If you want peace, be the first one to say 'Hi', be the first one to shake hands. That's why in the message it says, even if we think that we have been badly hurt and betrayed, even if we think that it is 'they' who should say 'sorry' first - if peace is what we want, there is no other way but to stretch our hand and say "Hi".

Naive?

It is. It should be. Because, only children can come around and be friends, all over again, and again and again. Only children can forget and forgive so fast, and so often. We should become - all of us - little children all over again. We should learn to dream all over again. We should let go the heaviness, the weight of enmity, old grudges. Life is too short. One more year has rolled by... one more year of bitterness and hate.

Today, as we all so mechanically wish each other 'Happy New Year' - let's for a while pause and ask: "Do we really mean what we say?" Let's ask: "Do we really want peace and happiness in and around us?"

I really do not know what is there in store for us in 2010. But, I know I can always be the first one to say 'Hi'... I can be always be the first one to shake hand. Such acts stem from clean, noble intentions. Peace comes from there... when we do not calculate a lot, when we do not bother about too many conditions. We just say 'Hi', and we say it straight from our hearts.

Love is the greatest weapon ever developed on this planet, by any one. Peace will never - and can not - come from mighty guns. It comes from a genuine 'Hi', a sincere handshake. Yes, it is just a hug away!

I hope to see our world in 2010 in a new 'AVATAR'. I pledge my hand, my heart, my hug to translate this dream.

Love and best wishes,


GERALD D'CUNHA