Friday, April 30, 2010


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!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010


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…



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.


(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.



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?


Friday, April 23, 2010


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


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!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


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.