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