Thursday, August 30, 2012

KILL KASAB









For the past one week or so, many of my FB friends and their friends – in fact, the whole world – had been spreading the message: ‘Kill Kasab’!


Well, I did not register in my mind what that message actually signified, nor did I send it to any of my FB friends. Then, last night, I came to know from someone from my Society that the death sentence had been served on Kasab. The man who told me this was very happy and proud. “It is the end of terrorism,” his relieved look seemed to tell me, “All our problems are now over.”


About two years ago, I had blogged on the subject. “We have pinned high hopes on Kasab,” I had written, “that, when he is hanged, the terrorism would come to an end… that, we would be able to live peacefully!”


Now, this man, Ajmal Kasab, is going to be hanged. So, the terrorism is going to go from  our land… there will be peace!


Is it something like that?












“Kill Kasab!”


I still wonder what that FB message signified!


Who should Kill Kasab?


The Supreme Court? Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh? Or we, the mob?


“Kill Kasab!” 


This man, for all practical purposes, was dead… rather, was kept alive somehow! Now, the ‘Hang Him’ verdict is out, and they will do the formality… yes, of ‘killing him’.


So, we can send a long sigh of relief, isn’t it?


We can hope to live here peacefully, isn’t it?


Terrorism will end, isn’t it?


We had pinned our hopes on Kasab, isn’t it? 





Today, I thought, I would send the message, my self: “Kill Kasab”!


Like you and me, this Kasab was a simple young boy… and, he got carried away by some deadly men. 


Any young boy, in any vicinity – right under our very own roofs – can become a ‘Kasab’… and go on a destructive mission like that… 


I say, anyone, anywhere has the same seed of intolerance, ignorance, greed and hatred as this man had…


Anybody can be made a scapegoat like this young man, who, we are now going to hang!














“Kill Kasab!”… This is a powerful call… Yes, it dawned on me, this morning!





So, let us kill him…


 the seed of intolerance, ignorance, 


greed and hatred in our souls… 







Let’s pin our hopes on this Kasab… 


Yes, when this Kasab dies, the terrorism will certainly die…


And, there will be peace on this earth…


Well, if not on earth, in our own souls, at least!





GERALD D’CUNHA


Pics.: Raj Dhage Wai



Monday, August 27, 2012

EVERYTHING IS A COMMUNICATION



















It is past 10 in the morning; still, it is very dark outside… It has been pouring relentlessly. My mood is definitely affected by the way the Nature behaves with me… Frankly, I do not like this gloom outside… “Can you be a little brighter?”   I hear me say in my heart, “Can you make me smile?”
 

“Everything in life is communication?” I was telling someone, last evening. 


“The mother who prepares our supper at night… or the father who returns home after slogging hard through the day… or the little fellow, who,  with his school uniform soaked in muck, storms into the house like Napoleon Bonaparte… Yes, they all communicate…


The Director who projects on the giant cinema-screen the hues of drama-in-real-life… the woman who sings, without words, her opera as if in a trance… the clown who makes you laugh under the circus tent… the villain who makes you scared as you read the fiction on a starless night… Yes, they all communicate….


The salesman who is hell-bent to clinch his deal… the banker who conspires to woe or shoo you… the advocates who argue like bitter enemies… the teacher who screams her lungs out in school… Yes, they all communicate…


The young one who uploads his latest pix on the FB… or the cute girl who waits endlessly for her Romeo to come on his sports bike… the house-wife who inhales and exhales in her morning Yoga-class, or the gentleman who spends some quality time with his buddies over a couple of drinks in the Gymkhana… Yes, they all communicate…


The Mullah who wakes you up even before the Sun is out… the Priest who lends his ear for your sins… the bride who hides behind her veil… the doctor who can tell what is wrong with your liver… or, the butcher who slits those poor throats… Yes, they all communicate…


They all tell a story…


And, every story has a beginning and an end… Yes, there is middle, too…


There is hero and a heroine… there is a villain and a joker…





There is something to feel happy about, 


something to feel sad about… 


something to inspire 


and something to scare… 





Everything is a story, whether I like it or not… 


Everything, in life, is a piece of communication…


Everyone and everything around wants to ‘express’…


Whether I like it or not…









The gloom outside has turned even more intense… the rain is lashing out even harder…


And, they behave so, even though I have pleaded before them: “Can you be a little brighter?”… “Can you make me smile?”


Believe me, till I am not ready to accept the other side of the argument, my argument will keep me like this…


So, my argument with the day-darkness outside is also communication, a story…


I am trying to express… what my heart wants to say…


Just like the shy bride behind the white veil… 


Or, like the happy clown with the red ball on his nose!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Roopa Sushil












Sunday, August 26, 2012

OUR DAILY LEDGER

















So, today, I am writing about another Armstrong. And, for another reason. 



I had turned 11 in the same month, July 1969, when Apollo 11 had landed on the Moon. I was in fifth standard studying in a local school… 



And, I still remember how I was coming back home, all jumping with my friends… Hey, we were given a holiday!



The reason?



Man had landed on the Moon!



And, Neil Armstrong was this man!



No Television sets, dear… still we kids knew how a man had landed on the Moon!



My dad was a huge fan of J.F.Kennedy. He kept telling us that it was President Kennedy’s dream to send Man to the Moon, before the decade ended, and bring him safely home. 



President Kennedy did not live to see his own dream come true… “He is watching it from right up there, sitting on his rocking chair!” our dad would beam as he dramatized. We kids simply believed in what our dad would tell us!





“A small step for Man, 


a giant leap for mankind!” 


It took many years for kids like us 


to understand what those famous words 


of Neil Armstrong meant…









Yesterday, at 82, this Commander of Apollo – 11 passed away!



Except for the famous ‘first-step-on-the-Moon’, there is nothing much I know about Neil Armstrong. I am sure, it is so with the rest of the world, as well. 



So, one can imagine how one’s life is forever measured by that one great event! It would be difficult to wipe it off the human memory… as difficult to wipe out the Armstrong’s maiden footprints on the surface of the Moon. In fact, once, when he was asked as to how he felt knowing his footprints would likely to stay on the Moon's surface for thousands of years, Armstrong had remarked, "I kind of hope that somebody goes up there one of these days and cleans them up!" 



This hope would always remain a hope! 



The rest of his life, Neil Armstrong had chosen to live a quiet life… He was a private man… content more with meeting with dignity the daily little challenges of life. But, his Moon-walk was his Destiny and it would live with him as his shadow till he died yesterday.



I did not know, how frustrating such a situation could be till I came across Neil Armstrong’s remarks in one of his interviews on CBS in 2005:

"I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work." 



Oh God! This is a giant of a confession!



There is much more to life than just a few fireworks, now and then… 



Neil Armstrong says, my friends, that his daily ledger contains much more than that one mind-blowing firework on July 20, in 1969!



It is time, we opened our own daily ledgers!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Yogita Tipnis















Saturday, August 25, 2012

LIVESTRONG...
















One morning, in the summer of 2007, Apurv Verma, who was one of my students in 1983-84, just appeared before me in my office. I was pleasantly surprised to see him after so many years.

 
When Apurv came to me, I was putting together an inspirational book titled – ‘The Cheetah’ to be released in June that year. I knew someone would appear, from nowhere, to help me up financially. My heart opened up before my dear student, and Apurv, who was then a Vice President of one of the multinationals, said ‘yes’ without even blinking.


So, on June 10, 2007, on the annual Graduation day of THE DAWN CLUB students, we held a book-releasing ceremony. During the function, I put my arm around Apurv and spoke fondly about him to the audience. In response, he spoke kindly about me and, showed every one two books that had left a great impact on his life. He had brought a copy of each book to gift me, and he spoke something about the books and their author.


Lance Armstrong was the author… And, his two famous books were: ‘It’s Not About The Bike’ and ‘Every Second Counts’. 


The man had won the coveted world championship seven times in the grueling cycling contest ‘Tour de France’. 


It is not the victory in the cycling contest that had made Armstrong a cult hero. It was his victory over the dreaded testicular cancer. He fought it hard, and after years of enduring the trauma and torture, he was declared ‘cancer-free’. He inspired millions of people all over the world… and, in 1999, when he made a spectacular comeback winning the title once again, he practically had turned into a beacon of hope!


As you read Armstrong’s books, you can feel what a great fighter he is. Yes, to win seven times the contest such as Tour de France, you need to burn your ass on the bike for years and years on. And, to win a race against your own death, you need to burn your heart the way he did!


So, as the title of the books say: it is not about the bike… and, every second does count!


I became an instant fan of Lance Armstrong… and, I have gifted several copies of his books to several people after Apurv gifted it to me in 2007.




Today’s newspapers have this on the front page: “The great fighter against cancer, and seven-time Tour de France champion, gives up the legal battle against dope-charge… Stripped off all the titles!”


My heart stopped!


I was in a hurry to leave home this morning when I glanced upon the headlines. But, I immediately sulked on the chair and stayed back to read the entire report. 


Later, all along the way to my workplace, I was left disturbed.


Lance Armstrong had been a strong man. ‘Strong’ is, in fact, a weak word to describe him. 


‘LIVESTRONG’… this is the message of hope he gives to millions of cancer victims. Our own Yuvraj Singh found solace and hope through Armstrong’s books and messages when he was fighting cancer in the hospital. 


It’s not about the bike…


It is about life…


It is about living…


It is about surviving great odds…


It is about faith, hope and courage…


So, millions of people who adored him are not really the die-hard fans of a great cycling race. I am not. 


Then, why did Armstrong choose not to fight the doping charge leveled by the US anti-dope agency?


"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,' Armstrong said in a statement on Thursday.”For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999… the witch-hunt has taken the toll on my family, and my work for our Foundation and on me… it leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense… I have decided not to fight the charges whatever be its consequences…”




Frankly, it is not important to me to know whether or not Lance Armstrong won his cycling races by doping himself… thereby cheating. To me, it is important that he did much beyond those cycling races… 



He inspired a guy like me… who doesn’t know the ‘c’ of a cycling race; leave alone the Tour de France.! 



Sorry friends, I may be alone in defending Lance Armstrong’s – call him the ‘fallen hero’, or the ‘disgraced legend’ or the ‘cheat’ or whatever you like – decision not to defend himself against the doping charges. Hey, a weak man would have fought them… For, the consequences of such a decision are just scary…  Yes, they are going to be scary!



And, yet, this man says ‘enough is enough… come what may’!



I only pray!












My mind goes back to another scene… where, more than two thousand years ago, another Hero of mine is dragged before the ‘Kangaroo court’ of a despot king called Herod. This king mocks at my Hero, teases Him to perform before him some of His miracles… asks Him if He is the ‘King of Jews’… or the ‘Son of God’… and all such things. And, the Holy Book, which I swear by, says that my Hero chooses not to say anything. That, He chooses to be silent!





Jesus Christ was already condemned 


to be ‘guilty’ before any court 


could prove him ‘guilty’. 


He knew what was going to come… 


He was prepared to face the consequences… 


He ‘accepted the cup’!




I do not worship Herod or Pontius Pilate…who condemned Jesus. I worship the ‘condemned’!



I have chosen the ‘guilty’ as my Hero… my hope, my salvation!



Thus, today, even though I may look alone in it, I would still choose to say the same thing about Lance Armstrong…



They have stripped Armstrong off all his cycling titles... In the days to come, they may strip him off many more things… Like they did with my Hero before nailing Him on the cross, they have already stripped my hero, Lance Armstrong, off his famous yellow jersey. 





But, there is something no authority on earth can strip us off: The might of a human decision… and his resolve to accept its consequences! It takes formidable strength to take a call like that… It is a steely stuff, my friends… Mind you, you can’t nail human spirit on the cross… You just can’t!



And, I tell you this: even if you dope yourself with the strongest drug on earth, you won’t be able to take a call which this man – Lance Armstrong – has taken now. 



“LIVESTRONG… Armstrong!”




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Janardhan Narayan


Friday, August 24, 2012

NEVER A DULL MOMENT








If growing-up is fun, then, there should never be a dull moment in life!


Because, growing-up is a life-long experience…


This morning, I caught myself giving a long sermon to a group of six students of twelfth standard. Suddenly, it struck me, in the midst of my sermon, that some twenty-five years ago, incidentally, I had taught either one or both the parents of all these six students! And, I realized that I used to sermon the parents of these young ones, those days, as animatedly as I was doing this morning! Yes, the same fire and passion… same temper and language! 


“Hey, now listen to me, you guys,” I found myself telling my ‘faithful’, “a quarter-century ago, I used to lecture your dads or moms exactly the way I am doing to you now!”


They giggled!


My sermon ended!


“I will tell you guys,” I shook my head with a lot of contentment, “there has never been a dull moment in all these years!”


Honestly, I meant every bit of that line!




Life has been a roller-coaster ride… I had enough of everything which one could ever hope to have in life. Times were good and times were bad… There were moments of success and there were moments of failures… There have been so many good souls to lean on and there have been so many to let me down… Things have worked the way I have planned and things have fallen apart breaking my heart… And, there have been pleasant surprises… gifts, bonuses and windfalls - all like the precious ‘Manna’ from heaven! There have been times, I have felt like a winner in life… and, there have been times, I have felt like a loser…


All this?


Yes, yes.




And, still, there is a reason 


to believe that 


there has never been 


a dull moment in life?
 


Yes, there has never been!











At 6.45, this morning, when I opened the curtains of our window, my heart smiled at what I first saw outside. A lady was taking her brisk walk. 


What is so special about it? 


“Darling,” I called my wife, “look here!” 


When my darling wife saw the sight, her heart too smiled. “Never a dull moment here!” she shook her head.



The lady was taking rounds after rounds holding her quite-a-big Doberman close to her heart!



Yes, if growing-up is fun, then, there should never be a dull moment in life!


Because, growing-up is a life-long experience!



“Now you go home and ask your parents,” I had told my young-six this morning, “whether or not I preached them with the same fire and ice twenty-five years ago!”


Never a dull moment, darling… Never, ever!











GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Prakash S. Nayak






Thursday, August 23, 2012

THE ASSAM IN MY SOUL













Presently, there is terrible turmoil in Assam. The state is in a mess. Yes, I read the news reports… watch the endless stories and gory images on television… and, start reacting in my mind. 


What is happening out there in Assam… I do not like. It disturbs me…


But, what can I – an ordinary citizen from one corner of far-away Mumbai - do about it?




It is just like watching on the television the horrifying images of the Twin-towers of New York City collapsing!


It is just like watching the frightening scenes of tsunami or earthquakes somewhere out there in the world…


It is just like watching the American fighters bombing the cities in Iraq or Afghanistan…


It is just like watching the chilling sight of a gunman shooting down dozens of innocent children in a school…


The mob goes on a rampage at Azad Maidan…


The terrorists storm luxury hotels and hold the nation at ransom…


A desperate young watchman sneaks, in the dread of the night, into a young lady’s flat, when she is alone and fast asleep… and, does his brutal job!


A thousand scenes like these, near and far, keep unfolding before me, almost daily… and I watch them helplessly… and, I react in my mind!


Yes, I am concerned about them… 


But, can I do something about them? Can I stop them from happening? Can I help in some way?










 Anna’s fast has ended… Now, this incorruptible soul has folded up his mission and gone back to his village. 


What am I doing here - I mean, to end corruption… to ‘bring back’ the black money?




By the way, who is corrupt … 


the Ministers alone or me too? 


Who has black money… 


the Ministers alone or me too?
 


Come on!!!


Why am I not willing to fast to end this corruption, this black money… this brutality, intolerance, hatred and terrorism?


Why do I need an Anna or a Baba  for it? 


Come on!!!


The more I think about it, the more I feel how dumb I can be!


What is easy to douse – the fire in the streets of Assam or in the valleys of my own heart?


What is practical – to free India of corruption, or my own soul?


What is worth fasting for – the messy world outside or the messy world inside?



‘I am Anna’… if I do not know what those words on the topi mean, then, it is time I wore a topi that reads: ‘I am a fool’!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Manohar Kadam



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN...






 










“Who is my best friend?”


Last night, this question kept haunting me over and over again. And, in the process, I found myself quite disturbed. Not because, I did not have many good friends… There are.



The disturbance was essentially linked to this thought: “Would I stand by my friend, when the chips are down for him?”



I really felt scared to think too deep into this question… “Would I be with my friend, when the times are difficult for him?”



Would I?



No one else could answer this question for me…



Yes, in my life, there have been some friends, who have stood by me when my own chips were down… Most of the times, it is the moral support that matters in such times… Some patient listening, some timely, sane advice, some re-assurance, that, things would be normal soon… That I can count on them any time…



And, yes, I too have stood by some of my own friends when times were tough for them… and, yes, most of the times, my being there for them with my patient listening, kind and re-assuring words and the genuine promise that I would be there for them any time… Yes, most of the times, only such subtle, well-meant, gestures from my end were enough to claim that I was a good friend.



In life, we need some good, very genuine friends… and happily most of us do have our own. When I look back at some of my own good friends, and reflect on how we became good friends, it really surprises me. It was not money, status or fame or any such glittering stuff that made us bond… it was just that we had valued some fine things in each other and felt extremely comfortable to express our joys and sorrows. And, each-other’s ups and downs in life did concern us… We rejoiced and cried in each-other’s success and failures in life.



No, we never deserted when chips were down, unlike rats jumping off a sinking ship!



No, we have never been the proverbial ‘fair-weather friends’!




Last night, 


when these feelings surged through my heart, 


I felt blessed and humbled 


at this Life’s privilege… 





But, I also shuddered, deep down in my heart, when the question kept haunting me:



“Would I be by my friend, when the chips are down for him?”



GERALD D’CUNHA  


Pics.: Ronald Fernades











Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GETTING BACK OUR HAPPINESS







When I am sad and unhappy, if you give me two options: either to consult a Philosopher or our Mullah Nasrudin, I would, any time, prefer the Mullah.


I know, the Mullah is a crazy fellow… but, he can surprise us with some of the best solutions!


“Look at the bright side… There are people worse than you in this world… The Glass is half full and not half empty… Every dark cloud has a silver lining… God tests you through your difficulties… Sweet is the pleasure after pain… and, Tough times never last but tough people do...” All these are the ways of a Philosopher… and we all are busy solving our problems by philosophizing… rationalizing… theorizing… 


The Mullah may sound like a quack. But, he can offer some of the best treatments.



One day, the Mullah was talking to a man from another town. The man began to lament: “Look at my tragedy… I have this wealth, but I am so sad and miserable. In desperation, I have bundled up all my wealth and set on a journey to find my joy back!”


As the rich man kept talking, Nasrudin grabbed the man’s bag of wealth and fled with it. Immediately, the rich man began to chase the Mullah until he was completely out of sight.


After a while, the Mullah placed himself behind a tree, and threw the bag filled with money in the open road for the man to see.


The moment the wealthy man sighted his bag of wealth, he turned ecstatic and began to jump in the air with incredible amount of joy. “I am happy, at last… I am happy, at last!’ he kept shouting… “I am happy, at last.”


Watching this strange sight from behind that tree, our great Mullah too was very happy! “Wow! What a simple way to get back our joy!” he concluded, “I just had to grab his bag and give it back to him!”




And, that perhaps will explain to you as to why Mullah Nasrudin had his legendary love-hate-relationship with all the Philosophers of his time.



The Mullah had become very famous and every one was talking about him. Many people preferred to consult the Mullah for their problems rather than consulting the learned Philosophers. Obviously, this did not go well with the Philosophers and they were waiting for opportunities to expose the eccentric Mullah. 


So, once, a famous Philosopher fixed an appointment with Nasrudin to have a scholarly discussion. When the day came, the Philosopher arrived at  Nasrudin’s house as pre-decided. But, Nasrudin was not at home. The Scholar was furious. He immediately pulled a pencil from his pocket  and wrote on Mullah’s door – ‘ASSHOLE’! With that, he left hastily, seething and swearing at his bĂȘte noire!


Later that day, when Nasrudin returned to his house, he saw what was written on his door. Realizing that he had missed his appointment with the great Philosopher, he quickly rushed towards the Philosopher’s house.


“Sir, please forgive me for my mistake,” the Mullah told the Philosopher on reaching there. He explained to the learned man, “I had completely forgotten about our meeting, today. But, when I got home and saw that you were kind enough to write your name on my door, I immediately remembered and I came here as fast as I could.” With all the humility in the world, the Mullah bowed his head before the wise man and gently whispered, “I am so, so sorry, sir!”













Yes, let me end with what I had started off with: When I am sad and unhappy, if you offer me two options – either to seek help from a great Philosopher or our crazy Nasrudin, I would bow my head before the Mullah. Yes, any time!




GERALD D’CUNHA


Pics.: 1. Hemangi D'Cunha
         2. Shalet Crasta