Wednesday, October 31, 2012

KIND OR UNKIND?






Last week, I was talking to a gentleman during a function in a  friends' place. His elder daughter is now settled in America with her husband and their little son. "The Nature has been kind to this country," the gentleman said to me, "there is so much rich land, so full of natural resources." 


I had agreed with this man.


America is the most sought-after land for the migrants. It is the richest land... Yes, the Nature has been so kind to every one who steps into this great country.


But, just some four days after I heard this statement – which, I had agreed with completely – now, I watch  these frightening images of 'Hurricane Sandy'... which has devastated the city of New York and humbled the mighty nation of America!


Why do all these horrendous hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and storms explode on this country, with such ruthless frequency? 


I was asking this morning, as I was reading the newspaper reports: "Why is Nature so unkind to America?"


“Kind or ‘Unkind.”… Yes, “Who knows?”


Let me recount this old Zen-story, all over again.


Once, there lived, in a Chinese village, a wise old-man. He had a great horse and every one in the village thought that the old man was the most fortunate one. 


Then, one day, the horse fled into the nearby mountains. When the news spread, the villagers came rushing to the old-man’s house to sympathize with him on his ‘bad luck’.


But, the wise old-man only said to them:

“Bad luck or good luck, who knows?”


Some days later, the horse returned to the old-man’s house – delightfully, accompanied by a beautiful white-mare… a lovely lady horse!


When the news spread, the villagers, once again, came rushing to the old-man’s house, this time, to congratulate him on this ‘good luck’.


But, the wise old-man, only said to them:

“Good luck or bad luck, who knows?”


After some days, while riding on the beautiful white-mare, the old-man’s young son was thrown  off and  he broke his legs! 


When the news spread, the villagers made a bee-line to the old-man’s house, all over again… Yes, this time around, to sympathize with him on his latest ‘bad luck’.


And, yet again, the wise old-man, had only this to say:

“Bad luck or good luck, who knows?”


Many more days passed by. A war broke out with the neighboring state. The Army  men marched into the village and picked every able-bodied young man. When they came to the old-man’s house, they saw the young man with the broken leg. And, they left him alone!





Now, is it ‘Good Luck’ or ‘Bad Luck’… 


yes, who knows?

 








Today, when the similar question haunts me: “Is Nature kind or unkind to us - the US"... I can only find an answer in this old paradoxical-tale!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.:Raj Dhage Wai







Tuesday, October 30, 2012

POUR YOUR HEART INTO IT...















A young doctor-friend of mine has come up the hard way in life. He is exceptionally qualified and has built a fairly-large medical-facility in our town. Whenever a young man seeks his advice, this doctor is fond of telling this: “In life, you always have a choice – to be a consumer or a producer/creator.”


Some months ago, a worried father had taken his young son to this doctor. The young man, it seems, was crazy about the latest gadgets and gizmos… as almost all young ones are… the latest and the finest cell-phones, lap-tops, tablets, bikes, cars, cameras and everything that normally fascinates a young one. So, to the young one, the doctor had asked the same question: ‘Son, what do you want to be - Just a user of an i-phone 5 or a Steve Jobs?”


That was this doctor’s way of telling the young kids, “Dude, stop day-dreaming; dream the real dreams!”


The young man’s father was hugely impressed. He hoped, his son would now feel in his heart the punch, the inspiration!



Just a couple of days ago, I observed two of my twelfth-standard students were engaged in a very animated discussion. One girl went to Jai Hind, the other to HR. So, the topic had to be something ‘happening’ one!



“What is that?” I poked my nose, “Tell me, too.”


“I was telling her about the queue out side ‘Starbucks’, yesterday,” the Jai Hind girl told me, “I and my friends had to wait for hours!”


“Starbucks? What is that?” Well, they knew how ‘dumboo’ their teacher was!


“Sir, Starbucks is world’s largest Coffee-outlet… They serve the best coffee on  planet…” explained to me the Jai Hind girl… 


And, before she could complete, the HR girl put it, all fired-up: “And, sir, you know what… The inspiring thing about them is that they don’t advertize!”


Achcha?” I raised my eyebrows!


“Yup! They got close to 20,000 stores in some sixty countries…including nearly 13,000 in America alone!” I was told by the HR girl.


“In India, they have just come… That is why the mad rush,” justified the Jai Hind one.


“Chalo, I will try my chance, one of these days,” I tried to impress the two modern college-kids… even though, I alone knew that I always rated our own ‘South-Indian kaapi’ – in our steel-lotas  - a hundred times better than all those bitter-gourd coffees of the world. In Mangalore, we friends would wile away our time -  the way today's kids do in these ‘happening coffee-joints’ – in our own kaapi-joints: ‘Vishwa Bhavana’, ‘Indra Bhavana', ‘Durga Bhavana’…


Let me tell you, it was the best coffee I have ever tasted. The best time I have ever had. The best friends I have ever had, too!


“Times have changed, sir,” I hear my two young students reminding me, “Move on… Don’t be caught-up!”



“Starbucks? What is that?” I had asked the kids.


Some three years ago, I had picked a book by the title – “How Starbucks Saved my life?” by Michael Gates Gill. It was an inspiring real-life story of an exceptionally successful advertising executive – who had it all… a mansion, a hefty salary and an enviable life-style – and who, in his fifties had crashed miserably losing it all including his wife in a painful divorce. It is the story of this man putting those pieces together… getting back on his feet, starting it all over again with humility and learning to live with dignity. Yes, he starts on the floor of one of those Starbucks outlets in America. Scrubbing floors, picking trays and reporting to someone who could be, once, his junior-most staff! The book is about the friendship Michael strikes with an Afro-American lady-employee in the store, who he had to report to… and, the lessons he had to learn to get on with his life... with dignity.


That was the first and the last time I heard about Starbucks!


Now,  these two young-girls had fired me up, all over again!


“Achcha?” I had expressed my curiosity, without telling them that I had heard about the Coffee giant, probably, much before they did!


So, this time, I wanted to read more about it. I googled, surfed... and found a lot more info. Interestingly, I found that this so-called ‘world’s best coffee store’ was founded in Seattle (in 1971) by three friends: Jerry Baldwin, an English teacher, Zev Siegl, a History teacher and Gorden Bowker, a writer. But, it was Howard Schultz, the charismatic and passionate present-Chairman/CEO of this coffee giant, that made this brand what it is today. Howard had joined Starbucks in 1982 as Director, Marketing and later, in 1987, had taken over the company. 


I realized that it was Howard’s magic and mystery that my two young-students wanted to rub on me, that early morning… “And, sir, you know what?...”


“Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time.” Howard rubs his passion and beliefs on all of us – including the young kids – through his inspiring book.  I highly recommend to all our young ones this book just to endorse what my doctor-friend had been telling them for years on: “Do you want to be just an i-phone user… or, do you want to be a Steve Jobs?”


And, yes, I also urge them to read the book where I first heard ‘this something’ called – ‘Starbucks’: ‘How Starbucks Saved My Life?”





Perhaps, it maybe useful, 



somewhere down the life…


Who knows?














Enjoy the Coffee, dudes…


For me, my ‘kaapi’ will do!


Love you loads!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Yogita Tipnis








Monday, October 29, 2012

OUR GLASS HOUSES










Even if you become a Buddha – the ‘enlightened one’ or the ‘perfect one’, or whatever it is – you have to come back to this imperfect world to live with its imperfect people!


The world will not change, just because you have changed… When you come back to this imperfect world, don’t expect to see the Buddhas all around you. It will frustrate you!


The Buddha is an enlightened one: loving, patient, kind, forgiving, accommodating, and empowering…


And, above all, the Buddha is the ‘wise one’. 


Therefore, Buddha’s greatest wisdom is: this world is imperfect; its people, too!



“Why do we judge others?” 


This morning, I found myself showing a great deal of impatience with some of my students. I was revising something which we had done in the class many times over… a simple chapter, in deed. Some students were making ‘silly’ mistakes and I was getting irritated and yelling at them. 


Was it helping them?


Certainly not. It was doing exactly the opposite: They were more nervous - fumbled more… and, ended up making more mistakes. 


Why was I doing it, in spite of all my wisdom?



Well, now that the group is gone… and, I am writing about it. Probably, that’s why I am able to see the reason…


I had coolly forgotten the fact that I was three times my fumbling-students’ age… That, I had taken decades to reach where I had… yes, to become the Buddha… if that was what I was expecting them to be! 


Believe me, the moment I grasp this simple truth – that others too will have to take their own time to reach the ‘bodhi tree’… I find in me the patience and tolerance. My judgment drops… and, I find enough kindness and care to nurture another fallible soul in this world.


Yes, not until I grasp this simple truth: that, others too will have to take their own time to reach the ‘bodhi tree’… That they too will have to sit for many, many years to become the Buddhas like me. 


There is one more way to help and heal myself: “What if I were in my student’s place and my teacher did the same thing to me?”



Empathy seldom comes in our hearts, unless someone treats us like a tyrant!


As a teacher, I do succumb to times like this… show a great deal of impatience, intolerance, and harshness. But, fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often… And, whenever it does, I, immediately, get the inner signal that I have to do amends, quickly… And, yes, I do. If that calls for my apology, I give. 


“Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”


Oh, this old wisdom!












Every time I indulge in ‘stone-throwing’, 



I only end up breaking my own glass house…! 



I seriously believe, that, such moments – 



as this morning’s – 



are important for my spiritual growth… 





After all, am I not being ‘spiritual’ when I realize:

That, like others, I too live in a glass house?

That, like me, they too will have to sit under the bodhi tree for many, many years?

And yes, that, it is ‘perfect’ to be in an ‘imperfect’ world?



The student. The teacher. The Buddha. … All have to live in this imperfect world… 

In the ‘glass houses’!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Prakash S. Nayak










Sunday, October 28, 2012

A HUNDRED-CRORE CHEQUE




Last night, a contestant from a small-time town was on the ‘hot-seat’ of KBC. He worked as a computer lab-assistant in an institute and earned a salary around Rs.13,500/- pm. A family man that he was, had a great struggle to face: his father’s advanced-stage cancer treatment! As always, Amitabh Bachchan, was extremely graceful to this contestant… offering him empathy,  encouragement and hope.


Amitabh Bachchan’s 70-year journey is packed with inspiration for any one who complains: “Life is full of struggle.”  So, during the course of the game, the contestant asked Amitabh as to how he had coped with his own struggle in life, and, if the Legend could help him with some tips.


In a matter of not even a minute, what Amitabh said to this earnest soul, impressed not only the contestant, the audience and me, but, I am sure, it must have impressed the whole world which watched the show!


“My father would tell us,” Amitabh said to the contestant, “that, till we had Life, we would have struggle.”


That one line, in deed, said it all! “Life has struggle… and, if it happens to be a life of an Amitabh Bachchan, the struggle is bound to be of a larger-than-life size!”


“And, my father would advise us to keep persistently trying,” Amitabh continued. “So, don’t stop trying, my friend, don’t give up. Along your sincere attempts to solve your problems, you will find a small opening of the door… And, that’s enough to put your foot in… Soon, you will find yourself completely inside!”



These may not be the exact words of the 'Living Legend', last night; but, this was the exact essence!


The contestant played sensibly, and took home half a crore! Definitely, enough to help him to take many steps inside his tough world...




But, I think, what the gracious host of the show 


had handed to the earnest soul, last night  – 


through his phoenix-like life -  


was more than hundred times 


what the cheque bore!



Perhaps, it was  enough for a hundred generations to come!


“Good Life, sir… Good struggle… And, yes, a good show. Thank you!!!”



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic: Supriya Chavan


Saturday, October 27, 2012

INSHA' ALLAH






















As a Christian, I grew up on the stories from the Old and New Testaments.  There is this story in the Old Testament of Abraham’s sacrifice to God.  


The Jews, the Christians and the Muslims – all claim that Abraham is their forefather… the founder of their religion… or, their Prophet. His sacrifice to God – of his only son – is revered and remembered by all these faiths. 


Today, the Muslims – all over the world – celebrate ‘Eid’… in remembrance of Abrahams’ (Prophet Ibraheem’s) sacrifice of his only son.


There is a dharga close to our housing complex. On the day of Ramzan or Eid, it is a sight to behold: a sea of worshipers, all dressed in immaculate white, march towards one direction – the dharga/the mosque… as the prayers are said on the loudspeakers… It is all, so beautifully scheduled… the direction the faithful face, the position they take, the reverence… the synchrony… and, the hope. For years, I have been beholding this sight… and, each time, I do it, it makes me feel glad that there is so much in common in our prayers, our hopes and our beliefs. Yes, they call us a Hindu a Muslim a Christian or a Sikh. We all have come from the same source, the same stream… we all will be going back to the same stream. All our prayers need us to be on our knees… all our hopes need us to look unto the heavens… Our angels and Satan are there to perform the same jobs: to draw us unto God or to tempt us away from Him. The promise of the Heaven or the warning of the Hell… all the same. Very same.


So, as my Muslim brothres and sisters celebrate today ‘Eid al-Adha’ – the Feast of the Sacrifice – I felt within me an urge of going back to the source: the story of Abraham, which, as a small child, they had told me in my Sunday-school. For a change, I wanted, today, the ‘Great story-teller of our times’ – ‘Wikipedia – to tell me the story of Eid… the Great Sacrifice, in whose remembrance, this day is observed. Here I take you:



One of the main trials of Abraham's life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God's commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.


When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God's command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.


Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God's sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God's command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael's maturity in faith, love and commitment for God, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.


Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, "Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha'Allah (God willing), to be very patient." His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.


Abraham could not bear to watch his son die so he covered his eyes by a blindfold. When he cut Ishmael's throat and removed the blindfold, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God's command.[1]


This is mentioned in the Quran as follows:

"O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practicing patience and steadfastness!" So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, We called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do We reward those who do good. Most surely this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. Surely he was one of Our believing servants.[16]


As a reward for this sacrifice, God then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):

And We gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous.[17]


Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God's command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.









“Insha’Allah” means ‘God willing’.


Every time, my Muslim brother or sister says it with their unmatchable grace, I look unto the Heavens and smile…


“God willing!”


  

“There can be only one God in the Heaven,”


I feel it even stronger, 


“there can be only one sacrifice 


to appease my God: 


to give Him what I hold closest to my heart.” 


 

And, that shall, eternally, remain the toughest… as it was for Abraham, thousands of years ago!


“Eid Mubarak to all my brothers and sisters.”…


“All,” I said.




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Roopa Sushil

Friday, October 26, 2012

THE BRIDGE IS TOO NARROW














Two goats lived on either side of a mountain. Every day, they would leave home looking for pastures. On their way, they had to pass through a very narrow bridge that stood over a deep river. 



One day, the goats faced each other right in the middle of the narrow bridge… and, both, were unwilling to make way for the other.


“Step aside,” screamed the first goat, “let me pass.”


“No way,” protested the other goat, “it is my way… or no way!”


So, they locked their horns… and, started pushing and charging at each other… till their stubbornness took them to the edge of the narrow bridge. And, finally, both of them went crashing down into the fierce river which gushed deep down!


I love this old story. Particularly, when I tend to lock my horns with another person… another goat!


Look at the funny side of the story. The goats had left home seeking food. If they had focused on their goal -  the food, they would have, certainly, stayed away from the self-destructive locking of horns… 


They, instead,  lost their focus… and, got into their ego-hassle: it is my way or no way!


Poor goats! They were blind to the fierce river that ran deep down!




Many a times, when I end up bruised and wounded through such locking of horns, I do wonder:

“Why didn’t I realize the danger before getting into it? Would have I lost anything, if I had stepped aside, made way for the other?”


“Silly goats!” 


No, “Silly people!”





All ego-hassles are bound to end this way: 


Down into the gushing river…! 


They are 'Loose-Loose situations' in life!”




And, when we make way for the ‘other goat’ – when we let go of our ego, accommodate - we don’t lose sight of our goal. We come home victorious! It is being wise, sensible… It is a ‘Win-Win situation’.



Yes, in life, we meet on the narrow bridge… like these two goats…


There is that fierce river gushing deep down…


And, there is that reason why we have left home, this morning… Our goal, our purpose!


And, yes, there is that ‘choice’ before all of us: 

Either to lock our horns and scream, “It is my way, or, no way!”... Or, “W’ll go the sensible way!”










The bridge is too narrow to fight in  its middle, my friend...


The river is fierce and deep… there, down!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Monica Valdar














Thursday, October 25, 2012

AN ACT OF COURAGE AND GRACE










When I say “Sorry” to someone, and I really mean it, I expose to him my vulnerable side. If I do that - and, as I said, really meaning it - then, I have nothing left in me to defend myself!

 
“Peace is extremely important to both of us… So, I offer this unconditional apology to you… Please accept it… Do not keep any doubts; do not ask me any more questions… Do not remind me of any of my past mistakes - harsh words, or painful wounds… All that I can say is: I need your help to heal my wounds… and you need my help to heal your own… Let’s make peace as our conscious choice… and, let’s do it unconditionally.”…


This is what goes through my mind, every time I expose my vulnerability and say “Sorry”. I yearn that the other person will accept my olive branch… that, he will not ask me any more questions… will not probe me further, remind me of my past mistakes… will not revive the pain of those wounds… Yes, I yearn for his helping hand… and, and I yearn for him to do it unconditionally, with his own vulnerability.


So, when I say “Sorry”, and really mean it, if the other person doesn’t accept it… if he keeps probing and reminding me of my past mistakes… it is very difficult to experience peace. 


Peace – the rest in our hearts – is possible only when “Sorry” is accepted… When hug is felt, reciprocated… When I say “Sorry”, the other person judges me not…and, when he says “Sorry”, I judge him not... When, I measure him with the same yard-stick with which I do myself… When I really believe in the adage – “To err is human; to forgive is divine!” … When I realize, that, if this knot is not removed, now, there is no hope of a tomorrow… That, wounds need to be healed by each-other’s helping hand.



Saying “Sorry” doesn’t come easily to us. Because, we fear that the other person may continue probing us and reminding us of our past wounds… And, because we have already made ourselves defenseless, by dropping our guards and defenses, it is important that we are prepared to face the probe, if comes… suffer the wounds, if further inflicted – For, saying “Sorry” is an act of our conscious choice – the sign of our character strength. Therefore, to accept “Sorry” from the other person, too, is our conscious choice – the sign of our character strength. And, to be prepared to face the consequences of non-acceptance of our olive branch is what places us among those, which, the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ refer as:

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”


So, need we say “Sorry”?


Yes, we need to.


Need we accept “Sorry” from others?


Yes, we need to.










Loving is an act of not only ‘Courage’… 


it is an act of ‘Grace’, too!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.:Vivek D'Cunha






Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WHERE GOD COMES TO RESIDE





 
Iwatched the movie – ‘OMG’ – twice!

Both the times, I saw in the theatre a mixed crowd – of all faiths and ages. And, I also saw them enjoying the movie thoroughly.


Whatever the movie is trying to attack - our blind practice of religious rituals, our gullibility to self-serving priests and gurus… yes, we all know that, they are outright ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’. And, interestingly, we all laughed at our own buffoonery as we watched this movie…


In deed, it was a real ‘OMG experience’!



Kanji Bhai is, ruthlessly, an atheist. And, ironically, God comes to reside in his house… and, that too, at a time, this rebel has dragged God to the court!


In one of the scenes, Kanji Bhai questions God: “I am an atheist… I don’t believe in you. Then, why have you chosen to reside in my house?”


“Because,” God tells Kanji Bhai, gently, “only a true atheist can be a true theist!”


I loved this statement, so much!


I, personally, endorse this idea. That, we should question all that we do in the name of God. Sure, when we do that, it is bound to cause a storm… However, when the storm settles, we will be destined – blessed - to be closer to God’s heart… Yes, as our Kanji Bhai found himself to be, in the end.


“You don’t have to punish these charlatans,” Kanji Bhai tells the masses, “you just boycott them.”


For a moment, what Kanji Bhai proposed to the masses does seem to be the remedy for the ailment… “Simply boycott the hoodwinks!”


But, the very next moment, we hear this ‘profound truth’ from the High-Priest, as he is set to leave along with his ensemble:

“The religious habits are like the addiction to opium.” He points at the masses and reminds God’s-beloved Kanji Bhai, “These people are not God-loving people; they are God-fearing people!”



We are those people!




So, driven by our fear, 


‘we’ will go back to our old habits – 


our blind rituals and hoodwinking God-men. 


While, God, Himself, prefers to reside 


in the heart of an atheist, where, 


He finds true love and devotion of a believer!







“Pray with fearlessness!” This is the parting message of the movie, ‘OMG’.


And, today, on this auspicious day of ‘Vijayadashmi’, I would like to borrow this message to wish all of you – “A happy Dussehra.”



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Krupa Gharmalkar