Friday, November 30, 2012


“The Cobbler, always,  wears the worst shoes!”

This was the phrase I had first heard from our English teacher in tenth-standard. Almost forty years back, that was!

Our teacher had told us - why?

“The cobblers are experts in attending to other people’s shoes; but, when it comes to their own, they are miserable… They are too busy, and too poor, to attend to their own shoes!”

Then, in the Church, I would hear another Biblical phrase. The Father would decipher the same meaning out of these words of Jesus:

“Physician, heal thyself!”

“The physician is so busy treating and healing others that he can hardly notice what is wrong with his own body,” the Father would explain to us. “Often, he neither has the willingness nor the capacity to heal his own sickness!”

Thousands of years have passed since the birth of these phrases… Still, nothing has changed: The Cobblers still wear the worst shoes… and the Physicians still are bad in healing themselves!

And this, too: We all do… We all ARE… The teachers, the Counselors, the Politicians, the Cops, the Decorators, the Designers, the Chefs, the Money-lenders, the Beauticians, Bureaucrats…  the Sales-guys and the air-craft crew, the actors, models and ad-people…

Yes, we all have, always, been experts in reaching out to others… helping, guiding, counseling, teaching, grooming, creating, building… and, in the process, making lots of fame, name and money for ourselves…

Still, when it comes to us… our own lives… 

well, we have been miserable…

The Cobbler-and-Physician phrases still chime, like a thousand distant-bells!

Once, a woman went to Gandhi to seek help. Her son was addicted to eating sweets. The mother had failed to prevail upon her son, and now had come to the Mahatma as the last resort.

“Bapu, my son adores you so much… and, I am sure, he will listen to you,” the worried woman pleaded before the saintly man, “Please advice him to end his bad habit!”

Bapu remained quiet for a while and, then, said to the mother, “My dear woman, please see me along with your young-son after two weeks.”

The woman was surprised. “Why two weeks?” she asked in her mind, “Bapu is such a great soul… Why does he need such a long time for such a small problem?”

Nevertheless, the woman went back home and returned to see Bapu after two weeks as suggested.

This time, Gandhiji did not waste any time… He looked into the young-man’s eyes straight and said: “My young friend, eating so much of sweets can ruin you… Stop it!”

The young-man, it is reported, gave a promise, right away!

But, the woman had a question to ask: “But, Bapu,” she said, “why did you need two weeks to tell my son this?”

“Two weeks I needed to stop my own sweets-eating habit, my dear woman,” the Mahatma confessed wearing his famous broken-teeth-smile, “I only needed a second to advice him, today!”

That’s how it is… for all of us – the Cobblers, the Physicians, the Teachers, the Mothers and the Fathers… and the Bapus and the Babas of this world… 

Yes, for all of us…



Pics.: Mukesh Ahuja

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I come across hundreds of students who are extremely shy to speak in public!

I am not talking about speaking on stage, from a podium. I am talking about just in a class when the teacher is teaching… when she is asking a question. Yes, hundreds of students become tongue-tied, blanked-out… They forget what they want to say… They fumble, make more and more mistakes… And, then, they look around and assume that all others are ‘perfect’… They assume that others are laughing at their ‘mistakes’… They assume that something is wrong with them, only with them. So, they become ‘guilty’… apologetic… even angry with themselves… frustrated or depressed.

I was one such student… Desperately shy… Chronically nervous in class and at every gathering!

Speaking from stage was just unthinkable… Too terrifying even to think… leave alone attempt!

In class, I had the right answers. But, I had a weak heart… too weak to raise my hand… leave alone stand up!

So, whenever the question was thrusted upon me by my teachers, and when I found myself tongue-tied and blanked out… I too would look around only to see all ‘perfect’ souls around, only to experience that deep ‘hole in my soul’ – my terrible personality defect – and, then, I would stay away from others, all alone, and brood, feel ashamed and guilty…

Then, that obvious thing would happen: I would compare myself – the ‘defective soul’ – with all those ‘perfect ones’… and suffer inside!

When your self-confidence is so low, you cannot feel good about yourself. You feel you are worthless… a waste!

Let me tell you this: you have to ‘experience’ it… to ‘understand’ it!

So, coming back to hundreds of my students who are like me… like how I was at their age… I tell them this: “Take heart, dear; God has cast this defect in you with a purpose.” I assure them this: “Your flaws are your very strengths, your special endowments!” Then, I tell them one of my favorite stories.

Long time ago, there lived an old woman in a Chinese village. Everyday, she would carry water from the village stream to her house. Two pots, hung on each side of a pole, she would carry them on her shoulders.

Now, one of the pots had a crack on it; so, by the time the woman reached home, half of the water spilled out of the pot… while the other pot was perfect and carried full water in it, every day.

And, this would go on and on…

The perfect pot was obviously proud of its achievement, its perfection… while the cracked pot felt ashamed, apologetic and guilty.

After almost two years, unable to suffer it any longer, one evening, the cracked pot collected its courage and said to the woman: “Ma’am, for two long years, you have been carrying me on your shoulders, despite my defect… despite knowing that I spilled half of the water along your way… and served you only half good as compared to the other pot who has been always perfect… Why did you tolerate me? Have I not let you down? I feel ashamed and guilty!”

“Come, I will show you why,” said the woman consolingly to the heart-broken pot, “I will tell you why you should not feel ashamed or guilty about your defect.”

Saying so, the woman pointed to the beautiful flowers on the wayside. “Dear, can you believe that these plants bear such beautiful flowers only because of you?”

The pot was left puzzled!

“I knew your flaw, and hence, I planted these flower seeds on your side of the path,” the woman explained gently, “For two years, you have been nurturing them without your knowledge… and, look, how glorious they look!”

The cracked pot was unable to believe it!

“My dear friend, every day, I would take these flowers home and decorate my table,” the woman continued with all her warmth. She asked, “Is it not because you had that crack in you?”

I don’t think, I would have ever remembered this story, today… leave alone trying to express it through my Blog… Yes, had I not been so shy and scared when I was a young boy!

Because I was endowed with my own ‘cracks’…

 I have been able to ‘spill this water’, 

all these years, 

and be of help to some of these wayside flowers…

I did not know that was the reason why I had called my daily writings as ‘The Wayside Flowers’!

Take heart, therefore, all my dear young and old friends! We never know how good we are, despite our cracks… until some wise-soul, comes our way to show us the amazing beauty we have been able to leave behind…

Yes, despite our cracks, I said!


Pics.: Ashok Ahuja

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


“Sir, may I come in?” 

Nine-year-old Yomie was standing at the door, holding a paper-plate. 

The class was packed, and all our young-students looked towards the door and smiled.

“Oh darling, come in,” I exclaimed, “so sweet of you… What is this?”

“Sir, this is ‘Prasad’ from Gurudwara… for you,” Yomie announced handing over the plate, “today is Guru Nanak Jayanti.”

“Say Good Moring to everyone here,” I twisted Yomie to face the packed classroom.

“Hi Good Morning,” said Yomie, wearing a sunny smile and an equally sunny confidence.

With that, the little fellow disappeared… leaving my heart smiling with lots of happiness.

The room was packed and the class was on… Look at the innocence… Look at the purity of human heart… Look at the natural self-confidence… Look at the power of acceptance… Look at the magic of love…

“All this goes out of your system as you grow older,” I told the college kids, my tongue firmly tucked inside my cheeks, “We just need to be simple and uncomplicated at our hearts.”

Little Yomie loves me!

When my students give me chocolates on their birthdays, I offer them to small kids who play outside my class. Just some days back, a friend of mine had given me some lovely home-made chocolates… I had passed many of them to Yomie, his twin sister Vishaka and all their friends. They were very happy.

So, Yomie loves me… for my chocolates?

I don’t think so…

Yomie is essentially a ‘giving’ person… He has unveiled this side of his personality,  several times, to me…

Not just by bringing for me from his home some goodies… but, by asking me, so often, this: “Sir, may I help you?” 

To become ‘conscious’ of this trait, that early in life, takes a great deal of grooming from parents at home… They inculcate such values in their children… Yes, they do.

But, I seriously feel, each child is born with his own – inherent – sensitivity, too…

That’s why, often, even if your parents are extremely sensitive and caring on this issue, you may not imbibe in you this sensitive and caring trait…

On the other hand, many times, even if your parents are ignorant on this issue and remain insensitive, you may still develop extra-ordinary sensitivity and become a giving soul! 

Therefore, I, personally, think that kids, such as Yomie, are naturally endowed with this sensitivity… and, coupled with parents’ guidance, they really flower beautifully in Life.

Blessed are these souls!

There are a hundred ways in which we can ‘give’… and, all of them come from our deep desire to share our joy and happiness… to make others joyful as we become joyful… to help others as we become empowered… 

Giving only makes more space in our hearts to receive more… It doesn’t empty our hearts!

That’s the spiritual law of giving…

“Until we give, we don’t receive… 

The lighter we are, the stronger we feel… 

The more we give, even more we receive!”

I really wonder: “What if God was to ‘give’ us what we really ‘deserved’!”

And, I so wonder even though I am, repeatedly, told that He gives us only what we deserve!

Little Yomie’s small paper-plate had so much to ‘give me’, today…

“Thank you, my darling… May God bless you!”


Pics.: Pragati Dudi

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, New-York City. Pic.: Ashok Ahuja

Life of an individual is no different from life of a nation...

Both need to possess zest for life… and, when crushed under challenges, both need the bounce-back spirit…

Sulking, blaming and brooding are for losers… 

Determination, acceptance and hope are for winners!

On Sunday night, I watched KBC. There was this young girl – Sonali Mukherjee, her face devastated through acid attack of lust-and-hate driven young men. Once, a very beautiful, graceful and energetic young woman now she is reduced to a sight… which is difficult for us to behold. Her survival story – supported by her caring family – is the story of what I have refereed above – Zest for life and bounce-back spirit.

Sonali has not given up on life… on hope… or living with purpose…

She has moved on… resolved to do something constructive for those inflicted with even graver tragedies…

Sonali is a brave girl… an inspiration for all of us!

Yesterday was 26/11. Four years ago, terrorists had brought our city to its knees… The amazing Taj Mahal Hotel was ruined in the attack… along with Trident, Leopold and scores of lives were destroyed…

And, what happened to our city, since then?

We bounced back… 

Life is on roll, with even more vigor… even more zest and hope!

One look at the images of today’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki is enough to convince us that Life is an ever-changing movement. We all have within us what it takes to rise-up from the ashes… unless we chose to be ‘losers’ in life!

Japan is an inspiration for all of us…

It paid for its mistakes, learnt a few lessons… then, resolved to bounce back… It did so incredibly!

There is no point in sulking, blaming, crying… 

and, it serves no good to hold grudges 

against our tormentors…

Revenge is an act of weakling…

Bouncing back… re-structuring our lives in even better and nobler way… is an act of courageous…

 There is Life in re-building… 

There is meaning… fulfillment!

Rising up with grit and grace... The new towers! Pic.: Ashok Ahuja

My photographer-friend, Ashok, had been to New-York City recently. He has come back with loads of images… and, yes, there are images of the memorial at Ground Zero… where, once, stood America’s tallest twin-towers! 

The terrorists, in one mindless-blow, had brought these mammoth structures down… 

The mighty Super-power down to its knees…

Thousands of innocents were killed…

And, we, suddenly, had felt: “What will happen now?”

In times like this, either you give up… or, you rise up!

Yes, these are the options for every individual or nation…

To be a loser or a winner, in Life!

America resolved to rise up… with even more grace and grit… 

Today, just beside the 9/11 memorial, there stand, almost in their full glory, even mightier and even taller towers!

In life, while it is necessary to remember our sad days, it is even more necessary to rise above them… walk past them, gloriously!

Without feeling victimized…

Without holding any grudges…

The earlier that happens, the better.

True, both for individuals… as well as nations!


Sunday, November 25, 2012


I did not feel like writing the whole day, today… Just let alone my need to express, say something… know what others feel about my Posts… My restlessness… that I ‘miss’ something if I don’t…. Yes, the compulsions!

Everyday, a thousand things cross my mind and another thousand things touch my heart… Yes, they did today, too… The whole day long…

I allowed them to cross my mind… felt their touch in my heart…

But, a question kept haunting me:

“Why is this need in me to pause… capture… and interpret them to the world?”

“Why this restlessness? This desperation?"

I left the passing thoughts...  be;

I left the touching feelings...  be.

Sometimes, the questions seem to provide more solace than their answers…

“Why do I need the world to validate my opinions?”

“Why can’t I seek the beauty in others’?”

"I make a difference"… It is definitely good to know .this

But, it is even better to know that, like me, there are others, too… Yes, all feel in their hearts what I do:

“We all make difference!” 

So, Sun has long gone and it is pitch dark outside… It is quite cold, too… Inspiring!

But, the question keeps coming back to haunt my heart:

“What is important to you dear – ‘feeling’ in your soul the warmth of the inspiring night, or, announcing to the world that you ‘feel inspired’?”

Enough to feel inspired… enough to feel that light within in my soul…

After all, like everyone else, in this world, I too am ‘finding my way home’, right?

A friend of mine has just sent me these soothing lines of Rumi:

“If light is in your heart,
You will find your way home!”

And, it is very humbling to see in this light the truth: like me, everyone else, too!


Pics.: Ashok Ahuja

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I haven’t worked anywhere, under anyone, except, maybe, for a year-and-a-half. That’s right at the start of my career… and, that’s all my ‘employment experience’… All put together!

I always wanted to be on my own… and, I chose that path, ever since.

I am happy, I did it!

So, when a young-one comes to me for some tips on how to prepare a smart CV or how to face a job interview, I immediately connect them to some of my friends who have gone up smartly on the ‘employment route’. And, let me tell you, my friends do a fantastic job of guiding the young-ones. 

All that I can do, to the young-ones, is a bit of ‘pep’… 

They say, it helps!

Now, here is the irony. Though, during these three-decades-plus, I did not have to seek jobs in my life, hundreds of my students have given my reference as their ‘teacher/professor’. And, their prospective employers have called me/ written to me to check on the ‘credentials’ of the candidates – yes, my students, their prospective employees…

“In what capacity do you know him/her?”…

“Since when?… For how long?”…

“What is your assessment of him/her?”…

“Was he/she dependable? Committed? Regular? Punctual?...

“What are, in your view, his/her strengths/weaknesses?”

“Would you have employed him/her?”

Finally, “Do you endorse him?”

Well, the questions may not be in the same words, order or manner… But, the objective had been the same: They wanted some ‘respectable person’ to vouch for the candidate. It was so important before they took some, unknown young-one… with the hope that he/she would add value to the organization… change it, transform it! 

‘The third-party reference’… they call it…

It is so important!

This means, if I endorse a ‘good-for-nothing’ fellow, all knowingly… what am I doing?

It happened, sometime back.

A freshly-graduated young-man, one of my students, called me to inform if it was okay to give my reference to his prospective employer. Now, it was a reputed organization seeking fresh graduates. I knew this young-man as a teacher. Incidentally, he was on my FB friend-list for a while… and, I had got him off my list when I had seen the kind of posts he would regularly – almost like a sick-man – send to all and sundry  from dawn to dusk! My advice to one or two, in the past, only had not gone well with them. So, I chose not to get into any preaching with this boy; instead, I quietly got rid of his ‘crap’ from my Timeline.

That’s some months ago.

So, when he called me for the permission for the reference, my conscience did not agree. I politely, yet firmly, refused… Yes, I did cite my fear as the reason.

“I am told, the prospective employers scrutinize the credentials of the candidates through their FB track-record, too,” I told him, “I am afraid, I do not want to get into any controversy in this matter.”

This happened, just because I had seen and read what this young-man was posting on his FB and detested the kind of ‘mindset’ he was openly and unabashedly displaying to the whole world. Had I not gone through this experience, I would have gladly vouched for him, and it would have, even, smoothly gone off…  

But, now, when I knew that he had made himself so ‘public’, and in such a way, my conscience did not allow me to say ‘yes’ to him.

“Such a small thing!”… Am I hearing that?

I don’t know. I really don’t know!


The way the young-ones write, these days, 

on their posts – both boys and girls – 

scares me, really!

I have not worked anywhere, as I have told you. But, I seriously think, the young-ones should be discrete and careful about the things they post… It may stand against them when they seek jobs…

Also, I think, the young men and women should be careful on this if they are seeking their partners in life…

Note this: FB can provide to anyone your entire ‘janma kundali’!

Well, I know, all this - 'stone-age' counseling -  may not go very well with our young-ones… 

I only pray, each one of them settles down well in life… finds a fabulous employer and an equally fabulous life-partner…

Yes, maybe, I am too old-fashioned!

Maybe, I am wrong!


Pics.: Lionel Saldanha

Friday, November 23, 2012



It is not easy to believe in the philosophy: 

“In Life, our problems are opportunities in disguise!”

It is easy to believe only when problems hit other people’s lives… 

But, when problems hit our own lives, it is tough to buy that theory… Very tough!

But, then, are problems, really, not opportunities to learn from and grow with?

No matter what our problems are, no matter how crushing they look, how intimidating and frustrating… I, seriously, think that our every problem does possess the seed of opportunity for us to learn from and grow with – become wise, strong and compassionate, in Life.

And, to anchor our hearts on this philosophy, I also think that some things must be in place. Here are they.

There should be zest of life. Or, let’s put it this way: We should love life!

Now, just imagine the power of this mindset… this paradigm! I think, everything else will automatically fall in place the moment our hearts choose to see the brighter side of Life… believe in the light at the end of our dark tunnels. Such an innocent and die-hard spirit of living is what zest for life – or, call it love for life – all about!

Sorry sir... No chance otherwise!

Next is the simple reality… That is, unless we are challenged, driven to the wall, we really will never know our own hidden-strengths… the power lying dormant within us. Believe me, everybody who has built his muscles, has built it only by burning his calories… and everybody who has fought the greatest battles, has fought them only because of the strong, relentless and unyielding opponents! Strength is never gained in any other way… Nor the wisdom… Nor the compassion!

Finally, for a problem to appear as an opportunity in Life, our ‘inner eyes’ should be able to ‘see’ them so… our heart must be able to ‘sense’ them so. Not until then. Not otherwise…

An old popular-story of two salesmen comes to my mind.

Once, a shoe-making company had sent two of its salesmen to Africa to check if there was a market for its products.

Some days after they had landed in Africa, the first salesman reported back to his boss:

 “Sir, this is a terrible business opportunity… No-one wears shoes, here!”

The second salesman, too, had reported back to his boss:

 “Sir, this is an incredible business opportunity… No-one wears shoes, here!”


Yes, this is such an old story…

As old as the tough philosophy to buy:

“In Life, our problems are opportunities in disguise!”


Pics.: Mukesh Ahuja