Saturday, May 31, 2014

A WISHBONE, A BACKBONE AND A FUNNY BONE







Pic.: Chetna Shetty

For some days, 18-year-old Ashwin, a student of our on-going PD course, had been persuading me to play in the class a BBC documentary-film titled ‘HIROSHIMA. “Sir, it’s a must watch,” he kept telling me, “I was moved watching it.”

Last morning, I watched it on my computer, and, yes, it was, in deed, very moving. On one side, you feel angry at the blind, adamant and insensitive military chief of Japan.... Even after the dreaded Nazi force of Germany surrendered, Japan refused to... and, all calls and threats from the Allied forces, particularly, America, failed. America had entered the long-drawn Second World-War only after she was provoked by the horrible attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. And, now, in spite of all the devastation wrought upon Japan, and even though Germany and other nations had surrendered to the Allies, Japan had remained ruthlessly adamant... So, as a last resort, America did what it did: history’s first - and pray it will be the last - atom bomb attack! When you watch the devastation, which now bears its dark name – ‘Holocaust, you wonder, almost your heart frozen: was such an action on America’s part necessary?

Yes, the film prompts you to ask this hard question...

Hiroshima was a city of ordinary people with their ordinary living... The war and the bomb was just forced upon its wonderful people by a handful of adamant men... The city was totally destroyed and its entire population was either horribly wiped out or left to die in a manner unthinkable...

But, at the end of the movie, we see the modern-day Hiroshima... Fresh, prosperous and buzzing with life. People seem extremely happy, confident and optimistic as they go about their daily busy-lives...  Nobody can guess, that barely seventy years ago, the most horrendous devastation had been unleashed upon this city... Nobody seems to be moving about his life bearing in his heart the poison of grudge or revenge... All that one sees is a happy and hopeful people...

Our student, Ashwin, is barely 18! Why does he want me to show this film to the young boys and girls in the class? What is the lesson they are going to learn... yes, after they all are terribly moved?

I do not know...

The same evening, Dr. Sanjay, my doctor friend, had shared a beautiful quote on FB:

“To thrive in life,
you need three bones:
a wishbone,
a backbone and
a funny bone!”

- Reba McEntire

A mighty desire and a mighty determination to succeed... and a mighty ability let go and let God and laugh, at the end of the day!

Is this the moral of the story, dear Ashwin?

Hope, it is...


GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"'WOMAN WITHOUT HER MAN IS NOTHING!""









Pic.Rajiv Sharma

Pauses do to our speech what punctuations do to our writing. “They make a hell of a difference,” I often, yell before our Public-Speaking students, “Use them well to convey the desired message with the right impact.” Invariably, I write on the board, what the Professor in a popular anecdote had done:

“Woman without her man is nothing.”

“Now, punctuate this,” I give them a minute.

Yes, our young-gentlemen in the class do it this way:

“Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

And, our young-ladies know how they have to punctuate:

“Woman: without her, man is nothing!”

A hell of a difference? That depends on who you are: a gentle-man or a gentle-lady!

And, just now, a friend of mine, Kavin, had shared with all his FB friends, this anecdote about President Obama and his wife Michelle.

One night President Obama and his wife Michelle decided to do something out of routine and go for a casual dinner at a restaurant that wasn't too luxurious.

When they were seated, the owner of the restaurant asked the President's Secret Service if he could please speak to the First Lady in private. They obliged and Michelle had a conversation with the owner. 

Following this conversation President Obama asked Michelle, "Why was he so interested in talking to you?" She mentioned that in her teenage years, he had been madly in love with her.


President Obama then said, "So if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant," to which Michelle responded, "No. If I had married him, he would now be the President of the United States."

**Power to Women**Masimba kuMadzimai**Amandla kuBafazi**

Whether or not President Obama took Michele, his wife, to this restaurant, and whether or not the restaurant owner was madly in love with her... well, that is not the point, here. The point, my dear young friends, is, also, not this: Whether or not you give write pauses in your speeches or place right punctuations in your writings... The point is: As much as a man believes in his power to influence his woman, let a woman believe in her power to influence her man.

Yes, this is that famous saying:

“Behind every successful man, there is a woman.”

Now, make this one famous, too:

“Behind every successful woman, there is a man!”

And, on the basis of your respective beliefs, do pay your restaurant bill, too!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD






Pic.: Rajiv Sharma
Two days ago, an eleven-year old joined our on-going PD course for Pre-teens. This boy came from a well-off family. Both parents were educated. He went to one of the best ICSC schools. Yet, here in our class, I found him very restless. He was intelligent and articulate, but, the problem was his inappropriate behavior in the class... He would indulge in every kind of negative-attention-seeking behavior. Other students would find it extremely repulsive and I had quite a task in hand to make them understand as to why this boy would take some time to settle down... So, they did their best to put up with all his irritating behavior...

For me, all were alike... Because the boy needed help, their parents had entrusted their little boy into my hands. So, I had a huge responsibility... of not over-reacting to this boy’s, almost, eccentric behavior in the class. I blew hot and blew cold... kept gently, firmly and angrily reminding him about what was expected of him. But, the odd foolish-behavior wouldn’t end.

“Beta, you go to the best school. Can you behave like this in your school?” I asked him with my gentle firmness.

“In school, there are ‘rules’,” the little-one said.

“Correct. You know, there are rules, in this class, too,” I explained.

“Where?” the boy made a funny face, stood up from his seat and started looking all around on the wall, “There are no rules here.”

I could, instantly, sense the repulsion on the faces of every little-one in the class. It was too much for them to take... In deed, it was too much for me, too...

“Sir, make him sit in the other room,” a little-fellow reacted in irritation.

“Shall I send you there?” I asked the boy.

“Ok,” the boy was ready.

“Beta, if you do not behave properly, I will call your dad, now,” I said quite sternly.

“Call,” he said.

But, I knew, that was not the solution to this boy’s problem. So, for a while, I decided to ignore him... and asked others to do the same...

The story of the shepherd boy who fooled the villagers crying wolf... Yes, this story came to my mind.

“Do you know the story of the boy who cried wolf?” I asked the class.

Many hands went up.

A boy and a girl went up and narrated their own versions, supported by the moral. Suddenly, this boy’s hand went up. “Sir, it is not wolf, it is lion,” he said.

“Is it?” I raised my eyebrows, “Can you tell the story, beta?”

The boy went to the podium, and narrated the same story, replacing the wolf with a lion. But, he was very serious and forceful... He was not restless and fooling around, this time. As he ended, I shouted, “Give him a standing ovation!”

The entire class was on its feet and applauding!

“This is the first standing ovation, my dear children,” I reminded all of them, “I have not given it to anyone in my class.”

They agreed.

“This is for your friend’s good behavior,” I affirmed, “He has really become a very good boy!”

As the class gave a long applause, the boy’s face lit up on stage. He wasn’t restless or fooling anymore... “Sir, can I tell the moral?” he asked me.

“Please do, beta,” I encouraged.

“Friends, the moral of the story is: In life, it is very difficult to win trust; but, it is easy to lose it!”

“Wow!” I caressed the little-one’s head, as I ushered him back to his seat amidst the cheers from all his classmates... who, a while ago, had made faces and wished either a wolf or a lion to come to our class and take him away!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MOON SMILES AT EVERYONE








Pic.: Rajiv Sharma
Today, during our PD session, the young-ones were talking about their special interests and hobbies. Dhaksh had just attended a week-long photography workshop under a well-known photographer. He shared with us: how he got interested in photography and what it took to be a good photographer. “You need a creative eye,” he said,” You need a very sensitive observation and a good sense of timing.”

Samvit loved to play hokey. He told us how he got into it... and, about the kind of practice he had to do to be a competitive hockey-player... He shared with us about the injuries he had sustained - and caused on others, too - all while playing... and, why he still loved playing hockey.

Abhinav, the tallest lad in the class, was a passionate basket-ball player. He recounted his story: how he started liking it... the kind of practice he had do... How, apart from Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, some other Greats had inspired him to play basket ball... and, above all, he told us, how, sometimes, playing alone at late night, helped him to be centered and happy...

Saumik spoke about his love for sketching and drawing. He had seen his elder sister sketching, drawing and painting; and, as she taught, at home, little children, he, too, had loved it, and, now, it gave him great joy. He, also, told us, that, his dad had encouraged him to pursue architecture... So, he wanted to learn how to design buildings and bridges...

Kritika narrated to us: how, initially, she hated embroidery when she had to learn in school as an extra subject... and, how, slowly, what she had first hated, now, she had begun to love... She told us, that she loved to do different kinds of embroidery... and, loved to gift her close-ones her embroidery creations rather than the expensive items from the shop.

Nabhya shared with us her passion for music... and, her love for playing guitar. She lived in NRI complex, where, as a little child, she would watch live band performing. It was there, that his young-one developed her interest in playing guitar. She told us about her three friends – all girls – and the band they had, now, formed... “Who says girls can’t have a great band?” she asked...

No body. At least, I don’t...and, I won’t. I fully believe, that all boys and girls have their talents... and, if they sincerely, consistently and passionately pursue their talents, no body can stop them from realizing them...

But then, if they sincerely, consistently and passionately pursue them, I repeated three times! “Today, go home and google about Michael Jordan and Usain Bolt,” I told them, “Their story will inspire you.”

“A sketch a day, a click a day, an embroidery a day, a song a day,” I reminded our young-ones, “yes, if you keep sincerely, consistently and passionately keep doing this, who can stop you from realizing your dreams?”

“There is, always, inspiration out there in the air, you just need to be available,” I continued, “God is kind for each and every one of us, here, on this earth.”

Sun shines on everyone...
Moon smile at everyone...
Stars twinkle for everyone...
Rainbow appears for everyone...
Raindrops fall on everyone...

Then, why does Luck smile at only some?

Some twenty-three years ago, I had spontaneously asked this in one of the PD sessions. Today, too, it came to me, spontaneously...

Incidentally, the mother of young Nabhya, who is now a practicing lawyer, was in the audience, this morning. Twenty-three years ago, she was there in the class just as Nabhya did, today... And, the mother was smiling!!!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, May 26, 2014

UNLESS WE ARE CHALLENGED HARD...








Pic.: Chetna Shetty

Immediately after the Mumbai Indians clinched the sensational victory against Rajasthan Royals at Wankhade stadium, last night, I saw on TV this tweet from Amitabh Bachchan.


 WHAT A GAME ! NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE! 
Mumbai Indians at start of IPL had been written off... BUT! What a comeback!


I was watching this match with my dad-in-law. He was just discharged from the hospital a couple of days ago; and, normally, he goes off to bed quite early. But, last night, the match was so compelling, that he watched it till Aditya Tare blasted his last-ball-six... He was on his wheel-chair, trying to stand up... while, I couldn’t get myself to sit!

Yes, it was unbelievable... Yes, impossible is just another word... Yes, anything can be possible in the game of cricket... Yes, Faith can, in deed, move mountains and calm down the stormy seas!

Aditya Tare wasn’t born when a similar dramatic scene had brought the entire cricket-loving world to a standstill: It was the legendary last-ball of the match at Sharjah. And it was an India Vs Pakistan match... and, it was Javed Miandad Vs Chetan Sharma... and, yes, it was a do-or-die situation for both teams. Pakistan needed five runs off that last ball... and as Chetan Sharma sent his last delivery, Miandad wrote history with his six! Even today, everyone talks about it... yes, even after more than three decades and even after so much of a change in the Cricket world! Nothing could eclipse those deeply- etched memories... For India, almost,  nightmarish!

But, last night, the young Mumbai-boy, Aditya Tare, must have succeeded in wiping off those Sharjah memories... Yes, at least, in my opinion. The last ten to twelve deliveries had stopped my heart and I wasn’t breathing, at all!

Good, Mumbai Indians won... Else, who knows!!!

Well, all said and done, it was just a game of cricket. Looking back at it, I am laughing it out loudly!

Many years ago, when his company had gone bankrupt and creditors were hounding him, and, yes, when everyone around had, already, written him off as a dead-meat... Amitabh Bachchan had made a sensational comeback with KBC... and, the whole world, inspired by it, had stood up to give him a hero’s ovation!

Yes, Amitabh Bachchan’s bouncing back was heroic, legendary... Gut-wrenching and inspiring! But, the kind of humble soul that he is, he never ever took-off his jersey and went into a frenzy of ‘I did it’... ‘I showed it’... ‘I shut their mouths’ or whatever of that kind... But, being a die-hard cricket-buff, Big B loved to watch the young-blood Tare doing it, last night...

But, I was remembering what Bachchan sir, my hero, had said in one of his interviews after his unbelievable come-back:

“We, really, do not know what we are capable of achieving
unless we are challenged hard!”

What an apt statement!


After five consecutive losses in Dubai, all of us had written off Mumbai Indians. The kind of comeback they have done – particularly the way they made it into the Play-offs, last night – was just unthinkable. Similarly, after his ship had sunk, all of us had written off Amitabh Bachchan... He wasn’t a young hero anymore... and, his movies were flopping, business venture had tanked, and the brief stint in politics only had damaged his reputation... No one would believe that he had still within him what it took to bounce back, and bounce back in a big, big way...

True, we really do not know how best we can fight... what powers we possess in our souls... unless we are challenged, unless we are driven to the wall...

Last night, as Mumbai Indians were celebrating their victory and as I was reading the legend’s tweet, I knew, I had to believe in what I was seeing in two inspiring bouncing-backs: Mumbai Indian’s and Amitabh Bachchan’s!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Sunday, May 25, 2014

OUR BEST INSURANCE COVER






















Pic.: Barkha Manik



 “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.
And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”

- Paulo Coelho

I have, always, felt in my heart the power of my dreams. When a dream is alive in my heart, I feel strong, upbeat and zestful. When dream fades, my strength and zest, too.

So, invariably, the secret of remaining young, alive and purposeful is to nurse a dream in my heart and follow it...

Fear about future, normally, sneaks in our hearts when we give up on our dreams... when we give up on our hopes... when we have no purpose to live for. We turn cynical and bitter about our future... We turn skeptical and lose our zest.

Some days ago, I had been to an insurance co’s office to pay premiums of some of my exiting policies. While I was there, I was approached by one of the business-development officers, who, in those few moments, literally, made me feel why I did not have enough insurance cover... and why I should urgently go for a ‘big’ cover...

Yes, for a while, I was hoodwinked to believe in his logic and I was panicking: “I am 56. How many more productive years? What if that happens? And what if this happens? He is right... I should not take the risk of not protecting my future...”

By the time I reached home, I was out of his spell... “Thank-you so much,” I said, “I am quite happy with the present cover.”

And, a couple of days back, I, consciously, made a decision to learn and practice ‘Tai Chi’... Somehow, I had felt, that if I sincerely and earnestly learn and practice Tai Chi, it would do away my health concerns... and, with that, I would be able to work more energetically and enthusiastically on my dreams...

Today was the first day of my Tai Chi learning. Let me tell you, I not only felt really, really good about myself, I, also, felt sufficiently insured!

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had made this famous remark, to inspire a nation gripped by anxiety about future... The onslaught of Great Depression and Second World-War was a reality and hoping and dreaming seemed impossible... Even though he himself was crippled with polio, he led a crippled nation right from his wheel-chair... It was he who had first inspired his folks with the infectious hope: “Happy Days Are Here Again!”

Yes, as dreams and hopes came, the fear died out...

In life, happy days come to us, only through dreaming and hoping...

That’s, in deed, our best insurance cover!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Saturday, May 24, 2014

WHEN YOU LIVE RESPECTING OTHERS' RULES... AND WITHIN CONSTRAINTS









Pic.: Barkha Manik

When I was about seven-to-eight years of age, we had this very popular parish-priest by the name Fr. Robert Pinto. He was very dynamic and, always, gave very impressive sermons. During the children’s mass on Sundays, he, really, would get down to our size and touch our little hearts with his inspiring stories. As our parents would, also, be present during this mass, often, his stories would send them home, too, a lot inspired and humbled. I still remember one story that he had told us, which has still stayed not only in my mind, but in my mom’s mind, too. Yes, even after, nearly, five decades!

It is the day one of the dreaded criminals of the times is brought to the gallows... to be hanged in the public square. Hundreds of people have come there to witness the sight.

The judge asks, “Do you have any last wish to fulfill?”

“Yes, I do,” replies the criminal, without even blinking inside his blind-fold, “I want to say something to my mother.”

The elderly mother is brought near the gallows, and the son bends to whisper something into his mother’s ears. But, even before others can understand what is happening, the son, the criminal who is condemned to death, bites off his mother’s ear...!

Hundreds of on-lookers are left shocked as the security-men, quickly, whisk away the criminal, who, in public glare, has unleashed one of the most unpardonable acts...

“Why did you do it to your own mother?” asks the Judge with disbelief.

The son gives the reason...

“When I was a little boy in school, one day, I stole a lovely pencil from another student’s bag. At home, when my mother saw the pencil, she did not scold me... did not tell me that it was not proper and I should return it to the student the next day. I kept doing such things, and, my mom, even after knowing what I was doing, never ever tried to stop me from my little thefts... Soon, I began to commit bigger thefts, and, my mother, because she thought she loved me, only began to protect me, more and more... I am a hardened criminal, now. But, had my mother tried to teach me what was proper and what was not, when I had committed my first little-theft in school, she would not have witnessed this tragic day in her life... I am sorry mom!”

When I was growing up in Mangalore, a couple of my cousins (from mom’s side), had lived with us in order to pursue their studies. They hailed from far away villages, while our house was very close to the city. At home, the financial condition was bad... But, our large-hearted parents and grand-parents never gave my cousins the impression that they were ‘outsiders’... But, I, always, could feel their silent loneliness... They knew that they were living with their relatives and not their very own parents... So, whatever preferences they might have had, whatever freedom they might have enjoyed at their own homes... no, here, at our place, they had to follow the rules of our home... Hundred times, they would think before inviting one of their friends home, leave alone for food or fun...Hundred times they would think, if they had to come home late... And, though my parents did not make any big scene about all this... my cousins did understand the value in living with relatives, within constraints. It only helped them come up in life as strong, mature and compassionate human-beings...

Some years later, I had to come to Mumbai seeking a job. I lived here with my uncle’s ( dad’s brother) family. He was a very small man in an organization, where he lived in a small quarters with his wife and two little children. I lived with them for seven long years... without even once getting into any sort of hassles with them. How my cousins had lived, back home, with us, had, now, come to my help... I was aware of the reality: I lived with my relatives and not with my own parents... I had to live according to the rules of my uncle’s family... And, that’s about it...

When I was jobless, in those days, for over three months, I was so scared to tell them about it... because I did not want myself to be a burden on them... So, I gave them an impression that I had a job... leave every day early and come home late in the evening. During the day, I would go about looking for jobs... get rejected... but, always would read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ of Napoleon Hill... sitting in gardens or a public libraries... There was no money in my pocket to eat... or travel... I would walk miles and miles... But, when I would come home, I had to pretend as if all was well...

Only my mother knew about it. “Hang on my son; it’s only a matter some more time,” she would remind me, always, “But, do not cause any inconvenience to your uncle and aunt.”

A dear student of mine is, presently, having some tough time, here, in Mumbai. He lives with his uncle (Mom’s brother). Understandably, the mother, who lives abroad, is very concerned about her young-son. The boy has begun to react with his uncle and aunt... and, there is tension and loneliness. Last night, I spoke to both, the son and the mother... I shared with them the story of my cousins... I shared with them my own story...

But, I did not share with them, the story Fr. Pinto had told us in the church, decades ago... during the children’s mass, that Sunday... But, I knew that he had told it to the children, as much as he had told it to the mothers...

A sad story?

Sorry, it is not!

GERALD D’CUNHA