Tuesday, September 30, 2014

WHO IS THE LEOPARD?






Pic.: Vimal Tulsiani

Yesterday, I had written a very impressive piece on our P.M., Mr. Narendra Modi.

I don’t like the hardcore party-politics, nor do I like the fanatic fervor with which most of us worship our leaders blindly. And, above all, I refuse to dig deep, read between the lines and study the motive behind our leaders’ actions, when I feel they are taken in good faith and with good intentions...

If I do not like Mr. Modi’s party or its ideology, that shouldn't prevent me from admiring Mr. Modi for his great, bold gestures as our Prime Minister...


I said, ‘our’ Prime Minister.

Now, read that again. No matter how much I argue on it or deny it, the fact does remain this way: Mr. Modi is ‘my’ P.M., too, whether I have voted for him or against him. Yes, as Barack Obama famously said in his inaugural speech, “Remember, I am elected to be the President of those who oppose me, too!”

So, what is good is good; what is bold is bold. If Mr. Modi has been clearly demonstrating the characteristics of a great leader and visionary, if he is able to touch the chord in our hearts, then, I should be a blind man to argue that what I am seeing is false...  I should be a dumb idiot to argue that what I am hearing from his mouth is false... and, above all, I should be a fool to believe someone who wants me to judge Mr. Modi by what happened in the past...

In the past, many things have happened, and will happen... Yes, in your life, in my life and in our leaders’ lives, too...

If past was the yardstick to love and accept people, this world would have been a living hell... I first learnt this in my Sunday school. I still remember my sweet Sunday-teacher telling us the story of those hardcore Pharisees dragging a woman to Jesus, by her hair, holding stones in their hands. They wanted to trap Jesus, somehow. “The old law tells us that a sinful woman like this one (a prostitute) should be stoned to death; what would you tell us – should we stone her, or should we leave her?”

Jesus knew why they were asking him that question. He said nothing. Instead, he took a few steps forward, bent down and wrote on the sand this: ‘The one amongst you, who has not sinned, let him cast the first stone!”

One by one, the stones fell off the hands and one by one, the hardcore left the site...

“Where are those who dragged you here, woman?” asked Jesus.

The woman – Mary Magdalene – fell on the Great Healer’s feet and cried out her sins...

“Get up woman,” Jesus lifted her, “go and sin no more!”

What I still remember is this: our Sunday teacher knew we were too small to understand what a ‘prostitute’ did. So, she had told us ‘the woman who had committed big sins’!

Mary Magdalene went on to become a very devout follower of Jesus Christ. She was there next to mother Mary when Jesus took his last breath on the cross... She was there at Jesus’ tomb on the Easter dawn, before anyone else was!

Now, I have many around me – some of them are Christians – they want me to buy their story, which, of course, is not there in the Bible on any page – that, Jesus had a relationship with this woman!

I smile and tell them, “My friends, what do you want to prove from this tale – that Jesus was a bad man... cunning and criminal, as Pharisees accused Him to be?

If you want me to reject a person for his past deeds, I won’t... when the person is not glorifying or justifying his past, now... But, when you do that – dig up the gory past - over and over again, you do more harm to the society by keeping the wounds alive... by pouring more poison in our hearts...

For God’s sake, see what is good in a man, now... what he stands for, now... and choose to close your eyes to the dark chapter...

If you still argue, “The leopard doesn't change his spots,” I have only this to ask -

“Who is the leopard?”



GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, September 29, 2014

WHEN I SHOUTED 'JAI HIND' WITH THE CROWD, LAST NIGHT





Pic.: Chetna Shetty


Like millions all over the globe, my wife and I, too, watched the live relay of P.M. Modi’s speech at Madison Square, last night.

What I was more interested in was this: How was my own mind filtering in what it was watching and hearing!

When my mind saw Mr. Modi as a BJP or RSS leader, it heard him differently... When the Gujarat riots and Godra images started coming before me, I saw him differently... On the other hand, when I dropped those thoughts, when I chose to see the fact that Mr. Modi had risen above all the petty politics and kept unfolding before us, with all his honesty, ‘the grand plan’ to make our nation great, vibrant and proud... when I felt he igniting in each one of us that self-belief – that, you and I need not be in politics, need not be some leaders, but we all can make difference in our own respective fields, by doing our respective works with the best of the best dedication and passion...

When, I chose to take in ‘hope’ and ‘self-belief’ from Mr. Modi’s sincere address, I really did not care as to which party and cadre he came from; I really did not care for what had happened in the past in the form of riots or whatever... I was only interested in hope, self-belief... I wanted to be the part of the grand plan he was unveiling before the world... I wanted to be a contributor and not a blamer... I wanted to do it from the sphere of my own operation, from what I was blessed to do best in life... Yes, I wanted to lend my hand to him... wanted to scream aloud with the crowd – ‘Jai Hind’...’Jai Hind’... ‘Jai Hind’.

I felt, immensely moved when he teased as he ended, “My friends, I have kept the fast, not you... Shout loudly... and I did with the crowd:

‘JAI HIND’... ‘JAI HIND’... ‘JAI HIND’!

For four days, the man had been only on water, travelling frantically in a foreign land... and, as he put it colorfully, he was there on a ‘mission’ and not on a ‘vacation’!

I, really, felt inspired...

It is the leadership that holds a nation together... It is hope and self-belief that each and every heart yearns to hang on to... It is the grand plan that we all want to be a part of; it is the great, inspiring saga that we all want to play a role in...

Nobody believes in sad and horror stories for long... What purpose do they serve?

Nobody buys lies after a certain point of time... What purpose do they serve?

I was a school-boy when JFK was the American President. We had a lesson about him in our school textbook... I remember feeling excited about JFK even from my remote village, not knowing which party he belonged to, even which country he headed... All that I cared for was he was a dreamer, someone who made the entire world dream... And, I remember that very, very well...

That, dreams are good; that dreams inspire us to live life with passion, hope and self-belief!

So, last night, it was, probably, the American school-boys, who must have been getting to see, hear and read about the Indian dreamer – P.M. Mr. Narendra Modi...

Hope, passion and self-belief know no boundaries of nations...

Power of dreams helps mankind to keep its head high and walk...

“What a man!” that’s how my wife concluded last night...

And, that’s how I did, too!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Saturday, September 27, 2014

WHO IS THE PARTNER IN CRIME?





Pic. Nishant Joshi
Hitesh*, an eleventh-standard student of mine, had missed the last lecture, yet again. Last week, when he had missed three–four lectures in a row, I talked to his mother and explained to her why Hitesh had to be regular... It was eleventh standard. The subject which I taught – Accountancy – needed to be organized well, with a good hold on the basics... Else, it would tell on the following years. Thus, as I do with all other students, I did insist with, first, Hitesh, then, his mother, that, if the foundation was shaky, the edifice would never stand; that Hitesh would never like this subject – the main subject – and, thereby, the quality of his work would not have any beauty; that, he would not have motivation to work hard and long...
Yes, generally, I do not involve parents to prevail upon my students. It is only when needed (like, when the family makes frequent programmes to go out, hold functions etc., at the cost of lectures), that I talk to them. In this case, too, I had spoken to Hitesh’s mom only when I felt I had to. And, when I did that, she appreciated what I was trying to tell her and assured me that Hitesh would be regular in future...

Now, when I was starting a new chapter, Hitesh was absent, once again. Worst, there was no word from either Hitesh or anyone at home. I was annoyed... I was worried that he might again miss classes in a row. Therefore, I called his mother’s cell-phone. No response. After an hour, when I was in the midst of my lecture (not his batch), I received her call. I went out of the class to talk to her. As I started gently describing to her the situation, I heard her saying, “Sir, I will talk to you later; I thought it was something important!”
I was numb for a while! “This is not important ma’am?” I managed to ask her with a voice filled with anguish...
“Sir, not that...” before Hitesh’s mother could complete what she wanted to say, I cut-off the phone and went inside to teach...
Obviously, it left me very disturbed.
“If a mother doesn't think, it is important, how would her son?” I was ranting in my mind, “The partner in crime!”
Some two hours later, I received the call again. “Sir, Hitesh’s mummy here,” I heard, “Sorry sir, if I have hurt you. You know I am a teacher in........ school. We are not allowed to talk on phone during our class. Still, assuming that it was about some change in Hitesh’s class-timings or something urgent like that, I took a chance and called you back, but I was afraid of my Principal. When I learnt that it was regarding Hitesh’s attendance, I thought I could talk to you later, after my school-hours. But, in my anxiety, I ended-up saying, “I thought it was something important... which was a wrong word on my part... I should have said, ‘something urgent’.”
My numbness, by now, had all gone. “Don’t worry ma’am, I am sorry for cutting-off the phone,” I calmed Hitesh’s mom, “See that he comes today.”
“Certainly sir, he will be there today,” I was assured, “What you are saying is very important... I know it as I am teacher myself. Thank-you sir.”
“Thank-you ma’am,” I concluded, “take care.”

*Name changed

GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, September 26, 2014

OUR MODERN-DAY MORNING-PRAYERS AND GOODNIGHT-STORIES





Pic.: Anand Ashokan

Right now, as I write this, something exceptionally happy or something exceptionally sad, shocking or disturbing might have just happened - or might be happening – somewhere, there, in the world...
Like our Mangalyaan doing it to the Mars orbit...
Or, that white tiger eating the school boy inside the Delhi zoo...
Like those Andhra ladies thrashing the two auto-drivers for raping a hapless girl...
Or, those terrorists slitting the throat of American journo...
Like our brave soldiers doing so much in Kashmir...
Or, those young college-kids getting washed away in Beas river...
Like that deadly road or air accident...
Like that wife cheating on her husband or other way around...
Like, that local politician flaunting his crores-worth shirt made of pure gold...
Like that dog who does what a man cannot...
Like someone, in the dread of the night, sighting a ghost or an alien in his backyard...
Like that just-born, who can play with the latest Apps, or who can do some hardcore math...

I can go on and on... Yes, right now, as I write this, so many things – the greatest or the worst, the most inspiring or the most the most repelling, the warmest or the saddest – might be happening somewhere in the world...
A thought has been repeatedly coming to my mind, today: Was is not so right since this world began – when there were no one to capture it on his cell-phone and send it across the globe, just in a blink?

What happens in my heart – I am holding my hand over my heart and asking this – when I see that white tiger eating the boy or those terrorists slitting the Journo’s throat? What happens to my heart when I watch those deadliest road or air accidents or tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes? What happens to my heart when I see a TV anchor tearing apart a politician or vice versa? What happens to my heart when the Mars-trip and Kashmir bravado unfold?

My cell phone and PC are flooded with videos, both mood-lifting ones and mood-sinking ones... They come, twenty-four-seven, just as I open my eyes in the morning and just as I close my eyes at night...
They come as my modern-day morning-prayers... They come as my modern-day goodnight- stories...

When I was a little boy, my mom in our village used to advise us never to listen to any ‘bad’ stories while going to bed. “You will get bad dreams,” she would remind us. I don’t know how correct she was scientifically. But, how does that matter? The truth was: “Whenever I took in my mind a very sad or horrible story to bed, I did get bad dreams; often, I jumped out of my bed frightened and screaming!

And, today – when I am a 56-year-old grown-up? Does the same thing happen, now - when I see those horror-videos on WhatsApp or Face book – the tiger eating a boy or terrorist slitting journo’s throat... Wife cheating on her husband or village women thrashing auto-drivers for raping raping an innocent girl and, yes, when I watch those horrors and terrors - hate, blood and fear - on small-screen or big-screen?

Yes sir, it does...
After all, I am not that strong, you see!

GERALD D’CUNHA


Thursday, September 25, 2014

HOW OUR DREAMS GROW 'BIG'









Pic.: Aparna Khanolkar Sheth

“When you're surrounded by people,
who share a passionate commitment
around a common purpose,
anything is possible.”


Big dreams are, seldom, dreamt by ‘big’ individuals... They are dreamt by small – very ordinary – individuals like you and me. It is when they surround themselves with people, and ignite in them the same passion - make them believe that the dream is their dream, too – and inspire them to go all the way out to realize it... Yes, it is then, that the dream and the dreamer, both, become ‘big’!

Take anything in the history of mankind...

Take how a nation is built, how a country is freed...

Take how a billion-dollar company is founded... how missions to Moon or Mars are accomplished...

Take how great movies are made, how mega rock shows, beauty pageants or award shows are staged...

Take how TV or radio progrmmes are put together, how news is brought out every hour, every day...

Take how newspapers and magazines are rolled out with such precision, how milk and bread reach our doorsteps each morning...

Take how churches, temples, mosques, gurudwaras and synagogues are run...

Take how crusades and coups are staged, how terrorists are prepared and how they are destroyed...

Take how Army, Navy, Air force and Police force are knit together...

Take how Gandhi became Gandhi and Hitler became Hitler and how they, both, built their own unique-armies...,

Take Jesus, Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak and Sai Babas...

Take Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller or Baba Amte...

Take Varghese Kurien, Dhirubhai Ambani, JRD, Narayan Murthy...

Take how Microsoft, Apple, Google and Face book came to grow so big...


Yes, how ‘big’ were these individuals when they first dreamt their dreams?

Could they realize those dreams without arousing people around them - without making them believe that they all dreamt a common dream?

Every big dream is first dreamt by a very ordinary soul... someone like you and me. It is he who first goes to the mountain-top to see the ‘Promised Land’... It is he who first sees the ‘vision ‘and, then, goes about inspiring others around him to see the same vision, same dream – their ‘Promised Land’ – with all his conviction, passion, determination, focus, persistence and, above all, sincerity and integrity...

Dreams grow big only this way...

Yes, when many people burn together to achieve the same dream – their ‘Promised Land’.


GERLAD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TRUE TO OUR WORK AND TRUE TO OUR GOD






Pic.: Sheela Krishnamony

I believe, the moments when I remember God – whether in times of my great joy or acute distress – are the moments of my devotion...

Whether I kneel down , with my bowed head, or whether I look unto the heavens and cry, “Halleluajh, Halleluajh”... and, yes, whether I count beads or chant bhajans... all that God will be interested in is this: Did I do all this with my clean, humble and grateful heart?


The moment the God I worship becomes ‘my property’ – ‘my God’ - well, to me, that’s the death of my God!

Often, we go about praying so much – making such a ‘show’ of it – I wonder, if our God is so greedy for our veneration? Or, if we are being just hypocrites?

Some days ago, one of my dear old-students, Shripad, reminded me of this mythological story...


Narad was a huge devotee of Lord Vishnu.The whole day, he went around chanting, “Narayana, Narayana, Narayana.” Slowly, it had gone into his head that no one – whether on land or in heaven – worshiped Lord Vishnu the way he did. Worst, he wanted Lord Vishnu to validate his feelings, his claim that he was the greatest devotee of the Lord.
 
Lord Vishnu, obviously, did not like such a pride in his devotee. He wanted to convey Narad, that by chanting Lord’s name breathlessly, 24 by 7, a devotee did not become any great... Instead, a few moments of reverence would please Lord immensely.

“Narad, there is a poor farmer on the Earth, down there,” Lord Vishnu said to Narad, “I like him. For, I am impressed more by his devotion to me than yours.”

Narad’s heart sank on hearing this. “Lord how is it possible?” he asked, “I am the only one chanting your name all day long!”

“Well then, Narad,” said Lord Vishnu, “Please go down to the Earth and check for yourself.”

Narad went down to the Earth to check for himself. All that he saw was that the farmer rose early before sunrise, took Lord’s name, and went about doing his hard work in his farm. At noon, he again took Lord’s name before taking his meal. Finally, he took Lords name, one for the last time, before going to bed... Yes, that’ all - only three times in a whole day!

Narad was happy to note this. On reaching back to Vaikunt, Lord’s abode in heaven, he said to Lord Vishnu, “The farmer you are talking about just remembered you thrice in an entire day... and, I do it non-stop throughout the day. So, who is your greatest devotee?”

“Narad, before I tell you who,” said Lord Vishnu, “here is a pot, oil filled in it to the brim. Go back to the Earth, place it on your head, and just take one round about that farmer’s field. But, see that not a single drop of oil spills out!”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Narad thought and, as instructed, went back to the farm, placed the oil-pot on his head and took one round about the field, with great concentration on the pot, yes, without a drop of oil being spilled out!

“Now?” Narad was sure, that he had impressed Lord Vishnu.

“Narad, you just took little time to take one round about that farm. That’s great,” said Lord Vishnu, “But tell me, how many times could you remember me through that one round?”

“How could I Lord,” Narad was quick, “all that I could think of was the oil-pot... How to keep it steady on my head and not allow a single drop of oil to spill.”

“Well then, Narad,” remarked Lord Vishnu, “how do you expect that poor farmer to concentrate on his hard work in the farm, all day long, and remember me at the same time?” He added, “The poor farmer is true to his duty and and true to me, both. Thus, he pleases me more than you do.”


Let’s all go into our farms and toil, through the day, with all our devotion. When our plough is down, let’s, also, remember our Lord with equal devotion...

And, I think, that’s enough.


GERALD D’CUNHA


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TILL YOU DO NOT HAVE FAITH IN YOUR OWN WINGS







Pic.: Tandra Chakraborty

Navya and Kunal* have just left my office. Today, I had called them both for a pep. Both had approached me for the same reason: to help them feel confident in life.

Navya is a post graduate in medical studies.  Recently, she was engaged to a young-man, who lives in another city. Her marriage is fixed for mid-December. She is an extremely head-strong girl... very, very articulate... exceptionally clear in her thoughts. If you talk to her for some time, you feel happy... and will never realize that she needs any help – of all the spheres in life – in the sphere of ‘self-confidence’...

But, the fact is: she does need.

Her fiancé is a young-and-ambitious businessman. In recent past, he had met with a big setback in business and, now, has largely put himself back on tracks. He has other responsibilities such as the marriage of his sisters and care of his aged parents. He has to travel extensively; and, by the time he comes home, he is left with his energy drained...

And, that’s the time our Navya – who, by her own admission, is a die-hard romantic – ‘dies’ to talk to her would-be over the phone. But, what happens, invariably every night, is, that their talk ends up with bitter arguments, followed by sulking and brooding over it. Our head-strong girl seems, now, very, very fragile... as though she has no confidence in her at all!

I have had a couple of earlier sittings with Navya... and had pointed to her about her greatest strengths... How good she was, - how clear in her thoughts, how good in studies (She was a rank-holder in her post-graduate studies), how sensitive and helpful she came about... I had pointed to her that she should never walk into her would-be husband’s life with preconceived image of how he should be, how he should reach out to her, how he should walk, talk and behave and respond... That, she should not walk into a marriage expecting to fill a vacuum - an empty space... “It is not going to be two halves making one circle,” I had reminded her, “It is going to be two full circles coming together to create a new space.” I had told her, “Navya, you are, already, complete, already full... Go into his life with fullness of your heart; you will not die of thirst.” Then, as I, always, tell everyone – including myself - I told Navya, too, this: “Don’t fall in love with the ‘image’ of your lover; fall in love with ‘him’.”

Today, when Navya came to me, she had a lot of good stuff to tell me. Before Kunal arrived, she went on telling me how she had begun to let go of the need to ‘control’ and ‘manipulate’ her would-be over the phone... How, the less she ‘demanded’, the more she seemed to be ‘getting’ inside!

Kunal is much younger – doing his first-year engineering in one of the best colleges in the city. He comes from a well-off Marwari family, with affectionate and caring parents. He has two younger siblings and they all make a lovely family. Everything seems to be going right for Kunal... There is money, though he is not interested in it or of a demanding kind. He was, once, good in studies; but, after tenth standard, he had been losing interest in studies. He confesses that he has no idea as to how he got into such a fine engineering college, without bribing, influence or the required marks... “Sir, I have everything, still I am not feeling good inside,” Kunal told me, “Why is my confidence so low?”

“Do you love engineering, Kunal?” I asked him.

“I do not know, sir,” Kunal said sheepishly.

“Do you know what you really want to do in life?” I probed.

“Not really, sir,” Kunal admitted, “I am yet to figure out what I really want to do in life.”

I told Kunal, that, when I was his age, I, too, had passed through a similar experience... Till my F.Y. B’Com - till Prof. B.S.Raman came to teach my class and I started dreaming of becoming a fine teacher like him – yes, till that moment, I, too, was drifting without any direction.

“Kunal, how can we ever expect to remain highly motivated without being propelled by a strong goal in life?” I said, “How can we feel good inside – feel confident?”

“But, sir, how can I find out what I want to do in life?” Kunal was sincere while asking me this question. Many, many, many do ask me the same question: “Sir, how can I find out what I want to do in life?”

Well, I wish I could tell them ‘How’ with a magic wand... I wish there was a ready answer to this question!

The fact is different from the wish. The fact is: there is no magic wand, nor there is any ready answer...

“Kunal, it is a long and slow process of discovery,” I said to Kunal, “It starts from now... right now... from the churning and restlessness you go through... from the down-in-the-dumps feeling of low confidence you go through... Yes, it starts from being quiet and alone, looking within yourself... from trying to get in touch with what excites you, what makes you feel high and happy... finding out the things which you would do without being told, without worrying about money or time... It starts from recognizing your strengths, your gifts, your talents... It starts from trusting in your uniqueness, your own innate powers... It starts from de-linking yourself from all kinds of mental dependency... from the fear of social opinion or criticism...”

“Sir, I need to believe in myself,” Kunal accepted, “I need to believe I can fly.”

“Exactly,” jumped Navya holding before us her cell-phone, “Read this... Someone had sent me this on WhatsApp a few days ago”:



“A bird sitting on a tree

is never afraid of the branch breaking;

because her trust in not on the branch,

but in her own wings...

Always believe in yourself.”



And, I was smiling!

“Till you do not have faith in your own wings,” I concluded, “the ‘branches’ and the ‘cushions’ you cling on to will, always, keep you crippled and caged.”

Why did Navya and Kunal come to me, today?

I am still smiling!


* Names changed


GERALD D’CUNHA


Saturday, September 20, 2014

THE POVERTY OF HEART





Pic.: Chetna Shetty

The other day, a middle-aged lady, who is an office-goer – and who commutes by public transport every day - was telling me about two gentlemen in her housing complex.

The first one was in his sixties and drove an old Maruti Zen. The lady told me that this man, whenever drove by, would stop his car and offer a lift to her. “Not only me,” she added, “he does it to every person in our complex.”

The second one was in his late thirties and drove a beautiful high-end car. The lady told me that this man lived right below her flat, knew her better than the the Maruti-owner did, still would simply drive past as if that’s how it should be! “Every time he does that,” the lady said,”it makes my heart burn in pain.” Then, she added, “What a poverty of heart it is!”

I could easily empathize with the lady. I have amply experienced it around the place where I live and where I work, both. I am sure, the lady and I are not alone in going through this experience!

The poverty of the heart – which, every great teacher has described as ‘Poverty of the spirit’ – has plagued the modern man rampantly...

If our most luxurious apartments and the most sophisticated gadgets make our heart hardened and alienate us from our fellowmen, then, certainly, that’s the poverty of heart the lady was talking about...

If we do not value communication,  respect someone’s missed-call by calling back – yes, despite possessing the latest i-phones, in fact  a couple of high-end phones – then, that’s the poverty of heart the lady was talking about...

If we waste our food in restaurants and homes, without thinking about the ones who go to bed hungry, every night... and, if our clothes lie in our wardrobes, for years and years, without any use for us, when thousands live on the streets, there, naked, that’s the poverty of heart which the lady was talking about...

If our top-grade education doesn't make us feel fortunate, be tolerant of those who can not read or write, can not afford even the basic education, it is the poverty of heart which the lady was talking about...

If there is no place for our elderly parents in out massive mansions, but there is ample place to host lavish night-long parties, yes, that’s the poverty of heart the lady was talking about...

Incidentally, I received from my friend, Sundar, a very apt quote by one of my idols – and one of the most sensitive and inspiring legends in human history – Martin Luther King Jr. Here it is:



“When we look at the modern man,
we have to face the fact that modern man suffers
from a kind of poverty of the spirit,
which stands in glaring contrast with
a scientific and technological abundance...

We have learned to fly the air as birds...
We have learned to swim the seas as fish...
Yet, we have not learned to walk the earth
as brothers and sisters.”



Am I that ‘modern man’?



GERALD D’CUNHA