Thursday, December 31, 2015

AS I STAND NEAR THE NEW-YEAR DOOR






Pic.: Shankar R

As I approach the threshold of New Year, I, get this feeling, that I am approaching God’s altar holding an offering in my hand. And, all of a sudden, the words of Jesus Christ come back to challenge me… Yes, all afresh:

“If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and, there, remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering…”

Do I have a ‘brother’ who has something against me?

Do I have a ‘brother’ against whom I have something?

It has been a mystery to me as to why Jesus asked me to go back and make peace with a brother who has something against me. Why didn’t He say, “If you have a brother against whom you have something”?

I think it is relatively easier to go back to that brother against whom I hold a grudge. All that I need to do to go back is: realize what I am holding… have a true intention to make peace with my brother… and go back to him with a clean heart and offer the olive branch… Whether my brother will accept it or not, I cannot say. But, I did my best… and I did the right thing… There is no poison in my heart… I hold no more grudge… No more animosity.

But, think of what Jesus had said: “If you have a brother who has something against you…”

Now, to me, this is a tough proposition. Here, I have nothing against my brother… He has. So, is it not for my brother to make the first move… to come to me with an olive branch?”

However mysterious – even crazy – Jesus’ advice sounds, if we meditate on it, we would realize how important it is, that our desire to make peace with our brothers who have something against us is far more significant than our desire to make peace with our brothers against whom we have something…

Today, as I stand near the New-year door, Jesus’ words make me humbler… I do have a brother or two against whom I hold something. And, I do have a brother or four who have something against me… And, here I stand, at the new threshold, offering the olive branch… It is not important, whether it will be accepted or not… But, it is important that I did it… and come cleaner and lighter…

In life, great friends do fall apart… great couples, great neighbors, great business or play partners… Call it egoes or insecurities… Call it misunderstanding or misguidance… Call it intentional or unintentional… but, call it ‘life’ or ‘living, anyway. Yes, we do fall apart in life, at times… But, then, do we hold grudges against one another?

Jesus was more concerned about this – we holding grudges against one another!

I am fortunate, that I hold no grudges against any of my brothers…. Yes, even though it is difficult for me to talk to them, be with them, the way it used to be once…

But, do I hold a grudge?

No, Jesus!


Simon and Garfunkel have been my favorites right since I was a college kid. As a team, they rocked the music world. When they split, they fell from their music pedestal. Same thing happened to ABBA and BoneyM, The Beatles and The Eagles… Here, to our own Salim-Javed and the rest, too.

We may not be able to mend some relationships in our lives. But, mending them inside our hearts and minds – and setting ourselves free from the poisonous prison they enslave us into – is more important… We may not to be able to look into each others’ eyes for the rest of  our lives…but, if our eyes can bear compassion and remorse, I think, that’s enough…

Enough to go back to and offer our offering at God’s altar…

Enough to walk through the New-year door…

Wishing you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

God Bless.





GERALD D’CUNHA

Video: YouTube





Wednesday, December 30, 2015

ONE EXTRA DAY IN THE NEW YEAR? GRAB IT WITH BOTH HANDS








Pic.: Nicole Gubin
The thought that 2016 – the so-called New Year – would be a ‘leap year’ hadn’t crossed my mind, till a young-man reminded me of it at a function, two days ago. This man told me, that he was trying to go abroad for better prospects; but, he was unwilling to do so in 2016 as it would be a leap year. “I am told, that a leap year is not good for a major decision,” he said with conviction.

“Do you believe in that theory?” I asked the young-man, almost amused.

“Yes, I do,” came the answer, “I prefer to be a little superstitious when it comes to some things in life.”

Well, I preferred to change the topic!

2015 is still not over. The flood-waters in Chennai haven’t fully gone back, yet. Nobody expected 2015 would be so bad for Chennai and its beautiful people… Earthquake shattered Nepal in 2015. Nobody expected that would happen, too, in 2015 for such peace-loving people. Syria, France, Greece were battered in 2015. Gang-rapes and gang-wars were very much rampant in 2015. Weddings and divorces, births and deaths, health and sickness, financial triumphs and bankruptcies… academic excellence and failures… electoral victories and defeats… court convictions and acquittals… yes, whatever good or bad can happen in life, has happened in the year that is about to get over…

And, my young friend prefers to believe, that 2016 would be a bad year… just because it is going to be a leap year!

God hasn’t made leap years; man has. So, whatever God wants to mete out to us, He would in 2016…

So, let’s not worry too much about that-one-extra-day thing in life. There is a lot more to be worry about. One of them is: What we carry with us into the New Year…

“Wherever we go, we carry ourselves.” Have you heard this?

Rejoice… It is just like the Baker’s Dozen… one extra in a dozen… this is one-day-extra in the coming year… Grab it with your both hands!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

TALENTS, TOO, COME TO US WITH A CLAUSE ATTACHED






Pic.: Dilip V.

If you think, there is a dearth of talent around us, you are wrong. There is talent galore… Loads and loads of it. There is dearth of discipline… Self-discipline.

When I was in eleventh standard, we had a wonderful teacher who taught us the Language, Kannada.  His name was Shri. Padakanayya. One day, while discussing a poem, he made a very profound statement. He said, “God gives each one of us a great strength (read it as Gift or Talent); but, He holds back ‘something’ from us so that we remain humble, grateful and deserving.”

I was barely a teenager, then. Still, I could grasp the depth of our teacher’s words. What God holds back, becomes our weakness… Our lack of self-discipline. He expects us to work on it before we can encash our talents.

Talents and gifts are God-given, no doubt. God is all loving and merciful, no doubt. But, He isn’t a fool to ruin us by placing precious pearls in our hands. If man knows what happens if pearls are placed before monkeys, doesn’t God know it?

There is no free lunch in this life. Talents, too, come to us with a clause attached to them: ‘Subject to your self-discipline’.

I have written on the issue of talents and self-discipline many times before. “Talents alone won’t do,” I have screamed from top of the roof… I am adding this, too, today: “They can’t”

Talent alone couldn’t have not done it to Amitabh Bachchan. Talent alone couldn’t have done it to Sachin Tendulkar. Talent alone couldn’t have not done it to Lata Mageshkar. I am naming them here, because, these stars have endured in the skies for a long, long time…  Certainly, not by their talents alone.

Not by their talents alone. I say it, once more.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, December 28, 2015

GRACE BEFORE MEALS








Pic.: Shankar R.

Apart from Christmas and New-year, this entire month – particularly the last two weeks of the month – has been a heavily-loaded season of weddings and other social events like First Holy Communion, birthdays, anniversaries and re-unions. I had been attending, almost, one in the afternoon and one at night, yes, practically, for last full week!

Yesterday was a Sunday. In the afternoon, I attended the First Holly Communion celebrations of Alisha, my niece. At night, I had another niece Janice’s wedding reception to attend. A celebration is a celebration… It has to be grand, lavish. But, imagine my dilemma… There is a limit how much I can eat and digest. The hosts want me to feast on what has been so lovingly and generously arranged by them. They are delighted to see me indulge in it. But, how can I do so, at noon and night, day after day, for, almost, a week?

Yes, that has been my dilemma. At some places, I just skipped the food… Just offered my wishes and returned… At some places, I overate or just stuck to a spoon or two… And, at some places, I wasted the food even!

Last afternoon, at the hotel where Alisha’s First Holy Communion was celebrated, there were two other celebrations - a silver jubilee and a birthday… one on each floor! At night, too, in the vast grounds, where Janice’s wedding reception was celebrated, there were two more wedding receptions… Each one of them was grand, almost kingly… Music, dance and extra-ordinarily layout of food and beverages… The grounds were decorated and lit up with magical allure…  Yes, for the hosts, it was important… very, very important to hold it that way. For the guests, it was a heart-warming experience…

But, at night, when Fr. Reginald said the Grace before Meals, I, almost, froze with guilt. “Bless O Lord… this food which we are about to eat… Bless the ones who have prepared with so much love...” I was not moved at all by any of these routine lines during the Grace before Meals… What moved me the most was when Father asked us – almost pleaded – not to waste food. “What we waste on one night can feed some for a month out there,” Father reminded us, “So, be sensitive, be responsible my dear brother and sisters.”

I needed it badly, let me confess… This food for thought!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Saturday, December 26, 2015

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT







Pic.: Nicole Gubin

Last night, the little children and their mothers celebrated Christmas tree function. I was the only Christian amongst them, and was there as the Hon Chairman of our Society. Everything was planned and executed by the children and their mothers… They call it ‘the Christmas Spirit’…. Yes, I could feel that, breathe that and even touch that in the cold air…

What is this Christmas Spirit? Is it ‘Giving’… ‘Reaching out’… ‘Touching someone’s heart’… ‘Giving a pleasant surprise?’…

I think, it is all of these… For, they all come from that amazing space in our hearts – called ‘Giving’.

We do not need to own much to give… and we do not need much. Giving is being spiritual, even godly…

Kahlil Gibran’s famous words on ‘Giving and Receiving’ (from his book ‘The Prophet) have been my favorite. Here I share them with you…


Then said a rich man, "Speak to us of Giving." 
      And he answered: 

      You give but little when you give of your possessions. 
      It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. 
      For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? 

      And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city? 

      And what is fear of need but need itself? 
      Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable? 
      There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. 

      And there are those who have little and give it all. 
      These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. 
      There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. 
      And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. 
      And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; 

      They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. 
      Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth. 

      It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; 
      And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving 
      And is there aught you would withhold? 
      All you have shall someday be given; 
      Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'. 
      You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." 
      The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. 
      They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish. 
      Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from you. 
      And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. 

      And what desert greater shall there be than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? 

      And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed? 

      See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. 
      For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness. 

      And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. 

      Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings; 
      For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father. 


May the Christmas Spirit continue to reside in our hearts, long after the Christmas is gone…



GERALD D’CUNHA




Thursday, December 24, 2015

AMAR, AKBAR AND ANTHONY IS BACK






Pic.: Natrajan Ramsubramani



As I write this Post, I can hear continuous devotional songs. Just outside our window, there is a temple dedicated to Datta Guruji. They were cleaning and decorating it for a week almost. Sharp at 12 in the night, we heard crackers cheering the Guru’s jaynthi… the soft devotional songs began to be played right before the dawn… They are so soft and pleasant!

In the night yesterday, I, also, saw a procession on the occasion of Eid-e-Milad… Prophet Mohammad’s birthday…

And, here, inside our housing complex, we have lit up the whole complex with bright stars, lanterns, Christmas tree and the crib. Tomorrow, the children and the ladies will be celebrating Christmas… Out of the total 140 flats in our complex, hardly five of us are Christians, another five are Muslims, four are Sikhs… and the rest – 126 of us – are Hindus!

Milind, one of our residents, shared on our society’s Whatsapp group, last night: “Amar, Akbar and Anthony is back”…

“It is time,” I smiled…


The beauty of our existence is – rather, should be – our harmonious co-existence despite our differences with regard to religious beliefs we hold, the cultural practices we follow, the food we eat, the clothes we wear… I think, the hallmark of our maturity is our tolerance and accommodating spirit… And, when I look at my own housing complex, where the whopping majority making us, the slim minority, feel safe, a part of its own psyche… respect and appreciate our faiths, cultures and habits… it really makes me feel proud… It reinforces the faith in humanity a hundred fold more…

I seriously feel, as a human race, we all aspire, deep inside our hearts, to live in harmony… appreciate, honor, respect and celebrate our differences. Peace and brotherhood, I think, is our natural thirst…

So, when some of us react sharply, fall prey to instigation and provocation and alienate from our natural state, it saddens me… But, I refuse to lose faith in humanity, in our most inherent state – to appreciate, honor, respect and celebrate our differences and co-exist here peacefully.

Birds live so in the vast skies and the fish do so in the vast seas... and, animals do so, too, in the vast jungles… When it is so, why can’t we  - supposedly the most evolved species on Earth – do it?

Do we need predators?

My friend Deepak shared, early this Christmas eve, this beautiful TATA  Sky ad:






Yes sir, let’s not lose faith in humanity…

Greetings on this Amar, Akbar and Anthony Day…


GERALD D’CUNHA
Video: YouTube


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A GREAT VOICE... WHAT IS THAT?






Pic.: Nicole Gubin

One doesn’t need a great voice to be a great singer, these days. There are highly sophisticated devices in the state-of-the-art studios around, to fix that. Similarly, these days, one doesn’t need a great creative-eye to be a great photographer. The Photoshop is there to fix that!

Well, the up-side of the story is: the music, songs and pictures can come out fast and effortlessly. Even at an extremely low cost. But, the flip-side is: the singers thrive without possessing great voice, the musicians thrive without possessing mastery over their instruments… and, the photographers thrive without possessing the creative eye…

And, in the end, everything and anything goes!

“Years and years of riaz!” “Fourteen years of learning violin or tabla”… Do you get to hear such statements, now a days? Things are to be done fast these days; they need to be done with less fuss…

That’s how the music and songs are recorded today in studios… Every musician and every singer can go there and do his bit and come out… The rest, the technicians will take care of. Likewise, today, if you want a passport-size photo, just sit below the studio-umbrella for a minute… You can leave the studio carrying three-dozen photos. And, the best part is: if you don’t like you face, they can fix it for you, right then and there!

I am, like others, very excited about this fast-and-furious world… the world of ‘instant karma’. Even this typing which I am doing presently, I had gone to a typewriting school after my tenth-standard and learnt it. The typing schools are almost extinct, today. The guys next to me do the same with their single finger!

The world has changed, I know. Everything is done differently from the good-old days…

I must embrace the change. And, I do.

But, this morning, when I heard this 1967 song (from the Hindi film – ‘Hamraaz’ shared by my friend Bupinder Singh)… the way Mahendra Kapoor was singing it… the way the musicians were playing their instruments… the way Saahir Ludhianvi had penned the lyrics… yes, when I was watching this video, my thoughts went to all the so-called singers, musicians and lyricists of today’s generation…




“Oh my God!” I held my breath, “after nearly fifty years, the world has changed, indeed!”

GERALD D’CUNHA
Video: YouTube

Monday, December 21, 2015

THE EVERYDAY CHRISTMAS






Pic.: Nicole Gubin

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”

 “Happy Christmas to you,” a friend of mine wished me today, “in advance.”

“Right in time, not in advance,” I said spontaneously to my friend, “Thank-you so much and wish you the same.”

My friend, though was puzzled a bit on my unusual response, “seemed to have gotten the meaning quickly.”

Why do we wait for the Christmas to come on 25th December? Why do we wait to celebrate… attend the midnight-mass wearing our X’Mas best? Why can’t this day be a Christmas day? Why can’t this day be a day of Christmas-mass and celebration? Why can’t every star in the sky be the star of Bethlehem? Why can’t the sweets and wine, the hugs and kisses… why can’t the jingle-bells, silver-snow and reindeers … the Santa, yes, why can’t all of these be the part of my daily life?

Why don’t I feel the presence of baby Jesus every day?

Why should sweets, cakes and wine be prepared and preserved only for the 25th?

Am I feeling the warmth of Christmas as I prepare… as I wait? Or, am I only waiting this to happen on the 25th?

The Christs and Krishnas are seldom recognized when they are here around us. When they are around us, we abuse them, ridicule them, stone them… nail them to the cross. And, when they are gone, we need a ‘special day’ to remember them, glorify them… We celebrate the Christs and Krishnas only when they aren’t there amidst us!

“Right in time, not in advance, my friend… Today is Christmas day, thank-you… and wish you the same.”


GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, December 18, 2015

WHEN I SEE MYSELF REACTING







Pic.: Amrita Jeurkar

When I see myself reacting, I feel very disturbed…  No matter how much I try justifying from outside, I know how it feels from inside!

Reacting comes from my loss of self-control. Which means, someone else is controlling me… my actions, my words, my behavior. And, to see someone else manipulating me, like a toy, is not a pleasant experience to live by…

Slowing down helps… Consciously slowing down. When I consciously stand aside and allow another person’s comments to ‘be’… Just allow them to ‘be’… without attaching any meaning to them, without interpreting them, magnifying them… read through them… making a dramatic story out of what is being said… Yes, by not allowing someone’s words assume that epic proportion… by keeping my two feet firmly planted on the ground and my head firmly planted on my shoulders… a lot can be achieved in terms of my mental hygiene…

Other people make their own choices. No matter how desperately I try to change them, prevail upon them… it is, finally, left to them to change… My mental hygiene is my responsibility… and, I must strive to attain it, at any cost…

I have added a great deal of stress in my life by taking responsibility for other people’s actions and behavior… When this truth stares at me, and, I decide to let go my need to step into someone else’s business, I, instantly, experience my inner peace…  As an experiment, I tried it today in one of my morning batches… “No matter what might have repeatedly put me off and provoked about my young students,” I resolved in my heart, “today - at least for this one hour - I will not allow the same behavior of my students disturb me… put me off… provoke. I will allow the behavior of my students ‘be’… I will see it, detached, from a distance… I will mean good for them, be compassionate towards them… I will use kind words… words of faith, trust, good intention… I will not hand them the keys of my peace of mind…”

Letting go of my need to see how the world outside should be… how other people should behave, talk, think and so on… is the simple key to my mental hygiene… People around me will behave exactly the way they want to behave… not the way I want them to behave...

This is the eternal truth… but, it comes wrapped in every present moment. So, if this moment is well-handled, the eternity will be handled well on its own…

I can feel the peace. The power!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, December 17, 2015

THE HUNGER OF HEART IS STRONGER THAN THE HUNGER OF STOMACH





Pic.: Pradeep Nanda
I have written about him many times before.

His name is Buzzo, and he has been living in this colony (where I have my classes) with his wife, Sony, right since his birth.  His mother is no more… and, his siblings - more than half-a-dozen of them – too, live here no more. He survived, essentially, due to the exceptional love and care showered upon him by the Kapoor family which lives in my building. Vinay and Devika, the Kapoor children, are, now, in their twenties. When Buzzo was a baby, they would fondle him so much, that, even today – almost, after ten years - he is so loyal to them… To believe the magnitude and depth of Buzzo’s loyalty to Kapoors, you must see it.  He can sense the presence of any member of Kapoor family from miles afar, literally… He would leave everything else, go near them, and bask in their affection…

The affection is so important to Buzzo… so much more than the food he needs! And, this morning, he made me strikingly aware of this simple fact…

Buzzo cannot tell us that he is hungry. But, every time he is hungry, he comes and stands outside my glass door looking towards me, with his two legs up, tongue profusely leaking with hunger… He knows that I will come out to give him his favorite Marie Gold biscuits… Till I don’t give, he won’t budge from there… If I am busy, he will draw my attention to him… But, he will go only after getting his quota of Marie biscuits…

So, when I saw him outside my glass-door, this morning, I could feel he was badly hungry. I immediately took the box of biscuits and placed before him his quota… He bent down to gobble his food; but, surprisingly, he left the biscuits right there and rushed towards the staircase… “What happened?” I asked him.

The answer was there, right in front of my eyes… Buzzo had sensed Vinay’s arrival through the staircase much before Vinay had landed on the ground floor… The affection of this master was much more important to Buzzo than the food he needed… The hunger of his heart was stronger than the hunger of his stomach…

Buzzo kept getting his affection from Vinay till Vinay got into his car. Till the car disappeared, Buzzo kept gazing at the direction of the car… Then, he came back to eat my biscuits…

Did I feel jealous?

Oh, yes, I did!

Buzzo is a street dog. Hundred people, like me, give him food. But, like all of us, for love and affection, he needs that sense of belonging… Only Kapoors can provide that to Buzzo…

Am I still jealous?


GERALD D’CUNHA