Saturday, February 28, 2015

IS THE NEED FOR SECURITY THE GREATEST DRIVE IN LIFE?







Pic.: Nirmala Sundar

Is the need for security our greatest drive in life?

I have reasons to believe it is.

When I closely scrutinize almost all my activities – my work and relationships being the most important of them – I am able to trace the source of my drive rooted in this innate need to be secure!

A couple of nights ago, I was travelling in a friend’s car around the CST area. The illuminated buildings of CST – The British had baptized them as ‘Victoria Terminus’ - and BMC HQ made me comment, “What an enduring beauty!”

My friend looked at me and said with his wicked smile, “Did the British ever think, that they would have to leave behind this ‘beauty’ and go back, one day?”

The rest of the discussion centered around the subject: Why are we so obsessed to build our empires?

Well, like every other empire, the British, too, had thought, that the Sun would never set on their empire; that they were sent by God to rule the world for ever… But, in India, it took hardly two centuries for the Sun to go down on them!

Yes, they had to leave behind every ‘great’ monument they had raised here as a sweet-bitter memento… a reminder to the mankind: “Hey there, listen… Time will spare no man, no empire!”

They say, Time has spared the Pyramids!

But hast it?

The Pyramids are in a very bad state, today, there in the hot deserts… The wealth stored in them by the Pharaohs has been looted away by thieves… No man will ever love to live near them… The Pharaohs, who had built them, ruled Egypt for the longest time in history - three thousand years. But, then, their fall had to come… Their slaves had to be sent back to Israel… No one calls Egypt an ‘empire’ today!


Time hasn’t – and doesn’t – spare any man or any of his monuments or empires…

Then, why does he still build them? Yes, knowing well, that he has to leave them all behind, one day?

Why am I so busy and so restless raising mine?


Someone reminds me of that old story…

Curiously looking at his grandfather, who is busy planting a sapling, the little grandchild asks, “Grandpa, how many years will it take for this baby-tree to grow big and give fruits?

“At least ten,” says the grandpa gently.

“Will you be there to eat those fruits when they come?” the child asks innocently.

“My sweet-heart, I am planting this baby-tree not for me,” the grandpa tells the little-one with all the love and honesty in his heart, “I am planting it for you!”

Can I give the same reply to my own conscience – yes, with the same love and honesty – when I am asked: “Why are you so busy and so restless raising your empire?”

Is the need for security man’s greatest drive in life?


Yes, I have reasons to believe it is.



GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, February 27, 2015

I DID NOT KNOW I WAS A CHRISTIAN, TILL...








Pic.: Nirmala Sundar

Early this morning, I called up my younger brother, Vivek, and expressed my concern. Rather, I cautioned him!

Vivek is a very affectionate, generous and soft-spoken soul and surrounded by loads of friends, mostly non-Christians. He is married to Gauri, a Maharashtrian Hindu, and they had both Church and Temple marriage ceremonies. Ditto was the case of Melvin, my wife’s brother, and his wife Amrita, a Maharashrtian Hindu. They celebrate at home both Hindu and Christian festivals… and the beauty is: for them, their parents and children, the religion doesn't matter at all… It has never been an issue for so many years!

Honestly, I find my two sisters-in-law, both Gauri (Vivek’s wife) and Amrita (Melivn’s wife) to be the most wonderful, the most loving women in this world. All our relatives love them… and, Vivek and Melvin, both, have been accepted and loved immensely by all relatives of Gauri and Amrita… Their respective children are growing up, now. Soon, a time will come for them to make their own choices… To marry a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh or whoever it would be. I think, as parents, Vivek and Gauri, Melvin and Amrita would, certainly, provide them that freedom – that space. To me, that’s the religion of the highest order!


When, at the age of 21, I came to live with my uncle, here in Mumbai, I had chosen to live with a hardcore Jehovah’s Witnesses. For those who do not know who a Jehovah’s Witnesses is, let me tell you this: They are a Christian sect, who believe to be the true Christians… who believe in spreading the Bible message so much, that you get that terrible pain in your soul… You detest! Yes, my uncle was a thorough gentleman, an ex-serviceman, an affectionate and caring soul… But, when it came to faith, he believed his faith in Christ was superior to mine, a Roman Catholic… He made me feel, that I did not know the Bible at all… and it was important that I did study and follow it as he did. Yes, initially, he tried to convince me – call it ‘convert’ if you wish… But, even though my position was vulnerable – I lived in his house for seven-long years of my struggle in Mumbai – he did not ‘push’ his faith on me. I respect him for that, even today!

Give me my religious freedom, my space to grow… Amen!

It doesn't mean that I have chosen my own faith – Roman Catholic – as something superior to all else. Far, far from it. I go for a mass only when my heart takes me there. I receive Holy Communion only when I feel I am worthy of it… I have never been for confession for decades… I have forgotten even the basic, routine prayers of my faith… So, if you judge me by all that, I am not fit to be a Roman Catholic… But, the fact that I am still allowed to continue inside is, perhaps, the great beauty of my faith!

But, whether I am allowed to continue as a Catholic or not, it hardly matters for me. No one can take away from me the inspiration Jesus Christ has left in my soul. I am His follower and call me a Christian or a Hindu or Muslim, it makes no difference. I feel the same way when I think of Krishna, Ram, Paigamber, Buddha, Mahavir or Guru Nanak. Their teachings make me equally feel that I am a Christian or a Hindu or Muslim or whatever that is…

I have taught thousands of students over all these years. Not even 0.001% of those students have been Christians. Ditto for my colleagues, neighbors, and friends… They have been, always, non-Christians. I dare not push my faith on them, and they dare not push theirs on me! The housing society in which I live has 140 members, of which hardly five are Christian families. Yes, for six-long years I, a Christian, have been their Hon. Chairman. When Ganesh Utsav is celebrated in our complex, it is Tabassum, a young Muslim lady, who stands there in the middle and compeers the programme for all seven days! She has been doing it for more than a decade now! Hanifbhai, who lives right below my flat, doesn't fail to invite several of us – all non-Muslims – on Eid day for a sumptuous Biryani treat!

And, why am I writing all this, today?

My brother Vivek was very angry with what was being said about Mother Teresa and the consequent hate messages and heated debate. He had expressed his dismay in strong words in social media, and, this morning, I was telling him not to vent out his anger or hurt on any social media. “Not that you cannot or should not,” I told my younger brother, “but, because, it doesn't serve any purpose. It only adds to more problems.”

Well, my brother respected my view. But, he is his own man, after all!

“Fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves,” goes the old saying. No reason or logic works when you debate with them… They are ruled by mob mentality. It is dangerous!

The words of one of the survivors of Hitler’s Nazi-torture come to my mind, today:

“I did not know I was a Jew till Hitler made me think so!”


Why am I made to think, today, that I am a ‘Christian’ or a ‘Roman Catholic’?



GERLALD D’CUNHA



Thursday, February 26, 2015

THE CURRENCY CALLED 'RESPECT'













Pic.: Rajiv Sharma




““Business may be all about money,
but the currency that's traded inside every organization is respect.”

- Geoffrey James

In life, we all have these options:

Earn money but no respect;
Earn respect but no money;
Earn both…
And, this last one… earn none!

“It is a fast-life, sir,” last evening an ex-student of mine, who now is into construction business, told me, “make money as fast as you can, and forget about those old-fashioned ideals of ‘respect’.” He had more to say, “Did you see the reaction of people while I was getting off my car?”

Yes, I did see. “Wow! What a sexy car!”

I did not have to tell it to this young-man, who wanted to be ‘there’ fast. He hadn’t come to me to 'take' one more lesson from his one-time teacher; he had come to ‘give’ his old-fashioned teacher what he thought to be a very valuable lesson…“Look sir, first earn money and power… then, think about respect.”

Well, his teacher did not need this lesson, either.

What my ex-student – young, fast, furious and restless – believed in is not any new ideology. It had, always, been there as a choice before every young-man on his path to success… “Should I endeavor to earn money first and then respect or vice versa?” “Should I earn both or none?”

Yes, nothing new or surprising about a few by-standers’ reaction: “Wow, what a sexy car!” For, they never ever have said this about the man who got off the car… He needed that car to feel he was sexy!


Businesses last for centuries on the robust foundation called ‘goodwill’ – the good name. They earn it over a long, long period of time. A lot goes into earning this respect from your customers… a lot, a lot and a lot. Be absolutely good first… Give them the best goods and services… Don’t take them for granted… Go the extra-mile, work more than what you are paid for… Treat your own employees as you treat yourself… It is only then will your employees treat your customers so… May money be the by-product of your services… Help your customers succeed in their business and life, be their genuine well-wisher, a partner in their success…

Yes, when your customers and employees see this, feel this – that, you have put values above money - that, they will remain loyal to you, come back to you for years and years on…

That’s respect… That’s power… Along them, comes money. In loads and loads!


An old gospel?


Test it for yourself.


GERALD D’CUNHA


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

THE GLOOMY AND SCARY MONEY-STORIES WE BELIEVE IN






Pic.: Nirmala Sundar


There are a hundred gloomy-and-scary stories about money, buried deep inside our mind – the sub-conscious mind. These stories have come from a hundred different sources… Yes, once we had believed in them… But, do we still? Here are some of these stories… Say beliefs, if you wish:


Money is the root of all evils…

You can’t make money in honest ways…

Rich are crooks…

Money spoils relationship…

You don’t need money to be happy…

Only some can make money…

Making money is against our religion…

Rich exploit poor…

There is only so much we can earn…

Money is not meant to be spent…

Money doesn’t grow on trees…

Only hard work brings money…

Don’t befriend wealthy…

I do not have what it takes to be rich…

I was born in a hand-to-mouth family… So, who am I to dream big?

What if I lose my money… become bankrupt?

What if people cheat me… trap me?

What if I die leaving behind huge debt?

Look at so-and-so’s life… Look what happened to him?



Sounds familiar? No, not until you have desired to be wealthy and prosperous. Because, the moment you desire to create wealth, make money, a hundred past stories - which all along left buried deep down in you sub-conscious mind – wake up and start haunting you… ‘What if?’… ‘What if?’… ‘What if?’

So, that is our familiar story… The moment our conscious mind says, “I want to create wealth”, there are a hundred gloomy and scary reasons why we shouldn’t and wouldn’t and couldn’t!

That’s, also, the familiar war that ceaselessly goes on between the ‘two foxes’ who live inside us. Yes, one fox says, that money is good… and we should invite it into our lives. The other fox says, that money is evil… and we should stay away from it. And, undoubtedly, the fox that wins the war is the fox we feed the most!

Well, I became, once again, aware of this truth, last night… The two foxes were waging their fierce battle in my heart… and, I could feel the power and consequences of the ‘conscious choice’ I was doing to feed them…

Wealth or health… It only comes when we invite them, make way for them… and honor them. Rejoice in them. Yes, with loads of gratitude.


GERALD D’CUNHA



Monday, February 23, 2015

THE BEAUTY OF OUR IMPERFECTION








Pic.: Rajiv Sharma

“If you look closely at a tree you'll notice its knots and dead branches,
just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection
go together wonderfully.”



Today morning, the first thing I found myself saying in my mind was this:

“I m not perfect… The people around me are not perfect… The world is not perfect… The Life is not perfect…”

I found myself saying this, over and over again… today.

And then, I could feel a great deal of peace settling down in my heart!

I can trace the roots of, almost, all my inner unrest to the same source: expecting me to be perfect… people around me to be perfect… this world and life to be perfect. And, because they are not – and they can’t be, won’t be – and, because I am unable to see or accept this reality, I keep fighting my inner phantoms… Yes, almost, all my mental unrest comes from my inability to let go this need in me to see everything run perfectly…

Peace eludes us as long as we believe in this myth called ‘perfection’… the perfect me, the perfect people, the perfect world and the perfect life… As long as we live with this myth – this ‘lie’ - our small irritants will rule our lives as deadly nightmares… They will stand before us and scare us as deadly dinosaurs!

Accepting ourselves and others - accepting this world and life - as imperfect is, in deed, a great lesson we all need to learn early in life… and, we need to keep re-learning it, again and again, too… For, invariably, we forget this lesson… We tend to make the same mistake, time and again: expecting ourselves and others to be perfect, the world and life to be so.

So, as it happened to me, early this morning, something from somewhere comes back to us to remind: “Hey, everything and everyone is dented… And, that’s something so beautiful about living!”

It is… It is…!


GERALD D’CUNHA


Saturday, February 21, 2015

THE STRONG MAN WITH AN ARMY-MOUSTACHE








Pic.: Uaha Prasadh


Some years ago, one morning, I was in the office of a  Co-operative-bank manager. As I was talking, a very fierce-looking man - with a huge built and army-mustache – came in. “Sir, the fellow is sweating; scared to come up,” reported the man to the manager.

“Tell him, manager is a nice man… doesn't have an army-mustache like you,” manager teased the man, “Give him a soft-drink or coffee… and cajole him to come up. Don’t scare him more.”

By now, I knew who the strong-man was, and why the other man was frightened to come up to the bank manager…

A few minutes later, the strong-man came back, accompanied by a taxi-owner, who seemed to be in his late fifties. The man stood there with his folded hands, and began to give reasons for the default, narrating all his problems and, finally, the assurance.

The manager made him sit on one of the chairs, heard him gently… and, finally, explained to him about his own limitations and duties. “I can understand your problems; but, my superiors may not,” said the manager to the man, “So, I will give you fifteen days more; but this time, see that you do not default.”

The man was obliged, thanked the manager profusely and then, left the cabin.

I complimented the bank manager for the way he handled his defaulting client.

“I have a simple principle,” the bank manager explained to me, “I will never harass any one intentionally.”


I have thought of those words – “I will never harass any one intentionally” – many, many times since then. Harassing someone comes to us easily when we are in the position of power… Just the way that bank manger was for his defaulting borrower, we all have our own positions of power and we come across so many with ‘folded hands’ … standing before us in fear… feeling vulnerable, guilty and ashamed… It is quite easy for us to make them feel more ashamed and scared… It is easy for us to harass by using our positions of power… At times, I see myself succumbing to my weakness when I deal with my own students, or perhaps, as a parent, husband or whatever that is. At other times, I see myself on the receiving end… Someone else trying to harass me, intimidate me… make me feel frightened and ashamed… guilty.

Yes, this goes on… both ways.

But, fortunately, I find it going on in me more the bank-manger’s way than the other way… I, too, try my level best not to harass any one intentionally… I see how best I can help him come out of his tight-spot, save his face.

The strong man, with an army-mustache, too, comes before me, many, many times!


GERALD D’CUNHA
  



Friday, February 20, 2015

'THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF"






Pic.: Rajiv Sharma

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had made this famous statement in 1933 in his first inaugural-address. I have, often, wondered: What has made these words live so long!

I, seriously, believe that it was the timing. The gloom of depression had crippled, almost, every one… Hope was dim, dreams had died… anxiety had made leaders and citizens, all, fear… yes, fear about their future… “What will happen, tomorrow?”

Against such a gloomy backdrop, FDR, who had just been elected to head the greatest democracy in the world, was, now, expected to do away the gloom… inspire the masses with hope, reignite their dreams, fire their imagination… and, that’s what he did in his maiden address after being voted to lead… He reminds his people: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”


To me, the timing – ‘depression’ – is symbolic. Gloom comes with depression in our lives… Our financial worries, our relationship conflicts, our moral, spiritual and social crisis. Fear comes with doubt… Anxiety brings worry… Worry brings gloom… Despair and sadness. Hope fades, dreams die… and, cynicism and pessimism come to reign…

The good-news is that depression – no matter how ‘great’ it is – never lasts long. But, hope – may I call it faith – does. Earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes – call them depression or whatever you like… none of them rule life. Nature is trustable more, dependable more… Loving and merciful more than otherwise.

And, because gloom is only momentary – caused only by absence of light… let’s not say, there is no ‘morrow. Yes, the Sun will rise… He will dispel the gloom. Let’s hang on… never giving in to fear… There is nothing to fear but fear itself!


“There is a tide in the affairs of men,” Shakespeare had pointed, “which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat…And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”

Yes, the tide ‘will’ change… We ‘will’ float’ on a ‘full sea’!


GERALD D’CUNHA



Thursday, February 19, 2015

SHY PEOPLE WILL, ALWAYS, REMAIN SHY















Pic.: Aparna Khanolkar Sheth




“I never felt comfortable with myself, because I was never part of the majority.
I always felt awkward and shy and on the outside
of the momentum of my friends' lives.

~Steven Spielberg


“It was very natural for me to want to disappear into dark theater,
I am really very shy. That is something that people never seem to fully grasp because, 
when you are an actor, you are meant to be an exhibitionist.” 

~Nicole Kidman

I am very convinced that, some of our core personality-traits – shyness for one – do not change, either with age or with our achievements, fame and success. Shy people will, always, remain shy!

There are only two approaches to deal with our shyness. One, trying to get rid of it from us. Two, transmute it into something beautiful… channelize it through some productive, positive outlets.

From my own experience, I can convincingly say, that trying to get rid of our shyness is like trying to catch our own shadows! Yes, like a dog trying desperately to catch his own tail, we will end up running round and round… It is a waste of time; frustrating!

On the other hand, by becoming aware of our shyness, when we try to transmute it - channelize our nervous energy to excel, to succeed, to win – yes, when we use our shy and nervous core to our advantage rather than to our disadvantage, the outcome can be miraculous!

Right from great orators to sports and movie stars, and right from inspiring teachers to inspiring business or political leaders, we have enough evidence to prove the truth: Shyness, when transmuted well, can transform us…

Gandhi was extremely shy… So was Lincoln… So are Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar…

But, place Amitabh or Shah Rukh in front of the camera… They transform. Ditto with Sachin or Lata. Sachin explodes in the middle of a packed stadium; Lata goes into a trance!

So, look into their lives… Has their shyness gone? Almost all of them still confess that every time they have to put a new performance, they become a nervous wreck!

Which means, they no longer waste their time chasing their shadows; they know how the shadow helps them to get the best out of themselves!

I, too, am extremely shy. But, place me before my students, I transform… I have recognized this strength of mine, and, so, I do not focus on getting rid of my nervousness – my shadow… I focus on my strength, and I operate from there…

And, the shyness dissolves… just as the shadow dissolves when light comes…

Awareness is the light…

The key!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Aparna Khanolkar Sheth


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

THE HALF-STOMACH EXPERIENCE


















Pic.: Sheela Krishnamony



“Detachment does not mean that you don’t own anything;
It means that nothing owns you.”

-       Anonymous
  
A week ago, one night, I had just returned home after a wedding reception. The food was kingly - varieties galore… starters, mock-tails and cocktails, main course of different regions, deserts of different kinds… even a dozen different mouth-fresheners… Liquor flew down like a waterfall… and, when we left the venue, a lovely memento was placed in our hands, too!

Yes, like other guests over there, I, too, came back, making the most of what was laid before me…

But, by the time I walked into my house, I was hungry again!

Now, it was really strange! I had helped myself with so much of variety, that I should have not touched food for another week! But, here was my condition: I was feeling hungry even before I was home!


Yesterday was Maha Shiv Ratri. So many people had observed fast. Some of my friends and neighbors had sent me thandai and different varieties of ‘Prasad’... which was quite tempting. I had just finished my lunch. So, I was asking, again: “Should I have this, too?”

Well, I didn't.

Prasad is not to fill your stomach,” a voice was telling me inside, “It is just to teach you humility, acceptance and gratitude.”

“So be it,” I said, and received it with in my heart. I could feel the fullness, instantly!


The experience seems so familiar!

So often, the best of the best clothes still don’t give us a feeling of self-confidence… The same goes for our accessories, cars, holidays and travels… The big houses and their big interiors, big screens and fine dines… all these, often, still leave us with hunger, an half-stomach-experience…

How strange… a hunger – an half-stomach experience – even after a kingly meal!

I remember, my first Yoga teacher telling us to eat consciously, slowly, what is ‘needed’ and never to a full stomach… “Always, leave your stomach a little hungry at the end of your meal,” he would remind us.

Honestly, I did not understand, then, the power hidden in that conscious choice we were asked to make – ‘Leave your stomach a little hungry at the end of your meal!”

Ironically, whenever I have made this conscious choice, I haven’t experienced the ‘halfness’ or ‘deprivation’ in my heart. But, whenever I have indulged just because ‘it was there before me’… yes, I have experienced it acutely.

Life ‘lays’ everything before me with only two options: Indulge, yet starve. Or, leave a little hungry, yet feel full!

As the old saying goes, food, money, clothes, houses, cars, and everything else in life… serve us best as our servants, but rule badly as our masters!


GERALD D’CUNHA




Monday, February 16, 2015

WHAT GOES UP, HAS TO COME DOWN














Pic.: Indu Varier


1977. I was still not out of college, then. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was a Durga then, and her Congress was the Nazi, all powerful. The USSR was something the US and her allies’ feared about… They called it the ‘Iron Curtain’, the ‘Evil Empire'… There was NATO to deal with SATO.

'Made in USA' meant pride, a huge thing… Japan was still standing outside the door… and, 'Made in China', no one thought, would, one day, mean ‘sell-all-over-the-world’, and ‘even-a-beggar-can-afford’! IBM was a Polestar; Mohammad Ali was the ‘Greatest’… West Indies and Clive Lloyd still ruled Cricket, Brazil and Pele, football!

There was a despot called Idi Amin, who ruled a country called Uganda…They say, he was so mean, so heartless, that he ate human flesh for his breakfast!...

All that I heard of Reliance, then, was an ad which said, ‘Only VIMAL’… I don’t hear about VIMAL anymore. Reliance is everywhere, but!

Was Kejriwal born, then? I don’t know… But, I know, BJP wasn’t… There was the formidable Jan Sangh, but. Baba Saheb’s ‘Tiger’ had just come out of the cage, and the Gujaratis and South Indians were scared, here, in Bombay… (I am still scared to call it ‘Bombay’!)

Amitabh Bachchan had just landed, here, in search of bread… and, a ‘Mr. Nobody from Nowhere’, then… Rajesh Khanna, ‘Kaka’, was a ‘Super, duper Star’… Millions of ladies would die for him!

For us, the Indians, a car meant Ambassador or Premier Padmini. A two-wheeler meant a Bullet, a Jawa or a Yezdi. A steel cupboard meant, Godrej… We had to wait for months and months to bring home one, even if we had cash!

Indian Express meant power. TV meant a select few owning a big B & W box; radio was fun; LP records and gramophones would excite endlessly… Sholay was just a two-year-old baby, the ‘Cow-boy movies were a rage… The Beatles and Elvis fever was fast fading… Michael Jackson was a curly-haired black boy who sang with his siblings, that’s all!

Maharishi Mahesh and his TM, Swami Pabhupadha and his ISCON ruled the Indian spiritual-space in the West; Rajnish was just making his ashram here in old Poona… A Sri, Sri, Sri or a Baba Ramdev or an Asharam Bapu, none of them, were there around… Yes, Sai of Puttaparthi was there in his stronghold…

Everything has changed since 1977… The news, the sports, the roads, buildings and bridges, the phones, computers and cars… the books, cassettes, CDs and reading, music or movie experiences…

The way we romance and marry, the way we conceive our babies or raise them and educate them… the way we pray and the way we plan for our future… and, above all, the way we make money, the way we view ‘success’…

Yes, everything has changed since 1977…


By the way, why have I chosen 1977?

Just that I hear Apple Corporation – the company founded by my idol, Steve Jobs – has become the richest company in the world… crossing some 710-billion US-dollars in market value! I don’t know what that means… But, I know this: that nobody can count the apples in a seed, even though one can count the seeds in an apple… That, it was an apple that Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat and, thereby, invite trouble into their - and their children’s - lives… That, it was Newton who first saw the apple falling from a tree and had jumped to the conclusion:

“WHAT GOES UP, COMES DOWN!”

1977. My head had pich-black beautiful curly-hair. The skin had no wrinkles… and, I did not know what a heart or a kidney did in my body…

Just that…


GERALD D’CUNHA