Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WHEN DARU AND VEERU COME TOGETHER







Pic.: Nishant Joshi


Presently, I am surrounded by a couple of young-ones who are head over heels in love. You know what I mean – they are madly in love!

A mother of one such Romeo – or call him by our own name, Majnu – was talking to me, last morning. “Sir, his world is only his girl-friend… He sees nothing else… eats, drinks, breathes nothing else… Whatever she says, he does.. Wherever she calls, he goes… He is all head over his heels!”

But, the mother laughed as she was describing to me her young son’s ‘illness’. It was evident, that she knew a great deal about this illness. So, she made me laugh, too, when she said, “You know sir, we all have been through it… Thus, no need to panic.  As, in Sholay, Jay calms down a panicked Basanti (Her Majnu - Veeru, fully loaded, was threatening to throw himself to death from the top of village water-tank unless Basanti’s kadoos maasi gave him his Laila) – “Jab daru utregi, Veeru bhi utar ayega”, my son, too, will utar ayega.”

But, I still wonder: Why do they refer all Romeos and Juliets – our Lailas and Majnus – by that funny description – ‘head over heels in love’?

After all, the head is supposed to be over the heels, isn’t it?

Funny thing!

Yes, funny things happen when daru and Veeru come together, you see!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, April 27, 2015

CAN OUR 'STRUCTURES' WITHSTAND A QUAKE?






















Pic.: Sudha Ahuja


“80% Delhi’s buildings wont’ stand a quake. http://toi.in/iHvisZ. We should do a structural study of ours to study if it can withstand an earthquake.”

This was the first message on my cell-phone, today. It was 6.30 in the morning. NIlesh*, a young and highly-qualified member of our housing society had sent this message to me – the honorary chairman of our society…

I smiled began to nod my head… “Who should I forward it to – God?” I wondered.

“Good morning Nilesh,” I replied immediately, “have a nice day!”

Nilesh had not even bothered to greet me, ‘Good morning’ in his message… He was bothered about the stability of our buildings… whether they can withstand an earthquake!

Alright, let’s suppose we conduct a structural audit right away, tomorrow, and are advised to do something about our buildings… You think, we will be able to protect ourselves against the catastrophe?

When Malaysian Airlines Flight-370 had disappeared and there was no trace of it for months on, late one night, my nephew, Erol, had posted on this timeline his concern: “It is three months now, no trace of the missing Malayian plane.”

Yes, it was past midnight. My nephew was sleepless over the missing Malaysian Airlines!

His college friend had a quick advice: “Vogeth nidhe saibha!”

Translated from our mother tongue, Konkani, it meant: “Boss, (now go and) quietly sleep!”

Today, my friend, Nilesh, had sent his ‘worry message’ early in the morning. Probably, he hadn’t slept the whole night! So, it was my turn to calm him down:

“Good morning Nilesh. Have a nice day!”


*Name changed


GERALD D’CUNHA




Sunday, April 26, 2015

A QUAKE OUTSIDE... AND A QUAKE INSIDE












Pic.: Sudha Ahuja

Our TV has not been working for more than a month now. My wife and I are not at all motivated to get it fixed…  News, IPL, Travel shows, Reality shows – honestly, we are missing nothing. Even the daily newspaper lies there unread somewhere in the corner of our house.  So, what happens around us, we are unaware without TV, Radio or newspaper… and, yes, without the social media.


A thought often comes to me: Am I aware of what happens within me? Do I need a TV, Radio or newspaper to make me aware of it?


My wife and I had left for Pune yesterday. Today was our son’s convocation. Though, presently, he is in Seattle attending a film festival, we wanted to attend the convocation ceremony. So, we decided to spend the night at our dear friend Deepak’s house. It was so quiet and beautiful!


And, in the morning today, as we were about to leave Deepak’s house, his dad informed us about the tragic news of earthquake in the Himalayan region. He graphically placed before us the grim situation and, I could feel a helplessness building within me…


Could I do anything about it, except for genuinely feeling sad and sorry for thousands of victims… except for a sincere prayer… and, probably, for a deep sense of gratitude for God’s kindness towards me and my family?


Convocation was a happy moment… a proud one. The auditorium was packed with dignitaries, faculty, students and parents… Just before declaring the ceremony open, the CEO of our son’s institution urged the audience to stand up and observe a minute’s silence for the tragic victims of earthquake…


My heart stopped!


“Pride comes before the fall.” An old proverb that was. I was standing there, for a minute of silence, trying to do away the pride from the proud moment, which we had gone there, all the way, to attend... 


A deep sense of gratitude came to rest in me…


A deep sense of awareness of the world around me and the world within me...


A quake outside and a quake inside!



GERALD D’CUNHA




Saturday, April 25, 2015

THE LAST TWO LINES AFTER MY PLAY






Pic.: Aditi Chakraborty

Last evening, Shirin*, a very dear ex-student, and now a good friend, had come to enroll her nine-year live-wire son to our under-15 PD course. She had brought along one of her friends, too, to enroll her son.

The two kids, as I told you, were ‘exploding’ in my office – simply two massive bundles of energy. So, one of the obvious reasons why Shirin and her friend wanted their ‘brats’ to be here was to find out how to minimize the high-voltage of these two transformers… “Sir, they are excellent in every respect… very confident, very expressive and very creative. The only thing we want is help them to ‘sit in one place’, do one thing completely without being distracted. In other words, focus and concentration, if persistence is too hard a word for their age.”

I was smiling. “They are just little kids, full of energy, and they are expressing it the way they have to,” I tried to calm down the mothers, “with just a little help and direction… and, yes, with loads of love, faith and patience, they would learn to be focused, less distracted. They do not need any classes and courses to teach them that.”

“It is not about them, it is about us, the parents,”  I, always, remind every over-anxious parent, “If we work on our own anxieties and insecurities, if we get in touch with the space from where our anxiety and desperation come, if we learn to relax a bit… just let go of our fear, just once, and see what happens… yes, if we do so, we will be surprised to find that our kids would be perfectly fine and emerge as rich fruits - as Mother Nature intended them to be, not necessarily as we wanted them to be.”

For many parents, it is difficult to accept. “How can we just ignore the problems of our little-ones,” they, often, ask me, “How can we be just passive, helpless spectators?”

“Who asks you to be so?” I try to explain, “I am just asking you to get in touch with the space from where your own anxiety and restlessness – the lack of focus and concentration – come.”

If our little kids did not come into this world as ‘polished kids’, we, parents, too, didn't arrive here so – as ‘polished parents’. Did anyone prepare us to be great parents? Did we do a course in parenting or did we pick up the lessons here and there, along the way, as we went about raising our little-ones? How much of it has come into us from our own childhood and how much of it has come into us through the social mirror? So, why can’t we, parents, learn to be a little more compassionate and kind to ourselves…“Hey, it is okay, it is okay”… yes, why can’t we learn to say this, more and more often?

Last evening, Shirin pointed to me this. Her nine-year-old would sit down to do the homework and do it happily. Shirin had succeeded in containing the little-one’s restlessness in this respect. However, there was still a problem. The little brat would refuse to complete the last two lines. “Mummy, I will complete it after coming from play,” was her son’s argument. “No, you should complete it and go to play,” was his mother’s argument….

So, this was an issue… “Sir, I want my son to learn to complete those last two lines… learn not to leave anything incomplete… I want him to have that kind of simple focus, simple concentration.”

And, the ‘simple’ thing was simply not coming… “If ‘You-should-complete-everything-and-then-go-to-play’ it is your way of asserting, the ‘I-will-do-last-two-lines-only-after-my-play’ is your son’s way of asserting,” I told Shirin. Then, I told her this: “Just for today, you let him have his way… Tell him, ‘Honey, don’t worry, go now and play… Complete the last two lines after your play... Just see what happens!”

The only way to conquer our fear is to do what we are afraid of… When we befriend our fear, we become peaceful…

So, you see, it is not about ‘them’… our little-ones. It is about ‘us’… their parents!


*Name changed


GERALD D’CUNHA




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

OUR BLIND SPOTS







Pic. Usha Prasad


“Our humility comes from our character strength... a healthy self-esteem,” I was telling our young PD students, this morning, “But, our submissiveness – non-assertive behavior – comes from our weakness... a low-self-esteem.”

I have spent so many years teaching so many of college students, that, sometimes, it is not easy for me to be ‘teachable’ when somebody points to me my mistakes.

Do I make mistakes in my routine work?

Oh yes, plenty!

Then, why is it not easy for me to accept my mistakes when someone points them to me?

Because of lack of humility... 

But, many a time, it is because of the way someone tries to correct me… his tone, words and intention have a big role to play… I have seen, that if the tone, words and intention of the other person are good, I gladly offer myself to be corrected… I thank the person profusely… and feel really good about it. On the other hand, if someone tries to undermine my goodness, tries to be extra-smart, makes me feel dumb, stupid, no sir, I throw resistance for any change…

I hope, I am not alone in this…

Go back to the second last para above… I have written, ‘Many a time’. That’s not how it would have been had my dear friend and a well-wisher, Abha Sah, not brought to my notice a grammatical mistake I had been making for years without ever realising it. “Many a times,” was how I was using this English phrase. No one had ever pointed it out to me… It was my blind spot. Someone had to point it out to me… and, the other day, Abha did it so gently, so lovingly and with such good intention… that, I could just feel her deep wish to help me (as I blogged daily, and as my posts were read by many, wide and far). She had chosen to bring it to my notice quietly by in-boxing me… had taken care not to offend me or hurt… Yes, it was very evident; I could sense that. I instantly appreciated and thanked Abha for the concern… I checked it on the Net, and she was absolutely right. I could see a blind spot of mine, just because, I was ‘teachable’…

A teacher appears when student is ready!

Learning from someone takes great amount of humility; and yes, humility comes from our character strength…our healthy self-esteem.

Similarly, when we try to teach or correct someone, how we go about it, yes, that, too, can come from our character strength, our healthy self-esteem, or, it can come from our weakness, our low-self-esteem,too…

My friend and a well-wisher, Abha, did it with her great strength…

I wasn’t feeling any inferior when I wrote to her, “Thank-you so much ma’am… Only a true well-wisher would point to us our blind spots.”

And, I meant it.


GERALD D’CUNHA



Sunday, April 19, 2015

OR ELSE, WHAT WILL YOU DO?







Pic.: Sudha Ahuja


Bullies suffer from a low self-esteem. Often, to deal with them, our simple assertive skills may not be enough… We may have to stand up to them, look straight into their eyes and yell, “Or else, what will you do?”

In a small village in South, there lived this typical bully, a male chauvinist. Every night, as soon as he walked into the house, his wife would hear him scream, “You dumb woman, keep the hot water ready… or else!” (In South, hot water is preferred for bath at night!),

This would go on and on, every night… “You dumb woman, keep the hot water ready… or else!”

Poor wife was so frightened of this man, that she had lost all her self-confidence. Without uttering a single word, she would go about obeying him, suppressing all her fear and pain for years.

Then, one day, looking at the distressed state of this woman, a neighboring lady asked her, “What is wrong with you, my friend? You look shattered.”

The woman began to cry uncontrollably. She described to the neighboring lady the way her husband treated her every night… “You dumb woman, keep the hot water ready; or, else?”

The neighboring lady was furious, “And, you obey his orders like a dumb woman, don’t you?” she shouted, “Now listen to me. Tonight, when that bully makes his demand, you look straight into his eyes and yell back, “Or else, what will you do?”

“No baba no,” the woman reacted to the suggestion, “he would kill me.”

“Kill you?” the neighboring lady laughed, “let me remind you my friend, if you let him continue with what he has been doing, he will surely kill you!”

Finally, one night, the woman gathered all her courage and decided to confront her bully husband. As usual, he stormed into the house shouting, “You dumb woman, keep the hot water ready; or else!”

“Or else what will you do?” the woman blasted with the force she had suppressed for years and years!

The man was frozen… “I will take a cold-water bath!”


Today evening, my dear friend, Dr. Deepak, will be taking for our young-ones his popular Workshop – ‘HOW TO BE ASSERTIVE’!

But, all are invited!


GERALD D’CUNHA



Friday, April 17, 2015

“DON’T TELL US WHAT TO WEAR, TELL THEM NOT TO STARE”
















Pic.: Sudha Ahuja


“DON’T TELL US WHAT TO WEAR,
TELL THEM NOT TO STARE”

“Girls invite their own trouble.” Yes, this was the topic for debate, today, in our PD session. Surprisingly, the very first girl, a seventeen-year-old, spoke in support of the topic. The rest of the girls were angry… When eighteen-year-old Pranav began to justify his stand in support of the topic, the young-ladies were all up against him…

“If boys can wear anything and go out anytime, why can’t girls?” they were asking angrily. “Don’t boys invite their own trouble, when they wear whatever they like and go wherever and whenever they wish?”

Eighteen-year-old Aditya spoke against the topic. Instead of trying to impose restrictions on the way girls dressed or on where and when they went, he vehemently argued, that boys should grow up and change the way they view and treat girls. “During the Nirbhaya rape-protests in Delhi, a young girl was carrying this poster – ‘DON’T TELL US WHAT TO WEAR… TELL THEM NOT TO STARE,” he recalled, “I truly believe that in those words lie the real remedy for this ‘mental illness’…”


Women are not abused and rapes don’t happen just because they go about wearing skimpy clothes or go out late in the night… It is perfectly fine for majority of men. Those who abuse, harass and rape women need not pick the ones with skimpy clothes or the ones who move around late. They abuse and rape even when women are dressed most decently and do not venture out late or walk into shady places… Abuse can happen right within the confines of four walls of a house… and, yes, shamefully, in the hands of nearest and dearest men!

Where is the question, therefore, girls inviting their own troubles just because they out in the night and they wear whatever they like?

Yes, it is time to tell boys ‘not to stare’… and stop telling girls ‘what to wear’…


GERALAD D’CUNHA



Thursday, April 16, 2015

THE EIGHTEENTH CAMEL






Pic.: Sheela Krishnamony



“The world needs more number of peace-makers,” I was telling the young-students during the PD session, this morning, “We need more men and women who can resolve conflicts, reduce tension and help reconcile and  solve problems.”

In fact, that has been one of my personal desires all along the years. As I kept helping and empowering the young-ones, along with so many of my associates in THE DAWN CLUB, I have, always, tried to ignite in the young-minds the desire to be peace-makers and problem-solvers of the world around them. “There are too many people out there  adding to the problems of our world; we just need more people to help resolve the problems,” I keep reminding them, “We need more people to be the part of the solution rather than the part of the problem.”

One of my dear-old students, Amit, had shared a beautiful story, last night. I had read this story first when our former President, Abdul Kalamji, had shared it to inspire all of us. Amit had brought the story back to me, last night. And, today, I recounted it, with my own touch, in the PD session… Here it is…


Once, in the Arab land, there lived a man who had three sons. He owned seventeen camels which he wanted his three sons to inherit after his death. So, he made Will before he died.

After the death of their father, the sons opened the Will. The father wanted one-half of the total number of camels to the first son, one-third to the second and one-ninth to the third. This left the three sons confused and fighting… There was no way to divide the seventeen camels the way their father willed… It unleashed a prolonged, bitter conflict among the three sons…

Finally, they took the matter to a wise-man, who, after mulling over their problem, came out with a solution. “I will give one of my camels to you guys,” the wise man said to them, “Now, you will be able to fulfill your father’s wish and stop fighting.”

It, indeed, resolved the conflict. When the young-men added the extra camel given by the wise man, the total became eighteen… They could, now, divide. One-half was 9… It went to the first son; one-third was six… It went the middle son; and, one-ninth was two… It went to the last son.

“Are you all happy, now?” the wise man asked.

“Yes, we are.”

The three sons had shared their father’s seventeen camels exactly as per his Will. There was one still left – the eighteenth camel… It hadn’t come from their father, they knew it well; so, they could not fight over it…

“Let me take back my camel,” the wise man said to the young-men, “I will take it as the fee for my services… So, I, too, am happy!”


We will receive the moral of the story, too, as we ‘will’ it to be… Yes, where there is a will, there ‘is’ a way. If we want solutions, there ‘are’ solutions… If we want ‘conflicts’ we will only find them…

Many a time, we are not willing to budge… we are not willing to seek help or think ‘out of the box’… We are not ready to accept the truth, that all can win, all can benefit, if we are willing to think a little ‘differently’… if we are a little open for some wise suggestion…

Yes, a huge conflict can, often, be resolved by touching upon the ‘common ground’… by adding that magic something called – ‘the eighteenth Camel’!

“The world needs more of these wise-men,” I had told my own young-ones, in the class, this morning, “There is a dire need for the ‘eighteenth camel!”



GERALD D’CUNHA



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE VISIBLE CHANGE AND THE PRACTICAL USE OF OUR EDUCATION





Pic.: Indu Varier


Some days ago, I was getting off an autorickshaw with a heavy bag, full of books. Just then, little 11-year-old Yomesh, who was busy playing a little away, with his friends, left his game alone and came running to me. “Sir, I will help you,” his hand had already reached my heavy bag…

“Don’t worry beta,” I thanked the little-one, “So sweet of you.”

But, Yomesh was so keen, so enthusiastic that he wanted to help me. He said, “Sir you hold the bag from that side, I will hold it from this side.”

I had no option but to accept the little-hand of help.

It was a barely a distance of some fifty feet… When I was near the office door, I saw a parent waiting for me with his 17-year-old son. The man, who worked with a multinational company was there to enquire about the PD course, which we were to start the next day.

“Bye sir,” Yomesh exuded his charm and energy and galloped back to join his friends in the playground.

“Thank you so much beta,” I said and ushered the father-and-son duo into my office.

After explaining about the course and its benefits for over twenty minutes, I heard the father asking me this question: “Will we be able to see some ‘visible changes’ in our son after this two-month course is over; will it have any practical use?”

The young-boy went to one of the top IB schools and the father worked at a top position in one of the blue-chip companies. And, here was my position: I was expected to answer, if, at the end of our two-month PD programme, the young-man would show any ‘visible’ changes… If the course was all theory or practical!

“Good, he is not asking what some other parents ask me – If my son or daughter would be able to walk on water or hot coal… If my daughter or son will be able to swallow fire or heal the blind and the deaf… Raise the dead” Yes, I am exaggerating it… but, I was thinking in my mind about such unreasonable expectations... This man wanted his son to be ‘practical’ in life… He wanted to see some ‘visible changes’ once the course was over… He wanted the ‘value for money’.

I smiled and spoke about our 11-year-old Yomesh. I told the concerned father that Yomesh had been attending our programmes, every summer, ever since he was 5. But, never did I ever tell him to leave his game alone and come to help someone like me who carried a heavy bag… “To me, that’s the ‘visible’ change,” I said to the corporate top-brass, “To me, that’s ‘practical’ personality-development.”

Of course, I did not offend them by saying, “Neither you nor your IB-school son ‘see’ this, leave alone offering your hands!”

Anyway, the young-boy was signed up for the course. Let’s see if his dad would be able to see any ‘visible changes’ at the end of it.


One day, the Buddha was waiting by the river bank for a boat to ferry him across the river. A jealous spiritual teacher, who was waiting for a chance to ridicule Gautama, started proudly demonstrating his spiritual powers by crossing the river, back and forth, walking over the water.

The Buddha simply smiled and said, "My friend, how long did you train yourself to attain this power?"

"It took me thirty-long years,” boasted the spiritual master.

"Thirty-long years?” the Buddha exclaimed, “You know what, I can cross the river using the boat for only one penny!"


So much for the ‘visible change’ and the ‘practical use’ of our education!


GERALD D’CUNHA





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

DO OUR YOUNG-ONES WANT US TO BE THEIR 'BEST FRIENDS'?





Pic.: Chetna Shetty

A mother of a teenage boy called me up, two days ago. She wanted to talk to me personally about the problems faced by her son. So, the next day, we met. She explained to me, that her son had lost his self-confidence, begun to stammer and lost a year because of stress. She had shown him to counselors and got him treated through a psychiatrist. She told me, that there had been a lot of improvement… though he had not fully gained his self-confidence back...

During the course of our discussion, I could gather, that the boy’s self-confidence had collapsed essentially due to the burden of parents' high expectations… Both, the father and the mother, did all the dreaming for this young boy… As a little kid, perhaps, it was okay; but, not as a teenager. It was difficult for the young-man to handle it and he was breaking down under the burden of his parents’ expectations…

When I subtly pointed it to the mother, she was not ready to accept it. “Sir, I have been my son’s best friend, always,” she tried to justify her role, “He would discuss everything with me; all his feelings… He would hide nothing."


I seriously think, that no parents can be ‘the best friend’ of their children. It makes us feel great when we say so to outsiders… “Wow!” we hear other parents reacting as if you are a ‘special parent’. So, they go home and try to be their children’s best friends…

The trouble, here is, do our young-ones want us to be their ‘best friends’… Or, do they want us to be their ‘best parents”?

I think, we parents should not encroach upon that space called – friendship… of our young-ones. Let them have loads and loads of friends outside… of their own age, let them do whatever we did with our friends… laughing and crying together, fighting and patching-up… cracking those forbidden jokes and sharing our deepest secrets… Why should we, parents, rob them of this beautiful space… this amazing experience of growing-up?

No, we should never try to smother our young-ones in the cover of being their ‘best friends’… Let’s stop hovering over their heads as helicopters, all the time… telling them sweetly, “Honey, I am just trying to be your ‘best friend’.”

The ‘best’ thing we parents can do to build our young-ones’ self-confidence is: to stop suffocating them… yes, by our self-crowned status of being their ‘best friends’… and by hovering over their heads, twenty-four/seven, as helicopters…

I have rarely heard young-ones confessing to me – with the same conviction – that their parents are their ‘best friends’…

If we parents encroach upon the space meant for our young-one’s friends, let’s not complain – “Why are they so lonely?”


GERALD D’CUNHA