Friday, July 31, 2015

WHY ARE OUR TEACHERS SO HARSH, SO MEAN, AT TIMES....





Pic.: Pradeep Nanda

Rest assured, we teachers will never keep our mouths shut. And, rest assured, that it is for a very good and very noble reason….

In my case, rest. also, assured, that I won’t stop ‘preaching', either!

Teachers are our friends, guides and philosophers… motivators,  mentors… the ones who don’t lose faith in us… the ones who don’t give up on us… the ones who see our tomorrows much before we do…

Our teachers are our cheerleaders… our best well-wishers…

But, then, our teachers are, often, too strict, too critical, too mean… Aren’t they?

I had, in my life, the sweetest as well as the hardest teachers, both… The teachers who seemed least interested except in their monthly salary and the teachers who did not care for their monthly salary and went out of their way to help us, shape us and inspire us…

And, I don’t think such mix – such reality - has changed or will ever change…


Why is a teacher so hard or harsh at times… even most of the times?

I had some teachers, who I had, always, dreaded to come face-to-face with. Yes, they were demons, to me… Then.

But, today, after being a teacher myself for close to four decades (counting from my FY B’Com days), I can look back on my ‘harsh and mean teachers’ and only smile with peace…


Today is Guru Purnima. I will bend down to touch the feet of my ‘harshest’ and the ‘meanest’ teachers first… It must’ve been tough… very, very tough for them to deal with us… I am able to say this, today, with all my honesty, because I know how it is to be a teacher… how to leave behind our home frustrations at home when we come to school… and leave the school frustrations at school when we go back home when the day ends… How tough it is to leave behind our own bitter childhood or youth… the impact some of our own harsh teachers had left on us… How tough our health can be… our drained our energy… how strained our relationship with our loved ones…

So, whose mistake it is?

Today is Guru Purnima… 


Let me not wait for the answer to the question… Let me bend down to touch, first, the feet of teachers who I had disliked the most when I was a student…

And, let me tell you one reason for this is: If I have ever harbored in my mind the feeling that I have been, ‘always’, a nice, sweet, tender and inspiring teacher… I know what a fools’ paradise I am trying to bask in! There ‘are’ so many, out there, for whom I must’ve been a harsh and mean teacher… a demon, a despot a frustrated sadist and all that….

I know how true that is… I am not saying this for an effect… Trust me.

We are teachers… Yes, we scream and shout, at the top of our voices… non-stop… with the hope to inspire our students to dream big… soar high in life… Today, I want to confess this: at my meanest and harshest moment as a teacher, too, I had done that only with the same hope…

I feel light and a lot relived when I confess this, today…

Today is Guru Punrima.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, July 30, 2015

TELL ME SNEHA, IS THIS FAIR?





Pic.: Indu Varier

At seven in the morning, today, my wife received a call from Anita, her cousin. “Rebecca expired at night,” was the sad news.

“Oh, not again!” was my wife’s immediate response.

Rebecca got married to Anil, a cousin of my wife, some twenty-five years ago. They were madly in love with each other and got married at a very young age against the wishes of their respective families… Soon, their two daughters – Aleen and  Ayril – were born…

Anil, an enterprising young-man, faced a business setback from which, he couldn’t somehow recover. They had to sell their house to pay off their creditors, and ever since then, they have been moving from one rented place to another…

Seven years ago, Anil died of a massive heart-attack He was 41. Rebecca was left shattered… She did not have a job… Aleen, the elder daughter, had just started her first-year engineering… Ayril had entered her ninth standard…

“You need to cry… You need to grieve,” I remember the Priest consoling Rebecca, who stood sobbing next to her husband’s coffin, “Time heals… Time brings you strength.”

Soon after her husband’s death, Rebecca began to work for an NGO and began to carry her burden with lots of grace and dignity. Aleen continued with her engineering… But, Ayril, who was extremely attached to her dad, developed cancer and suffered a lot. She had just started going to college but was forced to give up… Just a year ago, Ayril lost her battle to cancer…

Life moved on for Rebecca and Aleen… By now, Aleen had completed her Engineering and started working in Pune… Rebecca, who lived all alone in Mumbai, continued to live with great dignity…

A few days ago, Rebecca was admitted to a hospital for her uterus operation… But, then, early this morning, she died of a massive heart-attack…

 Aleen is left alone!

So, you can understand why my wife had exclaimed - ”Oh, not again!”

Yes, why this should happen to some people… again and again, with such frequency? Does time heal? Does it really give us strength to bear our burden with grace and dignity?

I really do not know… The answer, I believe, depends on what meaning we try to derive out of the triumphs and tragedies we encounter in our lives… The meaning can be only personal…

Aleen is brave… When she had paid her tribute in the church, on her little-sister Ayril’s funeral, she had left not a single eye un-wet… But, what was amazing was that Aleen’s voice did not crack a bit… I knew how tough Life had made her!

So, Aleen will survive with even more grace, dignity and strength…. We will all pray at her mother, Rebecca’s funeral, today.


I had no plans to write about this. But, Sneha, one of my eleventh-standard students, triggered me off…

Sneha had trouble getting admission in a decent college despite her decent marks. Well, with  great difficulty, she got in one of the nearby good-colleges. She wanted Maths,… She did not get. Well, that’s one of her complaints. But, she got the morning shift she wanted. Now, suddenly, they have asked her to move to the afternoon shift… This is a ‘huge problem’ now for Sneha… All her friends are in the morning shift, you see! She called me up, an hour ago, and started complaining to me… “Sir, this is not fair… this is not fair… this is not fair!”

I let her complete all her ‘unfair’ rant… Then I asked her, “Over?”

“Yes sir,” Sneha said sheepishly…

“Now, listen to this,” and narrated to her Aleen’s story…

When over, I asked, “Tell me Sneha, is this fair?”

There was no answer…

So, I decided to write this.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

'APPRECIATE' ONLY MEANS 'APPRECIATE'... WHY PAINT IT WITH DARK SHADES?












Pic.: Alwyn Mathias


“Gd mng sir. Can you please sms to me * Punit’s number? Appreciate.”

I used a nice smiley at the end of my message. I wanted Punit’s number very urgently and knew, that my architect friend had it. But, I, also, knew, that he generally did not respond to any phone calls or messages during those hours. So, I was aware of my limits… I was aware of the meaning, value and depth of that one last word I had used at the end of my message – ‘Appreciate.’

The very next minute, my architect friend had sent me both - the cell and landline – the numbers of Punit.

“Thank-you so much sir. Really appreciate,” I replied quickly.

“My pleasure sir. My duty,” came back the response with a bright smiley.

My heart swelled with simple joy… A very simple and sincere request and a very simple and sincere response…  That’s all… Nothing beyond it…

Till this thing happened….

There was a person (who was known to my architect friend) sitting next to me in my office. I spontaneously expressed before him my joy over a simple episode like that… “How uncomplicated happiness can be,” I exclaimed…

Apparently, the man had a dislike towards my architect friend. “He is a sweet talker… Very shrewd, very selfish,” he commented.

I could, immediately, sense a strange sensation in my body… “Why did you have to comment like that… even if you hate my friend?” I was thinking aloud, “Why did you have to contaminate my simple joy?”

Well, I did not tell this man what I was feeling… I did not wish to further pollute my mind… Instead, I said quietly in my mind, “May your poison be with you. May peace be with me.”

For many, innocence is being naive. Unfortunately, being naive – childlike – is the only way to experience the simple joy of life. When we try to read between every line… judge the neighbor and study his motive… try to take every word of the neighbor with the proverbial pinch of salt… yes, if we keep doing it, everywhere, every time, I think, we are only ‘childish’ – ignorant. There is no way we can experience, ever, that uncomplicated and uncontaminated state of mind called ‘peace’…

‘Appreciate’ only means ‘Appreciate’... Why paint it with dark shades?

*Name changed

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

HE DIED WITH HIS BOOTS ON













 Pic.: Pradeep Nanda



“To shine like the sun, first burn like the sun.”

- APJ Abdul Kalam
  

 This eleventh-standard (ISC) girl called me just now. “Sir, do we have class today?”

“Of course yes,” I said, “why, what happened?”

“Sir don’t you know ‘our President’ – APJ Abdul Kalam died?”

“Yes beta, I know,” I said, almost choked, “he died with his boots on… Please come for the class at 3.”

I do not know if this sixteen-year-old understood what those words – ‘He died with his boots on’ – meant… and why I was using it, in the current context…

This girl comes from a different generation… Not the kind who would be easily fascinated by the kind of lifestyle – unbelievably simple for a highly qualified, acclaimed and, above all, for a  nation’s President -  Kalamji chose to live by… or the kind of rustic dialect with which he spoke… Yes, there was nothing visible that could fire up the imagination of masses – cutting across their age, religion, region, political or intellectual affiliation – in our former President Kalamji, except his brutally-honest simplicity and clean intent. To remain so - unaffected by fame, position or power – one needed the kind of spiritual and intellectual depth that he abundantly possessed…

I am yet to figure out why no other President in my county – barring, may be, Dr. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Rajendra Prasad – evoked such feelings within us, such connect… such inspiration!

It is just like the American Presidents…. So many have come and gone… but, a few have fired our imagination… Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy…

It is just like this mystery: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa…

Like Krishna, Christ, Nanak, Muhammad, Kabir or Shirdi Saibaba…

There is an Amitabh Bachchan  and there is a Sachin Tendulkar…

There is something, in these men and women, that evokes a deep reverence and aspiration in all of us… They are, really, great souls!


True power of man lies in his integrity, honesty and intent. Abdul Kalamji was truly a ‘powerful’ man… He remained committed to his mission till the last breath: to fire our imagination to lead a lofty life… aiming at the stars but planted solidly on the ground… He was the quintessential ‘Karma Yogi’… and, true to his mission, he died with his boots on!

Our sixteen-year-old girl still thinks Abdul Kalamji was our present President!

To me, she was neither dumb or na├»ve…

That’s the sad state of affairs, today. The young-ones need the missile-men like Kalamji to fire their imagination… We all need… even the ones who wear the silver-most hair and stand close to their 84th sunset!

Kalamji has filled me, today, with that kind of fuel, that kind of hope… and, has reassured me, that if we remain simple, honest and clean – we needn’t be worried about anything else in life… That, there is really, really, really something extra-ordinary in the ordinary…

And, yes, as my friend Sundar shared, today, to shine like the Sun, we should first burn like the Sun…

Here I take my bow, sir… before that SUN!





GERALD D’CUNHA



Monday, July 27, 2015

FOR, THE PILLARS OF THE TEMPLE STAND APART...






Pic.: Chetna Shetty

Just a while ago, a dear friend of mine called me up. She wanted me to call up one of our common friends to pep her up a bit…”Sir, *Nisha is, once again, going through a low phase… Can you call her up and cheer her up a bit.”

I told my friend that the best thing we could do to Nisha, at that moment, was to leave her alone… “She will get over her low phase… She has done it before, and, she will do it now, too.”

“But sir, what if she doesn’t get over it this time?” my friend asked me.

“Well, ‘What if’ is coming from our own fears… We have to first get over our own anxiety, and over-concern for others,” I told my friend, “Caring for our dear ones is one thing… trying to play a ‘rescuer’ is a different thing altogether… Nobody likes us to be their rescuers… They want us to be by their side, walk quietly with them along the dark tunnel… Too much of talking and pepping only backfires… They resist it… even become angry with us. Trust me, Nisha has enough strength within her to bounce back… She needs to gather enough wisdom to take responsibility for her own well-being.”

Did my friend get convinced with my theory?

Was I being insensitive… detached to the plight of one of my dear friends?


Some days ago, a good friend of mine was trying to tell me as to how important it was for me to care for myself and my family. My wife was there around. Let me tell you, with all my honesty, I found resisting every word my friend uttered beyond his first sentence. “Gerry, you should take good care of yourself,” well, that was true; no two things about it… He was my well-wisher, he cared for me… and, hence, with great humility, I should accept what he said. “Gerry, you should take good care of your family,” yes, even that was cent percent true… He cared for my family, too… I would be too arrogant if I did not accept his advice with grace…

Yet, what contaminated the entire caring process was the ‘broken record’ that he played after his maiden lines of advice… He was telling me again and again and again the same thing, in hundred different ways, that I should take good care of myself and my family…

I was getting irritated… and, I gently and firmly cut him short…

My life is my business. My well-being is my responsibility… If my loved ones stand on my wayside and cheer me along, I will feel motivated to beat my blues… If they feel for me, bleed for me, I will feel loved, humbled, even blessed… Their mere presence is, often, enough to keep me going… But, the moment they step inside my ‘track’ and try to rescue me from my burden… yes, very, very, very frankly… that’s a disturbing thought for me…. I do not want people to rescue me, bail me out of my problems. I want them to be around me, and heal me and empower me through their presence and love…

Does it work?

Yes sir, it does… It does.

Here is Kahlil Gibrans’s timeless advice from ‘The Prophet’:


“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”



Hope, I have rested my case…


*Name changed


GERLAD D’CUNHA

Sunday, July 26, 2015

THE BAMBAIYYA COMMON-SYLLABUS








Pic.: Pradeep Nanda

Pranav, Yukta, Jhalak, Suraj, Rushali, Sukanya, Satnam… all these are smart college-teens. They come from very good families and schools… Great Boards, great teachers and great parents… and, above all, a great city – Mumbai. Amchi Mumbai…  These teens must’ve been just babies (or not even born) when it was decided to rename Bombay as Mumbai…

But, with the name change, the old and peculiar bambaiyya bhasha – the colorful street lingo of this city – did not change at all. In fact, it has been getting more and more colorful – and richer - over the years… SSC, ICSC, CBSC, IB, Cambridge or Oxford… whatever Board our kids here go to, and whether they live in slums or luxury homes, none of them are left untouched by this beautiful bambaiya bhasha…

I myself have a rich vocabulary and do use it quite effectively… even while teaching… yes, mostly, for ‘effect’… and, yes, to talk to these brats in their own bhasha…

One thing: I don’t use ‘filthy’ ones in my students’ presence… Nor do I hear any of my students using them in my presence…


So, on my b’day (24th July), the whole gang of the above PD students had turned up with a big cake and a basket of lovely flowers to wish me. After the wishing and cake-cutting was over in my office, I wanted to go to my classroom. But, the kids wanted to stay back in my office and spend more time catching up with each other. Suraj made this request: “Sir, if you don’t mind, can we friends stay back here and do some vellegiri?

Bole toh ‘timepass’…

I love these young, bright kids. I had just spent some two months with them on something called – ‘Personality Development’. So, I gladly consented, “No problem.”

As I went inside my classroom, I was smiling. Just an hour before that, I had blogged, in which I had wondered as to how grumpy and dull my life would have been, had I not been surrounded by these brats!

Pranav, the brilliant boy, had delighted me with some of his brilliant vocab…

Locha, Jhol… Kaand, Raada, Kalti, Kheeda, Vaat, Nautanki, Atrangi, … Chitku,  Lafa, Chirkut, Bhaigiri,  Chindigiri, Dadagiri, Faltugiri, Gandhigiri, Thukpatti, Haripatti… 

The girls had sounded graceful with: Abe shane, Abe dakkan, Abe langoor, Lafa du kya? Karcha pani du kya? Raag mat de, Chal fut…

 And, this I had picked from Mumai-local pathshala:
Alibaug ka samja hai  kya?… Kopche mein lu kya?…  Khamba…Fultoo…

Being a commerce teacher, I had to know what a peti and koka meant, you see…

And, you know how Facebook has sanctified these:
Jhakaaaas…
Mast item…                 
Ek number…


Now, please don’t tell me this is ‘tapori’ language…

If it was, I wouldn’t have blogged on it…
Maa kasam… Aai shapat…


I prefer to be a Roman, when I am in Rome!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Pradeep Nanda

Friday, July 24, 2015

BEYOND THE SUNSET WHEN THE DAY IS DONE






Pic.: Pradeep Nanda

One of the greatest advantages – rather, privileges – for teachers like me is that because we are constantly in the company of our young and buoyant students, we tend to think and behave like them… young and spirited.

At times I wonder, what if I was not surrounded by these young-guns… who seldom worry about money, paying bills, serious relationships, health issues, and that mother of all the concerns – the death… yes, what if I was to work, surrounded by some grumpy oldies (sorry)… what if my young-ones were not there in my life… every morning, every noon, every evening… all day long till I landed home, late in the night?

Does aging weigh me down? Yes, it does. Health issues of not just mine, -  my wife’s our  my parents’ and  my young son’s – yes, I am not immune to any of them…

Death stares at me every day… and, it keeps me sane and grounded. It keeps me alive!


Last evening, some of my students were pulling my legs… “Sir what are the plans for tomorrow? Sir where is the party?”

“What plans, what party… I am not young like you anymore,” I thought I could get away with that…

“”That’s precisely why you have to make plans sir… You have to enjoy because you don’t have so many years to enjoy as we do.”

“I agree with them sir,” said one of my associates, who was seven years younger than me, “How many years do we really have?”


I complete 57 today. A happy b’day to me… Yes, I love life… I love celebrating it, honoring it.

But then, as each year turns, I become more and more aware of the value and power of each breath I take… each heartbeat I sense, each blink of my eyes, each step my feet are able to take, each morsel my hand is able to lift… my food-pipe is able to carry… every drop of blood… urine… and stool. The memory, yes, I don’t take it for granted, anymore … and, yes, yes, yes… I get sacred, very scared… to take my loved ones so!

It has been a great mystery to me as to why we aspire a new-born to come crying into this world. God wanted it so? He never wanted us to come smiling and laughing?  No matter how scientifically one tries to explain to me the rationale behind this, I still think that we have missed a very valid point here…


Beyond the candles and cakes, beyond the parties and plans... there is something more to our b’days… Probably, this realization comes with age…  I am a great believer in life. I pray to God to give me the strength so that I can live young and spirited till my last breath… I pray for good health… and for wisdom and humility to respect honor and celebrate the love of dear ones in my life…

One of the most poignant songs I, often, go back to happens to be a beautiful hymn and a love song… I get goose-bumps every time I hear George Younce render it… Here are the lyrics and here is the song…




Should you go first and I remain to walk the road alone
I'll live in memory's garden dear with happy days we've known
In spring I'll wait for roses red, when fades the lilacs bloom
And in early fall when brown leaves fall, I'll catch a glimpse of you


Should you go first and I remain, for battles to be fought
Each thing you've touched along the way, will be a hallowed spot
I'll hear your voice I'll see your smile though blindly I may grope
The memory of your helping hand will buoy me on with hope


Beyond the sunset, oh blissful morning
When with our savior, heaven is begun
Earth's toiling ended, oh glory dawning
Beyond the sunset when day is done


Should you go first and I remain, to finish with the scroll
No lessening shadows shall ever creep in to make this life seem droll
We've known so much of happiness, we've had our cup of joy
And memory is one gift of God that death cannot destroy


I want to know each step you take that I may walk the same
For someday down that lonely road, you'll hear me call your name
Should you go first and I remain, one thing I'll have you do
Walk slowly down that long long path, for soon I'll follow you


In that fair homeland, we'll know no parting
Beyond the sunset for ever more

Songwriters
BROCK, VIRGIL P./BROCK, BLANCHE KERR
Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.





I hope, it is not about death… It is about life…

It is about honoring and celebrating Life and love.


Thank-you Lord.



GERALD D’CUNHA

Video: YouTube



Thursday, July 23, 2015

SOME OF US ARE LATE-BLOOMERS IN LIFE








Pic.: Uaha Prasadh


While returning home, last night, I heard someone calling me from behind. . I looked back… It was one of my students’ mother. She just wanted to inform that her daughter had passed in the latest twelfth-standard Board exams. “Sir,* Prerna passed. Just wanted to tell you.”

So relieved this mother looked while breaking the news that her daughter had just passed with 51 percent!

The feeling of relief was palpable!

The daughter, a head-strong, confident girl, was not at all interested in studies… She was their adopted daughter – only daughter. The father had given up. The mother was wrecked with worry about this rebellious girl. I had told the mother, many times, one thing: “Ma’am, Prerna is a confident girl… she has a strong head… All that will happen – and, we should really allow that to happen – is that she will discover, eventually, what she has to do in life, and she will do it… She will get her fair share of success in life.”

Last night, I told the mother the same thing, all over again… “Ma’am., she will not do what you and I want her to do… She will make a few mistakes in life… She will frustrate you and her teachers, but, she will, eventually, land up where her heart has been calling her.”

Trust me, I was not trying to please my student’s mother.


I wasn’t good in studies at all at that girl’s age... I did not know what I was good at and what I wanted to do in life. My self-confidence, unlike this young-one, was at the pit and, today, most of my classmates and teachers, would not believe if I told them that I have been teaching for decades now, I have been writing, blogging, training and publishing books.

Some of us, in this world, are ‘Late-Bloomers’. We discover ourselves quite late in life. In my own case, the discovery happened when I was in FY B’Com when Prof. B.S. Raman came to teach our class. That’s the breakthrough: impressed with his teaching and personality, I dreamt, right sitting in that big class, of becoming a teacher, writer and person like him…

I never had to look back ever since then!

So, when I told the mother of my student, last night, that her daughter would do well in life, I was telling from my own experience…

Today, FB has got me in touch with many of my old friends and students. Many of them pleasantly surprise me…. I am so delighted and proud, too, that they have landed up at the right place, the place where their hearts have been calling them…

So, it, also, serves me as a reminder – a very important one – that, I should never ever discard anybody in this world as ‘useless’…

If I haven’t turned ‘useless’ in life, others, too, won’t. They have the right to dream and align themselves… just as I did.

Happy for your daughter, my student, ma’am…


*Name is changed


GERALD D’CUNHA