Wednesday, September 30, 2015

THE DONKEY-WORK







Pic.: Pradeep Nanda



“If Jesus were here today, he wouldn't be riding around on a donkey.
He'd be taking a plane, he'd be using the media.”



Today, I was teaching my twelfth-standard students, in my early morning batch (HSC Board). Unlike the ISC-Board students, the HSC-Board students are not allowed to use calculators. So, today’s kids you see… They are so used to machines and gadgets for quick results; their mind is simply not willing to buy the idea that they have to use it… to become sharp and smart. When I was like them, calculators were seen as a luxury. I rarely saw anyone using them even in offices, leave alone in schools and colleges.

So, we had to use our mind… think in order to add, subtract, multiply and divide. For a Commerce student, it was deemed to be a basic skill which had to be honed. Our teachers taught us various simple and short-cut methods to do complicated arithmetic. For example, if we had to divide between A and B a profit of Rs. 80,040 in 5:3 ratio, we did like this, by visualization. First, we divided Rs.80, 000 mentally and obtained Rs.50, 000 and Rs.30, 000 respectively. Next, we divided Rs. 40 and obtained Rs.25 and Rs.15 respectively. Finally, we mentally added the two results to obtain the final result i.e., Rs.50, 025 and Rs.30, 015 respectively. Similarly, when we had to divide Rs. 79,992 in the same ratio, we used the same trick: First we divided Rs.80, 000 and obtained Rs.50, 000 and Rs.30, 000 respectively; next, we divided Rs.8 to obtain Rs.5 and Rs.3 respectively, Finally, we deducted the second result from the first to obtain the final result, i.e., Rs.49, 995 and Rs.29, 997 respectively.

And, believe me, all this would happen automatically in our minds… Because, we grew up doing it. Our mind was attuned to such calculations.

But, here in Mumbai, even after attending several short-cut classes such as Vedic Maths, UC Maths or Mid-Brain something etc., our young-ones still search for the calcie on their cell-phones. Because, that’s how their mind is attuned to think… fast, without even thinking or strain!

Therefore, imagine the torture and dilemma of these HSC and CBSC kids who are not allowed to touch calcies to find how much is 3 plus 2! You should see their faces to believe it… They simply curse their fate… that, they are not allowed to use the calcie for calculations!

Everyday as I see the plight of my students, I smile and tell myself: Have loads of patience, sir. They have come from Mars and you are from Venus. It’s okay… It’s okay. Chill.


Thus, this morning, in our twelfth-standard batch, when we had a figure of Rs. 40,005 to be divided in 3:2 ratio, I could see the strain on the face of Kevin. He was stressed out. I was smiling as I was watching him and his friends. “Pure donkey work… Asli gadha mazdoori”, I was thinking aloud… and, then, I taught them, without even touching the board, as to how we as kids would do it. And, instantly, I could see Kevin’s face lighting up!

“Kevin, can you tell me why that smile?” I asked him.

“So simple the calculation can be sir,” Kevin put it quickly.

“Yes!!!!” Kevin’s friends joined.

“So, dudes, what is the moral of the story?” I asked.

“We should stop doing the donkey work, sir,” the moral was unanimous, “the gadha mazdoori!”


It is 2 in the afternoon, and, I am still smiling!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, September 28, 2015

"DON'T' STRIVE TO MAKE YOUR PRESENCE NOTICED; JUST MAKE YOUR ABSENCE FELT."











Pic.:  Dilip V       

"Don't Strive To Make Your Presence Noticed, Just Make Your Absence Felt"
-       Anonymous

Yesterday, Kannan had used this old quote in our Tai Chi class, in a certain context. But, I could immediately grasp its universal applicability… especially in any area of leadership. And yes, in any area of relationship, or, even social work.


It’s tough to be anonymous, faceless and low-key when we are leaders… Asserting our authority and position, expecting recognition from our subordinates comes easily to us. The thought of being a faceless leader or social worker… yes, it sounds scary. In relationships, too, it is quite scary to function without we striving to make our presence noticed…


But, that need to make our presence noticed comes from our insecurity!


If we closely observe true leaders – be them business leaders, work-place leaders, leaders at schools and colleges, religious or social organizations, or even families – they are the ones who have always striven to be faceless, low-key. The best example is our parents and spouses. Think of them… Their role in our lives is so significant; their contribution is so immense… Yet, we cannot see them striving to make their presence noticed. Ditto is the case when we are parents… We do not strive to make our presence noticed in the lives of our children… Love, care and affection are just pure, with no strings attached…


A true teacher, a true friend, a true spouse, a true social worker – yes, you won’t find any of them striving to make their presence noticed… For, true love and true giving come from a clean and a powerful place inside our hearts… It is a quiet, secure place… which is devoid of fear and insecurity…


Therefore, when these people are gone, we feel their absence.


Last morning, what Kannan had said, in our Tai Chi class, abounds everywhere in life… Yes, the lesser we strive to make our presence noticed, the more is our absence felt!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.:  Dilip V             



Saturday, September 26, 2015

WHAT USE IS A LAKE WHICH HAS NO WATER?






Pic.: Trivikram Iyer

It was late in the night, yesterday. We were three of us: I was the oldest of the three, at 57. My doctor-friend and Professor-friend, both, were around 50. The discussion was about how insecurity had kept us constantly worried and on the edge even at this age of our lives!

“Of late, I was pondering on this issue,” my doctor-friend said, “I have already spent fifty years of my life trying to secure myself and my family. Why should I not spend the rest of my life appreciating what is good in my life… relishing the simple pleasures… maybe more time in devotion?”

The Professor-friend, too, voiced the similar thoughts. “It is insecurity that keeps us on the edge and anxious all the time,” he said, “It is an illusion.”

“The life was taken care of… We were all taken care of even when our parents could handle it no more,” the doctor-friend said, “Still, we presume, that without us Life will not function, without our incessant efforts to secure our families… We assume that we are indispensable… We need to keep earning and saving till the last breath… We need to support our nearest ones…”

I was really feeling a lot calmer as I was listening to my two friends. I was in touch with what was going on in my own mind… the kind of insecurity that had kept me on the edge, causing constant anxiety… The thought, that 57 years had been spent already trying to secure myself and my family… and, thought, that if I continued to do the same, I would miss it all… yes, this truth, all of a sudden, had come to strike me, last night.

Sometimes, we need someone to hold a mirror before us and reveal ourselves!


And, this morning, another friend of mine, Vikram, had offered me a lift in his car. He was slightly older than me. Incidentally, the subject of our discussion was similar to last night’s. Vikram told me about Adi Shankaracharya’s famous song – ‘Bhaja Govindam’… He narrated the story -  how Acharya was inspired to write this song…

Once, while walking along the streets of Varanshi, accompanied by his deciples, Acharya noticed a very elderly scholar trying to attract students. He was reciting the rules of Sankrit grammar repeatedly so that he could find some students to teach the grammar rules and, thereby, earn some money. This sight was the provocation – rather inspiration – for Shankaracharya to go to this old man and tell him, “Fool, enough of thinking about earning, saving and securing… You have done that enough… Spend the rest of days in thanking and praising God for whatever He had showered upon you till now.”

I loved this story behind the famous ‘Bhaja Govindam’ song…

As I got off Vikram’s car and began to walk, I found my heart smiling…

“What good is lust when youth has fled?
What use is a lake which has no water?
Where are the relatives when wealth is gone?
Where is samsara when the Truth is known?”


This was one of the verses of Acharya’s song… “Fool, the song was written in the eighth century,” I heard a voice reminding me, “Still, it hasn’t aged!”


GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

THAT BURNING NEED FOR SELF-EXPRESSION





Pic.: Pradeep Nanda


That burning need to succeed, deep inside each one of us, is nothing but an incessant need for self-expression.!

As a little boy, I was desperately shy. When I became a teenager, the shyness stayed in me like a hard rock…. By now, I was so self-conscious that I stayed away from anything ‘public’… particularly the stage. I was so full of self-doubts that I looked down upon anything ‘good’ in me… I would constantly compare myself with others and suffer inside… It was chronic, killing And yes, it was so lonely!

Much of this changed when I got in me that burning desire to become a fine teacher like my idol, Prof. B.S. Raman. So strong was the desire that I was determined to overcome all my handicaps, including my poor English and stage fright… My handicaps became my greatest blessings in disguise… I started writing my simple notes in my diaries… I started reading books; I started listening to good speakers, seeking help from them… This habit stayed with me all my life… and, today, a day doesn’t go without writing my thoughts down… They call it ‘blogging’, or ‘writing and publishing books’… No sir, it did not start that way… It started from my deep, deep need to express myself… say what my heart wanted to say… find an audience… and, it had started as a young boy, way back in my village.

And, because I was freighted to go on stage, I founded THE DAWN CLUB to help others overcome that problem when they were little boys and girls… I did not know that the greatest beneficiary of this act would be I. As I, along with many of my great associates, went about helping thousands of teens and pre-teens overcome their inhibitions and express themselves, I found myself growing to my fullest potential!

Believe me, the most amazing part of this experience has been this: I am still shy and frightened… I still have so many self-doubts… I still keep my notes, still tremble when I am asked to come before an audience!

Last night, as our hosing society’s Hon. Chairman, I was giving away prizes to dozens of little children, who had taken part in various talent-based competitions during the on-going Ganesh Utsav. So-little babies, so many of them… and, so much was the parents’ support… so much was the excitement… so much was the energy, buzz, and yes, so much was the hope and expectation… As I was doing my bit, my eyes had welled-up… “So blessed are these kids,” I was thinking aloud, “Dhanya ho, Dhanya ho, Dhanya ho!”

I knew how much difference that support from parents and well-wishers made to a little one’s self-confidence in life… I knew how important that was!

So, I silently blessed all who mattered in the life of those little children!

Then, a beautiful thing happened: I saw myself collecting those prizes – a little toy or a Barbie – I saw the child who danced, sung, spoken, written or sketched was me… the child who had won was me… the parents who were cheering around were my own.  Soon, I found myself seeing it all from the other end: I saw they were my own children… I was the one who had groomed them, supported them, cheered them to the trophy!

Let me tell you, it was such a liberating experience… such a healing one!

God did the best thing to me: He made me what I am, today… A beautiful, shy, sensitive, yet,a strong soul…

Thank-you Lord… Lord Ganesh!


GERLD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WHY IS IT TAKING ME A LONGER TIME TO REACH THE SHRINE?







Pic.:Nishtha Narryani

It is almost thirty-five years since I came to live in this great city – Mumbai. But, I haven’t been to Mount Mary church during the weeklong festival time (popularly hailed as ‘the Bandra Fair’). Yes, even once!


So many of my friends, particularly non-Catholics, find it strange. Come cyclone or come tsunami, these faithful will never ever skip a Mount Mary ‘dharshan’… and, I truly feel that’s something remarkable!

Prayer and worship are what they are only when you perform them with all your faith… My friends, including the non-Catholics, find tremendous amount of peace by a visit to the Bandra shrine during the frantic rush… I respect that. In my case, it just works the opposite. I have been to Mount Mary shrine umpteen times… when my soul felt the thirst to be there… I have been there both in my good times and bad times… to thank Mother Mary for her help or to plead Her to have mercy on me, the sinner. But, I have gone there on week days… when there was total calm… I have sat there, all alone, for hours and just surrendered my concerns to Her… I have come back a lot relieved, healed… yes, by just being there!

“Why should I make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land?” I, often, ask myself, “Is this very land, upon which I now stand, not a ‘Holy Land’?”

I seriously feel that I need to light a small candle inside my heart – yes, right inside here – before I go to the Shrine, miles and miles away, to place a bunch of them…


And yes, this scares me even more… I mean, what Mary’s son, my Hero, had reminded:

“If you are at God’s altar with your offering, and there, you remember your brother against whom you hold a grudge, go back to your brother, make peace with him, and then come back and do God your offering.”

 Maybe, that’s the reason why it is taking me a longer time to reach the shrine!


GERALD D’CUNHA



Monday, September 21, 2015

AN EXTRA TEN RUPEES





Pic.: Chetna Shetty

No matter how inspiring I sound to be in my daily posts, and no matter how much I talk about ‘values’ in my writings… let me tell you this straight: I am no Satya Harishchandra!

Yes, I have in me the same devil who tempts me to sin, cheat, lie and take short-cuts, now and then… here and there… Maybe, I am not a big-time thief, a professional con-man or a chronic liar or whatever that is…

I still lie, still show greed, and still try to be selfish and self-centered…

Well, am I telling all this for effect?

There is no need for me to do it, sir…

I remember I was in third standard. It was one afternoon, back home in Mangalore, my village. I was walking along a road with one of my older cousins when I sighted a wallet on the road. I instantly grabbed it and opened it… Inside, there was a ten-rupee note and some papers. I quickly plucked the note and tucked in one of my pockets and tucked the wallet with rest of the papers in the other pocket. We had barely walked some distance, when I saw a middle-aged man rushing towards us in a bicycle. “Did you find any wallet on the road?” he asked panting for breath.

I pulled the wallet and handed over it to the man.

When the man opened it, his face lit-up with joy. “These are very important papers,” he said, “thank-you so much.”

The next moment, my cousin pulled from my pocket the ten-rupee note and handed it over to the man.

“I was not worried about money,” the man, once again, asserted, “I was worried about these papers.”

I got an earful, that afternoon, both from my cousin along the rest of our way home, and at home, from my mom…“Son, never do it, again,” she said, anguished.

Five years later, when I was in eight-standard, one of my uncles got married. Ours was a hand-to-mouth household. On the wedding day, we were returning from the bride’s place. One of bride’s relatives, who carried with him the suitcase with gold, sarees and cash, had taken an auto rickshaw to come to our place. It was only after reaching our home, he realized that he had left the suitcase in the rickshaw! There was a sudden gloom at home… particularly on the faces of bride’s family members. No one knew who the auto-driver was… and the effort to trace him went futile… Three hours had passed by… There was panic and worry at the wedding place!

Then, in evening, the miracle happened… The rickshaw driver appeared with the suitcase! “I found it in the dickey of my auto,” he said, “Please check if everything is in place.”

My dad, who was the elder brother of my uncle, folded hands before the auto-driver and I heard him say repeatedly, “Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.”

When my dad handed him small cash as a token of appreciation, the auto-driver gently refused it. “Give me a glass of water, sir… that’s enough,” he said.

I was old-enough to understand what was happening before my eyes… “Son, never do it, again,” I remembered my mom’s words!

And, today morning, after forty-three years since this second episode, a very mundane incident revived the memories of these episodes…

I had taken an auto to reach my bank. The fare was Rs.20. I had given a hundred-rupee note to the auto-driver. He returned the balance all in ten-rupee notes. As I was counting, the auto went off. I had found an extra ten-rupee note. I counted once again, and yes, there was an extra ten-rupee note….

I immediately remembered the ten-rupee note I had tried to ‘pocket’ when I was in third-standard… I, also, remembered my mom’s gentle reminder… “Son, never do it, again.”

So, here I was… running behind the autos… searching for the man who I had returned to me an extra ten-rupee note…

Luckily, a few yards away, I found his auto being parked. “Thank God,” I cried my heart out.

“What happened sir?” he was concerned.

“How much money did you return to me?” I handed over the notes to him.

When the driver counted the notes, his face lit-up with gratitude. “Thank-you sir,” he said with his hands folded.

I remembered my dad’s folded hands on my uncle’s wedding day… He had folded it before an auto-driver, that day…

And, today, what had come around had gone around!

Yes, I walked back to my bank, as though I was the richest man on this planet!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, September 18, 2015

"A LIFE WELL-LIVED IS YOUR BEST REVENGE"









Pic.: Pradeep Nanda


I came across these lines from Sue Monk Kidd, this morning:

“I learned a long time ago that some people would rather die than forgive. It is a strange truth; but forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. It is not something that happens overnight… It’s an evolution of the heart.”

Like the majority around me, I, too, have in my life some people whose very thought makes me angry. When I think of them, my body becomes tense, breathing becomes heavy… and I know it is not a good state to be in… I know I have to make peace, forgive…

But, then, forgiveness is not that easy…  Often, experience of forgiveness seems more painful than the experience of going through the wounds and hurts itself… Yet, that’s the only way to find peace in my soul… There is no other way.

There is good news, there is hope: To forgive someone is my choice. I do not have to wait for the other person’s – my tormentor’s – consent.  And, the good news, also, is: Forgiveness is the greatest service I can ever do for my own well-being… not other person’s!

“Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you,” said Lewis B. Smedes.

How true it is!


Resentment, grudge and revenge… these are heavy loads to carry in life. No matter how brave and tough we pretend to be from outside, we alone know – inside our hearts – that, it is a deep hole we are getting into, a self-destructive hell. Real bravery lies in seeing the reality as it is and letting go… in forgiving. Real bravery lies in making ourselves vulnerable… not defensive. In true love, all defenses dissolve, all guards fall… all arguments and justifications drop.

When my anger ends, compassion begins… The other person’s consent is not required to end my anger… When I ‘see’ what my anger does to me, it ends!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” said Martin Luther King Jr., “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

True. Love is the light that dispels the darkness called anger and resentment. Yes, the understanding comes through love… The courage to be vulnerable comes through love… And, they all come from the simple yet undisputable truth, that I have to drop my resentment for my own peace, my own freedom.

The words of Sue haunt me still… I do not want to be one of those persons who would rather die than forgive… I would rather forgive and then die!

Let me end this post with another inspiring passage. It is from Dr. Fredric Luskin… Here it is:

“Remember, that a life well-lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.”

May peace be with us.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TO GROW-UP OR TO GIVE-UP




Pic.: Chetna Shetty

The ore doesn’t become gold unless it is sent through fire. Likewise, the coal doesn’t become diamond unless it is rigorously polished…

And, what about my character?

I have been thinking hard on this issue: How do we become fine human beings? How do we build up our character-strength? How do we become compassionate and giving in life?

The only answer I keep getting is: Through the way we respond to difficult times in our lives… As the Wise say, “It is not what happens ‘to’ you that shapes your character, it is what happens ‘in’ you.”

I have seen, time and time again, that the challenges in my life can bring the best or the worst in me… They can make be better or bitter… grow up or give up. Challenges have, always, made me trust more and more in the goodness of people and life… Even in the thickest of my hard-times, I have refused to believe, that people or situations in life do not change… that, there is no hope. On the contrary, in my most difficult times, I have trusted more in my inner and outer resources… I have trusted more in the mercy of God…

Yes, in my difficult times, I have gone on my keens and prayed more… I have become vulnerable and sought help from others more… And this: I have reached out to others more in my worst times!

So, today, when some of my challenges seem hell-bent to stay with me and scare the wits out of me, I have these options before me:

To stay with the ship or abandon it…

To become better or bitter in life…

To grow-up or give-up.


True. Whether we like it or not, the only way to find the shining gold is by sending the ore through the burning fire… and the only way to find the precious diamond is by rigorously polishing the coal…yes, whether we like it or not.

If so, why should I be spared from my own test of fire and rigorous polishing?


GERLALD D’CUNHA



Saturday, September 12, 2015

THE AWARENESS OF A GOOD-MORNING






 Pic.: Elaine Pereira

Awareness is not something that is cut off from our daily life… and confined to our so-called spiritual practices… like meditation, prayer etc. I have, also, realized this: unless we practice awareness in our very, very routine activities and actions, it is not possible to practice it in true sense, at all!

Let me share with you one such routine activity, where I have learnt to be aware…

Earlier, there were times, I would send a message to a friend, relative or an acquaintance early in the morning, say at 6 or 7 like this:

“Can we reschedule our today’s’ meeting for tomorrow at same time?”  

The answer would be either “Okay”, or “OK” or just “K”… Maybe, “No problem” or “No issues” or “Done”…

But, then, some of them would respond this way: “GMng Gerry/Sir. Okay/Ok/No problem”/ “No issues.”

Now, what would make the difference, here, is that one little-word – “GMng!”

It was, indeed, 6 or 7 in the morning. And, how insensitive – how unaware - I could be to start a conversation with any one – I say, anyone – without wishing him a good-morning!

Other people’s gentle gesture, in this respect, has sensitized me… yes, made me aware of an area of my daily activity where I needed to practice awareness…

So, now, no matter who I send an early-morning message to, and no matter who  I receive it from or how I receive it from him: I shall greet that person with a “Good-morning”… and, do it with all my heart!

Just felt like sharing this, today. Because, of the five early-morning messages I had received today from my friends/students/parents, only one had ‘Good-morning” in it!

I am not complaining about them… I am only reminding myself to be aware that if it is an early morning, I need to greet everyone – including my enemies – “Good-morning.”

I rest my case, sir.


GERALD D’CUNHA