Saturday, October 31, 2015

LIFE'S LIKE THAT








Pic.: Akshay Puri

If I have to choose two simple things – the wayside things as I call them – I had come across, today, which made me smile and feel a little better, they would be these:
1.      An old anecdote shared by Chaitra Rao from Manipal in one of the Reader's Digest issues (LIFE’S LIKE THAT), and, today, shared on FB by one of my friends, Nisha Nair.
2.       A random click by another friend of mine, Akshay Puri.

 First, the anecdote…
“When my mothers’ breakfast upma repeatedly failed to meet dad’s expecting standards, he sat her down and explained the fundamentals: the importance of right amount of water, the timing, and how his mother used to dish out great upma in 15 minutes flat…
It worked for us anyway. Since then, we have been having good, steaming-hot upma every Saturday morning. Only the cook has changed… Dad has to make it!”

I was at the dining table, having my Saturday-morning breakfast… In the place of Chaitra’s Upma, I had omelet and roties. They tasted unusually great, after savoring the joke!

Did I, often, crib before my wife about the food she prepared? Did I lecture her as to how it had to be done and, yes, how my own mom used to dish it out in 15 minutes flat?

Well, I couldn’t stop my heart from smiling… and feeling nice!

I chanced upon Akshay’s random click almost at the same time… I loved the beauty oozing out of this random picture. The squirrel looked so inviting, sitting on Akshay’s hall-room window… I immediately sent a message to him seeking his permission for its use in today’s blog…

To see the beauty around us, we not only need a heart of a lover, but we need a heart of a child too. There is so much God has spread around us… so, so much, that even a billion cameras cannot capture it. Even if they can, it would be only labeled as a ‘Duplicate’, a ‘Copy’… It can never be the ‘Original’!

Yes, even our best creations are only ‘copies’ from the standpoint of God, the creator. It applies in every sphere… No matter what we create or produce, invent or discover, let us remember, that we only come out with ‘copies’… The ‘original’ is irreplaceable! The ‘Master’ is irreplaceable!

So, when I was captivated by the simple beauty of Akshay’s squirrel, I couldn’t’ stop my heart from feeling the awe of God’s bounty around me… It seemed as though the squirrel had come to my hall-room window to remind me as to how ‘small’ I really was in the gigantic design of God!

One random share – an anecdote – had brought a smile in my heart. Another random click had brought a deep reverence for Life… “Life’s like that,” I heard my heart whispering!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, October 30, 2015

DID YOU ENJOY YOUR CUPPA, TODAY?







Pic.: Chandrasekhar Varier


Two days ago, a doctor-friend of mine had invited me for a dinner in a nice restaurant. We were three of us, the third one being a lawyer-friend.  We spent more than two hours… and, during this time, I sent only one message, but didn’t pick up a single call … My doctor-friend picked up one call but did not read or  send any message… and, my lawyer-friend seemed as though he was not carrying a mobile with him. Yes, it was so peaceful and so free from the endless encroachment which we all are so used to…

The lawyer-friend was not on Whatsapp. The doctor-friend told us that he had got fed-up with the ‘groups’ and found such kind of communication to be an unwanted source of stress and anxiety. “I have informed all concerned that I prefer sms’s and I may not read the Whatsapp messages,” he said.

Technology has come light-years ahead. It was supposed to make our life easy and comfortable. It has. But, it has, also, brought along loads and loads of stress and anxiety… kept us constantly on edge… alienated us from each other… We are so hooked on to typing, reading, replying and, above all, trying to anxiously impress, so much so… we don’t see our foolishness in ignoring the people who are next to us and busy caring for the ones who oceans away from us…


Early this morning, I happened to read the exchange of messages in one of the Whatsapp groups I belonged to. The Sun had still not come out fully and the birds had still not left their nests… and my friends had already begun their anxious chatter… each frantically replying and getting replied to… I had my cuppa – the bed tea – in hand… and I did not want to miss the bliss of this simple pleasure of life… I wrote to my group:

“Hello, Good-morning!
Did you enjoy your morning cuppa, today?
Did you see the sky from your window?
Did you see the smile on your little-one’s face, today?
Did you hear the heartbeat of your beloved?

Then, my heart smiled.


GERALD D’CUNHA


Thursday, October 29, 2015

VINAASH KAALE, VIPREET BUDDHI











Pic.: Sana Shetty


If we look back and reflect on what Hitler did – including the Holocaust and the Second World-War – it simply boils down to that old Sanskrit wisdom, ‘Vinaash Kaale, Vipreet Buddhi’…It means: when one’s end is nearing, he acts without his intelligence. In the same Second World-War, look at what Japan did. It did not surrender even after Germany and others did. It continued to unleash havoc even though it knew what was in store for it. And, the wickedest – and the dumbest - act it did was to attack Pearl Harbor. Till then, America was not dragged into the War. Now, this one act of madness on part of Japan was enough to awaken the sleeping giant… and, you know what happened after that!

Every dark act in human history is carried out by man in his dark hour – at a time when he had acted against his intelligence… The most negative and the wickedest acts are the result of this… Man going against his intelligence…

Saddam Hussein did that before he was wiped out… Look at what his battered army did while leaving the invaded Kuwait: it torched hundreds of oil wells!

Osama, Prabhkaran, Bindranwale, Idi Amin… every despot did the same thing before his end had come…

We do not have to, always, look at a Hitler or an Osama, a Parabhkarn or a  Saddam Hussein, a Bindranwale or Idi Amin to grasp the truth, that when our end is near, we act stupidly. Yes, to grasp the wisdom of the adage, “Vinaash Kaale, Vipreet Budddhi.”. Let’s look at people around us… Let’s look at ourselves… If we are working against the larger good, if we are hell-bent in destroying someone, if we are blinded by our ego, unwilling to listen to good counsel, if we are adamant to prove someone wrong and ready to go to any extent to do that… yes, if we are on a witch-hunt and driven by the wicked and sole intention of bringing someone else’s fall… take it from me: our own end is not far!

They call it digging one’s own grave. Yes, “Those who are busy digging ditches for others, end up creating wells for themselves.”

Sadly, man doesn’t realize the essence of this age-old wisdom. He is busy proving himself right and someone wrong at any cost… He is busy unleashing one havoc after another, just because his intelligence has stopped working…

All that is needed is to ask one simple question: “Is what I am doing in the larger interest of all concerned, or is it in my own interest?”

If it is not in the larger interest of all concerned, it has to be an unintelligent act… and it is against the Law of Nature… Therefore, mark it, there is that divine punishment in store… Self-destruction!

“Vinaash Kaale, Vipreet Budddhi.”

GERLAD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

LIKE THE TREES IN WINTER












Pic.: Natrajan Ramsubramani

If we want to achieve anything in life, accomplish any task, we need to be determined to achieve it. We need to pursue it with a single-minded focus and a passionate heart.

Ever since I stepped out of my college, I have been very alive to this inner chemistry of achievement. I know, that the starting point of any achievement in life is our burning desire to achieve it, coupled with our total commitment to do it… with passion and persistence. When we are young, the success slogans such as “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins,” get into our system like a war-cry. “Thou shall never, ever quit” – yes, we take it like a commandment from God… the God of Success.

My belief in the above success philosophy hasn’t changed at all. I know, for sure, that, to achieve anything in life, we need to be determined and passionate to achieve it. We need to commit ourselves fully and passionately go about it with loads and loads of perseverance. Yes, if we give up, when faced with small blows, we will never be able to accomplish what we want to.

The only problem here is, that, in the process of being passionate and persistent, we, also, tend to become blindly and compulsively obsessive about what we want to achieve. We, also, tend to become ‘perfectionists’… And, because we try to achieve ‘perfection’ in an ‘imperfect surrounding’, our obsessive and compulsive approach will only bring stress, anger and misery in our life.

Trying for perfection in an imperfect world – as Stephen Covey had beautifully pointed - is like trying to arrange chairs on the decks of a sinking Titanic!”

I was fortunate to get hold of ‘The Serenity Prayer’ early in my life:

“God, grant me courage to change things I can,
serenity to accept things I cannot…
and wisdom to know the difference.”

It is so peaceful when we realize, that, in life, we cannot change ‘everything’ even if we try with the strength of a Hercules. We need to let go some things… just accept them. Just the way the trees do… They know the truth, that unless they shed the old leaves, the new ones will never come… Jeffery McDaniel had said:
“I realize there’s something incredibly honest
about trees in winter…
 how they’re experts at letting things go.”

Our suffering and misery are the outcome of our resistance. Yes, resistance to those things we should have learnt to accept instead of trying to change… We hold on to even our suffering and misery… because we tend to hold on to our familiar experiences in life. We fear the unknown… Let me conclude this Post with what Thich Nhat Hann had said in this regard:
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.
Out of a fear of the unknown,
they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
  
GERALD D’CUNHA

Sunday, October 25, 2015

WHEN A STUDENT SURPASSES HIS TEACHER










Pic.: Udit Bharaddwaj

There was an interesting story from Kannan today in our Tai Chi class.

In a certain village, there lived this Master and his disciple. The disciple’s devotion and love for his Master was unconditional and total… When faced with any challenge in life, he would sincerely evoke the name of his Master and succeed.

One day, this disciple found himself stranded near a river. He closed his eyes and, with all his devotion, evoked the name of his Master… Then, he stepped on the water and simply walked across the river.

The Master, who was on the other side of the river, couldn’t believe his eyes… None of his disciples had ever exhibited such a power ever before. His heart swelled with pride and he asked his disciple: “How did you do it?”

“Master, I just had to evoke your name,” replied the disciple with humility.

“Is that so?” the Master couldn’t contain his pride, “now, let me show you what your Master can do.”

The moment he stepped on the water, the Master went down!

Kannan added, “Gerry, your teachers taught you several things… But, did they teach you how to weave the thoughts and put them in your daily blog? The students will and should surpass their Masters… and a true Master will rejoice in his pupil’s success with grace and humility. Pride and arrogance come from our false ego and they bring our fall too.”

Kannan took me to The Mahabharata. “Parashurama was a filthy-rich man. One fine day, he decided to give away everything he had possessed. So, when Drona came to him, Parashurama had no material thing left with him except his waist cloth. Thus, the great Parashurama, who was taught by Shiva the supreme art of archery and warfare, decided to teach earnest Drona all that he knew. Drona went on to become his Master’s worthy disciple and surpassed even. The legacy was passed on to Arjuna by Drona.” Kannan concluded “ When a student does better than his Master, the true Master rejoices.”

When I heard this story, scores and sores of my teachers came before my mind... and thousands of my students, too. I could see so many of my students ‘walking on water’… and I could, also, see what was happening in my heart!



GERALD D’CUNHA



Saturday, October 24, 2015

MAN IS NOT OUR ENEMY... MIND IS











Pic.: Mini Milind


“People say that walking on water is a miracle;
but to me, walking on earth  peacefully is a real miracle.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh 

My wife is associated with a company which promotes one of the finest sets of educational books. As a regular feature, the company holds an annual international-conference for its folk in some of the exciting places on globe…

Well, this time (next week) it will be in Ho Chi Minn City of Vietnam.

“Vietnam?” I asked my wife, this morning, “It was totally destroyed during the Vietnam War.”

It was evident from my question, how much informed I was about the post-war Vietnam… The War had lasted twenty years (1955-1975). Since then, it is forty years now… There is peace… The lush-countryside peace is back there… Ho Chi Minn City, commonly known as Saigon, is a city in southern Vietnam. It is famous for playing a pivotal role in the Vietnam War. My wife told me that one of the top tourist attractions in this city would be the war memorial called ‘Cu Chi Tunnels’.

I was a school-going boy in my village, Mangalore, during the thick of Vietnam War. My dad, though did not have a decent education, was extremely aware of the domestic and international political scenario. I remember his animated description of Vietnam War… Why the war was happening… Who was supporting South and who supporting North… How American planes bombed and what a mess it was…

And, after twenty long-years, Americans had to go back, their crests fallen… Eventually, the guns went silent… Bombs stopped falling in the fields… People came out of their hiding – the tunnels… and, rice grew in the paddy fields, the birds flew in the peaceful skies… the streams started singing, all over again…

What did the war destroy?

There lived in Vietnam a Buddhist monk named - Thich Nhat Hanh. He opposed war through propagating peace for which he was exiled from his country. Incidentally, today, I came across a beautiful video about his life. It is from the film – ‘The Power of Forgiveness’.  I was startled when I heard him say,Our thinking was: Man is not our enemy; our enemy is our misunderstanding, discrimination, violence, hate and anger.”

However horrific the War seems to be, trust me, the Peace is just a heartbeat away! Yes, like Shelley had metaphorically asked in his poem: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far away?”

So, it is befitting that the folk from my wife’s company will be visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, next week. After all, there cannot be a more life-transforming education than going near a war-memorial… If not for any other lesson, but for this one:

“Man is not our enemy… Mind is!”


GERALD D’CUNHA



Friday, October 23, 2015

TO STEP OUT OF MY HOUSE HUMMING OR GRUMBLING







Pic.: Dilip V.
Just as I reached my workplace, this morning, I met a known person. He was humming a cheerful tune… His face was glowing and there was playfulness in his eyes. The moment I shook my hands with him, I could feel, instantly, what a difference one’s cheerful, playful, humming attitude – especially early in the morning – did…

“You cannot sing and be unhappy at the same time,” this person, today, was reminding me of a truth, I had known but forgotten…

Each morning comes to me with the same choice: to begin my day humming or grumbling, hopeful or hopeless… happy or sad… and, to put it bluntly, alive or dead…

Starting our day with a heavy heart is, indeed, like walking out into the world – dead!

A cheerful attitude is contagious. This morning, I was there in the company of this person hardly for a minute. But, it was enough to ignite my own cheerfulness. I could see it passing on to others as I went about my routine work…

The opposite, too, works in the same manner. Gloom and grumpiness, too, are contagious. If I spend a minute in the company of a gloomy or grumpy soul, it is enough to put off the cheer and hope from my own soul… It will make me go around spreading it to others… All dead souls out on the road!

This is how my day goes… cheerful or cheerless, happy, sad or mad! Yes, all depending upon that one simple choice I make early every morning: to step out of my house humming or grumbling.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, October 22, 2015

NEVER TO GET BOGGED DOWN BY MEAN FORCES








Pic.:Alwyn Mathias

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…
It is about learning to dance in the rain.”
- Unknown

The day of Dassehra signifies the victory of good over evil. In other words, it signifies hope… It urges us never to lose our faith in humanity, the goodness of life and people… It urges us to be patient, keep doing the good work… never to get bogged down by evil forces…

Yes, that’s something very reassuring about Dassehra… That, the battle of good over evil has been there since origin of time… That, even Gods were not spared of this battle… That, no matter what havoc and destruction the evil forces unleash in our life, finally, it is the Good which triumphs…
On the one side, there is the Legend of Lord Ram destroying the demon king, Ravan. Now, if Lord Ram himself was not spared of the torture and trauma from evil forces, how can you and I expect a life free from evil forces? Life, therefore, cannot be free from evil forces… And, if it cannot be free from evil forces, the only option left for us is to fight it with our good force… and, the story of Lord Rama, does assure us that Gods will be our allies in this battle…
Thus, to me, Dasserha is a constant reminder of this divine assurance… The Good ‘will’ triumph, in the end!
On the other side, there is the Legend of Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahishasur. When this demon had tyrannized the world, the Gods had galvanized their energies to bring forth Goddess Durga. She was blessed with ten hands and many Gods had armed her with weapons to help her destroy the demon Mahishasur. As the Legend goes, the battle between Goddess Durga and demon Mahishasur had raged on for nine days and nine nights… and, finally, on the tenth day – on the Dassehra day - she had destroyed the demon!

Today is Dassehra. On my one side, I have people celebrating the victory of Lord Ram over demon Ravan… On the other side, I have those celebrating the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasur… Both are legends of triumph of good over evil… Both promise me hope… and fill me with strength to keep doing my good work… never to get bogged down by mean forces in life… never to be mean myself…
Happy Dassehra to you all… May the Good triumph in your life, too.

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

THE GOOD FOX AND THE BAD FOX







Pic.: Sheela Krishnamony

The old story of ‘Two Foxes’, once again, came before me, today…

One day, a grandfather told his little-grandson, “Honey, inside you there are two foxes and they are constantly fighting with each other.”

“Which one will win, grandpa?” the little-fellow was curious to know.

“The one who you will feed the most, honey,” the grandpa said caressing the little-one’s head.


As a little child, and later, as a college-going boy, I was terribly shy and frightened. Self-doubts and anxiety had kept me subdued… Desires and dreams, I would, always, think belonged to some privileged kids… and not to me …

And, as I have told this many, many times before, it all changed when Prof. B.S. Raman came to teach our class in F.Y. B’Com. Sitting there lost in the crowd of our all-boys class, I desired to become like my idol – a fine teacher.

But, an interesting thing happened: As I became conscious of my burning desire to become a fine teacher, I, also, became conscious of my nagging fears and self-doubts… “I am from a vernacular medium; so, I am bad in English… I can’t even make a sentence correctly in English.”…  I am bad in Public-speaking… The very thought of standing before a group cripples me, makes me numb…  My parents are poor… They will not be able to support my dream… So, the best thing is to settle for ‘any job’ that will come my way.” Yes, I, suddenly, became conscious of this negative voice inside my heart.

On the other side, I was able to hear the positive voice, too: “I am are a special young-kid, and I have within me what it takes to be a fine teacher… I will never get scared in life… Never go by self-doubts… Never go by my past conditions… Never allow them to influence my future… I will work on my English improvement… Work on my Public-speaking skills… Work on improving the financial condition in my life.” Yes, I, suddenly, became conscious of this positive voice inside my heart, too.

So, this was the fight of two foxes in my heart, too. And, because my desire to become a fine teacher was stronger than my fears of speaking in English and in Public, or my anxiety about the financial condition I was in… yes, because I fed the ‘good fox’ more than the ‘bad fox’, the good fox won, eventually. In fact, my handicaps became my blessings in disguise… They gave me motivation to work ten times harder than I would have done otherwise… If I am writing like this every day – for over forty years – it is precisely because of my handicaps… I wanted to beat them; I wanted to beat my fears and anxieties – the bad fox.

In life, whatever we focus on, expands. That’s the age-old Law of Attraction. If we focus more and more on our desires and dreams, and less and less on our fears and anxieties, we ‘will’ be able to see our desires and dreams manifest in our lives…

It is Navratri time. Jayaprakash and Sheetal, our friends, had invited us to their residence, today. They had decorated the traditional ‘Golu’. Their two little-children – Vedant (standard 6) and Srishti (standard 3) – had been to the school. I enquired about their inclination, and, suddenly, Jayaprakash’s face lit up.  “Delightfully, Vedant has started to love writing. I am happy,” he said, “Hope it continues. Srishti, I think, is too small to reveal any concrete inclination, at present.”

While leaving, both, my wife and I, wished Jayaprakash’s family – particularly the kids – the very best in life. “May all their desires and dreams come true,” we said.

On my way to workplace, little Vedant revived the memories of my own seeds of writing… I wanted to tell the little-fellow the story of two foxes and their battle in our hearts… and wanted to remind him, that the fox  he fed the most, would, eventually, win…

“Honey, please focus more and more on your dreams, and less and less on your fears. Love and blessings.”

GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, October 19, 2015

WITH CORDS THAT CANNOT BE BROKEN






Pic.: Pradeep Nanda
As Catholics, we are encouraged to go through a ‘marriage-preparation’ course when we plan to get married. For my wife and me, it was some twenty-five years ago. I remember the week-end course we had attended at Bandra Retreat Centre. Like us, there were so many other young couples, that particular week-end. What I remember the most is the opening statement of the facilitator. He said:
“To love someone is your decision.”
After twenty-five years, I can look back and say this, with all my honesty: It was not easy, always, to stand by that decision… There have been moments in our life - as in everyone else’s life – when we have doubted if it was the right decision… We have felt like giving up, running away… We have gone through the whole gambit of relationship… faith and fear, hope and despair, hurt and healing, anger and compassion, conflicts and forgiveness, romance, intimacy and indifference… And, we can look back and say, with great delight and pride, that we had taken the right decision a quarter century ago… to love each other and walk into the blessed sacrament of Matrimony…
Yes, to make another person my life partner is my greatest decision… What I did when I took that decision was to enter into a profound commitment… and not a contract. The marriage vow is studded with priceless and timeless wisdom:
“I ………, take you ………., to be my wedded wife (husband)...
To have and to hold, from this day forward,
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish till death do us part, according to God’s Holy Law…
And, this is my solemn vow.”
As love-struck young couples, we don’t easily understand the significance of a marriage vow. That, what we walk into is a life-long commitment ruled and sanctified by God’s Holy Law… and, therefore, we need to renew it over and over and over again… That, we need to ‘work it out’ and not run away… That, we need to reconcile and grow and not cut and go…
Today, the young men and women are reluctant to make a commitment. They prefer contractual relationships… easy and convenient… with no regrets, guilt and sorrow whatever when called-off… Live-in when you like it and live-out when you don’t like it… Over!
Last night, my wife and I attended the engagement ceremony of Benita (our niece) with Cyril. I heard Fr. Donald telling us as he was blessing the rings – “The ring is a circle; and a circle has no beginning and no end… It represents eternity, renewal, wholeness, and perfection.”
“How true!” I heard my heart reminding me, “just the way God brings, through the Sun, Moon and the Planets, all life together, he brings together this young couple.”
Fittingly, while blessing the engagement rings, Fr. Donald had led us though the popular hymn:
Bind us together, Lord, Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord,
Bind us together,
Bind us together with love.
I cannot find a humbler and more sincere prayer to God, seeking His grace, when we exchange our rings of love.
GERALD D’CUNHA