Thursday, October 8, 2015

THE FIRE THAT MAKES CHAMPS







Pic.: Dilip V.

Radhika, a dear friend of mine, had shared an inspiring Post this morning. It was titled – ‘Why you shouldn’t be surprised that prisoners crushed Harvard’s debate team’.

Well, I wasn’t surprised at all!

In my ninth standard, we had a lesson in our English text book. It was an extract from Gandhi’s famous autobiography – ‘My Experiment with Truth’. Gandhi’s parents had sent him to London to be a Barrister, which was like today’s parents dreaming to send their young kids to Harvard, Stanford, Yale or London School of Economics. So, our ‘baniya-boy’ Mohandas Karamchand’s parents, who were ordinary merchants of Gujarat, mobilized their resources to send their son to London to come back as a Barrister.

The son did become a Barrister and came back. Our ninth-standard lesson was about Gandhi’s first court-case in Mumbai. It was a petty dispute for a petty amount of fees. Gandhi describes his plight when his turn came to stand up and argue. Forget arguing the case, Gandhi says, he couldn’t even open his mouth! “My heart sank into my boots,” he puts it colorfully. So embarrassed Gandhi was about this episode, that he returns the fees to his client and disappears… That’s supposed to be the first and last court-case Gandhi fights as a London-returned-Barrister!

And, we all know what happened to this young-man in Johannesburg railway station on that chilly night… Despite Gandhi possessing a first-class ticket, the Police throw him out of the train… leaving him angry… It is Gandhi’s road to Damascus… It is here that he resolves to fight a long-drawn case for his fellow countrymen… Yes, the rest is our History!

The Law degree from the best Law school in the world will never make you a Gandhi. Yes, it will make you Barrister…

And, you parents remember this: the best of the best MBA degree in the world will never make your young-one an Ambani or a Narayana Murthy. Nor will the best sports gear, which you gift your kid , make him a Usain Bolt or a Muhammand Ali. The most expensive musical instrument or the most coveted music school will never make your kid a Rafi or a Lata… Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan did not go to great film institutes… nor did Mother Teresa become what she did through a Masters in Social Work!


We need that fire in our belly to shine in life. When everything is provided to us – in the name of love, care and affection – in a golden plate, our parents take away that fire from our belly… That’s the biggest harm parents ever do to their children!

I have been teaching all sorts of students – rich and super-rich, poor and super-poor… My experience has been this: The kid has to be sensitized early in life to be tough… When it all comes easily to him, he goes off to sleep… He ceases to be a fighter, a champ.

This morning, I had written this reply to Radhika:

“Dear Radhika, I have been tirelessly advocating this truth: The more we have it all ready, the less we use that old-fashioned fire-in-our-belly. That includes what I have been doing for my bread-and-butter for decades. I tell all my 'privileged students' to visit the 'Chimney Garden' (Scores of students from nearby slums and chawls flock to this garden to study for their exams) to know what the fire-in-belly means. Great article. Thanks for sharing. Love.”

Yes, I tell my ‘privileged students’ angrily: “I am not surprised when I see kids who study in life’s Chimney Gardens rise up to be Champs!”

 The powerful words of Rocky Balboa to his young son come to my mind:

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.”

Yes, I rest my case.

GERALD D’CUNHA

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