Sunday, November 29, 2015

SINGING IN THE LIFE BOAT






















Pic.:Aruna Anand




“My soul would have no rainbow, 
if my eyes had no tears”

-          Aisha Chaudhary
-           
A couple of days ago, Jaypee, my friend, shared with me an amazing video, titled ‘Singing in the Life Boat’… It was an inspiring talk by a 15-year-old by the name Aisha Chaudhary. I hadn’t heard about this girl before. So, impressed by what I now heard and seen in this video, I looked for more information on the young girl… and, let me confess: I was left with goose-bumps!

When Aisha was less than six months old, she was diagnosed with an ailment called Pulmonary Fibrosis, a respiratory disease that leads to scarring of the lungs, thereby making breathing difficult. Her lung capacity was only just under 20 per cent! Aisha then underwent a bone marrow transplant. The doctors had told her parents that the baby would not live for over a year. But, Aisha proved them wrong… and lived her life to the fullest… pursuing her dreams, sharing her gritty story … inspiring people through her talks…
Aisha died in Jan 2015, hours before the launch of her first book – ‘My Little Epiphanies’. She was still a teenager!

The video shared by Jaypee was the talk Aisha had given when she was 15. She was able to stand and do it, then. Here it is:




Here is another. It was the talk on ‘Finding Happiness’. Aisha had delivered it when she was 17. She couldn’t do it standing!




There is so much to learn from this tender soul… She has left me speechless and humbled.

GERALD D’CUNHA
Videos: YouTube

Friday, November 27, 2015

LIFE OFFERS CHOICES AT EVERY STEP





Pic.: Sunitha Sujir

Life offers choices at every step along my journey. Right when I open my eyes , every morning, I have this choice to make:  to wear a smile on my face and feel grateful in my heart or to wear a grim look on my face and feel bitter and lost in my heart…
There are a dozen things around me, at any given point of time, for which I must wear a smile on my face and feel grateful in my heart… Yes, that choice is offered before me right as I open my eyes, every morning.
I am conscious of the thoughts dominating my mind almost all the time… There are thoughts of fear, anxiety, hurt and anger on the one side… and, there are thoughts of faith, confidence, forbearance and peace on the other side. “The world is full of harshness… Don’t trust,” says one side. “The world is full of innocence… Please trust,” says the other side. I am conscious of what happens when I choose to listen to one of these two voices…
Like Robert Frost, I, too, see before me two roads diverging in two different directions… One of them more traveled, the other less traveled… Is there more harshness in this world or is there more innocence? Are there more number of untrustworthy people out there or are there more number of trustworthy ones? Need I step out of my door wearing a protective shield or need I do it with my open arms?

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I took the one less traveled by…
And that has made all the difference.”

Yes, like the Poet, this is what you and I, too, will be telling with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence. 

GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

THE STREET-FIGHT: TOLERANCE Vs INTOLERANCE





Pic.: Vivek D'Cunha


 “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.
Test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”
- Ralph W. Sockman

If one statement made by a man – in this case, the man happens to be an acclaimed movie star – ‘The’ Amir Khan – yes, if one public statement made by him about the so-called ‘tolerance’ – can make him an overnight villain, an opportunist, a traitor and so on… If his one statement can make so many of us so restless, so intolerant, then, something is seriously wrong about the way we have been brought up…

In what context Amir Khan said what he did, I do not know. I doubt many around me know, too. But, we are so busy debating and fighting over it, that we have chosen to be enemies over someone’s passing, contextual statement… We have chosen to be puppets in the hands of the Media…

The winner, therefore, is the Media…

The loser is you and me… We the dumb-heads!

Need we react to everything we hear around us… see around us?

I admire Modiji and I admire Amir Khan, both. But, if I admire Modiji more than Amir Khan, then, whatever Amir Khan says not in favor of Modiji, is enough to make me defend Modiji. Likewise, I admire Amitabh Bachcahn and Amir Khan both. But, if I admire Amitabh more than Amir, any criticism by Amir of Amitabh will bring out my loyalty in the open…

While returning from school, we kids would be attracted, quite often, to join the mob watching a street-fight. What makes me still smile when I think of this mob psychology is: each one of us would root for one of the fighters even though we had no clue as to who the fighters were! Yes, even when we watched strangers engaged in a street-fight, we all had our respective favorites!

So, today, when I watch this nationwide street-fight – ‘Tolerance Vs Intolerance’ – trust me, the kid in me comes alive. I have my favorite fighter… and, that makes me jump… scream… even beat my chest.

Just wait for two more days… None of us will remember who said what, when and why?

GERALD D’CUNHA

Monday, November 23, 2015

WHAT MAKES SHEEP AN ARMY OF LIONS?







Pic.: Mini Milind


“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep;
I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

There is a mighty truth packed in Alexander’s statement… the most fundamental truth about how we, as individuals, behave when led by a leader. Led by a strong leader - a lion, we, too, become strong - lions like him. His vision becomes our vision… His courage and strength become ours. On the other hand, led by a meek leader - a sheep, we, too, become meek - sheep. His lack of vision becomes our conditions, too… His meekness becomes our meekness. His fear and suspicion become ours.

We, as a society, community and nation, cannot survive amazingly without the charisma of our leaders. We need them, and need them very, very badly.

My belief has, always, been this: If as an individual, I lead my life well – inspired and vision-driven… take bold personal decisions, remain ready to accept consequences of my decisions… remain extremely focused and committed, passionate and persistent, and, above all, trust people around me, communicate well with them, respect and accept them… look at their strengths and overlook their weakness, appreciate and thank more and criticize and crib less… yes, if I show these personal traits and lead my own personal life well … with high integrity, it is enough to make me a leader of folks around me…

Such life simply inspires and attracts others...

Society, community and nation are looking for these leaders. Without them, we perish. Inspiration and enthusiasm in our hearts are, always, fired by our leaders… They have been to the mountain-top and they have seen the ‘Promised Land’… Yes, we need them to show us and lead us to that ‘Promised Land’.

The quality of the leader is the quality of the group he leads – be it a family, housing society, spiritual community, company or country. But, as I said, it starts with self-leadership…  The more and more we demonstrate self-leadership, the more and more we tend to demonstrate public-leadership. It is all about inspiring others to dream more and rise more. John Quincy Adams had aptly said:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more,
do more and become more… you are a leader.”

Every leader does the same to us, his followers… And, we, as leaders, do the same to others around us, our followers.

We need good leaders. Before that, we need to be good leaders.

GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, November 20, 2015

WE NEED THE SOUNDING BOARDS







Pic.: Madhusudan D. Jeurkar


Can others else solve my problems?
I don’t think so. But, I think, they can lighten my burden. Yes, they can’t carry my burden; but, they can help me carry it myself

Mukesh, my friend, will be 50 next year. He comes to talk to me quite often, and we both just talk about many of our problems. As I said, neither he can solve my problems nor I can solve his. But, what happens is: when I talk about my problems, Mukesh sincerely listens, shows empathy… becomes my sounding board. Similarly, when Mukesh talks about his problems, I sincerely listen, show empathy… become his sounding board. And, honestly speaking, that much is enough to lighten our respective burdens… That’s enough to find solutions to our ‘big ’problems and give us the strength to carry them.

Yesterday, Mukesh shared with me an interesting thing in this respect. His late dad worked as an ordinary clerk. He hadn’t studied much. But, whenever Mukesh would have some problems about his studies or whatever, he would go to his dad to talk, and the dad would sincerely listen. Mukesh told me as to how, while preparing for his finally-year M.Sc exams, when stuck with some of his complex physics-problems, he would describe the problems to his dad, who would genuinely listen to his son…

And, behold! The solutions to Mukesh’s complex physics-problems would pop up like Genie did from the bottle!

Our little children come from school, throw their bags here and there, come to the kitchen or bedroom where we are preoccupied with our own ‘big’ problems… and they begin narrating their ‘little’ problems (stories) to us… And, what do we do? Do we shoo them away or do we pull them close to us and listen?

Yes, others cannot solve our problems. But, they can help us carry our load ourselves… find our solutions, lighten our burden. All that we need is someone to listen to our problems sincerely… show us empathy… become our sounding boards.

And, in life, that is not only essential, that’s enough, too.

GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"NO, YOU WON'T HAVE MY HATRED"





Pic.: Pradeep Nanda

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Yes, Gandhi lived by this principle, and died for it, too. Inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. too, led his fellowmen by the same principle. He, too, died for it. Much before him, Abraham Lincoln breathed through a nation, threatened to be torn by hatred, yes, the same principle… He, too, was killed for it. And, long, long before that, hanging there on the cross, stripped and brutally tortured, Jesus Christ prayed to His Father in Heaven, “My Father, please forgive them, for, they do not know what they are doing.” That was seconds before he died on the cross!

Can hatred go from this world?
No sir, it can’t.
Can it go from my life?
Yes, sir, it can.

A while ago, my friend, Ashish, shared with me this open letter by Antoine Leiris, a young man in his early thirties, written to the terrorists. Leiris had just lost his wife in the terrorists’ attack in Paris. I found this letter so moving and so spiritual that I wish to share it, here, in my blog:

On Friday night, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son... but, you won't have my hatred.
I don't know who you are and I don't want to know - you are dead souls. If this God, for which you kill indiscriminately, made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.
So no, I don't give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it; but, responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are. 
You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love, over 12 years ago. 
Of course I'm devastated with grief… I admit this small victory; but, it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us, every day, and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you'll never have access.
We are two, my son and I; but, we are stronger than all the armies of the world. 
I don't have any more time to devote to you… I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual… and, for his whole life, this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because, no, you will not have his hatred either. 

Let me not ruin the divine grace of Leiris' words by saying even a word more!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

FINDING MEANING IN OUR SUFFERING







Pic.: Chetna Shetty

“To live is to suffer,
to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”


I was talking to someone on phone just a while ago. I heard him say, “Our character is shaped through the tests we pass through in life.”

The context he was talking to me had nothing to do with the particular tests I was silently going through as I was talking to him. But, then, what he said – and which I knew was so true – seemed as if he was trying to help me deal with my present pain and suffering…

Well, I, unwittingly said ‘pain and suffering’. Yes, like so many people around me, I, too, mixed them up, in my ignorance.

Pain and suffering are different. I have written on it many times before… Pain is inevitable in life… I do not have choice on it. But, to suffer or not to suffer because of pain – yes, I do have a choice on it.

When I resist pain, I suffer. When I ‘consciously’ accept my pain, I am librated of my suffering. Therefore, the key to freedom from suffering is to deal with my pain – physical, emotional or even spiritual – ‘consciously. I have seen it working in my daily life… in small, routine matters… Yes, even a small, routine pain can cause in my heart a massive suffering if I resist it, approach it without being conscious… On the other hand, even a massive pain cannot succeed in ruffling the peace in my soul, if I accept it with my eyes open… willingly and gladly… without blame and self-pity.

Life means struggle… problems, opposition, conflicts, losses of many form. Life means pain… Pain does bring suffering along… till we stop resisting it. So, it is only when we accept our pain consciously, we get the strength to rise above our suffering. That’s how our fine character is shaped… Just the way fine gold is created…Just the way fine steel is created.

Pain is not only inevitable, it is, also, a must for becoming wise and strong human beings in this world. Kahlil Gibran had said:
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
So, my heart tells me – “Hey, why not smile, today, on my own scars?”

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I HOLD MY PLACARD TODAY - 'NOT AFRAID'








Pic.: Sunitha Sujir


“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

- Jack Canfield

One thing I am extremely aware of, in my life, is ‘Fear’. It is very much there in me… constantly making me alert, anxious and, sometimes, even paralyzed.

So, if you ask me, “Is fear bad?”, I am will say, “Yes”.

And, if you ask me “Can fear go from life?”, I , with whatever wisdom I have possessed so far, I will say, “No”.

And, here is the paradox of the reality: Fear is bad when it cripples me. But, I am aware that my life cannot be free from it. So, what is the sensible thing to do?

If fear cannot go, then, the sensible thing to do in life is to befriend it… make it a companion, an ally.

Every day, there are moments in my life when I experience a great deal of fear… For a while, I remain anxious and immobile. But, because I know that’s how it is… before I befriend it, a silence descends on my heart… and I am able to see the bright side of fear: How it helps me to remain alert, agile and alive in life… How it motivates me to give my best, bank on my inner resources… How it keeps me humble, grounded and grateful… How it makes me respect people in my life and teaches me never to take them for granted…

It is fear which has made me most vulnerable and taught me to seek help and guidance from others… If being vulnerable is what makes us love, then, fear goes with in, whether we like it or not… Only thing about it is, that we do not like to acknowledge it! 

Then, there is this thing called ‘courage’ in life. We have glorified it so much, that we wonder if we would ever be courageous in life! Life has taught us, that courage cannot be absence of fear. We have heard it from the most courageous souls: “Courage is doing the seemingly impossible things despite fear, with a quaking heart!”

So, fear is a must even to be courageous in life… Isn’t it?

When bombs go up and people and property are charred before your eyes, if fear doesn’t run through your spine, then, there is something seriously wrong with you! When, lakhs of people come out on the streets of Paris holding the placards – ‘NOT AFRAID’… what, actually, is the reality - They were not afraid?

I loved that assertion – ‘NOT AFRAID’!

Hello world, I am afraid… terrified… numb. But, I want to tell you, your bombs and terror-tricks cannot make me a zest-less soul… You can’t destroy my spirit… Yes, I am NOT AFRAID of ‘you’!

So, from where did that courage come into the sea of Parisians to come out and assert: ‘NOT AFRAID’?

Fear is a great motivator in life. It may make me anxious and numb many times; but, let me not forget, it, also, makes me give my best… become a fine, sensitive and brave human being in life!

Therefore, I hold my placard today – ‘NOT AFRAID’!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Saturday, November 14, 2015

THE GUNS AND ROSES






Pic.: Ritesh D'Cunha

Today is ‘The Children’s Day’ in India. Well, I have a prayer to make: “Lord, please don’t let the child in us die.”

The child is the last hope. Trust me, it is. If the child in us goes, everything goes… We wouldn’t look up in the night and wonder…We wouldn’t stand before the ocean and feel small… We wouldn’t look at our wrinkles and worry or wouldn’t look  at the squirrel and smile… We wouldn’t fight and kiss again… Our lips wouldn’t shiver when they first touch our beloved’s lips… Death would make our hearts stones… Rain would be plain water… Clouds would be nothing but some useless smoke up there… God wouldn’t exist… And, parents… They are done with. Used and thrown!

Hello, because the child is alive in us, we know what a sincere prayer is, how tears feel… Yes, what it means to dream, cry and say sorry… Flowers are flowers because child in me feels so… A song is a song, because the child in me sings so… The grandparents live again because the little-ones come in their life, once more…  The heart remains tender only, only, only because of the little-one who lives within us…

Paris is mourning today. Guns and grenades have gone up… They have taken away hundreds of innocent lives. Who are these monsters with guns and grenades? Why have they done it? What have they achieved? And, what about the child in them… Is it alive or is it dead?

The world around us abounds with this kind of irony, this kind of contrast… On the one side of the world, some celebrate innocence… holding roses. On the other side, some celebrate bloodshed… holding guns.

Guns and roses… That’s how life seems to be! When the child dies, the roses die… You hear the sounds of the guns… Paris burns!

When I and my brothers were little children, back in our village, we had a lovely cat. My youngest brother, Vivek, was just a little baby and he baptized her with this funny name (whose meaning we would never know!) – ‘JAKEENA’. Vivek continued to be in love with all kinds of pets – Dogs, Cats, Parrots, Turtles, Squirrels, apart from cows and chicken. Here, in Mumbai, his house is known as ‘Chidya Ghar’. Mercifully, his wife and two children, too, are so fond of pets!

What else, other than the innocence in us, is capable of making us all so sensitive in life?

So, in the morning, I saw my brother sharing on FB and Whatsapp, a very old B/W picture… Our mom holding him when, probably, he was a year-old. Within no time, I saw his son, Ritesh, sharing another picture. This one was a colored one… and, it was the latest one. The mother and daughter… ‘JAKEENA AND JINI’… That’s how they have baptized their cats at home!

Is it ‘The Children’s Day’, or is it ‘The Monsters’ Day’?

I pray again: “Lord, please don’t let the child in us die.”

GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, November 13, 2015

LEARNING TO LOVE THE SUNNY-SIDE UP

















Pic.: Shoba N Krishnan



“Happiness is simply a habit of looking
on the brighter side of everything.” 

The Parsis call an egg ‘eedu. They love it. Like them, I, too, love eedu however it is cooked and served…  Tamota par eedu… Papeta par eedu…Wafer par eedu… Bheeda par eedu. But, for some weird reasons, I don’t’ like when eedu is cooked with its ‘sunny-side up’!

Yes, the sunny-side up! My aunt used to call it ‘bull’s eye’ and my friend used to call it ‘toad in the hole’. It is the easiest and the fasted of all the egg dishes. Even making a boiled egg takes a much longer time, though easy. But, to make a bull’s eye, you just need to break an egg in the pan, with little oil and on a slow flame… that’s all. You don’t even have to turn it over… The moment you turn it over, you lose the bull’s eye… It is no more the sunny-side up…

Never mind, I want the eedu to be fried from both sides!

And, this morning, I saw on my breakfast table my favorite eedu, but it was there the way I did not like. The bull’s eye was staring at me… and, I screamed, “Why didn’t you fry it both sides?”

“Because, darling,” my wife reasoned from the kitchen, “I want you to love the sunny-side up!”

Well, there was meaning in what my wife had casually stated. It was early morning… and, I was all set to start my day… I did not need my wife to remind me that all that was in store for me would be of my liking… that, I needed to be ready to accept and like many unpleasant things as I went along my day… “Honey, learn to relish the sunny-side up in life.” Yes, this was the unspoken message from the eedu with its sunny-side up, today morning…

Ironically, most of us do not love eedu with its sunny-side up…  So, is this the reason why most of us go grumbling through the day?


GERALD D’CUNHA

Thursday, November 12, 2015

IS THERE A REWARD FOR OUR GOOD DEEDS?






Pic.: Aruna Anand

Around 1.30, yesterday, I got a call from a lady from our housing Society. When I saw her name on my mobile screen, I spontaneously said, “Wish you a very happy Diwali, ma’am.”


“Thank-you so much sir, wish you and your family the same,” the lady responded quite enthusiastically.  Then, in a sombre voice, she continued, “Sir, I called you to inform that dad passed away an hour ago. The funeral will be at 4, today!”


For a moment, I found difficult to switch gear, “Really sorry to hear the sad news, ma’am,” I managed to say, “I will arrange to display on our notice board and will be there in a while.”


Being our Society’s Hon. Chairman, I, immediately, swang into action: I put it on our Society’s WhatsApp group as well as on the notice board. I made some calls and sent some personal messages. And, then, I went to the grieving family’s residence and remained with them till the end, that is late in the evening.


“He died on an auspicious day,” was the general consensus, yesterday. It was the main day of Diwali. Even then, at such a short notice, so many from his family had turned up for the funeral. “He had been a very helpful person,” a young-man told me as the body was consumed by the fire, “He had touched the lives of so many of us.”


The night before that, another young-man had asked me this question: “Sir, do you really think that when we help others, we, too, will be helped?”


In other words, the young-man wanted to know if our good deeds would bring us good rewards.


“Yes, yes, we ‘will’ be helped,” I said,” without blinking. Then, I added, “Why do we have to put a condition before we help others? If we help, because our hearts feel strongly to do so, then, we should go by our hearts and help… and, we should leave it at that. That’s all. What happens after that, is not in our hands… It should not be our concern.”


I am a strong believer in the Law of Karma. “What goes around comes around.” “What we sow, we reap.”  Last evening, as the funeral fire kept burning through the quietness, my belief became even stronger… “Yes, there is a reward for our good deeds,” I kept reminding myself. “But, that’s not for us to decide.”


A different Diwali, it was.



GERLAD D’CUNHA