Monday, February 29, 2016

A MOTHER'S BOARD EXAMS






Pic.: Anand Sreedhar



As I write this, ICSE Board (Class 10) exams are a few heartbeats away. The students, obviously, are anxious. But, my thoughts, today, really go to the mothers of all these students… In fact, mothers of any Board (Class 10) students. It is their Board exams, too… They are even more anxious!

I have been teaching college students for over 35 years… 12th standard HSC, ISC, CBSE Board students… and the Final-year Degree students. But, strangely, I had never been worried about my students’ exams… I had never been keeping a track of their exams dates, results dates, and, yes, their marks and ranks, too. The only thing I had been keeping a track of was my teaching… and, I had been doing it exactly the way I had done it on my very first day of teaching, with my very first student… with total passion and involvement…

I had learnt to let go of the rest, yes, ever since I taught my first student!

When it came to our own son, my own concern about his Boards was absolutely normal. My wife was involved more, as most mothers are… But, even she did not worry too much about our son…

But, then, I really feel for what all mothers do, including my own wife, when it comes to their children’s Board exams… If they have 2 or 3 children, they have to go through the entire process all over again… and, imagine that!

Sonal was my dear student when she was in 12th and TY B.Com. She has two daughters and a son. I had taught Manvi, the first daughter, when she was in 12th. Manvi now is preparing for her final CA. Two days ago, when I was at our Tai Chi camp in Lonavala, Sonal had called. As I had missed this call, late last evening, she called me again… The reason: She was anxious about her second daughter, Janvi’s ICSE Board (Class 10) exams which were to start today. I hadn’t taught Janvi any of her school subjects… But, Sonal was keen that H wished and blessed her young-one. I gladly did… and could feel a mother’s anxiety dropping down a little…

My thoughts went to Sonal… She is still not done with Manvi… Janvi is all set to give her first Boards… and her third child, the son, is still in 9th!

How many times mothers have to go through all this!

My thoughts, also, went to many elderly ladies – particularly Mrs. Lakshmi and Mrs. Sunanda - who attended our Tai Chi camp at Lonavala. Mrs. Lakshmi and Mrs. Sunanda were in their eighties… Interestingly, they had been great friends before one’s son got married to another’s daughter… They are great friends even now, after many grandchildren! It has been a pleasure watching them in our Tai Chi classes and in our Lonavala camp. Their presence was simply inspiring!

Yes, my thoughts went to them… How many times they must have gone through the Board Exams experience… their own, their children’s’ and grandchildren’s’!

So, when I saw these elderly women in our Tai Chi classes and camp, I was the happiest person… “They deserve this break,” I kept telling myself.

As a man and a father, that’s the least I could do: Feel genuinely for a woman and a mother for an experience she alone goes through!

I mean it.


GERALD D’CUNHA


Sunday, February 28, 2016

I AM NOT INDISPENSABLE


Pic.: Chandrasekhar Varier

My wife and I have just returned from a two-day Tai Chi camp held at Lonavala. Rakesh Menon, our Tai Chi teacher, doesn’t believe in any rigid rules, either when he conducts our regular sessions on Sundays or while conducting our annual camps… Yes, he offers us that choice to ‘observe or ignore’ the unwritten and invisible rules, which are right there in front of our eyes…

Yes, Rakesh sir leaves it to us…

For two days, when we were at Lonavala camp, I never heard Rakesh sir insisting on keeping aside our cell-phones. All of us had been so hooked on to our phones – calls, messages, mails, WhtsApp, Facebook and Twitter – yes, the thought of living our two days without touching our phones was not only unthinkable, it was scary, too…

And, trust me, I lived last two days without touching my cell-phone… Well, I did check once, and made one call-back…

There were many missed calls… Many messages… Because my building friend, Anil, had tried my number many times, I called him back during our tea-break, last evening, Anil told me that his father-in-law, who lived in a flat two floors below mine, had passed away and they were about to take the body to the cremation ground…

Anil’s father-in-law, who was a widower, had been suffering from high diabetes. He was 78. When Anil gave me the sad news, I expressed my deepest sorrow and assured him that I would pay my personal condolence on returning to Mumbai…

Anil is my building friend. I am the society Chairman, too. I was surprised to observe how I was responding to news like this one… Whenever someone expired in our society, I would immediately swing into action… besides visiting the family, I would make several calls, ensure it be displayed on society notice board, attend the funeral and, even, help the family to put together various things associated with the funeral.

But, last evening, I was a lot at peace with myself… Anil said, “Don’t worry Gerry… Everything is taken care of here… You focus on your camp.”

Anil was right. Everything was taken care of in my absence… I was not at all needed there… It was so liberating to realize the simple truth: ‘I AM NOT INDISPENSABLE’!

Hello, nobody is!

About all other missed calls and missed messages, the same truth applied…

My immediate neighbours had called me and my wife both (we both missed those calls) to convey  that the guy had come to deliver gas-cylinder. Today, we came to know that he had to go back… and would be coming back tomorrow  to deliver it…

Niharika, one of my students, had called a couple of times…. She called up again, a while ago… She has her exams tomorrow, and wanted me to help her with a couple of doubts… which, I did today. It did not take even five minutes for me to do that… And, certainly, it wasn’t some huge emergency!

Sonal had called yesterday… She, too, called, once again, a while ago. “Sir, Jaanvi's (her daughter), ICSE Board exams will be starting tomorrow… Please bless her… She is here, sir.”

I took not even three minutes to make Jaanvi and her mom feel good by a few words of encouragement… They looked up to me… It was important to them…

But, certainly, it was not an emergency!


It takes a great deal of silence within our souls to realize, that ‘Even an emergency is beautifully taken care of’ if we place our trust in Universe… If we pray, surrender… Let go!

For two days, my cell-phone was left uncharged… The low-battery warning did not make me panic… But, I have come back a lot recharged with ‘Chi’ – the Life Energy… I have come back, a lot peaceful… a lot lighter…

And, yes, a lot richer with the truth: ‘I am NOT indispensable’!


GERLAD D’CUNHA



Friday, February 26, 2016

FANS OR FANATICS?








Pic.: Shankar Ramachndran

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.” 

My dad was a massive fan of Indira Gandhi. Rather, he was a fanatic – an Indira Gandhi fanatic!
I remember those eerie days of Emergency (1975-77)… I was a college boy. The only source of information - national or international news – was the daily newspaper and, perhaps, the radio. My dad got it from the local Kannada daily and his friends, who huddled up, late every evening near our local naka. The whole village, most of our relatives and all my dad’s friends had begun to hate Indira Gandhi for the Emergency excesses… But, my dad – hundreds of miles away from Delhi, in this remote village called ‘Derebail’ – would defend fiercely his idol, whom Atalji once hailed as ‘Durga’… and my own dad as Mother Mary!

He was such a blind devotee of Indira Gandhi!

I would witness scores of bitter arguments, rather fights… yes over someone who my dad or any of his sons would never ever meet in their lifetime, leave alone befriend…

But, that’s how this madness called ‘fanfare’ goes… All kinds of fanfare - political, religious, showbiz, sports… all.

Fans are fanatics… This has been so, long before my dad lived and it is so, now… and, it shall be so, long after you and I will be gone…

Fans fight fiercely for their idols… and, they don’t mind making a thousand enemies along this process…  Today, we have plenty of them, around us, rooting for their idols, from dawn to dusk… relentlessly, fiercely and blindly. The only agenda is to cheer their idol, glorify him or her… demolish and tarnish in every possible manner their idol’s opponents… Yes, the fan takes it as his personal mission to anoint his idol as a ‘saint’… and, at any cost!

Many of my friends – like my dad did – don’t mind losing me for their political or religious idols… That’s so, so important to them…

I really feel sorry for them!

True, “The fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves!”

GERALD D’CUNHA



Thursday, February 25, 2016

BEND LIKE THE GRASS... SO THAT YOU WON'T BE BROKEN













Pic.: Natrajan Ramsubramani


“I think there is a tendency for people to get rigid and caught up
in their beliefs of what is right and wrong, and they lose sight of humanity.
Being human has to come first before right or wrong.”

- Matisyahu


I was in 9th standard when I heard from our English teacher this quote:

“Bend like the grass… so that you won’t be broken.”

Well, even though I was not even 15 then, I was lucky to have possessed sufficient wisdom to grasp the essence of that quote. Yes, ever since then, I have consciously avoided an extremely rigid attitude… Yes, in all my dealings, with one and all.

Let me confess this without any reservation: Like most around me, I, too, am ‘rigid’ in my beliefs and principles… That is, if being firm or steadfast is what being ‘rigid’ here means. I have a set of beliefs and principles which guide me like a lamp post in my life… But, then, I assess the situations, too… If my beliefs and principles come on the way of ‘larger good’ or my own inner peace, yes, I have no fear or guilt by accommodating and making way for the other view, by being flexible…

I prefer to bend like the grass… so that I won’t be broken.

I, seriously think being consciously pliable in life – not being too rigid – is hallmark of the highest form of ‘education’. And, yes, I am prepared to broadcast it from any platform…

Rigidity destroys peace…

Rigidity breeds anxiety…

Rigidity isolates us in Society…

Rigidity implies that we haven’t chosen a life of ‘conscious living’…

Rigidity implies that we have chosen ‘being right’ to be more important than ‘being peaceful’…

Rigidity means we have put our own good before the larger good…

Am I wrong?

Well, I am not rigid, there, as well!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

SHOULD I WISH YOU OR SHOULD I COMPLAIN TO YOU?





Pic.; Rekha Prakash

Some seven years ago, early one morning, I received a phone call from the mother of one of my students. She had a petty grievance and I gracefully assured her that the needful would be done. I hoped, the matter would end there. But, the lady was going on and on and on …

“Rest assured ma’am,” I conveyed to the lady keeping my cool, “It is a small matter.”

“Small matter?” the lady flared up and took off, all over again!

I realized I had committed a sacrilege by saying “It is a small matter”!

“Ma’am, I am sorry, if I have offended you,” I had still the composure to convey to her, “But, trust me, you don’t have to worry … Today is my 50th birthday!”

That didn’t help either … The lady had more to say …

And, I hung up my phone …

“To hell with you,” I said, now irritated and hurt, knowing it very well, that she neither heard what I just said nor felt what I meant when I had said, “Ma’am, today is my 50th b’day.” Yes, all that she was obsessed with was her own early-morning agenda … which, despite my graceful assurances, she was unwilling to drop.”

So, I had hung up the phone and screamed from this side of the planet – “To hell with you”!

Do we bother to check with the other person before we complain to him nastily – that too early in the morning – if it is his b’day or wedding anniversary (Leave alone if he is in a hospital or graveyard)?

I am just asking, knowing it well, that we don’t …

But, if the other person lets us know that it is his 50th  b’day or wedding silver-jubilee, then?

I think, we are heartless morons if we keep playing our nasty broken-records!

So, today, early in the morning, I sent this message to my eleventh-standard student, Isha:
“Good morning Isha.
Please attend the class today at 9 am or 6.30 pm …
You had missed yesterday’s. Sir”

I forwarded this message to Isha’s mother, too, who is my FB friend.

I received an instant reply from Isha’s mother:
“Ok sir. Isha will attend at 6.30 pm. Thanks.”

All this happened before I left my house. When I reached my office at 8 and logged on to my computer, I noted that it was the b’day of Isha’s mom!

“Oh no!” I felt bad for the silly complaint I had made, early in the morning, about her daughter to Isha’s mom … Yes, when she, certainly, did not want to hear it from anyone …

I did not wait to do amends. I wrote:

“Happy b’day ma’am. I feel bad, that I sent, early this morning,
Isha’s message (complaint) instead of wishing you …
Really sorry. Have a great day and a year ahead. Love.”

Isha’s mom was quick:
“HAHA!! Thank you sir for the wishes.”

I was relieved … yes, when I did not hear from other side of the planet – “Go to hell.”

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ABRAHAM AND ARNAB





Pic.: Ivan Mathias

There are two colourful words in English – ‘Gullible’ and ‘Charlatan’. I chanced upon both these words in Dr. Abraham Kovoor’s books – ‘Begone Godmen’ and ‘Gods, Demons and Spirits’. It was more than thirty years ago!

For those who do not know who Dr. Kovoor was, I want to tell this: He was a rationalist … never believed in any God or god-men … He exposed all god-men by challenging them to prove their miracles … He called them by that colorful name – ‘Charlatans’ … those who practiced quackery or some similar trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception …

And, to the rest of us – the followers of these god-men, the bhakts, he called so lovingly by the other colorful name – ‘Gullible’!

I would love and hate Dr. Kovoor as I read his books depending upon who he was exposing … If he exposed a baba who I found was a ‘dongi baba’, yes, I would jump with joy, cheer, say “Shabaash Dr. Kovoor”. On the other hand, whenever he ripped a saint or god-man who I found ‘holy’, I would be angry with the old-man (Dr. Kovoor). “Bloody Nastik!”… Yes, that’s how I would react !


Whatever my love-hate relation with Dr. Kovoor, his two clolourful names have etched permanently in my mind … the ‘Charlatans’ and the ‘Gullible’…

By the ways, the word ‘Gullible’ seems to have come from the root ‘Gull’, which means ‘swallow’ … Thus, we are the ones who swallow the stories of these Charlatans without testing … Or, it could be this: We are the ones these charlatans swallow fully for their breakfast and lunch … Whatever that is … I loved the legacy of Dr. Kovoor …

How come the old-man surfaced this afternoon?

Arnab Goswami, sir … Arnab! I have the same love-hate relationship with this modern-day Abraham Kovoor … I hate him when he blasts the ones who I find ‘nice’ … and, I love him when he goes after the ones who I find ‘dongi’ …

The only thing I miss when Arnab shouts at the top of his voice is those two colourful names or titles or adjectives whatever you wish to call them …

The Charlatans and the Gullible.

GERALD D’CUNHA



Monday, February 22, 2016

PAST IS A GRAVE ... LET'S LEAVE IT ALONE
















Pic.: Chetna Shetty


“Don’t bring up the past of a person
who is trying to improve his future.”

 - Unknown

Sounds familiar?

My friend, Deepak, had shared this quote, this morning. The moment I saw it, I could sense the familiar mixed feelings in my heart …

I have, often, felt angry when people in my life - despite knowing that I have been trying to improve my future, putting behind my past – have kept bringing up my past …

Yes, it has only derailed the process of change.

And, often, I have been guilty for bringing up the past of someone … yes, despite knowing that he has been trying to put behind his past and improve his future.

Past is a grave. If I try to dig it, I know what to expect … Yet, often, I do it in my  times of ignorance … mostly when I am hurt, annoyed or insecure … when I am trying to get even, trying to settle score … when ego clouds my thinking …

And, I know, whenever someone has done it to me, he has done it for the same reason!

If I believe that I am human and need other person’s help by not bringing up my past while I am trying to improve my future, I must also believe that the other person, too, is human and needs my help by not bringing up his past while he is trying to improve his future.

Past is a grave … Let’s leave the grave alone …
Yes, for the sake of a pleasant future!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A SADHU'S MEAL





Pic.: Ivan Mahias
An hour ago, Vivek, my friend, called me to check if I had taken my lunch. I hadn’t. So, he said he would be coming down (He lives in the same building where I have my office) with some dal and rice. In ten minutes, Vivek came to my office with a plate … Some basmati rice, black dal (both steaming hot) and a small quantity of beet-and-onion salad flavored only with lemon and salt. That’s all …

I was hungry and I wanted to eat it when the food was still hot. “Sit down, will talk as I eat,” I said to Vivek.

“No sir, you won’t be able to fully relish your food if we talk while you eat,” Vivek said as he started to go back, “Please relish it ‘fully’ … its color, the aroma, the taste and  even the beauty of the plate …”

“You have nailed it on my head, Vivek,” I confessed, “I need that piece of advice not just while eating, but also while bathing, breathing or walking.”

“Sir, I tell my 13-year-old twins the same thing … “Please see the color of the beet, rice, feel the aroma of dal and basmati rice … eat slowly, gratefully … and don’t leave anything on your plate.”

I was speechless!

Just for those fifteen minutes! Yes, just for those fifteen minutes, when I am supposed to eat, can’t I fully remain present to my eating? Why am I anxious?

On that plate, there was only some basmati rice, some black dal and a small quantity of beet-and-onion salad. But, today, after I had this lunch, I felt as though I had a heavenly meal … so satisfying, so peaceful!

“Have you ever observed a Sadhu eating his meal?” long time ago, I had heard a facilitator asking us in one of the Workshops, “He doesn’t worry about his next meal … He eats this meal gloriously!”

Just for one meal … Yes, just for one meal, can’t I be fully present … Be here and now?

Thank you Vivek for this meal … The Sadhu’s meal!


GERALD D’CUNHA