Thursday, March 31, 2016


Pic.: Shankar Ramchandran

Two days ago, I watched the latest Hindi movie, ‘Kapoor & Sons’ with my wife. We both loved the movie… The story was simple and relate-able. Yes, as most of the viewers had done, we, too, laughed and cried as we watched the movie…

The scene that moved me the most was the car accident. As many of my readers are yet to watch the movie, I wouldn’t tell, here, what happens in this car accident. To me, that scene was one of the brilliantly captured scenes of Hindi or any movies. There was no warning before the accident or any melodrama after it… Only this song in the background:

“Saathi re thoda thehar jaa
Abhi raastein kuch badal se jayenge
O saathi re thoda thehar jaa
Yeh paanv bhi ab sambhal se jayenge”

I went numb while I was listening to this song … “Why do we make such a big deal about the other persons’ behavior – be it our spouses, sons, daughters, sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, even friends and neighbors, colleagues and students whoever it be – yes, why such a big deal, such a big hue and cry when they ‘slip’, ‘stray’, or behave the way we don’t want them to… Yes, why such a huge showdown, such a blunt treatment? Why don’t we recognize the change that is taking place quietly? Why don’t we sense the beat of that changing heart? And, yes, why don’t we give the other person another chance?
What do we want?
What that car accident brings?

In the movie ‘3-Idiots’, the scene in which the engineering student, Joy Lobo, hangs himself in his hostel room and the background song… yes, this scene gives me a similar experience… That song is so beautiful, so meaningful. And, that tragic scene has so much healing strength!
“Give me some sunshine
Give me some rain
Give me another chance
I wanna grow up once again”
Why don’t we give the other person another chance – when he repeatedly pleads that he wants to grow up once again?
It was in 1982, nearly thirty-five years ago, when I had watched the Hindi movie, ‘Shakti’. Both, Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, had been my two favorite actors and Salim-Javed had been my favorite story-writers... 

DCP Ashwini Kumar (Dilip Kumar) is an upright police officer and Vijay,  his son (Amitabh Bachchan), is shown detesting this uprightness… so much so, the story is about how father and son want to come close to each other but how their pride does not allow them to… Finally, the father, in that breath-taking chase scene inside the airport, shoots down his son… What is so endearing is when the heart-broken father holds his dying son close to his bosoms and keeps repeating, “Nahin… Vijay Nahin” Yes, the father pleads before his son, not to leave him… that he always loved him…
What takes my breath away are the son’s last words:
“Dad, why didn’t you tell me that before?”
Yes, why don’t we tell our loved ones – that we love them. Yes, why don’t we tell them that – ‘before’?
“Saathi re thoda thehar jaa
Kuch door saath chalna baaki hai
Phir unhi raston pe
Tere mere kadmo ka milna baaki hai”

Video: YouTube

Monday, March 28, 2016


Pic.; Azriel D'Souza

Today, I had been to one of the colleges in Mumbai suburbs to conduct a half-day session for BMS students. The management was genuinely keen to provide these students with an edge… by exposing the students to series of soft-skill programmes. A large numbers of these students came from very ordinary homes, many even from vernacular mediums like Hindi, Marathi or Gujarati. So, the brief given to me was simple: help these young boys and girls overcome their anxiety about speaking in English and in Public… and, help them develop their overall self-confidence.

I have been helping young boys and girls to overcome their fear and anxiety about speaking in English or speaking in public and develop their overall self-confidence – yes, I have been doing it for over twenty-five years. And, I have been finding it easy to do it.

These college kids – seventeen to nineteen year old – breathe a sigh of relief the moment I tell them my own story. “At your age, my condition was far, far worse,” I tell them. I add, “My medium was not English and I would constantly worry about my poor English when I was your age… I had a chronic inferiority complex… The thought of opening my mouth in public would paralyze me with fear. In fact, I would imagine situations twenty-twenty five years ahead and get stricken with panic now… It was pathological; it was terrible, killing… I did not know how to handle it and I would isolate myself from all social gatherings.”

Now, the moment I tell the young-ones my own story, it takes half the pressure off their heads. “If this person – who has come to help us today – could do it, we too can,” Yes, invariably, this thought gets reinforced in their minds. But, before the thought gets settled, I caution them: “My dear young friends, yes you ‘can’… but, whether you ‘will’ – it depends on how strong and deep is your commitment, your determination… There is a huge difference between ‘I can’ and ‘I will’…” I remind them.

Other people’s success stories help. But, just because other people succeed, it does not mean you too will… To succeed like others do, you need to do what they did to succeed…

And, that’s, always, the catch…

To commit is not easy…

The long road ahead looks frustrating…

Shortcuts and instant mantras sound tempting…

“There is no shortcut,” I remind young-ones. “If wishes were horses, even beggars would ride them,” yes, through this old proverb, I try to drill into their heads the point, “Look my young friends, your wishes will take you nowhere… your dreams will. So, commit.”

At the end of the session today, a young girl, who sounded very confident and articulate, came to meet me. “Sir, my mother wants to talk to you,” she said pointing to the youngish lady next to her.

“She is your mother?” I asked surprised. For close to four hours during the session, the two were sitting next to each other and I never expected them to be a mother and a daughter… The mother seemed extremely eager to absorb what I was sharing today. Now, she was telling me as to how she had raised her only daughter, helping her in her studies and other activities. The daughter had shaped up as a confident girl… She was the CR (Class Representative)… She articulated well and, now, wanted her mother to grow in some areas.  The mother had to discontinue her studies after eleventh standard… She had studied in Gujarati medium… She had fear of communicating in public… and, for last four to five years, the inferiority complex was getting nastier in her and she had been losing her inner glow due to this. “Sir, I want to continue my studies,” the mother said to me in Hindi, “I want to improve my English and regain my self-confidence.”

I looked at the daughter. “I am helping her sir,” the daughter assured me, “She will do it.”

I loved that spirit. The young girl – who was the CR of the class, had persuaded the college authorities to allow her mother to attend the session and learn. It was commendable… It is tough for any young-one to do that…

I swear, it is tough!

I did not have to say a lot to the mother. All that I had to do was to express my genuine gladness about the step they had taken to overcome a problem… That’s all.

“Everybody wants to go to heaven,” I had this famous quote displayed prominently on the Podium, “But nobody wants to die!”

I came home, today, a lot humbled… and, a lot satisfied.


Saturday, March 26, 2016


Pic.: Chetna Shetty

Today, one of my eleventh-standard students – 16 or 17 year old – came to meet me with a thank-you card. She had written a couple of lines expressing her gratitude; I was touched. And, in the end, she had written – what I see everywhere these days – “God Bless You”!

I smiled!

In fact, I smile every day, when I see this expression – “God Bless You” – used repeatedly by everyone and everywhere… In cards, books and messages

“God Bless You”… yes, this has become as common – rather as casual – as a ‘Thank-you’, a “Sorry” and an “Excuse me”!

I smile because…

When we were small, our parents and teachers taught us to ‘seek’ blessings from our elders - parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers, priests, nuns or any elders… We were taught to do it respectfully with our folded hands (just as my Hindu or Sikh brothers and sisters were taught to bend down to touch feet respectfully). We were taught to say ‘Bless me" (followed by uncle/aunty/mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/teacher and so on) to seek the blessings from our elders.

And, our elders - gently holding our folded hands - would reciprocate it saying, “God Bless you my child.”

“You can bless someone – say ‘God Bless You” - only when you are older than him or her,” we were told clearly by our parents and teachers, “Otherwise, you should only ‘seek’ blessings - say “Bless me”.

Seeing everyone around me use the expression - “God Bless You” – for everything, to everyone and at everywhere, I have suddenly become conscious of this expression. Yes, I feel tempted to shower God’s blessings on everyone... like a Bishop or the Pope, with all glory and majesty – “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” Means: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

But, then, remembering what was taught to me as a little child, I hold back my temptation and smile…

Frankly, it is perfectly okay if a 16-year-old says to me “God Bless You”. I need God’s blessings, don’t I?

My only problem is: I, at 57, can’t bring myself to do that before an 80-year-old…  I would rather fold my hands or touch feet, gently, and say – “Bless me.”


Friday, March 25, 2016


Pic.: Azriel D'Souza

“The words of the prophets are written
on the subway walls and tenements halls
and whispered in the sounds of silence.”

- Paul Simon 

During Jesus’ trial after his arrest, He was taken to both Jewish religious authorities as well as Roman authorities.  He was first taken to Annas, the former High Priest… Next, He was taken to Caiaphas, the current High Priest… then, to Sanhedrin, the assembly of Jewish religious leaders… From there, Jesus was taken to Pilate, the Roman Governor…. who, on learning that Jesus belonged to King Herod’s jurisdiction, sent Him to be trialed before the merciless Herod… Finally, Herod packed Jesus back to Pilate, and, there, the trial ended: Pilate sentenced Jesus to die on the cross!

There is one episode in this entire trial of Jesus, which, though shrouded in mystery, fills me with strength during my own trials and tribulations. Before each authority – Annas, Caiaphas, Sanhedrin and Pilate – yes, before each of these authorities Jesus was ready to answer to the questions without fearing or worrying about the consequences. But, when He was brought before Herod, who taunted Him to perform some of His miracles, Jesus chose to remain silent!

Didn’t Jesus have an answer to offer? Couldn’t He perform any one miracle to prove who He was before Herod?

Jesus did not choose either to answer any question from Herod or perform any miracle before him… He chose silence!

Jesus’ silence frustrated Herod. He and his men mocked Jesus by dressing Him in a garish kingly robe and sent Him back to Pilate…

To me, Jesus’ silence before Herod is one of His most powerful responses during the entire trial… There is a powerful lesson He has left behind to us…

I come across many Herods during the times of my own trials – I mean my daily trials as I go about my life…

And, I choose to remain silent!

Peace and grace on this Blessed Friday!


Thursday, March 24, 2016


Pic.: Vinod Vazirani

As I have told many times before, the TV at our home is long disconnected. So, when there is an important match which I love to watch, either I sit with my cricket-crazy friend, Tapas, my neighbor… or, I watch it on my laptop. I watched the India-Pakistan match at Tapas’ place, while last night’s India-Bangladesh match on my laptop via  Hotstar live.

Bangladesh lost last night. But, except for those last two overs we bowled to them, the last one in particular, Bangladesh outplayed us in every department. They really deserved to win yesterday’s match, because, they really played well…

But then, I am able to say this now, at hindsight. While watching the match, last night, I was so involved with our side, that I couldn’t gather enough grace to watch the match any further when the second ball of that last over from Pandya was sent to the fence by Mushfiqur… Now, six runs were required from four balls…

I shut off my computer…  I couldn’t bear the sight of we losing, of all the teams, to Bangladesh!

The very next ball was scooped to the fence by Mushfiqur, which, I was blissfully unaware of.  Outside, there was a ghostly silence… I was sure, our ship had already sunk!

And, lo, suddenly, there was a wild cry outside… I logged in, once again…

It was the fourth ball of that last over from Pandya and Dhawan had taken a brilliant catch… Mushfiqur was gone!

The match had assumed a frenzied twist… Now, two runs from two balls were needed…

The stadium, which had gone into an icy silence, was, now, on fire!

The fifth ball and Mahmudullah was gone!

This was unbelievable! As much as my heart rejoiced for India, it also bled for Bangladesh… “Those boys had played so well,” I kept empathizing, “how they must be feeling!”

My heart had stopped when Pandya sent his last delivery… The brilliance of Dhoni’s keeping and captaincy is still not sunk in my mind fully… The win still looks like a dream!

Between the second ball and the last ball, the worlds of two nations had passed through the entire gambit of emotions… It is truly a breath-taking moment… It contained so much for all of us!

“There are many a slip between the cup and the lip,” I kept bleeding for Bangladesh. You can never say ‘I have won’ till the last ball is delivered… I have gone through such moments so often and been left humbled!

From our own perspective, I kept recalling one of my favorite stories – ‘Three feet from Gold’ – told in Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’.  R.U. Darby recalled in this story the priceless lesson he had learnt in his life… During the days of ‘Gold Rush’ in America, Darby’s uncle had invested a massive sum of money and gone into the business of mining gold. But, months and months of digging had taken him nowhere… The hopes had died out and money seemed to have sunken… Finally, Darby’s uncle had decided to give up… So, he sold the entire machinery and equipment to a junkman for a junk-price and he had gone back to his village…

Now, the junkman was a calm and clever negotiator like Dhoni… He consulted an expert, who advised the junkman to dig just three feet away from where Darby’s uncle had stopped. The junkman did… and took millions and millions home!

I was in my early twenties – yet to get a foothold in this vast city – yes, I was so young and fresh when I first learnt that priceless lesson on persistence, hope and grit!

“Still, how many times I have stopped just three feet from gold!” Yes, this was the take away, to me, from that last over!

Last night was this one-of-a-kind match… Today, till late noon, people soaked in Holi colours… and, in a while, this evening, we Christians will observe the Maundy Thursday in the church… Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet as a mark of humility… After that, He had taken the last meal with them…

It is called ‘The Last Supper’!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Pic.: Alwyn Mathias

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

-  Lao Tzu

Sometimes, when I meet some of my ex-students, after many years, I get amused by two of their familiar questions: “Sir, do you still teach?” And, this one: “Are you still ‘there’?”

I am so used to these questions from my ‘very successful’ ex-students, that I have my answers, too, kept ready for them…

To the first question, I ask them with a grin: “What else do you want me to do?”

To the second one, this: “Where else do you want me to go?”

I don’t think there is anything wrong with or surprising about the questions of my ex-students. They can’t believe that, after thirty-six years, I can still continue teaching the same way as I did then… They expect me to ‘grow’…. run my classes more professionally, the way others around me do… yes, like a good, profitable business… They want me to hire teachers and run it through them… wherein I should just focus my energies on expanding the business… “Why teach yourself after thirty-six years?” they ask me.

“Are you still there?”… Yes, they can’t believe, that I have chosen to remain ‘right there’…They want me to start branches, cash on my goodwill… They don’t want me to get holed-up in my little old place…

I genuinely think, my ex-students, who raise their eye-brows are right.

These young men and women belong to a very vibrant world – the world of start-ups, the world of smart phones and technology… where the results are instant, profits and net-worth are virtual, and salaries are astronomical…

If I tell them the significance of Ram’s 14-year ‘Vanvas’, they ask me, “Who Ram?”… “What vanvas?”

If I tell them, “I have only one wife and only one son and they are not at all interested in either teaching or my business empire,” they quip, “So what? You have earned your goodwill, sell it off at a high price?”

Well, who is stupid – the students who want the best for the teacher or the teacher who thinks what he is doing is the best thing he can do and where he is parked, is the best place to be? Yes, who is stupid?

If teaching and expressing myself was what gave me the greatest joy thirty-six years ago and if it still does, why should I give up teaching and expressing?

Have I made loads of money?

No, not at all… My loans still stare at me!

Am I happy?

Yes, I am.

Will my happiness clear off my loans?

I don’t know.  But, this much I know… The bigger the business, the bigger will be my loans… The faster I run, the faster I will be running… My wife and son are not interested in what I leave behind – my legacy… howsoever I try to rationalize it… Then, what is the point in ‘accomplishing’ so much and then, one day, just go?

I am writing this Post right now… and, I bet, nothing else in my life can give me the simple joy this process of writing gives me…

It is okay, if I haven’t made a ‘big name’ or ‘big money’ through my ‘simple’ writings and teaching… Yes, it is okay.

“Nature does not hurry,” says Lao Tzu, “yes, everything is accomplished.”


Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Pic.: Azriel D'Souza

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian.” 

Because I was born and brought up in a typical coastal region and in a typical Christians household, right since I was a baby, I got accustomed to certain non-vegetarian food habits… mutton, chicken, pork, beef, fish – and, shall I say, “anything that crawled except two-legged human species”?  Yes, I grew up eating whatever people around me ate – and, many times, what they could afford. Just like dogs and cats around us loved to eat mutton, chicken and fish, some humans like us, too, loved to eat the same. A few of my friends and neigbours, particularly brahmins, ate only vegetarian food. All others, including non-brahmin Hindus and GSB’s, ate non-vegetarian food. Yes, they did not touch pork and beef… but, their lifestyle did include the rest of  non-vegetarian food.

Every house had dogs and cats. The sophisticated pets came much later when good amount of money came home. For most of us, dogs were a bare necessity… They guarded us from thieves and intruders. Both dogs and cats kept breeding more and more puppies and kittens, and they were all welcome… Some lived, some died… some strayed away… and, some were taken away by some of our neigbours to raise at their homes… These dogs and cats ate our leftover food. We had tough time bringing ration home…  Leave alone bringing special food for our dogs and cats!

But, our dogs and cats never complained… They were so happy with us, and we were so happy with them… that we all made a great household!

Frankly, in those days, we never heard of any ‘animal activists’… the dog-lovers and cat-lovers. We never heard of NGOs against cruelty on dogs and cats. All of them came much later, and they came only in these big cities…

To me, all animals are innocent and adorable. When I so passionately stand for a dog and a cat, I should, also, stand, with equal passion, for a goat, sheep, cow, buffalo, fish or a bird (chicken) I throw my blind eyes to…

I get angry when I see a dog or a cat beaten to death. But, where is my heart, my conscience, when they slay – so brutally, so brutally, so brutally – all the animals and birds that I eat as my daily food?

Is my compassion for animals only selective, as per my convenience?

Why don’t I first stop eating animals, birds and fish and then advocate the cause of cruelty against dogs and cats?

The thought is too disturbing for me… And, I mean it.

“Meat may taste good,” said Evan Baldonado, “but the guilt of eating it tastes far worse.” 


Monday, March 21, 2016


Pic.: Varsha Chitnis Junnarkar

“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.”
- Gary Allan

This is the truth… No matter who I am, I do feel jealous of someone – someone better than me – in life. Rejoicing in other people’s success is a wonderful remedy for my sickness called Jealousy. Yes, I know it is. But, to me, rejoicing in other peoples’ success doesn’t come first… That, the other person is ‘my own’ – yes, this thought doesn’t come first… That, his success is my own, his happiness is my own… yes, all these amazing thoughts don’t come first, to me.

To me, what comes first is: that, the other person is different, his success and happiness are not my own… that, when he succeeds, I lose… that, when he is praised, I feel sad, isolated!

My jealousy comes from my insecurity, my fear and lack. It comes from my low self-esteem. When seen from a spiritual perspective, jealousy comes from my ignorance… poor self-knowledge…

So, today, I would like to see how jealousy can help me, rather than destroy me…

Do I feel jealous?

Yes, I do.

Do I become strikingly aware whenever I feel jealous?

Yes, I do.

What happens when I become strikingly aware of my jealousy, when I do not justify it… do not condemn myself?

I become more compassionate, more peaceful… It becomes easier for me to accept other person’s success as my own…to accept the truth that the other person is none other than I myself… He is me… his family is mine… his happiness is my own!

So, to me, the spiritual path, always, passes through this meadow called my ‘lower self’…. where reside my fear, insecurity and jealousy… where reside my anger, hate and revenge… 

The key, therefore, is to become silent and see my own jealousy, fear and anger… The more I do that, the more I come closer to God, my higher self…

Francoise Sagan said, “To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter.”

How true!