Saturday, April 30, 2016

THE SUFFERING IN PARADISE












Pic.: Anima D'Cunha


“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as
 you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—
the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, 
that you’re suffering in paradise.” 

- Byron Katie in ‘Loving What Is’

“I love you for what you are.”  Have I said this to my loved ones – my wife, son, friends, students, colleagues and many others around me?

Yes, I have… Time and again.

But, then, have I understood the deep meaning of this line whenever I have said it?

I doubt, I have… To be honest, ‘No’, I haven’t.

This morning, I said it again…

One of the things I detest – rather hate – my wife doing to me happens in the mornings when I am in a frantic hurry to leave home… I do not want her to irritate me, nag me, play her broken record… press the button of my irritation and stress… when a dozen conflicting thoughts race through my mind and cloud it and I crave for cooling me down… That’s the time, I expect my wife not to add more clutter… and I have told her that a hundred times, in hundred different ways, including by going boom, boom ballistic!

Ha, ha, ha… My wife seems to love that sight… me going boom, boom ballistic!!!

And, today morning, the Sun must’ve come up from the South! My dear wife was at it, all over again… and, I found myself saying, “Come here sweetheart…  I swear, I love you for what you are!”

“You should,” my wife reciprocated!


“Peace doesn't require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you. The problem begins and ends there.”  Byron Katie tells us in her famous book – ‘Loving What Is’. She further says, “Our parents, our children, our spouses, and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don't want to know about ourselves, yet… They will point us to our freedom every time.” 

Actually, how simple and uncomplicated peace and love are!  Yet, they don’t seem to be… Peace and love both elude us like mirage in a desert… We seek love and peace outside, not inside our hearts!

One of Roy Croft’s poems opens with the line:

“I love you,
Not only for what you are…
But, for what I am
When I am with you.”

Perhaps, the reason why I hadn’t felt peace and love in my heart - even though I had  said, time and again, to my loved ones, “Hey, I love you for what you are” – is because I hadn’t loved myself for what I was when I was with my loved ones!”

Yes, I have to love myself – feel the love in my bosoms… in my loved ones’ presence even though they seem to keep pressing every wrong button in me and love watching the fireworks!

“To like me is not your job… It’s mine,” says Byron Katie, “Seeking love keeps you from the awareness that you already have it—that you are it.” 

Mrs. Katie’s book – ‘Loving What Is’ – or her famous healing programme ‘The Work’ (based on simple and straight four questions) – yes, they did not emerge from nothing… They have emerged from her own life story. I strongly recommend you read this book and watch some of her powerful videos…  And, here, I wish to end my Post with one of her most profound statements:

“When they attack you and you notice that you love them with all your heart… your ‘Work’ is done.” 

GERALD D’CUNHA

Friday, April 29, 2016

WHY WE NEED FINE BENCHMARKS TO SUCCEED





Pic. Anima D'Cunha
I regularly remind the young students in our PD sessions, that they need to set fine benchmarks in order to propel themselves to success. “When your benchmarks are low, shallow, your inner drive, too, will be shallow… Only when you set high standards of achievement… a loft benchmark, you will be able to reach there… You need icons and heroes to inspire you… You need great role-models.”
Whatever the human heart deeply aspires, it attracts. This has been the theme of the age-old Law of Attraction. “What you deeply like, deeply admire… you attract in you.”  The Law is as plain and simple as that. “You become the hero you worship.”
So, there is power in the Law of Attraction. Therefore, the choice of our icons and ideals… our values and life-principles… yes, the choice should be made ‘consciously’. For, the Law doesn’t discriminate between the good icons and the bad icons… the good ideals and the bad ideals… It brings forth whatever we deeply, deeply long for in our hearts…
Hence, the importance of the ‘conscious’ choice…

During our last two PD sessions, I have shown to our young boys and girls Michelle Obama’s outstanding speech at ‘Let Girls Learn’ event celebrating International Women’s Day (on 8th March, 2016). I have shown Mrs. Obamas’ famous speech at the Democratic Convention, too. That speech, too, is mind-blowing. However, the speech at the International Women’s Day event is special for our young-ones, because, the First Lady is addressing young-girls here. As usual, she doesn’t have a written script… it is straight from the heart… There is not a single loose-end, any undesired word in her nearly twenty-minute speech… Her language is simple, sprinkled with lovely vocabulary and English expressions… Her gestures are subtle and appropriate… The warmth and charm are overpowering… You can feel the steely confidence in your bones (one of her own expressions in the speech!)… that, you want to admire her more, want to become like her… speak like her, think like her, inspire like her…

I had asked our young-ones, as they were watching the video, to note some of Mrs. Obama’s fine English expressions. Many of our students had noted over twenty of them… Yes, in a speech of less than twenty minutes! “If a twenty-minute speech can bring you so much, imagine what your life-time can do?” I reminded them… “All that you need to do is - be available… be earnest, be thirty… be teachable”, I repeated, “You need to admire icons like Mrs. Obama… You need fine benchmarks.”

How else, can we expect to shine?

Here is that speech… Sit back and relish… Get inspired… bench-marked…

 Wow!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Hey.  You guys good?  All right, rest yourselves.  We’ve got a lot to do.  
Hi, everyone.  It is a pleasure to be here with all of you on this International Women’s Day as we mark the first anniversary of Let Girls Learn.  And today, we want to celebrate all of the wonderful progress we’ve made and the momentum we’re seeing around girls’ education across the globe.
But before we get started, I just wanted to briefly express my sadness over the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.  Mrs. Reagan was a woman of incredible strength and grace, and she was a passionate advocate for so many important issues.  Through the example she set, both during her time in the White House and beyond, Mrs. Reagan reminded us of the importance of women’s leadership at every level of our society.
And on a personal note, Mrs. Reagan also understood the value of mentoring.  She warmly and willingly offered advice and encouragement to me as I settled into my role as First Lady.  And I am so grateful for her kindness and generosity to me and my family over the years, and I hope that our continued work to educate girls worldwide is a fitting tribute to her legacy.  (Applause.)  


So back to the business at hand.  I have to start by thanking Ambassador Power –- another strong woman leader, as you heard -- for that wonderful, kind, generous introduction, but more importantly, for her extraordinary work to promote human dignity, human rights across the globe.  We are lucky to have someone like her in this administration, and the President and I are very lucky to have her as a friend.  (Applause.)

I also want to recognize our outstanding Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Cathy Russell, and her -- yes -- (applause) -- and her entire team at the State Department for hosting this event and for their tremendous work on girls’ education and so many other critical issues.  I’m thankful to have them as partners in this effort.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for your tremendous leadership on behalf of girls around the world.  Some of you have been with us since the day we launched Let Girls Learn, some of you have been working on girls’ education for decades, and some of you are students who will be leading the way on this issue in years to come.  And I’m so proud that you all are here.  Give yourselves a round of applause.  Our young people!  (Applause.)  
And I know that each of us here today has a story like Samantha shared about how we first got engaged in this issue –- the moment our heart first broke or we felt that first flare of outrage when we realized that 62 million girls worldwide –- girls who are just as smart and hard-working as we are -– aren’t getting the opportunities that we sometimes take for granted.  
For me, it was the drumbeat of horrifying stories:  Malala Yousafzai shot in the head by terrorists just for speaking the simple truth that girls should to go school.  More than 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school dormitory by a terrorist group determined to keep them from getting an education –- grown men trying to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.  Little girls being brutally assaulted on their way to school, being forced to marry and bear children when they’re barely even teenagers.  Girls in every corner of the globe facing grave danger simply because they were full and equal human beings -- that’s what they decided -- worthy of developing their boundless potential.  
And the more I traveled and met with girls and learned from experts about this issue, the more I realized that the barriers to girls’ education isn’t just resources.  It’s not just about access to scholarships or transportation or school bathrooms.  It’s also about attitudes and beliefs -– the belief that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education; that women should have no role outside the home; that their bodies aren’t their own, their minds don’t really matter, and their voices simply shouldn’t be heard.
And like many of you, as a woman, I take all of this personally.  While I’m thankful that I’ve never faced anything like the horrors that many of these girls endure, like most women, I know how it feels to be overlooked, to be underestimated, to have someone only half listen to your ideas at a meeting -- to see them turn to the man next to you, the man you supervise, and assume he’s in charge -- or to experience those whistles and taunts as you walk down the street.
And I’ve seen how these issues play out not just on a personal level, but on a national level in our laws and policies. You see, in my lifetime -– and I’m not that old -– it was perfectly legal for employers to discriminate against women.  In my lifetime, women were not legally allowed to make fundamental decisions about their bodies –- and practically speaking, many still can’t.  In my lifetime, domestic violence was seen as a private matter between a man and his wife rather than as the horrific crime that it is.  
And today, it is so easy to take for granted all the progress we’ve made on these kinds of issues.  But the fact is that right now, today, so many of these rights are under threat from all sides, always at risk of being rolled back if we let our guard down for a single minute.  
These issues aren’t settled.  These freedoms that we take for granted aren’t guaranteed in stone.  And they certainly didn’t just come down to us as a gift from the heavens.  No, these rights were secured through long, hard battles waged by women and men who marched, and protested, and made their voices heard in courtrooms and boardrooms and voting booths and the halls of Congress.
And make no mistake about it, education was central to every last one of those efforts.  The ability to read, write, and analyze; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table -- all of that starts with education.  And trust me, girls around the world, they understand this.  They feel it in their bones, and they will do whatever it takes to get that education.  
I’ve seen it time and time again –- girls in Senegal studying at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms raising their hands so hard they’re almost falling out of their chairs.  Girls in Cambodia who wake up hours before dawn, ride their bikes for miles just to get to school.  Bangladeshi immigrant girls in the United Kingdom who study for hours every night and proudly wear their head scarves everywhere they go, resolutely ignoring those who would demean their religion.  
These girls risk everything -– the rejection of their communities, the violation of their bodies -– everything, just to go to school each day.  And then here I show up with a hoard of international reporters shoving microphones in their faces -- these girls don’t blink.  They stand up.  They look straight into those cameras and they proudly explain who they want to be –- doctors and teachers, forces for change in their countries.
You see, they know that education is their only path to self-sufficiency.  It is their only chance to shape their own fate rather than having the limits of their lives dictated to them by others.  And I’m passionate about this because I truly see myself in these girls -– in their hunger, in their burning determination to rise above their circumstances and reach for something more.  And I know that many of you do, too.
And let’s be clear, this issue isn’t just personal to women.  I have met countless men who learn about the plight of girls around the world, and they look into the eyes of their daughters and wives and mothers -– women they deeply respect and love -– and this issue becomes personal for them, too.  So it’s not surprising that over the past year since we launched Let Girls Learn, we have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve received.  
This issue is truly resonating as folks in every sector are stepping up to take action on behalf of these girls around the world.  From day one, the U.S. government has been leading the way with State, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, investing hundreds of millions of dollars.  They’re providing scholarships for girls in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They’re doing leadership training for girls in Afghanistan.  They’re building school bathrooms for girls in El Salvador.  They’re taking on female genital mutilation in Guinea, forced child marriage in Bangladesh.  
Let Girls Learn also has a strong partner in the American Peace Corps.  Volunteers are now running more than 100 girls’ education projects in 22 countries -– girls’ mentorship programs, girls’ leadership camps, and so much more.  
And through Let Girls Learn, dozens of major companies and organizations have come forward to support this work, including Lyft, Jet Blue, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Starwood Hotels -- I could go on and on -- Alex and Ani.  I’ve got my bracelets on.  (Laughter.)  They’re donating hundreds of thousands of dollars.  They’re creating new products –- backpacks and charm bracelets and T-Shirts -– to raise money and awareness.  They’re promoting Let Girls Learn in their advertisements, their in-flight magazines, their hotel room videos.  They’re doing it all.  The Girl Scouts are getting in on the action as well by creating a Global Action badge that girls can earn by learning about girls’ education.  
And it’s not just corporations and organizations who are getting engaged on this issue.  Folks of all ages and all walks of life are stepping up, as well.  More than 1,600 people in nearly all 50 states have donated money to Let Girls Learn Peace Corps projects.  Our #62MillionGirls hashtag was the number-one hashtag in the U.S., with people across the country talking about the power of education.  And we’ll be launching the next phase of this social media campaign next week at South by Southwest.
And we haven’t just inspired folks here in the United States.  Our hashtag was the number-three hashtag globally, with girls around the world tweeting their support for Let Girls Learn.  And countries like Japan, the UK, South Korea have joined this effort as well, investing more than half a billion dollars in girls’ education.  And at this year’s U.N. General Assembly, nearly 200 countries agreed to make adolescent girls’ education a top priority in the new Global Goals.  
And today, just 12 months after we launched Let Girls Learn, we’re seeing the impact of these efforts all around the world.  We see it in the story of a girl named Fiker from Ethiopia who, at the age of 13, found out that her parents were planning to marry her off to a man she’d never met.  But Fiker had learned about the dangers of early marriage from a USAID program she was involved in, so she refused to go through with the marriage.  She went on to graduate first in her entire sixth-grade class.
We see the impact of our work in the story of a young woman named Nourhan in Egypt.  When Nourhan got accepted to a girls’ science and technology boarding school supported by USAID, of course she was hesitant to leave home.  But she took the plunge, and today, she’s an avid coder.  And when speaking about her plans for the future, she says, “I dream of being the youngest Nobel Prize winner for Nuclear Physics.”
And we’re seeing the impact of our efforts not just on girls worldwide, but on young people right here at home.  Kids across the U.S. are learning about these girls and they’re embracing this issue as their own.  Students at a middle school in California raised $1,500 for Let Girls Learn by selling popsicles and hot chocolate.  At a school in Wisconsin, students raised $594 from their friends and families.  As part of their campaign, they created signs to raise awareness, and one of these signs said that “33 million fewer girls than boys are in primary school worldwide.”  They said, “We’re in this together.  Together we [can] make a difference.”  
See, even young kids get it.  We’re in this together.  Because these girls are our girls.  They are us.  They each have the spark of something extraordinary inside of them just like our daughters –- and our sons -– and their fate is very much our responsibility.  
And in the coming months, we’re going to be expanding our call to action to support these girls.  We are going to be engaging even more people -– moms and dads, faith and youth organizations, and young people like so many of you.  Because there is so much that students like you can do to make a real difference on girls’ education.
You can study this issue and organize your classmates to take action.  You can study or volunteer abroad and be on the front lines educating girls.  After you graduate from college, you can even join the Peace Corps and run your own girls’ education project.  Or if you get out there and get a job, like your parents may want you to -- (laughter) -- you can get your company involved in Let Girls Learn.  That’s how Lyft got involved, from one of our fellow young people who worked in this administration and now works at Lyft.  That kind of commitment that companies are announcing today, you can be a part of making it happen.
Every single one of us has a role to play on this issue.  And you can start today by going to LetGirlsLearn.gov and find out how to get involved right now.  No contribution is too small, as you can see, because in the end, that’s how we’re going to solve this problem –- one girl, one school, one village at a time, with folks like all of you -- particularly our young people -- leading the way.
And no, it will not be easy.  And it will not be quick.  But make no mistake about it, we can do this.  If we can make this kind of project -- progress in just a year -- in just a year -- if we keep putting in this effort and this investment that these girls deserve, we can get this done.  I know we are all up to the task.  I know we are.  I see it in your eyes.  I know you feel that burning sensation, that sense of unfairness.  Turn that into action.  Turn that passion into something real.  Those girls will be so grateful, because they are all of us.  They are my daughters, and they are you.
So I want to close by thanking all of you once again for everything you have done in this year, and everything we will continue to do together.  And I do look forward to continuing our work together in the months and years to come.  And I cannot wait to see all the doors we will open, all the fortunes we -- and futures we transform for girls across the globe.
So you guys ready to get to work?  (Applause.)  You think we can get this done?  (Applause.)  All right.  Thank you all so much.  God bless.  (Applause.) 

May I end with the same question: So, guys ready to get to work… You think we can get this one?
GERALD D’CUNHA
Video: YouTube

Thursday, April 28, 2016

WHEN YOU JUDGE OTHERS, YOU DEFINE YOURSELF
















Pic.: Anima D'Cunha

“When  you judge others, you do not define them,” said Earl Nightingale, “You define yourself.”

Honestly, how much do I know about another person’s life? Then, what business do I got to judge him?

Invariably, the tendency to judge others, at the drop of a hat, comes from some deep insecurity in us… rather, some deeply-rooted ignorance… It is a habit, and, if not curbed in time, it does become our character…

Therefore, the opening line: “When you judge others, you do not define them… You define yourself.”

Yes, it reveals more about youself… about your ignorance, your insecurity… Your immaturity.

In the PD session, last evening, Shreeshay narrated this popular story…

A twenty-four-year-old young-man was travelling in a train. Looking out of the window, he cried excitedly, “Dad, dad, look… the trees are going behind us.”

 The father smiled at his young son and said, “Is it not amazing, son?”

There was a couple sitting next to them. This couple looked at the young-man with pity… His behavior seemed very odd to this couple...

Just then, the young-man, once again, jumped in joy and exclaimed, “Look dad, the clouds are running with us!”

“Beautiful!” the father shared his son’s excitement…

But, the couple had it enough. “Why can’t you show your son to a good doctor?” the couple taunted young-man’s father.

“My dear friends, I did,” the father said calmly, “you may be glad to hear, that we are just returning from the hospital. You know, my son had been blind from his birth… He just got his sight today!”

Still want to judge your neighbour?

Who needs to be shown to a good doctor?

“When sinners judge,” concluded Toba Beta, “ God takes the stand.” 

GERLAD D'CUNHA

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE SOUL OF YOUR STORY













Pic.: Anima D'Cunha
I am never tired of telling our young boys and girls, even little kids, during the PD sessions, that everything they tell in the class - be it on stage or in groups – is a story. “Everything you tell here is a story… everything can be told as a great story,” I remind them, “and you are a great story-teller.” I, also, remind them, “Our life starts and ends with stories…. As little kids, we listen to stories told to us by our parents and grandparents… Then, when become parents and grandparents, we tell stories to our little-ones.”

Stories sustain life… They give meaning and hope to our existence!

Last evening, my wife and I watched the latest edition of the movie ‘The Jungle Book’. Like almost everyone around us, I, too, have watched the earlier version of ‘The Jungle Book’ many times over. I have read the book, too, several times…  And, yes, the story doesn’t cease to fascinate me…

Such a simple story… but, how timeless!

Rudyard Kipling had spent his initial six years as a child - and, later, another six and a half  years working as a young man - in India. Many of us may not know, that he had written the stories in ‘The Jungle Book’ for his little daughter, who died at the age of six! That explains why his stories have such an emotional appeal in them… why we all are able to connect to them!

A story is a story only when it is told with raw emotions… the feelings. Any piece of creativity – be it prose or poetry, be it a book, play or a movie, be it a speech, painting, song or a piece of music… yes, whatever piece of creativity be it, unless the creator pours into it his emotions, his feelings, it is devoid of its soul… It simply fails to touch us. It is dead.

The characters in The Jungle Book – Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, Raksha, King Louie… are all real… They speak with real emotions…

I, truly, feel, that the young boys and girls, these days, are not expressive enough as they block their emotions when they write and speak… They tell their stories without soaking them in emotions!

“God is not present in idols… Your feelings are your god,” said Chanakya, “The soul is your temple.”

GERALD D’CUNHA

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

WHO WILL GO TO HELL











Pic.: Anima D'Cunha



“Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction,
compared to the tongue of a Gossip.” 
- Richard Steele
  
Do I gossip?

Much, much less now. But, the habit is not gone fully.

There is some strange kick – a kind of self-gratification – whenever we gossip about other people… I, obviously, did not like when others gossiped about me… I hated it… I knew how damaging it was. And, that realization was enough to lock my own loose tongue…

Leave other people alone, as you want them to leave you alone.

But, then, as I told you, there ‘is’ some strange kick, some intoxicating substance, coming out of the gossip we all indulge in. Hence, we fall prey for it… become its addicts…

“Gossip spreads faster than fire,” the saying goes. I add this: “It sells faster than Salman’s movies, too!”

Early in the morning, today, when I opened ‘Bombay Times’, I was amused…  In fact, I was shocked and angry – to see on its 2nd page… The full page was allocated to carry to us, the readers, the alleged e-mail text of Hritik and Kangana. “It is the limit,” I found screaming in my mind, “It is irresponsible, cheap journalism.”

Now, who heard me? Who cared?

More than the water and the daily bread, people want the daily diet of gossip – who plots against whom, who sleeps with whom…  If that wasn’t true, Bombay Times would be a dumb-head to do it, today…

That’s why, the other day, Nana Patekar said with anguish, how obsessed the media was about the suicide of a TV actress and cold towards the suicide of hundreds of poor farmers!”

Gossip sells, sir… Yes, it, always, sells to a full-house… A box-office hit!

Seventeen-year-old, Sahas, had one more story to share in our PD session today… ‘Who Will Go To Hell.”

Once, a king invited a group of Brahmanas for a meal in his palace. An eagle happened to fly over the kitchen area, holding a cobra with his beak. A few drops of poison fell in the food, which nobody noticed… After the food was served, all the Brahmanas died, on the spot!

Some weeks later, the king had invited a group of his well-wishers for a meal and they had almost reached the palace. Seeing them, a woman enquired, “Where are you headed?”

“To king’s palace,” they explained, “The king has invited us for a meal at his palace.”

“God have mercy,” the woman cried, hands cupping her face in surprise, “Have you not heard about the Brahmanas who died eating the poisonous food served by the king?”

Meanwhile, in Yamlok, there was some confusion. Yama’s servants were puzzled as to who would go to hell – the king, who had invited the Brahmanas for the meal… or the cooks, who had prepared the meal… or, the eagle who had carried the poisonous cobra with his beak… or the cobra, whose poison had killed the Brahmanas?

“None of them,” Yama declared, “That woman with the loose tongue will go to hell!”

“The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them,” Will Rogers, once, said.

GERALD D’CUNHA