Monday, October 31, 2016

THANK GOD, EVERYTHING DID NOT GO RIGHT FOR ME






If I bump into some of my bright school-mates, today, and if I tell them that I teach, here in Mumbai, college students – I help them in Personality Development and blog every day… publish books and all that – I am sure, they will raise their eye-brows!

“You teach college students?”… They wouldn’t be able to believe it… for, they knew how mediocre I was as a student, particularly in school and junior college…

“You help them in Personality Development? You blog daily… publish books?”… They are justified in asking these questions… for, they knew how shy and timid I was when I was a young boy… how miserably I suffered from inferiority complex!

So, this 58-year-old man – who, as a boy, had everything going wrong for him – has no business to be in the business of helping weak students and students who suffer from low self-esteem?

Probably, if I was not handicapped with my own growth issues, I would have landed up somewhere else in life… I really do not know where. But, this much I know: I would not have been as productive and happy, and as proud of myself, as I am today!

Dilip Vasu was one of my T.Y. B.Com students some twenty-five years ago. He hailed from a hand-to-mouth family and, he resembled the boy I was at his age, back in my village. We had just started THE DAWN CLUB and we had a fantastic library. Dilip would spend hours and hours reading the books in our library… He would attend our Public Speaking sessions and various Workshops… He would, also, participate in our Poetry Circle sessions… And, thus, he was silently dreaming to become the person he wanted to be…

But, I did not know what Dilip’s dream was… For, I hadn’t asked him about it!

A year ago, one day, Dilip called me to tell that he was based in Indore and had been working  there as the Principal of the famed ‘Choithram International School’.

“Dilip, you… the Principal of Choithram?” Yes, this was the first question I silently asked as any mortal would…

A desperately shy, a very, very unassuming and simple young man that he was – could Dilip be what he is today?

I can only smile reflecting on the truth: Probably, had Dilip been a smart, confident, outgoing young man when he was in school and college, he wouldn’t have been where he is today...

Yes, just the way, I say that about myself!

Early this morning I happened to read a small write-up by Dilip on FB:

“On 30th Oct. 2008, I  joined Choithram International as Head School… I still feel it was just yesterday. Years have gone by. Looking ahead always with the thoughts of past. On this day I would like to thank everyone who stood by me. I would also like to thank people who have left me but they were also a big strength and support to me. It has been a wonderful journey. Lots of ups and downs, but time has always stood by me.
Remembering every student and teacher who had been a part of the school since 30th Oct 2008.

Today it's double celebration as it's also Diwali day. Wish all my friends a very happy Diwali and prosperous new year.”

I instantly wrote:
“More strength... More of good things to come.”

Dilips’ responses was even quicker:
“Thanks Sir, you made me learn for life. I still remember all the accounts classes which I had with you. Along with accounts, you made me and the whole class learn what empathy is. Thanks for those lessons. You will remain my favourite teacher forever. The best thing you gave me was the reading habit and making me speak in all the public speaking sessions in Dawn Club. Sir you made the difference for me.”

I wanted to conclude with this:
Hi Dilip, thanks for your kind words. We all owe tons and tons of debt to our teachers, well-wishes and mentors... I think, the only way, and the best way, of repaying this debt is by giving it back to others in greater measure. You are already doing that… and I am glad and proud of it. Looking forward to meet you one of these days. Love”

When I look back on what I have done with my own life, I can see the traces of this ‘giving back’… The reason why I and Dilip feel strong today is, because, we have gained that strength by empowering others… the little kids and young boys and girls who wanted a helping hand when they needed it the most.

Yes, Dilip… More strength to you and me… More of good things to come!


GERLAD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet

Sunday, October 30, 2016

WHEN YOU SIT DOWN AND LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD








My son has come home, for some days, on his Diwali vacation. My wife and I were having a long discussion with him this evening. This is a young generation – let me call it ‘tribe’… and, so, talking to the tribe of my son is a priceless education in itself. For over three hours, we were discussing about so many things in life… particularly about making changes and reinventing ourselves in life.

Well, my son is twenty-four and I am fifty-eight. Yes, I am his father and he is my son… Thus, while having discussion, it is easy for me to slip into that position and try to tell him, “Look son, I have been there, seen that and done that… So, you better listen to me.”

Good God, the tribe of my son is wired to think clearly. You end up getting this, quickly, “Sit down dad, there is something that I need to tell you… It is better for you if you listen.”

Is it really better?

Let me tell you, just sitting before this tribe and listening to them, without a pre-conceived and judgmental mind, is sheer delight. This evening, I got off that high stand of being his father and a man of experience… yes, I got down to his level… saw him as my equal – even more than an equal – and simply absorbed in the spontaneous wisdom he was imparting to me and my wife…

Frankly, the experience of learning from your young children can be very fulfilling and enriching…

Let me share with you two take-aways from today’s discussion…


“If you do not take yourself – your work and your worth – seriously, nobody else will.”

My son said this to emphasize on the subject, that if you do not value your work, your talent, your time, your dedication and commitment of decades, then you are undervaluing yourself… you are undervaluing your work and worth… If you let yourself to do that, you are also letting others to do that. The world will treat you in the same measure as you treat yourself.”

Bang on!!!


“Your vibe attracts your tribe.”

In half-a-dozen different ways, someone, somewhere, has told me this… and I have told it to someone, somewhere...
“The birds of the same feather flock together,”… this was the earliest one.
“You are defined by the company you keep,”… this, too, is an old one.
“Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are,” this is one more.
“Those who lie down with dogs will rise up with fleas,” this is very colourful and my favorite.
 And, today, when my son said, that the tagline of their close-knit group is:
“Your vibe attracts your tribe,” I couldn’t agree more...

Didn’t I know that truth? Of course, I did.


When William Wordsworth said in his poem that famous line, “The child is the father of man,” what he meant was: the conduct of a child indicates what he will become when he grows up. But, today, I saw the father in my son, who was strong and wise enough to tell me, “Sit down dad, there is something that I need to tell you… It is better for you if you listen.”

I am glad, I sat down and listened!


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Kenrick D'Cunha

Saturday, October 29, 2016

DIGITAL DETOX










“A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.”

~Author Unknown

I was waiting for my turn, yesterday, in the waiting room of my doctor’s clinic. I had gone there for my routine check-up. To be precise, to see – after making some conscious life-style changes… early morning walks, stretching and pranayama… early dinner… cutting down on non-veg consumption etc and doing away with each and every medicine – yes, after making these conscious changes I wanted to check if there was a significant improvement in my BP, pulse rate, sugar and anxiety levels and, above all, if there was a reduction in my weight – the belly fat!

My doctor was thrilled! He declared: “First class… Excellent!!”

Well, I wanted to hear that, honestly. I wanted to see if the conscious changes that we bring about – all of them are within our own control and small and simple changes they are – could help us feel great about our inner well-being…

Yes, I could see that direct link between the conscious choices we made and our well-being.

As I was waiting there, for my turn to come, in my doctor’s clinic, I chanced upon a beautiful article (from a health magazine) the doctor had displayed for his waiting patients. The title was - ‘THE DIGITAL DETOX’…

Now, in life, some things make sense to us only when we are ready for them. Years ago, when I realized that, before going to bed, I was allowing myself to be bombarded by the shouting and yelling of Arnab Goswami, and when my wife realized that she was getting hooked on to Crime Petrol and CID gory stories… yes, that’s when we both said, ‘enough of this toxin’… And, ever since then – years now – our big, smart Sony TV has gone into a deep coma!

But, then, before we could realize it, one toxin got substituted by another… This digital onslaught of smart phones, laptops, tablets and computers… It was deadlier than TV. At least, TV did not follow us to our bedrooms, kitchens, balconies, and bathrooms… It did not follow us when we sat in auto-rickshaws, taxis, BEST buses and local trains… It did not follow us when we were inside our class-rooms or prayer-rooms... It did not make us anxious as we opened our eyes early in the morning and when we went to bed late at night… 

Yes, I am no Vishwamitra… So, like everyone else, I, too, got addicted to this ‘toxic digital substance’… What was supposed to ‘connect’ me to people around me ended up doing exactly the opposite… It disconnected me from people around me – particularly my loved ones – and it was turning me ‘shallow’ in my relationships and communication with my loved ones…

So, I have realized that the lifestyle changes can never be complete if I did not do something about this digital addiction… this addiction to constant checking and monitoring… the compulsion to comment, tweet, react and be ‘curious and inquisitive’ about what is going on in whose life… It is nothing but gossip and loose talk… Nothing but information overload… Nothing but encroachment in that silent, holy, private space needed for our true well-being…

The digital detox, therefore, is my current conscious choice… I have started doing it, in small measures, in some areas of my life with significant effect. For example, when I go for walk early in the morning, I leave my phone at home… It is still dark outside… the birds are waking up… their songs greet you… The tree leaves gently dance and the breeze lovingly plays on your shoulders… The sky so beautifully dresses up into a new attire… that crescent moon… those amazing little stars, from millions of miles away, smile at you... and you become strikingly aware of your own breath, your heart-beats… you feel the gentle touch of your feet on the ground… Yes, all this is possible because I havent’t brought along my smart phone when I have come for walk… I haven’t plugged my ears… I have opened them… I have opened my eyes and heart, too…

Another example… It takes me some fifteen minutes to reach my work-place from my home. Earlier, the moment I sat in the auto-rickshaw, my hands would mechanically reach to my phone and ‘check’… yes, ‘check’… The entire fifteen minutes commute would go in this useless clutter. Now, I just don’t let that to happen… I look out of the rickshaw… see and feel the real life out there… on the streets… and, I get in touch with throbbing of my own heart…

The same way, I am able to do my digital detox while on the dining table and before going to bed…

It is my life and, hence, it is my choice… If I don’t cut down on these toxins, the toxins will surely cut me down!

GERALD D’CUNHA
Pic.: Kenrick D'Cunha

Friday, October 28, 2016

"YOUR JOURNEY DOESN'T END WHERE YOU START FROM"





One of the most precious privileges showered upon me by God is the privilege of becoming a teacher. Nothing else beats this… nothing else can replace this.

Like millions of teachers all over the world know it, I, too, know that being there in a class room, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year – yes, being there in the class room and impacting the lives of our students is unique about our profession. Our students come from different back grounds… some are from great families and some are from the broken ones… some kids are loved at home and some are abused… some have discovered their talents and callings in life… some are clueless… some are compassionate and kind and some are outright violent and volatile…

And, there we are, as teachers… battling with our choices: to accept and reform our students or to condemn and give up on them… We are there before them in our class room, every day and round the year with the choices: to work for the money our profession gives or to work for the joy and pride the impact of our presence brings in our students' lives…

As a kid and as a student, my memories are not very pleasant ones… I suffered from a deep sense of worthlessness – a killing inferiority complex… I was bad in studies… I was clueless about what I wanted to do in my life… And, all this changed in my first year degree college when Prof. B.S. Raman came to our class to teach us… My life was to change after that… yes, mysteriously, without having to talk to him one-on-one… just by being there in the class room and absorbing his goodness and inspiration… I call it grace, the ‘touch’!

So, today, I know – after almost four decades (I started teaching right from my F.Y. B’Com days ) – that, without I knowing it, I impact many, many lives… and, when I say that, I am being honest, not arrogant.

This morning, I chanced upon a video wherein, Johana Hayes was honored by President Obama as 'The National Teacher of the Year – 2016’. I loved the story of Johana… who grew up in a community infested by all the ugly things… who became pregnant as a teenager and had to drop out of the school… but, her life changed because of her teacher who saw something special in Johana… and, this compassion and kindness, this belief in one’s student… was the spark that caused the fire in Johana’s soul and made her a teacher… Johana became a teacher with a difference… who saw kids with compassion… “Your journey needn’t end with where it started,” yes, this was one of Johana’s key thrusts in the class room.




After listening to Johana’s story, I felt a lot good about my own self… I felt good about my own teachers… I felt good about millions of teachers around me who, in their own special way, do what Johana has been doing…

May my breed only increase… And, I am not being selfish when I pray like this!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.:Azriel D'Souza
Video: YouTube


Thursday, October 27, 2016

"LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO STUFF A MUSHROOM"















“Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.” 


Some days ago, a dear friend of ours, who lived here in Mumbai, had been with his wife to our hometown, Mangalore, on a brief vacation. He was 62 and healthy all along. Besides, he was always adored by loads of friends. Though was not blessed with an offspring, the couple was content and done well for itself in life. Importantly, as they did not have their own children, the husband and wife, both, had helped out many of their relatives in education and  to become doctors and engineers in life…  I was, always, glad to note this side of their life story… that is: if God hasn’t given you your own children, treat someone else’s as your own… Yes, they did so… and so beautifully!

Two days ago, I learnt from my sister-in-law, who lives in Mangalore, that our dear friend had succumbed to a massive heart failure. “Last night, we all met in a birthday party here… He was so cheerful and playful… ate, joked, drank and danced,” narrated my sister-in-law, in a choked voice, “and, this morning he was no more!”

“Life is too short to stuff a mushroom,” this is how author, Shirly Conran, describes. Each one of us has been blessed by God with some privileges… I have a young son, who is sound in mind, body and his soul. We did not have to worry about that… Someone else has a son or daughter, who for life, needs support and care… Someone like this friend of ours, despite all the other privileges showered by God, was not lucky enough to have his own child… Similarly, about our financial means… I am okay in this respect, someone else is not… and, someone, out there, is either vulgarly wealthy or miserably downtrodden…

Life is too short, yes, even to stuff a mushroom!

Let’s read that again… How much time is needed to stuff a mushroom… and, imagine, you and I can go – yes, go even before we could complete that simple task of stuffing a tiny mushroom!

When my sister-in-law narrated to me, two days ago, in her choked voice how she had felt about the untimely death of our friend, I had turned speechless. The thought that dominated my mind was this: “How am I living my life?”

Well, Allen Saunder’s words, always, help me find an answer:
 “Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans.”

GERALD D’CUNHA
Pic.: Dr. Lohitaksha Suratkal

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

HE TOUCHED ME AND MADE ME WHOLE

















“He touched me, Oh, he touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul,
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole…”

I have no count of the number of times I have listened to and soaked in the song – call it ‘hymn’ if you wish – by Bill and Gloria Gaither. And, every time, I listen to it, yes, ‘something happens’ to me and tears simply flow down my cheeks. Frankly, to me, it is not a Christian hymn and it is not about Jesus and how He touched my life… To me, it’s about that Jesus in disguise… the one who comes as a simple, loving soul and touches me and makes me feel ‘I am no longer the same’…



Today, just after my morning walk at 6, I had this strong urge in me to listen to this song. That’s when my eyes fell on two messages of love and gratitude, both happened to be from two of my dear friends, and both happened to be on birthdays… but, from two different perspectives…

Dr. Deepak – to me only Deepak – had come in my life as a young boy who had just given his tenth-standard exams. It was twenty-five years ago… They were three brothers and they lived in a one-room house, with common toilet… with hand-to-mouth existence. As hundreds of young kids like Deepak and his two brothers did, and still do, he and his brothers went to the reading-room facility in the nearby area and, through that, Deepak became Dr. Deepak, his one brother became Fr. Rupak and another brother ended up with a Masters in Social Work (TISS)… All three brothers were laser-sharp when it came to what they wanted to do in life… I owe Deepak a life-time debt because, he who came to THE DAWN CLUB s a boy to pick a lesson or two ended up staying back to help me and the organization to impart tons of lessons to boys like he was once…

Today is Deepak’s birthday. Here is the message sent by him to me:

Dear sir, today I want to deeply, deeply thank you for being t a true source of inspiration through the phases of my life… Your love actions have left as profound impact on me. Tenderness, follow up and massive actions in very, very difficult times are what I have learnt from you…

Irrespective of how one feels, get up, dress up and show up… is what I have tried to emulate from you.

Thank you for being there…

Love
DEEPAK

Tandra, too, came in my life as my student some twenty-seven years ago. No, she did do involve with THE DAWN CLUB the way Deepak did. But, Tandra was there when when we, together, started it. Then, as life is… we lost touch for many years till FB brought us together. It was through this medium and our subsequent interactions that I learnt about her hubby Ashutosh and young talented daughter, Priyanka… Above all, I was delighted to watch the beautiful family bond… about which, yes, I haven’t been able to express before Tandra…


I had felt immensely happy for her. For, I know, it takes true hearts to build faithful and loving families… I had been silently admiring Tandra’s family for that… And, I sincerely pray they stay blessed for eons…

Here is the message I had sighted early this morning… Tandra, who generally shies away from expressing such messages in public, did it today for her dear hubby Ashutosh, who is away in Germany on his b’day:

I have known you for nearly 25 years now
and can say this with conviction:
You are a man who knows his priorities in life…
A man who makes a daughter respect men…
You are a man who knows how to nurture
the person that gave birth to you…
A man who knows how to hold
a family and its extension together…
A man who never lets life be taken for granted…
A man who makes me feel proud to be called his wife!

Happy birthday hubby dear.


So, who touched whom?
Jesus comes in life always in disguise… and makes us deeply, deeply feel and say:


“He touched me, Oh, he touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul,
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole…”

Happy b’day dear Deepak and Ashutosh… Stay ‘touched’!!!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Pawan Khatri
Video: YouTube

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MICCHAMI DUKKADAM






Forgiving others is one of the most self-empowering, liberating and spiritual exercises available for all of us, here on this planet. Mercifully, the act of forgiving someone is totally in our hands… It doesn’t call for anyone else’s permission… It doesn’t call for even the reciprocation from the one who we wish to forgive – the one who has hurt, abused or harmed us…

Yes, forgiveness is totally a private call we take to cleanse and heal our own hearts… It paves the way for peace.

In every religion, forgiveness and peace assume significant importance… For us, Christians, Christ Himself demonstrated it as he battled there in pain on the cross… Just before He breathed last, Jesus looked up and prayed: “My Father, please forgive them as they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus’ words have so much meaning: Our tormentor is not aware of what he is doing… He does it in his ignorance… So, he deserves not punishment but forgiveness… mercy…

A tough call for mortals like you and me… To accept the notion that the one who torments us and hangs us is ‘innocent and ignorant’ and deserves forgiveness and mercy… Yes, it is a tough idea to accept.

But, then, there we are… standing right under Jesus’ cross… Probably, that’s why, the Mass in a church is incomplete without that powerful gesture wherein all bow to each other and say, “Peace be with you”… Even the Priest sends us home with such a reassuring words, “The Mass is ended… Go in peace!”

Two statements of Jesus have always humbled me. When asked by his disciples if forgiving our enemies seven times was enough… Christ famously declared: ‘Sevetnytimes seven times”… Infinite! Then, there is this advice. “When you go to God’s altar with an offering, and there if you remember your brother against whom you hold a grudge, I say to you this… Go back to your brother, make peace with him and then come back and do your offering to God.”

Yes, these things have been infused into my blood right since I was a baby… and, yet, I confess, like most around me do: Forgiving my tormentor is not easy.

Last night, I was with a group of men and women chalking out a certain peace process. One of the gentlemen, a Sikh who is married to a Jain, said this: “Have you not heard of ‘Micchāmi Dukkaḍaṃ’, the spiritual practice in Jainism? It means: If I have offended you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness.”

The gentleman had pointed out this amazing Jain principle of forgiveness because, during our discussion on peace process, he had sensed the roadblock… that, most of us had our old baggage of past hurts and misgivings… that, unless we came to terms with all the blockages that held us captive, it was not possible for us to make a real progress towards peace… “Let the bygones be bygones,” the gentleman told us.


And, the gentleman was right!

Peace is the most precious state of grace… It comes only when we go down on our knees and pray, “Lord has mercy on me”… and, when we say with our folded hands, “Micchāmi Dukkaḍaṃ.”

Peace be with all…


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.:Azriel D'Souza

Monday, October 24, 2016

LET NOTHING COME IN LIFE UNEXPECTED




















“Expect everything so that nothing comes unexpected.”

- Norton Juster

Trying to drop my expectations is like a dog trying to catch his own tail…. Funny, frustrating. Even stupid.

We do keep expectations from people… very near and dear ones and not so near and dear ones… We keep expectations from our neighbors and authorities… We keep expatiations from strangers and even our enemies…

So, whenever I find myself saying, “Let me not keep any expatiations from this person,” what exactly I am saying is: “Look, I have some expatiations from this person… and they are not being met… I am frustrated, disappointed, sad, angry… bitter, negative.”

Yes, every time, I am disappointed, frustrated or angry with another person, the cause is my unmet expectations…

So, the obvious belief is that, if we drop our expatiations we can remain free from disappointments and frustrations in life.

Yesterday, I was at a meeting which was held in a local temple. Two gentlemen were talking about their young children… the way they (children) sounded selfish and ungrateful… blunt and remorseless… How this attitude made parents worried and disappointed, even angry and depressed.

“Don’t keep any expectations,” one of the gentlemen was quick to suggest.

“It is easier said than done,” the other gentleman was equally quick, too.

I reflected upon my own disappointments and frustrations, and I could trace the root cause in my own unmet expectations… I wasn’t free from expectations and, hence, I wasn’t free from disappointments, hurts, pain and frustrations in my life…

But, I could see an interesting thing: The moment I was able to ‘see’ my own expectations and how, when they weren’t me, I became sad or mad, and how, when met, I became glad… yes, the very ‘seeing’ – the very awareness – was enough to bring about peace in my soul…

Like that gentleman, who yesterday said, “It is easier said than done,” I, too, keep saying the same… That, my skin is thin… I get hurt and disappointed fast… But, then, that thin skin has also blessed me with a heart which is able to heal by itself… And, when my heart is able to self-heal, why should I worry too much about my expectations?

Let me, as Norton Juster reminds, expect everything… so that nothing comes in my life unexpected...

Peace lies in that!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Rashmi Sondhi