Saturday, December 16, 2017

RAINBOW IN THE CLOUDS... AND GOD'S PROMISE















“There are only two ways to live your life:
One is as though nothing is a miracle…
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein



Yesterday, I was invited to be the Guest of Honour at a function in a well-known school. The school had organized an amazing exhibition of the work done by tender children from Nursery to Standard Four… The theme was:  ‘A BETTER ME’.

Well, an idea – or an ideal – like ‘A Better Me’ has to come from the head of the school. In this case, yes, it had come from the school’s dynamic Principal… “I believe, that what matters in a child’s education is not ‘aptitude’ alone but ‘attitude’, too,” the Principal stressed in her speech. The school teachers and parents had worked very hard along with little children and created scores of creatively meaningful exhibits. Every piece of work was to sensitize the little ones towards the goal of developing a better attitude in life and, thereby, becoming a better human being along with becoming good in academics…

I admired the initiative of the Principal and the efforts of parents and little children. Every exhibit was presented to us, the visitors, by a vibrant group of little souls… Obviously, they were trained, thoroughly, to communicate the essence to the visitors, which they did with brilliance! Hearing from these little kids ‘how not to behave’ in life – be it in the area of cleanliness or be it in the area of our religious, cultural, gender and political differences… be it about developing a scientific mind or be it about developing fine inter-personal skills – yes, hearing about these ‘life lessons in becoming better human beings’ from those little mouths was delightfully fascinating…

Need I say ‘humbling’?

In one of the exhibits, the little ones had beautifully demonstrated to us the futility of our religious discord and arrogance. There were many large-sized skeletons lined up… They were carved out of cardboard…  Obviously, all looked identical… exactly how skeletons of dead humans should look like. “Sir, can you tell us, which of these skeletons belongs to a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a Jain and other religion?”… I was completely bowled by the question from the little one who asked me this, looking straight into my eyes!

Bang on!!! I threw my both hands up, saying, “No beta, I can’t"!

In another counter, the little ones had demonstrated ‘Noah’s Ark’. One by one, the animated little kids kept gliding me through this story from the Old Testament, which, I had first come across when I was their age!

The little Noahs charmed me with the conclusion:

“After the flood waters went down and Noah's family and all the animals could leave the ark, God made a promise to Noah. He promised Noah, that he would never again destroy the whole earth with a flood. Then, he did something to remind Noah of that promise… He placed a rainbow in the sky and he said to Noah, ‘I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the promise between me and all life on the earth.’ God said that every time he saw the rainbow, he would remember the promise that he made.”

Their class teacher, a South Indian Hindu, looked at me with apprehension… “Sir, was it right?” Perhaps, she thought a Christian like me would be an ‘authority’ on the subject!

“Bang on,” I calmed down the teacher, “Ma’am, that’s how it is!”

By the way, what did I really mean by ‘That’s how it is’?

In my last blog – ‘I Know You Hear My Cry’, I had shared a moving concern of my friend, Neena* (who lived in America) about the plight of her 18-year-old son, Prayash. It had touched many of my readers, and they had responded through very positive messages of hope… “This too shall pass’, wrote one… “Praying for Prayash,” wrote some… Many had sailed through the same sea, and they urged Neena, that she should not lose hope. Ankit, who, lived in America and himself a father of a young one, had been through similar situation. He wrote to me:

“Hi Gerry Sir, I came to know, through your blog, about your friend Neena’s son who is in America. I have a son who is 17-year old; so, I can understand their plight. I want to send them something before it’s too late. Please send me their email or contact. And I believe, that miracles do happen… We just have to be open to allow that to happen!

Some things are beyond the Science… Sometimes, it has baffled me beyond belief. We don’t know from which side miracles can happen and help comes. Often, it comes from a side which we had never expected or believed in!”

I was overwhelmed by the response. I connected Ankit with Neena, remembering the Rainbow and the promise behind it…

“There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle… The other is as though everything is a miracle.” 

It took an Albert Einstein to remind us about this truth… just as it took little Novas to remind us of God’s promise behind the rainbow in the clouds!

*Names changed


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet

Friday, December 15, 2017

I KNOW YOU HEAR MY CRY










Testing times are called so, for they ‘test’ us. Why else would one call them ‘testing times’?

To me, Jesus Christ was more a human than God. Yes, my Christian faith makes me believe that He was ‘Son of God’. But, then, what about you and me? Whose sons and daughters are we?

So, every time I seek inspiration from Jesus Christ, my Hero, I seek it seeing Him as a real human just like you and me. Yes, He touched and healed others… walked on water… gave sight to the blind… cleansed lepers and the sinners… even brought dead men to life. But, when it came to His own life, He dreaded, lost all His courage… was left torn and tormented just as how you and I would in testing times… That’s why, from the Cross, right from the pit of His acute agony, He cried out loudly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Come to think about it!!!

Two of my most favorite hymns/songs are about surrendering to God’s will in our times of trial, and they both talk about ‘surrendering to Jesus’! Every time I find myself helpless and, what seems like, at the end of my road, I recall the painful cry of Jesus from the Cross… Feel Him totally… and, as I do that, I find the courage to live… yes, even in death!

To me, there is only one God… the God we all worship in different names. So, when we all cry out like Jesus did – ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ – we all are seeking help and grace from the same Merciful Creator… Aren’t we?


Neena*, a dear friend of mine, who lives in America with her family, has been a regular follower of my blog posts. She and her husband had to go through – and they are still going through – their testing time. It revolves around their young son, Prayash, who has been going through an extremely low phase in his life. Obviously, the parents were anxious and worried and did every possible thing they could to help the young man recover. Many times, they saw light at the end of the tunnel… but, when they reached there, they would only feel disappointed and heart-broken. I could empathize with their situation and had encouraged Neena, in my own way, not to lose hope. For last two months or so, I did not hear from Neena. And, early this morning, I sighted this message from her…

Hi Gerry, a lot of chaotic happenings in the last few weeks, since I sent you the last update.

Prayash (Neena’s son) is not doing well at all. We were worried about him before… Now, we are terrified about losing him. Last weekend was his 18th b’day… He talked about ending his life. We had to call the crisis hotline and get a mental-health police-officer to come home and calm Prayash and assess his mental state-of-mind…

Our child is not able to be happy, perhaps… He has no self-love or self-respect! He is hurting himself a lot and we are hurting ourselves with him, for him. We spent his b’day with a very heavy heart.

Della (their dog), too, is feeling the grief in our family now. She is withdrawn and not energetic as she usually is. Milind (Neena’s husband) and I are starting to explore aggressively what our next step should be. We have some ideas which we are exploring; but, it might take a few weeks for us to feel certain and have more clarity that is right for Prayash and for us…

I will share more once I know more. In the meantime, please keep praying… Gerry, can you please pray for Prayash? We are desperately praying for him to heal.


Which Deity did Neena, a devout Hindu, want me to pray to? That’s the beauty, strength and power of a sincere cry – I call it the cry from my Cross. I could only think of two hymns/songs that I always took shelter in during my own testing times...  and I immediately shared them with Neena, adding this note:

“Dear Neena, keep in your heart the Deity you are closest to as you soak in these hymns/songs...












That’s the best prayer I could pray for my friend’s family.


*All names changed


GERALD D’CUNA


Pic.: Anil Bedi

Videos: YouTube

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WATCHING MY FEARS FADE AS FAITH BREAKS THROUGH





















“Faithless is he that says farewell
when the road darkens.” 

I am always aware of the first thought that dominates my mind as I wake up in the morning. It’s more than a year now since I started getting out of the bed at 5 in the morning… Yes, those early hours - when I am not disturbed by people around… when I am able to feel the softness and mortality of my skin… the quiet, gentle movement of my breath… the chirping of birds, the darkness which is all set to dissolve in a while… Yes, those early hours are blissful. I am able to feel ‘alive’ only in my solitude…

But, the first thought that dominates me?

I am a human… and, I have my fears and anxieties. So, often, the thoughts that dominate my mind early in the morning are not pleasant ones… “What if this happens?” and “What if that happens?”… Yes, I do get these thoughts early in the morning as I open my eyes…

Can’t I stop them from coming?

I have tried and failed!

At times, the negative thoughts involve people who hurt me, torture me and I do feel angry about them… I feel like getting even with them… Treat them back with their own medicine…

But, all these thoughts come and go as I watch them, standing aside… When light comes, the ghosts go!

I am an ever-evolving soul… and, I will have to deal with all my thoughts as and when they come – the happy ones and the sad ones, the jubilant ones and the crest-fallen ones. I do ask God to help me live 'with out' these thoughts… But, then, despite my prayer, when these thoughts come, I simply accept His will, saying, ‘Thy will be done’!

Yes, Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s advice to his illustrious son echoes in my heart:
“Man ka ho toh achha… Na ho toh aur achha.”

If what I receive is what I desire, it is good… If not, it is even better…

Who am I to challenge or change the Divine Will?

Certainly, my Life has more to celebrate than to crib about… I am more fortunate than unfortunate… I still have my hands and legs, eyes and ears… I still have love, courage and compassion in my heart… I am still able to breathe, feel, dream and thank…

So, it’s not what comes to my mind first as I open my eyes… It’s what I do with my eyes open that determines whether or not I am a good human…

Some things, therefore, are beyond my control. I only ask God to grant me the serenity to accept them…  In that silence alone, I am able to truly conclude, that, ‘All things happen for a reason… and, they happen for my good.”

I have been down with a bad cold and cough for a few days now… It’s very cold outside… It’s difficult to go for my morning walks in this condition. So, here I am – walking through the twilight lanes… watching my fears dissolve as faith breaks through!

The darkness is fast fading!



GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Suyog Surte


Monday, December 11, 2017

LEARNING THE LESSONS FROM OUTSIDE OUR SYLLABUS








“Live as if you were to die tomorrow,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Kanchan, an efficient professional and mother. I have known her for almost twenty-five years but I haven’t taught her. Today, she had mentioned me on a FB Post dedicated to one’s teachers. The caption of the Post was very interesting:
“That teacher who teacher us something more valuable than our syllabus...”

It was followed by an image from the film, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ - Aamir Khan (as Nikumbh, the teacher) with Darsheel Safary (as Ishaan Awasthi, the student)…

Below that, it was concluded –
‘Deserves a massive respect’!

Now, these are very fulfilling moments in life, to say the least. I did not think twice before I replied to Kanchan:

“Hi Kanchan, that is so kind of you... I am humbled! Your kind words prove, that our true learning is neither limited to our 'syllabus' nor to the boundaries of our school. ‘Nobody can teach you,’ OSHO used to say, ‘But, you can learn from anybody’!" Thanks again for your kind words. Love and regards.”

Learning is never confined to the boundaries of our schools… and, it is certainly not confined to our text-book syllabus. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow… and learn as if you were to live forever.”
 LEAR
Learning is for life… It’s a life-long affair!

Similarly, when OSHO said, “Nobody can teach you, yet you can learn from anybody,” what he meant was the obvious truth, that our teachers will keep appearing in our lives as long as we remain teachable… open, humble and receptive…

The day we think we ‘know it all’, yes, that is the last day of our school!

I had been to my younger-bother Vivek’s place yesterday. His son, Ritesh, who is in twelfth-standard (Science), wants to joint Merchant Navy. My brother and his wife wanted me to pep Ritesh when I was with them, yesterday…

Ristesh was open to learn… It was easy for me to impart to him what I believed in about ‘success’… I spent the next one hour talking about Success and achievements… I particularly stressed on the need to develop success consciousness. “Are you able to see your dream in your mind?” I asked Ritesh, “If you are able to see it, it becomes is to achieve. When your mind is constantly conscious of what you want to achieve, it invariably takes you there… You meet right kind of people, read right kind of books, and most importantly, you will learn to say ‘No’ to things which are your blocks and hindrances on your way to success…”

And, this morning, while teaching my student, Kavish, I was very clear to him… “To be part of your ‘success story’, is my greatest joy… Not your ‘failure story’. So, stop giving excuses… They don’t help. In fact, they destroy you!”

True. Everything, that we need to succeed in life, is not given in our text-book syllabus… A significant portion of our syllabus lies outside our text books… And, true: every teacher, who teaches us those ‘valuable lessons’ from outside our text-book syllabus,  appears when the student in us is ‘ready’… humble and hungry. 

Long ago, Socrates had said: “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” 

That teacher, who kindles the eternal flame in us, is the one who teaches us something more valuable than our syllabus… Such a teacher, as my friend Kanchan thought, today, deserves a massive respect.


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Kanchangauri  Aryamane





Friday, December 8, 2017

THAT SHAMBHU LAL... AND THESE CANDLES IN THE WIND








Meghal, my niece, who is in first-year degree-college in Mangalore, called me this morning. “Uncle, I need a small favor from you,” she said, “Can you give me some catchy relevant message for a placard… We have a college event coming up.”

My niece, like young kids around her, knows what is ‘relevant’ to our times and what is not relevant. They all are capable of forming their own opinions. So, I said, “Dear, do you have any ideas floating across your mind?”

“Yes uncle… like ‘Save the Tiger’ ‘Save the Enviornment’, “Women Empowerment’ etc,” she said.

“What about some issues which are ‘immediate’?” I asked.

My niece started thinking!

“Alright dear,” I comforted my young niece, “Don’t get stressed out… You will get it by evening today.”

What is the immediate social-cause demanding our attention, today? Tiger, stray dogs, oppression against women, senior citizens, child abuse and environment… yes, all these do demand our immediate attention. But, the one issue that has been ‘disturbing’ me for quite some time – and particularly since yesterday – is the mindset of hatred against other religious communities ‘some of us’ don.

Did I say ‘some of us’?

Shambhu Lal’s video in which he chops, burns a Muslim man and rants against ‘Love Jihad’ – whatever that is – is an act of insanity. It is shocking and numbing! It is difficult to believe a human being can carry out such a cold-blooded act in the name of religion and God. If religion or God sanctify such an act, then, only the Demon has to save us!





But, let me tell you this: What Shambhu Lal has done in such a gory manner, many around us do – from dawn to dusk – against each other’s religions… Hatred and poison spill from their words… Some of these men and women are highly educated and well-placed in life. But, I wonder: Why rant in public? Why show your hatred so insensitively?

In every walk of life – religious faith included – there always have been ‘fringe elements’… call them ‘extremists’ of ‘terrorists’. But, have not all these fringe elements started off with the same mindset – that of intense hatred and venom?

So, in a way, Shambhu Lal’s insanity doesn’t shock me at all. I do not think, he has been educated, brought up and placed in life the way many of us have been. It’s, therefore, can be classified as an act of ‘ignorant, misguided and radicalized’ young man…

God forgive him for he did not know what he was doing!

For saying this, I know, I will be crucified!

My wife and sixteen other ladies from our housing society have left for a three-day tour to Ganpatiphule. She is the only non-Hindu lady in the group. The itinerary includes visits to many temples… “Pray for me darling,” I tickled her, early this morning, as she left home for ‘the ladies- days-out’!

Her younger brother, Melvin, married, some fifteen years ago, his sweetheart, Amrita, a Brahmin, hailing from one of the most-educated, well-informed and cultured Maharashtrian families I have known. They are blissfully settled in the US for all these years, with amazing two young-kids.

My own youngest-brother, Vivek, married his heartthrob, Hemangi, who hailed from a Maharashtrian business-family, two decades ago. They have two wonderful kids…

And beauty is this: Nobody reminded - leave alone 'warned' - them or any of our family members about ‘Love Jihad’… Nobody from Hindu community was worried, that their women would be ‘converted’… Now, their kids are grown up… and, they know what is right and what is wrong. Soon, a time will come for them to pick their life-partners, just the way their parents did…

And, the beauty is: Nobody is worried!

We have only one son. Let him marry whoever he loves, respects and honors. Let not his parents or relatives – leave alone the Society – come in between their decision to do so!

“I did not know I was a Jew till Hitler made me think so!” These were the painful words of a Holocaust survivor…

How relevant they are today!

From dawn to dusk, we are reminded about our religious, national, cultural, gender, social-class-and-caste-related ‘identities’... We are incessantly reminded to be ‘proud’ about them…

Perhaps, the only reminder we need is: ‘Be human… Be loving… Be good’!

Is there any other religion or ‘identity’ other than this?  Is there any other worship? Any other God?

This planet, we live upon, is a tiny speck of dust in God’s colossal scheme of things. We think too much of ourselves… too much. The worst, the Shambhu Lal in us thinks, that we are ‘God’s chosen ones’… who have been sent on this planet – this speck of dust – to ‘save our God’!

So, Meghal, my dearest niece, how about this Placard:

‘GOD, HAVE MERCY ON US… THESE CANDLES IN THE WIND’?


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Anil Bedi
Video: India Today/YouTube

Thursday, December 7, 2017

HOW MUCH YOU KNOW VERSUS HOW MUCH YOU CARE





















“No one cares how much you know,
until they know how much you care.”
 -Theodore Roosevelt

I had scheduled a P.D session for a small group of young ones today at 8. At around 9, last night, I got a message to attend some urgent work this morning. So, I called each of the young ones to inform them that I would not be taking their P.D. session this morning. The conversation on phone with one of my boys went like this…

He:  (Casually) “Hello.”

Me: “Hello Karan* beta, this is Gerry sir.”

He: (Deadpan voice) “Yes?”

Me: “Beta, this is Gerry sir.”

He: (Same deadpan voice) “Yes?”

I don’t know why, but, I lost my cool. “Beta, did you see my name on your mobile screen?” I asked my student, annoyed and a bit hurt, too.

“Yes,” the boy replied.

“Then, why that bland ‘Yes’?” I said, “Why couldn’t you show some basic courtesy through your voice, a simple greeting like ‘Hello sir’ or ‘Good evening sir’… Why that indifference and callousness?”

“Sorry,” the young boy said sheepishly.

“Beta, what class do we have tomorrow?” I asked him.

“P.D.” he replied.

“What?”

“Personality Development, sir”

Finally, I could get what I desired from my student… ‘Sir’!

Well, let me tell you this: I was not desperate for an ego massage. But, I wanted my young boy to learn quickly the importance of showing simple courtesy. I knew, that such courtesy did not come with academic excellence… or one’s social status.  Instead, it came from one’s commonsense and social awareness. Above all, it came from one’s love for life, people and his profession. Yes, it was a matter of one’s attitude…

During daytime, yesterday, I had one more case study. This boy’s problem lay with his father, who, too, was a teacher like me (A Mathematics teacher). The boy has been very regular and sincere. He has been grasping the concepts well and I have been very happy with this boy. But, his father is very demanding… He wants his son to get ‘top’ marks… which, I have been telling the father to go slow on. “Sir, he has a good hold of the concepts and he is sincere and hardworking… Let’s acknowledge that… Marks will certainly come, let’s have faith in him.” I have told this to the father several times… But, he is what they call - a ‘difficult customer’…

In many occasions, I have reminded this parent to encourage his son on developing his social and communication skills. (He really needs them). Sadly, the father’s response has been this: “Let him focus on his marks, now.”

Another teacher-friend of mine, who has spent more than three decades teaching Physics and Mathematics in degree colleges, sent me an amazing TED-Talks video… That’s the last thing I took to bed, last night…






I love all my students… and I want them to face life as brave, intelligent and sensitive men and women. All fine things are not learnt inside the classrooms… Neither did I do it, nor do I expect my young students to do it…

Love life… Love people…  Love the work you do! That’s all it takes, you see.

* Name changed
  

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Chsetna Shetty

Video: TED Talks/YouTube


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

AA GALE LAG JAA... COME IN MY EMBRACE

























I was 14 when I watched the Hindi movie, ‘Aa Gale Lag Jaa’. That was the first time I got charmed by Shashi Kapoor. Ever since then, to me, he has been like a breath of fresh air. I have loved him in his every film… Particularly for his playfulness and boyish charm…

Certainly, 79 is not a very advanced age to go. But, then, like so many of his fans, I, too, couldn’t bring myself to bear the thought of his illness and suffering. When I first saw his images on wheelchair - pale, withdrawn and burdened with overweight - I lived in denial. I wanted to see him as fresh and boyish as I first saw him in ‘Aa Gale Lag Jaa’. But, soon, I came to terms with the reality… That, Shashi Kapoor I raved about was not only a screen idol, he was also a normal human being just  as we all were… That, he loved his wife, Jennifer Kendal, so much, that when she died, he lost the anchor of his life…The zest for life had begun to fade away… The self-neglect had allowed the illness to romp home…

So, today, even though we feel sad to see Shashi Kapoor gone, we need to console ourselves saying, he is no more in pain and suffering… He is joined by Jennifer… It’s peaceful out there!






Shripad, my ex-student, who lives in Chennai, was sad, too. He messaged me, this morning, “Sir, our dear Shashi Kapoor is no more!”

We were witnessing a deluge of video clips from Shashi Kapoor’s movies since the moment the news of his death had come out. Obviously, the most shared one was from ‘Deewar’ – ‘Mere Paas Maa Hai’. That’s been a goose-bump scene for me too all these years… and it shall continue to be so for a very long time…







So, I tried to console my Shripad… of course, on a lighter note: “Don’t worry Shripad... Our dear Shashi Kapoor is safe… Unke paas maa hai!”

Maybe, I should have written, “Unke paas Jennifer hai!”


“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”  Did W.R. Wallace, while saying this, have in his mind only mothers or wives, too?

“Aa gale lag jaa”… Come in my embrace!


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: RepublicTV

Videos: YouTube