Friday, June 30, 2017

SOMETIMES, IT IS BETTER TO BEG FOR FORGIVENESS THAN ASK FOR PERMISSION




















There is a short Disney film – about 50-minutes in length - by the title‘Young Black Stallion’. I am sure many must have missed it. I first watched it when it was shown in IMAX big screen (Wadala). It was an endearing children film. But, I fell in love with it at first sight. Since then, I have shown this to our little ones in our P.D. sessions scores of times… And, watching these little kids jumping in their seats has made me not only happy but a kid, too!

The movie is about the friendship between a little girl, Neera and a young, wild black-stallion (who Neera names ‘Shetan’). Both Neera and Shetan are separated from their families… and lost in the desert. How they meet… become friends… How Neera learns to calm down wild Shetan, ride on him so bravely and gracefully… How Shetan helps Neera reunite with her family (grandfather and cousin brother) and how Neera helps Shetan to reunite with his own mother and the owner (her own grandfather)… yes, it is an enchanting fable from the Disney stable!

The high point in the film is the customary horse race of the region. Neera yearns to do away sadness from her grandfather’s life by bringing back to him his beloved horse. For that, she decides to take part in the race. She has the support of her little cousin brother. But, their grandfather has sternly warned Neera to stay away from the wild stallion as riding him could prove fatal to the little girl. So, Neera and her cousin brother keep their grandfather in the dark and embark upon a rigorous practice session in the wilderness… When the day of the competition comes, Neera, disguised as a boy, joins the racers… Just as the race begins, the grandfather comes to know about what Neera has just got into… but, it is too late by now… and, for the next 10-15 minutes, we all are brought to the edge of our seats… our hearts racing, too!

Neera wins the race… Takes the cloth off her face… her brother lifts her up jubilantly… but, when she comes near her grandfather… you can behold his anger!

 And, yes, it barely takes a few seconds for you to realize how happy and proud Neera has made her grandfather!






I remembered this story today, almost after 14 years since I first watched it, just to remind myself, that, sometimes, it is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission!

Sounds familiar?


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pics.: Internet

Thursday, June 29, 2017

ENMITY COMES FROM A DARK SPACE











“The beauty of enmity is insecurity;
 the beauty of friendship is in security.”

In life, our disagreements – even if they seem extremely strong – should not be the reason for our enmity. Enmity comes from a different space… a dark space. If I hold strong grudges against some people in my life for a prolonged period of time, it is clear that I have a serious problem about my self-esteem… that, I have not loved and cared for me enough, right since my childhood. And, it may sound strange… Not loved and cared for me enough? How is it possible? The fact that I am hating and conspiring against someone – doesn’t it indicate, that I have put myself first… I show enough love and care for myself?

Not at all. The reality is this: we cannot hold grudges against others for long and remain compassionate towards ourselves at the same time. The more we focus on harming and destroying others, the more we end up harming and destroying ourselves. Yes, it may not appear so from outside… but, that’s exactly how it works from inside. It eats our inner confidence… reveals us our sad and ugly image, which we will never ever like to share with anyone.  If we are not honest with ourselves – if we do not build our healthy self-esteem - this dark space will keep expanding within us more and more and more. Finally, we will become sadists in life… Losers… Someone like the Joker from the Batman movie, ‘The Dark Night’!

To understand our enemy, we should be strong inside. He may go on a destructive rampage – creating chaos, anarchy and obsession just as Joker in Batman movie does… He may seem making us powerless and fearful… But, to score a victory over insanity, we need to be sane… We need to operate from love and compassion. Only then will the Universe join hands with us to put an end to the darkness of madness!

In Life, only goodness triumphs in the end. Even to believe in this truth, we need to be strong!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

GOD DOESN'T NEED OUR PROTECTION







That, I should be born in a Catholic household and in a coastal village of Mangalore – Well, was it in my plan or in my hands? So, with that single co-incidence – or call it accident – came in me my religious faith, the deity I worshiped, the Holy Book I read, the rituals and customs I followed and, above all, the food I ate… fish, meat, pulses and leaves. I had no choice when, as a little infant, I was fed with fish or meat,  rice, dal or veggies… Beef was the cheapest of the meats and that was one reason why it was cooked in so many non-Hindu houses… Our immediate neighbors, on the right, were the most orthodox Brahmins… the elderly lady of that family loved all  her neighbors,. She would come to the fence and call us, the kids, on every special occasion to offer food, fruits or sweets… But, what delights me still is this: she would drop them on our palms from at least one foot above… She would not allow us to touch her… But, we kids – even my parents and grandparents – never took offence… That’s how the faith was, in those days… Brahmins felt they were ‘special’… and, the rest of us simply said, ‘So be it’!

But, we kids and her grandchildren had great fun in our house. Those kids were our friends, and they spent a lot of time blissfully playing inside our house oblivious of the fact that they were ‘special’… On the left side of our house lived a staunch Muslim family… They shared with us lovely delicacies on Eid and other occasions and we shared with them ours on Christmas and other festivals… They ate mutton, beef and fish… We, Catholics, ate all of that plus pork. The Brahmins on the right side touched nothing of them… On the rear side of our house lived some Hindu families – non-Brahmins – and, they loved to eat beef and pork cooked at our place (though not all in their families).

Why I am saying all this, now, is to convey this: We never discriminated or hated each other based what we ate. It was a coastal area and we were all raised in families that followed certain religious and cultural habits… That’s how it was and we let that be.

Here, in Mumbai, some of my best friends and dearest students are Jains – Bipin, Dhiren, Amit, Jeet … all of them don’t touch even onion and garlic, leave alone flesh of a fish or an animal. Do they find me, a meat and fish eater, as some ‘Rakshash’?

I am a teacher… I have spent close to forty years doing nothing but teaching. And, if at all there is one lesson each and every child ‘has to’ learn and follow in life – I think, it is the spirit of tolerance and forbearance… the ability to accommodate others’ views, habits and preferences along with our own. Otherwise, our education is worth nothing… We are ‘misfits’ to inhabit his planet created by the same Almighty God…

Udipi is a stone-throw away from Mangalore, my birth place. We all grew up on the legends of the centuries-old Krishna temple in Udipi. On the eve of this Eid, the elderly seer of this famed temple had invited the Muslim brotheren for an Iftar ceremony in the dining area of the temple… The food offered to break the fast must’ve been ‘satvik’, made of pure cow-ghee and it must’ve been offered with purest of the purest hearts and hands… The Muslim brotheren offered their Namaz too inside the temple (dining) area… When I first heard about it, I got goose bumps all over my body… “What a pure soul this elderly Swamiji is?” was my only reaction.

What I heard next was the angry protest from Sri Ram Sena! “How could cow slaughterers be allowed to do all this inside a Holy  Hindu temple?” Yes, they cornered the seer!

Some fifteen years ago, a 15-year-old boy, by the name Shrikant, had spoken in one of our P.D. sessions on the topic – ‘Should Ram Temple Be Built at Ayodhya?” Ever since then, our young-ones – irrespective of their faiths – have loved to present this speech during our sessions… I wish to present it here… with the hope, that it might help douse the flames of hostility… even if it means by only a drop of water…

Aham Brahmasmi,
Tattvamasi.

I am that universal soul,
And you are the immortal reality
of the cosmic Universe.

Respected teachers and my dear friends –
GOD, the almighty, is omnipresent.

He resides in you and in me.
He reside in the trees and the rivers.
He resides in the mountains and the valleys.
He resides in a saint and a criminal…
He resides in a Hindu and a Muslim.

Then, why – yes, why this desire, this obsession in us
to enclose Him within a temple or a mosque…
within  I church or a synagogue?

How can you house a God?
Do you have the strength? Do you have the guts? Do you have the means?

The fools and fanatics are always sure of themselves!
The Hindus think – they can hose God in a temple…
The Muslims think - they can house God in a Masjid.

FOOLS… FANATICS... FOOLS!

My dear friends, God doesn’t need our protection…
He doesn’t need our swords, our guns…
He is secure, very secure.
It is we – the buffoons, the cunning creations –
yes, it is we that need protection… We are insecure…
We run around with swords.

The question today is: Should Ram Mandir be built at Ayodhya?

Friends, my answer is:
Build… Build – if you CAN… If you CAN!

OM SHANTI,
OM SHANTI,
OM SHANTI.

Thank you.

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Avinash Mantri

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

LEARNING TO FADE GRACEFULLY IN LIFE







From a Nobody we strive hard and long to be a Somebody… and, we call that process ‘Success’. We crave for more recognition and more visibility… more wealth, fame and power… may be more respect and honour. And then we experience in our hearts that deep need to stay there for long, if not go further up. But, then, it is not going to be so… never. In Life, what goes up has to come down… On top, there is hardly any space… Someone is going to dislodge us… We are going to slide down, and fast…

For all of us, this is a scary thought, extremely painful one! All this time, we spent so much of our time and energy – invested so much of our emotions – on reaching the top, becoming rich and famous  and achieving more and more visibility. So, the thought of losing it all… going out of visibility… yes, it is one of our most nightmarish thoughts… How can we survive without being recognized, respected and glorified?

It is as tough as coming out of any other major addiction in Life!

The desire to be in limelight always comes from our deep insecurity… and most of us are not ready to accept or digest this truth. Fear of losing our ‘slot’… or ‘position’… drives us to do whatever it takes to stop us from fading away… But, that’s akin to swimming against the current. It’s a losing battle… It is bound to create more pain and conflict inside!

Just the way we learn to age gracefully, we should also learn to fade gracefully in Life. If it took a courageous heart for us to become a Somebody from a Nobody… it should now take even more courageous – and let me add ‘graceful and dignified’ – heart to become a Nobody from Somebody…

That’s how everything under God’ sky is … including ‘Success’… We are all the fading stars of this vast and endless galaxy!

Peace!

GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.:Shruti Agarwal

Monday, June 26, 2017

LIFE WOULD HAVE BEEN A LONG MOONLESS NIGHT











“And if you’re ever feeling lonely, just look at the moon…
Someone, somewhere is looking at it, too.”
- Anonymous

  
The Moon shall, always, remain a mystery to me! It’s just a lifeless rock. But, thanks the kindness of the Sun, it is able to glow so beautifully. And, thanks to the Moon, we, here on Earth, are able to live through our nights… We are able to dream, romance and hope… We are able to find a friend to talk to when we feel lonely…

The Moon is never the same to us all the days… Sometimes full, sometimes crescent and sometimes it is not there at all… But, deep in our hearts, we know, that the Moon is there somewhere up there, hiding behind the darkness… and, it is going to show up, little by little, until it is gloriously full.

Just as the Moon, who gets life from the Sun, we all get Life from our own ‘Source’ – God. What are we without the mercy of God? Can we shine on our own? Can we remain happy all the days, or, like the Moon does, do we have to go behind the darkness on some days… only to wait for our time to show up little by little?

The Moon causes the tides in the oceans… A gentle reminder to us, that there is a time to bulge and there is a time to shrink… a time to roar and a time to be silent… Nothing is permanent… Nothing stays written on the sands!

And, the Moon, up there, is so lonely itself even though almost all of us call it our friend… Moon has its own self-doubts and insecurities… It wants to talk to someone in times of its own loneliness… And, who else it can turn to other than the little stars floating around it?

Yes, the Moon shall, always, remain a mystery to me… It will never cease to fascinate me!

“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to,” Carl Sandburg had said. What if this friend wasn’t there for us, up  there? Life would have been a long moonless night!

We have sighted the Moon… It is Eid!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Nishtha Narryani

Sunday, June 25, 2017

WHERE OUR GIVING COMES FROM






















“There are those who give with joy and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain and that pain is their baptism.”

-       Kahlil Gibran ( in ‘The Prophet’)

Two days ago, I wanted to gift the copies of our 2 new books to my friend and neighbour, Tabassum. As their house was locked, I left the copies at my place and asked my wife to hand over the same to Tabassum. Meanwhile, I had called Tabassum to inform about it, which she missed. Late last night, she reverted to check why I had called. When she learnt about the reason, she exclaimed, “How sweet of you sir, I will collect the books from Anima (my wife) when I come to your place tomorrow with Sheer Khurma.”

Tabassum’s family, being from the Bohra community, celebrates Eid festival a day in advance. So, today is their Eid… the day we get to relish the traditional delicacy, Sheer Khurma!

I was to leave home early today. So, when I told my wife about my late night conversation with Tabassum, her instinctive response was, “What shall I give in return?”

“Our two books,” I said without even blinking…

“That’s to read,” my wife said, “What to eat?”

Then, we both smiled…

Does Tabassum really expect something in return when she comes to offer Sheer Khurma? Why is that we are so conditioned to think that something ‘has to be’ given back in the plate or bowl? Do I expect anything in return when I go to offer my books to someone? Do they put something back in my hands? Does the gift of books any different from the gift of Sheer Khurma?

It all depends on where our ‘giving’ comes from…

Honestly!

Giving can be an ugly and meaningless act if it doesn’t come from a clean and holy space in our hearts… That’s why true giving – no matter what it is – is so filled with joy. Our compulsions and expectations can pollute this joy…

Eid Mubarak to all…



GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: KFoods. Com (Internet)

Video: YouTube

Saturday, June 24, 2017

HEY, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL






What is happening outside happens for all of us… Yes, so many things happen outside there – good ones and bad ones, happy ones and sad ones… some gruesome, some glorious… some tear our hearts some make us soar high with hope and peace… Outside is volatile place… all people are not trustworthy, and, at the same time, all people are not mean either… Everybody is selfish, thankless and greedy? No, never, ever. All events are tragic and hopeless? No, never, ever. There is nothing to cheer about, smile about, laugh about hope about, rejoice over… deeply thankful for… celebrate over?

At least, we do not live here in Nazi Concentration Camps, you see. When I watched the 1997 movie, ‘Life is Beautiful’, which is a story about a Jewish family – a young husband and wife along with their little son – caught in Hitler’s Concentration Camp, it had a profound effect on me. Those were extreme situations in life… And, ours? Now?

Right when we wake up in the morning, our cell-phone screens tell us how people around us view Life… Fortunately, many of them choose to share something very, very light, funny, innocent and enchanting… They choose to share humour, they choose to share innocence, they choose to say, “Hey, Life is short and don’t end it up complaining, feeling victimized or holding grudges…Just lighten up  a bit, just smile, laugh and celebrate… Who knows, you may not get this moment again!”

This morning, as I was leaving for my work, I heard a middle-aged man telling me this, “We do not know if we will return home in the evening!”

Did I react, “Don’t say that”?

No, I did not. He was referring to our big egos, arrogance and sense of importance. “Who is going to take anything from this world?” he was saying, “Why so much of self-importance?”

It is this awareness, that life is short and we are not going to be here for long, nor we will be able to take our ‘stuff’ along when we go… yes, this simple awareness that makes us hail, “Hey, Life is beautiful”!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Malabika Ganguly

Friday, June 23, 2017

"LIFE BEGINS AT THE EDGE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE"











“The best things in life are often waiting for you
at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.”
- -Karen Salmansohn 

Some days ago, while teaching my twelfth-standard students, I said, “The best way you can find your self-motivation to study well and score well is by discovering what you want to do in life… In your case, what to do after twelfth.” I continued, “When your vision is clear, you will find the path… No one needs to show you that and no one needs to keep coaxing you to work hard and work long.”

My frustration with my students has always come from this: Most of them are not clear about their vision and goals…

In such situation, how can outsiders like me – teachers and coaches – motivate them to succeed?

So, the other day, when I asked my students, one by one, if they knew what they wanted to do after twelfth, Vijalaxmi said confidently, “Sir, I want to do Law.”

“Very nice beta,” I sincerely complimented. I continued, “Normally, such a desire comes in us by admiring someone in our family or neighbourhood… Has anyone inspired you?”

“Yes sir, my uncle,” Vijayalaxmi said, “He is a High Court advocate.”

“Can you tell me a few things absolutely essential to become a good advocate?” I prodded the young girl.

Vijayalaxmi hadn’t applied her mind to that question at all!

“I suggest, sometimes, you attend your uncles’ office or accompany him to the High court,” I advised Vijayalaxmi, “Watch him working in his office and performing in the court. You also watch how the best advocates argue and how judges go about their work. Moreover, you observe how young, smart girls go about their profession under their seniors.”

Vijayalaxmi was attentively listening to what I was saying.

Then, I came to an important point. Some months ago, her mother had enrolled Vijayalaxmi for our summer P.D Programme. Even though the full fees was paid, Vijayalaxmi did not attend more than two sessions. She dreaded speaking in public and hence avoided stage like plague… Her mother and I tried our level best to persuade Vijayalaxmi… but, she was not at all ready to face her fear. Finally, we decided to let go… “Her time will come, ma’am,” I consoled Vijayalaxmi’s mother, “When she finds her vision, she will find her path, too.”

This time around, when I helped Vijayalaxmi see the direct link between her ambition and her ability to speak well in public, she was ready… There was less – almost zero – resistance… How could she become a good advocate without the ability to speak well in public? How could she become what she wanted to without the ability to write (draft) well? Yes, subject knowledge and aptitude were essential, but, not without the ability to speak well and write well…

I was watching this young speaker, Yubing Zhang, on TED Talks, last night. The theme of her talk was:  ‘Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone’. She shares with her audience her own stories – how she learnt to overcome her fears by stepping out of her own comfort zones… from bungee jumping from the tallest tower in the world to saying ‘I love you’ to her own parents… “It is not as scary as it looks,” she keeps reminding…






For Vijayalaxmi, my student, the ‘edge’ may be that little push to go up on stage to speak… For you and me, it may be something else… But, yes, not until we step out of our own comfort zones… not until we face our own fears… that Life really begins!


GERALD  D’CUNHA

Pic.: Tandra Chakraborty
Video: YouTube

Thursday, June 22, 2017

ARE WE SHRINKING IN OUR THIRTIES AND FORTIES







A friend of mine gave me a lift just a while ago. I was meeting him after a long time. So, I asked him, “Is everything fine? I am seeing you after a very long time.”

The gentleman, who is in his mid-thirties, is well-placed in a multinational company. His work involves extensive travel and use of technology.

“Parents’ health issues and my work pressure,” the gentleman explained, “It has been tough to cope with.”

I had seen his father and mother both shrinking gradually. Barely a few months ago, when I saw his dad, I felt very sorry… each step looked like a massive milestone! After that, I had not been seeing the gentleman’s parents… “They are not able to move out,” the gentleman told me, today.

Our conversation took a turn from there. “That generation did not have the kind of life style we are having,” the gentleman told me, “We all will start shrinking right in our thirties and forties!”

I nodded my head!

None of us – I said ‘none’…. Neither a kid nor a youngster, neither a parent nor a grandparent, neither a teacher, preacher, businessman, doctor, judge, CEO or a peon – yes, none of us is spared from this lifestyle which is predominantly driven by technology. We blamed Films, TV and computers once… now, it is all there right in our hands, on our mobile screens, and it is all there 24/7 all through the year. Right since we open our eyes till we shut our eyes late in the night – and for some, there is no such thing called a ‘day’ and a ‘night’ -  yes, it’s crazy out there…. Most of us don’t move our butts… don’t lift our eyes… and, do not know if ours lungs breathe or our hearts beat!

“What about us in a few years from now?” the gentleman asked me when I was in his car…

Do I check my mobile screen as soon as I wake up at 5?

I do.

Do I check my mobile screen as I retire late night?

I do.

And, do I check my mobile screen, continuously, all through my day?

I do.

So?

Just felt like confessing.

GERALD D’CUNHA
Pic.: Internet

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

DID YOU EVER KNOW THAT YOU'RE MY HERO














“Did you ever know that you're my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.”

- from the song ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ by  BETTE MIDLER

I was talking to my mom over the telephone, this morning. She lives in my home town, Mangalore. “Son, Esthel teacher (Stella Concessao) expired,” she told me, “We will be attending her funeral, today evening.”

Stella teacher, who passed away in her eighties, had taught little Primary-school children for forty years. I was fortunate to be in the same local school (St. Peter’s) where she had taught. Not only have her students done well for themselves, her own children, too. She was living with her prosperous son. My mom told me, that ma’am’s children had announced on the local dailies about her sad demise, wherein they had proudly mentioned the fact, that she had been a teacher for over forty years!

I could not attend the funeral. But, I fondly remembered our teacher!


Pic. courtesy: Concessao family


Our initial days teachers have played a significant role in shaping and moulding us. Often, we don’t remember our later year teachers – high school and college teachers – but, we do remember the ones who came in our lives early…

Two days ago, my dear friend, Uday Acharya, who himself is a popular teacher, mentor and guide, was telling me about his recent visit to South. He wanted his wife to meet some people who had made difference in his life. One of them was his Sunday-school (Bal Vihar of Chinmaya Mission) teacher at Coimbatore. This affectionate soul had taught my friend when he was a little fifth-standard boy. “She had shaped me and inspired me when I was of tender age,” Uday said, “She is 95 now and cannot remember or recognize us… But, meeting her was important to me and my wife.”

I felt extremely touched when Uday described his visit to his Sunday-school teacher. “We are where we are only because of some important teachers in our lives,” I was thinking aloud, "Our early-years’ teachers are truly special. They are our true heroes!"

Is the scene different today? Are today’s students different? Often, in my own frustration, I do say that they are different. But, then, I hope I am wrong… I do come across the moments of frustration and feel like a ‘use-and-throw’ stuff… with almost zero loyalty or respect. I am a liar if I say I don’t go through this experience. But, those moments are like some dark clouds swiftly passing across the otherwise bright blue sky…

Just as I remember Stella teacher - we fondly remember her as Esthel teacher - and just as my friend Uday remembers his own Sunday-school teacher after many, many decades… Yes, I am sure, all students will continue to remember their dearest teachers for generations to come.





GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet
Video: YouTube