Thursday, August 31, 2017


“The future belongs to those
who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt 

Bhavin has just become a Commerce graduate and is busy preparing for his CAT exam. (The entrance test for IIMs). A while ago, he called up. “Sir, I am a fresh Commerce graduate and I am preparing for CAT,” he said, “But, I have a terrible stage-fear. The thought of standing before an audience cripples me with anxiety and whenever I attempt to speak, I go blank!”

As this was my own problem when I was Bhavin’s age, and, as I knew what it did to my own self-confidence, and, above all, as I knew how I went about overcoming my problem, I spent the next ten minutes trying to calm down a bit of Bhavin’s anxiety about stage fear. I encouraged him to join our upcoming 10-sessions programme, which he was very keen to do. I also asked him to pick some of our motivational books. “Bhavin, You do not have to wait for the course to start,” I explained to him, “You start right away doing whatever you can to overcome your problem.”

“But, sir, will my stage-fear completely go after I do these ten sessions?” Bhavin asked quite sincerely.

I did not answer. Instead, I took another ten minutes to tell Bhavin my own story. “Bhavin, what you need to focus on is your dream – what you want to do in life… When dream comes, stage fear takes a back-seat. So, don’t focus too much on how to do away your stage fear. That’s a small thing – trust me, very, very small thing…”

“No sir, No,” Bhavin interrupted, “It’s a big thing…very, very big thing!”

I paused before I said this, “Bhavin, don’t look at the shadow, it will scare you. Let the light come, the shadow will go on its own. You don’t have to do anything… Find your dream, find your purpose.”

I doubt if Bhavin could grasp the meaning of the philosophical statement I made over the phone. He is expected to meet me in the afternoon, today. All that I am going to tell him, all over again, is what I have been telling for years to all young ones…

“If you have a story and dying to tell it,
If you have a cause and willing to fight for it,
Nobody needs to teach you how to speak in public…

You will sit down for hours and prepare it well,
you will stand up for hours and practice it well…
and you will go up ‘there’ and deliver it well…

That’s all there is to it…
to the art and science of Public Speaking…

The day I woke up to my dream – to become a teacher and writer like my idol Prof. B.S. Raman… that was some forty years ago, when I was in my F.Y. B.Com – I also woke up to two of my biggest handicaps – my inability to speak in English (I was a vernacular medium student) and my killing stage-fear. So, on the one side, I dreamt and, on the other side, I dreaded. But, because my dream was more intense and powerful than my fear, I found the necessary determination, patience and perseverance to overcome my handicaps… In fact, to turn them into my greatest blessings in life!

I have told this story countless times to countless number of young ones. When Bhavin comes, this afternoon, I am going to tell him this story, all over again… Whether he wants to listen to it or not… For, if my story is fake, I will only be taking him on a wild-goose chase… He will find nothing.

In Life, all that is needed is to find one’s dream, a purpose. The means will follow... The path will unfold on its own. When Gandhi said this, he said it to all of us… to you, Bhavin and me.


Pic.: Arundhati Sen

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


A friend of mine, who lives in California, wrote this, today, on her Timeline:
“Truly, one who can live in Mumbai can survive anywhere in the world!”

I couldn’t agree more with my friend.

We Mumbaikars, would like to believe, that, in India, Mumbai is the only city which is not only cosmopolitan in true sense, it is also a city that embraces all – regardless of one’s class, creed, caste and colour. People from Antilias along the affluent, glittering skylines to shanties alongside the gushing, stinking nalas… High priests to untouchables – yes, all can co-exist here. There are our Muncipal schools with their leaking roofs and broken furniture… and, alongside, there are the luxurious schools with even air-conditioned toilets! The Seven-star food to Street-side food, glamorous movie-stars and models to urchins in rags… yes, Mumbai is everyone’s city… It can erupt, at times, like a volcano. But, it can also forgive, forget and move on with the speed of a Jaguar… Here, strangers on the streets can be too impatient and acidic to their fellow-citizens, at times… but, they can be also too gentle and accommodating even more often… Particularly, when calamities – natural or man-caused – strike…

Yesterday, the Rain God came down heavily on Mumbaikars. When we had left our homes, last morning, most of us had no clue about the kind of nightmare which was in store of us.  Nobody expected 2005 episode to return and paralyze our life, yesterday…

But, it did!

When our city went under water outside, yesterday, my wife was at home… I was at my classes… and our son was at his office in Andheri. My son could not leave his office as the ground floor of their office building was flooded. He and his colleagues spent the night in their office. I decided to wade through the water to reach home in the evening. It was truly scary…It was heartening, and humbling, too… Scores of young men had lined up holding the ropes so that people like us could safely wade through. Hundreds of vehicles - buses, trucks, tempos, cars, taxies, autos, two-wheelers, even ambulances – were found stuck in the deluge… Shop-keepers were visibly anxious as water had already entered their shops… There were many good smaritans offering people snacks and water…

This kind of brotherhood and forbearance one gets to experience only in times of calamities and crisis. Floods, earthquakes, riots, bomb-blasts etc are Life’s great equalizers… Last night, when several people left their expensive cars on the roads and came home, something inside them gave them that deep trust: everthing would be safe!

It was!

When all is well, none of us would dare to put our feet in the dirty water even by mistake. But, yesterday, we all waded through the dirty water – you know it was gushing out from those horrible nalas – and, none of us had either the choice or the courage to reject it….

Belive me, that trust and faith protects us, keeps us safe, always!
We need calamities and crisis to keep us together and grounded!

So, my friend from California was right. Mumbai is our quintessential Maximum City. If one can live here, he can survive anywhere in the world!


Pics.: Internet

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


The fact, that my family has not been watching TV at home for years now, makes no difference at all: we get everything on our cell-phone screens. Yes, we miss nothing!

Yesterday, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh – the extra-colourful guru – was to be sentenced around 2.30 Indian noontime. I was curious to watch the online news. And, like a fool, I spent an hour or two getting all the ‘breaking news’… from every possible TV channel that was. Of course, the loudest and the most colorful of all being Arnab’s Republic TV!

At the end of that one hour or two, I asked the question: “So, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been sent to jail for 10 (or 20?) years now… What difference does it make to the quality of my life?”

Judging someone like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh comes easily to all of us. At present, he is a villain, an ugly character. You and I haven’t met him and will never meet him. Whatever sins he has committed, he has committed in his ashram or in his ‘Gufa’. Your life and mine are not affected. Still, you and I are obsessed to know about this man’s fate and we get a cheap thrill when he is bashed by the media and others.

There is ugliness in all of us. In my view, this ugliness comes from only one source, only one drive - our incessant ambition to ‘make it big’. I do not find any other source, any other drive… Be it Ram Rahim, a political leader or any businessman, be it a religious organization, a political party or a TV channel – yes, all can turn ugly because of the incessant pursuit to ‘grow big’…

During that one hour or two, last afternoon, alone, one could see how desperate each mainstream TV channel was to ‘break the news first’. ‘The first to break the news’… This means what?

The ‘Number-1 Game that is… The age-old desire to stand first!

Now that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been sent off to jail. The TV channels will forget him in a day or two and will go after someone else… What about you and me, the fools – the gullible?

I repeat, the source of ugliness is same in all of us – our blind ambition. I want to grow big, you want to grow big… just the way a politician and his party, a guru and his organization, a businessman and his company… yes, anyone and everyone – wants to grow.

Then, why am I obsessed with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?

Am I aware of my own ugliness?

When will be my verdict?


Pic.: Anil Bedi

Monday, August 28, 2017


Today is one of my dear-old-student’s birthday. Her husband, too, was my student many years ago. Just a couple of days ago, she lost her father-in-law who was critically ill. I hadn’t sent my condolence to either of my students due to oversight and procrastination on my part. So, today, as I learnt about her birthday (through FB), I felt a bit guilty. Still, I managed to send this message in her inbox:

“Hi Sneya*, first of all, my deepest condolences. Do convey my feelings to Virat*. Meanwhile, do accept my b'day wishes too. Life is always this way... joy and sorrow. Let's be grateful and graceful. Tcre.”

Last night, my wife and I had paid a visit to express our condolences to one of our friends who had lost her dad last week. He was 72 and had been suffering from multiple complications – including diabetes, blood pressure and kidney issues. But, till he passed away, her dad was full of zest and a doting dad for his two children and a husband for his wife and father-in-laws for his son’s wife. Our friend, who was extremely close to her dad, was now a devastated soul. “He left at 72… He wanted to see my brother’s child, but left before that… “Our friend kept crying yesterday when we were with her for an hour.

One’s sorrow is always very personal. We, from outside, can console them, try to make them feel a little better with our words… but, at the end of the day, the grief has to be experienced fully by the grieving person. There is no way out of it. And, I think, that’s how it should be… Going through the grief is a very cleansing and spiritual process… when grateful and graceful thoughts come to reside through the process of grief, it leaves the grieving person much stronger and wiser in life. A lot compassionate, too.

Many are able to see their situation in proper perspective. One of the perspectives, that heals one faster, is to see one’s situation in the light of others’. When one sees that his/ her situation is much better than many others’ around him/her… yes, it helps bring in silence faster… Healing takes place, faster.

On the same day, when our friend’s dad had expired, another friend of mine had lost his wife. She was 52. She died as she was having her morning tea with her husband due to a sudden heart attack. She had no history of any major ailments leave alone cardiac related. My friend and his wife had planned their life so meticulously. He had a well-paying job in a multinational company. She had a high post in a government organization. Both had chosen to take voluntary retirement before they were 50. They had saved their funds well, which was being carefully managed by a team of fund managers. Their only daughter’s marriage was scheduled to be held in a couple of weeks… Grand reception venues had been booked… House was under renovation… As the newly-wed couple would proceed on their foreign honeymoon, my friend and his wife would proceed on a Europe tour. In fact, one of their desires was to travel together and spend time together as much as possible. So, ever since their voluntary retirement, the couple had travelled extensively within India…

But, that morning, the death came calling unannounced! Man proposes… God disposes… Yes, Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans!

Why did my friend's wife have to leave at 52, leaving her husband behind, alone at 52? Couldn’t she wait till her daughter’s marriage? Couldn’t she go after the European tour, one of their most cherished dreams?

Last night, I did describe this situation to our other friend. No, I did not want to undermine the grief of my friend who had lost her dad at 72 after multiple health complications… I just narrated this story to convey what I had conveyed to Sneha, this morning, while sending her the birthday wishes mixed with a condolence message:
“Hi Sneha*, first of all, my deepest condolences. Do convey my feelings to Virat*. Meanwhile, do accept my b'day wishes too. Life is always this way... joy and sorrow. Let's be grateful and graceful. Tcre.”

*Names changed


Pic.: Niyothi Lobo

Sunday, August 27, 2017


“Be the reason someone smiles today.”
- Anonymous

What is the worth of our knowledge if we do not have a heart that is gladly willing to share it?

When I said, “Willing to share it”, I meant willing to help someone who is in need of that knowledge.

And, many a time, when a person seeks some help, we may not be in possession of the knowledge of the particular field… but, are we still willing to help in some way or the other?

The willingness to help someone, who is in need, is one clear indication of our maturity as humans. On the other hand, when we possess ample knowledge but have no willingness at all to help someone by sharing that knowledge – yes, it clearly reveals the bankruptcy of our maturity.  

We can see this in our mundane episodes…

This morning, while I was about to  leave the gate of the school where our Tai Chi classes are held, I saw two of my young fellow-learners trying to help two auto-rickshaw passengers. They were Maharashtrian ladies, one young and the other elderly. “Where is Bal Vikas School?” was the question. They had come from a long distance and auto driver, who was a stranger to this area, had brought them near our school. My fellow-students, too, did not belong to this area. Hence, they asked me, “Sir, do you know where Bal Vikas School is?”

I did not know. One of our fellow-learners was a retired school principal and she was behind us talking to two gentlemen. My presence of mind said, “Ma’am, being a retired principal and from this area, might know… We will ask her.”

No, ma’am, too, did not know where Bal Vikas School was. The watchman, who overheard the conversation, came to the rescue… He came near the auto and gave the right indication of the location.

All this took not even two minutes. But, all of us – the auto-passengers, who were in need and help… the auto-driver, who, too, seemed helpless… I, my junior and senior fellow-learners who, too, wanted to help but did not possess the knowledge… and, finally, the watchman, who not only possessed the knowledge but also the willingness to share it… yes, all of us went home feeling glad about how we went about.

Barely some distance I had walked. As a strange co-incidence, I was to encounter one more similar episode. This time, a man had parked his motorcycle on the roadside – his wife and little child sitting behind - and he was asking everyone “Where is Thank God Society?”

“Which society?” I heard many reacting just as I did, as it was an unusual name for a housing society. Despite the landmark given in the address, none of us knew the whereabouts of this society. But, someone said, “Ask in the grocery shop there, they will surely know.” As the motorcycle man was about to move, an auto-driver, who had overheard the conversation, came to the rescue, “Woh dekho!”

The ‘Thank God Society’ was right across the road!

Thank God!

Really, all that we need to possess is a little knowledge and lots of willingness to share it. That is enough to make us the small-time Good Samaritans. The ‘act’ may not give us a place in a Holy Book… But, certainly, it will give us a place in a needy heart.


Pic.: Anil Bedi

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Yesterday was Ganesh Chathurthi… a great day in our country, particularly in the state of Maharashtra and in the city of Mumbai. Every nook and corner, every lane and the by-lane, every household, be it wealthy or poor, be it a mansion or a slum, Lord Ganesh is the most beloved God here in this city. I have been fortunate to live in this city for over 37 years. And celebrating Ganeshotsav – the festival which transcends every caste, creed and class – is one of my good fortunes.

Before I take any step – before I start any of my ventures - small or big, I experience a  deep anxiety in my soul… and I pray to almighty God. “Lord, have mercy on me… Please give me strength and wisdom… Please protect me, guard me… fill me with grace.”

Lord Ganesh is believed to be the ‘Vigneshwar’ – the Lord who protects us from calamities,  losses and harm. So, every time I say this prayer, I do evoke Lord Ganesh’s name…

But, on another side of the globe, in Texan coastal city, Corpus Christi (America), Hurricane Harvey has wreaked devastation. As the scary images of devastation started flashing, I did evoke the name of Lord Ganesh: “O Lord, have mercy on us… Have Mercy on us!”

Pic.: ABC News/Internet

And, here in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and some other places, there was another kind of ‘hurricane’… another kind of devastation, wreaked by human greed and arrogance. Blindness. Godlessness.

Irony is this: It is Godlessness in the name of God. You feel sorry, sad and angry. “What kind of worship is that?” “What kind of religion, Godman and God?”

What can you and I  say about such things? Can we say anything completely free of prejudice?

The more I watched the news, heard the comments of the panelists, read the comments in social media, the more saddened I have felt… that, as long as we have our ‘blind’ affiliation to a particular ‘sect’ of religion or politics, we cannot see the ‘hurricane’ in its eye… We will only spend time defending, accusing or justifying… Yes, we will not see the storm in its eye!

Pic.: Ravi Kumar/Internet

Some two years ago, I had posted this blog by the title – ‘Meri Murgi Ki Ek Taang’.  I remembered this post, today…  


In my opinion, the most number of prejudiced people are found in two areas around us: Religion and Politics. Our education, social background, financial status, none of these really can help us if we have strongly-rooted affiliation to a certain political party or religious sect. I am referring, here, to the hardcore followers… the die-hards… the fanatics. Yes, fools.

Hence that famous line: “Only fools and fanatics can be so sure of themselves.”

It is impossible to change the views of fools and fanatics… If you debate with them, you will end up making a fool of yourself. They know it, means they know it… If they say what you see in the night is not Moon but Sun, you are supposed to believe it is so. Yes, if one of them claims that his hen has only one leg – Meri Murgi Ki Ek Taang – you better say, “Amen”!

Let’s reflect on our own views – coming from our own affiliation and stand – about the political parties and their leaders or religious organizations and their leaders. It is enough to tell us how prejudiced we can be… Most of us, luckily, are moderates… When we see things in different perspectives, we show willingness to accommodate alternative views; we refrain from commenting strongly, scathingly, about other parties and their leaders, other faiths and their leaders… That’s why, so far and so long, this world has been saved from the clutches of despots, dictators and fundamentalists…

Majority in this world are moderates… Not fundamentalists!

Majority in this world are pliable… not fools and fanatics who are so sure of themselves.

In the long run, people do not like to be brain-washed. They do not like to be driven by fundamentalists’ hateful propaganda, including media. Media, no matter how influential it seems to be, cannot rule our consciousness beyond a certain point. Hate and divisive propaganda do make a big dent in our collective consciousness… But, then, what prevails finally is our collective better sense… the larger good… the soul of humanity.

Finally, we all come to accept, that what we see in the night is Moon and not Sun… And, no matter how aggressively one tries to convince us, about his murgi with ek taang, we know, that we are not fools to believe him… Nor fanatics.

Pic. : (Ganesh) Pic.: The Art of Living Foundation/Internet

Thursday, August 24, 2017


“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle
to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi

If the same Sun and the same Moon give us light in the day and in the night, if the same stars sparkle over the same sky, if the same oceans, mountains, fields and deserts lay before all of us… if the same breath and the same blood keep us alive on this planet… then, there must be the same Creator behind all these designs…

A hundred divisions in my own religious faith, Christianity… and a hundred divisions in my fellowmen’s – be they Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, or Jews.

How can the God I have chosen to worship be a superior God? I simply can’t understand.

Live and let live.

Let my prayers and the Holy Book not be the basis on which I evaluated people. Who am I, by the way, to evaluate and judge others? Who has given me that right?

We are the quintessential frogs in the pond…

Being born as a Catholic, being born as an Indian, and so on… yes, these are our privileges and blessings in life. Nothing beyond that. The moment we begin to think that we are superior to our fellow-beings, the thoughts of intolerance and hatred begin to rule our life.

The force that unites is religion. The force that hates and divides can never ever be religion. We all co-exist here… We all need each other… This world is a home for all of us… It is a global village of the same Creator, Who recognizes no language, colour, creed, class or customs. He made man and man made religions and pitted one against another.

If you ask me, what is the most valuable lesson in life, I will say without even blinking: Love and brotherhood.

Those two encompass everything else: tolerance, patience, forgiveness, accommodating spirit, charity, everything. 

So, whenever I see some of my fellowmen voicing hatred in the name of religion or country, I feel sad. Many of them are migrants to this city of opportunity, Mumbai. Many of them have their nearest and dearest ones overseas… We all, they all… live with ‘others’… It can’t be a life on an island… We can’t live like frogs in a pond… They know it; still, they are driven by their arrogance.

Intolerance is the worst form of ignorance. It comes in us when our reason and compassion are eclipsed…

The good news is that, even the rarest eclipse soon ends!


Pic.: Chetna Shetty

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


“We will bankrupt ourselves 
in the vain search for absolute security.”
-  Dwight D. Eisenhower

One of the greatest drives of a human being is the desire to secure his future! I am not spared from this desire. Like all my fellow-humans, most of my deeds and misdeeds come from this desire…

The reason I studied… The reason I pursued a career – by being employed or self-employed… The reason I started saving and investing… The reason I kept expanding my business… The reason I got married, had children… The reason I made a house, a second and a third house… The reason I insured my life and health… The reason I started believing in Gods and Goddesses, going to a worship place of a particular faith… The reason I joined social groups and, even, joined a gym… yes, everything has its root in my desire to secure my future…

True, it is one of the greatest drives of all human beings. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong in that.

I have already confessed that, like all my fellow-beings, I, too, am driven by the same desire… I want my future to be as secure as possible - as stable, as sound and as peaceful.

But, the problem with the future is that, it is very, very unpredictable. All forecasts are only forecasts. Nobody can tell, in certainty, what is going to happen from twenty years from now. Why twenty, nobody can predict what can happen tomorrow… even, the very next moment. All that we do is we go by the Law of Average… We also assume a lot of things, take a lot of things for granted.

Whenever I become conscious of my drive to financially secure my future, which makes me find a hundred ways in which I can make more money and multiply it – yes, whenever I become conscious of this drive, I look at some wealthy people around me who made loads of money (I would not be able to make one billionth of it even if I desperately try to!)…
Donald Trump… Subrata Roy… Vijay Mallya… Vijaypat Singhania… Mafatlals…

Well, Trump may boast of having a lot with him. But, I will never desire to occupy the kind of ‘space’ he has. I will never want the kind of space Roy and Mallya have, either. Whatever happened to Singhania’s wealth and his desire to provide a secure future to his son? Where is the once glorious Mafatlal empire?

In a matter of a day or two, Infosys investors, including its revered founders, have become poorer by more than 30,000 crores!

What goes up comes down. It has to!

What is stable then… What is secure?

However philosophical – and even impractical and na├»ve – it may seem, the moment in hand is the only stable and secure thing… If I am unable to enjoy this moment, in whatever manner I find it, yes, if I am unable to relish it, honour and celebrate it – then, it would be impossible for me to find joy and security in any kind of future state of affairs…

The kind of future most of us try to pursue, and find our happiness in, is a big myth. A lie!

So, the deep realization in my soul, that my future security lies not in the size of my wealth but in the wisdom that I can be secure even without it… that, I will be, always, taken care of by the Universe… Yes, this realization is the source of inner security… This space is worth dying for and living for. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, describes such a state with these beautiful words:
“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”


Pic.: Niyothi Lobo

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


A mother of eleventh-standard student (girl) was here, today, to enroll her daughter in my classes. The young one, a confident and bright girl, has joined a reputed college in the city and, the mother, like a truly involved parent, wants her daughter to do well in the Commerce field. “Sir, my problem is,” she explained to me, “that, I have my second child (son) who is just two-and-a-half-year old, and, I have to do ‘all this’ with him ‘all over again’.”

I looked at the young girl, who was smiling on hearing what her mother was saying.

“So, how can you help you mom, beta?” I asked, “She has done ‘all that’ with you for ‘all these’ years… You are a young adult now. So, tell me what can you do to ease mom’s tension?”

 I repeat these words almost every day in my class: “The greatest gift you can give to your parents, right now, is the trust and confidence in you… You have to make them feel that you are acting responsible for your affairs… that you are able to manage your things well – time, money, studies and relationships … that, they needn’t worry a lot about you - about your goals and future… that, you will not let them down.”

I have experienced that, myself, as a parent: All that I wanted to hear and still want to hear from my own son is the line, “Dad, relax… I will manage my things… I will not let you down.”

With that one line, I know, I will truly rest assured about my own son.

I do not think, it is any different for all parents out there… All of them want to hear from their young ones this one assurance: “Dad/Mom, I am old enough to understand your concerns… Rest assured, I will manage my affairs… I will not disappoint you.”

How about lending a hand to mom in the kitchen, today? How about doing a round or two to the market or bank? How about making your own bed, washing your own plates, taking your plates, cups and glasses from dining place/your room to the kitchen? How about lending a hand in laundry? How about taking a bus or train instead of auto rickshaw or cab? How about making one demand less, today? And, how about making one argument less or giving one back-answer less, today? Can you do your homework, today, without the reminders? Can you spend a little less time on your phone, today? And, if you have a younger sibling, can you help him/her with their studies - a little at least?

The mother of my eleventh-standard student was visibly anxious, today, when she said, “Sir my problem is, that I have my second child who is just two-and-a- half-year old, and, I have to do ‘all this’ with him ‘all over again’.”

My guess is that mother is about 40 now. By the time her second child completes tenth standard, she will be about 53-54. And, as most young ones make their mothers dance around them and worry even till they complete their post-graduation, if this second child, too, does, the mother will be, by then, past sixty – a senior citizen!

So, I asked my student – the older kid – today, “Beta, how can you help your mom?”

Can my student, who is about to enter her college life, make her mom dance and worry less for her… so that when my student becomes a mother in some years, what had gone around would come around?

The mother was anxious: The two-and-a-half-year-old fellow had to be picked from the play-school. She was already late!


Pic.: Anil Bedi