Monday, July 24, 2017

YOU LIVE ONLY ONCE... BUT, IF YOU LIVE WELL, ONCE IS ENOUGH







Many years ago, I used to display in my classroom a new inspirational-poster every Monday morning. Some of these posters, I would keep repeating at regular intervals. One of them had these words:

“You live only once…
But, if you live well, once is enough.”


In a few minutes from now, I will turn 59. I remember the old poster and find myself asking: “Have I lived these years well?”

What are the yardsticks of a well-lived life? Who has to certify it? Are the indicators visible or invisible?

If the yardstick is the wealth I have amassed in my 59 years, then I will certainly fail the test. If the world has to certify me, I may fail that test, too… If one looks for the visible indicators, I may flunk that test, as well…

So, let me go by the invisible signs and let me not depend on the world’s certificate… Let money, position and fame not be the yardsticks to measure how well I have lived my 59 years, here on Earth…

Have I got many regrets?

Not many… But, a few, certainly, “Yes.”

Have I got many complaints…

Not many, again… A few, “Yes.”…

But, complain to whom?

The more I think about it, the more I find myself repeating, “Nothing to complain about.”

In fact, to me, a life lived with least regrets and complaints, coupled with inner joy, is the indicator of a well-lived life. It comes from the awareness…

That, I have used my God-given gifts well…

That, I have been able to contribute and reach out to as many people as possible in my own special way…

That, I have been loved by many, blessed by many, befriended by many, helped by many…

That, I have not held grudges against any…

That, I have longed and done my best to make peace with one and all…

That, I have lived with the awareness - this life is a gift and it is too short and too precious to be wasted with my arrogance and ignorance…

That, I have lived with the awareness – I have come with empty hands and I will leave with empty hands…

That, I have prayed through gratitude, been cleansed through forgiveness, been strengthened through faith and courage, revived through hope… I have rejoiced in my fellow-men’s success…

That, I have never, ever held back from expressing my fears, tears or despair, my gladness, laughter or jubilation…

That, I have lived with the awareness that everything in my life happens for my good… and every person crosses my path for a reason...

And, I can go on and on…

So, have I lived my 59-years well?

It’s already a Monday morning…
Yes, once is enough… Thank you Lord!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Azriel D'Souza




Friday, July 21, 2017

'HRUDAYANTAR'... YES, SOME THINGS IN LIFE WILL MAKE YOU CHANGE YOUR HEART





Since last evening till this moment, a movie is being played – and replayed repeatedly – in my mind. I have been talking about it to my closest people. “Have you watched the film, “Hrudyantar’?"... I keep asking…

“Which film?”

“’Hrudyantar’… It’s a Marathi film.”

“No, I haven’t heard about it,” many say… “How is it?” ask some… “What is it about?’ ask some others… “What is the meaning of ‘Hrudyantar?” ask me some more…

“I don’t’ know myself,” I confess, “I think the meaning is ‘Change of heart’…

Anyway, how does it matter? The film is just beautiful… Please don’t miss it!






Yesterday, I was to attend some very important work at Fort area. So, I had adjusted my teaching schedule for the day accordingly. At the last hour, my visit to town got cancelled and I decided to watch any good movie which was being shown in cinemas around. On checking on the Net, I chanced upon this Marathi film which was released on 7th July. Having got curious, I read more details about it, and felt a strong urge in my heart to watch it. As I normally watch all the movies along with my wife, I called her to inform. She was already committed to some other task, which meant, I had to watch it alone…

Good, I watched ‘Hrudayantar’ alone… For, it would have been tough for me to allow myself to soak in the emotions so completely and cry the way I did inside the theatre, yesterday!

My general knowledge about the Fashion and Marathi film industries is pathetic. Vikram Phadnis, I learnt yesterday, had been a much respected Fashion designer for nearly twenty-five years. Yes, ‘Hrudyantar’ was his brain child… I learnt, that he was passionate and determined to make this film for a long time and, now, he had done it so amazingly!

I am conscious of the fact, that we should not tell the story of the film and spoil the movie-watching experience. So, let me not tell you the story… Yet, I am unable to stop myself from telling this: The film is about the marital relationship… It is about that familiar experience of  going through all the marital storms – the pain, frustrations, distrust, misunderstandings, egos, insecurities, personal ambitions and fears… and, that moment -  ‘It’s all over’… or that moment - “Is it really over?”… It’s about the trauma of watching your little kids suffer when you – two grown-ups, their parents – fight before them like immature kids… It’s about the guilt and pain of being a bad example… It is about that very thought ‘Will the change of partner be the answer?’… ‘Will ending the so-called ‘bad marriage’ end my miseries?’… ‘How bad is really bad?’… ‘Is this the worst that is in store for me in marriage or are there situations worse than what I am fussing about?”… “Is my partner alone responsible for my plight or am I equally responsible?” … “Am I obsessed with changing my partner or am I honest enough to change my own outlook… my won heart?”

That last question sums it all… The change of heart is the key to marital bliss… not either seeking change in him/her or seeking a new partner... If I have not changed, I will take myself wherever I go…

‘Hrudyantar’, from that perspective, is a beautiful lesson on self-healing and self-care. It is inspirational and therapeutic… You realize, that the issues, over which you have brought the martial sky down, are not issues at all… The real issues sneak in from the back door and shock you and shake you to the core, bring you down to your knees and melt your heart…

Yes, so that you change… recognize, accept, honor and celebrate what is there in your platter… ‘What is’!

Please watch this film.




GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: MarathiStars.com/internet
Videos: YouTube

Thursday, July 20, 2017

THE ORIGINAL 'ART OF LIVING'











“I told her once I wasn’t good at anything…
She told me survival is a talent.”
― Susanna Kaysen

I think, an important life-skill – let me call it ‘survival skill’ – every individual has to learn at a very young age is: cooking!

Now, by ‘cooking’, I do not mean that one should be a fine Chef and must know how prepare a lavish spread. I only mean to say that one should learn to prepare some decent food for himself and for those who live with him…

Many men – even some women - take some sort of pleasure in saying, “I don’t even know how to switch on the gas (stove).”… or, “I know only to boil water or eggs”… or, “I know only to make an omelet” etc. Someone never thought it was important to inculcate that ‘value’ in these men and women at a very young age… I said, ‘Value’!

For many young boys and girls, circumstances make them learn the basic cooking – tea, coffee, snacks, rice, rotis, dal, vegetable or some non-veg dishes. Yes, when you are driven to the wall, you learn to survive… Thanks to your circumstances, you learn to cook: Your mom or wife, on whom you depended for your food, suddenly falls sick, get hospitalized or passes away… You have to go abroad to study or work… You are newly married and sent off to your in-laws’ place…Your Company transfers you to another city and you can’t take your family… so on. Now, how will you manage if you do not know basic cooking? Eat out every day, everything – breakfast, lunch and dinner?

In a couple of days, Life will make you learn how to prepare some basic food to survive. And, you ‘will’ learn it, unless you are so indifferent and careless… A young boy, one of my dear students, has just left for studies in Australia… A mother of two young ones, who are very dear to me, is presently in an ICU… My thoughts go to them. These young ones have to survive… and, they will… Life will make them learn this important survival skill… cooking!

After all, there is no greater university than Life itself, right?

GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Samir Shirke

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THIS IS TO MAKE YOU INDEPENDENT... NOT DEPENDENT







I do not know how they certify a kid as ‘L.D.’… that is, a kid with learning disability. During my teaching career, spanning over nearly four decades, I have come across many kids, now and then, who I am made conscious of as having the so-called ‘Learning Disability.’ The moment I am made conscious of it, my approach towards the student – in my case college kids – does undergo a change… I become more patient, less demanding… and, I try to remind myself, “Hello, you cannot expect the same calculations and the same efficiency from this kid… Understand his plight… show patience.”  And, invariably, I heed to this voice…

What is interesting to watch is this: some of these young ones are least interested in this ‘label’… this ‘tag’… of ‘learning disability’. I find them almost hating it… They want the world to  treat them on par with the rest… demand the same work and efficiency from them… show the same level of patience to them. I feel extremely satisfied and proud when I come across such kids. The feeling is akin to the young ones who do not like to depend on their ‘caste quota’… but, want to move ahead in life rubbing shoulders of the rest… “That’s the true merit,” I hear them say, “That brings out the best in us.”

The other kind is the typical ones: They know they have this ‘special privilege’ of being certified as a ‘L.D.’… and, even though it was certified years ago, they continue to think they are having this learning disability. Some are genuine… and, the teachers and the authorities have to be empathetic to them. But, many of them misuse this privilege… and, in the process, become under-performers, dependent and – it may sound harsh – losers. They mechanically depend on calculators for the simplest calculations. “Sir, it is allowed for me… I am a L.D.”

“I know beta; but, have you tried to do it without the calculator?” I ask, “Have you realized what happens to your confidence when you do it on your own?”

Some understand what I say… and, some don’t.

Two days ago, a mother of a twelfth-standard student called me up and said, “Sir, my son says he needs a writer for his Board exams.”

Now, I have taught his boy for two years… and, he is the one who belongs to the category of ‘mis-users’… I don’t know how and why they certified him as a ‘L.D’… He needs no special concession for anything… I felt angry when I heard what his mother said… as angry as one gets while a healthy guy comes to you begging at a traffic signal!

Many years ago, a friend of mine, a well-known trainer, was invited to judge an inter-college Public-speaking contest. A blind girl had stood first and my friend got so moved that he praised this girl for inspiring everyone by doing it despite her blindness. What followed after that was unbelievable… The young girl got furious for being made to feel she was ‘handicapped’… She did not want to go home feeling that the world had honored her with a winner’s trophy out of sympathy… because she had ‘disability’…

It was an eye-opener for my friend. He immediately apologized for hurting the  girl’s sentiment. Even today,  after twenty-five years, my friend keeps referring to the episode in his training sessions!

‘Less-abled’, ‘Differently-abled’, ‘Special’, “L.D’… all these badges are there because of the practical reality. Those who suffer from any physical, mental or learning challenges – and their near ones – alone can understand the plight. So, if authorities have offered such privileges, they have done it with purpose and good intention…  and, yes, with the hope that it would serve its purpose…

In the Hindi movie, ‘Black’, there is this moving scene. Mr. Debraj Sahai, (Amitabh Bachchan) has brought a walking stick to his prodigy, Michelle (Rani Mukerjee) who is blind, deaf and dumb. So long, she had been dependent on her teacher for everything…. Her teacher knows that she cannot live life like that… that, she has to be tough, independent. So, in that scene, when Michelle touches the walking stick, her first reaction is ‘NO’. But, her teacher makes her hold the stick firmly saying, “This is to make you independent… not dependent!”

I tell the same to my own Michelles!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet


Monday, July 17, 2017

A TROPHY FOR LEARNING NEVER TO THROW HIS RACQUET AGAIN IN FRUSTRATION






I don’t watch tennis matches much. But, I get inspired by the great tennis legends a lot. True to what I said, I did not watch yesterday’s Wimbledon Finals between Roger Federer and Marin Cilic… but, I have been hugely inspired by Roger Federer on winning his eighth Wimbledon title, which makes it his nineteenth Grand Slam… Nobody in tennis history has done it so big and at such advanced age… Federer has done it at 36!




I don’t understand a lot about the tennis game. But, that doesn’t prevent me from admiring its legends… I grew up admiring Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe… These legends were two of a kind – extremely opposites in their temperaments… Bjorn Borg looked like a sage, full of poise… while John McEnroe looked like a volcano, full of lava! But, I loved them both… The same way, there were these two women legends… Chris Evert Lloyd and Martina Navratilova… completely with contrast temperaments… Chris was beautiful and serene… Matina was manly and aggressive… and, yes, I admired them both, alike!

Winning a Wimbledon trophy is the ultimate dream of any tennis player… It takes tons of grit and patience to play on this court, leave alone winning the trophy. If so, how would you describe what Roger Federer has just done at 36… for the eighth time at Wimbledon?

The other day, I was reading a Post shared by Goalcast where Federer was speaking about his transformation from a volatile person on the court to a composed one… Here is the Post:

ROGER FEDERER – GIVE YOUR BEST

Tennis star Roger Federer shares his story of personal transformation, and urges us to never stop improving and growing, no matter what…

Transcript:
It’s enough. I can’t stand it watching me throwing rackets and embarrass myself in front of thousands of people in a live stadium, so I tried to change, had quite a transformation from a screaming, racket throwing, swearing kind of brat on the tennis court to this calm guy today. It’s very important to sort of move on. And I think also losses make you stronger. It’s important to learn out of those mistakes and then you become better and the better player, you work harder. A light goes up in your head, you go like, ‘You know what? I think I understand now what I need to improve.’

“I always questioned myself in the best of times, even when I was world number one for many, many weeks and months in a row, at certain times during the year I said, ‘What can I improve? What do I need to change?’ Because if you don’t do anything or you just do the same thing over and over again, you stay the same, and staying the same means going backwards. It’s important for me to actually hear criticism sometimes because I think that’s what makes me a better player and that means someone’s questioning me who really cares about me, and I think that’s really important in the business world as well.

“Because if you never set yourself goals, you can never question yourself, because you just move from one to the next and you say, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ When things are going great, what more can I do? How much better can I become? How much harder can I train? Almost every time I step on the court today I can maybe rewrite history in some shape or form. And all I can do is give my best. Then it’s going to be fine, regardless of the outcome.”








Thus, to me, it is not about winning at Wimbledon even if it is for the eighth time and even if it is at the age of 36. To me, it is about learning to become a better human being – a lot composed and compassionate, a lot humble and grateful – as you keep winning your trophies in life. After all, all records are meant to be broken, you see… Yes, soon, someone else will break this one, too!

Roger Federer had won his seventh Wimbledon title in 2012, that was five years ago. Today, I was thinking about the five-year time-span that he took to make a comeback… One of the many things – perhaps the most important one – the legend had to do was to learn never to throw his racquet again in frustration!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Internet
Videos: YouTube

Sunday, July 16, 2017

THE EDUCATION OF THE HEART






I just told someone this morning: “What is the use of ‘knowing’ how to prepare the best food in the world if one doesn’t know how to serve that food?”

Even the best catering college in the world cannot make one’s heart truly ‘hospitable’… If, by knowledge, one means piling up of degrees and diplomas, then, this world would have been such a lovely place, long time ago!

Just as they say, that half of the wealth in this world is held by 1% of population, the so-called education – rather, academic qualification – too, is held by such slim minority… To put it a little bluntly, degrees, often, are held by those who do not know how to use them in ‘serving’ the society!

I say this, today, with a reason. We, often, believe, that education is the best medium through which we can eradicate most of the troubles afflicting our society. I think, this only means some basic literacy, some decent academic qualification to earn one’s living. But, the ‘education of the heart’ has been always left to the individual concerned… One should desire to serve, see beyond self… One should desire to be sensitive to his surroundings… One should desire to be a good human being - loving, forgiving, tolerant, accommodating and proactive… One should long to be less divisive in his mindset, holistic in his approach…

Now, when one comes out of a Harvard or a Stanford, does he come out with a sensitive, loving, giving and forgiving heart, too?

Sad… We know how to make the best food in the world, but we do not know how to ‘serve’… Likewise, sad… We possess the best degrees in the world, but we do not know how to live in harmony with our fellow-beings!

When a dog is happy, he wags his tail; when he is scared, he tucks it between his legs… Now, which college did he go to in order to learn that?

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Shraddha Sachdev



Saturday, July 15, 2017

ANNADATA SUKHI BHAVA








A few minutes ago, I saw on FB the iconic scene from the Hindi movie, ‘Deewar’, often referred as ‘the boot polish scene’… or, ‘Main-pheke-hue-paise-nahin-uthata’ scene… For those who are clueless about it, here is the narration…

Vijay (Master Alankar playing child Amitabh) is a boot-polish boy. The harsh circumstances have filled him with not only anger but also a great amount of self-belief and pride… Though we know it is of misplaced kind, we empathize with this kid… After all, Life and God had not been fair to him, right? So, he is angry, he is a rebel and wants to recover his lost dignity… his mother’s particularly… In the process, he has refused to go to school or temple… He thinks he is the master of his fate and captain of his soul…

So, in this iconic scene, the impeccably-dressed mafia-chief (Iftekhar) with his associate (Sudhir) land up at the boot-polish stand for their shoes to be polished… When little Vijay has done with Chief’s associate, the latter throws a coin on the ground. Instantly, the little boy stands up and declares, “Saab, , hum boot polish karta hai, koi bhik nahin mangta… Paisa utahke hath me do.”

Our mafia-man on the receiving end is rattled and says to his Chief, “Did you hear that?”

“Yes, I did,” says the Chief, “Pick up the money and give it in his hand.”

In a while, we get to know the moral of the story from the Chief’s mouth: “Yeh lambi race ka ghoda hai”… Meaning, "He's gonna go far.”




For decades, this scene has inspired young and old alike. There is something to take home from it… something we all can connect within:  We do not like our hard-earned money to be given to us like this… We do not like people treating us like this… We have our self-respect… our dignity and pride and we expect people to recognize that, honour that…

And, many of us, learning from episodes like this – in fact, we do not need a movie scene like this one to teach the value involved in it – do not treat others like this.

Decades ago, when I was new to this city, an autowala insisted that I gave him his fare with my right hand. Yes, I was a bit rattled by his tone… But, I have been extremely conscious ever since… I am aware of the dignity of the other man… and I offer him what he deserves with my ‘right’ hand… respectfully, gracefully and gratefully.

What about the world? Do others do the same to me? Do people throw money on the table – casually, indifferently, mechanically, and disrespectfully - or give it in my hand while I am at  shops, banks, cash counters, ticket counters, shcools, or while I travel in buses and autos etc?

“Annadata sukhi bhava”… “May the one who helps me earn my meal be blessed with happiness”… What a prayer that is!

Well, all said and done, how others treat me may not be in my hand… and, I may not choose to stand up and express my disapproval yelling: “Hello, main pheke hue paise nahin uthata.”… Yes, I may not do all that…

But, at the same time, let me do what is in my hand: Let me give the other man what he rightfully deserves with my ‘right’ hand… yes, gracefully and gratefully…

It is for my own self-respect, you see!

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Avinash Mantri
Video: YouTube