Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A SMALL BOX OF DIWALI WISHES








I was talking to a very elderly woman, who I call aunty. I have always admired her for her grace and wit. Every Diwali, she would send to our place a small box containing homemade Diwali sweets and snacks. We always felt special warmth when we opened that box… Simplicity, sincerity, love and blessings always came packed in it… 

Yesterday, when I met her, she was very apologetic… “I have not been keeping well for some months… I won’t’ be able to send you Diwali box this time,” she said, “This is my age of no choice, no voice!”

I pulled aunty close to me and said, “Aunty, don’t bother about the sweet box… You did it for so many years… Now, you take some break. Wishes and prayers are enough… You give us yours and we give you ours.”

“I feel bad,” aunty said, almost choked with emotions!

Later, at noon, I had been to the station area to pick some simple Diwali gifts to ‘a couple of people’. I saw a white, posh, chauffeur-driven Audi. I was curious to see who was in the back seat…. Surprisingly, the back seat was majestically occupied by at least a dozen giant-sized Diwali gifts! The Audi was on its ways to deliver the ‘Diwali gifts’ to the ones they were intended to be delivered…

The sight brought a smile on my face… I was also on my way to pick some ‘small gifts’ to the ones I had intended to offer…

“Who are these people who we intend to offer our ‘gifts’ on Diwali?

I am still smiling!

Aunty couldn’t make sweets and snack at home, this Diwali… She is 80-plus and she is sick. Suddenly, she feels, that she is losing her self-confidence to live life the way she had been all these years… She colorfully described her situation as ‘the age of no choice, no voice’…

I have picked some small gifts to give to a couple of people, as I told you. Aunty is one of them!

Happy Diwali to all…


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: ScoopWhoop (Internet)

Monday, October 16, 2017

GURU, EK BAAT PUCHNA THA AAPSE...




























“Guru, kaise ho?”

It is Shripad, checking about my well-being?

“Mein teek hun chela… Tum kaise ho?”

“Ek baat puchna tha, Guru…”

“Puchlo chela…”

This is how our typical conversation goes…

Shripad Ragunathan came in my life the way Raghav (Nana Patekar) came in the life of Jay (John Abraham) in the heart-warming movie - ‘Taxi No 9211’!

It was 2006, the start of academic year. Shripad was about to start his T.Y. B.Com. One morning, his mother called me up and said, “Sir, I want my son, Shripad, to join your class. Can my husband and I come and talk to you?”

The next morning, Shripad’s parents came to meet me. I learnt, that Shripad was their only child and was a ‘differntly-abled special-child.’… that, he was excellent in his self-confidence and speech but had difficulty writing, grasping and socially gelling. He took a lot of time to write and his handwriting was not coherent and legible… His mother, right from his baby days, had been copying notes for him from his friends’ books… She would request the tuition teachers to allow her to sit during the tuition classes so that she could understand the subject and take down the notes as well…




SHRIPAD... MY 'HERO!


When Shripad was enrolled in my T.Y.  B.Com class, he was my first ‘special’ student… I had a packed class room… brignt, dumb... all together in it! But, my experience with Shripad would, always, remain special to me… He never ever thought, that he was ‘inferior’ to anyone in the class… either in studies, debates or general knowledge… In the midst of the lecture, he would stop me, at least a dozen times, to clarify some point…

“Siiiiiir…”

I had prepared the class not to lose patience with him… I had prepared myself, before that. Yes, I would internally get derailed… I would, often, count ‘hundred’ till Shripad completed writing… I would patiently explain to him again, and then again, the same point…  But, at the end of the day, I would go home, pleased about the way I had conducted!

Shripad had also joined our P.D Programme… He was fearless and bold when he spoke on stage and took part in GDs…

‘Taxi No 9211’ had just been released… During one playful session, I teased Shripad and said, “You must watch the movie… You will love it.”

The very next day, Shripad had asked his parents to watch the movie along with him…The following day, in the midst of the lecture, Shripad said loudly, “Siiiiir…”

“Yes, Shripad….”

Siiiiir, it’s not a doubt from the Accountancy subject… It is from the filam ‘Taxi No. 9211.”

The class erupted in laughter!

“Siiiiir, I liked the filam… but, ek baat puchna tha aapse: Am I like Nana Patekar or John Abraham?”





I took a looooong breath and then said to my Shripad, “Arey beta, that’s not important… Just like them, we have come in each other’s life and, in the end, we both are going to ‘change for the better’… You will change me… I will change you!”

“My ambition is to do a job,” this was how Shripad would, always, tell me and others during the P.D. sessions. I never advised him on that… never tried to set some bench marks … I only wished and prayed that all would be well in his life!

Shripad’s grandparents had specially lived in Mumbai only to make sure he completed his graduation… It was the family goal. His dad, who was a thorough gentleman with an amazing sense of humour, his mother who was like a rock, his doting grandparents… yes, all had stayed back in Mumbai only to make Shripad a graduate…

Immediately after the final exams, his parents invited my wife and me for a sumptuous South Indian dinner at their place… Shripad was proud as a peacock, that night!

The very next week, the whole family migrated to Chennai, where they had an ancestral house. It was only after a couple of years, when Shripad got connected with me on FB, that I learnt that he was doing his ‘job’ at T.V.S….

“Shripad, do you enjoy your ‘Job’? I asked him…

“Yes Guru… very much,” Shripad was a winner all along and an eternal optimist.

Guru, ek baat puchna tha, aapse…”

That’s how it was in those days… and that’t how it is these days, too. “Kaise ho Guru?” he would ask me in the message box… followed by, “Guru, ek baat puchna tha aapse…”

For the last couple of years, never failing a single day, Shripad has been enthralling us, his FB friends, with a short tribute to a legend or a celebrity on latters’ birthdays…

Today is Shripad’s birthday… To me, he is a legend, a celebrity. So, here is my tribute to my adorable chela - Shripad Ragunathan...

“Happy b’ay, beta!

GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Suyog Surte/Shripad Ragunathan
Video: YouTube

Saturday, October 14, 2017

AN HOUR OF FULFILLMENT IS LIKE A LIFETIME OF FULFILLMENT










I feel like telling this today: An hour of fulfillment is like a lifetime of fulfillment!

I had been invited by one of the reputed colleges in Mumbai to take a session, today, for its teachers… The subject had instantly caught on their imagination – ‘AM I A TEACHER BY DESIGN OR A TEACHER BY DEFAULT?’…

I had an hour and a few minutes more to leave an impact… Yes, I did!

How do you make out that you have left an impact? After decades of doing this teaching and training stuff, and, after having seen every kind of participant in the audience… I have stopped going by the traditional way of getting the ‘feedback’…

You can’t satisfy all… All that you can do is: Put your total heart and convey your message. Keep it utterly simple… and practical… Make them feel you are one among them… And, never ever position yourself as a ‘super-human’…

People relate to the underdog-heroes… to those, who are ordinary folks like them, but who rise up to greatness!


I was pleasantly surprised, today, to note the fact, that the college had organized my session to coincide with the felicitation of one of the retiring teachers… So, immediately after my session, some 30 minutes more were spent to honour this senior lady teacher, who, I could, immediately realize was one of the most effective and popular teachers of the institution… Colleagues, Principal, Department Heads, Trustees, friends and family members… almost every one kept showering praises on the retiring teacher… I realized, in those few minutes, as to how this woman had touched so many lives… gone beyond the call of her duty… and remained true to what she had always believed in…

“I, always, admired madam for being a totally transparent person,” one of her colleagues said, “What she was inside, she was outside, too… She was a true mirror for many of us.”

As this male colleague was saying what he had just said, I could feel the truth and honesty in his words, too… He was totally transparent… he meant what he said… What he was inside, he was outside, too!

I have, always, relied myself on this kind of feedback… Genuine feedback is seldom wrapped in glossy words… It comes straight from a simple and sincere heart!

My one hour, like I said earlier, was like a lifetime of fulfillment… My heart doesn’t lie about it. After the session, when so many teachers came up to tell me what they had felt, they only echoed what my heart was already feeling – total fulfillment!

The same must have been the feeling of the senior teacher who retired today after serving for the institution for years… I could feel that hers was a totally fulfilled career!

Apparently, this teacher had been instrumental in creating a very effective N.S.S. cell in the college. When the chief Trustee handed her a cheque as a token of love, she instantaneously donated the amount to the N.S.S. cell!

“When you leave the place, leave it a little better than how you found it when you first came in.” As part of my session, I, always, challenge teachers to ask this to themselves: “Have I done it so?”

As a trainer, I challenge myself, too: “Am I leaving this place a little better after an hour?”

The retiring teacher did it even on the last moment of her eventful service in this great institution.

My one hour… Her one long-career… yes, they had given us both the same feeling: of total fulfillment!


GERLAD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Avinash Mantri


Friday, October 13, 2017

"KAFAN KA KOI BRAND NAHI HOTA"



















“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
-  Frederick Douglass
“All well?”… This is one of my favourite expressions. I use it every day when I meet people or when I talk or chat with people. I have rarely come across people with the response: “All is not well”!

Last evening, I met a man in the lift. I was the first to enter the lift… This man entered after me… We had some unresolved old issues… So, suddenly, the limited room inside that small lift turned tense… One could literally touch it! I pressed my floor button and then pressed his, too…

“Thank-you”, he said…

“All well?” yes, that came to me mechanically…

“Yes, all well,” came the reply!

By now, the lift had stopped on my floor… and, I walked out with a lukewarm, “Bye”.

As I walked into the same lift, last morning, the little space had sparkled-up with joy… Another man, with whom I had a very cordial rapport, was taking his two angels – boy must be about age 5 and the girl must be about 3 or four – to their school… “Wow!” I jumped with joy, “What a lovely smile darlings… You both made my day!”

And, I meant what I said… The two little kids were so charming, so giving in their smiles… that, they were purity personified… I expressed my joy before their father, with whom I had a cordial rapport, “You are blessed with amazing bundles of joy… May God bless them.”

“Thank you so much,” the man accepted my compliment… “All well, otherwise?”

“Yes, yes, all well,” this time, it was my turn to respond!

Often, I wonder, how we become so hardened… and why our so-called education  robs us of all our innocence and purity?  With the man I bumped into in the lift in the evening, an educated and grown up like me,  I had attempted to resolve issues from my end, several times before, and, then, given up… letting them simmer all along. Though I do not bear any grudges or ill-will towards this man, it seems, the time has simply not come… Adult egos are made of dumb stuff, you see.  It is tough to be childlike, all over again… yes, as tough as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, as Jesus said…

“Life is too short,” is another favourite expression of mine… I keep saying that more to remind me of my own mortality and sins, my own ego and ignorance, than to remind others…

Early this morning, there was this video from Mavis, my cousin. “Good Morning, dattu,” she had wished me with this…




‘Dattu’ means elder brother in Konkani…  I wrote back to my sister:

“G. Mng Mavis… A very moving message… Packed in such amazing poetry. Thanks a lot and have a wonderful day.”

“God bless us all dattu,” was Mavis’ reply!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Shripad Kulkarni
Video: YouTube/Vikas Jha 
Note: It's an amazing poem... Will mention poet's name once I find out.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

UMANG'S DOSA AND MY SABUDANA KICHDI?







Umang, my dear ex-student, and, now, a dear friend, is a creative guy… He has been in films-ads-media-related industry for years, now. Presently, he must be shooting somewhere in the southern or northern part of India, I do not know… But, this much I know, that, amidst all his high-tech-and-super-fast-and-man-eat-man kind of life, yes, amidst all his midlife glories and debacles, among all his ecstasies and sorrows, Umang found his ‘mighty happiness’ in a dasa he made for breakfast, this morning… So, he shared his mighty joy with all of us, on his FB Timeline:

“Made a dosa today for b'fast. The first time ever. And it was perfect.
Perfectly round, perfectly crisp and golden. Mighty happy!!!”

Dosa and Idli were the local staple-food for us in South. The batter had to be prepared… Till I was a tenth-standard boy, we had no electricity at home… So I remember helping mom to prepare the batter… It was a giant grinding-stone and, I was really good at grinding! So, that’s one of the reasons why I have these broad, sturdy shoulders! The fire-oven and the earthen vessels, the spoons made of dry coconut-shells… Yes, all this, now, seems to be a life of either another century or adivasis

Whatever that is... This morning, Umang’s status, instantly, brought a smile on my face… I remembered helping my mom in batter-making (not always though); but, I did not remember telling her, any time, “Mom, the dasas are too good… Perfect… Love you mom… a big hug!”

All these years – I am 59 now – I have taken the dosas made by my mom and wife simply for granted!

Maybe, Umang’s status was meant to remind me and others, “Hey, let’s say it to our moms and wives with a big hug!”

“Tell me, who made the batter?”, Namrata, a friend of Umang, had teased him in her comment… yes, before I could! So, I had this to comment:

“Umang, I am smiling!!! I made Sabudana Kichdi for breakfast, today....
Felt like jumping with joy the way u did! And, yes, feel like blogging too!!!! Love.”

These days, I spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos and experimenting in the kitchen, even though the kitchen, at the end of my experiment, turns into a Mohenjo-daro! But, the whole idea, somewhere beneath it, is inspired by the guilt I had been harbouring in my heart…that, I had taken the dosas prepared by my mom and wife for granted… yes, for almost six decades!

“That (my Dosa) will be the second mention on your blog,” Umang had replied.

No Umang… my Sabudana Kichdi is the second mention in this blog, today… Your Dosa is the first!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Umang Pahwa


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

IS IT POSSIBLE TO LIVE LIFE WITHOUT ANY ICONS?










In life, we all need icons. We need them for constant motivation and inspiration. Many of our icons are people who are around us… who we meet, talk to and interact with… Maybe our parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts, brothers or sisters, our teachers, work colleagues or friends or someone from our neighbourhood. We pick our icons from this lot. Similarly, we pick our icons from some living legends – from any field – who, unlike the earlier lot, we do not met, talk to or interact with… But, we constantly get motivation and inspiration from these icons. The third lot is those legends who have long dead and gone… spiritual masters, freedom fighters and revolutionaries, scientists, civil liberty leaders, Presidents and Prime Ministers, inventors and explorers and so on…

I, sometimes, hear some making this remark: “I don’t believe in icons” or “I don’t have any icons”. I wonder: “Is it possible to live life without any icons – call them idols, Heroes or Role models? A couple of times, I have argued passionately on this subject… but, I have not been able to change the views of those who think icons are irrelevant in life. Yes, if we are talking about blind hero-worship, then, not only icons are irrelevant in life, they are also very, very dangerous…

The Law of Attraction is in action: “What you deeply admire and like, you attract in your life.”

I am careful when I say so and so is my icon, my idol… For, I only admire him for some of his visible qualities… which I have seen, felt, heard or read about. Yes, I immensely admire him for those qualities… I desire to imbibe those qualities in me, too… Hence, I choose him to be my icon, my role model… The more and more I admire his qualities, the more and more I attract them in me…






I do not know so much about my icons… Their dark side is not visible to me… As my own dark side is invisible to others. There are people around me who admire me for some of my qualities and consider me to be their idol. In my own unassuming way, I, brush aside this saying, “I am simply a fallible human… I have my huge flaws”… and all that…

But, honestly, if I have picked fallible humans as my own icons and allowed my life to be shaped by their visible or invisible presence, I can’t stop others from picking me or any other fallible human as their icon…

Yes, we do need icons. For, we do like some of their exceptional qualities. We may not be able to live on the Moon or touch the Stars ever in our life… We may not be able to live, even for a day, on the snow-capped peaks of  mountains.  But, then, are we not fascinated by them, day in and day out? The Moon is just a big bundle of mess and Stars are just some burning gases… The glorious mountains will disappoint us when we go close to them… But, then, there is something that constantly calling us from them!





I started admiring Amitabh Bachchan when I first read about him in a magazine in our high school library… I was 14, studying in ninth standard, and this tall awkward-looking person had just acted in the movie, ‘Bombay to Goa’. Some forty-five years or so now… My fascination for this stupendous star has only increased as years have rolled by… I have watched, with joy and sorrow in my heart, along his journey from a Nobody to Somebody to Nobody to Somebody… There is so much to learn and imbibe from this icon of mine… that, I don’t mind this distant fascination be damned as ‘blind hero-worship’…

For, I know, it is not. Amitabh Bachchan is no ordinary ‘Star’…

Happy b’day sir. Please place your hand on my head on your 75th!


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Internet/NDTV

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

CAN GOOGLE TEACH US HOW TO 'FEEL'?


















“We live in a world where there is more and more information,
and less and less meaning.”




In yesterday’s TOI, there was this interesting article about the plight of teachers inside the classrooms, in these ‘information-overloaded’ years… The class rooms of some of the ‘Best schools’ have Wi-Fi connection and students can obtain answers, examples and options without even waiting for the teachers to come out with… In fact, the teacher is, often, left blinking… sorry, dumb-founded!

‘’They know it all… and, what am I doing here?”  This question haunts many, many teachers, particularly the ones who aren’t tech-savvy…

“They google mechanically,” tells one of my friends, who is, like me, an old-school-of-thought teacher, “they do not do it out of childlike curiosity.”

Is it true?

I think, it is. The way the young ones ‘search’ on Google is more as a habit… It is there handy, so just click it… It is just as their hands reach a calculator even to find how much is 3 plus 2!

Just imagine, how we did it when calculators were not there… even the mighty calculations!

Now, the patience has turned paper-thin… So, the so-called school and college Projects, through which the young ones are expected to learn their subjects the ‘practical way’… yes, even those doctoral ‘thesis’ works have become just a mockery… It’s all there in tons and tons and it is there just a click away!

“There is no depth in their knowledge,” says another friend of mine, “It’s all superficial and a show-off.”

Is it true?

Again, I think, it is. I meet scores of parents, who complain the same way as teachers do... “Our kids think, that they know more than we do… They think that our knowledge is outdated and  of any use. We have stopped advising and lecturing to them.” This, invariably, is the tone and tenor of parents’ complaint…

Google gives us loads and loads of information. But, it doesn’t give us the ability to ‘filter’ this information… nor does it give us the ability to ‘feel’… It can never give us the gift of ‘childlike curiosity’ and the enormous prerequisite of all understanding, called – ‘the sense of wonder… Awe’… It happens to us not when we google, but when we stand alone before the ferocious ocean… It happens when we stand looking up at a stars-lit night… It happens when we sight a new-born for the first time… It happens when our hearts go quiet in an intimate embrace… It happens when we send our departed loved-ones down into the grave or up into the flames… Can Google teach us how to feel, how to love, how to laugh, how to cry, how to apologize and how to forgive… and, how to bounce back?

It needs a different kind of Wi-Fi connection, sir…

True, Google can make our kids into great robots… But, certainly, to make them into great ‘human beings’, there should be a different source, a different knowledge…

The ‘depth’ comes from this source…

“In this world of numbness and information overload,” counseled Patrick Ness, “the ability to feel, my boy, is a rare gift indeed.”


GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Shripad Kulkarni