Ali's Corner

Dr. Ali Khwaja

Happy New Year

The New Year has begun

and has erased whatever has happened in 2017. Sankranthi and Pongal marked the first major festival, and many more will follow in a never-ending stream. Different people celebrate their own festivals with fervor. Some do participate in others’ rejoicing too. There are the old timers who spend days preparing for festivals and religiously follow all rituals. There are many more who are quite secular – they use every festival to break out, get out and enjoy partying!

While we should respect all faiths and their festivals, is it not high time that we kept our celebrations and rituals private, after office hours, and get down to work? Let us declare holidays on Independence, Rajyotsava, Gandhi Jayanthi and such national occasions and come together to celebrate our great country and our unity.

Republic Day is nearing…

Shall we all raise a toast to the greatest republic of the world and do something good to bring every Indian closer to each other?

The widening GAP

There were cruel kings and landlords who used to keep the masses in abject poverty, while they enjoyed unlimited luxuries. We believe that now in a democratic set-up with equal opportunities, the differences have been brought down to a great extent.

But when I look deeper

I find that the rich-poor gap is widening again at an alarming pace. I see some people with mediocre capabilities working in multi-national organizations or having businesses earning unbelievably high incomes. And I still see capable and sincere school teachers and salesmen who earn not even 10% of the former. Is this trend going to continue? As an ardent reader of history I have seen that whenever disparity goes beyond tolerable limits, there is an upheaval, and society undergoes transformation.

Where are we heading? But this is just armchair thinking on my part, maybe soon we will be able to say ….

“Aaall izz well.”

Feeling Nice

I am a firm believer in the proverb:

“You will forget what people said, you will forget what people did, but you will never forget how they made you feel.”

I get reassured on this fact very often. If I make it a point to focus on the positive people instead of the negative ones, I find that there are so many who make me feel so warm and loved, by very simple gestures. It happened recently when an old (almost forgotten) student of mine sent me a touching and appreciative email saying that I have been instrumental in changing her life, and that she is doing very well in the past few years. And what made me appreciate her reaching out to me even more was the fact that the mail had no other agenda. She just thought of me and sent the message.

It may appear to be a small gesture, but it really, really made me feel wonderful. And believe me, if we keep track of such moments, cherish them and keep them fresh in our memory, life becomes so beautiful.

It may appear to be a small gesture, but it really, really made me feel wonderful. And believe me, if we keep track of such moments, cherish them and keep them fresh in our memory, life becomes so beautiful.

And most important :

Don’t forget to make the other person ‘feel’ nice in return.

How good am I?

Do I need to put the other person down to show how good I am?

We do have to compete in many areas, we have to win over to move on, and we have to face conflict from those who hold different views. That is fine.

But what I wonder about is…..

When facing any opposition or when there is a need to prove that we are right, why do we focus only on pointing out the negative aspects of the opponent, instead of highlighting where we are right or what we have achieved. It is done by politicians (listen to election speeches), religious gurus, business competitors and even by family members. A neutral person listening to such put-downers and criticism is not interested in the unpleasantness and wants to keep away from both parties.

I feel that if I am confident about myself I should stop accusing the other person and emphasize on what I have done or why I deserve better treatment or reward. Trying to climb over others’ shoulders may make you go higher – but before you know it he or someone else will be climbing over your shoulder and you are back to square one.

Comparing oneself with others, trying to prove I am “better than thou” not only does not get long term results, but makes life a little bitter.

How about ignoring your opponents and detractors, and focusing on yourself, your progress, your skills and your goals? How about competing with yourself?

Try it out, and make it a habit.

Bound to Social media!

The bright look of surprise, the glow of recognition, the thrill of the encounter – when you meet someone you are fond of, either alone or in a party after a long time, there is so much excitement. We give a warm handshake, a hug, or a friendly pat. We inevitably ask, “Where were you?” and are ready to start off catching up with what happened to us during this time.

Earlier such an encounter would lead to exited conversations, expressions of joy or concern, inquiring about so many things, and maybe sitting down over a cup of tea to talk nostalgically. But nowadays I have noticed, the moment we meet the person, out come the mobiles, and a series of selfies or photographs begins. Someone wants the whole group, another wants an exclusive pic with one of them, someone else wants to stand between two close friends. Check mobiles, not very happy, and someone is called in to take few more photographs while we strike poses.

There is an immediate exchange of Whatsapp numbers and a forceful request that the photos should be forwarded at the earliest. What happens after that I don’t get to see, because I do not have a smartphone, but I can guess that a lot of time is then spent ‘uploading’, ‘forwarding’, ‘commenting’ and ‘like-ing’. Some curious people who were not present there probably log in and check out what we were doing with whom and when.

I’m looking for people who are just willing to show genuine affection, concern and joy, to spend those valuable few minutes talking, looking into each others’ eyes, and exchanging the warmth of a touch.

Concern and Curiosity

Have you had occasion when you wanted to reach out to someone known to you, inquire about his welfare or express your solidarity – but hesitated wondering if the person would like your interference, may misinterpret your intentions, or give you a cold response?

Similarly, have you had occasions when you did ask someone about what is happening in their life, and regretted it because the reply was not very encouraging?

In fact I feel the lesser the number of people greater is the personal touch, the individuality and the warmth. But perhaps I am a small minority who thinks that way (see, I’m going into numbers again!)

Differentiate between concern & curiosity. If you ensure that every time you ask someone about himself or herself it is out of genuine concern and not just to fulfill your curiosity, you stand a very good chance of being appreciated – and your relationship will get strengthened. .

It takes a little bit of practice but if you keep doing it regularly, you can interact with all the people around you, sending out a very touching message of love and togetherness. This is another tool to battle the ever increasing epidemic of loneliness.


Scared to allow someone to get too close?

Sometimes we are scared to allow someone to come too close, for fear of loss of relationship. By trying to protect ourselves against hurt, are we missing out on getting happiness?

If we are let down by someone we trust, or find a close friend was back-biting us, at some point perhaps a person we love unconditionally cheats on us – and we are left with shock, pain and anger.

We become resentful, stop trusting others, become judgmental, and we build a shield around us. But what we forget is that for one person who cheated or let us down, there are many more around us who have been nice, genuine and caring.

If we do not build an emotional wall around us, but develop the skill called ‘empathy’ i.e. being able to analyze, understand and anticipate human behavior, then we can be safe and at the same time have some truly tried and trusted friends.

The Talk

I was invited by Public TV to conduct a Career Guidance session at their Career Fest in Palace Grounds. Though I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were hundreds in the audience (and I was flattered when some of them told me, “we came only to listen to your talk”), I was once again concerned about the absolute lack of awareness or knowledge about the immense possibilities and options that today’s world offers, and more so with the method they need to use to select their career.

As adults we force children to go on studying for hours and hours, day after day, completing “portions” and facing innumerable exams. But we do not give them any inputs to actually make them successful and happy human beings. We do not guide them and teach them how to take the right decisions. Worse, we not allow them to follow their dreams and aspirations, and wish to make them robots by getting into routine and boring careers just because there is more “scope” in them. It is the responsibility of every adult to ensure that we allow children to blossom out and grow the way they want.

Aside:Western countries were spending more and more money making robots, till they realized that very intelligent third world youngsters are willing to work like robots at much less cost !

Seek Help

I was invited to preside over a Panel Discussion on Mental Illness and Borderline Personality Disorder. While many insightful thoughts, research findings and professional opinions were presented, my thought went off to the word ‘Borderline’. I sat asking myself, “Are we not all borderline cases when it comes to mental health, social behavior and relationships?” It is just that some people get labeled and many others get away doing things that are unacceptable or hurtful to others.

I feel we must take the trouble to reach out to the recluse, the person who is all by himself, one who is a little grouchy, and the person who does not seem to come forward to interact with us. Many a time they are quite lonely people, suffering from the disease of loneliness, and not knowing how to come out of it.

There is so much to be done by each one of us to maintain and promote mental health, but the label itself carries so much stigma that unless it directly affects us, we do not wish to even talk about it, leave alone helping someone No one wants to cross the ‘border’.


Recently someone called me and wanted to meet me for his own need, and on the fixed time he neither came over nor did he inform me. Later when I checked with him he was not sorry in the least, and just smiled and said, “I forgot.” I was upset and was fuming at these type of people who do not keep up to their commitments and do not bother to inform. Then a thought struck me – we only remember those who let us down, and we spoil our mood.

On the other hand we don’t give any significance to those who are very responsible and always keep up their commitments.

So I started making a list of those who are punctual, committed and who value my time – and always keep up to their word. I am amazed at the3 way my list is growing. I am going to keep those names prominently displayed, and make all efforts to be nice to them and strengthen my relationship with them.